Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/28/2009The “Taliban” offensive in Nigeria is continuing, and emergency security measures have been implemented in four northern states.

In other news, Hizb ut-Tahrir — flush with their recent success in Chicago — are planning two new conferences, one in Ontario and one in Londonistan. The Canadian meeting will be held in a government-owned facility.

Thanks to AA, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, TB, The Lurker from Tulsa, Tuan Jim, TV, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Bankitalia; Profits Down, More Jobs Lost in South
President Obama Refunds Cash to Kenyan Aunt, Convicted Murderer, Lobbyists
The Alternative Right
Union Members Trying to Save Their Sand Springs Steel Jobs
Hizb ut-Tahrir to Meet This Week in Ontario
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) Supremacist Group to Meet in Govt-Managed Community Center
Liberal Myth-Making
Ottawa Prof Charged in Deadly Bombing to Return to University
Europe and the EU
Church of Sweden in Brüno Advert Uproar
Dutch Officials Deny Israeli Complaints Over Funding of Leftist Group
France Trade Union Bombers — Update
Globalisers V. Localisers: A Grim Prediction for 2020
Italy: Minister ‘Screened’ Female Candidates for Berlusconi
Italy: Premier Claims in ‘Sex Tapes’ Ancient Tombs Under His Villa
Italy: Restaurateurs Poor as Pensioners — According to 2008 Tax Returns
Italy: Bravo, Silvio!
Spiegel on Fogh: Mediocrity
Sweden: Rinkeby Fire Claims Seventh Victim
UK: Thousands of a Tiny Minority of Extremists Meet in Londonistan to Demand a Caliphate
UK: Voters Turn Against War in Afghanistan
Ukraine Finds ‘Reporter’s Skull’
Isolation Fear Grips Kosovo Serbs
What Really Happened in Srebrenica
Mediterranean Union
Regina, Forum in Milan Totally Misguided
North Africa
Egypt Scholars OK Mosques Built by Showbiz $
Egypt: Nasser vs. Sadat — the Female Version
Terrorism: Morocco, Life Sentence for Terrorist Leader
Israel and the Palestinians
Al-Qaeda: ‘We Hit Israel From Lebanon, Again’
Barry Rubin: Israel’s Peace Plan Marks a New Era in the Country’s History
Israel Warns Lebanon About Border Incidents
Palestinian to Sue Cohen for Bruno Film
Middle East
Nuclear: Gates to Netanyahu, Same Views on Iran
The Iranian Military Dictatorship
South Asia
Abbas Abdolmohamadi Describes How the Shiite Clergy Was Corrupted by the Islamic Revolution
Afghanistan — Spain: Government May Send Reinforcements
Anti-Taliban Fight Could Spill Over Into Tajikistan
Finnish Soldiers Fire First Shots in Anger in Afghanistan
Indonesia: Lesson Today is Hatred as Bashir Cultivates Bombers’ Breeding Ground
Indonesia: What Made Jakarta Suicide Bombers Tick
Pakistan Rescues Boys Trained as Suicide Bombers
Pakistan: India Submarine ‘Threatens Peace’
Tell-All TV Riles India’s Politicians
Turkmenistan: Five Billion Dollars for the Las Vegas of the Caspian Sea
West Java, Protestant Church Demolished by Local Government
Far East
Japan Executes 3 Inmates
Unopposed Candidate Elected as Macau’s New Chief Executive
Xinjiang Riots Confound Islamists
Australia — Pacific
Kent Pleads Guilty to Terror Charge
The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name
Sub-Saharan Africa
African View: Memories of Taylor
Nigeria: Security Boosted in Four Northern States
Nigeria’s ‘Taliban’ Enigma
Algeria: 19 People Stopped Off Coast of Oran
‘Brothels’ In Libya as Well, Bee Free Says
‘Outsourcing’ Asylum Seekers the Italian Way
Culture Wars
Anglican Leader Foresees Two Paths
Christians Can Save Islam From Cultural Death

Financial Crisis

Italy: Bankitalia; Profits Down, More Jobs Lost in South

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 28 — The crisis will hit profits of businesses in Southern Italy, but the same companies will see more job losses. A strong downturn in investments is also expected. This is what 2009 holds for Italian businesses, a scenario described by the annual Bank of Italy research into businesses in the industry and service sectors. The analysis of the data from 2008 affirmed worries of difficulties in accessing credit. On the employment front, after “2008’s substantial stability” compared to the previous year, “forecasts for 2009 indicate that the number of jobs will decrease by 2.1%” (-3.3% for industry in a strict sense). At the end of the year, businesses in the Southern Italy and the islands will see more job losses, even if compared to the northern and central regions of the country they will see a smaller decrease in earnings. Employment in the south will see a reduction of 2.4% compared to a drop in business volume of 1.9%. In the north and centre job losses will be slightly less at 2%, even if the downturn in earnings is expected to be double at 4%. On average, from the Bank of Italy research, a drop in earnings of 3.8% (-4.5% for industry of which -7% in manufacturing and -3% in services) is expected. “If the particularly negative forecasts for industry indeed occur”, the document reads, “it will be the most negative result from the time that the research began”. Investments will decrease more in the south (-14.5%) than in the centre-north (-11.3%), with an average downturn of 11.7%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


President Obama Refunds Cash to Kenyan Aunt, Convicted Murderer, Lobbyists

More than eight months after President Barack Obama won the White House, the remnants of his campaign organization is struggling to deal with some unfinished business: returning about $669,000 in tainted or illegal campaign contributions to a motley assortment of donors, among them a convicted murderer, Washington lobbyists and a number of foreign nationals, including his own aunt.

But the 11 Chicago-based staff members still on the campaign’s payroll are finding it was a lot easier to rake in a record-shattering $750 million than to identify and return donations that ran afoul of federal election laws or Obama’s own strict fundraising standards.

Their intensive effort to refund problem contributions has involved detailed research into lobbying records and passport information, an elaborate accounting system that cancels and reissues stale-dated refund checks and phone calls and letters urging donors to cash their refunds. The effort is unprecedented in modern politics, according to election law compliance experts, and underscores both the logistical challenges of processing so much contribution data and the Obama team’s hypersensitivity to anything that could sully the president’s carefully honed image as a crusader against special interests and a champion of ethics and transparency.

Obama’s oft-repeated commitment to those ideals has been a favorite target for critics. During the campaign, they assailed him for breaking a promise to participate in a government financing program intended to reduce the role of fundraising and for lax screening of prohibited contributions from foreign nationals. Since taking office, he’s come under fire for backtracking on his pledge to keep his administration free of lobbyists, whom he vilified during the campaign, and for lending his fundraising clout to groups that usually don’t adhere to the same strict no-lobbyist-cash standard that he imposed on his campaign and on the Democratic National Committee.

A POLITICO analysis of Obama’s most recent finance report showed that between the beginning of April and the end of June, the campaign sent out more than 800 refunds.

It’s not clear from the report which refunds were successfully processed, nor the motivation for every refund. POLITICO’s analysis identified at least 50 refunds totaling more than $27,000 to lobbyists, 40 refunds totaling nearly $28,000 to foreign donors and at least 13 refunds totaling nearly $115,000 to donors who gave more than the $4,600 maximum. The latter group included Robert Hormats, a Goldman Sachs director whom Obama recently nominated to be an undersecretary of state and who had his $2,300 donation returned because the campaign discovered he had already maxed out on how much he could give.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

The Alternative Right

It’s 1964. A stranger approaches and tells you two political movements will arise in the near future, the New Left and the New Right. One of these movements will dominate American politics for a good quarter century. Indeed, political scientists will define the entire period in terms of the ascendancy of this group; historians will write books naming this age after the movement’s most successful leader. Politicians, scholars, and activists on right and left will go so far as to call it a “Revolution.”

Imagine then that you could look at the America (such as it is) of November 5, 2008, at the end of this era.

The election of “the most liberal man in the Senate” is a crowning moment for a federal welfare state that’s grown steadily for over 50 years, regardless of which party was in office. Each individual state is merely an administrative unit for a centralized bureaucracy. All important decisions are made by the Supreme Court. On social issues, conservatives have been in abject retreat even as leftists bemoan the rise of “Christian fascism.” The ban on School prayer, enacted in 1962 with Engel vs. Vitale, has about as much chance of being overturned as the ‘64 Civil Right Act. Gay marriage is a reality in several states. Mass immigration from the Third World is not just permitted but hailed as a moral imperative and encouraged by leaders of both political parties. The children of those immigrants receive preferences in education and job placement over Americans whose roots go back to the Founders.

Iconic American corporations such as McDonald’s, General Motors, and Coca-Cola fund far Left groups with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each year—even as some struggle to make profits. Universities are filled with “ethnic studies” and “women’s studies” majors who are skilled in organizing protests against Western Civilization, but can’t read the books that define it. News articles habitually reference public schools removing the names of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, to be replaced by some community organizer or another who was successful at stealing taxpayer money.

All of the above—and much more, of course—have occurred during and after the “Reagan Revolution” and the mighty deeds of its heroes that are regularly recounted in story and song at the foundations, think-tanks, and non-profits that occupy Northern Virginia. The cadres of Young Americans for Freedom may have gotten elected to office, but we all live in the world of Students for a Democratic Society. During the Age of Reagan and conservative hegemony, the New Left decisively won the culture wars, by largely abolishing, often through state fiat, the previously existing culture.

The American Right won past electoral victories by appealing to Middle America, posing as its defenders against the left-wing radicals who spat on the society that gave them so much privilege. Beyond lip service though, the conservative movement didn’t actually do anything to conserve that society, never mind roll back the gains of the Left.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Union Members Trying to Save Their Sand Springs Steel Jobs

SAND SPRINGS, OK — There’s an ongoing effort to save a steel mill. The Gerdau Ameristeel plant in Sand Springs could be shut down by Labor Day.

Union workers are taking their fight to the state. The Sand Springs mill is the last steel plant operating in Oklahoma. Union representatives say if it goes a large chunk of the local economy goes with it.

Steel worker Troy Zickefoose says it’s been a tumultuous month.

“Just not knowing if, whether we’re going to have a job, and what’s going to happen with the whole city of Sand Springs,” said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

As he tries to pressure state agencies to help save the mill, they mayor of Sand Springs says it’s an uphill fight.

“We have to keep in mind, they make a product, steel, that’s not really in demand,” said Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker.

Because of that, Gerdau Ameristeel closed two New Jersey plants in June and said they’re considering closing the Oklahoma mill. That’s a required step given 90 days before a plant’s closure.

“This plant is a staple of this community. And there’s a lot of people depending on it,” said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

Zickefoose says if the state invests in the mill, Gerdau will reconsider closing shop.

One of the ways the Union is aggressively trying to keep its doors open is by handing out hundreds of petitions to Sand Springs residents. The company is encouraging them to get in touch with their representatives, and find a way to keep the mill running

“Our big issue, at this particular plant, is that the plant is old, and does not conform to EPA standards after next year,” said steel worker Troy Zickefoose.

He wants the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to invest in upgrades like new furnaces and operating systems.

Mayor Walker says it’s an expensive proposal and Gerdau could still decide to cease operations whenever they want.

“The environmental upgrades, that’s one of the real uphill battles of this mill,” said Sand Springs Mayor Bob Walker.

Even Zickefoose says getting state aid in this economy is a long shot, but it’s the best shot to save almost 300 jobs.

It is unclear how much money would be needed to upgrade the plant. The Secretary of Commerce is still working on a proposal. It is expected to be ready in two weeks. After it is released, Gerdau will make a final decision.

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


Hizb ut-Tahrir to Meet This Week in Ontario

From R.E.A.L…

On Friday, July 31, 2009, the Islamic supremacist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir will be holding another public conference, this time in the Ontario, Canada city of Mississauga. Unlike the July 19, 2009 Hizb ut-Tahrir conference which was held at a private facility in Chicago suburb Oak Lawn’s Hilton Hotel, the Canadian Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting will be held at a Canadian government-managed public facility, the Mississauga Valley Community Center.

1. Hizb ut-Tahrir Seeks to Promote Supremacism in Canada

The Islamic supremacist Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) Canadian event is publicized on the Hizb ut-Tahrir web site as being sponsored by “Hizb ut-Tahrir Canada” as part of HT’s “2009 Khilafah Campaign,” which included the July 19, 2009 HT event in the Chicago Oak Lawn, IL suburb. HT has advertised this event to be held at the Canadian govt-managed facility in Mississauga for: “Friday, July 31st, 6.30PM to 8.30PM, Frank Bean Lounge — Mississauga Valley Community Center, 1275 Mississauga Valley Blvd, L5A 3R8.” The HT Canada event has also been promoted by a Toronto, Canada website called “TorontoMuslims.com”. (R.E.A.L. contacted this Toronto Muslim website to ask why they were promoting such a supremacist organization’s event, and received no reply.)

The Hizb ut-Tahrir web site promoting the July 31 event in Canada also promotes a also promotes a pamphlet (page 62) that supports killing those individuals who leave Islam as guilty of “treason and a political attack on the Khilafah.”

According to the Canadian Criminal Code Section 318:

“318. (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”

“(2) In this section, ‘genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely,”

“(a) killing members of the group; or”

“(b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction…”

“(4) In this section, ‘identifiable group’ means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Researcher Madeleine Gruen believes that U.S. member of HT Mohammad Malkawi may speak at the Canadian conference, because Mohammad Malkawi has previously given speeches in Canada. HT’s Mohammad Malkawi moderated the July 19 HT conference in Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn.

2. Efforts to Alert Canadian Government Agencies to HT Supremacist Meeting at Govt-Managed Facility

Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) has attempted to contact the Mississauga government to make them aware of the supremacist nature of the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization that it has rented use of the Mississauga Valley Community Centre Frank Bean Lounge facility to for their July 31 conference. After speaking to a representative at the Community Centre (905-615-4670), we were re-directed to the Mississauga government agency involved in booking the Frank Bean Lounge facility, the Mississauga government recreation and parks department (905-615-4100, choose “facility booking”).

R.E.A.L.’s Jeffrey Imm spoke to a manager with the Mississauga recreation and parks department on this, and she stated that they are “looking into this.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) Supremacist Group to Meet in Govt-Managed Community Center

On Friday, July 31, 2009, the Islamic supremacist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir will be holding another public conference, this time in the Ontario, Canada city of Mississauga. Unlike the July 19, 2009 Hizb ut-Tahrir conference which was held at a private facility in Chicago suburb Oak Lawn’s Hilton Hotel, the Canadian Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting will be held at a Canadian government-managed public facility, the Mississauga Valley Community Center.

[Return to headlines]

Liberal Myth-Making

According to Maclean’s magazine’s website, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff told an Irish university audience in 2005 that Canada’s peacekeeping reputation was “entirely bogus.” What’s next, Ignatieff labelling multiculturalism “a complete sham”? Universal health care “an unmitigated disaster”? Bilingualism “an utter farce”?

The notion that Canada is a nation of peacekeepers, not soldiers, is one of those national myths — like health care, multiculturalism and linguistic duality — that the Liberals spent 40 years trying to manufacture. The peaceniks and flower children around Pierre Trudeau calculated that if they could convince the rest of us that Canada was without a warrior tradition, they could decimate our military and go around to international conferences boasting about how their commitment to peace made them morally superior to the Americans.

They also talked themselves into believing that if we had no war-making capacity — that if we were a “soft power” — the belligerents in the world’s worst conflicts would trust Canada as the “honest broker” for their settlements.

Everybody now, put your hands together and sing Give Peace a Chance.

One thing got in the way of the Liberals’ plans, though — the professional resolve of our military.

Even as the Grits under Trudeau and later Jean Chrétien cut our military budgets and our troop strength by half and more, and subjected the men and women wearing Canada’s uniform to such ridiculous experiments as unification — in which all three branches of the military were rolled into one — Canada’s soldiers, sailors and air force personnel slogged on.

For decades without adequate equipment, with little respect and with almost impossible orders, they somehow managed to maintain our nation’s reputation for top-notch soldiering. No one doubted that Canada’s armed forces could do more with less than any military in the world, while at the same time retaining the respect of allies and foes alike.

Peacekeeping may not always have been what our forces thought was the best solution to conflict, but given that that was all their civilian masters were permitting them to do, they made the best of it.

They knew the world had always been a dangerous place — and would always be dangerous, despite the Kumbaya spirit that had infected Ottawa — but if they had to confront that danger only through a peacekeeping filter, then so be it.

In Bosnia in the mid-1990s, for instance, the rules of engagement set for our peacekeepers permitted them to return fire only when rounds fired at them by the warring factions came within a metre.

