Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/20/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/20/2009The German defense minister says he thinks it’s time negotiate with the Taliban. He believes that not all Taliban are hard-core terrorists and would-be totalitarians, and recommends that the NATO coalition in Afghanistan negotiate with the “moderate” Taliban.

In other news, Zhu Min, the deputy governor of the People’s Republic of China, warned President Obama to stop his runaway deficit spending. Meanwhile, the Islamist al-Shabaab rebels in Somalia are forcing men to grow their beards, shave their moustaches, and wear short pants, so that they will be in accord with the tenets of sharia law.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JP, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China Warns Obama Deficit Spending Must Stop
Common Currency Questioned by Leading Economist
Government’s ‘Cure’ Worse Than ‘Disease’
Swiss Banks Should Step Up Islamic Wealth Drive
L.A. Neo-Nazis Protest at Riverside Synagogue
Laughing at the Left
‘Tis the Week Before Christmas …
Understanding the Global-Warming Jihadists
Europe and the EU
Cyprus: 125:000 Foreigners Live on the Island
Sweden:300 Demonstrate for Christian Convert
Switzerland: Of Minarets and Massacres
UK: ‘Low-Ranking Airline Worker’ Al-Megrahi Had £1.8m in Swiss Bank Account Before Lockerbie Bomb Conviction
UK: Bah! Humbug! A Christmas Ghost Story in Downing Street
UK: Christian Teacher Lost Her Job After Being Told Praying for Sick Girl ‘Was Bullying’
UK: Muslim Police Chef Defeated in ‘Bacon Roll’ Tribunal Faces £75,000 Legal Bill
UK: Police Expect Mumbai-Style Terror Attack on City of London
UK: The Michael Powell Case Shows How Charges of Racism Hobble the Police
North Africa
Egypt Boosts Security at Gaza Border After Firing
Tunisia: Archaeological Finds Trafficking, Italians Arrested
Middle East
Analysis: Suddenly, The Arab World Wakes Up to Yemen’s Rebellion
First Woman to Open Bank Account in Lebanon
Iranian Troops No Longer Control Oil Well: Iraq
Plot Targeting Turkey’s Religious Minorities Allegedly Discovered
Turkey Slams Orthodox Chief’s Crucifixion Remark
Turks Threaten to Kill Priest Over Swiss Minaret Decision
Yemen:12 Al-Qaeda Suicide Bombers Dead, 5 Foreigners Killed
South Asia
A Thousand Islamic Extremists, Including Women and Children, Storm a Church Near Jakarta
Indonesian Theology Students Withstand Threats, Illness
Let’s Talk to the Taliban, Says Guttenberg
Migrants of Bangladesh: A Vital Resource for National Economy
Pakistan: Zardari ‘To Lose Control of Party’ Following Amnesty Ruling
Sri Lankan Military ‘Sexually Abused’ Tamil Girls in Refugee Camps
Tens of Thousands Flee as the Army Faces the Taliban in Swat
Far East
China: Shaolin: Kung Fu Monks Become a Money Making Brand
Gas Pipeline a Symbol of China’s Power: Analysts
N. Korea Capable of Miniaturizing Nuclear Warheads: Source
Sub-Saharan Africa
African Christians Fear Own Government on ‘Jihad’
Somali Rebels Force Men to Grow Beards
Swedish Police Produce Pepper Spray at Refugee’s Wedding
Switzerland: Guantánamo Detainee Wins Asylum Appeal
Culture Wars
Analysis: How Nelson-Reid Compromise Allows Abortion Funding in Health Care
Defense Launched for Kids Sex Books
Dissident Lutherans: Bullying Over Gays
U.S. Army Major: Lose Evangelical Christian Beliefs
Islamic Plan to Criminalize Gospel Message Crumbling

Financial Crisis

China Warns Obama Deficit Spending Must Stop

Beijing reluctant to keep bankrolling president’s belt-buster budget

One day after the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao snubbed President Obama at the United Nation’s Copenhagen Climate Summit, the Chinese warned the United States that China’s ability to continue buying U.S. Treasury debt was limited.

Zhu Min, the deputy governor of the People’s Republic of China, told the Shanghai Daily that it is getting harder for the People’s Bank of China to buy U.S. Treasuries because the shrinking U.S. current account is reducing the supplies overseas.


“The United States cannot force foreign governments to increase their holdings of Treasuries,” Zhu said. “Double the holdings? It is definitely impossible.”

Zhu’s warning was clear.

“The world does not have so much money to buy more U.S. Treasuries,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Common Currency Questioned by Leading Economist

London, 18 Dec. (AKI) — A leading economist and Middle East expert from the London based think-tank Chatham House has questioned the likelihood that some Arab states will create a single currency modelled on the euro. Paola Subacchi, research director of the organisation’s international economics department reacted with scepticism when interviewed by Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar this week announced plans to launch the first phase of a single currency next year, creating a Gulf Monetary Council to evolve into a fully-fledged central bank.

“From an economic point of view it makes sense for a monetary union. A big problem is that here we have Saudi Arabia and three smaller partners,” Subacchi said.

“It is like having Germany with Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. It doesn’t make sense,” Subacchi said.

Subacchi, who is Italian, specialises in international monetary systems, capital flows and other issues.

“We have seen so many kinds of declarations of intent, this is another one. It is an empty declaration,” Subacchi said.

She said it made sense to form a common currency in the region.

“There is commonality of institutions so it makes a lot of sense,” she said.

“But the whole process has been so slow that many people have lost confidence in this project.”

Earlier this week, the United Arab Emirates declined to join the move for a common fund, apparently irked that the central bank will be located in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on the insistence of the Saudi King Abdullah, rather than in Abu Dhabi.

Between them the Gulf countries amount to a regional superpower with a gross domestic product of $1,200 billion some 40 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and financial clout equal to that of China.

The Gulf states remain divided over the wisdom of anchoring their economies to the US dollar. The Gulf currency — dubbed the “gulfo” — is likely to track a global exchange basket and may ultimately float as a regional reserve currency in its own right.

“The US dollar has failed. We need to delink,” said Nahed Taher, chief executive of Bahrain’s Gulf One Investment Bank.

The project is inspired by Europe’s monetary union, seen as a huge success in the Arab world.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, said the project would not work unless Gulf countries break down basic barriers to trade and capital flows.

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

Government’s ‘Cure’ Worse Than ‘Disease’

As we count down to the final Senate vote on a government-mandated health plan that will cripple and then bankrupt the American health-care system, we must reacquaint ourselves with the results of past government intervention in the health-care system and in other areas, such as the financial meltdown.

Recently, the president met with bank executives in an attempt to increase their lending to small and mid-sized businesses, the very businesses that will suffer the most under the proposed health plan. Mr. Obama is demonstrating very clearly that he does not understand the constitutional role of the presidency. Additionally, he either misunderstands the way government has attempted to drive the United States into third world status, or else he desires this result.

Our Dear Leader still seems oblivious to the fact that the government was the cause of the financial meltdown in the first place. How can we more easily understand the process by which the government caused the financial crisis? I explained in an earlier article that undesired consequences result when the government gets into the game as opposed to restricting itself to its intended role as referee.


Government is the cause of the high cost of health care in the United States, and like the mortgage crisis the health-care cost “crisis” cannot be cured by its very cause. Medicare was the first public option, made mandatory because those not enrolled in Medicare are ineligible to receive Social Security benefits. Government options are never optional because the goal of government is to increase dependence on itself.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Swiss Banks Should Step Up Islamic Wealth Drive

Switzerland faces a bigger threat from the developing private banking system in the Middle East than reaction to the minaret ban, according to one finance expert.

However, the controversial vote and subsequent condemnation should serve as a warning for the Swiss finance industry to better serve the needs of Islamic clients, observers believe.

Switzerland is waiting to see how far November’s referendum decision to ban the future construction of minarets will damage the country’s image and business interests.

So far, only Turkey has reacted with concrete retaliatory proposals by suggesting that its citizens withdraw assets held in Swiss banks. But the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) is not expecting outflows of the estimated $200 billion (SFr208 billion) held by mainly Arabic clients in Switzerland.

“Muslim clients are very canny investors and appreciate the competence, quality of service, good advice and good performance they get from Swiss banks. Money knows no religion,” SBA spokesman James Nason told

John Sandwick, head of Geneva-based group Islamic Wealth and Asset Management, told that the vote had stirred up resentment in the Middle East, but not enough to spark organised financial reprisals from wealthy Muslims.

“Switzerland did something really offensive against people who could really hurt us, but on this occasion it looks like it will not have a big impact on Swiss private banking in the long run,” he said.

Local competition

Having suffered setbacks in the United States and Europe in a bruising battle over tax evasion, Swiss banks are increasingly turning their attention to the Middle East, Asia and developing markets.

Switzerland is not the only European country to have identified lucrative prospects in the region and has long faced stiff competition from London, and to a lesser degree, from Paris to attract petro-dollars.

However the main threat in future may come from local banks setting up their own wealth management services, with a much wider array of Sharia compliant services.

“Lots of local private banks [in the Middle East] are starting up their own private banking businesses,” Sandwick told “The domestic wealth management programme is already in the process of destroying the Swiss private banking model. It is not there yet, but it will not take too long.”

Sandwick believes the Swiss are taking too long to offer Middle Eastern clients a full range of private banking services that are compliant with Islamic legislation known as Sharia.

Sharia law, for example, prohibits the charging or payment of interest and investments associated with gambling, alcohol, tobacco, pornography or pork production.

Time is ripe

Despite Swiss banks being present in the oil rich region for many years and producing a steady trickle of Sharia compliant services — such as the recent wealth management offering by Bank Sarasin — Sandwick thinks they have barely scratched the surface of Islamic finance.

“All the locals are saying that they want Islamic financial products, but Swiss banks do not appear interested in doing anything,” he said. “These clients do not have access to plain vanilla [standard] wealth management with Fatwa [approval from Islamic clerics].”

Sandwick insisted that the time is ripe for Swiss private banking to make serious inroads into one of the few global regions to come out of the financial crisis with a steady supply of new wealth.

And he believes that Muslim clients would in future seek safe, conservative refuges for their assets after taking a battering with the recent fad for investing in complicated products. Switzerland’s reputation for solid, safe banking has lost some of its sheen after becoming entangled in the subprime crisis, but it still retains much of its private banking credibility.

“Right now is the time to penetrate further into this market because others have lost credibility,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


L.A. Neo-Nazis Protest at Riverside Synagogue

The demonstration outside Temple Beth El is the third in recent months, rabbi says. It occurred during a Hanukkah celebration attended by members of local churches and other groups.

Congregants at Temple Beth El who had gathered to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah were met by a group of neo-Nazi demonstrators who waved red-and-black swastika flags outside the Reform synagogue in Riverside on Friday evening.

Rabbi Suzanne Singer said the demonstration was the third such protest at the temple in recent months. She said she thinks it was connected to a counter-protest held in September by members of the synagogue and others responding to a neo-Nazi protest at a day labor site.


“All this does is bring people closer together,” Gilman said. “The message that they’re trying to send isn’t the message people in Riverside want.”

Singer said her synagogue, a local Islamic center and several area churches would be raising banners outside their respective buildings next month declaring, “We value diversity. Unity in love.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Laughing at the Left

If the consequences for this great nation of ours weren’t so serious and the policies preferred by the left weren’t so dangerous, one would really laugh, almost uncontrollably, at the beliefs and (il)logic of American liberals. Based on things they have actually said or done, here are some of the things they really, truly seem to believe.

They believe we can spend our way out of debt. They believe taking money from one part of the economy to give to another part somehow makes the economy bigger. They believe people who have never run a business can run a business better than people who have spent their whole lives running businesses. They believe that what appears to be a 20-year spike in global temperatures (a spike itself that hundreds of scientists dispute) can mean doom for a planet whose temperatures have swung much more widely for 6 billion years — but that an eight- or ten-year flattening or even drop in temperatures can be ignored because it doesn’t comport with the “models” based largely on the previous 20 years. They believe that punishing “developed” nations for carbon consumption is a good idea even if it means that developing countries without the same environmental controls will take over the production/manufacturing forced away from the developed countries. So, somehow, in the name of saving the environment from carbon emissions, they would create even more carbon emissions (and other, real pollution) elsewhere — and call it progress.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Tis the Week Before Christmas …

America’s great experiment in freedom was designed by our founders to create a new kind of government consisting of the very people for whom the government was made. The first purpose of this new government was to protect the freedom of the people against all enemies both foreign and domestic, and especially from governmental tyranny. To keep the federal government under control, the designers limited the power of the new federal government to those very specific areas set forth in Article I, Section 8.

