News Feed 20110420

Financial Crisis
» Triumph of Right-Wing Populists: How Dangerous is Finland to the Euro?
» Atlanta: Horde of Teens Attack, Rob MARTA Passengers
» Major League Baseball Takes Over Operation of Los Angeles Dodgers
» Missouri House Votes to Ban Sharia Law
» Rail Riders Asked to Improve Security
» State Police Extract Info From Cellphones!
Europe and the EU
» Extreme Recycling: Architect Hopes to Revitalize Norwegian City With Oil Platform
» Germany: Muslim’s Playboy Strip Stokes Integration Debate in Germany
» Germany: Muslim Model Poses Nude for Playboy Cover
» Germany: Muslim Actress Playboy Fury
» Germany: Turkish-German Actress Causes Stir With Playboy Shoot
» Germany: Unveiled: First Turkish Woman Poses for German Playboy
» Italy: Catholic Website Lodges Official Complaint Against Moretti’s “Insult to Pope”
» Italy: Fewer Italians Travel Abroad to Get Dental Treatments
» Italy: Tunisian Who Spent 8 Years in Guantanamo Prison Deported
» Italy: Former Local Politician Arrested for ‘Mafia Association’
» Italy: Education Minister Gelmini Re-Launches Technical Schools
» Silvio Berlusconi’s Long and Bitter Twilight
» Sweden: Youth Violence in Gothenburg
» UK Muslim Group Fuels Hijab Debate
» UK: Call Young Criminals Customers: Probation Chief Says Being Considerate Stops Re-Offending
» UK: Scientist Imam: Muslims Need to Talk About Evolution
» UK: The Worst Form of Bigotry Today is the Liberal Elite’s View of the Working Classes as a Mongrel Race of Slothful Drones
» Wedding Fatigue in Britain: Kate and Wills Are Marrying, Get Me Out of Here!
» Bosnia: Croats Step Up Demands for Autonomy and Equality With Muslims
» Croatia Moves Closer to EU Membership, Turkey Stalls
Mediterranean Union
» Mobilise Diaspora of Local Countries, Invest in Med
North Africa
» Algeria: Guards Opening Fire on ‘Anyone’ Trying to Cross Libyan Border
» Libya: NATO Sees ‘Limit to Airstrikes’ Power to Stop Gaddafi Forces
» Misurata’s Sniper War: Life on the Rebel Side of the Crosshairs
» Obama to Give Libyan Rebels $25 Mln in Aid, But No Weapons
» Stunning Time-Lapse Video: The Milky Way Over Canary Islands
» Tunisia: 2 People Killed in Students’ Clashes at School
» U. S. Says No to Ground Troops in Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
» Abbas: No Third Intifada; PA Seeks Int’l Recognition
Middle East
» Italian Hospital Inaugurated in the Iraqi City of Kerbala
» Stakelbeck Exclusive: Mahdi Video’s Exposure Rattles Iranian Regime
» The Silent Extermination of Iraq’s ‘Christian Dogs’
» Turkey’s ‘Realm of Fear’: A Former Judge Takes on Erdogan’s Heavy Hand
» Ninety Terrorists Killed in Russia in Past 2 Months
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Three People Arrested in Kabul for Recycling Copies of the Qur’an Into Toilet Paper
» ‘I Thought There Would be a Bit of Pain, Then I Would be in Heaven’: Maimed Pakistani Boy, 14, Tells of Failed Suicide Bomb Bid
Far East
» Beijing Museum-Goers Choose Propaganda Over Enlightenment
» The Courage of the Few: Dozens Targeted in Chinese Crackdown on Critical Voices
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Over 200 Dead in Post-Election Violence in Nigeria
» South Africa: Shoot the Boer Not a Reference to Ethnic Group
» 1,000 Migrants Evacuated From Lampedusa
» 36 Tunisians Detained in Pantelleria
» Denmark: Roma Deportations Judged Unlawful
» Netherlands: Minister Stands Firm on Romanian, Bulgarian Work Permits
Culture Wars
» The Left-Wing Librarian Who Won’t Let My Children Read Tintin
» UK: Muslims Give Backing to Christian Electrician Persecuted for Cross in Van

Financial Crisis

Triumph of Right-Wing Populists: How Dangerous is Finland to the Euro?

Will the election of right-wing populists in Finland derail the euro rescue package? A Helsinki veto would indeed be expensive for the rest of the euro zone, particularly for Germany. Experts are also warning that other European countries may follow suit if Finland decides to pull out of the euro bailout.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Atlanta: Horde of Teens Attack, Rob MARTA Passengers

Roughly two dozen teens, chanting the name of a well-known Atlanta gang, brought mob rule to MARTA early Sunday morning, overwhelming nervous passengers and assaulting two Delta flight attendants.

Their “Clockwork Orange” style blitz was over soon after it began. The teens boarded the train, headed to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, at the Garnett station a little after midnight seemingly intent on instilling fear. They succeeded.

“There was blood everywhere, people were hollering and screaming,” a witness told Channel 2 Action News. “We were intimidated. People were terrified. People were trying to run. But there was nowhere to run.”

Flight attendant Parker Stanea, 28, told officers a diminutive teen, no taller than 5’4? and wearing a pink shirt, hit him with a soda can over the left eye. Stanea said the youths then pushed him to the ground and stole his wallet, according to an incident report filed by MARTA police.

Stanea’s friend, Jose Souza, said he was assaulted by the same suspect, according to the MARTA police incident report. The pink-clad teen punched him in the lip, the 24-year-old Delta employee said, but before they could take anything two unidentified male passengers intervened.

Meanwhile, several passengers sought to exit at the next stop, but for some reason the doors at the West End station wouldn’t open, leaving the passengers and suspects — believed to range in age from 13 to 18 — in a tense face-off before the suspects disembarked at the Oakland City station.

Witnesses said they heard the youths chant “BFPL,” a familiar acronym to Atlanta police.

“The Atlanta Police Department is familiar with the ‘BFPL,’ a local gang made up of young people high-school aged and into their early 20s,” said APD spokesman Carlos Campos, adding the initials stand for “Bank First, Play Later.” The gang typically operates out of the southwest and northwest corners of Atlanta and came to the attention of police “mostly through a number of car break-ins for which some members were arrested,” Campos said.

MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris said he had no comment on what might have prompted the attack and whether “those involved were affiliated with any organized group.” The investigation continues, he said.

The attacks struck a nerve with some passengers who say they’ve become increasingly concerned about their safety while riding MARTA.

“In the four years that I have ridden MARTA to and from my job, I have seen patrols on the train a total of four times,” said Atlanta resident Jeanne Maynard, who takes MARTA daily from the Lakewood station to her office in Sandy Springs. “ In the stations, yes, patrols are there. On the trains where riders are captive to incidents of this type, four times in four years.”

Harris would not say whether the incident might prompt MARTA to place more officers on patrol inside its trains.

“Our police department constantly evaluates their plans with regard to patrols and other security measures and makes changes as circumstances dictate,” he said.

The two victims in Sunday’s attacks told police they intend to press charges. Neither sustained serious injuries.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo [Return to headlines]

Major League Baseball Takes Over Operation of Los Angeles Dodgers

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said Monday that he would appoint someone to oversee all operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers because of his “deep concerns” about the state of the marquee franchise.

But two people with knowledge of the situation said that he is also strongly considering forcing the sale of the team by invoking his “bests interests of baseball” powers to wrest the team from Frank McCourt, the owner since 2004, who he believes has mismanaged the franchise while enriching himself.

Selig said in a statement that he informed McCourt of his decision, which he said was made to “protect the best interests of the club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.”

[Return to headlines]

Missouri House Votes to Ban Sharia Law

JEFFERSON CITY • A bill prohibiting state courts from using or recognizing Sharia law passed the Missouri House Wednesday on a 102-51 vote.

The legislation, which was sponsored by state Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, bans Missouri courts from utilizing foreign law or legal code in any ruling. Although it never specifically mentions the words “Sharia” or “Islam,” Wednesday’s debate focused almost exclusively on Sharia law, which is the religious law of Islam.

“This bill is not all about Sharia Law,” Curtman said. “It’s Sharia Law, French law, Dutch law or anything else.”

Since the beginning of 2009, numerous states have considered proposals to ban Sharia. During last year’s elections, Oklahoma voters passed a referendum banning state courts from considering international or Islamic law. However, it was later blocked by a federal judge who said that the law was unconstitutional.

Legislation similar to Curtman’s was introduced in the Missouri Senate by Republican Brian Nieves but has yet to gain traction. The House bill picked up momentum earlier this session when House Speaker Steve Tilley threw his support behind it, saying “the laws of this country should trump any other laws regarding the citizens of our country within our borders.”

Speaking in opposition to the measure, State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said she’d like to help educate Curtman on Sharia law.