I can’t imagine having to turn the other cheek, as it were, in the face of an enemy shooting at me within arm’s-length. Still, our peacekeepers bore that obligation with pride and dignity and did their best to protect innocent people caught in the midst of the fighting.

In all, at least 114 Canadians have been killed while on peacekeeping duty around the world in the past half-century. It takes a special kind of bravery and dedication to one’s country to go knowingly into hostile territory with one hand tied behind your back by politicians who only care when you foul up, who respect you very little and who always promise new equipment and resources but seldom follow through.

Having said all that, then, you’d expect I would be furious with Ignatieff over his remarks four years ago at the University of Dublin’s Trinity College, and I am, in a way.

It was not the Canadian legacy of peacekeeping that was “entirely bogus,” it was the Liberal misuse of that legacy that was. What was “disgusting” was the way the Chrétien government and then the Paul Martin government hid behind peacekeeping’s skirts to avoid having to take sides in the world’s hot spots.

It was a Liberal tendency, not a Canadian one, to, as Ignatieff added, rather “bitch about their rich neighbour to the south than actually pay” the price for a military that could intervene where needed to prevent humanitarian disasters.

Ignatieff’s error in Ireland was to claim most Canadians were equally guilty of the irresponsibility and arrogance that were hallmarks of Liberal foreign policy for 40 years.

He should have blamed his own party — not Canadians as a whole — for the timidity whitewashed with moral boastfulness that was Canadian foreign policy from the late 1960s onward. And he should never, ever have said anything that could even remotely have been misconstrued as a slam on our peacekeepers.

The sole bright spot in Canadian foreign affairs during the Liberal era was the competence of our military despite the stresses the Liberals put them under.

Ignatieff also added, “If you are a human rights defender and you want something done to stop [a] massacre, you have to go to the Pentagon, because no one else is serious.”

Iggy’s unpardonable sin was in blaming our peacekeepers, indirectly, rather than placing blame where it belonged, with his own party.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ottawa Prof Charged in Deadly Bombing to Return to University

OTTAWA — An Ottawa university professor charged in the deadly terrorist bombing of a French synagogue nearly 30 years ago is expected to resume teaching this week.

Hassan Diab, who is charged with murdering four people in the 1980 bombing, will begin teaching a part-time introductory sociology course at Carleton University two days a week until the middle of August.

Diab, whose strict bail conditions prevent him from leaving the house alone, will be required to travel to and from the university with his common-law spouse Rania Tfaily, an Ottawa court heard Monday.

But once at the university, Diab will no longer need an escort.

Diab’s lawyer, Rod Sellar, told an Ottawa court Monday Diab will be at Carleton teaching and meeting with students between 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the course may require him to go to the university almost daily.

Lin Moody, a spokeswoman for Carleton University, confirmed Monday that the school has hired Diab to teach for few weeks this summer. He was given a contract, she said, because of “an unforeseen leave” taken by the instructor who had originally been hired to teach the introductory sociology course.

Diab had taught a similar course before at Carleton, Moody said.

The 55-year-old Lebanese native, who became a Canadian citizen in 1993, has been under virtual house arrest since he was arrested late last year. Conditions of his bail require him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, obey a curfew, report to the RCMP regularly and not own a cellphone.

Diab and Tfaily were in court Monday to determine what items seized during RCMP raids of Tfaily’s condominium and her Carleton University office can be sent to French officials as potential evidence in their case against Diab.

Diab and Tfaily intend to argue that the RCMP searches were unlawful and the seized items should not be sent to France.

Federal prosecutors are hoping Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger will grant an order sending some of the items, specifically computer hard drives and USB sticks, to France as soon as possible.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Church of Sweden in Brüno Advert Uproar

The official Church of Sweden newspaper, Kyrkans Tidning, is at the centre of a storm of controversy after advertisers reacted to the depiction of scenes from UK comic Sacha Baron Cohen’s new blockbuster movie Brüno.

The banner advert, which occupies a prominent position at the top of the weekly publication’s home page features a half-naked, lederhosen-clad Cohen in his new role as gay Austrian fashion reporter, Brüno.

“A film for which we could not offer our support,” Victor Poke of the Salvation Army in Sweden (Frälsningsarmén) explained to Christian website Världen idag on Monday.

“We will be in contact with the newspaper to point out that our logo shall in the future be used in a way that is in harmony with our values and beliefs.”

Several other commercial partners of the Swedish Church-owned website have reacted with angry fervour over the advertisements with one describing their publication as a “catastrophe”.

Kyrkans Tidning’s editor Dag Tuvelius is aware of the criticism of the advert but does not consider it to be in breach of established policy.

“We will listen to them and will take it into consideration over future advertising. But we can not be responsible for every advert as it is not editorial material,” he said to Världen Idag.

“We have a policy that means we do not accept adverts for alcohol, tobacco or is offensive. In this case it has been regarded as offensive by some people.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Dutch Officials Deny Israeli Complaints Over Funding of Leftist Group

Diplomats from the Netherlands denied reports that they had received complaints from Israel over Dutch funding for a controversial Israeli human rights group. But Israeli officials insisted the complaints were made, as reported on Sunday by Haaretz.

Meanwhile, Holland’s biggest pro-Zionist body said the organization in question, Breaking the Silence, “could deserve funding” from the Dutch government.

The article in Haaretz said that Israel has asked the Netherlands for clarifications about financial aid given to the human rights group Breaking the Silence, which recently released a collection of anonymous accusations of alleged human rights abuses by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The Volkskrant, one of Holland’s largest papers, published a reaction by the Dutch foreign ministry which said no such complaint has been made, and that there was no reason to stop the subsidy.

According to a close colleague of the minister in The Hague, the subsidy is in line with the human rights policy of Maxime Verhagen, the paper reported, adding the Israeli embassy in Hague was made aware of this position.

The Israeli embassy in Hague was not available for a comment, but an Israeli diplomat said the complaint was conveyed as reported. “Maybe the two countries have a different definition of the concept of complaint,” he added.

Haaretz reported that Breaking the Silence received 19,995 euros from the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv, and that had this figure been higher by five euros, then it would require approval from the foreign ministry in Hague, headed by Verhagen, who is seen as a staunch supporter of Israel.

But the Volkskrant quotes Dutch diplomats as saying the organization received 24,000 euros. Ronny Naftaniel, the head of Holland’s largest pro-Zionist group, says this is a pivotal issue.

“It is not right for the organization to receive funding without the public knowing about it,” he said. But Naftaniel, a long-time supporter of Arab-Israeli coexistence and of the two-state solution, said he had no objection to the Dutch funding of Breaking the Silence as a principle.

“This organization could deserve funding from the Netherlands,” Naftaniel told Haaretz. “Human rights organizations like this and like B’Tselem play an important role in Israeli society and can be of importance in making Israelis think critically about Israel.”

Naftaniel added that Breaking the Silence’s anonymous report rested heavily on hearsay. “The Israeli army behaves much better than most countries in combat conditions, but criticism is needed to prevent this from being taken for granted,” he concluded

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

France Trade Union Bombers — Update

Since it has now worked, will we see this particular negotiating strategy duplicated elsewhere:

Fired workers at a bankrupt French auto-parts supplier won severance pay averaging 28,500 euros ($40,500) after threatening to blow up their factory along with components destined for Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Besides average statutory severance of 17,500 euros, each of the 366 workers at New Fabris will be offered 11,000 euros in “jobseeker aid,” financed through the two carmakers’ purchase of equipment and undelivered components, Industry Minister Christian Estrosi said in a statement today after meeting union members from the plant in Chatellerault in western France.

In what has to be one of the most bizarre quotes from a public official in sometime:

“Resorting to violence is not the solution to a program of job cuts,” the minister said, adding that the lifting of the bomb threat had been “an absolute precondition to this meeting.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Globalisers V. Localisers: A Grim Prediction for 2020

IT IS NOT terribly well-known, but since 2002 the European Union has had its own foreign policy think-tank, the European Union Institute for Security Studies, and its publications are often worth a look. On July 28th, the EUISS launched a hefty book carrying predictions about what EU security and defence policy might look like in 2020. There are chapters by senior officials and politicians, but the one that really caught my attention was by Tomas Ries, a veteran Cold War analyst and expert in Nordic security who is currently director of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs. (In the interests of full disclosure, I know Dr Ries slightly—we have met a few times at a series of private conferences on China policy that are held twice a year in Stockholm.)

Dr Ries paints a picture of a world in 2020 in which “explosive tensions” seethe between a rich, globalised group of countries and actors, and poorer, alienated states. His chapter includes a simplified table, setting out a six layered class society. The top three are all ranked as Globalisers, namely:

- Transnational Corporations (TNC), defined as Fortune Global 1,000 companies — The Postmodern Community (PMC), defined as OECD members plus some others — Rapid Transition Societies (RTS), defined as China, Brazil, India +

Then there are three Localisers:

- Struggling Modern States (SMS), defined as “much of the Arab world” — Alienated Modern States (AMS), defined as “North Korea, Burma, Russia?” — Premodern Societies (PMS), defined as “The Bottom Billion”, or put another way, the poorest people from countries accounting for 65% of the world’s population

I have my qualms about the table, which Dr Ries himself says is greatly simplified. I am not sure I wholly buy into the idea that transnational corporations enjoy a unique, autonomous place at the top of the table: some of the biggest companies in 2020 will surely include state-controlled outfits from places like China. And as an ex-China hand I am also not certain that China can confidently be counted a globaliser with no Alienated characteristics. You could quibble and ask where Iran sits in this table (presumably an AMS?).

But I am intrigued, if depressed, by the thought-provoking predictions that follow. According to Dr Ries, by 2020 we can expect EU foreign and security policy to need to perform several tasks. These include offering crisis resolution and peace support assistance to the SMS, and support for state building in PMS. Dr Ries is clearly pretty gloomy about Russia, because under the AMS rubric, he says the EU should be preparing “a capability to support hard power politics, both for Clausewitzian influence and possible direct military confrontation.”

The less developed parts of the world may, he fears, need “barrier operations”, or operations to “shield the global rich from the tensions and problems of the poor.” Growing tensions between the two groups will probably not be solved by curing dysfunctional societies, at least by 2020, he predicts. If technology is turning the world into a global village, it is a “village on the brink of revolution”, for reasons of inequality and competition for ecological resources like water, fuel and usable farmland.

Thus the EU will need to pursue the “morally distasteful, losing strategy” of strengthening our barriers, if it cannot solve the problems of global misery at their roots.

I like his pithy description of the various scenarios facing the richer, less nationalist countries he calls post-modern (borrowing a term from the EU foreign policy sage, Robert Cooper):

“The strategic task of the PMC in the coming decades will be partly to ensure the stable development of globalisation, but also to act as midwife for the new political system that is emerging with the rise of new actors and power relationships. If we do it right the EU can emerge as a major partner in a new globalised political and economic system. If we do it wrong, we risk collapsing into an impoverished and violently multipolar world of conflicting societies. If we do it halfway right we may avoid system collapse but the EU could be left as a very subordinate player—a quaint tourist resort for the global power brokers, surviving on charm but with little influence.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister ‘Screened’ Female Candidates for Berlusconi

Rome, 16 July(AKI) — Italian tourism minister and former beauty contestant, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, screened female political candidates on behalf of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, a former politician has said.

Brambilla was asked to look at photos of potential female candidates for the European parliament and select them based on their looks, former PDL member Marcello Vendola told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Vendola, a former MEP and Italian politician made the claims after he failed to be reselected as a PDL candidate.

“She asked us to propose girls as candidates, including their resume and photobook,” said Vendola.

“They had to be well-groomed women. The photograph was needed to assess the attractiveness of the candidates.”

Vendola said he selected the women and forwarded potential candidates to Brambilla (photo), who then passed their photos to Berlusconi.

The women were selected according to their “cultural or entrepreneurial achievements,” according to Vendola. He told La Repubblica he had put forward 44-year-old Maria Gabriella Genisi.

Genisi is the author of a controversial erotic novel entitled, The Goldfish Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, about a supermarket checkout girl and a government minister who meet by chance and have a brief love affair after which she is offered a seat in parliament.

Genisi has said that she wrote the book after being dropped by Berlusconi’s party, as a candidate in last year’s general election. She has claimed that she held discussions about a safe seat, but was quoted as saying the seat was given to a top party official’s lover.

Vendola also claimed to “clearly remember” the names bein g mentioned of controversial escort Patrizia D’Addario and Angela Sozio, a Miss Italy contender and reality show Big Brother contender.

D’Addario, a 42-year-old prostitute recently claimed she was paid to attend a dinner at Palazzo Grazioli in October last year and later spent the night with Berlusconi there in November in a bid to gain political favours.

The prime minister has strenuously denied claims of any sexual impropriety and referred to D’Addario’s allegations as “complete rubbish and falsehoods”.

When Vendola was asked whether he made the comments as a way of taking revenge for not being re-selected as a candidate, he said: “Whoever is in a position of responsibility in the party knows I am telling the truth.”

Vendola said he reached a point where he knew that his career had come to an end despite what he claimed were political promises.

He said he then had a meeting with Berlusconi who he claimed had asked him: “So when will you introduce me to your female friends from Bari?”

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

Italy: Premier Claims in ‘Sex Tapes’ Ancient Tombs Under His Villa

Sardinia, 24 July (AKI) — Italy’s National Archaeologists Association is said to be surprised by claims made by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in secret ‘sex tape’ recordings saying that 30 Phoenician tombs dating back to 300 BC were found in his villa in Sardinia.

If the claims are true, it would mean “extremely significant data for the study of the Phoenician expansion in the island, and particularly for the reconstruction of ancient settlement dynamics in the area of Olbia,” said the National Association of Archaeologists, quoted by left-leaning Italian daily La Repubblica.

Under Italian law, discoveries must be reported to archaeological authorities. However, the alleged finds had not been made public until the tapes were released by Berlusconi’s 42-year-old female escort Patrizia D’Addario.

Not having reported such findings to the Superintendence of Archaeological Heritage or police in charge of the preserving Italy’s cultural heritage is a crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine ranging from 310 to 3,099 euros.

Italy’s opposition has asked Berlusconi and Italy’s minister of cultural heritage Sandro Bondi to address the Italian parliament on the alleged finds and why they were not reported.

However, it is also possible that Berlusconi had invented the story, exaggerated or was confused, said Repubblica.

La Repubblica and its sister weekly L’Espresso this week published on their websites a series of audio recordings and transcripts allegedly containing conversations between Berlusconi and D’Addario and between D’Addario and Gianpaolo Tarantini, the man who allegedly hired her to go Berlusconi’s official residence in Rome last October and November.

D’Addario alleges she slept with Berlusconi on the night of 4-5 November last year. She has handed audio recordings and photos to magistrates which she says secretly took at Palazzo Grazioli and which back up her claims.

La Repubblica and L’Espresso have posted several of the audio tapes and transcripts to their websites.

In one of the latest clips posted on Thursday, D’Addario is heard apparently praising the 72-year-old for his sexual prowess while he in turn gives her advice on her sex life, advising her to masturbate “with a certain regularity”.

Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini has disputed the veracity of the tapes, saying they were “without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention.”

Berlusconi on Wednesday tried to make light of the controversy surrounding his private life, acknowledging that he was “no saint”. But he vowed to govern until the end of his mandate in 2013.

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

Italy: Restaurateurs Poor as Pensioners — According to 2008 Tax Returns

Incomes below 15,000 euros. Micro-enterprises have lower incomes than employees

ROME — Restaurateurs declared the same earnings as pensioners struggling to reach the end of the month: from 13,500 to 14,500 euros gross for the year. Retail and wholesale traders declared as much as employees, in other words less than 20,000 euros. And micro-enterprises, the businesses that make up the vast majority of Italy’s industrial fabric, paid tax on incomes of less than 17,000 euros. These are just some of the figures that emerge from Treasury studies on tax returns for 2007. A storm of controversy quickly followed. “Incomes of the self-employed are influenced by a significant proportion of tax avoidance and evasion”, said tax agency sources, and there was confirmation from the general command of the financial police. “Sample inspections often reveal irregularities, sometimes in up to 50-60% of cases”. But retailers stand their ground: “The tax agency’s statistics include thousands of restaurants that are in fact family-run micro-enterprises, bars that serve food and have a genuinely low income. It’s no surprise”, replied the FIPE-Confcommercio retailers’ association. Leaving aside the points scoring, here is the taxman’s snapshot.