These limitations are now routinely ignored by both the House and the Senate.

The one mechanism in our system of government designed to rid our government of those who abuse the Constitution is the biennial elections.

America stands at the brink of a Marxist abyss because Americans have elected a majority of officials who do not honor the Constitution, who do not respect the value of individual freedom, and who crave personal power and perks more than the prosperity produced by free people operating a free market.


Victory in 2010 is not necessarily determined by party label. There are Democrats who believe in the constitutional limitation of congressional power, and Republicans who do not. The challenge faced by voters is finding candidates — regardless of party affiliation — who are strong advocates of the U.S. Constitution, as demonstrated by deeds, not rhetoric. Sadly, many of these candidates labor fruitlessly in third-party campaigns.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Understanding the Global-Warming Jihadists

Here is the lowdown in a nutshell: Governments have used billions of dollars of our money to fund fraudulent science, which, in turn, is used to justify policy that would steal untold billions more from us through taxation and the handicapping of the private sector. This will, of course, stifle the creation of wealth, but it will also be a transfer of it. But this would not be so much from the rich to the poor; it would be from the poor and middle class to the rich and well-connected. Carbon-credit con men such as Al Gore will add to their many millions, while subtracting from the many millions some of the latter’s few dollars. It would move us toward a situation in which we’d have two Americas, as John Edwards might say. One would be a lying, covetous ruling class of John Edwardses. The other would be the masses, who would be perpetually mired in serfdom.


So forget about icebergs; the meltdown the climate con artists fear is that of their reputations, egos, finances and faith. Scientists or not, to admit error is not merely the alteration of a hypothesis to them; it is the loss of religion and meaning, the end of empire, the fall of Rome. It is complete and utter personal destruction.

Yet destruction is precisely what the climate-change con men would visit on the economies of nations in their delusional grip. Other lands, such as China and India, will never yield to such insanity. They may pay lip service to it, though, especially if doing so will encourage us to more thoroughly handicap ourselves. Then they can laugh and rise to prominence while we become the most recent great civilization to descend into backwater status.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus: 125:000 Foreigners Live on the Island

(ANSAMED) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 18 — The number of foreigners living in Cyprus on a permanent basis has shot up according to new figures, showing 125,000 residents are non-Cypriot (15.9%). According to the data, 81,000 foreign citizens in Cyprus were from EU member states and 44,000 from third countries. On 1 January 2008, 30.8 million foreign citizens lived in the EU27 member states, of which 11.3 million were citizens of another EU27 member state. The remaining 19.5 million were citizens of countries outside the EU27, of which 6.0 million were citizens of other European countries, 4.7 million of Africa, 3.7 million of Asia and 3.2 million of the American continent. Foreign citizens accounted for 6.2% of the total EU27 population. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden:300 Demonstrate for Christian Convert

From Swedish: 300 people demonstrated in Stockholm in support of Adiba öde (37) whose asylum request was rejected by the Swedish authorities. Adiba is a Jordanian-Muslim who converted to Christianity. She came to Sweden fleeing honor murder, and now says she’s persecuted for her new religion. Adiba was attacked recently, apparently by somebody sent by her Jordanian family, and has gotten death threats.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Of Minarets and Massacres

The surprise Swiss vote last month to ban new minarets triggered the expected gnashing of teeth from those who believe Islam, the least tolerant of faiths when administered by autocrats and absolute monarchs, should not only be tolerated, but encouraged. “It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance,” commented French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. “I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly.” Commenters expressed similar thoughts on blogs—”Deeply ashamed to be Swiss,” wrote Stephanie of Zurich—while voices sympathetic to the vote also quickly flooded the blogosphere. “Google ‘Archdiocese of Mecca,’“ one poster from Arizona acidly suggested.

Forgive me if I, too, do not weep that 57.5 percent of the Swiss, now hosts to a largely moderate Muslim population of Turks and former Yugoslavs, want to keep their country a quiet car among nations. I am still busy weeping for the Armenians, the first people in their corner of the world to officially adopt Christianity, almost eliminated from history due to regular massacres by the Muslim Turks among whom they lived for centuries.

Is bringing in the Armenian genocide too big a stretch when contemplating an electoral act about urban design rather than a state policy to implement ethnic cleansing? After all, the ban doesn’t involve violence (so far), or suppression of religious worship (mosques remain OK). What is the appropriate context when reflecting on such a ban? One little-pondered aspect of Web commentary on the news these days is how it has tremendously widened the spectrum of “context” in intellectual debate. Examine remarks on the minaret ban and it’s easy to feel that no one short of a walking encyclopedia could properly tackle the subject.

What about the Crusades? The Inquisition? America’s genocide of Native Americans? Church bells and belfries? Jordanian denial of citizenship to Jews? Nineteenth-century European colonialism in the Mideast? Islamic discrimination against gays, Jews, women, Christians? Serb persecution of Muslims in Bosnia? The Battles of Tours (732) and Lepanto (1571)? Wahhabi fundamentalism? Swiss collaboration with the Nazis? Swiss protection of Jews from the Nazis? It’s enough to make one’s head swim.

Perhaps we’ll all need “Advanced Context” as a required liberal-arts course once the anarchy of cybercommentary takes over all intellectual debate. Allow me, then, in this amorphous, pluralistic environment, to return to the Armenians. Because it may well be that persuading people about appropriate context in large moral matters can’t be done a priori, but only, so to speak, pragmatically—you juxtapose the context you think relevant with the issue at hand, and see whether it makes a difference to what anyone thinks. It may also be, in moral matters involving tolerance, that proper context can be sought by connecting it with a concrete, powerful notion in everyday life: apology.

It’s an unfortunate modern truism that all genocides aren’t equal in their impact. As Richard Bernstein noted recently in the International Herald Tribune, the just-finished trial of a key Khmer Rouge figure in Cambodia stirred little attention in America. Yet the morally impoverished reaction over decades to the Turkish government’s massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians that began in 1915—bookended by earlier and later massacres that killed hundreds of thousands—still stands apart because it once stood as the best-known genocide in modern history.

As early as 1895, The New York Times ran a report headlined, “Another Armenian Holocaust.” In 1915, the Times ran multiple reports with such headlines as, “Wholesale Massacres of Armenians by Turks” and “800,000 Armenians Counted Destroyed.” In 1918, Theodore Roosevelt declared that “the Armenian massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and failure to act against Turkey is to condone it.” British Prime Minister David Lloyd George decried the Ottoman state as “this inhuman Empire.” Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the term “genocide” in helping to establish the United Nations Convention on that crime, first used the term in regard to the slaughter of the Armenians.

Thankfully, the quality and extent of scholarship about the Armenian genocide continues to grow, though it still falls short of that on the Holocaust. Last spring saw the momentous, long-overdue publication by Peter Balakian, the American conscience of the Armenian genocide, of his great-uncle Grigoris Balakian’s Armenian Golgotha (Alfred A. Knopf), an immensely moving, harrowing memoir that instantly takes its place as a classic alongside Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and Elie Wiesel’s Night. This fall brought Michael Bobelian’s resourcefully reported Children of Armenia (Simon & Schuster), which focuses not on the genocide itself but the disgraceful history of how the U.S. government, which once trumpeted Armenian demands for justice, has repeatedly sold Armenians down the river for cold-war solidarity, oil contracts, and strategic cooperation from Turkey.

Precisely because the Armenian genocide remains unfamiliar to many, it’s necessary to at least sketch what happened. In 1908, the original Young Turks, officially the Committee of Union and Progress, or CUP, began their takeover of the collapsing Ottoman Empire by forcing Sultan Abdul Hamid II to re-establish the empire’s constitution, leading many to see the CUP as a reformist movement. The supporters of the Sultan, who himself saw Armenians as “degenerate” infidels, fought back, spurring massacres of Armenians in 1909, before the CUP deposed him. But as the Ottoman Empire lost most of its European territory during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, and Muslim refugees flooded into what is now Turkey, anti-Christian sentiment and Turkish nationalism both intensified.

In 1913, three extreme nationalists among CUP leaders who would become the architects of the Armenian genocide—Ismail Enver, Ahmed Jemal, and Mehmed Talaat—staged a coup that gave them complete government control. As World War I ensued, the CUP leaders, in a military alliance with Germany, increasingly bristled at the 1914 Armenian Reform Agreement that granted European powers the right to inspect the empire’s treatment of Armenians.

In response, Talaat and his colleagues formulated a policy of eliminating the empire’s Armenians once and for all—a policy postwar evidence showed he expressed directly to Germany’s ambassador, Hans Freiherr von Wangenheim. In November 1914, the Sheik-Ul-Islam of Constantinople issued a jihad against Christians, and the looting of Armenian and Greek businesses in Western Turkey—a kind of Ionian Kristallnacht—began. In 1915, the CUP arranged for the release of some 30,000 criminals from Ottoman prisons to form chetes (mobile killing units) that would become the storm troopers of the genocide.

In April 1915, the deportations, executions, and rapes of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire began. On April 24, the day on which the Armenian genocide is memorialized worldwide, the CUP arrested some 250 of Constantinople’s Armenian leaders and intellectuals, including Grigoris Balakian, and imprisoned them in the east—most would subsequently be killed. (When Lenin exiled many of Russia’s leading intellectuals in 1922, he explicitly contrasted his generous decision in letting them live with how the Ottomans treated the Armenians.)

That year, 1915, saw the awful crescendo of the genocide as the CUP government forcibly deported Armenians eastward, tortured, massacred, and starved them on death marches, confiscated their property, killed almost all of the arrested 250 leaders, and resettled Muslim refugees on Armenian land. The United States knew all about it as Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, a hero of the era who eventually lost his position for trying to protect the Armenians, reported to Washington that “a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”

By August, U.S. diplomats estimated that more than a million Armenians had been killed. In 1916, Interior Minister Talaat ordered the massacre of Armenian refugees still surviving in the desert town of Der Zor, which came to be known as the Auschwitz of the genocide. It is now believed the Turks slaughtered up to 400,000 Armenians there. Grigoris Balakian’s memoir, like other accounts, achingly details the astonishing, grisly savagery of the killings—the beheadings, disembowelments, and mutilations to which Armenian men, women, and children were subjected. He also acknowledges the existence of righteous Turks who saved Armenians. Indeed, Taner Akçam, the brave Turkish historian whose A Shameful Act (Metropolitan Books, 2006) is a monument in this field, dedicated his book to Haji Halil, a courageous Turk who, at the risk of being hanged, protected eight members of an Armenian family by hiding them in his home.

After World War I ended, when the victorious Allies set out to dismember the Ottoman Empire, it looked for a few years as if Armenians, like Jews after World War II, might see justice done by international powers and institutions. The three chief perpetrators of the genocide—Enver, Jamal and Talaat—fled Constantinople for safety abroad. The American King-Crane Commission, and a fact-finding mission led by General James Harbord, confirmed the extermination. For a brief period in 1919-20, Ottoman courts, under pressure from the British, prosecuted some of the perpetrators and sentenced the CUP leaders to death in absentia. (Armenians seeking revenge assassinated Talaat and Jamal, who had escaped arrest, within the next few years.) The prosecutions produced hundreds of pages of evidence that remain key to showing the genocide issued from official government policy.

But then, as Bobelian relates, the Armenian struggle for justice derailed. President Wilson’s push to expand the tiny 900-day Armenian Republic that emerged from World War I along borders that would be promised in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, collapsed when he suffered a stroke in 1919 and Mustapha Kemal (later “Atatürk”) forcibly began the establishment of the future nation of Turkey. (Kemal recaptured lands meant for Armenia as European powers dithered.) In 1921, Turkey and the Soviet Union divided historic Armenian lands among themselves. A truncated Armenia survived only as Soviet Armenia. After Kemal drove the Greek Army out of Turkey in 1922, getting in one more Turkish massacre of Armenians and Greeks in Smyrna (now Izmir), the European powers signed the shameful 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, recognizing the Republic of Turkey as the successor to the Ottoman Empire without even mentioning Armenia.