“I truly believe you think you’re doing the right thing,” she said while talking to Curtman on the House floor, later adding: “I don’t think that you have ill intentions, so I would encourage you to become familiar with Sharia Law. I’d really like to sit down with you and we can study together and come to a better understanding of what Sharia Law is, how it works and what it does.”

Last week, the inaugural Muslim Lobby Day was held at the Capitol, in part due to the anti-Sharia legislation introduced this year.

Despite the criticism from Democrats, Curtman remained resolute that his legislation was needed.

“This bill is about one thing and one thing only, and that is to protect the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to our citizens under our founding documents, in the federal constitution and in our state constitution,” he said.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Rail Riders Asked to Improve Security

Amtrak looking to passengers to improve security

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — Amtrak is launching a new program on Tuesday for its passengers at train stations across the country.

This new initiative is called: “Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security”. Amtrak will be recruiting people who are already watching and riding trains to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity they may observe both on and off the tracks.

It is basically similar to a “neighborhood watch program”.

Those who participate will be issued membership cards, and will learn the protocol about what safety and security concerns they should look out for, as well as how they should report them.

In particular, Amtrak is reaching out to its “rail fan” (railroad enthusiast) community, because according to Amtrak’s Police Chief, they are “ideal” candidates. The reason why they are considered perfect candidates for this position is because they’re already out watching trains and tracks across the country daily, and are more apt to notice if something is wrong.

The idea for this new program came out of a forum with Amtrak executives organized by Trains magazine, last year.

If you would like to volunteer in Amtrak’s new program, you can do so by registering on Amtrak’s website.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

State Police Extract Info From Cellphones!

The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

. . .

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

“Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags,” a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device’s capabilities. “The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”

The ACLU is concerned that these powerful capabilities are being quietly used to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Extreme Recycling: Architect Hopes to Revitalize Norwegian City With Oil Platform

Norwegian architect Sverre Max Stenersen has an ambitious vision: He wants to tow a giant retired oil platform from the North Sea to Trondheim. Remodelled with apartments and other facilities, Stenersen would like to remind Norwegians where their wealth comes from and revitalize a blighted neighborhood.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Muslim’s Playboy Strip Stokes Integration Debate in Germany

A YOUNG woman removing her clothes for Playboy magazine would not normally stoke the passion of Germany’s dry-as-dust intellectuals.

Their minds are usually fixed on higher things — more Nietzsche than nudity. But next month’s cover girl will, for the first time, be a Turkish German and her glistening, coconut-oiled presence is stirring eager debate about the limits and challenges of ethnic integration. How else to explain the sudden rush of the country’s top brains towards their local newsagents?

“These photographs are a liberation from the restrictions of my childhood,” says Sila Sahin, the 25-year-old star of a television soap opera called Good Times, Bad Times. Born in Berlin, she has been regarded until now as a model of how a well-integrated Turkish German should behave. But stripping off for Playboy?

While France has its ban-the-burka debate, The Netherlands its anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders and David Cameron sets out the boundaries for immigration in Britain, Germany is pondering the contours of Sahin. The conservative commentator Richard Herzinger says the photoshoot is proof that young immigrant women can break free from their cultural background and embrace a German lifestyle.

“The whole integration debate, usually joyless and full of anger, has been happily transformed,” he says. “The right to show yourself naked has brought an explosive element into the confrontation between Muslim communities and the open, secular world.” German Turkish women are brought up with a confusing mix of values. Their brothers and fathers often insist on a say in the choice of their future husband and how they dress, and are strict about chastity.

Sahin has used her 12-page spread in the German edition of Playboy to call on other Muslim girls to resist their background, but she has faced criticism even from Turkish Germans with a more modern outlook. Onur Beyazay, 19, a Berliner, said: “If my sister did this, the family would reject her.” This is precisely what has happened to Sahin. Her mother does not answer her calls and her father is unhappy. “It will be even more difficult with my grandparents, my aunts and uncles,” she says. In a televised appeal, she asked her family for forgiveness: “I did it because I want to be free at last. Please let me come home.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Germany: Muslim Model Poses Nude for Playboy Cover

A Muslim model has upset her family by stripping for a series of saucy shots for Playboy. Until now, Sila Sahin, a 25-year-old Turkish German living in Berlin, had been regarded as a glowing example of how a modern Muslim girl should behave in a multicultural society. A successful actress starring in German television soap opera ‘Good Times, Bad Times’, she pleased her many fans and made her Turkish family proud. But her latest move has outraged her family and Muslim fans, reports the Daily Mail.

Posing provocatively on the cover of German Playboy magazine with one breast exposed, Sahin seems to be sending a clear and deliberate message to her conservative Turkish family. “I did it because I wanted to be free at last. These photographs are a liberation from the restrictions of my childhood,” she said. Her family has, unsurprisingly, reacted with horror, and her mother has cut off all contact with the actress. “My mother is still angry. It will be even more difficult with my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles,” she said on the website devoted to her television soap. She has, however, managed to talk to her actor father, who expressed concern over the pressure she will inevitably face from the Muslim community.

Sahin’s declared intention was to use the controversial Playboy photoshoot as a call to action for other Turkish girls who suffer the effects of their strict backgrounds, where women’s choices are often limited, husbands are chosen for the girls and chastity closely controlled. Her message to these girls? “For too long I tried to do everything right. I want these photos to show young Turkish women it’s okay for you to live however you choose,” she said. “Many of my countrymen think it’s great that I can be so free. With the shoot I hoped to say to them that we do not necessarily have to live under these rules given to us,” she added.

In what is undeniably a groundbreaking move, Sahin is the first Turkish woman ever to strip for the cover of Playboy. Indeed, in the 12-page article that accompanies the revealing photographs, Sahin says she feels “like Che Guevara”, adding that the semi-naked photo shoot was a bid to express her freedom. “My upbringing was conservative. I was always told, you must not go out, you must not make yourself look so attractive, you mustn’t have male friends,” she told Playboy. “I have always abided by what men say. As a result I developed an extreme desire for freedom. I feel like Che Guevara. I have to do everything I want, otherwise I feel like I may as well be dead,” she added. But despite her bold move, Sahin wants her family forgiveness. “I hope you can forgive me. Please let me come home,” she said in an emotional TV interview.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Germany: Muslim Actress Playboy Fury

A MUSLIM TV actress has caused outrage by stripping for a series of saucy shots for Playboy.

German-Turkish stunner Sila Sahin, 25, has appeared in a 12-page nude spread in the famous men’s magazine. The provocative pics, including one on the cover in which she appears with one breast exposed, has outraged her family and Muslim fans. But the star of hit German soap Good Times, Bad Times claims she did the shoot in a bid to tackle the oppression of women who follow Islam. She said: “I did it because I wanted to be free at last. These photographs are a liberation from the restrictions of my childhood. My mother is still angry. It will be even more difficult with my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles.”

Sila says she has spoken to her father who was worried about the backlash she would receive from the Muslim community. She said that the aim of the controversial shoot was to use it as a call for action for other Muslim women.. She said: “For too long I tried to do everything right. I want these photos to show young Turkish women it’s OK for you to live however you choose.” But despite her bold move Sila wants her family forgiveness. She said in an emotional TV interview: “I hope you can forgive me. Please let me come home.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Germany: Turkish-German Actress Causes Stir With Playboy Shoot

Sila Sahin, a Turkish-German TV actress, has caused a stir by posing nude for the German edition of Playboy. Family members are no longer talking with her but her German boyfriend is defending her decision to bare all. “Sila is a great woman with a fantastic body,” Jörn Schlönvoigt, 24, told the BZ tabloid this week. “It would almost be a shame to deprive other people visually. I find the images beautiful and very well done.”

The nude shots of the 25-year-old Sahin, who stars on the popular German soap opera, Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times), surprised not just her parents, but also colleagues and even Schlönvoigt himself.It was only when she flew to the photo shoot in Sri Lanka that Sila told me about it,” Schlönvoigt told the newspaper.

Sahin told the soap opera’s website that her father was merely unhappy with her decision, but her mother was furious. “My mother is still angry with me. I couldn’t reach her at all,” she told the soap opera’s website. But in an interview with Playboy, Sahin said she was proud to be the first German-Turkish woman to be on the magazine’s cover. But she seemed to cling somewhat to her conservative upbringing, denying ever sleeping with women or having one-night-stands. “Many of my countrymen think it’s great that I can live so freely,” she told the magazine.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Germany: Unveiled: First Turkish Woman Poses for German Playboy

by Richard Herzinger

Germany’s ongoing struggle with integration, usually carried out with grim zeal and intellectual debates, experienced a surprisingly sensual turn last week. The appearance of Turkish-German actress Sila Sahin’s attractive, naked body in the May issue of Playboy magazine shows how young women with immigrant backgrounds can rid themselves of religious and cultural constraints, without needing to cite statistics or elaborate arguments provided by integration experts.