AVERAGE INCOME — Two years ago, the average gross income of all Italians, including employees, the self-employed and pensioners, was 16,500 euros while employees earned 19,335 euros. The self-employed declared a much higher income of 37,124 euros, thanks to the earnings of professionals (ranging from 36,000 to 54,000 euros) and doctors (44,000 euros), who pushed up the average. The average income of self-employed taxpayers in the “accommodation and catering” sector, which includes the owners of small hotels, service flats and camp sites as well as the proprietors of restaurants, pizza restaurants and fast food outlets, was 14,597 euros, which dropped to 13,545 euros for the more than 100,000 out of 120,000 entrepreneurs in the sector who opted for a company structure enabling them to use the simplified accounting system. The figure is very close to the income of pensioners, who on average declared 13,448 euros each for the year. For retailers, the average income was 19,795 euros, a figure that plummeted to 11,759 euros for self-employed traders and shot up to 33,032 euros for retailers trading as micro-enterprises.

BUSINESS — Operators in the transport business, including taxi drivers and owner-driver hauliers, and travel agency owners declared an average of 16,837 euros whereas building contractors’ returns averaged 20,317 euros. Despite the generous contracts of the high-earning minority of sports stars and entertainers, average income for the category was just over 24,000 euros, a figure that halved for those who opted for the simplified accounting system. “The most surprising figure is the one for the catering trade”, notes a commentator from the Treasury tax department. But a leading Rome restaurateur stood up in defence of his colleagues: “We’re not all tax dodgers. You can’t tar us all with the same brush. If so many restaurateurs declare a pensioner’s income, it’s because there are too many taxes”, pointed out Fortunato Baldassari, who owns the Fortunato al Pantheon restaurant, a favourite eatery with celebrities and politicians. In his latest returns, Baldassari declared an income of between 300,000 and 400,000 euros. “I feel offended by these reports. The fact is that there is no desire to solve the problem. Is it really so difficult to check how many employees a restaurant has and see if this squares with the figure on the tax return?”

English translation by Giles Watson


           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bravo, Silvio!

The Berlusconi Sex Tapes, and the Scandal that isn’t.

There’s something a little odd going on with these sound tapes of Silvio Berlusconi and the “escort” that have been popping up in the Italian media. The oddity being that while the escort herself seems to be incensed with the way she’s been treated by the prime minister (and there are a few others getting suitably irate as well for the usual reasons of sexual politics), the general public appears to be, well, not caring about it all very much at all. So a septagenarian soon to be divorced billionaire, an Italian one at that, has been having sex with a woman who has sex with rich men as a profession? And? seems to be the general reaction.

There’s an element of a (possibly apocryphal) story about Mike Bloomberg to all of this. He was once being interviewed, and it was pointed out that he was known as something of a serial dater, to which the response was, “I’m a single billionaire in Manhattan. What do you expect me to be doing?” An answer that has the merit of simplicity.

These latest stories though would originally strike you as something of a different stripe. Patrizia D’Addario has come forward stating that she is a) a paid professional, an escort girl, b) someone who has had sex with Silvio Berlusconi recently, and c) has audio recordings (from her mobile phone) of some of the time surrounding such an assignation.

All of this would, of course, be enough to sink the career of any American politician, as Elliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford have demonstrated: one with hookers and another simply with somone who was not his wife. Even Bill Clinton wouldn’t have survived having been recorded with a professional lady of the night. However, this just doesn’t seem to be happening with Berlusconi, and I think there’s two reasons for it. The first is that this is Italy, but I don’t think that’s the major point.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Spiegel on Fogh: Mediocrity

Looking at the way senior international officials are chosen, Spiegel says NATO’s new Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a mediocre choice.

Denmark’s glee at the choice of former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the new secretary-general of NATO is not shared throughout Europe, at least according to a Der Spiegel study of the way that senior international posts are filled.

The Spiegel article, which says there is a tendency to pick ‘second-best’ and in NATO the ‘lowest common denominator’, studies various global secretary-generalships such as the United Nations, the IAEA and NATO.

“The man who will be applauded next Friday as the new secretary general of the alliance, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, 56, is a conservative politician who promoted an anti-immigration policy in an otherwise liberal country. He was the lowest common denominator that everyone could agree on,” Spiegel says.

And it adds: “No one seems to be troubled by the fact that Rasmussen, an economist, is not a military expert.”

Not true

Dr. Hans Mouritzen PhD of the Danish Institute of International Studies says that Spiegel’s analysis is not only an abusive attack against Fogh Rasmussen, but also wrong.

“Generally you could say that the lowest common denominator is chosen — simply because all member countries have a veto, and that means you have to find someone everyone agrees on,” Mouritzen tells B.T. He does not agree, however, that this was the case with Anders Fogh Rasmussen and says that the lowest common denominator would have been the Canadian candidate — Defence Minister Peter McKay.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen takes over the secretary-generalship of NATO on Saturday of this week.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Rinkeby Fire Claims Seventh Victim

The 13-year-old girl that was badly burned in the fire in an apartment in Rinkeby in western Stockholm on Saturday evening has died of her injuries. The fire has now claimed seven victims.

“She died at around lunchtime as a result of her injuries,” said Christer Claesson at Karolinska University Hospital.

The girl therefore brings the death toll to seven after the deaths of her 42-year-old mother and five of her siblings, aged one to 16, on Saturday.

An eighth member of the Somali family has been treated for minor injuries sustained in the fire.

The technical investigation to determine the cause of the fire continued on Tuesday. Technicians from the National Laboratory of Forensic Science (SKL) have spent the day examining the burned out apartment in Rinkeby.

“We hope that their expertise will enable us to establish the cause of the fire or at least to rule out possible causes,” Peter Saarman, a spokesperson for west Stockholm police told news agency TT.

According to the police an analysis of the fire could be completed within a couples of days after the completion of the investigation.

“Then we will hopefully know more about what caused the fire,” Saarman said.

Saarman was asked by TT if the fire was caused by a technical fault.

“Details along those lines have emerged, but that it nothing that I can either confirm nor deny at the moment, as we do not yet know.”

According to the police the girl died as 1.04pm. She had been in the care of the hospital since Saturday night and had been lying unconscious in intensive care.

“Her status has been critical the whole time and she has been swinging between life and death,” Saarman said.

The tragedy is the deadliest in the Scandinavian country since 1998, when a fire in the city of Gothenburg killed 63 people.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands of a Tiny Minority of Extremists Meet in Londonistan to Demand a Caliphate

Britain has revealed itself as the major Muslim invasion point for Europe with a rally of thousands of militant Muslims under the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir pan-Islamist party in London supporting Jihad and the creation of a caliphate in which non-Muslims will have no rights.

The rally —- largely ignored by the controlled media out of a desire to hide the shocking truth from the British public —- was organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, which is the UK variant of the globalist Islamist party. The conference was provocatively titled “The Struggle for ISLAM and the call for Khilafah.” (Khilafah is the word for caliphate.)

It was opened by Dr Abdul Wahid, Chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain’s Executive Committee, who said, “using the issue of terrorism and extremism, Western governments have embarked on a campaign to prevent the Muslim world establishing an Islamic government, the Caliphate that will free the Muslim world from the terror and hegemony that has been brought upon it by the West.”

Dr Wahid said, “In this critical time, Muslims needed to hold onto Islamic values living in the West, and resist the attempts to reform Islam, and to support the call for the Islamic Khilafah in the Muslim world —- to end decades of oppression, colonisation and dependency.”

“The growing call for Khilafah in the Muslim world is causing increasing anxiety in Western capitals. To thwart this call Western backed puppet rulers are doing everything to stop the political work of Hizb ut Tahrir. Despite all the torture and terror upon Hizb ut Tahrir members, the party’s work continues to grow and its call is now embraced by millions of Muslims all over the world,” the conference was told.

An official Hizb ut Tahrir press release stated: “The conference highlighted how the method to re-establish the Khilafah is based on the Life (Seerah) of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which clearly laid out a non-violent intellectual and political struggle to bring about change. Hizb ut-Tahrir has continued with this method for over 50 years and calls Muslims all over the world to this path for change.

“The conference concluded by emphasizing the key role the Muslim community in the West plays in terms of supporting the call for Khilafah in the Muslim world and carrying the Message of Islam to the wider non-Muslim society, breaking the stereotypes and presenting Islam with sound argument and good example.”

The London Khilafah conference followed a month-long series of conferences in Lebanon, Kuwait, Gaza, Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the US and Australia. It included a landmark gathering in Indonesia of thousands of leading scholars supporting the re-establishment of the Khilafah which was addressed by the global leader, Ameer of Hizb ut Tahrir, Sheikh Ata abu Rashta.

* Hizb ut-Tahrir (English: Party of Liberation) is an international pan-Islamist, Sunni political party whose goal is to combine all Muslim countries in a unitary Islamic state or caliphate, ruled by Islamic law and with a caliph head of state elected by Muslims.

Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar, founded the organization in 1953 in Jerusalem. Since then Hizb ut-Tahrir has spread to more than 40 countries. Hizb ut-Tahrir is very active in the West, particularly in the United Kingdom, and is also active in several Arab and Central Asian countries, despite being banned in many of them.

Hizb ut-Tahrir believes a caliphate “will provide stability and security to all the people of the region, Muslims and Non-Muslims”. The party promotes “an elaborate and detailed program for instituting an Islamist state” that will “establish the laws of the Islamic Shariah and carry the Da’wah of Islam to the world.”

Article 56 of the draft constitution of the proposed caliphate state describes conscription as a compulsory individual duty, for all citizens. “Every male Muslim, fifteen years and over, is obliged to undergo military training in readiness for jihad.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects democracy as a western system and unIslamic Hizb ut-Tahrir’s official papers say that “The basis of the democratic system is that people possess the right of sovereignty, choice and implementation … it is a Kufr system because it is laid down by man and it is not from the Shari’ah Laws.”

In Hizb ut-Tahrir’s draft constitution for its unified Islamic state, any non-Muslims living in the state may not serve in any of the ruling offices, such as the position of caliph, nor vote for these officials, as these positions require those who fulfil them to believe in the system. Muslims have “the right to participate in the election of the Khaleefah [head of state] and in giving him the pledge (ba’iah). Non-Muslims have no right in this regard.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir claims the rights of Jews and other non-Muslims are enshrined within statuary Islamic Law (Sharia). These were laid down by the prophet Muhammad when he established the first Islamic state in Medina in the seventh century. He said, “Whoever harms a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen) has harmed me.”

In regards to foreign policy, Article 186 of the draft constitution states: “The State is forbidden to belong to any organisation that is based on something other than Islam or that applies non-Islamic rules.”

Article 7 of its Draft Constitution declares that Muslims who “have by themselves renounced Islam … are guilty of apostasy (murtad) from Islam [and] are to be executed.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir forbids women from ruling positions such as caliph, Chief Justice, provincial governor, or mayor citing prophetic traditions. Article 109 of the party’s draft constitution prescribes segregation of the sexes in public activities such as school, sporting activities, etc. Muslim women would be required to hide “their charms,” i.e. their body with the exception of hands and face, to dress in accordance with khimar and jilbab. Article 114 of the constitution specifies that women should not be allowed to be in private with men other than their husband or members of their immediate family (father, brother, son). Article 116 stipulates that once married a woman is obliged to obey her husband.

And so it goes: the colonisation of Britain and Europe by Islam continues, with the active support of the Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP four-headed single party. Only the British National Party opposes the Islamification of Britain.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

UK: Voters Turn Against War in Afghanistan

A majority of the public believes that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and British troops should be pulled out immediately, a poll for The Independent has found.

The growing opposition to the military offensive emerged as another two UK soldiers were killed, bringing the number of deaths so far this month to 22. Gordon Brown declared yesterday that Operation Panther’s Claw — the five-week onslaught on Taliban positions in Helmand province — had been a success.

But today’s ComRes survey suggests that the public mood is switching rapidly against the war — and that people do not believe it is worth sending reinforcements to Afghanistan.

More than half of voters (52 per cent) want troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan straight away, with 43 per cent disagreeing. Opposition to the military action is even stronger among women.

By a margin of nearly two-to-one, the public believes that the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily. Fifty-eight per cent view the war as “unwinnable”, with 31 per cent disagreeing.

There is overwhelming agreement — by 75 per cent to 16 per cent — that British troops in Afghanistan lack the equipment they require to perform their role safely.

Despite that, 60 per cent of people do not think more troops and resources should be dispatched to the war zone. Just over one third (35 per cent) are in favour of reinforcements being sent in..

The collapse in confidence in Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan comes after the numbers killed in the action exceeded those who died in Iraq.

Mr Brown yesterday announced the first phase of Panther’s Claw had been a success, clearing out Taliban insurgents from a wide area of Helmand ahead of next month’s Afghanistan elections.

He acknowledged the “tragic human cost” among UK troops who were killed or injured, but insisted it had not been in vain. “What we have actually done is make land secure for about 100,000 people,” the Prime Minister claimed.

“What we’ve done is push back the Taliban — and what we’ve done also is to start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Ukraine Finds ‘Reporter’s Skull’

Ukrainian investigators say they have found skull fragments believed to be those of the journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, who was decapitated in 2000.

The find came just days after the arrest of a former Ukrainian general suspected of carrying out the murder.

Mr Gongadze was an investigative journalist who had exposed high-level corruption. He was an outspoken critic of former President Leonid Kuchma.

Three policemen were convicted of his murder last year.

Ukrainian investigators said Gen Oleksiy Pukach, a former police officer himself, had confessed to the killing last week when he was arrested, after spending years on the run.

Mr Gongadze’s decapitated body was found in a forest near the capital, Kiev, in September 2000, months after his abduction. He had been beaten and strangled, his body doused in petrol and burned.

Prosecutors allege that Gen Pukach — who was detained near Kiev — organised the abduction and personally strangled Mr Gongadze.

National scandal

Gen Pukach headed the interior ministry’s surveillance department at the time of the killing.

But Mr Gongadze’s family has always claimed someone more senior was behind the killing.

Secret tape recordings released soon after the killing appeared to implicate the then-President, Leonid Kuchma.

In the recordings — made secretly by a member of his personal guard and then released by an opposition politician — Mr Kuchma allegedly discussed ways of removing the journalist with a former interior minister, Yuri Kravchenko.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Isolation Fear Grips Kosovo Serbs

Nikola shuffles his feet nervously, gazes around at the town where he has lived all his life, and tells me that he wants to leave.

Then he tells me he will not leave. Then he seems to change his mind and say that he will.

We are in Gracanica, a Serb enclave in the middle of Kosovo, surrounded on all sides by the majority Albanian-speaking population.

And Nikola, like most people you meet here, talks as if he is living under siege.

“There are threats from Kosovo Albanians, trying to kidnap people,” he says.

“I don’t feel safe here. My mother has trouble with the neighbour — he’s Albanian. You don’t have the things here you need for a normal life.”

‘Endangered’ community

The tables have certainly turned.

During the late Slobodan Milosevic’s time as president of former Yugoslavia and, later, Serbia, ethnic Serbs in Kosovo were accused first of removing the rights of Kosovo’s Albanian-speaking population, and then of attempting to ethnically cleanse them from the province altogether.

But when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence last year, its Serb population found themselves a minority in the new country. Many, perhaps half, left their homes.

And now they have a new source of anxiety.

The Nato-led Kosovo Force (K-For) deployed to keep the peace in Kosovo has just announced it is reducing troop numbers from 14,000 down to 10,000.

It is a move that the Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic, warns will leave Serbs in Kosovo badly exposed.

“Today, in Europe, the Kosovo Serb community is probably among the most endangered,” he says.

“When they move around, they feel they need to be accompanied by international security forces. It would be bad if the numbers were diminished.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

What Really Happened in Srebrenica

The Hague Tribunal has stretched the definition of genocide to such extent that the term loses the terrible dignity of describing the most gruesome crimes of extermination of the entire population. In Srebrenica, during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995, roughly one fifth of the region’s entire Muslim population perished in fighting or by other means. To claim that an area in which some twenty percent of the allegedly targeted population lost their lives has been subjected to genocide is absurd. To its designers and perpetrators, this accusation serves the legal purpose of denying the legitimacy to the Republika Srpska, and the political and propaganda purpose of demanding its abolition.

Diana Johnstone says that everyone who “retains a capacity for critical thinking should regard the lavish public breast-beating over ‘Srebrenica’ with certain skepticism.” Her warning is apt: there is the regrettable tendency in Western media reporting and analysis to look at events in the eastern Bosnian enclave in isolation from the time continuum.

“What happened in July of 1995 is a matter of record. Srebrenica fell rather unexpectedly to Bosnian Serbian military forces,” explained Dr. Srdja Trifkovic in his interview for CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa.

