News Feed 20111014

Financial Crisis
» Belgium: Revolt to Save the Steel Industry
» Emails Expose #occupywallstreet Conspiracy to Destablize Global Markets and Governments
» Kansas City Bishop is Indicted for Failing to Report Abuse
» Mosque Invites Public to Discussion of Islamic Holy Days
» Our First Concession to Sharia Law: Slavery
» Soros Denies Funding Wall Street Protests
» A Place for Muslims to Meet and Pray
» Open House on Islam — Saturday
Europe and the EU
» Cyprus on the World Stage
» Finnish Schools to Teach Islam
» France: Starbucks Withdraws Controversial Poster
» Greece: Historic Byzantine and Venetian Fortresses at Risk
» In Italian Heartland, Indians Keep the Cheese Coming
» Italy: General Graziano Appointed Army Chief of Staff
» Norway: Police Doubt Breivik’s Claim of 80 Terrorist Cells
» Norwegian Teachers Less Brainy Than Before: Study
» UK: Abusive Yobs Could Avoid Prosecution Under Proposals
» UK: Bookseller Accused of ‘Priming People for Terrorism’
» UK: Birmingham Bookshop Owner Ahmed Faraz Faces Terror Charges
» UK: Law That Put Poppy Burning Fanatics in the Dock Faces the Axe
» UK: Meet Moazzem Begg: Al-Qaeda and Taliban Supporter and Latest Guardian Contributor
» UK: No Arrest for Poppy Attacks in Shake-Up
North Africa
» About 7,000 Arrested by Libya’s NTC, UN Says
» Destruction of Copts is Islamically Correct
» Egypt’s State Media Implicated in Violence Against Christian Demonstrators
» Egypt: Muslims Pelt Funeral Procession With Bricks as Coptic Church Condemns Attack, Calls for Three-Day Fast
» Hillary Clinton Promises to Save Egypt’s Christians?
» Italy: ENI Reopens Greenstream Pipeline From Libya
» Libyan Sufi Mosques Attacked
» Tunisia Police Teargas Protest at ‘Blasphemous’ TV Station
Israel and the Palestinians
» A Deal With the Devil
Middle East
» Saudi-Backed Institute for “Tolerance” And Irony Appreciation Inaugurated in Vienna
South Asia
» Indonesia: About ‘1.8 Million People’ Have Terror Links
» Indonesia: Bogor Yasmin Church Controversy: Authorities “Manipulating” Videos to Slander Christians
» Malaysia: Selangor Dances the Limbo for JAIS
» Malaysia: Grateful for Timely Royal Intervention
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Bashir Says Sudan Will Adopt Islamic Constitution
» Nigeria: Islam Not Related to Violence — Al-Mu’minaat
» Officials in Sudan Threaten to Raze Three Church Buildings
» Sudan to Become Africa’s First Theocracy
» Europeans Up Sticks

Financial Crisis

Belgium: Revolt to Save the Steel Industry

Le Soir, 14 October 2011

Following the announcement of the definitive closure of the two blast furnaces in Liege on October 12 by the world’s number-one steel producer, ArcelorMittal India, the latter has become “the detonator of social fatigue”, leads Le Soir. Out of the 3000 people employed by the ArcelorMittal group in Liege, one of the cradles of the European steel industry, some 600 will be directly affected by this closure. Belgian unions are mobilising to protest “the gangsters’ methods” of the group, which is expected to rake in more than three billion euros in profit this year.

Coming hard on the heels of the Dexia affair, the shut-down of Liège is a “hard return to reality,” notes the editor of Le Soir, Béatrice Delvaux: “This Belgium, cut off from the world, was living as if our only problems on earth were how to split up a district [the BHV] and how to protect the Flemings from having to live with Francophones…. With Dexia, we are victims of a rogue financial capitalism that has lived off of bubbles, lies and deceptions and that has suddenly lost its footing. With Arcelor, we are being hit by the polar shift in growth around the world: an Indian group, capitalist after our own fashion, decided to wipe us off its map of production plants. A country that is booming is bypassing a country sunk into decadence.”

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


Emails Expose #occupywallstreet Conspiracy to Destablize Global Markets and Governments

In keeping with the new media notion of crowdsourcing—enthusiastically embraced by the mainstream media when trawling through Sarah Palin’s emails—Big Government will be providing readers later today with links to a document drop consisting of thousands of emails.

The email archive, created by a private cyber security researcher, appears to contain messages shared by the left’s anarcho-socialist activists during the strategic and daily tactical planning of the “Occupy Wall Street” and broader “Occupy” campaign this fall.

Big Government received a tip about the existence of the archive, and we were able to contact the individual who compiled and posted it. He will describe the archive, and how he obtained the emails, later this morning exclusively on Big Government.

Through “crowdsourcing,” the media and the public will then be able to discover the truth behind the “Occupy” movement.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy [Return to headlines]

Kansas City Bishop is Indicted for Failing to Report Abuse

The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City, Robert Finn, and the diocese he leads have been indicted by a state grand jury on a charge of “failure to report suspected child abuse” in the case of a priest who had been accused of taking lewd photographs of young girls.

The indictment is the first ever of a Catholic bishop in the 25 years since the scandal over sexual abuse by priests first became public in the United States.

[Return to headlines]

Mosque Invites Public to Discussion of Islamic Holy Days

Members of the Zubaida Foundation are inviting people of all backgrounds to their mosque in Lower Makefield on Sunday afternoon to examine and discuss what is common between religious faiths, an organizer said. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same roots in Abraham, said Brother Mohammed Husain, a foundation member and organizer of the free event, which includes a discussion and lunch. The ties to Abraham will serve as a focal point, he said. “If you want people to understand each other, you have to explore what is common between them,” Husain said. “We have to sit down at the same table to get to know each other and then maybe some of the stereotypes will go away. We will be in a little better condition and maybe we will be able to trust each other.”

To help visitors better understand their faith, mosque speakers will discuss the Hajj, a Pilgrimage in Islam, and Eid Al Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice that marks the end of the pilgrimage. Hajj, the religious high point for a Muslim, means “to set out for a place,” according to Millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage each year to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to praise and pray to Allah (God) as the Prophet Muhammad did during his last visit to the city. Muslims who are “physically and financially able” are required to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. The Hajj is one of the five “pillars” of Islam.

The pillars, which also include faith or belief in Allah (God), establishment of the five daily prayers, concern for and almsgiving to the needy and self-purification through fasting during Ramadan, are meant to help Muslims form the foundation of their faith. The next Hajj will be in early November. It is based each year on the lunar calendar. Eid al Adha, at the end of Hajj, is called the Festival of Sacrifice and serves as a commemoration of Abraham’s trials.

As part of the holiday, Muslims slaughter a sheep, camel or goat. Most of the meat is given away to friends and the poor to symbolize a Muslim’s willingness to give up things of benefit in order to follow Allah, religion experts said. One-fifth of the world’s population practices the Islamic faith, according to religion experts. The Lower Makefield mosque, which has been housed off Big Oak Road since 2006, has between 100 and 120 members, Husain said. Mosque members are looking forward to discussing their faith with those of different backgrounds Sunday, the organizer said. “This is an opportunity to get to know who we are and what we believe in,” Husain said.