It’s usually no longer a big deal when a celebrity or starlet takes off her clothes for the men’s magazine. The unrelenting overexposure to sexually explicit images in the media, advertisements and the Internet has made public nudity so socially acceptable that we barely take notice. But the 25-year-old Sahin, who plays “Ayala” in the RTL German soap opera “Good Times, Bad Times” (Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten/ GZSZ) managed to link her public exposure to the debate over a central socio-political issue: that young Muslim — in this case, Turkish — women are not allowed to make the same kind of decisions over their own lives and bodies that the daughters of the sexually revealing majority have been able to make for some time. “For me, these pictures are an act of liberation from the cultural constraints of my childhood,” says Sahin. “I have tried to please everybody for too long. With these images I want to show young Turkish women that it is OK to live the way they are; that it is not cheap to show skin; that you should pursue your goals instead of bowing down to others.”

Playboy could use the PR

It may very well be that the first appearance of a Turkish woman on the cover of the German Playboy is most of all a welcome opportunity for the glossy magazine, which could use the immigration debate to boost its somewhat out-of-date image. And the still relatively unknown Sahin was admittedly presented with a PR opportunity to stick out of the daily host of nudes by fashioning herself as a brave trailblazer for emancipation. Still, her interview in the magazine opens a window into the patronizing situations young Muslim girls and women have to deal with on a daily basis.

Growing up “with a father who is an actor and a very conservative mother, I am not speaking for everyone, but in my case, things were black or white. Sex before marriage was bad, you have to pray every Friday and so on.” For a long time she “thought I have to do what the man says.”

Purists of female emancipation and cultural critics may sniff at the fact that Sila Sahin sees an act of liberation in posing naked for men who are not primarily interested in intellectual discourse. But the tastefully shot nude photos of the young Turkish woman remind us that the reviled commercialization of the female body that today seems just like an unavoidable part of every day life, played an important role in the history of female emancipation in the Western world.

With Sahin’s nude pictures framed as a contribution to the debate over emancipation of young Muslim women, the German Playboy builds on the historical tradition of the American original. Its first edition, published in 1953 with a Marilyn Monroe centerfold, was undeniably the journalistic spearhead of a then still dormant sexual openness in a strictly puritan America. Like no other magazine, Playboy stood for a liberal socio-political spirit, whose breakthrough in 1960s America it largely helped facilitate. The subsequent rise of feminist criticism of patriarchic structures of society largely discredited the political standing of the magazine and its founder, Hugh Heffner, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday.

Symbolic counter point to “the girl with the head scarf”

If nothing else, Sila Sahin’s campaign to use nudity as a means to self-determination teaches us that this criticism may well have been shortsighted. Because the legitimate debate over if or when the display of naked female bodies starts to hurt female dignity or, on the contrary, promotes it, presumes the ability of the woman to decide for herself whether she wants her naked body to be depicted or not. That’s how the right to pose naked gains an undeniable importance and explosiveness — also for the struggle within in the Muslim community over its relationship to the secular, open society.

That Sila Sahin faces threats not only from within her own family for her explicit pictures, but also from radical Turkish nationalistic groups, illustrates this. We have to realize and acknowledge that the trivial pop and lifestyle culture is a powerful force in debates over emancipation, because they deliver the emblematic images that can pull a society in one direction or the other. By creating an attractive example of the self-determined, young Turkish woman who wants to live just as freely and unburdened as her German peers without immigrant roots, Sahin’s pictures have the potential to set a symbolic counter point to the recent trend of the “girl with the head scarf.”

The beautiful pictures are breathing new life into the values of the constitution and our liberal legal system that are too often just hailed in the abstract. Now we would certainly like to know what German feminists have to say. In the past, they led campaigns against nude covers on magazines. Today they fight against the mandate for women to cover themselves in the Muslim community. The fact that young Muslim women are using nudity as a beacon against their entrapment in their traditional culture could undermine some conventional wisdom in the feminist community.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italy: Catholic Website Lodges Official Complaint Against Moretti’s “Insult to Pope”

Initial box-office receipts encouraging. TV presenter Fabio Fazio also in cross-hairs for “interview without right of reply”

MILAN — The animated parrots have beaten Nanni Moretti’s vacillating pontiff. Returns from the box office reveal that Carlos Saldanha’s 3D cartoon Rio, set in Rio de Janeiro, was the most-watched film last weekend, raking in €1.674 million at 626 cinemas. Nanni Moretti’s new film, Habemus Papam, which was released on Friday and will play in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was in second place, taking just under €1.3 million at 447 cinemas and earning higher average receipts per cinema than Rio (€2,905 against €2,675). It’s an excellent result for Moretti’s film, since the success of Rio had been widely predicted after it topped the US rankings with receipts of $40 million…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Fewer Italians Travel Abroad to Get Dental Treatments

(AGI) Rome — The number of Italians who travel to Eastern European countries in search of cheaper dental treatments has dropped. Until recently, about 20,000 Italians travelled to Eastern European countries each year to get ‘low-cost’ dental treatments, but that number has recently dropped as concerns are raised about the actual quality and safety of the services offered by foreign dentists and new advanced and certified technologies and materials ensuring excellent results have become increasingly available in Italy.

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

Italy: Tunisian Who Spent 8 Years in Guantanamo Prison Deported

Rome, 20 April (AKI) — Italy has expelled a Tunisian man who spent eight years in the United States prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Adel Ben Mabrouk was transferred to Italy in 2009 as part of US president Barack Obama’s ultimately failed effort to shut down the controversial prison.

The Italian Interior Ministry on Wednesday announced that a Tunisia-bound plane carrying Mabrouk took off from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport. He was expelled for reasons of public order and security, the interior ministry said in a statement.

His repatriation was part of an agreement with Tunisian diplomats in Rome, the statement said.

Prosecutors say Mabrouk was part of a terrorist cell operating in Milan that was plotting to detonate a car bomb outside the city’s Duomo Cathedral, the northern city’s most famous landmark.

Tunisia had sentenced Mabrouk to 20 years in prison for being part of a terrorist organisation operating abroad, according to a declassified US government document.

He had lived in Italy prior to going to Afghanistan where he was captured and turned over to the US in 2001. After being sent from Guantanamo to Italy he was convicted of a terrorism-related charge but was freed for time served in Guantanamo.

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

Italy: Former Local Politician Arrested for ‘Mafia Association’

Palermo, 20 April — Police on Monday in Sicily arrested a former local councillor for Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s now-defunct Forza Italia party, who is suspected of mafia association.

Francesco Muncivi a 62-year-old businessman who was a local councillor in the Sicilian city of Gela until 2007 was arrested in Gela at dawn as part of an anti-mafia operation dubbed ‘Casa Nostra’.

Muncivi was “firmly rooted” in the Gela-based Emmanuello crime family, according to anti-mafia prosecutors in nearby Caltanissetta, who ordered his arrest.

Police also impounded 18 hectares of land belonging to a company administered by Muncivi’s daughter and a luxury apartment worth a million euros.

Muncivi is accused of extorting ‘protection money’ from four construction cooperatives in Gela which built a residential development containing 170 homes on former farmland owned by Muncivi.

Muncivi gained permission to develop the land through a 2007 decree adopted by the Sicily regional government.

He is also accused of forcing the four cooperatives to purchase building materials at inflated prices from mafia-controlled firms, making bogus hirings of mafia members, pay for ‘minders’ as well as providing free extra labour on sites belonging to the Emmanuello and other Sicilian mafia clans.

If the cooperatives refused, Muncivi charged them “protection money” at an even higher rate, according to prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Italy’s top court, the Court of Cassation issued the reasoning behind its January ruling upholding the 7-year prison term handed to Sicily’s former regional governor, Salvatore Cuffaro for abetting the mafia.

“There existed a precise criminal plan between Cuffaro and (Sicilian mafia boss Giuseppe) Guttardauro,” the court’s judges said in their reasoning.

The reasoning also mentioned Italy’s recently appointed agriculture minister Saverio Romano, claiming he fielded a close associate of Sicilian mafia boss Nino Mandala as a candidate for the 2001 regional elections.

A Sicilian politician from Palermo, Romano is due to be questioned by prosecutors on 9 June over his alleged links with the Sicilian mafia.

During Cuffaro’s trial and sentencing in 2010, Romano’s name was mentioned. Mafia turncoat Francesco Campanella testified that Romano was in 2001 “at the beck and call of the Sicilian mafia’s Villabate crime family based in Palermo”.

Forza Italia in 2009 merged with the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale party to form Italy’s ruling People of Freedom party.

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

Italy: Education Minister Gelmini Re-Launches Technical Schools

(AGI) Rome — “I’ve always been convinced that the school’s best contribution against the crisis is to relaunch vocational schools. In addition to, of course, giving a professional qualification. And this is why the reform has thoroughly reasserted the value of these schools, exactly in consideration of the great opportunities that they can offer”. The comment is written in a letter sent by Education Minister Maristella Gelmini to the newspaper ‘Corriera della Sera’. “In September — she adds — 58 higher technical schools will be opened, which represent the best possible way of integrating school and work”.