“A considerable number of Bosnian Muslims of military age, most of them armed, retreated in the direction of Tuzla. Some got through; some were killed while fighting their way; and some were taken prisoner and executed by the Bosnian Serb army. Between seven and eight thousand Bosnian Muslims departed Srebernica in the hope of reaching the town of Tuzla. There is no conclusive research to tell us how many of them survived, how many of them were killed in the fighting while trying to reach Tuzla, and how many were executed by the Bosnian Serb forces after being taken prisoner.”

The much hallowed number of 8.000 still a matter of dispute

In Potocari, the village just outside Srebrenica, where the monument to the victims of the alleged massacre is situated, you can see the names of over 8.000 Muslim men. “That list covers not only Srebrenica, but seven or eight other municipalities in the region,” says Trifkovic.

“The Muslims themselves, when erecting the shrine to the victims of the events of Srebrenica, couldn’t come up with the magic number of Eight Thousand — short of resorting to the inclusion in that total of people from many surrounding municipalities, which had nothing to do with Srebrenica itself and most of them military victims of fighting. This in itself indicates that the myth of mass executions simply does not stand scrutiny.”

What did Muslims do to Serbs?

One cannot understand what happened in Srebrenica in July of 1995 — Trifkovic insists — without looking at the events of previous three years, between late spring of 1992 and summer of 1995. During that period Srebrenica was an armed camp used by the Muslim forces to terrorize the surrounding Serbian communities and kill hundreds of unarmed civilians. That facts are not denied even by the ICTY at The Hague.

The Memorial Centre in Bratunac, the Serbian town not far from Srebrenica, has hundreds of photographs of Serbs killed by the Muslims during that period. All of them were killed by the armed Muslims belonging to Naser Oric’s forces coming out of Srebrenica.

“A particularly gruesome crime happened on Serbian Orthodox Christmas in January 1993 in the villages along the Drina valley, such as Kravice, when children as young as 5 and 6, as well as elderly women of 80, were killed by having their throats split or having clubs smashed into their heads,” explains Trifkovic.

“At the time of the fall of Srebrenica there was considerable bitterness in the Bosnian Serb ranks against the Muslims in the town. On the one hand Srebrenica was the headquarters of the 28th Muslim division and the hotbed of terrorism that was the springboard for offensives against the surrounding Serbian communities in which hundreds of Serb civilians were gruesomely slaughtered. At the same time Srebrenica was supposedly immune from attack because it was a designated UN ‘safe heaven’.”

“The record of Srebrenica as described by the UN Tribunal at The Hague is neither legally nor logically coherent,” according to Trifkovic:

“Srebrenica was proclaimed to be a genocide in the trial of Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic, on the strength of the claim that even the deportation of children, women and elderly men from Srebrenica was an act of genocide. Even though there were no written or oral orders to the effect that a genocidal intent was existent and even though no such orders actually exist.”

Muslims of Srebrenica sacrificed by Izetbegovic and Clinton

In his interview for the Sarajevo newspaper Dani, Hakija Meholjic, president of the SDA (Stranka demokratske akcije) for Srebrenica, declared in June 1998 that Bosnian Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic had told a delegation from Srebrenica something very interesting four years previously: “I was told by Clinton in April 1993 — Izetbegovic said — that if the Chetniks [Bosnian Serb forces] enter Srebrenica and carry out a slaughter of 5,000 Muslims, then there will be a Western military intervention.”

“I wrote an article exploring this same possibility in late July 1995,” says Trifkovic. “It was headlined ‘Is Izetbegovic scarifying a pawn in order to win the game?’ although Miholjic’s account was not yet known at that time.”

“When something so unexpected and apparently illogical happens as the sudden fall of Srebrenica, we should immediately ask the question who gains — cui bono. It is obvious that in case of Srebrenica it was the Muslim side. Miholjici’s account offers the explanation for what is otherwise inexplicable. For over three years Srebrenica has resisted Serbian attacks. It was saved in the nick of time from falling to the Serbs in spring of 1993 when the French General Philippe Morillon rode into Srebrenica in an armed personal carrier. And yet in the summer of 1995 it suddenly falls almost without any fighting.”

The quote by Miholjic is a serious indictment against Izetbegovic, says Trifkovic, but it is not surprising.

“Why should we be surprised that Izetbegovic was prepared to sacrifice Srebrenica if we know, as we do by know, that he staged a number of the so-called massacres in Sarajevo, including the famous ‘breadline massacre’ in the spring of 1992 and the Markale market explosion in February of 1994. These were stage-managed stunts done by Muslims themselves in order to create suitable images of blood and gore that would be presented around the world as a result of Serbian atrocities, and thus contribute to political decisions favourable to the Muslims.”

“Such cynical exploitation of human life for political purposes is the hallmark of the Muslims in general, notably in the West Bank and Gaza, and of the Bosnian Muslim strategy in the 1990s in particular,” says Trifkovic.

“Both NATO and the Bosnian Muslim leadership needed Srebrenica — not only for the bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in August of 1995, not only for the subsequent support to the combined Muslim — Croatian offensive against the Serbs, but also for the continuous claim that the Bosnian Serb Republic [Republika Srpska] is a flawed entity that does not deserve to exist.”

Manipulation of reality

Srebrenica will be used as an anti-Serb trump card for a log time to come, Trifkovic warns:

“In the record of the wars of the Yugoslav disintegration there are several similar myths which need to be debunked, including the so-called Racak massacre in January of 1999. It was cooked up by the KLA Albanian terrorists, aided and abated by the U.S. ‘diplomat’ William Walker. The events in Vukovar in the fall of 1991 are in the same league. These are supposed to atone for, and even eliminate any collective memory of the real genocide committed by the Croatian Ustase against the Serbs during World War Two between 1941 and 1945.”

“Srebernica” is an ongoing brazen manipulation of reality in order to obtain certain short-term political goals. That manipulation is still continuing, 14 years after the event. This only testifies to the lack of ability of the Western media class to think critically and to analyze Balkan events objectively, concluded Trifkovic.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Regina, Forum in Milan Totally Misguided

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 23 — “In this country, every so often, there is lobbying for a predetermined cause which does not consider it’s local characteristics”. Planning the economic headquarters for the Union for the Mediterranean in Milan, as proposed by Silvio Berlusconi, “is a bit like building a nautical museum in Courmayeur”. The quip comes from the Chair of Rome’s Industrial entrepreneurs (UIR), Aurelio Regina, speaking during a presentation on investment in the city’s energy sector. Regina emphasized the fact that “Italy frequently lacks a comprehensive industrial policy, and continues to remain entirely without strategies to modernize the South, a territory which is increasingly lags behind. The UIR president continued, saying “It doesn’t seem too much to ask. I just think we could pay closer attention to local characteristics, constructing the best we can in those places where it is possible”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Scholars OK Mosques Built by Showbiz $

As ever more Egyptian showbiz stars seek to build their own mosques, the issue of whether they are tainted by ill-gotten gains or ambiguously Islamic sources of income has come to the forefront.

Egyptian religious scholars have sought to dispel concerns over the legitimacy of mosques owned by actors and singers after a controversial fatwa (religious ruling) banned Muslims from praying in such mosques.

But scholars are now advising Muslims to pray in any mosque since it is the house of God.

The controversy erupted in the wake of the latest addition to showbiz mosques by comedian Mohamed Saad, who recently built his own mosque worth $0.5 million in a working class district of Cairo.

“If anyone else who’s not a celebrity had built this mosque, it wouldn’t have caused such a fuss,” Saad told Al Arabiya, adding that he did not build the mosque for propaganda purposes.

In February of 2007 al-Azhar University professor Dr. Mohamed al-Mosayyar issued a fatwa prohibiting prayer in mosques built by entertainment stars after singer Saad al-Soghayar came under harsh criticism for constructing a mosque.

Now Saad, the actor, did not want to talk about his newly built mosque for fear of facing the same harsh criticism Soghayar received.

Arabic crooner Soghayar lashed out at the harsh criticism he has been subjected to since he built a mosque.

“I can’t see how people can stand in the face of the good deeds like that,” he told Al Arabiya.

“That is not why I haven’t built the mosque till now,” he told Al Arabiya. “Once I decided to do that, no one can stop me.”

Another singer, Hamada Hilal, reportedly decided not to build a mosque in the Delta governorate of Sharqiya after the Soghayar incident, although he denied he detracted from his decision to build the mosque for fear of facing opposition.

A former Minister of Religious Endowments, Dr. Ahmadi Abul Nour, told Al Arabiya that people were allowed to pray in entertainers’ mosques “as long as this art does not contradict ethics, or include sexual content, or sow sedition amongst viewers,” since the money earned would be considered “legitimate.”

Shocking fatwa

Sheikh Ahmed Abul Hassan said he was surprised by Mosayyar’s fatwa and stressed that even if a mosque was built with illegitimate money, people would still be allowed to pray in it.

“The only case when people are not to pray in a mosque is if it is built on stolen land,” he told Al Arabiya.

Dr. Souad Saleh, professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University, told Al Arabiya that whether a mosque is built with legitimate or illegitimate money, it is at the end the house of God and people should fill it with prayers.

“Isn’t this better than closing it or turning it into a night club?” she asked.

Saleh added that if the money earned from singing or acting is considered illegitimate, then building the mosque would be a sort of penance.

“God never lets down those who repent.”

Dr. Abdul-Sabour Shahine, a professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, said the legitimacy of the funding was irrelevant since a mosque does not lose its purpose if it is built by a showbiz star.

“A mosque is a place of worship and stays so no matter who builds it,” he told Al Arabiya.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Nasser vs. Sadat — the Female Version

Egyptian police raided Tuesday the apartment of Hoda Abdel Nasser — the daughter of former president Gamal Abdel Nasser — with the intention of confiscating property, because she had still not paid damages to the daughter of another former president, Anwar Sadat, for defaming her father.

A Cairo court ruled in 2008 that Hoda Nasser must pay 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,500) to Ruqaya Sadat for defamation, after Nasser had charged in a 2007 magazine interview that Anwar Sadat was responsible for killing her father by drugging his food, rather than a heart attack as doctors had said.

Police were prevented at the last minute from confiscating property during Tuesday’s raid after senior attorneys intervened and postponed the property seizure until Nasser’s daughter acts to obtain the required amount.

Attempts were made simultaneously by senior Egyptian journalists, including the one who arranged the interview with Nasser, to settle the dispute between the two women. Both have signaled their willingness to compromise, although according to a report in al-Quds al-Arabi Sadat’s lawyer has asked her not to come to an agreement.

Anwar Sadat’s son, former Egyptian member of parliament Mohammad Anwar Sadat, expressed sorrow that the difference in opinion had caused such a deep rift between the two families. He said that both families were appreciated by the Egyptian public and that there was no room for such a dispute between them.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Morocco, Life Sentence for Terrorist Leader

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JULY 28 — A Moroccan man with Belgian citizenship, Abdelkader Belliraj, accused of leading a terrorist network of 35 militants in Morocco and abroad, has today been sentenced to life imprisonment by the antiterrorism court of Salé, near Rabat. The public prosecutor had requested the death penalty on June 1. 50-year-old Belliraj is suspected of having led a group of Islamic extremists and of having murdered 6 people in Belgium at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. He has always denied the charges. He was arrested in Morocco on February 18 last year together with several other people, in possession of a vast arsenal of firearms. “I did not bring weapons into Morocco and I deny ever considering activities aimed at toppling the regime,” Belliraj repeated on numerous occasions throughout the trial. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Al-Qaeda: ‘We Hit Israel From Lebanon, Again’

(IsraelNN.com) An al-Qaeda branch apparently active in Lebanon claims to have launched attacks on Israel. The group mocks the Iran-backed Hizbullah terrorist organization and calls for a unified front against Israel and the United Nations under the command of Osama Bin-Laden.

The call to jihad was issued in a video recording released this past week by al-Qaeda of al-Sham, a region known as “Greater Syria” encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and parts of Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The brief video, titled “Penetrating the Fortresses”, includes statements by al-Qaeda senior leaders such as Osama Bin-Laden, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Ayman al-Zawahiri relating to the jihadist front with Israel. The jihadists, they say, will not sit quietly and will even crawl to get to the front and “free Palestine”.

As an example, the video explains and visually demonstrates how a cell from al-Qaeda of al-Sham (AQASH) supposedly bypassed the Lebanese Army, Hizbullah and UNIFIL forces, launched missiles towards Israel, and then retreated undetected. These actions, the video claims, were carried out under the direct command of Bin-Laden, and it calls for more such attacks against the Jewish State.

The AQASH video claim of responsibility for a rocket attack apparently refers to a January 8, 2009 barrage from southern Lebanon that hit the Israeli city of Nahariya. Three Katyusha rockets injured two people and caused significant property damage. At the time, Hizbullah denied involvement in the incident.

The al-Qaeda cell claims to have perpetrated or having tried to perpetrate additional attacks on Israel, as well. “Some were launched and some were foiled,” the video said flatly.

AQASH calls for the Fatah al-Islam jihadist group, which was once a Syrian front group, and other Islamist organizations in Lebanon to join them in their effforts: “Al-Qaeda is already active in [Lebanon and elsewhere in Greater Syria] and the father-leader, Bin-Laden, must be obeyed.”

Regarding Lebanon, AQASH calls for the cancellation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, because it “is only for the benefit of the Israelis.” The video further criticizes Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who “decried the actions of the jihadists who fired the Katyushas towards Israel as collaborators of the Israelis”, even though during the last Israeli operation in Gaza, “he did nothing and even agreed that the Crusader forces (UNIFIL) can base themselves in southern Lebanon.” The AQASH voiceover taunts Nasrallah, “So now who are the collaborators?”

The Lebanon-based al-Qaeda branch declared that “Hizbullah is using the Palestinian cause to fulfill Iran’s orders.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Barry Rubin: Israel’s Peace Plan Marks a New Era in the Country’s History

This could be the most important article I write this year. Israel has entered a new era of thinking and policy in which old categories of left or right, hawk or dove are irrelevant under a national unity government bringing together the two main ruling parties.

How did this new paradigm arise?

Between 1948 and 1992, the Israeli consensus was that the PLO and most Arab states want to destroy Israel. When—or if—the day comes that they’re ready to negotiate seriously we’ll see what happens.

Then came the Oslo agreement and a huge shift. The governing view was that maybe the Palestinians and Arab states learned the cost of their intransigence enough to make peace possible. The left thought a deal could bring real peace; the right thought it was a trick leading to another stage of conflict on terms less favorable to Israel. But both expected a deal to materialize.

The year 2000, the Camp David failure, the Syrian and Palestinian rejection of generous offers, and Second Intifada destroyed illusions in Israel.

Since then, Israel has groped for a new paradigm. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered unilateralism; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni constantly offered more in exchange for nothing. But the more they did so, the more international abuse Israel received.

Now a new approach has finally emerged capable of reversing this situation. It goes like this: Israel wants peace but doesn’t hesitate to express not only what it wants and needs but also what’s required to create a stable and better situation. To ensure that violence and instability really ceases requires:

—Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Without this step, the aftermath of any “peace” agreement would be additional decades of Arab effort to destroy Israel in all but—temporarily—name.

—Absolute clarity that a peace agreement ends the conflict and all claims on Israel. Otherwise, the Palestinian leadership and much of the Arab world would regard any “peace” agreement as a license for a new stage of battle using Palestine as a base for renewed attacks and demands.

—Strong security arrangements and serious international guarantees for them. Have no doubt; these will be tested by cross-border attacks from Palestine.

—An unmilitarized Palestinian state (a better description than “demilitarized”), with the large security forces they already have: enough for internal security and legitimate defense but not aggression.

—Palestinian refugees resettled in Palestine. The demand for a “Right of Return” is just a rationale for wiping Israel off the map through internal subversion and civil war.

If Israel gets what it requires—and what successful peace requires—it will accept a two-state solution, a Palestinian Arab Muslim state (the Palestinian Authority’s own definition) alongside a Jewish state, living in peace…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Israel Warns Lebanon About Border Incidents

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 28 — Israel has forwarded a peremptory warning to Lebanon via the UN warning that Beirut will be responsible for any future incidents on the border, so reported today the Israeli press. Daily newspaper Hàaretz added that the situation on the border with Lebanon and activities by the Hezbollah militia were discussed yesterday by the Defence minister, Ehud Barak, and the USA Defence Secretary Robert Gates. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian to Sue Cohen for Bruno Film

I am not a terrorist: Palestinian Abu Aita

“Bruno” said on Tuesday he was not amused at the gay fashionista mockumentary and plans to sue.

Ayman Abu Aita said he intends to take the outrageous British comedian to court after a scene in the movie portrayed him as a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of the main armed Palestinian groups.

“I am not a member of Al-Aqsa,” said the 44-year-old Abu Aita, a member of a regional committee of Fatah, the ruling Palestinian party to which the militant group is loosely affiliated.