Bobelian ably covers the sorry story from then to the present. Repeated efforts by Armenian activists to enlist world powers in support of Armenian claims fell on deaf ears. After World War II, U.S. cold-war aims drove an almost 180-degree turn in U.S.-Armenian policy from Wilson’s idealism, dictating a realpolitik alliance with Turkey against the Soviet Union. Bobelian thoroughly reports how Turkey has continued to obstruct Congressional resolutions and any serious U.S. or world action to hold it responsible for its virtual annihilation of the Armenians.

On the eve of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to the White House on December 7, the AP reported: “Breaking a campaign pledge, Obama has refrained from referring to the [1915] killings as genocide, a term widely viewed by genocide scholars as an accurate description.” The same week, The New York Times reported that “Ottomania,” or nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire, is a hot new trend in Turkey.

Now let’s talk again about voting against two new minarets in Switzerland.

The Swiss vote is a signal rather than an endorsement of intolerance. The Swiss, while facing only a sort of creeping, minor Islamicization of their society—requests for girls to be excused from swimming classes, or separate cemeteries of the sort Swiss Jews already have—are aware of the gargantuan intolerance shown by some Muslim societies against minority Christians. While they may not seriously fear such a consequence, many of them plainly want to draw a line in the sand and say: We will not become a Muslim-dominated society, and we will stop that process early.

Swiss Muslims may protest that it is unfair to burden them with the worst sins of fellow Muslims. But isn’t that sociological fix the precise reason groups of believers historically split off from their brethren, forming sects or new religions? So long as Muslims anywhere keep their place in the House of Islam everywhere, they bear some responsibility for the actions of their fellow believers. That’s particularly so when they don’t powerfully denounce evil acts, or acknowledge the fear and hostility such acts evoke. That is where apology comes in.

The explosion of Net criticism of the Swiss for their vote recalls the last major moment in which the cry for Christian apology to Muslims rose up alongside the usual silence about the need for Muslim apology. That was Pope Benedict XVI’s bizarre magical military tour of Turkey in 2006, protected by helicopters overhead and Turkish SWAT teams deployed on every flank in case someone decided to nail him on his first visit to a Muslim land. The pope, who has his own problems in regard to personal and institutional behavior in World War II, had, after all, said unkind things about Islam.

There he was in the NATO republic whose foremost motto remains: Those who forget the past sometimes don’t want anyone to remember it, thank you very much. One might recall, in this regard, the remark famously attributed to Hitler, speaking to his generals, eight days before invading Poland in 1939: “Who, today, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Benedict played along. He largely kept quiet about arriving in a land whose predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire—many of whose leaders became central figures in the Turkish Republic—committed the largest genocide in history against Christians. To this day, the Turks have never apologized, never offered a lira of reparation, never returned stolen property or land. Turkish newspapers, astonishingly, kept asking whether the pope would offer yet another, fuller apology for his remarks on Islam. News reports from elsewhere kept mentioning that Turkey was “99-percent Muslim.” They didn’t say why.

By contrast, how intolerant is it to deny a religion a minor aspect of its ritual behavior, as the Swiss are doing by banning minarets? How intolerant is it not to apologize? Whether we owe tolerance to the intolerant is one of the great logical challenges within ethical theory. Simply declaring that we do, as so many commenters on the minaret vote urge, fails to convince if one believes tolerance, like some other ethical duties, arises out of implicit or explicit social contract, and should be reciprocal.

I, for one, find that context, apology, and intolerance matter in the following way. If you steep yourself in the atrocities of the Armenian genocide, not to mention the many intolerances exhibited by majority-Muslim societies toward Christians, Jews, women, gays, and other non-Muslims, one’s conclusion is not an absolutist moral judgment, but a decision on who owes a greater apology to whom, a decision on how to allocate one’s moral energy.

The day that Turkey apologizes and pays reparations for the Armenian genocide, that Saudi Arabia permits the building of churches and synagogues, that the Arab world thinks the homeland principles it applies to the Arabs of Palestine also apply to the Armenians of Turkey—on that day, I will find time to commiserate with the generally kind and hard-working Muslims of Switzerland.

Carlin Romano, critic at large for The Chronicle Review, teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Low-Ranking Airline Worker’ Al-Megrahi Had £1.8m in Swiss Bank Account Before Lockerbie Bomb Conviction

Scottish prosecutors admitted last night they refused to grant bail to terminally-ill Megrahi in November last year because of concerns he might try to gain access to the money.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was said by the Libyan government to be a low-ranking airline worker.

Yet he had a bank balance of £1.8million when he was found guilty of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am bombing, which happened above the Scottish town of Lockerbie 21 years ago today.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bah! Humbug! A Christmas Ghost Story in Downing Street

With apologies to Charles Dickens, Gordon Brown is visited by three spirits and the chain-clanking spectre of Tony Blair

Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Brown sat busy in his counting house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather. The door was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, Darling, who in a dismal little cell was copying figures and then erasing them again as soon as he had set them down. Brown had a small fire of smouldering parliamentary expenses’ claims. The clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful, rather posh voice. It belonged to the old Etonian who owned the toy shop next door. “Bah!” said Brown. “Humbug!”

Master Cameron had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog that he was all in a glow.

“Out upon Merry Christmas!” snarled Brown. “What’s Christmas time but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for trying to balance your books and finding every item in ‘em presented dead against you.”

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time,” returned young Cameron. “The only time I know of when men and women think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. Naturally, they may not be bound on any journeys of any nature if they are booked to fly with British Airways.”

“I say of Christmas, God bless it!” cried the cheerful Tory. “For it brings the election closer.”

The clerk involuntarily applauded.

“Let me hear another sound from you,” Brown barked at Darling, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation.”

The old Etonian departed. As he did so, he let two other gentlemen in. Said one of the gentlemen: “Brown and Blair’s, I believe.” “Mr Blair has been dead these three years,” replied Brown. The gentleman took up a pen: “At this festive time of the year, Mr Brown, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many are in want of common necessities: plasma TVs, champagne flutes, chandeliers, massage chairs, silk cushions, bath plugs, patio heaters. Since the reports of Sir Christopher Kelly and Sir Thomas Legg into their expenses, hundreds of MPs are in want of these comforts, sir.”

“Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” asked Brown. “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, “in which some of these benighted creatures may yet rest.” He went on: “A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor MPs some meat and drink, and means of warmth to keep out the chill of the opinion polls. What shall I put you down for?” “Nothing!” Brown replied. “I don’t myself make merry at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

At length, the hour of shutting up the counting house arrived. Brown walked out with a growl and went home. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. Brown, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker not a knocker, but Blair’s face. It looked at Brown as Blair used to look: with a ghostly smile turned up upon its ghostly mouth. Though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That made it horrible. As Brown looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

“Humbug!” said Brown. He closed the door and locked himself in; double-locked himself in. The door flew open with a booming sound. “It’s Balls still!” said Brown. “I won’t believe it.” His colour changed when it passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame of the candle leaped up, as though it cried: “I know him! Blair’s Ghost!” and fell again. A chain was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail. It was made of cash-boxes, deeds to houses, invoices for appearance fees, dodgy dossiers and body bags. Though he looked the phantom through and through, though he felt the chill of its death-cold eyes, he was still incredulous and fought against his senses.

“You don’t believe in me,” observed the Ghost.

“I don’t,” said Brown. “I never did.”

At this, the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with a dismal and appalling noise. “Mercy!” said Brown. “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?” “You will be haunted,” said the Ghost, “by Three Spirits.” Then the spectre floated through the window and out upon the bleak, dark night. Brown, desperate in his curiosity, looked out. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither, and moaning as they went. Many had been personally known to Brown in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one ghost, Sir Fred, known as the Shred. Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell.

Brown was returned to his bed when the hour bell sounded with a deep, dull, melancholy One. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside and Brown found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them. It was a strange figure. What was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness.

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Brown. “I am!” The voice was smooth with a sinister yet fruity flavour. “What are you?” Brown demanded. “I am the Ghost of New Labour Past,” replied the pale face of Peter Mandelson. It put out its hand. The grasp, though feline as a woman’s hand, was not to be resisted. They passed through the wall and across space and time until they stood amidst a crowded House of Commons on Budget Day.

“Good Heaven!” said Brown. He saw himself as he was five years ago. Labour MPs were waving their order papers and cheering as his younger self boasted of the longest period of growth since records began and promised unprecedented increases in public spending. “No return to Tory boom and bust!” bragged the figure at the Dispatch Box.

“Spirit!” cried Brown. “Why do you delight to torture me? Show me no more!”

“I told you these were the shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!” “Leave me!” Brown exclaimed. “Haunt me no longer!”

The hour struck again and with it came another phantom. “I am the Ghost of Labour Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!” From head to toe, the phantom was clothed in plastic; red, green, blue, black, gold, silver and platinum plastic. “Touch my robe!” commanded the spirit and whisked Brown to a city street. They stood in a pound-stretcher shop where the people made a rough but brisk kind of music at the tills. Soon the steeples rang with the call to church and chapel — but the people simply carried on shopping.

The spirit led on to the dwelling of Brown’s clerk. In came Alistair, his threadbare clothes darned up. Diddy David was upon his shoulder. “And how did little David behave?” asked Mrs Darling. “As good as gold,” said Alistair. “Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much at the Foreign Office, and thinks the strangest things you’ve ever heard.”

“Spirit,” said Brown. “Tell me if Diddy David will live?”

His clerk proposed a toast: “I’ll give you Mr Brown!” “Mr Brown indeed!” cried Mrs Darling, reddening. “I wish I had the odious bully here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon.” “My dear,” Alistair hushed her. “The children.” Brown was the ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party. Diddy David drank the toast last of all, but he didn’t care twopence for it.

The clock struck another hour. Brown asked: “I am in the presence of the Ghost of Election Yet To Come?” The Spirit answered not, but pointed downward with its hand. “Ghost of the Future!” Brown cried. “I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen. Will you not speak to me?” The still silent Spirit conveyed him to Downing Street. “I see the house,” said Brown. “Let me behold what I shall be in days to come.” Brown hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an office still, but not his. The figure in the chair was the old Etonian.

A churchyard. The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed to one. Brown crept towards it, trembling as he went. Following the finger, he read upon the stone of the neglected grave: Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, 2007-2010.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no! Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

Holding up his hands in one last prayer to have his fate reversed, the phantom vanished. Brown scrambled out of bed, resolved to change his future. Running to the window, he put out his head and called downward to a boy. “Hello, my fine fellow,” he cried. “Do you know the Poulterer’s at the corner? Go and buy the prize Turkey that hangs up there.” The boy was off like a shot. “I’ll send it to the Darlings,” whispered Brown, rubbing his hands with merriment.

He got dressed in his best, went downstairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the Turkey.

The boy returned, empty-handed. “Where’s the Turkey?” demanded Brown. The boy shrugged: “They say you’ve not the money to afford it. The only Turkey you will see this Christmas is yourself.”

“Bah,” groaned old Brown. “Humbug!”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Christian Teacher Lost Her Job After Being Told Praying for Sick Girl ‘Was Bullying’

A devout Christian teacher has lost her job after discussing her faith with a mother and her sick child and offering to pray for them.

Olive Jones, a 54-year-old mother of two, who taught maths to children too ill to attend school, was dismissed following a complaint from the girl’s mother. She was visiting the home of the child when she spoke about her belief in miracles and asked whether she could say a prayer, but when the mother indicated they were not believers she did not go ahead.

Mrs Jones was then called in by her managers who, she says, told her that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying and informed her that her services were no longer required.

Her dismissal has outraged Christian groups, who say new equality regulations are driving Christianity to the margins of society.

They said the case echoed that of community nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended last December after offering to pray for a patient but who was later reinstated after a national outcry.

Coincidentally, Mrs Petrie lives nearby and has been a friend of Mrs Jones for some years. Mrs Jones, whose youngest son is a Royal Marine who has served in Afghanistan, said she was merely trying to offer comfort and encouragement and only later realised her words had caused distress, for which she is apologetic.