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

Silvio Berlusconi’s Long and Bitter Twilight

Editorial: Berlusconi’s use of the political system to fight his personal battles has become so overwhelming that little else is pursued in Italian public life. Tale of a nation blocked by one man’s troubles

Michele Brambilla

Following last week’s approval of a justice reform bill to shorten the statute of limitations, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced his next legislative moves will be to target the use of wiretapping in criminal investigations and a reform of the entire justice system.

This is just the latest disheartening proof that Italian politics has become a personal business. This privatization of politics no longer surprises anyone. By now, we are all accustomed and resigned to the fact that Silvio Berlusconi will use the political system to satisfy his personal vendettas.

Italian politics at this point is just a war: you are either for or against the Prime Minister. Everything revolves around him. The government and the parliament’s activities, the most important judicial inquiries, the demonstrations in the streets, the press campaigns, the parties’ debates: they are all about him.

Berlusconi even influences our national religion, soccer. Berlusconi’s approval rating could rise or fall depending upon whether his club AC Milan wins the national championship, or whether he buys star striker Cristiano Ronaldo. It is always all about him. In Italy, people speak and fight only about Berlusconi.

Those who love him, defend him no matter what. They say the trials against him are based on the fabrications of ‘Communist’ judges. And even when he is guilty of something, his supporters say: “Everyone does it.” Those who hate him think that he is responsible for all the world’s evils. In the movie “La bellezza del somaro” [The beauty of the donkey] by Sergio Castellito, a character lashes out against Berlusconi because a drinks dispenser is jammed. “What has Berlusconi to do with it?” asks the Laura Morante character. “It is always about Berlusconi,” he answers.

Never before in the history of the Italian republic has one person been under the spotlight and monopolized the political stage for so long.

For these reasons, when Berlusconi assembled his coalition government’s group leaders at his private residence in Rome last week, no one was surprised to hear that the government’s agenda and his personal agenda are identical. In the last months, the Italian Parliament and Senate have been busy with the Prime Minister’s personal affairs. So despite Italy’s many troubles, a Prime Minister asking his allies to work full-time for him is accepted as normal. The bills about wiretapping, removing powers from the prosecutors and punishing judges are all in the personal interest of Berlusconi.

“We have the majority [to pass these bills],” the Prime Minister has repeatedly said over the last months. Despite governmental crisis and notable departures from the coalition, the government still maintains its majority. What for? It does not use its majority to pursue social programs, to help troubled companies and workers, or to fulfill its promises on lower taxes and a lighter state. The government is so obsessed with a private matter that it does not use its majority for pursuing any of these issues that the country needs to address.

Despite their strong majority, Berlusconi and his government do not look like winners. Today’s Berlusconi has little to do with the man who had Italians dreaming of their future two decades ago. Today, a dark and angry atmosphere hovers over the country. While this could signal the last days of the empire, Berlusconi’s ability to survive should not be underestimated. It is an atmosphere of twilight: where the leader has not yet met his end, but the country is held hostage by his psychodrama.

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

Sweden: Youth Violence in Gothenburg

More clashes with police

More confrontations between street gangs and the police have shaken the suburbs of the western Swedish city of Gothenburg.

Police have detained two persons early this morning and report that four more automobiles were set on fire and the stones have been thrown at a street car.

Police and fire men arriving at the scene were also the targets of stone-throwers. Critics blame cutbacks in the youngsters’ after-school facilities and high unemployment among the youth for the rising tensions.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter [Return to headlines]

UK Muslim Group Fuels Hijab Debate

Adding to the controversy raised about hijab and face-veil, UK Muslims criticized a statement published by a leading British Muslim body saying that women cannot debate the wearing the veil as igniting unnecessary debates, Onislam reports.

“There is no case for a French-style ban in the UK and virtually no serious person supports it,” Haras Rafiq, of the moderate Muslim think-tank, Centri, told the Sunday Telegraph on April 17.

“But by this statement, effectively suggesting that the veil is an obligation, the MCB have put themselves at the opposite extreme of the spectrum.”

The criticism followed a statement published by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) telling women that that wearing the veil is “not open to debate”.

“We advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief,” the MCB said in a statement published on its website.

The umbrella Muslim group warned that denying the obligation of hijab for Muslim women is a shortcoming.

“Not practicing something enjoined by Allah and his Messenger… is a shortcoming. Denying it is much more serious.

The statement further quoted a statement from the holy Qur’an.

“It is not for a believer, man or woman, that they should have any option in their decision when Allah and his Messenger have decreed a matter.”

The MCB statement was published in the wake of an earlier controversy about face-veil.

It is signed by 27 Islamic groups and scholars including the MCB’s then secretary-general, Mohammad Abdul Bari, and his deputy, Daud Abdullah.

A French law banning the wearing of face-veil — burqa or niqab — in public places took into force last week.

While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.

The MCB, a coalition of some 400 organizations, is the largest Muslim umbrella group in Britain.

No UK Ban

Though denying British intensions to carry out a similar ban for face-veil or niqab, many warned that such a ban would enforce extremist voices that Islam was targeted in UK.

“A ban would be manna from heaven for the extremists,” Rafiq told the Sunday Telegraph.

“It would reinforce the Islamist claim that society is picking on Muslims. People who don’t wear it would take it up as a political cause.”

Peter Golds, the Tory leader in Tower Hamlets, agrees.

“It would be unenforceable, and if it was enforced it would lead to civil unrest,” he says.

“It is not for governments to decide what people should wear.”

Last week, the British Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May ruled out a similar ban on the Muslim outfit.

Despite the government reiteration that Britain is committed to tolerance and acceptance of other cultures, calls have grown in Britain for a similar ban after enacting the French Law last September.

A YouGov survey conducted last year found that some 67 percent of Britons favor face-veils to be made illegal.

Last year, lawmaker Philip Hollobone introduced a bill in the parliament for Britain to follow France in outlawing face-veils in public.

The right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has also supported calls for a veil ban in Britain.

Moreover, records show that hostility against British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been on the rise recently.

Last September, a leading British college banned Muslim women’s veil on campus in what officials called a security measure.

Last January, Tory minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi warned that Islamophobia has become normal and accepted in British society.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

UK: Call Young Criminals Customers: Probation Chief Says Being Considerate Stops Re-Offending

Criminals must be treated as customers — not offenders, a probation service boss has insisted.

They should be invited to speak about their needs and asked how they feel about the treatment they receive, London probation chief Heather Munro added.

And these people should not have to spend time in shabby waiting rooms or be sent to dingy offices to be interviewed.

Giving criminals the same consideration a company gives its customers will steer them away from committing future crimes, according to Mrs Munro.

‘It’s a bit like running a business,’ she said.

‘Any business would ask its customers how it can improve its service. It just doesn’t make sense not to.’

Mrs Munro said the answer to helping criminals quit crime was to consider their feelings and think about how an offender would feel walking into a probation office.

‘I don’t think staff had thought about it from that angle,’ she said.

‘What do the waiting rooms look like, the interview rooms? How are people treated?

‘That whole process hadn’t been thought of in terms of the offender, it was, “how do we deliver this in a way that suits us?”.’

The decision to refer to criminals as ‘customers’ follows efforts by police forces to find softer language to refer to some groups of offenders.

For example, the Metropolitan Police has referred to ‘group rape’ rather than gang rape

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

UK: Scientist Imam: Muslims Need to Talk About Evolution

We need devout Muslim scientists to speak out, says Usama Hasan, who has had death threats for saying evolution is compatible with the Koran

What did you say about evolution that upset people in your community?

My trouble started three years ago when I wrote an article saying that we needed to move beyond the simplistic idea held by many Muslims that God created Adam from clay and then breathed life into him. This literal interpretation of the Koran is still the dominant position. I was brought up a creationist and was a fundamentalist for many years, but I came to the conclusion that evolution is entirely compatible with the Koran and that alternative interpretations of the creation story that account for evolution are valid.

How has this affected your everyday life?

It has been quite serious. At the lecture a leaflet was handed out saying that anybody believing in evolution or who propagates it must be killed. Knowing some of the people behind this, in the small fanatical fringe of the British Muslim community, I know they believe that literally. They are pro-violence. So it was very worrying, especially as I have young children. I have had to take out extra security at home, which I guess will stay for the rest of my life.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: The Worst Form of Bigotry Today is the Liberal Elite’s View of the Working Classes as a Mongrel Race of Slothful Drones

We often hear of self-loathing Jews, but what about self-loathing proles — working-class people who look back with contempt at the communities they had the misfortune to grow up in? There’s a very good example of it in today’s Guardian, in this column by Lynsey Hanley, a woman who has made a writing career on the back of the fact that she grew up on a council estate. (It is testament to the middle classes’ continuing colonisation of the media that Ms Hanley can be treated as a curious novelty by Granta and the Guardian, almost as a messenger from some distant, dark planet, simply because she once lived in social housing.) Ms Hanley writes of the “terrible ignorance” of the community she used to live in, prior to her moral and mental rescue by “metropolitan elite liberal values”.