“It’s a lie, the whole thing was a lie. We were betrayed by this guy when he said that he was a journalist,” said Abu Aita, a Christian.

“We thought he was a foreign journalist and we hoped he would speak about our cause.”

Abu Aita joins a long line of unwitting victims hoodwinked by the comedian, both during the filming of “Bruno” and his previous smash hit “Borat,” which generated scores of lawsuits.

“ We thought: what could people see that they’ve never seen before on film. And we thought one thing would be a comedian interviewing a terrorist “

Sacha Baron CohenIn “Bruno,” Cohen poses as a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter who in one scene goes to interview a “terrorist” in his quest for fame.

“We thought: what could people see that they’ve never seen before on film,” Cohen said on the Late Show with David Letterman recently. “And we thought one thing would be a comedian interviewing a terrorist.”

During his interview with Abu Aita, Bruno asks to be kidnapped and suggests he and his colleagues shave their beards because “your king Osama looks like some king of dirty wizard or a homeless Santa” referring to Osama Bin Laden.

Asked by Letterman whether he thought Abu Aita and his associates would go see the film, Cohen said: “I hope to God not.”

But Abu Aita said he has seen the full movie: “I didn’t like any of it.”

Neither did the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

A senior official with al-Aqsa told AFP the group has no official stance on the matter. But he did add: “This whole story is bulls**t.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Nuclear: Gates to Netanyahu, Same Views on Iran

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 27 — The US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, said to Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu during a meeting today in Jerusalem that the US and Israel “have the same views’ on the Iranian nuclear threat, according to a statement released by the Israeli Premier’s office. Gates explained that the American policy of searching for dialogue with Iran is limited in time. Netanyahu, for his part, stressed the gravity of Israel’s view on the Iranian nuclear programme and insisted on the necessity of acting with all the means possible to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear military capabilities. In Jerusalem, Gates also met with the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, who emphasised in reference to the Iranian nuclear threat that Israel’s line of thinking “does not exclude any option”. Barak also added: “We are not blind, we understand that our actions could have repercussions on our neighbours and beyond. We are trying to keep that in mind”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Iranian Military Dictatorship

The Nation 20.07.2009 (USA)

In his report on Iran, Robert Dreyfuss has abandoned hope for the popular uprising. He sees two alternatives for the country: “At best, Iran will remain embroiled in the stalemate it has faced since 2005, with the economy continuing to unravel. At worst, it could fall into North Korea-like isolation, with fundamentalists and the security establishment preaching that subsistence-level economic privation must be endured for the sake of Islamic purity. At the very least, the clergy-run, quasi-democratic Iranian state has been replaced by something that looks a lot more like a military dictatorship. Since his election in 2005, Ahmadinejad has installed scores of ex-commanders from the IRGC throughout government ministries and as governors and local officials in all thirty provinces. Ahmadinejad’s cronies have created a powerful clique loyal to Khamenei but, at the same time, encircling the office of the Leader.”

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

South Asia

Abbas Abdolmohamadi Describes How the Shiite Clergy Was Corrupted by the Islamic Revolution

Frankfurter Rundschau 22.07.2009

In a background article Abbas Abdolmohamadi, describes how the Shiite clergy was corrupted by the Islamic Revolution, which brought it status and privilege. Until then such things has been the preserve of the state-financed Sunni scholars. “Sunni scholars have always had to, and still have to, accept guidelines stipulated by the state. They were always closely affiliated with the ruling politicians… The Shiite clergy, on the other hand, were financed by their followers and were therefore dependent on their respective ideas. There is little they can do against superstitions or the teaching of distorted religions traditions, for example. They are dependent on their believers and many of these are held in stasis by religious traditions handed down by their fathers. On the other hand the Shiite clerics were always politically engaged and sufficiently motivated to provide asylum for Shiite believers, defending their rights against the ruling powers.”

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

Afghanistan — Spain: Government May Send Reinforcements

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 27 — The Spanish government is ready to consider the option of sending reinforcements to Afghanistan “if the situation demands” although “sufficient” troops are stationed in the country at the moment, said Spain’s Defence Minister Carme Chacon today, as quoted by the EFE press agency. The minister made her remarks during a two-day surprise visit to Spanish troops in Afghanistan, her fourth visit since the start of her mandate. Before her meetings with the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and with the country’s ministers of defence and interior affairs, Abdun Rahim and Mohamed Hanif, Chacon told the press that “if the security situation demands, I will be the first to ask Parliament for reinforcements.” Spain has sent 450 troops to Afghanistan to guarantee a normal electoral process in the country on August 20. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Anti-Taliban Fight Could Spill Over Into Tajikistan

More and more reports are coming in that Taliban fighters are seeking sanctuary in Tajikistan fleeing offensives in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Official sources have denied such reports but gun battles are increasing along the border with Afghanistan.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Since May Tajik security forces have set up a tight security cordon and engaged in gun battles with armed groups in an area close to the Afghan border. Analysts fear Islamist Taliban fighters fleeing Pakistan and Afghanistan may be slipping into Tajikistan, threatening a fragile peace in the former Soviet state.

Current military actions in the Rasht Valley are part of an annual anti-drug operation to stem the flow of opium and heroin smuggled out of Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer, Tajikistan Drug Control Agency Director General Rustam Nazarov said.

But locals say the government is being very secretive about this operation, and using more force than in the past.

For experts the operation began after the Pakistan launched its offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley and after US President Barack Obama sent thousands more US troops to Afghanistan in a bid to defeat Islamic extremists.

Residents at the foot of the Pamir Mountains reported clashes with armed groups.

US military sources are convinced that al-Qai’da is moving its forces out of Pakistan and Afghanistan and into neighbouring countries as a result of recent large-scale offensives.

Tajikistan is the smallest and poorest former Soviet state in Central Asia. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union it went through a civil war as militant groups like the Islamist Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) flourished.

After the war ended with a peace deal in 1997 extremist groups were pushed into Afghanistan.

The Tajik-Afghan border region is mountainous and scarcely inhabited, thus hard to control and easy to penetrate.

It has always been a place of refuge for the leaders of armed Islamic rebel groups.

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

Finnish Soldiers Fire First Shots in Anger in Afghanistan

A detachment of Afghan, Finnish and Swedish soldiers and police were attacked and returned fire in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, marking the first time Finnish troops were forced to defend themselves in the country, the Finnish military said.

None of the 76 troops and police, tasked with patrolling polling stations for next month’s presidential election, was killed or wounded, with no confirmation of casualties on the other side.

On Thursday, A handful of Finnish troops were called in as reinforcements when Swedish soldiers were attacked but did not return fire. The day before a Finnish patrol retreated after taking light arms fire.

Under the Finns’ rules of engagement soldiers may use lethal force only in self-defence but not to protect property for example.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ahti Kurvinen, the Finnish commander in Afghanistan, said one should be prepared for further incidents like Saturday’s engagement.

He added that while the troops had been prepared for the engagement he was worried about a ramp-up in insurgent activity in the run-up to the election.

“The difficult areas are very limited and small, but should the insurgents gain a foothold there, there is a chance of escalation,” Lt-Col Kurvinen told the Finnish News Agency (STT).

“Our mission is to support local police and soldiers in order for them to be able to calm situations down before escalation.”

The Finns are serving as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Lesson Today is Hatred as Bashir Cultivates Bombers’ Breeding Ground

THE term “formative years” was made very real in Jakarta earlier this month. One of the suicide bombers at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels was only 16 or 17 years of age. Teenage suicide bombers have been common in Iraq and Afghanistan, but until now have not featured in attacks on Australia’s doorstep.

Just as it makes sinister sense to explode bombs from within the walls of hotels, rather than from the outside, it also makes sense to infiltrate the minds of boys and send them to their deaths before they reach an age where they might ask deeper questions of themselves.

The boy, who was accompanied by a 20-year-old on the mission to bomb the Jakarta hotels, was almost certainly a high school student recruited from one of the 14,000 Indonesian Islamic schools known as pesantren.

Abu Bakar Bashir is the man who offers spiritual guidance to the most extremist network of pesantren. His headquarters are the al-Mukmin school in Solo, central Java, from where at least 15 students have graduated to committing acts of terror across region.

Bashir is an ultra-conservative Wahhabist who believes it is permissible to kill infidels. He wanders through Java preaching his anti-Western and anti-Indonesian government hatred. There are 2000 impressionable students at al-Mukmin who routinely receive his counsel, and many thousands more within his pesantren network.

Despite being jailed for inciting terrorism with treasonous statements, Bashir openly continues to endorse terror attacks on kafirs (infidels). Speaking from his school last week, he blamed the CIA and Australia for the July 17 attacks and then, in the same breath, said the two suicide bombers were right to kill kafirs if they had ever entertained thoughts against Islam.

Bashir also endorsed Noordin Mohammad Top, who is still wanted for organising the 2002 Bali bombings, the 2003 Marriott bombing and the 2004 Australian embassy attack.

Some argue whether Bashir still heads Jemaah Islamiah, or has started another group. The distinction matters not to the families of the victims of the latest bombings. Terror has re-emerged after a short hibernation and it is a perverse reflection of Indonesia’s tolerant new democracy that Bashir is permitted to continue preaching violence.

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer introduced an AusAid program after the 2002 Bali bombings that aimed to instil moderation into pesantren through modernisation.

Downer says the thinking was that parents were sending their children to the schools, where two to three million students are enrolled at any time, not necessarily because they were religious extremists, but because the schools were so readily available. He says Australia funds religious schools domestically, including Islamic schools, and it might be a way to encourage tolerance.

“The problem with the schools is the curriculum is very narrow,” Downer says. “They focus on religious education and not much else. People come out of those schools being great experts on the Koran, but they don’t have knowledge of arithmetic, geography, language and physics. It’s hard for them to get jobs and they get swept into this world of fundamentalist religion.”

An expert on Indonesian extremism, Holland Taylor, does not quarrel with Australia funding the pesantren, but warns an education can be a dangerous thing. He is the chief executive of the Jakarta-based LibForAll Foundation, which he co-founded with former president, Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), to discredit the ideology of religious hatred in Indonesia.

“Modernisation will not produce moderation,” says Taylor. “As a matter of fact, it’s very often Muslims with the most modern educations who have the capability of committing the violent acts. They use the education they have to radicalise their fellow members of society.”

So it was with the engineer Azahari Husin, who studied for four years at the University of Adelaide and went on, under the direction of Top and with the blessing of Bashir, to make and oversee the delivery of the 2002 Bali bombs and the 2003 Marriott bomb, and more.

Taylor says there are three different kinds of pesantren in Indonesia. There is the pluralist, moderate kind which Gus Dur has worked hard to promote through the largest Muslim organisation in the world, Nahdlatul Ulama.

There are also 10,000 pesantren run by the Muhammadiyah, the world’s second-largest Muslim organisation. “The Muhammadiyah are overwhelmingly infiltrated by extremists — not terrorists, but extremists — who anathematise Australia, America and the secular system of Indonesia,” Taylor says. The Muhammadiyah is in the throes of bitter quarrels over its growing hardline membership and he says that Australia must monitor the pesantren closely so the aid it gives does not blow up in its face.

“Then,” says Taylor, “you have a network of pesantren controlled by Bashir and his network of disciples. They are independent, and it is his pesantren that is putting out the terrorists. No money that Australia would give to this network would in any way beneficially impact. You could not possibly moderate them by modernising them.”

Australia has never provided aid, whether direct or indirect, to the al-Mukmin school. The aid program, carried on from Downer’s time, is focused on building 2000 junior secondary schools, 46 of which are completed and operational.

The federal government said yesterday that it had “robust safeguards” to ensure Australian aid money did “not support institutions with radical views of Islam, or support individuals or entities associated with terrorism” and would only support Islamic schools that taught Indonesian, English, maths, science and social sciences as required by the national, secular curriculum.

Bashir’s al-Mukmin school teaches predominantly in Arabic, but it does teach some English, maths and other subjects. Some say this is because the modern terrorist needs modern skills.

While Bashir did prison time for inciting terrorism, Taylor doubts Bashir’s vicious spray following the latest bombings would see him being prosecuted once again.

“Indonesia is somewhat erratic in its laws of enforcement,” he says. “If they were really intent of getting Abu Bakar Bashir, they could probably get him on something, but Indonesia now has one of the most free-speech environments in Asia. What is really perverse is that the government is not identifying and cracking down on ideology.”

Taylor says discussions about the various factions of JI, and supposed splits between Top and Bashir, are just a distraction. “Noordin Top has been involved with every bombing going back 10 years. I am totally convinced Abu Bakar Bashir was involved in the Bali bombing and gave it his blessing and approval.

“He is guilty of those murders just as much as (the actual killers) Amrozi and Mukhlas Sumudra. He got off (murder charges) because of the influence of Islamists in Indonesian society and in the government.

“He is inciting the murder now. He said (last) week that if anyone makes Islam their enemy, even in thought, it’s the duty of all Muslims to kill them. That’s incitement to murder.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: What Made Jakarta Suicide Bombers Tick

JAKARTA — Despite skepticism that a business breakfast was always the primary target, there is one indisputable fact about the July 17 attacks on Jakarta’s Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels: not since the 2002 Bali bombing have so many foreigners been killed in such a focused way.

That is clearly no coincidence, given the level of planning that went into the bombings and the premium that Malaysian-born terrorist masterminds Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top have always placed on killing Western businessmen in particular.

An extensive planning blueprint for the second October 2005 Bali bombing, downloaded off Azahari’s laptop after he was killed in a police shootout in East Java a month later, said bluntly: “The deaths of foreign businessmen will have a greater impact than those of young people.”

Noordin, who is widely suspected to be behind the latest attacks, never had an active role in the 2002 Bali bombing, which killed 202 people, many of them young foreign tourists. Azahari was only brought in at the last minute to help iron out imperfections in the massive bomb that devastated the Sari nightclub on the resort island.

In the October 2003 car-bombing of the Marriott Hotel, in which both Noordin and Azahari were involved, a Dutch banker, a Dane and two Chinese tourists were among the 12 victims. But all 10 killed in the 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta were Indonesians; if the conspirators had chosen early morning or lunch-time to carry out the attack, Australians no doubt would have died too.

In the second Bali bombing, the blueprint points to a much more concerted effort to kill foreigners, again with Western businessmen perceived to be among tourists targeted at two popular Jimbaran seafood restaurants. Even then, only five foreigners were among the 20 people killed there and at a Kuta cafe some distance away.

It may not be the last time Bali is targeted because of the unusually large percentage of overseas visitors and the headlines the two bombings created around the world. As the 2005 document notes: “A mass attack on the enemy is more possible there than elsewhere in Indonesia.”

An International Crisis Group (ICG) report notes that a statement posted on a radical website after the latest bombings referred to the hotels as the center of “Jewish business activity” in Jakarta and went on to discuss how arousing fear in the enemy is justified in the ongoing war between Muslims and infidels.

A subsequent posting entitled “Why was the Marriott bombed?” picked up on this theme, asserting: “In Palestine Jews suffer and feel they are in hell because every day they are the target of attacks and operations. But Jews never feel worried about Muslim demonstrations in London or Jakarta.”

The ICG’s Jakarta-based terrorism expert, Sidney Jones, believes the bombers returned to a hotel they had already attacked because it was the best way to prove they could still attack — and that any place in the capital was vulnerable. In that, they succeeded, exposing embarrassing holes in the security of what had been touted as one of Jakarta’s safest hotels.

Jones says one key question for the police to answer is how the relatively expensive operation was funded. It is possible the money was raised locally, either through donors or armed robberies, as it was for the 2005 Bali bombing. But there are also suspicions it may have come from South Asia, raising the specter of renewed linkages to al-Qaeda or its affiliates.

Tactical debate There is still a great deal of debate over whether the militants originally planned to bomb the popular breakfast buffet at the Marriott’s expansive Sailendra coffee shop, given the similar location of the other blast in the Ritz Carlton, which lies 50 meters away across the street.

In fact, for the first two or three days, most news reports erroneously pinpointed the coffee shop as the scene of the attack, when it actually took place in a quiet lounge at the other end of the Marriott lobby where American consultant James Castle was hosting a weekly business breakfast for 17 of his clients.

If the restaurant was the original target, then it was probably changed during what may have been weeks of surveillance in which the watchers almost certainly would have noticed the meetings Castle, a long-standing Indonesian resident, held every Friday morning.

One compelling reason may have been to minimize Indonesian casualties, which would have been high in a coffee shop full of Indonesian staff and Indonesian patrons. The lounge was a much more inviting target with its long table full of foreign executives and more confined space.