The softly spoken teacher, who has more than 20 years’ experience, said she was ‘devastated’ by the decision to end her employment, which she said was ‘completely disproportionate’.

She said she had been made to feel like a ‘criminal’, and claimed that Christians were being persecuted because of ‘political correctness’.

Speaking at her home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, she said: ‘Teaching was my dream from the age of 16. It is as if 20 years of my work, which I was passionate about, has gone. It is like a grief.

‘I have been sleeping badly and been in a daze. I haven’t even got around to putting up a Christmas tree or decorations. So much for Christmas cheer.’

Mrs Jones shares her comfortable four-bedroom house with her husband Peter, who is also a teacher and heads the maths department at a local state secondary school.

The house provides few clues about her strong beliefs. There is a small wooden cross on one wall, a few plaques carrying religious texts, and some Bibles in the sitting room which she used in her studies for a diploma at the Pentecostal Carmel Bible College in Bristol.

She is a regular churchgoer, attending her local Church of England church most Sundays, but she also occasionally opts for more lively evangelical worship at the college.

After training to be a teacher at Aberystwyth University, where she met her husband, and a period bringing up her children — student Rob, 24, and soldier James, 23 — she returned to teaching in state secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

Wanting to concentrate more on family life, she began a part-time job more than four years ago at the Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service North, which caters for children with illness or behavioural difficulties.

She had no formal contract but was scheduled to work to a timetable for about 12 hours a week at the school in a converted bungalow and one-storey prefabricated block in nearby Nailsea.

She prepared lessons, taught and marked work for about six children between 11 and 16 who had problems ranging from leukaemia to Attention Deficit Disorder. In reality, however, pupils were frequently unavailable for lessons, and she says she often found herself working as little as 20 hours a month.

As she was technically a supply teacher, she was paid £25 an hour plus mileage and had to submit a timesheet. While she was working, she was paid about £700 a month before tax and pension contributions by North Somerset Council, and received payslips.

Occasionally she would teach one or two sick children at their homes, and from September she made half-a-dozen visits to one child in a middle-class area who she was tutoring in GCSE maths.

On the fourth visit the girl stayed in her bedroom because she did not feel well enough for lessons, so Mrs Jones chatted to her mother and raised the subject of her faith, saying she believed God had saved her life.

The teacher said when she was a teenager she had been driving a tractor on the family farm near Carmarthen in Wales when it slid down a slope but came to a halt just before tipping over.

‘I shut my eyes and thought I was going to die,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘Then there was a sound of a rushing wind, like that described in the Bible, and then total stillness.

‘I was convinced it was a miracle. I shared my testimony to encourage the mother to believe that there is a God who answers prayer. I believe I have a personal relationship with God, who is a constant source of strength.’

Unbeknown to Mrs Jones, the mother complained about her comments to health authorities in the mistaken belief that they were her employers. It appears, however, that these criticisms were not passed on to Mrs Jones.

Unaware that there were any problems, Mrs Jones’s fifth lesson with the child passed without incident, but when she returned for her sixth session towards the end of last month, things went awry.

She said that although the girl came downstairs in her dressing gown, she could not face a lesson, so the three of them chatted over cups of tea about books they were reading. Mrs Jones once again referred to the incident involving the tractor and spoke about her belief in Heaven.

‘I told them there were people praying for them, and I asked the child if I could pray for her,’ said Mrs Jones.

‘She looked at her mother, who said, “We come from a family who do not believe”, so I did not pray.

‘I asked the mother if she wanted me to cancel the next lesson as her daughter had not been feeling up to maths, but she said no.’

She left on what she thought were good terms and returned to the unit to do some more work, but within a few hours she was told that the head of the unit, Kaye Palmer-Greene, wanted to see her in her office.

‘I suspected it must be serious as Kaye did not normally see people without an appointment,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘When I got to her office I was told to wait outside.

‘Then the unit co-ordinator Karen Robinson came out and said I would have to come back later. I could tell by her face I was in big trouble.

‘I asked her if I was being sacked but she refused to comment. I drove to a Tesco car park and sat in the car and called a few friends to ask them to pray.’

About an hour-and-a-half later she was told she could go back to the office, and she went in holding a Bible. ‘You could feel the tension in air,’ she said. ‘I was so frightened I could hardly breathe.

‘I was a total wreck. I was shaking and in shock. I had never experienced anything like this before. I had a faultless record. It was horrible, one of the worst experiences of my life.

‘They were very strict and firm. Kaye was mostly silent while Karen read comments from the parent from a sheet of A4 paper. One thing the parent said was that I had demanded a cup of tea, which I hadn’t.

‘Then she said that my testimony and mention of prayer had distressed her and her daughter, and she didn’t want me to tutor in their home again. Obviously, if I had known she was upset when I had first mentioned my testimony I would never have brought it up again. But I had no idea.

‘I don’t push my beliefs down other people’s throats, and I apologise for any unintentional distress I may have caused.’

Mrs Jones said that during the meeting Ms Robinson told her that talking about faith issues in the house of a pupil could be regarded as bullying.

Ms Robinson also asked Mrs Jones why she had ignored her advice not to pray or speak about her faith at work, a reference to an occasion three years ago when the teacher had prayed for a girl with period pains.

The girl appears to have complained and Ms Robinson had told Mrs Jones to be more professional, but Mrs Jones said there had been no written warning.

‘Karen then said I had been an exemplary maths teacher, but my services were no longer required. As I had no contract, they could tell me to go just like that.

‘They also told me that had I been on a contract, I could be facing disciplinary proceedings. But they never told me the grounds for that.’

Mrs Jones was advised by a friend to contact the Christian Legal Centre, an independent group of lawyers funded by public donations that defends Christians in legal difficulties.

‘I am not angry with my bosses, as they are trying to interpret new equality and diversity policies,’ she said. ‘But I am angry with the politically-correct system and about the fact that you can’t mention anything to do with faith to people who might find it of use.

‘My main concern is the interpretation of the policies concerned, which seem very ambiguous.

‘An atheist may think that you shouldn’t speak about anything to do with faith to students if it is not your specialist area, but it is not really clear.

‘It is as if my freedom of speech is being restricted. I feel I am being persecuted for speaking about my faith in a country that is supposed to be Christian.

‘I feel if I had spoken about almost any other topic I would have been fine but Christianity is seen as a no-go area. It felt as if I was being treated as a criminal. It is like a bad dream that had come true.’

She said that although she was clear that she had been sacked, she had recently been approached by a senior education official who had said the complaint was still being investigated and had suggested a meeting.

She said she believed the approach had been triggered by the involvement of the Christian Legal Centre, and she was now taking legal advice about how to proceed.

Andrea Williams, a lawyer and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘The story of Olive Jones is sadly becoming all too familiar in this country. It is the result of a heavy-handed so-called equalities agenda that discriminates against Christians and seeks to eliminate Christian expression from the public square.

‘Olive Jones had compassion for her pupil and finds herself without a job because she expressed the hope that comes with faith. It is time for a common sense approach to be restored in all these matters.’

She said that although Mrs Jones was not on a contract and had occasionally taken time out from her teaching duties during term time, the Centre would argue that she had effectively worked continuously for the unit for nearly five years and should have had some protection under employment law.

Mrs Williams said the human rights lawyer Paul Diamond — who represented Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida, who in 2006 was banned from wearing a cross around her neck — had been instructed in the case.

Nurse Caroline Petrie described Mrs Jones, whom she met through her church more than four years ago, as a ‘caring, honest and lovely person’ whose gentle voice and manner were perfect for dealing with sick children.

She said she had been shocked that the teacher had been dismissed without being allowed to consult a lawyer first.

Nick Yates, a spokesman for North Somerset Council, said: ‘Olive Jones has worked as a supply teacher, working with the North Somerset Tuition service. A complaint has been made by a parent regarding Olive. This complaint is being investigated.

‘To complete the investigation we need to speak to Olive and we have offered her a number of dates so this can happen. At the moment we are waiting for her to let us know which date is convenient for her.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Police Chef Defeated in ‘Bacon Roll’ Tribunal Faces £75,000 Legal Bill

A Muslim chef who lost a claim of religious discrimination against Scotland Yard after complaining he was forced to cook sausages and bacon faces a legal bill of more than £75,000.

Hasanali Khoja accused the Metropolitan Police of failing to consider his Islamic beliefs when he was asked to handle pork products as a catering manager at a police station.

The £23,000-a-year chef claimed suggestions by his bosses that he should wear gloves and use tongs left him ‘stressed and humiliated’. Muslims are banned from eating pork under Islamic law.

But Mr Khoja, 62, lost his claim in May after a police employee told an employment tribunal how she saw Mr Khoja eat bacon rolls and sausages.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) has now won a ruling ordering Mr Khoja to pay its costs, which total at least £76,200. In its costs claim, the Met said Mr Khoja ‘knew that he had asked for a bacon roll two or three times for personal consumption before bringing his claim and throughout the conduct of his claim’.

‘The fact that he had knowingly come into contact with pork products before bringing the claim shows that the claim had no reasonable prospect of success from the outset.’

Judge Michael Southam agreed and ruled Mr Khoja should pay costs, though these would be determined at a later date at a county court.

Mr Khoja, from Edgware, North London, who is still employed by the Met, claimed at a hearing in Watford that he could afford to pay only £80 a week as he has little income, lives in rented property and is struggling with £30,000 legal bills of his own.

But the court discovered he had sold another home last year, splitting profits of almost £200,000 with his wife and two sons.

The decision is another setback for the police chef, who believed he was on course for a large settlement when he launched his case in 2007.

Mr Khoja, who sits on a Foods Standards Agency advisory committee on Muslim issues, decided to take action after Scotland Yard chiefs placed him on unpaid leave for a year after his refusal to work with pork.

He said he was then given work in a different building but his role was downgraded.

But his case fell apart when another caterer, Mary Boakye, told the court she served him bacon rolls ‘two or three’ times at the Met canteen at Heathrow in West London.

When she told him she was surprised because his religion banned him from eating pork, Mr Khoja allegedly replied: ‘I eat them once in a while.’

Another chef said he saw Mr Khoja once happily eat a sausage dish and told the court ‘he was not as strict as some Muslims’.

Judge Southam also heard how Mr Khoja had made ‘wild and baseless’ allegations about a human resource manager, allegedly making racial facial gestures.

Mr Khoja is one of several ethnic minority staff to launch racial discrimination claims against Scotland Yard. The most high-profile was former Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who last year accused Sir Ian Blair of excluding him from the upper echelons of the force because of his skin colour.

Mr Ghaffur retired after receiving an out-of-court settlement and dropped the allegations.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Expect Mumbai-Style Terror Attack on City of London

Scotland Yard has warned businesses in London to expect a Mumbai-style attack on the capital.

In a briefing in the City of London 12 days ago, a senior detective from SO15, the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, said: “Mumbai is coming to London.”

The detective said companies should anticipate a shooting and hostage-taking raid “involving a small number of gunmen with handguns and improvised explosive devices”.

The warning — the bluntest issued by police — has underlined an assessment that a terrorist cell may be preparing an attack on London early next year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Michael Powell Case Shows How Charges of Racism Hobble the Police

The inquest into Michael Powell’s death cost a million pounds to prove racism was not to blame, says Alasdair Palmer

It is more than a decade since the Macpherson report branded the Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist”. Ever since, policemen everywhere in Britain have struggled to convince ethnic minorities that their actions are not racist — or at least that they do not have to be.

There are, of course, many occasions on which the police fail to protect those whom they should, or to catch those responsible for terrible crimes. There are also many causes of such failures, including incompetence, laziness, cowardice, stupidity and simple bad luck. It was not Sir William Macpherson’s intention, but the principal effect of his report has been to persuade many people that whenever the police deal with someone from an ethnic minority, and the result of the interaction is less than perfect, there is in fact just one explanation: racism.

There was a classic example of that syndrome last week, at the inquest into the death of Michael Powell, a black man from Birmingham who died in police custody six years ago. Mr Powell had a history of mental instability and had been a user of crack cocaine. His terrified mother called the police when he started smashing his car windows with a hammer on the night of September 7, 2003. The police turned up quickly and tried, but failed, to subdue Mr Powell: their use of CS spray backfired, disabling the officers who deployed it rather than Mr Powell.