Joan Hellyer: 215-949-4048; email:; Twitter: @BCCTintheknow

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Our First Concession to Sharia Law: Slavery

by Bryan Fischer

Our next president must be a man who uses the resources at his disposal to resist, reject and prevent the implementation of Sharia law anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances in the United States. Sharia law is already making encroachments in American culture in large ways and small, whether it’s Target cashiers getting a pass for refusing to serve customers who want to buy bacon, or Christians being arrested for handing out free copies of the gospel of John to Muslims on a public sidewalk.

But making concessions to Sharia law over against the moral code of the Judeo-Christian tradition is nothing new for America. We started doing it in 1619 when we began to tolerate the slave trade, as the first shipment of 30 African slaves arrived on the shores of Virginia.

By the way, the first legally recognized slave in America, John Casor, was actually the property of a black man, a colonist by the name of Anthony Johnson. A Northampton County court ruled in 1654 that Casor was “owned” by Johnson, and was his property for life. There were many black slave-holders in the South at the outbreak of the Civil War, and many of them took up arms against the North. Here’s how Thomas Sowell puts it: “[T]here were thousands of … blacks in the antebellum south who were commercial slave owners, just like their white counterparts. An estimated one-third of the ‘free persons of color’ in New Orleans were slaveowners and thousands of these slaveowners volunteered to fight for the Confederacy…”

The slaves who were brought here in chains in 1619 were Africans who had been kidnapped by other Africans and sold to slave traders who in turn brought them to America. The kidnappers, the ones who went into the interior of Africa to capture their fellow Africans to sell them into bondage, were predominantly Muslims. In fact, according to Thomas Sowell, a million or more Europeans were enslaved by Muslim pirates from North Africa from 1500-1800, and whites were sold at slave auctions in Egypt until at least the year 1885. Muslims still openly practice slavery today in places like Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Muhammad himself practiced slavery, and directed his followers to do the same. Since Muhammad is the ultimate role model for Muslims, and Muslims believe that everything he did will be worthy of imitation until the end of time, slavery will always have moral approval in Islam. Estimates are that over 17 million slaves were transported out of Africa by Islamic slave traders, and a staggering 85 million are believed to have died en route. About 645,000 of those wound up in what became the United States.

Quoting Sowell: “…the region of West Africa…was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent — before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western HemisphereArabs were the leading slave raiders in East Africa, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe.” (Emphasis mine.)

Now, in contrast to Islam and Sharia, the Judeo-Christian tradition from day one has been adamantly opposed to the slave trade. The civil code of ancient Israel did provide, as America did, for indentured servitude, which was voluntary and had statutory limits after which emancipation was required. As many as two-thirds of the English settlers who came to America in the 17th century came as indentured servants. Ancient Israel also allowed prisoners of war to be held as slaves, just as the United States did with German POWs in WWII. Planeloads of German POWs were brought to the South and worked in the fields until the end of the war. We couldn’t send them home, where they would take up arms again and kill us, and we didn’t want to execute them. Servitude was the only compassionate alternative. And it was the same in ancient Israel.

But Moses flatly prohibited the slave trade under penalty of death. “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:16). In other words, if a strictly biblical code had been followed in 1619, the slave trader who brought that ship to Virginia would have been arrested the moment he landed, prosecuted and hung by the neck until dead. The slaves on board would have been returned to their families and their homelands, and slavery would never have gained a foothold in the United States.

But sadly, we made our first concession to Sharia law in 1619 instead of being guided by the wisdom of Scripture, and we have paid a terrible price for it. Slavery became our first national sin, as abortion is today. The slave trade is flatly prohibited in the New Testament as well. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy of the proper role of the law, and indicates that the law “is not laid down for the just,” who will not need the external coercion of the law to make responsible social choices. Their internal value system will guide their conduct in culture-affirming directions.

So the law is “for the lawless and disobedient…for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, (and) perjurers…” (1 Timothy 1:9-10, ESV).

The word translated “enslavers” (andropodistes) literally means a “man who brings others to his feet.” The lexicons define the word this way: “a slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer, one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery, or steals slaves of others and sells them.” So if the early colonists had followed either the Old or New Testaments, the slave trade would have been treated as criminal behavior from the very beginning, and America never would have been plagued with all the myriad evils that slavery and racism have brought to our land.

As Sowell has pointed out, the real question is not what created slavery but what ended it. And it was evangelical, Tea Party-types who brought this horrific and barabaric practice to an end. Sowell: “While slavery was common to all civilizations, as well as to peoples considered uncivilized, only one civilization developed a moral revulsion against it, very late in its history…not even the leading moralists in other civilizations rejected slavery at all….Moreover, within Western civilization, the principle impetus for the abolition of slavery came first from very conservative religious activists — people who would today be called ‘the religious right.’…this story is not ‘politically correct’ in today’s terms. Hence it is ignored, as if it never happened.“ (Emphasis mine.)

Bottom line: If the Scriptures had been followed instead of Sharia law, there would have been no slavery in America, no Civil War, and no racial unrest. Let’s stop Sharia in its tracks everywhere before we make another disastrous concession to this dark and dangerous religion.

Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Soros Denies Funding Wall Street Protests

(AGI) Houston — After saying he “understands their state of mind”, billionaire and finance guru George Soros has denied having financed the Wall Street ‘indignados’. This statement made a few days ago had resulted in controversies and allegations, including one by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh about financial aid provided to protesters by Soros. Spokesman Michael Vachon said that “Soros has not financed protesters directly or indirectly, and these allegations are simply an attempt to question the movement’s honesty.” ..

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


A Place for Muslims to Meet and Pray

Estevan now boasts another example of the changing demographics in the city: a place for Muslims to gather for their daily prayers, and a spot where they can meet, interact and learn more about what is offered in the city. The Abu Bakkar Al-Siddiq Musallah and Dawah Centre opened on October 8. It’s located at the Pine Tree Plaza’s east entrance, at the intersection of Fifth Street and 11th Avenue in Estevan.

Three local men — Ilyas Brant-Zakariyya, Isxaaq Jimale and Mohamed Warsame — came together to open the centre. They found a location, negotiated the rent and did other work to get it open. Brant-Zakariyya was born in Canada and converted to Islam in 2007. When he moved from Toronto to Estevan in February, he noticed that Estevan didn’t have a building where Muslims could gather. And there wasn’t a way to know how many Muslims there were in Estevan, either. “We found there are about 30 or 40 of us here,” said Brant-Zakariyya. “Part of our faith is the masiad. We call this a musallah because it’s small and we don’t have an imam to lead. An imam would be equal to a preacher or a minister in the church.”

The three men who opened up the musallah have met people that they didn’t know previously. As many as 20 people have been coming for prayers. “It changes depending on the time of day, because people have been working, or are just getting off of work,” said Brant-Zakariyya. “This time — the second afternoon prayer — is usually lower in numbers than the other prayers.” He admitted that he was somewhat surprised to find so many Muslim in Estevan. He expected there would be some among the city’s transient population, but he didn’t think there would be as many Muslims who are full-time residents.