In the end, the Ritz Carlton bombing merely served to double the impact more than anything else. In fact, the coffee shop was only sparsely populated and while it is too early to draw any solid conclusions, the Dutch couple killed in the blast were probably the only foreigners who presented a convenient target.

One thing the 2005 blueprint does underline is the extraordinary care the militants take over surveillance. The inside man for the latest operation was a florist, who had been delivering flowers to the Marriott and the Ritz Carlton for the past three years and must have had considerable knowledge of the inner workings of the hotels.

As valuable as he may have been, particularly in spiriting the well-dressed Ritz Carlton attacker into the hotel through the employees’ entrance, past practice suggests most of the surveillance was carried out by the two suicide bombers themselves.

“This way they will know the targets, and we don’t need to worry about the fact that most of the team members are police fugitives,” the 2005 planning document said. “There is no escape plan because the perpetrators will become martyrs. They will go to the targets and not return.”

The attention given to finding the best ways to blend in during the lead up to the Bali II bombing was extraordinary. So as not to draw attention, the bombers were directed to identify the exact type of shirts, pants, hats, shoes and bags domestic tourists wore or carried in the area around the target.

One thing seems clear from the dramatic change in modus operandi for the latest attack: by the time the man known as Nurdin Aziz telephoned in a reservation to the J W Marriott on July 10 and then moved into Room 1808 five days later, the militants would have settled on their primary target.

One of the survivors claims he thought he saw the bomber come into the lobby lounge about 20 minutes before the explosion, look around and walk out. If that was him, then he was not deciding where to bomb, but merely following the procedures outlined in the 2005 plan.

“The perpetrators can walk around a few times first to make certain that the target is full of foreigners, without bringing in the bag or bomb-backpack,” it says. “Then they can go back to get the bag or backpack that they’ve stored somewhere else and come back on foot. God willing, it won’t cause suspicion.”

When the bomb did detonate in a blinding flash of light at 7:47am on July 17, one witness claims it punched a hole in the floor clear through to the hotel basement. That indicates high explosive was used, as it was in the first, much more powerful, Marriott bombing, which also left a crater.

Killed in the explosion were three businessmen — a New Zealander and two Australians — a young Australian trade official and at least one hotel employee. Police are apparently waiting for forensic and DNA tests before saying what happened to a missing hotel security man who confronted the bomber as he entered the lounge.

Seven of the injured were flown to hospital in Singapore, including Castle’s critically hurt young Dutch assistant, Max Boon, who lost both legs below the knee in the blast and still has a piece of shrapnel lodged near his heart.

Youthful operatives Some theorists have claimed that a failed third bomb, made up of black powder and bolts and discovered later in Room 1808, was a so-called detractor device — designed to detonate in the room and drive frightened hotel guests into the lobby where they would have been the slaughtered by the much larger bomb.

Experienced investigators, however, feel it was more likely meant either to thin out security in the hotel or to destroy all the evidence in the room, including the hotel’s dismantled television set, which was used as a source of electrical components for the downstairs bomb.

While it has clearly been edited by police, closed circuit television footage shows the teenage bomber, a backpack strapped incongruously to his chest and pulling a large carry-on bag, emerging from the elevators, angling left into the lobby and heading straight for the lounge.

He is clearly not waiting for an expected explosion upstairs. If he was, it would have been easier for him to walk through the main doors and blow himself up among the hundreds of people who later gathered in the evacuation area at the front of the hotel.

One final question is how people who were apparently incapable of flushing the stand-up toilet in Room 1808 had the expertise to assemble a bomb. But explosives experts do not find that particularly surprising. Rural youths may never have seen a Western toilet but may be adept at often complicated electrical repairs.

In any event, the backpack bombs are relatively simple to put together, judging by the four pages of detailed instructions accompanying the 2005 blueprint, which among other things note that the four switches on the device are there to ensure it is not set off accidentally during transport by bus or motorcycle.

Noordin clearly favors two triggers. The instructions say it is also for “safety” — but only in the sense that if the main system fails or the bomber is taken by surprise or accosted in the target area, a back-up delay system he has already activated detonates the device within 30 seconds.

“When the light is green then the agent will activate the delay system,” it says. “On the other hand, if the red lights are showing, the main system is activated. Care must be taken in the final minutes with the agent totally focused, submitting himself to God along with strengthening himself to execute the bombing.”

There is little doubt one or both of the two Malaysians, Noordin and Azahari, wrote the manual. Malay words are sprinkled throughout and the sentence structure is almost English in nature. The entire document serves as another chilling reminder that for these people, killing is simply business.

Writing in Tempo newsweekly, veteran columnist Goenawan Mohamad said it all for most Indonesians: “When shows of savagery that have lost their purpose are confronted with something more worthwhile — a hope, an endeavor for a country that is safe and democratic — we know who will win. We will, Indonesia.”

It certainly seems that way. The day after the bombing, Bali’s Kuta beach was packed with sunbathing tourists. A week later, there wasn’t a seat to be found at the restaurants lining Jimbaran’s sandy shore. In Jakarta, the stock exchange climbed to its highest in nearly a year as incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was officially declared the winner of the July 8 presidential election.

More importantly, with commentators calling on the government to do more to rein in the Islamic hatemongers who poison the minds of naive young men, a popular movement appears to be stirring against extremism in general. His mandate strengthened, Yudhoyono may now be encouraged to do more than follow what he calls the “middle path”, as he has done in the past.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Rescues Boys Trained as Suicide Bombers

Pakistani security forces fighting Taliban militants in and around the Swat Valley have rescued nearly a dozen boys brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers, according to officials.

A senior security officer in North West Frontier Province said nine boys were found during raids, while two more had voluntarily surrendered, and a army commander in Swat spoke of more being handed over by their families.

“They have been brainwashed in such a way that they even call their parents infidels,” Bashir Bilour, senior minister in the provincial government, told Reuters.

Bilour said the boys were shown films about oppression of Muslims in the Palestinian Territories and Indian-held Kashmir, and were given purported religious instructions to convince them that they would go to heaven if they killed enemies of Islam.

Suicide attacks

Brigadier Tahir Hameed, an officer leading military operations in Mingora, Swat’s main town, said the Taliban had forced many families to let them take their boys.

He said some had since returned to their parents, who in turn handed them over to the authorities because of their brainwashed state. The government was working out how to rehabilitate the boys, aged between nine and 18.

The Taliban has regularly claimed responsibility for suicide attacks carried out by boys both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistani security forces have shown Western journalists locations where children were said to have been trained, although there was no independent corroboration available.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a security checkpoint 6 km (about 4 miles) north of Miranshah in North Waziristan’s tribal region, killing one paramilitary soldier and wounding two, intelligence officials said.

The military launched an offensive almost three months ago against the Taliban stronghold after the militants crept into the neighboring valley of Buner, just 100 km (60 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad.

Around 20,000 troops have been deployed in the Swat operation, and in the last two weeks hundreds of thousands of people who had fled the fighting have begun to go home.

But the guerrillas were still putting up resistance in the north of the Swat Valley, and even the outskirts of Mingora remained insecure.


On Tuesday, villagers found the decapitated body of a policeman on the edge of the town. He had gone missing four days earlier.

According to the military, nearly 1,800 militants have been killed during the campaign in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir district, but there is no way of independently verifying casualties.

The army was ordered more than a month ago to conduct another operation further to the southwest, in the Waziristan region, to punish Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Action so far has been confined to sealing off his stronghold in the wilds of the South Waziristan tribal region, and hitting Mehsud’s forces with air strikes and medium-range artillery.

Until Swat was secured, any full-blown ground offensive was unlikely in Waziristan, where the militants are far more entrenched and in greater numbers, analysts say.

The military does not want to open multiple fronts or become too thinly stretched at a time when it also needs to station troops on the border opposite the southern Afghan province of Helmand, where U.S. forces launched their own operation against the Taliban earlier this month.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: India Submarine ‘Threatens Peace’

India’s launch of a nuclear-powered submarine is a threat to regional peace and security, Pakistan has said.

“Pakistan will take appropriate steps to safeguard its security without entering an arms race,” foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said.

The submarine, unveiled at a ceremony on Sunday, will be able to launch missiles at targets 700km away.

At Sunday’s launch, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India had no aggressive designs on anyone.

India has become only the sixth country in the world to build its own nuclear-powered submarine — until now only the US, Russia, France, Britain and China had the capability to do so.

‘Jeopardising security’

But the move has prompted concern over the border.

“The continued induction of new lethal weapon systems by India is detrimental to regional peace and stability,” Mr Basit said.

“Pakistan believes the maintenance of strategic balance is essential for peace and security in the region.”

Pakistan navy spokesman, Captain Abid Majeed Butt, told Dawn News television that the launch of the submarine was a “destabilising step”.

He said it would “jeopardise the security paradigm of the entire Indian Ocean region” — and warned of a possible nuclear arms race in the region.

At the launch ceremony Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was necessary to keep pace with technological advancements worldwide.

He added that the sea was becoming increasingly relevant to India’s security concerns.

The 6,000 tonne Arihant submarine will only be deployed after a few years of trials. But it will be able to launch missiles at targets 700km (437 miles) away.

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says until now India has been able to launch ballistic missiles only from the air and from land.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Tell-All TV Riles India’s Politicians

Have you ever had an affair with a married man? Have you ever enjoyed watching a male stripper take off his clothes at a party? Have you ever had surgery to physically enhance your appearance?

These are just some of the questions on a popular TV talk show that have raised the hackles of politicians in India.

They have held animated debates in parliament, arguing whether the Indian version of the hit American show Moment of Truth threatens India’s “moral and cultural values”.

The show, called Sach Ka Saamna (Face the Truth), was first aired two weeks ago, and is already one of the most-watched programmes on Indian television.

Some say it is possibly the most-watched show in the crowded market of reality TV.

But many of India’s politicians are much less enamoured with the show, which goads the participants to answer uncomfortably personal and sometimes embarrassing questions, in return for prize money.

The idea of discussing intimate personal details in public is completely new to Indians. Little surprise then, that the show has become a huge talking point.

Over the last few days, the issue has consistently come up for debate in the national parliament.

The MPs said those taking part in the show were being asked “obscene questions” about their personal lives in front of their families.

Statutory warning

The former deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, Najma Heptullah, told the BBC that the series must be taken off air at once.

“What purpose are we serving with this programme?” she asks.

“If someone has cheated on his wife, why doesn’t he go and tell his wife? Why does he need to do that in public?

“If a girl decides to become pregnant as a minor, it is her problem! Why should that be said in public?”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Turkmenistan: Five Billion Dollars for the Las Vegas of the Caspian Sea

In Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea, oasis of Avaz is being built: four monumental hotel, villas, casinos, an island and an artificial ski resort, an international airport. The project is funded by proceeds from the sale of gas. But the country’s average annual salary is 6,800 dollars and unemployment is at 60%.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Four monumental white marble hotels, villas with views of the Caspian Sea, casinos, an island and an artificial ski resort, an international airport. It is the Avaz project (see photo), an oasis in the desert that the government of Turkmenistan is currently realising in Turkmenbashi.

The four hotels, decorated in a cold and monumental style, are ready and were opened last month at the initial public launch of what Murat Kariyev, chairman of the Country’s Electoral Commission defines the “window of Turkmenistan to the world “.

The project costs 5 billion dollars, all from the annual revenue from the sale of gas, estimated at 7 billion. Turkmenistan is the fifth world power in energy reserves. The country is a strategic partner for Russia, China, United States, Europe and Iran, but at the same time is the target of big companies such as Gazprom, which wants to extend its dominion over the region taking a leading position and monopoly in the management of gas.

For supporters of the project, the Avaz oasis is seen as an attempt to open Turkmenistan up to the world rescuing it from the isolation into which, particularly Russia, would like to force it. For detractors, the Las Vegas of the Caspian Sea is further evidence of the despotism of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Approximately 5 million people live in the country, most of whom live in the rural areas and are employed in the national cotton industry. Some statistics show that the annual salary per head is on average around 6,800 dollars and that 60% of the population is unemployed.

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

West Java, Protestant Church Demolished by Local Government

According to officials, the building did not have construction permits. The community of believers’ claims they repeatedly asked permission, but received no responses. Solidarity for the Christians from the Forum for Interreligious Dialogue.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A Protestant community from Parung in the regency of Bogor, West Java province, denounces a new case of confessional discrimination in Indonesia. Local authorities have demolished a church because — they say — it has no construction permit. Believers contend that they had sought several times to obtain a permit without any response; they add that they had received the consent of the local Muslim community.

The demolition of the church took place on July 21 last and was motivated by the lack of an Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), a sort of government concession that must be obtained before the construction of buildings. Without the IMB authorities may demolish buildings, without distinction between churches and private homes.

“We are Indonesian citizens and have the same rights as other religious confessions, before the law,” says Walman Nainggolan, from the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (Hkbp) community, the original indigenous population of the province of North Sumatra. Yesterday, the faithful have reported the incident to the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas Ham), requesting that their demands be heard and a new place of worship granted.

The decision of the local government is even at odds with the will of the Muslims of the area who were not opposed to the church building. “We received support and solidarity from the forum for interreligious dialogue, but the authorities took no notice” adds Nainggolan. The Human Rights Commission announced an appeal to the Department of Religious Affairs and warns that “the authorities in Bogor must ensure a place to pray for all, instead of tearing down the church” of the Batak faithful.

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

Far East

Japan Executes 3 Inmates

TOKYO — JAPAN on Tuesday hanged three inmates convicted of multiple murders, including a Chinese man and another man who found his victims through an Internet suicide site, officials said.

‘Executions were carried out today on three inmates who had been sentenced to death,’ the justice ministry said in a statement.

It identified the convicts as two Japanese men — Hiroshi Maeue, 40, and Yukio Yamaji, 25 — and Chinese national Chen Detong, 41, who had killed three of his compatriots and wounded three more Chinese people.

Maeue, executed in Osaka, killed three people in 2005 after he got to know them separately through an Internet website where people contemplating suicide go to meet others thinking also of ending their lives.

Maeue arranged to meet them with the idea of a joint suicide, and then choked them to death. He confessed to deriving sexual pleasure by seeing people suffocate.

Yamaji, also executed in Osaka, raped and then stabbed to death two sisters, stole their money and set fire to their apartment in 2005.

Chen, the Chinese national, was executed in Tokyo for killing three of his compatriots and injuring three more in Kawasaki, southwest of Tokyo, in 1999.

Japan is the only major industrial nation other than the United States to apply the death penalty. Japan’s last executions were in January when four convicted murderers were hanged.

The death penalty is overwhelmingly supported by the public in Japan, which has one of the world’s lowest crime rates.
But Japan has regularly come under fire from the European Union and campaigners over its use of the death penalty, especially its practice of hanging inmates without any prior warning to them or to their families.

Makoto Teranaka, of Amnesty International’s Japanese chapter, said after the latest executions Tuesday that ‘this is a grave act that cannot be permitted amid international calls to suspend capital punishment’. Despite the criticism, conservative governments have stepped up the pace of executions. Last year Japan hanged 15 death-row inmates, the highest number since 1975, when the country executed 17 people. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Unopposed Candidate Elected as Macau’s New Chief Executive

Voting for top post is restricted to a 300-member election committee hand-picked by Chinese authorities. A few demonstrators call for democratic reform, but there are no hopes before 2019. Corruption and social needs are the city’s top problems.

Macau (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The unopposed election of Fernando Chui Sai-on as Macau’s chief executive left most residents of this former Portuguese colony indifferent. Many wonder however how he will deal with the city’s main problems, like widespread corruption and residents’ social needs.

The Macau Daily News, the biggest local newspaper, declared Dr Chui’s victory on its front page before the vote began yesterday morning, with the headline—”Breaking News: Chui Sai-on is New Chief Executive”—raising only a few eyebrows.

The vote count was televised and confirmed the candidate’s landslide victory. Only the occasional mention of an unmarked ballot paper stirred a small ripple of interest.

Chui received 282 votes from the 300-member Election Committee, compared with the 286 nominations he garnered last month from the small circle of electors. One of 297 members who showed up to vote at the Macau Dome stadium withheld his ballot in protest against a lack of democracy; the other 14 members cast blank ballots.

In the chief executive poll in 2004, Edmund Ho Hau-wah, the sole candidate, won 296 votes from the 300 Election Committee members.

Under Macau election law a 300-member election committee picks the chief executive. The committee itself is selected by Chinese authorities on the basis of a number of criteria rather than popularly elected.

For most Macau residents there is only indifference towards a process most find unjust because it allows 300 people to decide who governs the city of 500,000 people.

But Chief Executive-elect Chui defended his victory as legitimate. He tried to reassure the 14 voters who cast empty ballots that he intended to gain their confidence and that of the population.