In the end, it took several additional policeman to overpower Mr Powell and bundle him into the back of a police van. But during the journey to the police station, he died. Three pathologists conducted two separate post-mortem examinations. They concluded that his death was not due to any injury caused by the police. An inquest was started, and then abandoned because 10 officers were charged with a number of offences relating to Mr Powell’s death. They were all acquitted. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) then investigated the officers, and concluded that there were no grounds for disciplining them.

Were all of those investigations sufficient to convince Mr Powell’s friends and family that police racism was not the cause of his death? They were not. The family’s team of lawyers managed to re-open the inquest, get their case funded by legal aid and argue that, had it not been for police racism, Michael Powell would still be alive today.

After six weeks of hearing evidence, the jury decided that Mr Powell did not die because the police treated him in a way they would not have treated a white man. But although they rejected — after deliberating for two days — the allegations that the way officers restrained him had caused his death, it took the inquest a month and a half, and at least a million pounds in lawyers’ fees, to come to a conclusion already reached by two post-mortem examinations, a trial, and an investigation by the IPCC.

Repeated investigations of the kind seen in Mr Powell’s case are justified on the grounds that they reassure the public that “the system is not institutionally racist”. But they do not have that effect. They merely publicise the convictions — some might call them prejudices — of groups that insist that the police are institutionally racist, as are all the bodies that acquit them of that charge. No one, therefore, should be surprised that police recruitment of ethnic minorities is down, or that many ethnic minority organisations now advise against co-operating with the authorities.

There are racists within the police, just as there are everywhere, and when individual racism is identified it must be investigated and punished. But the result of labelling entire organisations “institutionally racist” has been to make it harder for ethnic minorities to believe they will be treated fairly which has made it harder to police our multi-ethnic society. That development, like the inquest into Mr Powell’s death, serves neither justice nor good sense.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Boosts Security at Gaza Border After Firing

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) — Egypt is stepping up security on its border with the Gaza Strip after earth moving equipment came under fire from the Palestinian side for three days, a security source said on Saturday.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Egypt was installing an underground metal barrier between 20 and 30 meters (70 and 100 feet) deep along the short border strip where Palestinians have dug tunnels to circumvent an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Egyptian officials say authorities have been installing steel tubes in the ground at several points on the border, but their purpose has not been specified.

Egypt had stationed about 200 policemen and increased armored vehicle patrols along the length of the border and in areas where excavating is under way, the security source said.

“We have sent new forces from the police to the border with Gaza after repeated shooting from the Palestinian side,” the source told Reuters.

Shots had been fired from the Palestinian side of the border at equipment in the area since Thursday, the source said. No injuries were reported.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Archaeological Finds Trafficking, Italians Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 18 — There are Italian nationals (the exact number has not been released) as well as British and two Tunisians among the 26 arrested in Tunisia as part of an inquiry into a vast network for the international trafficking of archaeological finds. Carried out by the Tunisian National Guard in collaboration with Interpol, the inquiry has made it possible to recover about 7,000 finds, many of which considered invaluable, according to the French-language daily Le Temps. Concerning the Italians arrested after the issuing of international arrest warrants, the daily paper reported that the individuals “have criminal records, having already been arrested in Italy for similar crimes”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Suddenly, The Arab World Wakes Up to Yemen’s Rebellion

by Jonathan Spyer

The 30th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, meeting in Kuwait this week, expressed its solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its fight with the Shi’ite Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. The Kuwaiti emir noted that Saudi Arabia is facing “flagrant aggression that targets its sovereignty and security by those who have infiltrated its territory.”

The formerly little-noticed conflict between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government is now taking on the coloration of an additional hot front in an ongoing region-wide cold war. The conflict in northern Yemen reveals the ongoing Iranian regional effort to convert Shi’ite populations into assets enabling it to apply pressure on neighbors and rivals.

The Arab response, meanwhile, shows the very great trepidation felt by the Gulf Arabs in the face of Iranian regional ambitions and expansion.

The term “Houthi rebels” refers to members of the Houthi clan, who have been engaged in an insurrection against the government of Yemen in the Saada district in the north of the country since 2004. The Houthis are members of the Zaidi Shi’ite sect of Islam. (Zaidi Shi’ites venerate the first four Imams of Islam, in contrast to the Twelver Shi’ites dominant in Iran). Led by Abd al-Malik el-Houthi, the rebels are fighting to bring down the government of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, which they regard as too pro-Western.

Thousands on both sides have died in the rebellion. The fighting includes the use by both sides of tanks and armored personnel carriers. It has resulted in the displacement of around 150,000 people.

The situation escalated in November, when Houthi rebels clashed with Saudi forces in the Jabal Dukhan territory straddling the border. In the ensuing firefight two Saudi border guards were killed and another 10 were wounded. The Saudis responded in force. Saudi aircraft and helicopter gunships carried out a series of attacks on rebel held areas of northern Yemen in the following days, killing around 40 rebels. Saudi forces remain on high alert…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

First Woman to Open Bank Account in Lebanon

“I’ve been trying to open a bank account for my two sons for 10 years now, but I was continuously told that only my husband could sign the papers,” Lebanese-American Barbara Batlouni told AFP.

“It’s unfair. They’re my children too and I don’t see why I cannot, as their mother, teach them to manage their finances,” she said at the headquarters of Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries (BBAC).

Her move came after Lebanon’s bank association altered its own rules on December 9, following a campaign to press for the change led by the Institute of Progressive Women and other groups.

A smiling Batlouni signed the first papers at BBAC for an account that named as beneficiaries her two sons, 16-year-old Samer and 14-year-old Jad.

“I’m glad that Lebanon is improving its laws,” said Samer, who along with Jad will become the official holder of the account once he turns 18.

The bank also gifted her a 1,000-dollar (790-euro) cheque as a token of their appreciation for her “fight against discrimination,” BBAC general manager Ghassan Assaf said.

While the boys’ father is Lebanese, Batlouni, the Lebanon country director of the non-profit organisation Amideast, said she insisted on opening the account herself on principle.

“Lebanese women excel in all fields, and yet they do not have their basic rights,” she said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Iranian Troops No Longer Control Oil Well: Iraq

Ali al-Dabbagh said a small group of Iranian troops who had taken over an oil well in a remote region along the two countries’ border last week were no longer in control of the well, which Iraq considers part of its Fakka oilfield.

“The Iranian flag has been lowered. The Iranian troops have pulled back 50 meters, but they have not gone back to where they were before. The Iraqi government asked for the troops to go back to where they were,” Dabbagh said.

On Friday, global oil prices climbed after Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Co. in the southeastern city of Amara said that an Iranian force had arrived at the field and taken control of the Well 4.

Baghdad demanded that “Tehran pull back the armed men who occupied Well No 4” and condemned the incident as “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

Iran rejected allegations it had occupied an Iraqi oil well.

The border flare-up kicked off a storm of emergency meetings and bilateral phone calls, with Baghdad calling for an immediate withdrawal yet also seeking to contain damage to its important relationship with neighboring Iran.

In a phone conversation on Saturday evening, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshiyar Zebari underlined the need for a meeting of officials “with the intention of enforcing bilateral border agreements”, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported.

The two countries have a long history of border feuds, including one that escalated into a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s. The relationship warmed after 2003, when fellow Shiite Muslims took over in Baghdad and the countries’ trade and religious tourism ties began to deepen.

Dabbagh said a joint committee would begin to look at demarcating the border in the desert region.

Fakka is a relatively small field, and currently produces about 10,000 barrels per day, Iraqi officials say.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Plot Targeting Turkey’s Religious Minorities Allegedly Discovered

CD indicates naval officers planned violence against non-Muslim communities.

Chilling allegations emerged last month of a detailed plot by Turkish naval officers to perpetrate threats and violence against the nation’s non-Muslims in an effort to implicate and unseat Turkey’s pro-Islamic government.

Evidence put forth for the plot appeared on an encrypted compact disc discovered last April but was only recently deciphered; the daily Taraf newspaper first leaked details of the CD’s contents on Nov. 19.

Entitled the “Operation Cage Action Plan,” the plot outlines a plethora of planned threat campaigns, bomb attacks, kidnappings and assassinations targeting the nation’s tiny religious minority communities — an apparent effort by military brass to discredit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The scheme ultimately called for bombings of homes and buildings owned by non-Muslims, setting fire to homes, vehicles and businesses of Christian and Jewish citizens, and murdering prominent leaders among the religious minorities.

Dated March 2009, the CD containing details of the plot was discovered in a raid on the office of a retired major implicated in a large illegal cache of military arms uncovered near Istanbul last April. Once deciphered, it revealed the full names of 41 naval officials assigned to carry out a four-phase campaign exploiting the vulnerability of Turkey’s non-Muslim religious minorities, who constitute less than 1 percent of the population.

A map that Taraf published on its front page — headlined “The Targeted Missionaries” — was based on the controversial CD documents. Color-coded to show all the Turkish provinces where non-Muslims lived or had meetings for worship, the map showed only 13 of Turkey’s 81 provinces had no known non-Muslim residents or religious meetings.

The plan identified 939 non-Muslim representatives in Turkey as possible targets.

“If even half of what is written in Taraf is accurate, everybody with a conscience in this country has to go mad,” Eyup Can wrote in his Hurriyet column two days after the news broke.

The day after the first Taraf report, the headquarters of the Turkish General Staff filed a criminal complaint against the daily with the Justice Ministry, declaring its coverage a “clear violation” of the laws protecting ongoing prosecution investigations from public release.

Although the prime minister’s office the next day confirmed that the newly revealed “Cage” plot was indeed under official investigation, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Taraf’s public disclosure of the plan as “interfering” and “damaging” to the judicial process and important sectors of the government.

But when the judiciary began interrogating a number of the named naval suspects and sent some of them to jail, most Turkish media — which had downplayed the claims — began to accept the plot’s possible authenticity.

To date, at least 11 of the naval officials identified in the Cage documents are under arrest, accused of membership in an illegal organization.. They include a retired major, a lieutenant colonel, three lieutenant commanders, two colonels and three first sergeants.

The latest plot allegations are linked to criminal investigations launched in June 2007 into Ergenekon, an alleged “deep state” conspiracy by a group of military officials, state security personnel, lawyers and journalists now behind bars on charges of planning a coup against the elected AKP government.

Christian Murders Termed ‘Operations’

The plot document began with specific mention of the three most recent deadly attacks perpetrated against Christians in Turkey, cryptically labeling them “operations.”

Initial Turkish public opinion had blamed Islamist groups for the savage murders of Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro (February 2006), Turkish Armenian Agos newspaper editor Hrant Dink (January 2007) and two Turkish Christians and a German Christian in Malatya (April 2007). But authors of the Cage plan complained that AKP’s “intensive propaganda” after these incidents had instead fingered the Ergenekon cabal as the perpetrators.

“The Cage plan demanded that these ‘operations’ be conducted in a more systematic and planned manner,” attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz wrote in Today’s Zaman on Nov. 27. “They want to re-market the ‘black propaganda’ that Muslims kill Christians,” concluded Cengiz, a joint-plaintiff lawyer in the Malatya murder trial and legal adviser to Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches.

In the first phase of the Cage plot, officers were ordered to compile information identifying the non-Muslim communities’ leaders, schools, associations, cemeteries, places of worship and media outlets, including all subscribers to the Armenian Agos weekly. With this data, the second stage called for creating an atmosphere of fear by openly targeting these religious minorities, using intimidating letters and telephone calls, warnings posted on websites linked to the government and graffiti in neighborhoods where non-Muslims lived.

To channel public opinion, the third phase centered on priming TV and print media to criticize and debate the AKP government’s handling of security for religious minorities, to raise the specter of the party ultimately replacing Turkey’s secular laws and institutions with Islamic provisions.

The final phase called for planting bombs and suspicious packages near homes and buildings owned by non-Muslims, desecrating their cemeteries, setting fire to homes, vehicles and businesses of Christian and Jewish citizens, and even kidnapping and assassinating prominent leaders among the religious minorities.

Lawyer Fethiye Cetin, representing the Dink family in the Agos editor’s murder trial, admitted she was having difficulty even accepting the details of the Cage plot.