Perhaps keen to assure her current employers that she is now one of them and has been scrubbed clean of any trace of working-class brutishness, Ms Hanley sneers at the “view of life” that held strong in the community she was born into. These people were “paranoid, suspicious, mistrustful, misogynist and racist”, she says. She heaps disdain on the “social conservatism” of white working-class communities, which are given to “silently or violently rejecting anyone who is different or who expresses a different opinion to that of the crowd”. Thankfully for her (and let’s face it, probably for the community she was born into), Ms Hanley escaped from this “crowd” (in pre-PC times they called it “the mob”) by embracing what she refers to as metropolitan, liberal values. She pleads with New Labour not to ditch these values, since there might be other “provincial working-class teenagers” who, like Ms Hanley, also want to be rescued.

It’s an embarrassing column, but also a revealing one. In treating Labour as a kind of modern-day version of those Victorian outfits that once rescued “fallen women”, only Labour apparently has a responsibility to rescue enlightened, Guardian-reading teenagers from a life of witless racism and violence, Ms Hanley captures the extent to which Labour is now separate from and aloof to the communities it once claimed to represent. Where Labour once promised to embody the values of working-class communities, it now looks upon those values as deeply problematic and in need of a serious spring clean. From their imposition of parenting classes to their jihad against junk food to their treatment of anyone who holds a non-metropolitan, non-liberal value as a “bigot”, Labour and its media cheerleaders increasingly look upon the white working classes as a weird, morally warped mass which must be beaten and reshaped into something more respectable: a bit more Islington and a bit less Bermondsey.

What’s more, Ms Hanley’s dutiful provision of moral porn for the chattering classes, who so enjoy reading about the weird goings-on in mysterious council estates over breakfast, speaks to the prejudices that are rife amongst the community she has now embraced: the “metropolitan liberal elite”. The great irony of this elite’s war on the wantonness, gluttony, slothfulness and bigotry of the little people is that it is fuelled by a bigotry of its own, a respectable, PC form of bigotry — one which treats the white working classes as unenlightened Daily Mail drones in need of moral deliverance by sussed outsiders. It is not the working classes who “silently or violently reject anyone who is different”; rather it’s this increasingly intolerant metropolitan elite, which can’t even abide the fact that some communities eat and drink differently, never mind think differently, to itself. In presenting Britain as being neatly split between a morally superior race of liberals and mongrel race of paranoid racists, Ms Hanley and others are unwittingly rehabilitating the very prejudices that originally fuelled the politics of racism in the 19th century: a mean-spirited, Malthusian view of Britain’s own native lower classes as morally defunct.

Perhaps Ms Hanley had the misfortune to be born into a peculiarly conservative bit of Britain, but in the working-class community in north London that I was born into there was a great deal of social solidarity between whites, blacks and Asians. Yes, there was social conservatism, especially amongst the older generations, but not amongst the young, who were forever experimenting with drugs, weird music and sex. Back then the media denounced us working-class youth for being overly reckless and not conservative enough; you can’t bloody win. When I popped back for a visit at the weekend I found my brother (a builder) helping his Romanian workmates to pack a white van with gifts, goodies and food, all of which will be driven across Europe to families living in the furthest reaches of Eastern Romania. I felt a million miles away from the stifling sameness and unhinged suspicions of the metropolitan elite.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Wedding Fatigue in Britain: Kate and Wills Are Marrying, Get Me Out of Here!

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is a mega-event that will be watched by an estimated 2 billion visitors around the globe. But not everyone is looking forward to it. As the big day approaches, millions of Britons will be fleeing abroad to escape the hype and, they hope, preserve their sanity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Croats Step Up Demands for Autonomy and Equality With Muslims

Sarajevo, 20 April (AKI) — Bosnian Croats, the country’s third largest group, have have adopted a resolution demanding territorial autonomy and equality with Muslims and Serbs, local media reported on Wednesday.

The resolution called for a formation of a third Bosnian entity with a Croat majority.

“The Croatian National Council deems that a profound constitutional reform is needed for institutional equality and new territorial organisation in which at least one federal unit would have a Croat majority,” the resolution said.

At a convention in the southern city of Mostar on Tuesday, participants demanded constitutional reforms granting Croats equal rights and condemned “the gross violation of the Croatian people’s will in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

At the Mostar meeting, representatives of Bosnia’s main Croat political parties established the Croatian National Council which will coordinate Croat activities in their drive for national equality.

The council will be headed by the leaders of two main Croat parties, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and HDZ 1990, Dragan Covic and Bozo Ljubic.

“We are here to send a clear message,” Covic said. “We want a Bosnia-Herzegovina in which Croats are equal with other two peoples.”

Croat discontent with their lot in Bosnia was triggered by the election of the Croat member of Bosnia’s three-man rotating state presidency Zeljko Komsic with the help of Muslim votes in last October’s elections.

Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation was formed by majority Muslims and two minor Croat parties, bypassing the HDZ and HDZ 1990, which got the most Croat votes.

Under the Dayton peace accord that ended Bosnia’s bloody 1992-1995 war, Bosnia was divided into two entities, a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb entity, Republika Srpska.

But Croats in the Muslim-Croat entity have complained they have been treated as second-class citizens in their own homeland.

The Croatian National Council called on the international community, which still has the final say in Bosnia’s affairs, to stop favouring majority Muslims and pressing for a unitary state “dominated” by Muslims.

“This convention is not a call for the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but an attempt to save it,” Covic said. “Bosnia as a two-entity state has no future,” he concluded.

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

Croatia Moves Closer to EU Membership, Turkey Stalls

Croatia on Tuesday concluded negotiations in two more areas, agriculture and budgetary issues, getting closer to finishing EU accession talks by the end of June. Turkey may resume EU talks in June.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Mobilise Diaspora of Local Countries, Invest in Med

In order for skilled North Africans working abroad to incentivise the creation of new economic possibilities in their countries of origin, a series of conditions need to be created, from the facilitation of travel to support by the diaspora for the development of businesses. This is according to a study on the mobilisation of the diaspora of the Mediterranean region as a new economic challenge, an initiative partnered by Anima and Invest In Med, a network of Euro-Mediterranean organisations working to promote investments in the region and partnerships between the two shores of the Mediterranean, which is co-financed by the EU.

The first condition for mobilising the diaspora is to facilitate travel. In most cases, obtaining visas can be a lengthy process and is sometimes a serious obstacle to the circulation of skills in the country of origin. In this light, the European Commission has made a proposal to member states whereby the arrival in Europe of business people and students from the southern shores of the Mediterranean would be facilitated.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Guards Opening Fire on ‘Anyone’ Trying to Cross Libyan Border

(AKI) — Algerian authorities have ordered border guards to shoot at anyone tyring to cross the border with Libya, daily el-Khabar reports.

Security is being stepped up to protect Algeria’s southern borders after gunfights broke out at the weekend between two groups of suspected Al-Qaeda militants from Libya, the paper said.

Algerian fighter jets are conducting sorties over Algeria’s Sahara region, searching for suspected terrorists who in recent weeks have allegedly infiltrated the territory as they head for Libya from their bases in northern Mali.

The Algerian army on Saturday killed seven militants suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda’s north African branch in two separate operations in southern Algeria, according to el-Khabar. Three of the militants were shot dead as they tried to enter Libya, the daily said.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was responsible for three attacks in Algeria between last Friday and early Sunday in which 20 people died including five soldiers, according to media reports.

The attacks were concentrated in the eastern part of the country.

They followed an attack on 15 April by suspected Islamist insurgents that killed 13 Algerian soldiers in the country’s northern Kabylie region, the deadliest ambush in months, according to a security source cited by media.

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

Libya: NATO Sees ‘Limit to Airstrikes’ Power to Stop Gaddafi Forces

Brussels, 20 April (AKI/Bloomberg) — A Nato commander said “there is a limit” to the alliance’s ability to stop the Libyan regime’s shelling of Misrata, as Britain sent a team of military advisers to assist rebels fighting to end Muammar Gaddafi’s 42- year rule.

Gaddafi’s troops have been using artillery and rockets in Misrata, under siege for about 50 days, with rebels holding part of the city and the port area that is their only supply link. Unicef, the UN Children’s Fund, said a ship carrying first aid kits, drinking water and other supplies for up to 25,000 people was expected to reach the port today, and the World Health Organization described Misrata Hospital as “overwhelmed,” with 120 civilian patients in need of emergency evacuation.

Nato reported its warplanes hit a mobile rocket launcher, which was firing into the city, and a loyalist convoy of armored vehicles heading there. Nato Brigadier General Mark van Uhm said that Gaddafi’s forces fire “indiscriminately” and that allied airstrikes seek to protect civilians under the United Nations Security Council mandate.

“But there is a limit to what can be accomplished by airpower to stop fighting in a city,” he said yesterday at a press conference at Nato headquarters in Brussels. Nato must limit strikes in urban areas to avoid inadvertently causing civilian casualties, he said.