Muslims pray five times daily, but the times change based on the time of year and the position of the sun and the moon. In mid-October, prayer times are typically about 6:10 a.m., 1 p.m., 5:15 p.m., shortly after 6 p.m., and 8:45 p.m. During the summer months, those prayer times differ significantly. “About the earliest prayer comes at about 3 a.m., … and the last prayer will be at 11 p.m.,” said Brant-Zakariyya. The centre opens at about 1 p.m. each day and it remains open until after the final prayer time is finished.

It is also a place where Muslims who are new to the community can learn more about the city. People who aren’t of the Islamic faith are invited to drop by and have their questions answered about the beliefs of Brant-Zakariyya, Warsame, Jimale, and more than a billion people around the world. Warsame and Jimale are both originally from Somalia. Jimale has been in Canada for three years; he came to the country from Kenya after leaving Somalia. He has been in several cities; the most recent was Regina. Jimale arrived in Estevan about a year-and-a-half ago.

“When I came to Estevan, the Muslims rarely knew each other, or knew where each one was,” said Jimale. “Now that we have this centre, more people will be able to gather here, and we’ll actually be able to keep in contact.” Warsame immigrated to Canada two years ago to work in Edmonton. He relocated to Estevan in February. All three of them look forward to working with other faith-based groups in the community to improve the lives of people in the city. “Essentially, how we feel as a community is that Christianity, Judaism and Islam, we are all, at the end of the day, worshiping the same creator,” said Brant-Zakariyya. “There’s no reason we can’t all work together in the community, to help the community be more successful. Food drives, clothing drives, what have you, we’re more than open to work with other people of faith to help out the community of Estevan.”

Not only do they want to be a part of the community, but they want people to have a better understanding of their faith. Islam is based on peace and submission, not hatred. Everything in the world is Allah’s creation, Brant-Zakariyya said. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, Brant-Zakariyya said, but it’s been a few thousand criminals who have led many to have negative perceptions of Islam. Brant-Zakariyya backs up his claims by pointing to a couple teachings from the Prophet Muhammad: nobody has true faith until they wish for their brother that which they wish for themselves; and Muslims who are intentionally unjust to Christians or Jews will face Muhammad as their accuser, and not as their intercessor.

Brant-Zakariyya, Jimale and Warsame would like to hire an imam to lead the musallah, but first they need more people. Regina and Saskatoon have imams that guide their centres, and preside over marriages and funerals. “It would give us more knowledge,” said Warsame. “It would give us ideas. If we have any questions, we would be able to go to him for answers.”

Moose Jaw and Swift Current also have a musallah, but not an imam. An imam from Regina will be coming to Estevan soon to meet with the local Muslim community and assist with establishing roles at the musallah. They would like to make a connection with somebody who can prepare halal meals. “We’re required to eat halal if it’s available,” said Brant-Zakariyya. “That means it’s been taken in a way that God has made lawful. Before the animal’s life is taken, you have to put the animal completely at ease. You must use an implement that’s as sharp as you can possibly make it, and it must be hidden from the animal until just before you use it, so that you’re not taunting the animal with it.”

The animal must be killed as quickly and as painlessly as possible, so that all the blood comes out. The most important part, Brant-Zakariyya said, is that before a drop of the animal’s blood hits the ground, the person must invoke the name of Allah. There will be more space for the musallah soon, as the worship centre will relocate to the north side of the Pine Tree Plaza in December. Sisters — women who are of the Muslim faith — will then be able to use the building. There are less than 10 sisters in Estevan, Brant-Zakariyya said.

The centre is named after Abu Bakkar, who was the closest friend of the prophet Muhammad, and the first male believer of Muhammad outside of Muhammad’s family. Abu Bakkar’s nickname was As-Siddiq, which translates to “The Truthful.” A musallah is a place of prayer, and a dawah is a place to spread their faith.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Open House on Islam — Saturday

An outreach group promoting “peace” and “peaceful Islam” is holding an open house on the Holy Qur’an this Saturday at the Belleville Public Library art gallery. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Canada, said organizer Rizwan Rabbani, is an auxiliary wing of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ( ) presenting the open house. It’s part of a campaign begun over a year ago to meet Canadians from all walks of life to explain Islam and the Qur’an, said organizers of the open house. “We have been canvassing neighbourhoods throughout Canada,” said Rabbani, “promoting peace, condemning terrorism and bringing awareness about peaceful Islam.” Saturday’s open house is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Cyprus on the World Stage

by Daniel Pipes

Cyprus, an island near Turkey and Syria of roughly 1.3 million inhabitants, finds itself on the cusp of momentous change. As it belatedly makes its grand debut on the world stage after domestic Greek-Turkish communal issues have consumed its first 51 years of independence, it faces both great opportunity and great danger.

That communal problem originated in 1570, when the Ottoman Empire conquered the island and its almost entirely Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian population. Over the next three centuries, immigration from Anatolia created a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority. British rule between 1878 and 1960 left this situation basically unchanged. At the time of Cypriot independence in 1960, Turks constituted one-sixth of the population.

Second, the June 2010 discovery of gas and oil reserves (“Leviathan”) in Israel’s Mediterranean Sea exclusive economic zone, right near the Cypriot EEZ, suddenly made Cyprus a player in the world energy market. Cypriots talk of 300 trillion cubic feet worth US$4 trillion. Such numbers attract covetous gazes, especially from Ankara, which demands (via the TRNC) its share of future gas income. Further, the AKP’s escalating anti-Zionism combined with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s strategic ambitions suggest Turkish claims extending to Israeli-controlled waters. In conjunction, these two developments — growing Turkish ambitions and possible gas deposits in the trillions — link Cyprus and Israel in self-defense. Leading Greek Cypriot figures in the government, the media, and business told me during a just-concluded trip to the island about their urgent wish to build economic and security relations with Israel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Finnish Schools to Teach Islam

HELSINKI — Seeking to teach younger generations about Islam, Finland has introduced textbooks about the Islamic faith and Muslim traditions in public schools. “The stories are set in Finland so that the events would have resonance with the lives of the pupils,” Suaad Onniselka, an author of the textbook, said, reported Ahlul Bayt news agency. The new book, tilted “Salam — islamin polku (Salam — the Path of Islam), teaches pupils about the Islamic calendar and Muslim traditions. It also teaches young Finnish about other religions and the importance of tolerance for others.

The book features two Finnish Muslim children, Fatima and Adam, who visit a forest, a grandmother’s farm, and bake wheat buns. “The status of Islam as a minority religion is reflected in the fact that the stories also teach how it is possible to live along with other people even though the religion and customs are different,” said Onniselka, who teaches Islam at the lower level comprehensive school in Vesala in the east of Helsinki. The textbook is designed for the first and second school grades. Books for higher grades are currently being drafted. The Islam textbook has already won plaudits from young Finnish pupils. “The stories are good, because the girl and the boy behave well toward each other,” said 8-year-old Sami Dirie. The young child is planning to read the stories at home with his parents. For 8-year-old Inas Ahmad, the pictures in the Islam book are nice.