Shortly after the vote, a few scores of people led by pro-democracy legislators Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong and Au Kam-san rallied at the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, calling for universal suffrage for Macau in 2019.

“To stamp out corruption, we must fight for democracy,” Mr Ng said

Indeed city residents are still reeling after Ao Man-long, a former secretary for transport and public works, was sentenced to 28 and half years in April on 81 counts of bribe taking and other crimes involving hundreds of millions of patacas (hundreds of thousands of dollars)

For many analysts the Ao graft scandal exposed major flaws in the city’s system of government.

Residents want Chui to ensure that the administration will be more transparent and under better supervision. But few expect any major structural change.

On democratic reform Chui’s election platform had only general promises without deadlines.

In the meantime he will be called to deal with important social and economic problems, especially in health care, housing and real estate, issues only superficially addressed in his campaign platform.

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

Xinjiang Riots Confound Islamists

Despite the outbreak of devastating violence affecting the Uyghur Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, the Muslim world has not shrieked unanimously or decisively in outrage. More Muslims in far-flung parts of the planet protested the denial of democratic rights in Iran in the last few days than the plight of their co-religionists in Xinjiang.

Since the state crackdown after the street battles took hold in Urumqi, Kashgar and other parts in Xinjiang, the protest banner has been languishing in the hands of only a handful of ethnic Uyghur citadels outside China. This is a far cry from millions of angry fellow Muslims moved by solidarity for Uyghur activists demanding self-determination from Chinese rule.

As an issue, Xinjiang has failed to whip up pan-Islamic fervor despite the steady marginalization of the largely Sunni Muslim Uyghurs under Chinese communist control.

Over the years, spleen vented at abuses or humiliation of Muslims and their sacred symbols has been channeled into mass protests from Morocco to Malaysia. The wave of disturbances following the publication of insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Denmark in 2005 shook virtually every place on Earth where Muslims resided in sizeable numbers. Death threats, burning of effigies, arson against public utilities, torching of embassies, bomb attacks and related acts resulted at that time in the deaths of over 139 people. The conflagration was so forceful that the media dubbed it the “Cartoon intifada”- a dark pun on the Palestinian uprisings, which usually set fire to the Muslim sensibility, irrespective of nationality.

Earlier in 2005, when Newsweek magazine alleged that some American personnel manning the Guantanamo Bay prison had deliberately flushed copies of the Koran down the toilet, it set off a furor in countries as far apart as Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia. So infuriating was the memory of this act that it inspired one of the Pakistani-origin suicide bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, to bomb the London public transport system in July 2005.

Come July 2009 and the Xinjiang violence, where is the inflamed “Muslim street” and its rabble-rousing leaders? Officially, Turkey was the only country which huffed that “genocide” was being committed by China against the Uyghurs. But Ankara’s harsh language had more to do with ethnic affinity for Uyghurs, who are racially Turkic in origin, than with a general sympathy for “Muslim brothers and sisters”.

Thousands of Uyghur immigrants live in Turkey and remind Turkish nationalists of the dream of an independent “East Turkestan” (the former name of Xinjiang). While most contemporary Turks have mixed blood after mingling with Europeans and Arabs, the Uyghurs isolated themselves from other ethnic groups and are admired by Turks as the closest to their pure-bred ancestors. The survival of the Uyghurs, who face demographic flooding in China, is associated with stirrings of national identity in Turkey.

It is because of such emotional attachment to Uyghurs that the Turkish Industry minister risked economic relations with Beijing by urging a boycott of Chinese imported goods after violence flared up in Urumqi. As many as 107 Turkish lawmakers from a China-Turkey inter-parliamentary group resigned in disgust. Thousands of Turks joined Uyghurs in Istanbul and other Turkish cities after Friday prayers chanting “Murderer China” and “No to ethnic cleansing.”

A Turkish delegation of five MPs, led by the chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Zafer Uskul, announced that they would travel to Xinjiang to assess the situation on the ground. The very tag “human rights” which these MPs carried raised antlers in Beijing, which unceremoniously squelched the proposed trip without offering a public explanation. More than 12 days since the Turkish delegation expressed intent, it is still waiting for China’s permission.

Turkey’s angst over Xinjiang did not infect or enthuse other Muslim countries, not even in its immediate neighborhood. Many observers noted the irony that a state which many believe has yet to accept its own genocide against Armenia during World War I is casting stones at China with the slogan of genocide against Uyghurs.

The only non-Turkic Muslim country where some noise was drummed up immediately after the Xinjiang mayhem was Indonesia. Islamic organizations in Jakarta gathered before the Chinese embassy, displaying flags and posters and criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs. They reiterated the pet project of “holy war” against infidels. The timing of these demonstrations could be related to Indonesia’s presidential elections, which were just around the corner as flames broke out around Urumqi.

Apart from this, a shady Algerian outfit known as “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” issued a threat that it would target Chinese people abroad in revenge for “the deaths of Muslims” in Xinjiang. Some strategic consultants aver that “jihadists want to see action against China” for its harsh policies towards Uyghurs, but much of this remains in the realm of speculation.

A key Muslim country, Iran, which has a history of kicking up storms over desecration of Islamic symbols (recall the Salman Rushdie affair) and the sufferings of fellow Muslims (both Shi’ites and Sunnis), has notably remained silent on Xinjiang. There appears to be a verbal pact between Tehran and Beijing that they will not berate each other over internal political challenges. Tehran’s absolute tight-lippedness on the Uyghur question is likely to be payback for Beijing’s recognition of President Mahmud Ahmadinjad’s controversial re-election in June.

The general realization that Iran needs China on its side at the UN Security Council on each occasion when the former’s nuclear program comes under the scanner seems to have also held back the fire-spewing ayatollahs from denouncing the bloodshed in Xinjiang.

Why did Islamic establishments and publics let go of the Xinjiang violence so lightly, with barely a murmur or two? The answer lies in the complicated construction of enemies by Islamists. The “West”, as a category, has been blamed by radical Muslims as the bane which ruined former Islamic political and cultural glory. So, when atrocities or slights are seen to be committed against Islam and its adherents in a European or North American country, they confirm the pre-existing prejudices and hatreds nursed by the Muslim street and its instigators in positions of power.

Sometimes, the “West” is also extended to include countries like Russia, Israel and India — all of whom are viewed by Islamists and their followers to be oppressing Muslims in their respective disputed territories. But China’s image as a staunch rival of Western powers and which does not intervene in the Middle East confuses hardline Muslims, who place it in a nebulous mental space.

China does not fit neatly into the binary jihadist classification of the world into dar-ul-Islam (a land where Islamic laws are followed and the ruler is a Muslim) and dar-ul-Harb (a land ruled by infidels and where Muslims suffer).

That China has so far escaped major jihadist attacks on its soil or its overseas representations in spite of its harshness towards Uyghurs is not a function of its superior counter-terrorism strategies but rather of the label fixation among Islamists. The West, however geographically and politically incongruous a concept, continues to be the favorite dartboard for fiery Muslims.

It is a fixation that absorbs the Islamist heat and allows China a free hand to deal severely with the Uyghurs.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Kent Pleads Guilty to Terror Charge

Melbourne man Shane Kent faces up to 15 years jail after admitting membership of a terrorist group and his involvement in preparing a terrorist act.

Kent, 32, faced a trial last year along with 11 other men accused of being members of a Melbourne terror group that had discussed plans to bomb various landmarks in the city, including the MCG on AFL grand final day.

He made his admissions on Tuesday just before he was to be retried in the Supreme Court after a jury at his original trial last year could not reach a verdict.

Kent, from Campbellfield, pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally being a member of a terrorist organisation between July 2004 and November 2005.

The former forklift driver also pleaded guilty to one count of making a document connected with the preparation of a terrorist act.

The charges respectively attract maximum jail terms of 10 years and 15 years.

Wearing a dark grey shirt and black jacket, he looked down as the charges were read and calmly replied “guilty” to each.

Kent has spent almost three years in custody following his arrest in 2005.

But he was released on bail in October last year on strict conditions after the non-verdict.

The original trial heard he was a member of a terror group led by Melbourne Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who was found guilty of intentionally directing the activities of a terrorist organisation and of being a member of a terrorist group.

Benbrika was sentenced in February to 15 years in jail.

Six other members of the group were also found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from four years to seven-and-a-half years.

Kent’s lawyer John Champion, SC, described him as a “fragile” person who was depressed and highly anxious.

He said Kent, who is expecting his fourth child with his wife, was undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Mr Champion asked that Kent’s bail be continued so he could spend time with his family.

He said Kent’s bail conditions, secured with a $50,000 surety supplied by his mother, required him to report daily to police.

He also had a night curfew, restrictions on his phone and internet use and travel.

But the crown opposed Kent’s bail being continued, saying there were no exceptional circumstances warranting his release.

Justice David Byrne agreed and remanded Kent into custody, amid sobs from his supporters, including his wife, who were sitting in court.

Kent, who converted to Islam when he was 19, will reappear in court for his pre-sentence hearing on August 17.

His earlier trial heard he trained overseas for around two months in a paramilitary camp. The training included the use of weapons.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

The Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name

THE bodies of slain Australians in Jakarta were not yet back in the country when a new report warned us last week against referring to Islamo-fascists as-dare one say it-Islamo-fascists. If we want to reduce alienation and radicalism among young Muslims we must watch our language, says A Lexicon on Terror, a book compiled by the Victoria Police and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Multicultural Foundation head Hass Dellal told The Age that the wholesale branding of Islam with violence and extremism was of great concern.

Speaking at a conference last week Stephen Fontana, the assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism co-ordination, said that “a comment we think is harmless, some communities read as an attack”.

Would someone kindly lock up these language police for crimes against the English language? An attack is what happened in Jakarta when innocent hotel guests were murdered at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. And it is, quite literally, the bleeding obvious to point out that the perpetrators of the carnage are a group of Islamist militants who twist the tenets of Islam to suit their ideological purposes. They seek to bring down democracy in Indonesia and punish Western nations for fighting the Taliban and al-Qa’ida, with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic caliphate. Yet while these terrorists go to great lengths to promote their Muslim identity and their militant Islamist ideology, it seems we are not allowed to mention that now.

There is nothing wrong with crafting careful language when dealing with terrorism. For years political leaders have used terms such as Islamist terrorist or Islamo-fascist to carefully distinguish militants from the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims. But there is a difference between being careful and being cowardly. The kind of zealous language policing endorsed by the Victoria Police and the Multicultural Foundation encourages us to hide from the truth.

Their new whitewash language is not just daft, it’s dangerous. Clarity of language is a critical tool if we are serious about uncovering and understanding militant Islam. After so many attacks and the murder of so many innocent people, why would we cower from identifying the drivers of their Islamist extremism?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African View: Memories of Taylor

In our series of weekly viewpoints from African journalists, former BBC editor and Ghanaian minister Elizabeth Ohene, relives her unforgettable encounters with Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president currently defending himself against war crimes charges.

Not much had changed. It was the same self-assured, flamboyant performer. I must confess it gave me quite a start to hear that voice on television say: Dr Charles Ghankay Taylor.

The memories came flooding in… The Charles Taylor story is well known, so where do I start with my Charles Taylor story?

Boxing Day, 1989. The day after Christmas Day, Boxing Day is usually a slow day in newsrooms, and the four of us who were at work in the BBC’s Focus on Africa office that Boxing Day were probably cursing our luck that we were at work when most other people were nursing their Christmas hangovers at home.

The phone rang and the voice at the end said he was Charles Taylor, he had launched an invasion into Liberia to throw out the head of state, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe.

‘No better than a murderer’

I do not remember if there were any arguments among us about whether we should give him the exposure. But that is not the point today and as the old cliche goes, the rest is history.

He was interviewed and the Liberian rebel war was introduced to the world — and with it a certain notoriety for the programme.

As time went by and Focus on Africa continued with what was to become a daily chronicle of the war, the internal arguments and agonising did take place in the office.

But hey, the man made great radio. Gift of the gab — if ever anyone had it, that was Charles Taylor. Probably the most famous of the verbal sparring between editor Robin White and Charles Taylor went something like this…

Robin White: “Mr Taylor, some people think you are not much better than a murderer.”

Charles Taylor: (guffaws) “Robin, Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time.”

Okay, I know Jesus Christ was accused of many things in his time but I cannot recall him being accused of murder; all the same you get the drift and must concede it made riveting radio. ‘He killed my ma’

Fast-forward to 1997 and I am in Liberia to cover the elections that would eventually make Charles Taylor president.

My abiding memories of that assignment and the face-to-face encounters with Charles Taylor must surely be the chant of his youthful supporters.

There were thousands of them, all clad in yellow Taylor T-shirts and they would run up and down the streets of Monrovia chanting: “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I’ll vote for him.”

When I interviewed him, he brought up the matter of the chant.

“Have you heard them?” he asked. “They mean it, you know, and they love me.” And indeed they voted for him, and he became president

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Security Boosted in Four Northern States

Abuja, 28 July (AKI) — Four Nigerian states imposed a security clampdown on Tuesday following two days of Islamist-linked violence in the north of the country that left over one hundred people dead. Soldiers were reported to have set up road blocks and imposed dusk-to-dawn curfews in affected areas in Yobe, Kano, Borno and Plateau states.

Islamist militants staged attacks on police and government offices and there have been reports of youths armed with machetes and guns killing police officers and civilians at random.

Hardline Muslim group Boko Haram attacked a police station in the town of Bauchi, northern Nigeria, early on Sunday. Police repelled the attackers, who were wielding automatic weapons and grenades, but over 40 people were believed to have died and dozens more to have been injured.

The violence then spread to three other towns. Further attacks then took place in Yobe and Borno states overnight.

Boko Haram militants are said to oppose anything western including western-style education. They accuse the Bauchi state government of preventing them from publicly practising their religion or seeking converts. The group recruits young men and wants to impose Islamic Sharia law, across the whole of Nigeria

Roadblocks have been erected and curfews were in the towns worst hit by the clashes.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC that police stations had been attacked and civilians pulled from their cars and shot dead.

More than 100 bodies, most of them militants, were reported to have been laid out near the police headquarters in the town worst affected by the violence — Maiduguri in Borno state.

Nigerian police said they have arrested almost 200 fighters.

Islamic Sharia law is in place across northern Nigeria but there is no history of Al-Qaeda linked violence in the country. Nigeria’s 140 million people are split almost equally between Muslims and Christians and the two groups generally live peacefully side by side, despite occasional outbreaks of communal violence.

The north has been gradually implementing stricter Islamic law, which has led to trouble with Christian groups. Clashes in Bauchi earlier this year left five people dead and several churches and mosques gutted by fire.

Hundreds of people died last November in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, when local elections degenerated into bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians.

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

Nigeria’s ‘Taliban’ Enigma

They have launched co-ordinated attacks across northern Nigeria, threatening to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law — but who exactly are the Nigerian Taliban?

Since the group emerged in 2004 they have become known as “Taliban”, although they appear to have no links to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Some analysts believe they took inspiration from the radical Afghans, others say the name is more a term of ridicule used by people in Maiduguri, the area where they were founded.

The group’s other name, Boko Haram, means “Western education is a sin” and is another title used by local people to refer to the group.

Isa Sanusi, from the BBC’s Hausa service, says the group has no specific name for itself, just many names attributed to it by local people.

If their name is uncertain, however, their mission appears clear enough: to overthrow the Nigerian state, impose an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and abolish what they term “Western-style education”.

Flat-Earth views?

In an interview with the BBC, the group’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, said such education “spoils the belief in one god”.

“There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam,” he said.

“Like rain. We believe it is a creation of god rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain.

“Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.”

Mr Yusuf himself is something of an enigma.

He is believed to be in his mid-thirties, and analysts say he is extremely wealthy and highly educated.

“He is graduate educated and very proficient in English,” says Nigerian academic Hussain Zakaria.

“He lives lavishly — people say he drives a Mercedes Benz. And he is very well-educated in a Western context.”

‘We could see it coming’

Despite the secrecy surrounding the group, many in Nigeria say the attacks were far from surprising.