The Italian government is helping Libyan rebels sell oil from opposition-held parts of the country, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said at a press conference in Rome after meeting with the head of Libya’s rebel council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

The rebels have agreed to honor existing treaties between Italy and Libya, Frattini said. Oil exports from Libya, which has Africa’s biggest oil reserves, dropped by about 1.3 million barrels a day to a “trickle,” the Paris-based International Energy Agency said last month.

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

Misurata’s Sniper War: Life on the Rebel Side of the Crosshairs

In Libya, the opposition stronghold Misurata has become an urban battlefield. Pro-Gadhafi forces are devastating entire neighborhoods with cluster bombs and Russian rockets. But the real battle is being waged in the shadows between snipers, with Gadhafi’s well-trained soldiers facing off against school teachers, divers and mechanics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Obama to Give Libyan Rebels $25 Mln in Aid, But No Weapons

(AGI) Washington — Obama plans to provide Libya’s rebels with up to $25 million’s worth of aid, but not weapons. The U.S.

President plans to provide the Libyan rebels in Benghazi with up to $25 million in urgent aid, explicitly excluding weapons.

It emerges from a letter sent from Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, Joseph Macmanus, to the U.S.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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

Stunning Time-Lapse Video: The Milky Way Over Canary Islands

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit atop a volcanic peak in the Canary Islands, gazing up at the brilliant stars of the Milky Way as a Saharan sandstorm billows all around you? Well, wonder no more. Norwegian landscape photographer Terje Sorgjerd captured this stunning scene — and many others — in his new three-minute video, “The Mountain,” which he posted to the website Vimeo on April 15. Earlier this month, Sorgjerd spent a week on Mount Teide, a huge volcanic peak on Tenerife, which is the largest of the seven Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa. At 12,198 feet (3,718 meters), Teide is the highest point in Spain, which owns the Canaries.

Sorgjerd made his way to Teide shortly after finishing up another video project called “The Aurora.” For that time-lapse film, the photographer trekked to northern Norway to capture the stunning northern lights display brought on by powerful solar storms in March.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: 2 People Killed in Students’ Clashes at School

(AGI) Tunis — A young man and a girl were killed and 40 students were injured in a massive riot at a school in Sened, in Tunisia’s central region of Gafsa, Tunisian Interior Minister reported. The Minister confirmed that the Government is losing control of security in the country.

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

U. S. Says No to Ground Troops in Libya

(AGI) Washington — U.S. President Obama said there are no plans to put army troops on the ground in Libya. However he would support the coalition decision to send instructors to help rebel forces fighting against Muammar Gadhafi’s forces.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas: No Third Intifada; PA Seeks Int’l Recognition

PA president says second intifada was “disastrous” for Palestinian nation; reiterates if peace deal not reached, PA will unilaterally seek UN support.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said he is against a third Palestinian intifada (uprising) against Israel, even if current attempts to achieve peace fail, according to the Associated Press.

Speaking to reporters in Tunisia, Abbas said that regardless of what happens he “will not accept” a third intifada. Abbas said that the second intifada, which erupted in 2000, was “disastrous” for the Palestinian nation.

Abbas explained he remains committed to a US-supported goal of reaching a peace deal with Israel by September.

However, if a deal is not reached, Abbas reiterated the PA’s plan to unilaterally seek the support of the United Nations for an independent Palestinian state in September.

The US on Tuesday rejected Palestinian plans to pursue efforts to ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state in September.

“We don’t believe it’s a good idea, we don’t believe it’s helpful,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “We continue to press both sides to begin talking again in direct negotiations,” Toner said.

Abbas, however, has signaled that he is determined to pursue efforts to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday Abbas said: “We are counting on the words of US President Barack Obama who said his vision is to see a Palestinian state this coming September according to a deadline set by the Quartet.”

“More than 130 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state on 1967 borders,” the PA president said. “This number has the potential to reach 140 or 150.”

Abbas said that Western European countries, such as Britain and France, were also likely to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Italian Hospital Inaugurated in the Iraqi City of Kerbala

(AGI) Baghdad — An Italian hospital with 120 beds has been inaugurated in Kerbala, south-west of Baghdad. It was announced by the general director of the city’s healthcare services, Ala Hammudi Bedier, who explained that the new structure features “ cutting edge equipment, including an MRI scanner, a mammography unit and digital X-ray devices”.

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

Stakelbeck Exclusive: Mahdi Video’s Exposure Rattles Iranian Regime

“The Coming is Near,” a propaganda video produced by the Iranian regime that you saw first on CBN News, halied the current unrest in the Middle East as a divine signal that the Islamic messiah, or Mahdi, would soon appear on earth—with Iran’s help.

The video was never meant to be seen by a Western audience. And now the Iranian regime is in damage control mode—with finger pointing, arrests and firings following the film’s exposure.

Yet supporters of the film—including Iranian president Mahmodu Ahmadneijad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei—are sticking to their guns.

In fact, there is a growing movement among prominent players in Iran’s political and religious establishments to portray Khamenei as the mythical figure foretold in Islamic scripture who will serve as the Mahdi’s top deputy on earth.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

The Silent Extermination of Iraq’s ‘Christian Dogs’

Last week an Iraqi Muslim scholar issued a fatwa that, among other barbarities, asserts that “it is permissible to spill the blood of Iraqi Christians.” Inciting as the fatwa is, it is also redundant. While last October’s Baghdad church attack which killed some sixty Christians is widely known—actually receiving some MSM coverage—the fact is, Christian life in Iraq has been a living hell ever since U.S. forces ousted the late Saddam Hussein in 2003.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey’s ‘Realm of Fear’: A Former Judge Takes on Erdogan’s Heavy Hand

Until recently, Emine Ülker Tarhan was a Supreme Court justice in Ankara. But now she has discarded her robes and is challenging Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Turkish leadership. The prime minister, she alleges, is establishing a surveillance state and is “becoming more dictatorial every day.”

There are days on which Emine Ülker Tarhan isn’t constantly worried about bugs and wire taps. They are days when Tarhan, tall and blonde with metal-rimmed glasses, gets her 1964 VW Beetle out of the garage and puts on a CD by Zülfü Livaneli, the Turkish balladeer whose voice reminds her of “clear air.”

And then are days, she says, when she feels like a character in George Orwell’s tale of a surveillance state, “1984.” That’s when she sees the thought police on patrol, and when she is afraid to say the wrong word in her own home.

Today is one of those days. It’s a Monday morning in the embassy district of the Turkish capital Ankara, and Tarhan, wearing a black blazer over a blue blouse, is sitting in a friend’s law office, where the two are exchanging knowing glances. Could this office be bugged, too, they wonder? “Our country’s government is becoming more and more dictatorial every day,” says Tarhan. “This isn’t paranoia.”

It seems odd to hear this 48-year-old woman speaking as if she were at the mercy of a despotic government. Five weeks ago Tarhan, a career jurist, was herself a member of the country’s power elite. She was a judge on the Supreme Court in Ankara and, since 2006, the president of “Yarsav,” a decidedly secular professional association of judges and prosecutors. But then, in early March, she stepped down from both posts and decided to go into politics.

The reason for her decision, she say, is the increasingly open attempt by the Islamic conservative administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to destroy the independence of the Turkish judiciary. A closer look, says Tarhan, is enough to see that Erdogan is currently in the process of eliminating the separation of powers in Turkey. “If he gets his way, judges and public prosecutors will no longer serve as a check on the executive branch, but instead will become his agents. I refuse to play along with this.”

The Turkish judiciary, of course, does not have a particularly strong reputation, neither domestically nor abroad. Many believe that judges and prosecutors feel less committed to the rights of the individual than to “protection of the state,” and that they often hand down draconian prison sentences against supposed enemies of the state. Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit has characterized them as “terrible jurists.” Many human rights activists see the Turkish judiciary as perhaps the biggest obstacle on the EU accession candidate’s road to true democracy and freedom of opinion.

Tarhan disagrees with these assessments, pointing out that it isn’t the judges but the politicians who ultimately make the laws. She adds that it is Erdogan’s Islamic conservative governing party, the AKP, which bears the responsibility for Turkey’s current criminal code — a code that, for example, practically requires judges to lock up stone-throwing Kurdish youths for years.

The real opponents of freedom, says Tarhan, are to be found in the ranks of the administration. And the administration, she says, has already begun to undermine the judicial system.

Tarhan was particularly alarmed by a law under which judges and public prosecutors are no longer to be called to account for abuses of office. The law is part of a set of legal reforms that also reconstituted the panels that appoint judges and prosecutors. This reform, Tarhan claims, gives preference to candidates who are agreeable to the regime.

“Compliant judges appointed by the justice minister can freely go about their business,” she says. “But judges and prosecutors who are critical of the government are still being routinely wiretapped whenever the justice ministry feels it necessary.”