“I am engulfed in horror,” Cetin told Bianet, the online Independent Communications Network. “Some forces of this country sit down and make a plan to identify their fellow citizens, of their own country, as enemies! They will kill Armenians and non-Muslims in the psychological war they are conducting against the ones identified as their enemies.”

No Surprise to Christians

“We were not very shocked,” Protestant Pastor Ihsan Ozbek of the Kurtulus Churches in Ankara admitted to Taraf the day after the news broke.

After the Malatya murders, he stated, Christians had no official means to investigate their suspicions about the instigators, “and we could not be very brave . . . Once again the evidence is being seen, that it is the juntas who are against democracy who [have been] behind the propaganda in the past 10 years against Christianity and missionary activity.”

Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Church also openly addressed the Cage plot, referring to recent incidents of intimidation against Christian and Jewish citizens in Istanbul’s Kurtulus and Adalar districts, as well as a previous raid conducted against the alumni of a Greek high school.

“At the time, we thought that they were just trying to scare us,” he told Today’s Zaman. Several of the jailed Ergenekon suspects now on trial were closely involved for years in protesting and slandering the Istanbul Patriarchate, considered the heart of Eastern Orthodoxy’s 300 million adherents. As ultranationalists, they claimed the Orthodox wanted to set up a Vatican-style entity within Turkey.

Last summer 90 graves were desecrated in the Greek Orthodox community’s Balikli cemetery in the Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul. The city’s 65 non-Muslim cemeteries are not guarded by the municipality, with their maintenance and protection left to Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities.

As details continued to emerge and national debates raged for more than a week over the Cage plan in the Turkish media, calls came from a broad spectrum of society to merge the files of the ongoing Dink and Malatya murder trials with the Ergenekon file. The Turkish General Staff has consistently labeled much of the media coverage of the Ergenekon investigations as part of smear campaign against the fiercely secular military, which until the past two years enjoyed virtual impunity from civilian court investigations.

According to Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, the long-entrenched role of the military in the Turkish government is an “obstacle” for further democratization and integration into the EU.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Turkey Slams Orthodox Chief’s Crucifixion Remark

“We regard the use of the crucifixion simile as extremely unfortunate…. I would like to see this as an undesired slip of the tongue,” Davutoglu told reporters here when asked about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I’s comments in an interview with US television network CBS.

“We cannot accept comparisons that we do not deserve,” the minister added.

He rejected criticism that the Islamist-rooted government in Turkey was discriminating between its citizens on religious grounds.

“If Patriarch Bartholomew I has complaints on this issue, he can convey them to relevant authorities who will do whatever is necessary,” he said.

In an excerpt from the interview, which will be broadcast in full on CBS on Sunday, Bartholomew I says that the tiny Greek minority in Turkey is not treated equally.

“We are treated… as citizens of second class. We don’t feel that we enjoy our full rights as Turkish citizens,” says the patriarch, who represents the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.

He ruled out the option of leaving Turkey. “This is the continuation of Jerusalem and for us it is equally holy and sacred land. We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes,” the patriarch adds.

The CBS website quotes Bartholomew I as saying that the Turkish government “would be happy to see the Patriarchate extinguished or moving abroad, but our belief is that it will never happen.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which collapsed in 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks.

Though Ankara does not interfere with the patriarchate’s religious functions, it withholds recognition of Bartholomew’s ecumenical title, treating him only as the spiritual leader of some 2,000 Orthodox Greeks still living in the country.

Turkish authorities also keep closed a theological school on an island off Istanbul, depriving the church of a means to train clergy.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Turks Threaten to Kill Priest Over Swiss Minaret Decision

Slap to religious freedom in Switzerland leads to threat over church bell tower in Turkey.

In response to a Swiss vote banning the construction of new mosque minarets, a group of Muslims this month went into a church building in eastern Turkey and threatened to kill a priest unless he tore down its bell tower, according to an advocacy group.

Three Muslims on Dec. 4 entered the Meryem Ana Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in Diyarbakir, and confronted the Rev. Yusuf Akbulut. They told him that unless the bell tower was destroyed in one week, they would kill him..

“If Switzerland is demolishing our minarets, we will demolish your bell towers too,” one of the men told Akbulut.

The threats came in reaction to a Nov. 29 referendum in Switzerland in which 57 percent voted in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the country. Swiss lawmakers must now change the national constitution to reflect the referendum, a process that should take more than a year.

The Swiss ban, widely viewed around the world as a breach of religious freedom, is likely to face legal challenges in Switzerland and in the European Court of Human Rights.

There are roughly 150 mosques in Switzerland, four with minarets. Two more minarets are planned. The call to prayer traditional in Muslim-majority countries is not conducted from any of the minarets.

Fikri Aygur, vice president of the European Syriac Union, said that Akbulut has contacted police but has otherwise remained defiant in the face of the threats.

“He has contacted the police, and they gave him guards,” he said. “I talked with him two days ago, and he said, ‘It is my job to protect the church, so I will stand here and leave it in God’s hands..’“

Meryem Ana is more than 250 years old and is one of a handful of churches that serve the Syriac community in Turkey. Also known as Syrian Orthodox, the Syriacs are an ethnic and religious minority in Turkey and were one of the first groups of people to accept Christianity. They speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, a language spoken by Christ. Diyarbakir is located in eastern Turkey, about 60 miles from the Syrian border.

At press time the tower was standing and the priest was safe, said Jerry Mattix, youth pastor at the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church, which is located across a street from Meryem Ana Church.

Mattix said that threats against Christians in Diyarbakir are nothing out of the ordinary. Mattix commonly receives threats, both in the mail and posted on the church’s Internet site, he said.

“We’re kind of used to that,” Mattix said. He added that he has received no threats over the minaret situation but added, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we do.”

Mattix said the people making threats in the area are Muslim radicals with ties to Hezbollah “who like to flex their muscles.”

“We are a major target out here, and we are aware of that,” Mattix said. “But the local police are taking great strides to protect us.”

Mattix said he also has “divine confidence” in God’s protection.

The European Syriac Union’s Aygur said that Christians in Turkey often serve as scapegoats for inflamed local Muslims who want to lash out at Europeans.

“When they [Europeans] take actions against the Muslims, the Syriacs get persecuted by the fanatical Muslims there,” he said.

The threats against the church were part of a public outcry in Turkey that included newspaper editorials characterizing the Swiss decision as “Islamophobia.” One Turkish government official called upon Muslims to divest their money from Swiss bank accounts. He invited them to place their money in the Turkish banking system.

In part, the threats also may reflect a larger and well-established pattern of anti-Christian attitudes in Turkey. A recent study conducted by two professors at Sabanci University found that 59 percent of those surveyed said non-Muslims either “should not” or “absolutely should not” be allowed to hold open meetings where they can discuss their ideas.

The survey also found that almost 40 percent of the population of Turkey said they had “very negative” or “negative” views of Christians. In Turkey, Christians are often seen as agents of outside forces bent on dividing the country.

This is not the first time Akbulut has faced persecution. Along with a constant string of threats and harassment, he was tried and acquitted in 2000 for saying to the press that Syriacs were “massacred” along with Armenians in 1915 killings.

In Midyat, also in eastern Turkey, someone recently dug a tunnel under the outlying buildings of a Syriac church in hopes of undermining the support of the structure.

At the Mor Gabriel Monastery, also near Midyat, there is a legal battle over the lands surrounding the monastery. Founded in 397 A.D., Mor Gabriel is arguably the oldest monastery in use today. It is believed local Muslim leaders took the monastery to court in an attempt to seize lands from the church. The monastery has prevailed in all but one case, which is still underway.

“These and similar problems that are threatening the very existence of the remaining Syriacs in Turkey have reached a very serious and worrying level,” Aygur stated in a press release. “Especially, whenever there is a problem about Islam in the European countries, the Syriacs’ existence in Turkey is threatened with such pressures and aggressions.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Yemen:12 Al-Qaeda Suicide Bombers Dead, 5 Foreigners Killed

YEMEN — A total of 12 al-Qaeda men were confirmed dead after a security operation went down against a training camp in al-Majalah, Abyan, south of Yemen, said a security official Saturday.

The Mohammed Saleh al-Kazimi, Mukbel Abdullah Awadh Shiekh, Ahmed Abdullah Awadh, Methak al-Jalad, Abdullah Awadh Shiekh were confirmed dead in al-Majalah area, an unnamed official said in statement published by state-run media.

Two Saudi nationals, Ibrahim al-Najdi, Mohammed Rajeh al-Tharan were among a group who were buried in Sairah Cemetery, Mudiah district, Abyan, said the official.

Five more foreigners, with unknown identities, were buried in Zarah Cemetery in Lawdar district, Abyan, added the official.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

South Asia

A Thousand Islamic Extremists, Including Women and Children, Storm a Church Near Jakarta

by Mathias Hariyadi

The building was near completion and was to be used for Christmas Mass. Local Catholics are afraid that more attacks could take place during the festive season. Police and local authorities urge Catholics to celebrate the service anyway.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Last night a crowd of angry Muslims, including women and children, attacked the Church of Saint Albert, in Bekasi Regency, about 30 kilometres east of Jakarta. The situation is now under control but the local Catholic community is afraid of an escalation before Christmas.

Kurniadi is a member of the committee charged with the church’s construction. He told AsiaNews, “Suddenly, a bunch of bikers arrived in the area where the church stands.” They had banners and kerosene tanks. “We don’t know why we were attacked,” he said.

Kristina Maria Renteana, who was present when the Church was attacked, said, “The mob had about a thousand people,” not only men, but “women and children” as well.

Running around in cars and motorbikes is a tradition for Indonesian Muslims during “national celebrations.”

Last night was the first day of the Islamic New Year, the start of the month of Muharram. Local sources told AsiaNews, on condition of anonymity, that the “crowd was made of people from Tarumajaya and Babelan”, two villages in North Bekasi where Islamic extremists are a majority.

Saint Albert’s Church, a chapel that is part of Saint Arnold’ Church in Bekasi, was not yet finished. Started on 11 May 2008, it had the required building permit for places of worship and was 80 per cent complete. Workers had finished the walls and the roof. Only ceramic floor tiles had to be laid.

Although not yet finished, it was set to host Christmas Mass for the local Christian community.

Now it is damaged but police and government authorities have urged the parish priest, Fr Joseph Jagadwa, to go ahead with the Mass anyway.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Indonesian Theology Students Withstand Threats, Illness

JAKARTA, Indonesia, December 1 (CDN) — Some 1,000 seminary students are resisting efforts to evict them from the former municipal building of West Jakarta where they have taken refuge after Muslim protestors drove them from their campus last year.

On Oct. 27 officials began evicting about 300 students of Arastamar Evangelical Theological Seminary (SETIA) from blocks I and II of the former mayoral building, but those in blocks III, IV, and V chose to remain.

The students, some of whom had sown their mouths shut as part of a hunger strike, asserted that new quarters offered by the Jakarta Provincial Government are not yet fit for occupancy — dirty and unkempt with broken windows and doors. They said the property offered, the North Jakarta Transmigrant building, has not functioned since 1999, and its five buildings accommodate only 200 to 300 students.

The seminary students told Compass that unidentified mobs have threatened them, telling them to leave the former municipal complex immediately..

“They threaten us and tell us that if we do not move, our safety cannot be guaranteed,” said SETIA’s Yulius Thomas Bilo.

The Rev. Matheus Mangentang, rector of SETIA, confirmed that the threats had been made. Asked about the identity of the mobs, he said he knew only that they appeared daily to intimidate and threaten students.

“We are going to move as soon as possible — Dec. 31 at the latest,” Mangentang said. “If we don’t, the place is no longer safe.”

He added, however, that they would not move until their new location was clear.

“We have not wavered in our desire to return to our own place, because we actually have our own campus in Kampung Pulo, East Jakarta,” Mangentang told Compass.

The Jakarta Provincial Government has not allowed the students and staff to return to their campus, citing fear of more violence.

“It is not permissible for them to return to Kampung Pulo; conditions are not conducive,” the Jakarta area secretary who goes by a single name, Muhayat, told Compass.