Imam Training

The move comes amid calls for the Finnish government to launch a training program for Muslim imams. “It’s important that members of the Islamic community-as those of other faiths-have strong ties to Finnish society, its language and culture,” said Archbishop Kari Makinen, the head of Finland’s dominant Evangelical Lutheran Church. He told a seminar on religious literacy and inter-faith cooperation on Wednesday that home-grown imams would help make Finnish Muslims feel at home. Finland has no ready formula for national imam training programs.

Finland’s neighbor the Netherland has launched a program in 2006 to train imams in an effort to promote Muslim integration into the society. “We should redefine what an imam does, and the role of this religious institution in today’s world,” said Mohamed El-Fatatry, founder of the popular Muslim online community Muxlim. “People today have a strong individual identity and won’t just accept information that’s handed down.” There are between 40,000 to 45,000 Muslims among Finland’s 5.2 million population. Islam was introduced to Finland by Baltic Tatars at the end of the 19th century. The Baltic Tatars arrived in Finland as merchants and soldiers at the end of the 19th century. They were later joined by other family members.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

France: Starbucks Withdraws Controversial Poster

Starbucks France has run into trouble with an anti-pickpocketing poster which some customers found racist. The poster by the American coffee company shows a man with dark skin surrounded by arrows pointing at a mobile phone, a laptop, a rucksack and a wallet. The text on the poster reads: “Be on your guard against unusual behaviour from a stranger. Don’t let pickpockets spoil your moment of relaxation at Starbucks. Keep an eye on your belongings.” A customer in a Paris branch of the store took offence when he saw the poster and alerted anti-racist group, SOS Racisme. The group demanded the withdrawal of the poster, saying it “targeted a minority” and attributed “delinquent behaviour” to them, reported newspaper Ouest-France.

Starbucks rushed to insist the man on the poster was supposed to represent a customer, not the thief. A similar poster shows a white woman instead of the man. “The posters have been misunderstood,” said a spokesperson. “People thought it was a pickpocket but the drawings represented clients.” Starbucks, which employs 1,000 people in France, has withdrawn the posters from its stores.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Historic Byzantine and Venetian Fortresses at Risk

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 3 — Fortresses — symbols of the wealth and power of the Byzantine and Venetian period and built on Greek territory from the V to the XV century to provide protection for the population — are an important part of the cultural heritage of Greece, where they are found almost everywhere. Most of them are located in the Peloponnese where — according to Dimitris Athanasoulis, director of the 25th Superintendence of Byzantine Antiquities — only in the Messinia (in the southern Peloponnese) zone there are over 50. The problem is that they are abandoned and as time goes by they are at risk of collapse, as has already happened a number of times, and many are not even able to be reached nor visited. In order to raise awareness on this cultural wealth within the country and to help save them, the 25th Superintendence in collaboration with the Patras Architects University held an international conference on “Defensive Architecture in the Peloponnese” which — inaugurated by Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos — came to an end yesterday. Taking part in the conference were 41 experts including archaeologists, architects and historians from Greece and abroad, who discussed a number of subjects concerning fortresses in the Byzantine period, defensive works in the West and its influence on the Byzantine variety. “The identity of modern Greece,” said Minister Geroulanos in his speech, “is seen by the way in which it manages its enormous cultural heritage, the way in which it protects it and with which it spreads knowledge of it to every corner of the globe.” As part of these initiatives to raise awareness of this type of cultural heritage in Greece, Greece’s Central Archaeological Council has decided recently to valorise the Pylos Fortress, also known as Niocastro, which was built by the Ottomans in 1573 shorting after their defeat in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

The city’s Archaeological Museum will soon be transferred inside of it, in which exhibitions will be held and a film will be shown with the historical reconstruction of the naval battle of Navarino.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

In Italian Heartland, Indians Keep the Cheese Coming

PESSINA CREMONESE, ITALY — Alongside common local last names like Ferrari and Galli, the telephone directories for the province of Cremona have been registering an increasingly present surname: Singh.

For the past 20 years, Indian immigrants from Punjab have been settling in Italy’s agricultural heartland to work primarily on farms, often as bergamini, as dairy workers are known in the native dialect.

It has been said that if the Indian workers went on strike, production of Grana Padano, the hard, grainy, spaghetti-topper that this tract of the Po Valley is known for, would shut down.

“Well, I don’t know if production would stop, but it would certainly create many difficulties,” said Simone Solfanelli, the president of the Cremona chapter of Coldiretti, Italy’s largest agricultural organization. “I can tell you that they are indispensable for farming,” and for the milk produced in the province — at one million tons per year, about a tenth of all milk produced in Italy, he added.

The Indians, many of whom are Sikhs, first arrived in the area just as a generation of dairy workers was retiring, with no substitutes in sight.

“They saved an economy that would have gone to the dogs because young people didn’t want to work with cows,” Mayor Dalido Malaggi of Pessina Cremonese said. Though the dairy industry is mostly mechanized today, human labor is still necessary 365 days a year, he explained.

The work is split in two four-hour shifts per day, about 12 hours apart. “Young Italians don’t want to work those kinds of hours,” he said. “They’d prefer to work in factories and have evenings and weekends free.”

It was a fortunate match, because many of the immigrants already knew what it took to keep a farm running.

“This is dairy land, and many of us have cows in Punjab,” said Jaswinder Duhra, who has lived in Italy for 25 years, working first as a bergamino and then for one of Italy’s best-known cheese manufacturers. “We’re used to the work that we do here.”…

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

Italy: General Graziano Appointed Army Chief of Staff

(AGI) Rome — General Claudio Graziano has been appointed as the new Italian army chief of staff. The cabinet decided today on recommendation from Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa who said Graziano, formerly UNIFIL mission chief, was chosen “even if there were candidates with greater seniority.” .

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

Norway: Police Doubt Breivik’s Claim of 80 Terrorist Cells

Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to twin attacks in July that killed 77 people, says there are “up to 80 cells” in Europe engaged in anti-Islam crusades like his, police said on Thursday.

They added however that they did not believe his claims.

“During our interrogations, he claimed there were two other cells in Norway and probably up to 80 people, 80 cells in Europe,” police prosecutor Christian Hatlo told AFP.

“But we don’t believe it,” he said.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Norwegian Teachers Less Brainy Than Before: Study

Norwegian teachers are 10 percent “less intelligent” than they were 10 years ago according to a study by professors at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, or NHH.

Low pay is blamed for a brain drain which contributed to lower scores on a recent IQ test which teachers of a decade ago were also asked to brave. A general study of 25,000 young men entering new professions showed the golden age for teaching in Norway was the 1950s, when the best and brightest thought the profession worth the headaches.

“It has steadily gone downwards with measured IQ for male teachers,” NHH’s professor Kjell Gunnar Salvanes told TV2 news. The Local could not reach Salvanes or the report’s two other professorial co-authors.

Teachers in Norway have long been derided for “easy degrees” that translate into early childhood education diplomas in other western countries. Low Europe-wide test scores for Norwegian school children and erratic working days have also brought scorn from parents.

Salvanes surveyed only Norwegian males born between 1950 and 1980 and linked their IQ test scores to choice of profession at the age of 18. On a scale of one to nine, those saying they would become teachers fared one point better in 1950 than those in 1980.