A historic constitutional referendum in September made this possible. The Turkish people were to vote on whether their old constitution, dictated by the military junta of the 1980s, should be reformed. But from the outset, many Turks were troubled by the fact that the changes weren’t just limited to the military’s position in society. That of judges and prosecutors was also a focus of the constitutional revisions. Critics cautioned that Erdogan would use the reform of the judiciary to expand his power.

Today, there are few who would deny that he has been successful.

In his eighth year in office, on the eve of parliamentary elections slated for June 12, Erdogan remains more entrenched and unchallenged in his position than any Turkish politician since the days of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic. Many have challenged him, but he has managed to sideline them all: the military officers who intimidated him in 2007 by launching the threat of a coup on the Internet; the prosecutors, who sought to ban his party in 2008; and the media, which reported on corruption within the AKP.

The generals seemed paralyzed as the government pushed forward an investigation against the suspected coup leaders, many of which landed in prison. Cartoonists who have tangled with Erdogan have been showered with libel suits; the media company Dogan was even threatened with billions in tax penalties. And in the judiciary, officials unwilling to toe the government line have been replaced en masse.

In 2010, for example, a colleague accused Ilhan Cihaner, a prosecutor, of “membership in an illegal terrorist organization.” While investigating an Islamist organization, Cihaner had uncovered business ties between the organization and the governing party AKP. Soon afterwards, Cihaner himself landed in pretrial detention, and he was removed from the case.

In early March, journalists Ahmet ik and Nedim ener were arrested on terrorism charges. They had been investigating the growing influence of the Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement within the Turkish police. Tarhan’s judges’ association, Yarsav, was also described as a terrorist organization. “Just imagine,” she says, “the prime minister even compared us with the PKK!” Bugs were installed in the offices of Yarsav at the instruction of the justice minister, but Tarhan wasn’t surprised. “Sooner or later we’ll all be spied on,” she says…

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Ninety Terrorists Killed in Russia in Past 2 Months

(AGI) Moscow — More than 90 terrorists have been killed and 200 arrested in Russia in the last two months between February and March 2011 according to data provided by the Russian National Anti-terrorist Committee. During a press conference held in Moscow, Przhezdomskij revealed that over 30 attacks have been carried out in the last two months, ninety bombs have been defused, and tons of explosives seized as well as 300 weapons and 30,000 bullets .

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Three People Arrested in Kabul for Recycling Copies of the Qur’an Into Toilet Paper

A paper mill on the outskirts of the capital was partially destroyed by a thousand or so demonstrators outraged by the alleged “desecration”. The factory’s director and two other people were arrested. “We are taking the issue very seriously,” the Attorney General’s Office said.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Three people were arrested at a paper mill on the outskirts of Kabul as part of an investigation into the production of toilet paper from old copies of the Qur’an, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.

Around 1,000 angry demonstrators held a protest on Monday at the mill over the inappropriate use of the Qur’an, leaving the building partially destroyed, Kabul police said.

Police and the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into “the alleged disrespect to our holy book in that factory,” a spokesman for the office, Amanullah Iman, said.

“We have arrested three people including the director of the company so far [. . .] We are taking the issue very seriously,” he added.

Copies of the Quran were found inside the factory, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said, adding that no one was injured in the protest.

The burning of a copy of the Qur’an by a Protestant clergyman in the United States on 20 March sparked violent protests across Afghanistan that left at least 24 people dead, seven of them foreign UN staff, and more than 140 injured.

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

‘I Thought There Would be a Bit of Pain, Then I Would be in Heaven’: Maimed Pakistani Boy, 14, Tells of Failed Suicide Bomb Bid

A Pakistani teenager has told how he was brainwashed by the Taliban into becoming a suicide bomber because he believed he would go to paradise.

Umar Fidai, 14, and another schoolboy were behind the attack on a Pakistani shrine earlier this month in which scores were killed and many others injured.

Fidai survived because his bomb vest failed to detonate properly, although he has lost an arm and could yet lose his life because of his injuries.

Now in custody, he admits he made a terrible mistake and begs forgiveness for his deadly mission — for which his family have now disowned him.

He told the BBC he trained with the Taliban for five months, learning how to shoot, use a grenade and ultimately to be a suicide bomber.

He was told he would go Afghanistan to kill ‘non-believers’ but in fact the pair were taken to another part of Pakistan and ordered to blow up the shrine.

Umar told the BBC: ‘The plan was that Ismail would blow himself up near the shrine, then I would wait and blow myself up near the ambulances when they came.’

He said he had no doubts at all about killing himself: ‘All I was thinking was that I had to detonate myself near as many people as possible.

‘When I decided it was the right time, it was a moment of happiness for me. I thought that there would be a little bit of pain, but then I would be in Heaven.’

Even when the jacket failed, Umar continued to try and bring about more carnage — reaching for a grenade in his pocket.

‘We had been taught that if the belt does not go off, we should kill ourselves with the grenade.

‘There were three policemen standing close by, and I thought if I killed them too, I would still make it to Heaven.’

As he attempted to pull out the pin, he was shot in the arm by police. He says when doctors and officers then tried to help him, he realised he had made a dreadful mistake.

Umar was persuaded to train with the Taliban by dogged recruiters who waited for likely young boys as they went to school.

The children were told studying was pointless and that killing ‘infidels’ would be a route to paradise.

‘The Taliban prayed all the time and read the Koran, so I thought they were good people. My heart told me to go and train with them,’ he said.

He admits he now ‘did a very bad thing’ and has realised suicide bombing is un-Islamic. The boy has not heard from his family since the blast.

He is still seriously ill and is worried the Taliban might come to kill him because he failed to complete his mission.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Far East

Beijing Museum-Goers Choose Propaganda Over Enlightenment

Hot debate in Germany, indifference in Beijing: the German-sponsored exhibition of Enlightenment art has hardly drawn any visitors in the Chinese capital. Expensive ticket and catalog fees are not inspiring interest.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Courage of the Few: Dozens Targeted in Chinese Crackdown on Critical Voices

The recent disappearance of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei made headlines around the world. But the Chinese regime has also targeted dozens of other critics and activists in a major crackdown. Many are still missing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Over 200 Dead in Post-Election Violence in Nigeria

(AGI) Kano — The death toll of the outbreak of violence in North Nigeria pursuant to the presidential elections is of over 200. The figures were disseminated by a local NGO, the Civil Rights Congress, according to which over 1000 persons have been arrested in Kaduna, the stronghold of CPC’s Muslim leader Muhammadu Buhari, who refuses to acknowledge the victory of the Catholic incumbent Gooluck Jonathan in the April 16th elections.

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

South Africa: Shoot the Boer Not a Reference to Ethnic Group

The singing of the song “awudubhule ibhunu” or “shoot the boer”, is not a reference to an ethnic group, but to a system of racial oppression, the Equality Court heard on Friday.

ANC national executive committee member Derek Hanekom, who is also the deputy minister of science and technology, was testifying in the hate speech trial of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. He told the court it would be helpful if the group of people who felt hurt by the song understood it. “The spirit [in which it is sung] does not even constitute hate speech,” he told the court. Hanekom said there was no intention to do harm or incite violence when the song was sung. “It’s in a friendly atmosphere,” he said, adding that he would support a national dialogue in this regard. “… We need to talk to each other a bit more,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


1,000 Migrants Evacuated From Lampedusa

Lampedusa, 20 April — (AKI) — One thousand migrants from North Africa set sail from Lampedusa island on Wednesday, headed for detention centres on nearby Sicily and the Italian mainland.

Most of the migrants are asylum-seekers who reached the tiny southernmost Italian island late on Tuesday aboard a fishing hulk after setting sail from the Libyan coast.

The Italian ferry ‘Flaminia’ will take some of the migrants to centres in the Sicilian port city of Catania, and Crotone and Bari, respectivly in Italy’s southern Calabria and Puglia regions.

Bad weather prevented other migrants landings on Lampedusa Wednesday, but 36 Tunisian migrants reached the Italian island of Pantelleria, which lies about 70 kilometres from the Tunisian coast. They had been abandoned at sea by the people smugglers and were due to be transferred to the western Sicilian coastal city of Trapani on Wednesday.

Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday he suspected embattled Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi had allowed the people-smuggling boat to set sail on Tuesday from western Libyan port of Zuwarah.

Gaddafi may have decided to allow the people traffickers to operate in retaliation for international support for rebels who have for two months been trying to end his 42-year rule in Libya, Frattini claimed.

The rebels’ Libyan National Transitional Council would provide Italy with evidence on whether “the Gaddafi regime was starting to organise the trafficking of human beings, as it had threatened to do, from that port,” Frattini told a committee of Italy’s lower house of parliament.

The passengers aboard the Libyan boat that reached Lampedusa Tuesday included 50 minors including a newborn baby and around 60 women, several of whom were pregnant.

Many hundreds of migrants have drowned in the treacherous waters of the Channel of Sicily this year alone.

Over 26,000 migrants — mainly Tunisians — have reached Lampedusa from North Africa since January, amid the turmoil that has rocked the Arab region.