In July 2008 hundreds of protestors shouting “Allahu-Akbar [“God is greater]” and brandishing machetes forced the evacuation of staff and students from the SETIA campus in Kampung Pulo village. Urged on by announcements from a mosque loudspeaker to “drive out the unwanted neighbor” following a misunderstanding between students and local residents, the protestors also had sharpened bamboo and acid and injured at least 20 students, some seriously.

Water and Electricity Crisis

Conditions for the 1,000 students living in the former West Jakarta mayor’s complex are worsening.

“Since the end of October, we have had no electricity and no water,” said Alexander Dimu, head of the student senate. “We have to depend upon our own resources and donations to buy water. We need about US$100 per day for water.”

Compass noted hundreds of students lined up to obtain water for bathing and drinking. They used old buckets to carry water to the bathrooms, which were badly in need of repair.

As a result of such living conditions, many students have diarrhea and hemorrhagic fever.

“So far, six have fever and 17 have diarrhea,” Dimu told Compass.. “Those who are ill have been taken to a nearby hospital.”

A number of students have quit school, according to Mangentang, as their parents were worried about the health conditions. The average SETIA student is from outside Jakarta. They come from Nias Island, East Indonesia, Borneo and other areas. Their families are largely farmers.

“The parents have millions of expectations as to how they can help the children of their home villages after graduation,” said Mangentang.

The ultimate destination of the students is still unclear. The Jakarta Provincial Government has stood firm in ordering them to move to Cikarang, West Java, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Jakarta. At the same time, the SETIA Foundation has requested the government find a new campus venue within Jakarta to avoid the difficult process of obtaining permits in the new provincial jurisdiction of West Java.

After SETIA staff and students met on Nov. 16 with several members of Parliament at the former mayoral office, the MPs led by Education Committee Vice Chairman Heri Ahmadi promised to ask Jakarta Gov. Fauzi Bowo to return them to their campus at Kampung Pulo with the necessary security.

Mangentang said that he was still waiting for the members of Parliament to make good on that pledge.

The visit by the parliamentarians brought an end to a hunger strike by five students who had sewn their mouths shut at the former mayoral complex on Nov. 9. They were identified only as Yanisar, Leonardo, Mutari Unang, Demas and Epy. That act followed a protest by the student council from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3.

Two units of heavy machinery had begun tearing down part of the main building where the 1,000 students are housed. Some of the students staying there were previously evicted from the Bumi Perkemahan Cibubur (BUPERTA) campground.

SETIA spokesman Yusup Agustinus Lifire told Compass the seminary is awaiting word from the Jakarta governor’s office about their returning to their campus at Kampung Pulo.

“We submitted an official letter to the governor, the police chief of Greater Jakarta and the military chief of Greater Jakarta on Oct. 28, but so far there is not any reply for us,” Lifire said. “We would like to leave this building if we could find a new place. It is not certain if the students began to attack and throw stones at police officers on Oct. 27-28 when they began demolishing one of the buildings. There were some provocateurs who started to throw some stones at police officers, then the officers threw the stones at the students and vice versa.”

Lifire also said the Jakarta governor’s office should take responsibility for the crisis. SETIA has asked the governor to guarantee security for a return to their original campus or else prepare or provide a new venue, he said.

A female student of Christian Education said there is a banner at the original campus that reads in Bahasa, “If you dare to return, we will wipe you out.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Let’s Talk to the Taliban, Says Guttenberg

Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg called on Sunday for greater dialogue with moderate Taliban where possible, as part of a reassessment of Germany’s strategy to stabilise Afghanistan.

In an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Guttenberg said he supported keeping open channels of communication with moderate tribes and communities in the war-torn country, as long as it didn’t mean backing oneself into corner.

While keeping open the possibility of a troop boost after the international Afghanistan summit scheduled for January, Guttenberg stressed Germany would not be giving the United States or NATO a blank cheque.

On the matter of dialogue with the Taliban, Guttenberg said it was important to distinguish diehard global insurgents from Taliban fighters who did not pose a threat to the West.

“Not every insurgent is a direct threat to Western society,” he said. “There is a difference between groups who have the goal of fighting our culture out of a radical rejection of the West and those for example who see culture as connected to the place where you live.”

Cutting off all communication was at this stage of the conflict not a wise approach, though he stressed that “criteria had to apply” in talking to the Taliban.

Guttenberg ruled out unconditionally boosting Germany’s troop levels in Afghanistan as per the wishes of US President Barack Obama.

“I would be careful about the phrase: ‘You have to follow Obama.’ Our standard ought to be that we aim for a strategy that incorporates our own experience.”

“The first logical step for a new strategic approach is not to say: ‘We take more soldiers and then follow the strategy.’ We put together the strategy now and then from that follows how many soldiers and civil forces we need. It’s still open as to whether we need more soldiers or will make do with the existing framework.”

Guttenberg fired off an attack on Social Democrats chairman Sigmar Gabriel’s announcement on Saturday that his party would not support a troop boost, describing it as “commitment ahead of strategy.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Migrants of Bangladesh: A Vital Resource for National Economy

An estimated 5.5 million migrants contribute 12% of Gross Domestic Product. Dhaka emphasizes the contribution to the growth of the country, but fails to promote effective policies to protect them. Deaths in the workplace and clandestine conditions the most urgent problems to solve.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Around 5.5 million migrants from Bangladesh are currently abroad in search of fortune. Of these, 33% are qualified, 15% semi-qualified and 48% belong to low unskilled workers. In conjunction with the United Nations International Migrants Day, scheduled for today, president Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have stressed the “vital role” expatriates play in the national economy. But in many cases, the price is violence and abuse, or their very lives.

The Middle East and South-east Asian nations are the main destinations for Bangladeshi migrants, who thanks to their work account for 12% of gross domestic product (GDP). From 1976 to 2008 over 6 million people emigrated to 21 different countries — including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Britain, Italy, Egypt — producing total remittances to the state coffers of over 56 billion dollars, a constantly growing trend.

Zillur Rahman, President of Bangladesh, says that “Migrant workers play a vital role in our economy” for both the capital returned to the country and for the professional knowledge acquired abroad. The prime minister Sheikh Hasina adds that they “help build the nation and we are all grateful.”

But the contribution of migrant workers often hides abuse and deaths at work and the government over the years has not been able to promote policies to protect them. Many expats work in the Middle East without receiving wages. About 8 thousand deaths have occurred in recent years, another constantly growing trend: 788 in 2004, 1248 in 2005; 1402 in 2006, 1673 in 2007; 2237 in 2008.

Migrants also have to invest substantial sums of money to move abroad. According to a World Bank report 28% of the expatriates take the money needed to start from savings fund, 21% receive money from relatives and friends, 12% sell all their worldly goods.

With the risk, once they have left, of not obtaining working visas. Several sources indicate that there are 5 million illegal Bangladeshi workers in India. From 2000 to 2006 there were 86,681 expulsions, with an annual average of more than 12 thousand.

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

Pakistan: Zardari ‘To Lose Control of Party’ Following Amnesty Ruling

Islamabad, 18 Dec. (AKI) — Uncertainty over the future of Pakistan’s president Ali Asif Zardari is continuing to mount after the Supreme court this week dismissed a controversial amnesty protecting him from prosecution for corruption. Whether he is reduced to a ceremonial presidential role or a court orders him to stand down, he will lose control over the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, unnamed sources close to the military told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday.

Despite opposition calls for his resignation following the historic Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday, neither the Pakistani army nor opposition parties want to destabilise the government, sources said.

However, several current members of the PPP leadership, including former senator Anwar Baig and ports and shipping minister Nabeel Gabol, have urged members of the cabinet to resign who enjoyed immunity from protection under the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

The Supreme Court struck down the NRO amnesty on Wednesday.

Two founder members of the PPP, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada and Mubashir Hasann were the original driving force behind the petition brought against the NRO.

Zardari once again faces several pending court cases against him in Pakistan since the historic Supreme Court ruling but under the country’s constitution is protected by presidential immunity.

However, any private citizen may file a petition against the eligibility of the president, which if successful would result in a court order forcing him to resign.

Zardari convened a meeting on Friday with key cabinet members from the PPP to forge a strategy following the top court’s annulment of the controversial NRO amnesty.

Wednesday’s court ruling re-opened 8,000 corruption and criminal cases against Zardari, defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar, and interior minister Rehman Malik and other cabinet ministers which they faced before the amnesty came into force in 2007.

A Pakistani court on Friday issued arrest warrants against Malik, DawnNews reported. The arrest warrants are for alleged misuse of authority and allegedly accepting two cars from Toyota Motors as a bribe.

Malik and Mukhtar are among politicians who have been barred from leaving Pakistan. Mukhtar was on Friday stopped from flying to China on an official visit. He is among around 250 officials now being being probed for corruption.

The NRO decree resulted from a political deal between former president Pervez Musharraf and Zardari’s late wife, slain former prime minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto in October 2007. The deal agreed to scrap pending corruption cases against civil servants and politicians.

Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, backed by the army, has called for the 17th amendment of Pakistan’s constitution to be cancelled.

The amendment gives the president the power to dissolve the parliament and appoint the head of the armed forces.

The army has also called on the PPP to sack all cabinet ministers facing corruption charges, and not to interfere in the workings of the country’s Supreme Court, parliament, armed forces and intelligence agencies.

Sharif is the leader of the country’s second largest party, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz group. He left the country shortly before the NRO ruling.

Siddiqul Farooq, spokesman for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said after the ruling that Zardari should resign on “moral grounds”.

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

Sri Lankan Military ‘Sexually Abused’ Tamil Girls in Refugee Camps

LONDON: In what may bolster the claims of human rights organisations, Tamil women in refugee camps in Sri Lanka were “sexually abused” by their military guards while many suspected of links to LTTE were taken away and not seen since, a British medic of Asian-origin has alleged.

According to 25-year-old Vany Kumar, who was locked up in a refugee camp for four months, along with many who escaped the horrors of the civil war, not only military guards traded sex for food with Tamil women but prisoners were also being made to kneel for hours in the sun, ‘The Observer’ reported.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Tens of Thousands Flee as the Army Faces the Taliban in Swat

At least 40 thousand people have fled the area where sporadic clashes take place. The pact between the government and Islamic extremists appears close to collapse. Today Zardari and Karzai meet Obama. The fight against the Taliban in Pakistan is essential for victory in Afghanistan.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — At least 40 thousand people are fleeing the Swat Valley as it becomes increasingly evident that the agreement between the Taliban and the government is over. The pact had already been criticised by many in Pakistani society as Islamabad selling out its’ sovereignty to the Islamic extremists. The Pakistani Army accuses the Taliban of having broken the deal by seeking to infiltrate other areas of the nation.

Over the past few days the Taliban and army have been clashing in the main regional city Mingora, once a renowned destination for skiers which now lies devastated by two years of Taliban warfare. Swat’s top official, Khushal Khan, confirms that the radical militants are infiltrating strategic points and mining the territory. According to authorities 500 thousand people are seeking refuge. The army is preparing 6 camps to shelter them.

The crisis has worsened on the eve of direct talks between the US President Barak Obama and the Pakistani and Afghan Presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai.

Obama is expected to urge Zardari to put a stop to Taliban who are using Pakistan as a base from which to launch their attacks in Afghanistan. According to US presidential advisor Richard Holbroocke, without Pakistan’s help the United States cannot win the war in Kabul.

The pact between the government of the North West Frontier Province (Nwfp) and the Taliban foresaw the introduction of Sharia the area, as of February 16th last, in exchange for a ceasefire. On April 13th last Zardari signed a decree validating the deal. As the Taliban began summary executions for adultery, public lashings for ‘immoral behaviour’, the closure of girls schools and banned women from appearing in public, in public society particularly among women’s groups criticism of Zardari has grown.

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

Far East

China: Shaolin: Kung Fu Monks Become a Money Making Brand

The government is negotiating with a tourism giant to transform the monastery of Dengfeng into a rich joint venture for tourism. Abbot indicted, considered a ruthless business, who kick-started the selling off of the cradle of Zen.

Dengfeng (AsiaNews / Agencies) — China Travel Service (CTS, Chinese tourism giant) has announced it has opened negotiations with the city of Dengfeng, Henan, to transform the ancient monastery of Shaolin into a successful brand. The meeting was confirmed by municipal leaders, who have stressed, however, they “have not yet signed any contract with the company.” The Hong Kong branch of the CTS is responsible for ongoing negotiations.