“Teachers scored relatively higher compared to the rest of the population, but scoring so much less than earlier (in the century) is dramatic,” according to Salvanes. He and his colleagues found that as many as 30 percent of teachers leave the profession for better prospects elsewhere.

Although a modest-for-Norway salary was attributed for the flight from teaching, teachers The Local spoke to said pay was secondary to a long list of other grievances that included having to parrot buzzwords conveyed from the Education Ministry; a painful powerlessness to discipline unruly students and the general stress caused by mixing an untidy planning schedule with classroom conditions.

In general, ex-teachers said they lamented the loss of their famously long summer vacations but not the unrelenting stress of a teaching day short on teaching.

The labour economics expert Salvanes did not respond to our calls, and his colleagues could not be reached to answer the following questions: Why were just men studied? Did the IQ tests change?

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

UK: Abusive Yobs Could Avoid Prosecution Under Proposals

Abusive troublemakers who call British soldiers murderers or burn poppies on Remembrance Day could escape prosecution under moves to scrap “insulting behaviour” as a criminal offence.

Thugs who swear at police officers or even use racist language could also avoid arrest under any changes to the law. However, in a separate move police are to be given the power to create “no-go areas” with blanket curfew orders and be able to order people to remove face coverings, in proposals being discussed.

The Home Office is consulting on whether to remove the word “insulting” from the public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. It follows pressure that its inclusion has resulted in petty arrests such as a student who called a police horse “gay” and a teenager who labelled the Church of Scientology a “cult”. However, charges were dropped against them and changing the law would mean genuinely abusive people would also escape arrest such as the Luton anti-war protesters who accused British soldiers of being “terrorists” and “Butchers of Basra”. A Muslim who burned two poppies during the two minute silence in last year’s Remembrance Day commemorations may also have escaped prosecution if the law had been changed then.

Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, of the UK National Defence Association, questioned why the law could not be drafted so flippant remarks or jokes would be excluded. “I would be concerned if the result was that we have groups of anarchists hurling abuse at our soldiers, sailors and airmen and getting away with it.” Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP and former Army officer, said: “There is a narrow path to be walked on this but there is no question that the language that was hurled at soldiers in Luton was totally offensive and disrespectful.

“That must be borne in mind when the legislation is being looked at.”

In June, police chiefs were accused of surrendering to foul-mouthed yobs after it emerged the Metropolitan Police had issued internal guidance to officers telling them not to arrest them. The internal guidance suggested an officer who is the subject of the abuse would not be upset by it and it therefore would not cause harm. In other measures, yesterday’s consultation document examined giving police more powers to tackle yobs, especially during times of disorder, in the wake of the summer riots. Under new curfew plans, officers would be able to bar anyone from being in entire areas for a certain period of time if there was a risk of public disorder. It raises the prospect of parts of a town or city centre being effectively closed down to the public to prevent violence or disturbances. There are also proposals to give police to power to order a scarf, mask or other face covering to be removed if they suspect the individual is or is about to be involved in crime.

The consultation was published yesterday as police representatives and academics from around the world met at the Home Office for a seminar on tackling gangs. Officials from the United States, Jamaica, France, Spain, Sweden and Austria gathered for a private meeting at the start of what is hoped will become a lasting international network of experts on gangs. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, hosted the event, which was promised in the wake of the riots. Guests included US “supercop” Bill Bratton who was to share his experiences tackling gangs as head of police departments in New York, Boston and Los Angeles over the last two decades.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Bookseller Accused of ‘Priming People for Terrorism’

Ahmed Faraz sold books and DVDs intended to radicalise Muslims, a court hears

A graduate who trained to be a teacher used his Birmingham bookshop as a front to distribute extremist material intended to “prime people for terrorism”, a court was told on Thursday. Ahmed Faraz is accused of selling books and DVDs intended to radicalise Muslims and provide “practical assistance” to those wishing to commit acts of terrorism.

The 32-year-old is charged with selling items that ended up in the hands of “infamous terrorists” including Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7 July 2005 bombings, a jury at Kingston crown court in south-west London was told.

“This case is about the distribution of books and DVDs and other material which we say represent steps along the road to radicalisation of Muslims to engage in violent terrorist attacks around the world, including the UK,” said the prosecuting lawyer, Max Hill QC. “This case is also about the ways and means by which to solidify that radicalisation and provide practical assistance for those who have been radicalised. To encapsulate it in a single phrase, this case is about priming people for terrorism,” he added.

Faraz, who has a BA and a PGCE teaching qualification from the University of Birmingham, denies 30 counts linked to the Maktabah al-Ansar bookshop and online business that he ran in Birmingham. Although he is not connected to any specific terrorist plot, the court was told that those convicted of plotting to blow up planes over the Atlantic owned material published by Maktabah al-Ansar. “Several of the publications distributed by this defendant did end up in the hands of individuals, many of them now notorious — or infamous — terrorists who have stood trial in English courtrooms such as this in the last five years and are now serving long prison sentences, having been found guilty of plotting to terrorise the British public,” said Hill. “These individuals include those plotting to blow up transatlantic planes. In addition, items on this indictment were found in the hands of terrorists including one who is not serving time in prison — Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 plot in which 52 London commuters died and in which Khan himself also perished.”

The case continues.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham Bookshop Owner Ahmed Faraz Faces Terror Charges

A bookshop owner from Birmingham has gone on trial accused of “priming” Muslims for terrorism worldwide. Ahmed Faraz allegedly distributed extremist books and videos in a bid to encourage attacks by Muslims. Kingston Crown Court heard that the ringleader of the 7 July London suicide bombings owned material distributed by Mr Faraz and his business.

The Birmingham University graduate denies 30 charges of distributing or possessing terrorism-related material. Max Hill QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Faraz, 32, was not accused of being part of a specific plot.

Beheading video

Mr Hill said: “This case is about the distribution of books, DVDs and other material that we say represents steps along the road to radicalisation of Muslims to engage in violent terrorist attacks against the military and civilian populations of countries around the world, including the UK. “The case is also about the ways and means of solidifying that radicalisation. This is about priming people for terrorism.” The jury heard that at the heart of the case was a bookshop and online business in Birmingham called Maktabah al-Ansar.

Police raided properties linked to the business and Mr Faraz in 2007 and 2010 and seized large quantities of material that expert witnesses say is designed to encourage violence, terrorism and martyrdom. The material included videos of hostage-takings and beheadings, said Mr Hill. The jury would watch heavily edited versions so that they could understand how the films had been designed to radicalise the viewer.

Airline plot ‘link’

Mr Hill told the jury that police had found that some of the material distributed by Maktabah had been in the hands of men behind the UK’s most serious plots, including Mohammed Sidique Khan, the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers. Some of the men jailed for life for the foiled 2006 airline bomb plot also had Maktabah material. Mr Hill told the jury that during the coming weeks, an expert witness would take them through hundreds of pages of Islamic texts and demonstrate how Mr Faraz had adapted them to provide “a clarion call to terrorist violence”. Ahmed Faraz denies 19 counts of dissemination of terrorist publications and a further 11 counts of possession of information useful for terrorism.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Law That Put Poppy Burning Fanatics in the Dock Faces the Axe

Restriction on ‘insulting’ speech is unfair, say civil liberties groups

A law used to prosecute Muslim extremists for burning poppies on Remembrance Sunday is set to be scrapped.