Mannir Dan Ali, a journalist with Abuja-based Trust newspapers, says there was a minor incident in early June which appeared to spark a series of statements from the group threatening reprisals.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Algeria: 19 People Stopped Off Coast of Oran

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 28 — The Algerian coast guard intercepted a vessel with 19 people aboard trying to leave the country off the coast of Arzew, near Oran, reported the APS agency quoting official sources. The Zodiac boat was intercepted around 5:30 am by a coast guard unit near Cape Carbon: 19 men were found aboard from 19 to 39 years of age. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Brothels’ In Libya as Well, Bee Free Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 28 — In and around Tripoli there are ‘brothels’ in which African women, passing through Libya on their way to Italy, are forced to prostitute themselves. This “illegal” activity shows the “concrete risk of the exploitation of prostitution in our country as well” according to a report presented today in the International women’s house in Rome by Bee Free, the organisation against human trafficking. The report is based on interviews with 111 women (most of them from Nigeria) in the identification and expulsion centre ‘Ponte Galeria’ in Rome. In the centre, Bee Free gives advise and assistance to the women, in collaboration with the Province and the ministry for equal opportunities. The women, interviewed between August 2008 and March 2009, talked of “an illegal” journey to Italy “after staying (up to more than a year) in Libya. On the Libyan coasts they are taken on board to be moved to Lampedusa”. A quarter of the women has told stories of sexual exploitation, many of labour exploitation. Of the Nigerian women who have been sexually exploited 25% were prostituted in Libya, the rest in Italy. The women are usually convinced to become prostitutes by offering them the journey to Italy for free. In the brothels, the women say, the “slave drivers’ “use physical and psychological violence, kidnapping and torture. The girls are not allowed refuse sex with clients, to use contraceptives or to give money to their exploiters. The ones responsible are Libyan traffickers, the heart of the transnational criminal organisation.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Outsourcing’ Asylum Seekers the Italian Way

Italy is intercepting illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean and sending them straight back to Lybia. Human rights organisations, the United Nations and the Vatican are crying foul.

By Mark Schenkel

They thought they had reached the promised land: the 82 African migrants who were intercepted on July 1 off the coast of Lampedusa, an Italian island half-way between the Italian mainland and Libya. International law says people in distress have to be taken to the nearest port. Once on Lampedusa, the Africans, most of whom were from Eritrea, were planning to apply for political asylum in Italy.

Instead, the Italian coastguard put them on board a Libyan patrol boat. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which interviewed the Eritreans back in Libya, “a significant number was in need of international protection”. But Libya doesn’t have an asylum procedure, so the 82 Africans were simply detained.

Italy has been sending migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean back to Libya since last May. It is a policy that is as effective as it is controversial. The flow of boat refugees to Italy has been stemmed, but a diverse coalition, from rights groups to the Vatican, has taken Italy to task for what it says is a violation of fundamental human rights. It is feared that Italy’s new approach is part of a trend among European countries to “outsource” their asylum and migration policies to African countries.

Illegal immigration to Italy by sea down by half

In the first six months of 2009, 6,760 illegal immigrants arrived by sea in Sicily and Lampedusa, less than half the 14,800 who arrived last year, according to official figures.

Since May Italy has sent at least 900 illegal immigrants back to Libya, although the UNHCR suspects it might be more.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says many illegal immigrants in Libya have been discouraged from attempting the sea voyage because of Italy’s new policy.

Libya is also cracking down on human traffickers.

The economic downturn has also had an impact as fewer jobs are available for migrants in Europe.

Dealing with Gadaffi

The Italian-Libyan cooperation is part of a deal that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi made last year with the Libyan ruler, colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Rome promised Tripoli 5 billion euro in reparations for Italy’s colonisation of Libya from 1911 until 1941. In exchange, Tripoli agreed to help stem the flow of illegal migrants to Italy.

Nine out of ten illegal immigrants on their way to Italy embark on their voyage in Libya. By sending them back to Libya, Italy keeps the migrants from entering an asylum procedure in Italy, where most of them would have ended up staying, whether legally or illegally. The Libyan patrol boats that take the migrants back were another gift from Rome.

“We are mostly worried about the refugees,” says Dutchman Laurent Jolles, head of the UNHCR in Italy, Malta and Cyprus. Many of the migrants trying to reach Italy via the Mediterranean are economic migrants, but there are also people escaping the violence in countries like Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the 37,000 boat people who reached Italy last year, three quarters applied for asylum. Half of those were given some kind of protection. “So it is safe to assume that by sending back the migrants you’re also sending back refugees,” says Jolles.

‘Lampedusa resolution’

Migrants have the right to apply for asylum upon reaching European soil, and to appeal against a rejection if necessary. Moreover, migrants cannot be sent back to countries where they might be in danger.

In 2005, the European parliament condemned Italy for its mass deportations of immigrants in violation of international law. Between October 2004 and March 2005, Italy had sent back hundreds of illegal aliens back to Libya, ignoring the right of asylum seekers to individual treatment. The European parliament’s so-called ‘Lampedusa resolution’ made a reference to 106 migrants who allegedly died while in Libyan custody.

By sending the migrants back before they have even set foot on Italian soil, Italy is trying to get around the international conventions. But some experts argue that an Italian ship, even if it is in international waters, constitutes Italian soil. Legal haggling aside, one thing is clear, says Jolles: “Italy is denying refugees their right to seek asylum”.

The UNHCR has called on the Berlusconi government to halt expulsions to Libya immediately and to allow intercepted migrants to enter Italian admission procedures as before. Rome, on its part, says its new migration policy is more humane: if fewer migrants embark on the dangerous voyage to Italy, fewer will drown.

But the UNHCR points out that Italy is sending people back to a country that never even signed the 1951 UN refugees convention.

A little help from Brussels

Libya has a bad reputation when it comes to handling immigrants. For years, human rights organisations have complained about Libya’s mistreatment of immigrants in detention centres and its arbitrary deportations. In 2004, Libya put 75 Eritrean refugees on a plane back to Eritrea. The refugees forced the pilot to land in Sudan, According to the UNHCR, sixty of them qualified for asylum, which they eventually obtained from Sudan.

“For Italy to deport Eritreans back to Libya without any kind of procedure is worrisome,” says Thomas Gammelhoft-Hansen, a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. Gammelhoft-Hansen in May finished a dissertation about what he calls the “outsourcing” of Europe’s asylum and migration policy. More and more, Gammelhoft-Hansen says, Brussels and individual EU countries are encouraging African countries to stop immigrants from trying to reach Europe.

Brussels intervenes directly through its funding of the EU agency Frontex, which is charged with the protection of Europe’s outer borders. Indirectly, countries like Spain, Italy or Malta, which bear the brunt of illegal immigration, have made their own, bilateral agreements with African countries.

Spain, for instance, receives funds from Brussels to patrol the waters off Senegal and Mauritania, from where many migrants take off for the Canary Islands. These countries, with dubious human rights records, also take back intercepted refugees. The Spanish patrols began after 31,000 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands in 2006; this year that figure was down to 1,500.

The difference between Spain and Italy is that the Canary Islands attract mostly economic refugees, whereas Italy has many more genuine asylum seekers. Gammelhoft-Hansen: “That just makes it all the more serious that Italy is sending people back to Libya.”

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

Culture Wars

Anglican Leader Foresees Two Paths

By Julia Duin

A lengthy essay posted Monday by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams downplayed the U.S. Episcopal Church’s recent decisions to consecrate gay bishops and allow blessings of same-sex unions, drawing criticism from the liberal and conservative wings of American Anglicanism.

While the archbishop said “very serious anxieties” have resulted from the Episcopal Church’s overwhelming votes on both matters at its July meeting in Anaheim, Calif., he refused to censure the 2.1 million-member denomination, one of 38 provinces in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.

The archbishop attended the convention for two days and specifically asked delegates not to approve either of the two measures.

Now he is suggesting in “Communion, Covenant and Our Anglican Future,” that the Anglican Communion might move to a two-tiered structure under which certain of its members, including the Episcopal Church, could not participate in certain ecumenical meetings or official gatherings.

And in a nod to breakaway groups such as the roughly 100,000 former Episcopalians who have joined the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), he wrote that if a province — such as the Episcopal Church, though he did not specify in that paragraph — decides not to adhere to Anglican mores, “any elements within it” can sign on instead, he wrote.

He also criticized the Episcopal Church’s decision to nullify the Anglican Communion’s ban on gay bishops.

“Their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church’s teaching sanctions,” he wrote, “and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.”

He also criticized the logic of the church adhering to laws in six states that allow gay marriages, adding that “if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the Church to change its discipline.”…

[Return to headlines]


Christians Can Save Islam From Cultural Death

The Islamic tradition could die out fear of modernity which it perceives as anti-religious. For some time all Islamic extremism has been proposing is a return to a mythical past, that of the first four ‘rightly guided’ caliphs, by proposing unchanging and superficial ways of life. Christianity has confronted modernity for centuries and can help Islam achieve a necessary insight into the matter.

Venice (AsiaNews) — More than 70 people from 20 different countries gathered on the Isola San Giorgio in Venice for the annual meeting of the Scientific Committee of Oasis, a journal founded by the Patriarch of Venice Angelo Scola as a way to find “common venues” for dialogue between Christians and Muslims ((www.oasiscenter.eu ).

Held last Monday and Tuesday, the topic of this year’s gathering was Interpreting tradition in the age of Métissage. The term métissage, so dear to Cardinal Scola, looks at the ways cultures and religions engage each other in dialogue, comparing each other, copying one another, integrating and clashing, always changing as a result of their encounter.

This year, which focused on, tradition, put the spot light on the importance of passing on one’s faith and culture in an increasingly multicultural world.

A very important aspect of this process is how migrants (Muslims in the West) and minorities (Christians in the Middle East) are able to pass on their traditions to younger generations.

All those who spoke at the event, including some Muslims from France, Tunisia and the United States, stressed the importance of the school system as a place for passing on and confronting cultural traditions.

The address by Fr Samir Khalil Samir was particularly significant. The Jesuit scholar looked at the difficulties Islam faces today, torn between a fossilised vision of the past (presented as the ‘true’ Islam by Muslim extremists) and modernity with all its problems.

To a certain extent Christians face similar difficulties because modernity brings secularism and rejection of the faith. But unlike Islam Christianity has been involved in a dialogue with the modern world for a long time and for this reason can help it tackle the contemporary society, mitigating the danger of extremism, which only celebrates the ‘interment of Islam’.

Here is Father Samir’s address (translated by AsiaNews):

1. Tradition means continuity, identity and renewal Tradition (Lat. tradere) means passing on one’s precious legacy which will in turn be passed on to others and so on. Thus tradition presumes continuity in the here and now. It does not mean going back but assumes instead finding in one’s roots the inspiration that guarantees continuity, strengthens one’s identity and renews the present; in short, continuity, identity and renewal.

When tradition becomes identified with the past and stops inspiring the present it is dead. Because it no longer exists it is treated as something sacred; by making it sacred it is buried because it is no longer understood.

Increasingly we find ourselves in this situation in our Arab and Muslim societies. No longer do we have a future or a present; we are simply stuck with the past. We go back to the past and turn it into a myth, something sacred, for we have nothing else.

In reality in doing this we reinforce our cultural and spiritual death. The notion of tradition in today’s Muslim world means going back to the way things were in 7th century, an age that becomes sacred. We often focus on outer details like the beard, the veil or niqab, the miswak (a kind of long toothpick from a root that Islam’s prophet used), the long white tunic, etc.

Conversely, Christians (most notably in the West) tend to reject their traditions. Some people think that they must forget or even reject their past to be modern. The danger in that case is of losing one’s roots and authenticity. It is a danger I see in Europe.

This can drive some to become traditionalists, to hang on to some details (for example, the Latin mass, the cassock, etc.). The rise of Mgr Lefevbre and his followers is a mirror image of the rejection of tradition.

The matter at hand is thus not limited to the Muslim world, but in this part of the world it is at its most visible and prominent.

2. Fear of modernity that appears anti-religious An obvious reason for this attitude is a fear of modernity. This is something we can see today in the Arab world. Today modernity rimes with the West whereas in the 9th-11th centuries it rimed with Islam. For many a Muslim the West is scary and repelling because it is estranged from religion and is secularised. All of a sudden, for many Muslims modernity looks like a new Jâhiliyyah (ignorance, the name given in the Qur’an to unbelievers), which the Qur’an and Islam fought vehemently. Modernity for many Muslims is a form of neo-paganism.

Consequently, many Muslims have sought refuge in the past and in religion, which to them appear as safe and lasting values and with a safe repertory of behaviours.

This why today there is a tendency to sacralise the age of the first four caliphs (Muhammad’s successors), known as the ‘rightly guided’ caliphs (al-khulafâ’ al-râshidîn) : Abu Bakr al-Siddîq (the upright ) (632-634 AD), ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattâb (634-644 AD), ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affân (644-656 AD) and ‘Ali Ibn Abî Tâlib (656-661 AD).

This period, which runs from 632 to 661 AD, is like a Golden Age, a heavenly time, but there is a great danger, because it means that heaven, the model to be followed and recreated, is behind us, not ahead of us, something towards which we can strive.

Lest we forget, except for the first caliph, all of other three were murdered. ‘Umar was killed on 4 November 644, ‘Uthman in 656, and ‘Ali in January 661 by the Kharijites.

If we want to renew Islam we must face the challenges the modern world has thrown at religions, whether Judaism, Christianity, Islam or others.

This is something Christianity faces everyday, especially in the West. If it turned back into its past, it will die. The same is true for Islam. However more often than not, the Muslim world seems to prefer to postpone dealing with the issue, and this will make finding a solution harder.

At the same time, this does not mean that we must uncritically adopt every new thing just because it is new. Insight into the matter is a must as well as a necessary condition for survival.

3. Conclusion

What is needed is a certain harmony between past and future, between traditions (which ought to inspire but not shackle) and modernity (which is not necessarily freedom or liberation).

Islam began finding this towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. It started its own renewal from within by confronting Western civilisation and culture, helped to a great extent by Arab Christians who had begun the same process before them.

Sadly in the middle of the last century, this movement was swept away by new ideologies (nationalism, socialism, pan-Arabism, etc.) and began going backward.

I think that Christianity, which has already faced this situation for several centuries, could help the Muslim world to reach this insight.

Yet only Muslims can carry out this process, looking into their own tradition, criticising what must be criticised and maintaining what is best.

Christians and Muslims (and other believers) face the same challenges. By cooperating, by not opposing anyone, we can all benefit.

Tradition must be a source of life; otherwise it dies, hence the need for a critique and for insight to reach harmony and true liberty.

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


Anonymous said...

This is interesting.

Some 5 months ago

NEW DELHI: It may be a poll-related gimmick but it's a clever one. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has sent a letter to 13 prominent Muslim organisations in India with a curious request — that they declare, in a fatwa, India to be a "friend" of Islam, or a Dar-ul-Aman, therefore making jihad against India and Indians invalid.

The Dharm Raksha Manch, a congregation of Hindu leaders, also asked the Muslim leadership to declare that Hindus were not "kafirs" and therefore should not be targets of jihad. The letter has been sent to the All India Milli Council, Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, Tablighi Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques among others.

Issue fatwa declaring India friend of Islam

This was sent not to Muslims worldwide or Pakistan, but Indian Muslims - the ones who are well integrated in India.

So far - no respone. I wonder why?

babs said...

what we’ve done also is to start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain.”

If anyone was actually serious about breaking this "chain" they would immediately stop all immigration from Pak and Afg...
If you want to reunite with your family, go back home... But no, the British elite would rather their soldiers die in a far away land than cause any change in immigration policy.
Most people that know me are surprised that I do not and have not for many years supported western intervention in Afg. I find it to be a hopeless case much like trying to bring the Flintstones into the 21st century. While it disturbs me greatly that women are treated as something less than sheep, I am one of the few that feel this way. To my knowledge, no western female rights group has come out in solidarity with Afg women. The U.S. State Dept. absolutely screwed the pooch years ago with lack of support (I work for the State Dept., hell no, I won't go there.) Ditto for the Dept. of Agriculture.
No, I too think the situation is helpless. The only action I would support would be to park some destroyers in the Gulf of Oman to blast training camps from time to time. No boots on the ground.

Solkhar said...

Babs, I am not here to follow you but I have an alternative view. Though I did not support the war in Iraq and still think it was a mistake, I support more than 100 per cent the war in Afghanistan and believe it should be escalated.

The objective is not to change Afghanistan, that would be a failure, it is to take out the militant Islamists of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and those foreigners joining them.

The realisation is just starting to sink in that the Afghani tribes are ultra-conservatives and that will take a generation or two to start to change - but as long as they are supporting and propping up the militant Islamists - nothing there will change and they will continue to be a breeding ground for global terror.

Plus and for me even more important, if terrorism is defeated there, it could be that catalyst for a change in many other parts of the world to tell radicals to "f*ck-off". Remember what I mentioned before to you, the claims and demands by radical Muslims in the west is unacceptable in the real Muslim World except in places like Afghannistan, so if they are defeated there, those Imams and their supporters in the West become more and more isolated and stupid looking.

Add a million soldiers and get the job done in Afghanistan and it will solve all of us a great deal of headace - not to mention the elimination of the poppy industry there.