According to available details, the monastery does not form part of future joint ventures and its abbot, Shi Yongxin, has been kept in the dark regarding negotiations. However, many Buddhist faithful in the area have accused him of being the true promoter of the initiative: the expensive tastes of the abbot are well known, who at the beginning of 2009 “accepted” a garment woven with gold worth of 160 thousand yuan [16300th euro] from a private firm.

The first meeting for the new company took place December 9: according to Bejing News, rights of entry into the monastery and the exploitation of suggestive scenarios of Mount Song — where there religious site is located — are around 49 million Yuan [approximately 5 million Euros]. The government of Dengfeng is entitled to 49% of the total. The deal, however, seems to be decreasing: last year, in admission tickets alone, the monastery grossed 10 million Euros.

However, the deal has not gone unnoticed in atheist China: the Shaolin monastery, 1,500 years old, is considered a place of national interest and therefore should not enrich anyone in particular. Home and birthplace of kung fu and Zen Buddhism, it has evolved into a tourist attraction and movie set. Its turnover includes even the production of medicines, apart from the famous monks who often travel the world giving performances of their martial art.

Many believe that the abbot Shi is behind this mutation of the monastery, from a place of prayer to an amusement park. He hit headlines after accepting some 20 thousand Euros from businessmen who sought his blessing and an ultra-luxury SUV, worth 100 thousand Euros, given to him by the local government for his contribution to the local economy.

For his part, the cleric denies all the charges. After 11 months of controversy, he returned the robe of gold (but not the SUV). In an interview with Hunan TV he said he has no intention of selling off the monastery, which “houses a priceless cultural heritage.”

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

Gas Pipeline a Symbol of China’s Power: Analysts

China has quietly rewritten the geopolitical landscape in Central Asia in recent years, breaking Russia’s monopoly over the export of the region’s e nergy resources also coveted by the West, experts say.

The proof came last week when Chinese President Hu Jintao travelled to the region for the inauguration of a natural gas pipeline snaking from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan into China’s far western Xinjiang region.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

N. Korea Capable of Miniaturizing Nuclear Warheads: Source

SEOUL, Dec. 20 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s state-run defense think tank has concluded that North Korea is capable of achieving the technology needed to miniaturize its nuclear warheads, an informed military source said Sunday.

In its report on 2009 military trends in Northeast Asia scheduled to be published next month, the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses (KIDA) concluded that the North at the moment does not have the technology to fit a nuclear weapon on a missile, according to the military source who asked to be unnamed.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African Christians Fear Own Government on ‘Jihad’

Sudan on brink of civil war, as south seeks freedom from Islamic law

The chief diplomat of the autonomous Government of South Sudan says that war between his region and the country’s central Islamic government is unavoidable unless the world presses Sudan to keep the terms of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement that formed the nation’s current structure.

International Christian Concern reports that South Sudan government chief diplomat Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth made the statements in a Washington interview with the human rights agency.

The ICC’s Jonathan Racho, however, says the cause of the civil war goes beyond Sudanese President Oman al-Bashir’s failure to implement the peace accord.

Racho says it’s a jihad campaign.

“This campaign will be another jihad in Sudan between the Muslim government in the north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. In Sudan when we say Muslims, we mean the government of the President Omar al-Bashir,” Racho explains.

“And when we say jihad in this situation, it’s not an Islamic extremist group;” Racho adds, “it’s the government of Sudan itself.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Somali Rebels Force Men to Grow Beards

Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab rebels on Saturday ordered men to grow long beards, shave their moustaches and wear their trousers above the ankle.

It is the first time in the lawless Horn of Africa country that the insurgents, who seek impose a strict form of Islamic Shariah law, have focused on men’s appearance, having previously ordered women to cover their entire bodies, and banned bras.

“In order to ensure the complete implementation of the Islamic Shariah law in the region, we call upon all men to grow their beard and shave their moustache,” Sheik Ibrahim from the Shabaab group told reporters in Kismaio.

“Anybody found ignoring the rules or breaking it will be punished accordingly.”

He said the order will be implemented in three days in the port town of Kismaio.

“People already started practicing the Shariah as the Shabaab ordered and with the new rules, every adult is keen to grow beard in order to avoid punishment”, Mohamed Sakiin, a resident told AFP by phone.

“You must look like them otherwise you are likely to be in trouble”, another witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Previous rulings

The group, which Washington says is an al-Qaeda proxy, has already banned musical ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

Shabaab has carried out executions, floggings and amputations to enforce its rulings, mainly Kismayu.

The group is battling the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed for control of Mogadishu, and is fighting another Islamist militia—Hizbul Islam—in the provinces.

Shabaab also ordered men to wear their trousers above the ankle. “They have 15 days to follow the order,” Garweyn said.

A two-and-a-half year insurgency has killed more than 19,000 civilians, displaced 1 million people, allowed piracy to flourish offshore and spread security fears in the region.

Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991. Its transitional government controls little more than a few blocks of Mogadishu, with the rest carved up between Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

Fighting near Kenya border

In a separate incident on Saturday, fighting between Shabaab and Hizbul Islam fighters near Dhobley close to the Kenyan border killed six people.

“I have seen dead people near Dhobley, two young men, al-Shabaab fighters. Also there are another four from the other side,” said a resident who asked not to be named for security reasons.

Residents said Shabaab fighters had dug trenches in the town in what appeared to be defence lines against possible attacks from Kenya.

Kenya closed its border with Somalia in 2007 and has boosted patrols in recent months.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Swedish Police Produce Pepper Spray at Refugee’s Wedding

A wedding on Saturday in Malmö in southern Sweden came to an abrupt halt as police arrested the 24-year-old groom at the city hall, using pepper spray on him in the process, according to Sydsvenskan newspaper.

The man, who is a refugee from Afghanistan, was wanted by the police after his application for asylum was rejected. He had remained on the run to avoid deportation.

But the police received information that the 24-year-old was to be wed.

“We knew that they were going to the city hall. We had to act before they managed to perform the ceremony,” Anders Kristersson of the Malmö police department told Sydsvenskan.

He said that pepper spray was used because the Afghan man resisted arrest. The man remains in the custody of the Malmö police.

A representative of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) said that preventing the wedding was unnecessary as marriage to a Swedish citizen wouldn’t have any effect on the man’s deportation as the decision had already been made.

Migration Board communication manager Jonas Lindgren said that police had abused their authority. “You shouldn’t be able to use your power in this way,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Guantánamo Detainee Wins Asylum Appeal

An Algerian Guantánamo detainee has been given a second chance to have his asylum request considered by the Swiss authorities.

The Federal Migration Office must now re-examine the file after the Federal Administrative Court accepted the man’s appeal.

The Algerian, who has been held at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002 after being detained in Pakistan, submitted an asylum application to Switzerland in July 2008.

US investigators accuse the man of having been active within an armed group linked to Al-Qaida. However the accused claims he was undertaking voluntary work for a humanitarian organisation.

A complaint against the legality of his detention is currently before the American courts.

The Federal Migration Office gave insufficient grounds for its refusal of the Algerian’s initial application, the administrative court judges in Bern found.

Earlier this week an Uzbek national, currently being held in Guantánamo, was granted asylum by the Swiss authorities. Two other cases are still being considered by the Swiss court.

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

Culture Wars

Analysis: How Nelson-Reid Compromise Allows Abortion Funding in Health Care

The language is not similar to the Stupak and Nelson amendments approved by the House and defeated in the Senate.

Instead, Section 38 adds a provision allowing states to opt out of providing abortion coverage through the exchange and adds further layers of accounting requirements that pro-life groups are calling gimmicks to hide abortion funding.

The result remains the same and, contrary to longstanding policy, the federal government will subsidize private health insurance plans that cover abortion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Defense Launched for Kids Sex Books

Library group official: Jennings critics ‘undermining’ democracy

The chairman of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee has launched a defense of Kevin Jennings and the sexually explicit books recommended for children by the homosexual advocacy organization that Jennings started, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dissident Lutherans: Bullying Over Gays

A decision to ordain actively gay clergy has caused deep fissures in the nation’s largest Lutheran church group, with some traditional Lutherans saying they have been subjected to threats and retaliation as they consider breaking away.

Several disaffected members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) say the decision made at the church’s national convention in Minneapolis in August could prompt a major exodus from one of America’s biggest Protestant denominations.

“I wouldn’t even begin to tell you how many thousands [of calls] I’ve gotten,” said Paull Spring, chairman of Lutheran Coalition for Renewal, or CORE, a national coalition based on traditional values. His group said last month that it cannot remain inside the 4.7-million-member ELCA and will form a new synod.


The Rev. Mark Gehrke, of Faith Lutheran Church in Moline, Ill., said that “if you do not agree with the direction of the ELCA, you are … bullied or ostracized or threatened. The threat has been to even remove me and suspend me from ministry,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Army Major: Lose Evangelical Christian Beliefs

‘American strategists incorrectly rely on generalizations cast as good, evil’

A research paper written by a U.S. Army major for the School of Advanced Military Studies in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., calls for Americans to lose the evangelical Christian belief of pre-millennialism because of the damage it does to the nation’s foreign interests.

“As a result of millennarian influences on our culture, most Americans think as absolutists,” Maj. Brian L. Stuckert wrote in his 2008 course requirement at the school for military officers.

“A proclivity for clear differentiations between good, evil, right, and wrong do not always serve us well in foreign relations or security policy,” he said. “Policy makers must strive to honestly confront their own cognitive filters and the prejudices associated with various international organizations and actors vis-Ã -vis pre-millennialism.

“We must come to more fully understand the background of our thinking about the U.N., the E.U., the World Trade Organization, Russia, China and Israel. We must ask similar questions about natural events such as earthquakes or disease.”

He warns against the Christian beliefs espoused by many that the end times will involve Israel as God’s chosen nation, a final 1,000-year conflict between good and evil and an ultimate victory for God.


Others were more blunt in their assessments of Stuckert’s work. Blogger John McTernan, for example, called it “the most dangerous document to believers that I have ever read in my entire life.”

“After reading this document, it is easy to see the next step would be to eliminate our Constitutional rights and herd us into concentration camps,” he said.

“The last third is an interpretation of Bible belief on world events. This report blames all the world evils on believers! World peace would break out if it were not for Bible believers in America,” he said.


McTernan said he had contacted Col. Stefan Banack, listed on the monograph as the director of the School of Advanced Military Studies, who defended the writing.

“The conversation was extremely heated between us, and he hid behind the freedom of speech to produce it. He refused to let me write an article to refute this attack on Bible believers. He refused to tell me what this study was used for and who within the military was sent copies. I believe that it represents an official military view of Bible believers as Col. Banack said there was no study or article refuting this one,” McTernan said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Islamic Plan to Criminalize Gospel Message Crumbling

U.N. vote shows ‘continuing pattern of growing opposition’ to proposal

Support for a United Nations proposal that critics contend would be used to ban criticism of Islam, censor the message of Jesus Christ and attack and kill Christians and members of other faiths is plunging, according to the newest vote totals.

A resolution has been pending in one form or another since 1999 and originally was called “Defamation of Islam.” The name later was changed to “Defamation of Religions,” but Islam remains the only faith protected by name in the proposal.

It is being sought by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to “protect” Islam from what OIC members perceive as “criticism,” which could include anything referencing Christianity since that could be considered a challenge to the beliefs of Muslims.


Open Doors President Carl Moeller recently published a commentary describing what could happen under the proposal.


He said the OIC is the driving force behind the plan and noted, “The OIC’s goal is anything but peaceful.”

He cited Leonard Leo of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who described the resolution as an attempt to create a “global blasphemy law.”

“From the right to worship freely to the ability to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Defamation of Religions Resolution (previously called the ‘Defamation of Islam’ resolution) threatens to justify local laws that already restrict the freedom of Christians [and other religious minorities],” Moeller said.

When such laws are adopted locally, he said, they are used to bring criminal charges against individuals for “defaming, denigrating, insulting, offending, disparaging and blaspheming Islam, often resulting in gross human rights violations.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]