The proposal is part of Home Office changes to public order laws in the wake of the summer riots, which will also see police given new powers to impose blanket curfews and to force rioters to remove face masks.

Currently it is an offence to use ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ words in public, under section five of the Public Order Act 1986.

But civil liberties groups claim the restriction on ‘insulting’ speech is an unfair curb on free speech.

Religious groups have also criticised the law because the police have used it to arrest harmless Christian protesters.

A member of Muslims Against Crusades, Emdadur Choudhury, was successfully prosecuted under the Act after burning two huge poppies during the two-minute silence marking the country’s war dead last November.

Choudhury, from Bethnal Green, East London, outraged war veterans by yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’. He was fined £50.

Sentencing him in March, District Judge Howard Riddle said: ‘The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance, was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.

‘If the memory of dead soldiers is publicly insulted at a time and place where there is likely to be gathered people who have expressly attended to honour those soldiers, then the threat to public order is obvious.

But other cases in which the Act has been used by police have provoked outrage. In 2006 an Oxford University student on a night out asked a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay.

After refusing to pay an £80 fine he was held overnight in a police cell before charges were dropped.

The law was also used to arrest two Christian hoteliers accused of asking a Muslim guest if she was a murderer and a terrorist because she was wearing a hijab.

But the judge dismissed the case after a two-day trial because the prosecution witnesses were unreliable.

In May 2008 City of London police charged a teenager under section 5 for demonstrating outside the Church of Scientology in central London with a placard which said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’ Charges were dropped when prosecutors accepted the word cult was not insulting.

A group of MPs have backed an amendment to the Freedoms Bill currently passing through Parliament calling for section 5 to be amended to remove ‘insulting’ speech or behaviour.

Home Office proposals published yesterday argue serious and distressing conduct would still be prosecuted because it would be considered either abusive or threatening.

They would give police a ‘general curfew power’ allowing them to keep members of the public off the streets in a certain area at particular times if there is ‘serious disorder’.

Decisions would be made by a senior officer and would be based on ‘credible intelligence of a serious threat’.

Police can only force someone to remove a mask in a certain area if there is a threat of violence. The new powers would ditch the requirement for approval from a senior officer.

As the proposals were published yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May hosted an international conference on gangs.

Home Office crime and security minister James Brokenshire said: ‘It is essential the police have all appropriate powers at their disposal to maintain public order.

‘We must ensure officers on the ground have all the necessary legal measures available to them to protect our streets and keep the public safe.

‘But we must also make sure any new powers do not trample upon traditional British freedoms — that is why we are seeking public views on the powers the police really need to keep our communities safe.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Meet Moazzem Begg: Al-Qaeda and Taliban Supporter and Latest Guardian Contributor

For some reason, the Guardian never publishes essays by prominent liberal Muslims such as Irshad Manji, Hasan Afzal, or Khaled Abu Toameh. However, when it comes to radical, terror-supporting Muslims, the world’s leading liberal voice is typically happy to oblige. Recently, they published an essay by former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg, of the group Cagedprisoners (“Why is Canada acting like a Guantanamo Bay camp guard”), Oct. 13th, on Canada’s decision to refuse him entry into the country.

Begg was apparently refused entry on the grounds that his name is on a U.S. no-fly list and because he has admitted to being a former member of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In his CiF column, Begg, in characterizing the injustice of being detained by Canadian officials, likened himself to Nelson Mandela and implied he was just another victim of Western Islamophobia.

However, evidence regarding Begg’s history of active support for terrorism is overwhelming. Begg is widely believed by American intelligence officials to have been a member of Al-Qaida, and attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and England “so he could assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam.” Begg assisted several prominent terrorists and discussed potential terrorist acts with them; recruited young operatives for global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps.

Moazzam Begg is also ideologically associated with the Taliban and had a longstanding relationship with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki, the senior recruiter and motivator who was involved with planning operations for al-Qaeda who was recently killed by U.S. forces. Al Awlaki’s sermons are alleged to have helped motivate at least three terrorist attacks inside the United States.

Begg’s group, Cagedprisoners, lobbied to free al Awlaki from Yemeni custody after he was detained in 2006, broadcast a live message from al Awlaki during a fundraising event and reproduced Awlaki’s propaganda on its website. Cagedprisoners’ goal seemed to be to spread Awlaki’s terrorist message in the UK — which Awlaki has repeatedly targeted as a recruiting ground. In fact, Moazzam Begg confirmed, in his own autobiography, that he is a jihadist.

Despite Begg’s claims, in his CiF essay and elsewhere, that his confessions (regarding his links to jihadists) were made while tortured, the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation failed to substantiate Begg’s claims of torture, and found that his confession at Gitmo was voluntarily given

Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Begg’s site, Cagedprisoners, posted this sick parody titled “BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA IS DEAD”, which included this:

American War Criminal Barack Obama has been killed by Pakistani security forces in the UK, Prime Minister Hasan Abdullah of Pakistan has said.

Obama was shot dead at a compound near Camberley, in a ground operation based on Pakistani intelligence, the first lead for which emerged last August.

Mr Abdullah said Pakistan forces took possession of the body after “a firefight”. Obama is believed to have ordered almost 200 attacks in North and South Waziristan between 2009 and 2011 in which almost 2000 people were killed, when he served as Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. Obama is also believed to have ordered the continued bombardment of Afghanistan during the same period in which thousands of others were killed.

The satire, supposed to be read as an exercise in moral equivalence between Obama and Bin Laden, included the following image. (FYI, this photo is the censored version):


The Guardian’s definition of what passes for liberalism seems to include even those advocating the most extreme religious intolerance, racism, and terrorism — with one small caveat.

Such “activists” must, of course, also possess the requisite hostility to the U.S., Israel, and the West.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: No Arrest for Poppy Attacks in Shake-Up

BURNING poppies or abusing soldiers may no longer be illegal under plans unveiled yesterday. Ministers are considering making it legal to use insulting words or actions to avoid “criminalising free speech”. Yobs can currently be nicked for being “threatening, abusive or insulting”. Emdadur Choudhury, 26, was charged last year after burning poppies and five Muslims were convicted for shouting insults at a homecoming parade. Ministers have also unveiled plans to let cops make thugs remove “face coverings” or masks. But minister James Brokenshire said: “We must make sure any powers do not trample upon traditional British freedoms.” Meanwhile, tighter laws brought in by Theresa May saw the number of anti-terror stop and searches fall from 102,504 to 9,652 last year.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

About 7,000 Arrested by Libya’s NTC, UN Says

(AGI) Geneva — About 7,000 people, most of them foreigners, have been arrested by Libya’s NTC forces since the conflict started. It emerges from data collected by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that sent a delegation to Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata on October 4-10 to assess the human rights situation in the country.