Italy has issued tens of thousands of migrants with temporary visas allowing them to travel around much of Europe, angering France, where many say they want to find work.

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

36 Tunisians Detained in Pantelleria

(AGI) Palermo — Last night, 36 Tunisians were intercepted by the Pantelleria Carabinieri. The migrants landed under their own power, escaping detection, and are currently sheltered at the former Army barracks “Barone”.

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

Denmark: Roma Deportations Judged Unlawful

The Immigration Ministry cancelled the deportation orders for 14 Romá people — commonly called ‘gypsies’ — who were arrested last summer in Amager and ordered to leave Denmark within 24 hours. The arrests were part of an organised raid by police last July, in which a group of 23 Roma people, who were living in an abandoned post office in the Amager district of Copenhagen, were arrested and issued deportation orders by the Immigration Service. In addition to administrative deportations, the Romá — a number of which are also Romanian citizens — received two-year bans on returning to Denmark. On Monday, however, the Immigration Ministry sent the group’s lawyers a letter stating that the deportation was insufficiently grounded and therefore violated both Danish and EU laws, reports Politiken newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Minister Stands Firm on Romanian, Bulgarian Work Permits

Social affairs minister Henk Kamp has told farming and employer organisations he will not back down on plans to get tough on visas for Romanian and Bulgarian workers from July 1.

The minister says there are enough unemployed Dutch nationals and other EU workers already in the Netherlands who can do seasonal agricultural work.

Although Bulgaria and Romania are members of the EU, their nationals still require a permit to work in the Netherlands.

Legal action

Market gardeners in the south of the country are to press ahead with their legal action against Kamp. They argue he has changed the rules in the middle of the season, putting their harvests at risk.

A group of some 2,000 Romanians have worked in the region’s orchards and strawberry fields for years.

Kamp has told the state-run jobs agency UWV that work permits for people from Bulgaria and Romania may only be issued under very strict circumstances.

In 2010, the UWV gave permits to 2,734 Romanian and 866 Bulgarians to do temporary agricultural jobs. This means 97% of seasonal work is done by people without a work permit, Kamp said.

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

Culture Wars

The Left-Wing Librarian Who Won’t Let My Children Read Tintin

Although libraries in my part of London have been consolidated into one central branch, they’re still a great “resource”. But the last time I took my children to our local library, all was not well I’m afraid. First, a rather severe senior librarian insisted on delivering a piece of Left-wing agitprop about the cuts and the probable effect of the Government’s drastic austerity measures on library opening times.Then we went into the children’s section which was supervised by another librarian and you could see at a glance she was friendlier than her stern colleague. She was slightly chubby and very cheery.

I noticed they had dozens of Asterix books but only a handful of elderly, dog-eared Tintins. “Got any more Tintin books?” I asked the nice librarian. “Well,” she replied in a conspiratorial whisper. “I did try ordering some, but was told by my superior that I wasn’t allowed to.” “Why not?” I queried. “Because they weren’t politically correct,” she replied. Just to be sure, I said to her: “So they actually used those words, ‘not politically correct’, did they?” “As far as I can remember, yes,” she said. Her hushed tone indicated that she was terrified of a colleague over-hearing and no doubt reporting her to the relevant authorities and getting her dismissed.

So how bad are Tintins? Are they really appalling? I mean, I wasn’t asking for Tintin in the Congo or anything. It’s decades since I’ve read any of Hergé’s masterly comic books, not since French exchange trips. So I went home and looked out a collectors’ edition of the 1946 full-colour album version of Tintin in the Congo which I bought when it was published in English a few years ago but had never opened.

Now I’ve read the book and there’s no doubt the stereotyping is appalling to modern eyes. The crudely exaggerated physiognomy of the Africans in the illustrations, and the characterisation of natives of Congo as unintelligent and lazy — no author would get away with this kind of thing today, or would want to. On arrival Tintin hires a grinning “boy” as a manservant called Coco. All this is incredibly unsound — almost hilariously so. Even Hergé recognised that as a young man he had reflected the colonial stereotyping of the period.

But what’s almost as shocking about this instalment in the Tintin series is the attitude to killing animals or big game. Killing proud wild creatures is treated as comedy. Our hero jams a crocodile’s jaws open and leaves it, we presume, to starve to death. Snowy bites off a lion’s tail. Tintin shoots lots of antelope one after another, and they are pictured lying dead in a heap (admittedly rather bloodlessly). Most shocking, he shoots more than one chimpanzee. He even skins one of them and uses the hide as a comic disguise. There’s lots more in this vein.

Tintin in the Congo all looks extremely old-fashioned. It could almost be depicting events on another planet. I suppose some of it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. But on the other hand what would be the point in banning it? It should be read with the proviso that it reflects old attitudes that have since changed. It’s of its time, a period piece. Many writers had a different notion of racial difference back then. There’s worse “racism” in boys’ adventure novels of the early 20th century. I also read Tintin in Tibet recently and, like most Tintin, that has a pleasing travelogue quality. It’s also completely innocent and ideologically immaculate, like, I suspect, nearly all of Tintin. Part of the charm is the colourful illustration of exotic peoples and parts of the world which most of us are unlikely to have visited. They’re not to be taken as documentaries. They are, after all, only cartoons. And it’s miserable to ban them.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Give Backing to Christian Electrician Persecuted for Cross in Van

Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders last night offered support to electrician Colin Atkinson who faces the sack for making a stand over his Christian beliefs.

The religious leaders joined former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to demand that the 64-year-old grandfather be allowed to mark Easter by displaying a tiny palm cross in his work van.

Mr Atkinson has been thrown out of his workplace and fears he will lose his job at Wakefield District Housing (WDH) because he refuses to remove the cross.

Christian leaders have condemned his treatment as ‘scandalous’.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey described Mr Atkinson’s case as ‘an outrage’.

And last night Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs added their voices to the uproar.

Niranjan Vakhaira, President of the Hindu Charitable Trust in Leeds, West Yorks., said: ‘Everybody has the right to preach their own religion.

‘I don’t see how anyone can take offence at this cross, the employers are definitely in the wrong.

‘Every human being has the right to follow his faith, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody.

‘If it hasn’t harmed anybody then I don’t see the logic in telling him to remove it.’

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute, said: ‘I can’t see any problem at all in displaying this symbol.

‘I can’t see how this would offend anybody.

‘I really don’t think people should become so touchy about these things.

‘You have to respect other people’s feelings and beliefs.’

A spokesman for the Sikh Education Council said: ‘We find it difficult to understand why an employer would terminate someone’s employment for having a crucifix in their vehicle.

‘We suggest the employer should rethink their actions in this particular case.

‘Sikhs believe in freedom of expression and freedom of belief with respect.

‘As long as what someone is doing is doing it with respect for other people we would support their right to practice as they see fit.’

WDH bosses claim they are trying to hammer out a compromise with Mr Atkinson that will allow him to practice his faith at work with dignity.

But one, Environment Manager Denis Doody, was arrested by police after he assaulted a Daily Mail photographer covering the story.

Mr Doody has a poster of communist revolutionary Che Guevara on the wall of his office.

And a Muslim clerical worker at WDH headquarters has a Koranic verse hanging in the windscreen of the car she uses for work.

Last night WDH chief executive Kevin Dodd maintained it was “unacceptable” for Mr Atkinson to have the Christian cross on display in his work van as it was crucial for the organisation to maintain ‘neutrality’.

But WDH executive director of people Gillian Pickersgill added she was powerless to stop the Muslim worker displaying the Koranic verse.

She told the Daily Mail: “Our corporate policy is that there can be no personal items displayed in company vehicles.

“We advise our managers that they should not display personal items in their cars when they use them for work purposes but we cannot enforce this. These are their own cars.”

Last night WDH was accused of rank hypocrisy.

Former Home Office Minister and devout Christian Ann Widdecombe said: ‘This is proof positive that WDH are anti-Christian rather than neutral.

‘Where is the difference between the cross for a Christian and a verse from the Koran for a Muslim.’

Mike Judge from the Christian Institute said: ‘The injustice is plain to everyone except the equality bureaucrats.

‘The company will allow an Islamic burka but not a Christian cross.

‘When it comes to equality Christians are pushed out into the cold.

‘This latest example shows the anti-Christian bias at WDH.’

Colin’s ordeal began last year after bosses received an anonymous letter claiming tenants may be offended by the 8-inch cross in the van.

He refused to remove it and was accused of rejecting a ‘reasonable’ management complaint.

Mr Atkinson and his Unite union rep had argued there was nothing in company rules prohibiting the cross. Hindu and Sikh colleagues appeared as witnesses in his defence.

WDH promotes its inclusive policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols — including burkas — at work.

But it changed company policy on Christmas Eve last year banning all personal effects in its vehicles.

In January Mr Atkinson was reported for continuing to display the cross in the van and last week WDH concluded he had breached company rules.

The electrician says he expects to lose his job.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]