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

Destruction of Copts is Islamically Correct

by Diana West

I am looking at a reproduction of an old engraving of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is in Bat Ye’or’s book “The Dhimmi,” which collects primary documents from history to chronicle the impact of Islamic law on non-Muslims through the centuries.

What is notable about the image, which is based on an 1856 photograph, is that the church, said to be at the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and burial, has no cross and no belfry. Stripped of its Christian symbols, the church stood in compliance with the Islamic law and traditions of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, which ruled Jerusalem at the time.

I went back to the book to find this image for a reason. It had to do with last weekend’s massacre of two dozen Coptic Christians in Cairo by Egyptian military and street mobs, which also left hundreds wounded. The unarmed Copts were protesting the destruction of yet another church in Egypt, St. George’s, which on Sept. 30 was set upon by thousands of Muslim men following Friday prayers. Why? The trigger was repair work on the building — work that the local council and governor had approved.

Does that explanation make any sense? Not to anyone ignorant of Islamic law. Unfortunately, that criterion includes virtually all media reporting the story.

Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam specialist, Arabic speaker and author of “The Al Qaeda Reader” (Broadway, 2007), catalogs the key sequence of events that turned a church renovation project into terror and flames. With repair work in progress, he writes online at Hudson New York, “It was not long before local Muslims began complaining, making various demands, including that the church be devoid of crosses and bells — even though the permit approved them — citing that ‘the cross irritates Muslims and their children.’“

Those details drove me to re-examine the de-Christianized 19th-century image of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher — no cross, no bells. It becomes a revealing illustration of Islamic history repeating itself in this “Shariah Autumn,” the deadly but natural harvest of the grotesquely branded “Arab Spring.”

Given our see-no-Shariah media (and government), we have no context in which to place such events. That context is Shariah society, advanced (but by no means initiated) by “Arab Spring,” where non-Muslims — “dhimmi” — occupy a place defined for them by Islamic law and tradition. Theologian, author and Anglican pastor Mark Durie elaborates at “Dhimmi are permitted to live in an Islamic state under terms of surrender as laid out in the ‘dhimma’ pact.” Such terms, Durie writes, “are a well-established part of Islamic law and can be found laid out in countless legal text books.” When non-Muslims violate these terms, they become subject to attack.

To place the dhimmi pact in comparable Western terms is to say the West has its Magna Carta, Islam has its Pact of Umar. Among other things, this seminal pact governing Muslim and non-Muslims relations stipulates, Durie notes, the condition that Christians “will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church or sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration.”

Thus, this anti-Coptic violence, which for the moment has caught world attention, is Islamically correct…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Egypt’s State Media Implicated in Violence Against Christian Demonstrators

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Egyptian state television has been accused of spreading false information and inciting violence against Christians protesting in front of the TV building in Maspero on October 9. Calls have been made for the Information Minister Osama Heikal to resign. Egyptian lawyer Hamdi el-Assuiti filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General against the Minister of Information and TV presenter Rasha Magdi, accusing them of “deliberate broadcast of false news, information and rumors, which disturbed public security, causing terror among the public, and harming public interest.”

While the event of the attack on the Copts was ongoing, news presenters called on Egyptians to come to the aid of their armed forces, which were being attacked by “armed Coptic protesters, killing three military personnel and wounding many,” said broadcaster Rasha Magdi. The news bar read the same for over three hours.

Angry Muslim young men from the neighbouring Boulak, Sabtiya and Ezbet el Safih in Ramsis, hurried to the help the army, chanting anti-Christian slogans and intercepting Copts in the streets and assaulting them with stones, clubs, and firearms, before going to Maspero to join the military police attack on the peaceful protesters.

Dr. Emad Gad, head of strategic studies at Al Ahram Organization, called on the Minister to resign, saying the State television’s coverage “could have led to wide-scale massacres, or even civil war. I know Copts who did not go to work for two days, afraid to leave their homes.”

“This was devastating to the Muslim-Christian relationship,” said Nabil Sharaf-eldin, Muslim liberal and head of El-Azma electronic news wire, who attended the Maspero candle vigil before being joined by the 150,000 Christians arriving from Shubra district. He said on his way back home he heard Muslim comments against Christians, adding “it caused a spiritual divorce between them that will never heal.”

The Information Minister denied that military armored vehicles were crushing protesters alive. He denied it an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, only to be embarrassed by video footage showing army vehicles indiscriminately driving into crowds of Coptic protesters (Al-Arabiya video).

The State television issued a correction in the morning after the protest, saying no army personnel were killed and it was the fault of the “nervous” TV presenter.

Presenter Rasha Magdi appeared on an independent TV channel and said that she was given the text to read by a “big TV official” and was unaware of the clashes taking place outside the TV building. She admitted to being unprofessional by not mentioning how many Copts were killed.

Hundreds of journalists, broadcasters and public media figures marched today from Sahafa (Press) Street to the State-run TV building in Maspero to denounce the “Sectarianism of the media,” calling for the resignation of the Information Minister and a clean-up of the Egyptian State TV, accusing it of igniting sectarian strife.

The demonstrators held the military council and the Minister of Information responsible for the bloody clashes, which took place on Sunday night in front of the Maspero. They held Egyptian flags with the cross and the crescent (the symbol of Islam) on it and banners reading “Osama Haikal set Egypt on fire by the television’s coverage.”

Two days ago, Major Atman of the Supreme Council of the Armend Forces (SCAF) complimented the Egyptian state TV on its coverage of the Maspero incident.

  [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslims Pelt Funeral Procession With Bricks as Coptic Church Condemns Attack, Calls for Three-Day Fast

Coptic church leaders have expressed horror at the events in Maspero, where 24 Copts were killed and over 200 were wounded. The church stressed that the Christian faith rejects violence.According to Egyptian journalist Mary Abdelmassih, writing for AINA — the Assyrian International News Agency — ( the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt issued a statement on October 10, which blasted the government for failing to find solutions to “problems that occur repeatedly and go unpunished.” The Church is asking all Copts to fast continuously for three days starting tomorrow “in order to have peace in Egypt.”

Coptic activist and writer Nader Shoukry said some Copts interpreted this demand, which the church has made only three times in its long history, as a way to implore “God’s help for the Copts,” AINA pointed out. The AINA report says that In Cairo, thousands of Copts marched to attend the funeral of the victims of what they termed the “October 9 Military Massacre.” They congregated in front of the Coptic hospital where most of the dead and injured were transported, and which was attacked the night before by Muslims, who hurled bricks and Molotov Cocktails at the victims’ families.

A funeral service presided by Pope Shenouda III was held for the Copts killed in Maspero, at 11 AM at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo, and was attended by over 10,000 Copts. The funeral was for five Copts only, as the rest of the victims are awaiting autopsies, on the advice of Coptic lawyers. “This is to safeguard the rights of the dead,” said attorney Dr. Ehab Ramzy, “otherwise the families could lose their case. We need proof.”

After the funeral, while still inside the Cathedral, the enraged Copts chanted “down with the junta rule and down with Tantawi.” [Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman is an Egyptian Field Marshal and statesman. He is the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces]. AINA reports that according to priests and Coptic lawyers who were present at the Coptic Hospital, where the victims were brought, the death certificates issued by the authorities were misleading and did not reflect the true cause of death, which might let the assailants get away with the crime. Certificates showed the cause of death as being “stab wounds” and “cardiac arrest caused by fear.”

The families insisted on having the autopsies done, which were carried out on 17 bodies lying in the Coptic hospital. Independent doctors observed those who came from the Public Morgue to carry out the autopsies, AINA said in its report. Dr. Maged Lewis, a director at the Forensic Medicine Institute, commented that he had never seen corpses in this deplorable state before. “Bodies were mashed and bones were crushed; many had fractures and laceration of the intestines; while in others, death was caused by gun shots,” he said. AINA also says that eyewitnesses reported the army disposed of nine bodies by throwing them in the Nile. Two bodies remain unidentified, making the number of killed uncertain.

After midnight today, friends and relatives of the dead, carried the 17 caskets from the Coptic hospital to St. Mark’s Cathedral for the second funeral service. Near Ghamra bridge, bricks were hurled at the cortege, but the procession carried on to the Cathedral. AINA said the caskets were taken to St. Mary’s Church in “October 6” district, where they laid beside the 12 Copts who died in Embaba, defending their Church against Salafist attacks on May 7, 2011.

On their way back after the burial, the mourners were attacked by armed thugs who blocked the way and hurled Molotov cocktails at them; gun shots were heard. They sought shelter and called the army emergency phone line for help, they waited until morning but no one came. AINA reports the Coptic Church considers people who lost their lives on account of being Christian as “martyrs” and they will be buried together in a collective grave.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Hillary Clinton Promises to Save Egypt’s Christians?

by Raymond Ibrahim

So how have the first manifestations of “democracy”-in the guise of the “Arab spring” and “people-power,” all hailed and supported by the U.S.-worked for religious minorities in the Arab world?

In post-revolutionary Egypt alone, Christians are suffering more abuses today, including from the state, than under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. After all, Egyptian military crushing the heads of Christian civilians with tanks, opening fire on them, and reportedly even dumping their bodies in the Nile to cover their deeds-all of this occurred under Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi’s command, not during Mubarak’s 30 year reign.

But to return to our question-whether U.S. intervention would help the Copts in Egypt-the deplorable fact is, the Christians who have it worst are precisely those living in Muslim nations where the U.S. has intervened and is spending billions to create “democracies.”

Consider the silent extermination of Iraq’s “Christian Dogs.” Ever since the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein, beheading and crucifying Christians are not irregular occurrences; messages saying “you Christian dogs, leave or die,” are typical. Muslims threaten to “exterminate Iraqi Christians” and authoritative clerics issue fatwas asserting that “it is permissible to spill the blood of Iraqi Christians.” As John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International put it:

The threat of extermination is not empty. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, more than half the country’s Christian population has been forced by targeted violence to seek refuge abroad or to live away from their homes as internally displaced people. According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, over 700 Christians, including bishops and priests, have been killed and 61 churches have been bombed. Seven years after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk reports: “He who is not a Muslim in Iraq is a second-class citizen.”

In other words, Christian persecution has increased exponentially under U.S. occupation. As one top Vatican official put it, Christians, “paradoxically, were more protected under the dictatorship” of Saddam Hussein.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: ENI Reopens Greenstream Pipeline From Libya

‘Excellent’ work with Libyan oil corporation after 8-month break

(ANSA) — Rome, October 13 — Italian oil giant Eni said Thursday it was reopening its major Greenstream gas pipeline from Libya, closed for eight months because of the fighting in the north African country.

Eni said it and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) had “initiated today testing activities for the release of natural gas into the Greenstream pipeline”, which connects a treatment plant at the western Libyan coastal city of Mellitah to Gela in Sicily.

“The volumes of gas shipped during the testing period mark the preliminary restart of the pipeline operations after eight months of stoppages due to the conflict in Libya,” a statement said. Eni and NOC, who are equal partners in Greenstream and the Mellitah Oil & Gas Company, the operator of their oil fields in Libya, “have been working together, during the past months, to progressively restore production activities in all their fields in Libya.

“The restart of the Greenstream is the result of excellent cooperation between NOC and Eni, and represents the first major milestone reached by Eni’s strong commitment to bring greater energy security to Italy,” the statement said.

Libya’s post-Gaddafi transitional government recently said it would respect all pre-existing oil and gas deals with Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libyan Sufi Mosques Attacked

Well that didn’t take long. The despotic lid of Gaddafi’s dictatorship is lifted and the pot quickly starts to simmer. Given that the NTC is failing to grip the country others are muscling in with their version of what the new Libya’s identity should look like. Islamic hard-liners have attacked half a dozen shrines in the Tunis area belonging to a Muslim sect they regard as practicing ‘Black magic’. The targets were Sufis, a mystical order which puts faith in contemplation, chanting, and is one of the more ‘liberal’ wings of Islamic belief.

They also have a tradition of praying over tombs of saints and asking for blessings, this is considered by some non Sufi Muslims to be offensive and acts of idolatry. They are attacked in many countries and the Sufis of Pakistan are in particular danger with dozens murdered this year. The AP news agency has highlighted two of the Libyan cases. In one bearded men in military uniforms trashed a Sufi shrine and burned holy relics. They also dug up the remains of two imams in order to bury them elsewhere.

In another neighbourhood about 150 men blocked roads before attacking a mosque and again digging up bodies for reburial. The attacks have drawn condemnation from the highest levels. The head of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, called for restraint saying the attackers were ‘not on the side of the revolution’. Senior clerics followed his example. Six attacks does not an Islamist takeover make, but they are one of many examples of the massive challenges facing the new Libya. Is it to be a democracy, where the rule of law, respect for minorities, and freedom of religious expression are the norm, or is just going to be like most of the other countries in the neighbourhood?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Tunisia Police Teargas Protest at ‘Blasphemous’ TV Station

(AFP) — 7 hours ago TUNIS — Tunisian extremists fire-bombed the home of a TV station chief Friday, hours after militants protesting its broadcast of a film they say violated Islamic values clashed with police in the streets of Tunis.

About a hundred men, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails, lay siege to the home of Nessma private television chief Nabil Karoui late Friday, the station reported in its evening news bulletin.

Karoui’s family had only just escaped, the news presenter said as Nessma denounced the attack.

Sofiane Ben Hmida, one of Nessma’s star reporters, told AFP the station chief was not at home when the attack on his house took place around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT). But his wife and children were.

About 20 of the protesters were able to get inside.

“The family managed to get out the back and are safe. The attackers wrecked the house and set it on fire,” he added.

A neighbour, who had alerted police, said the aggressors arrived in taxis, armed with knives and Molotov cocktails.

According to a Nessma source “only a housemaid was present inside. She was attacked and hospitalised.”

Karoui himself said by telephone that he was shocked and devastated by the attack.

“I fear for my family. I am scared they (the attackers) will come back,” he said.

Interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb said around a hundred people turned up outside the house, forced their way inside, broken the windows and torn out two gas pipes. Five people were arrested, he added.

Late Friday, 50 police officers were deployed at Karoui’s house, along with Nessma security staff.

This was the most serious incident yet in an escalating series of protests against the station’s broadcast of “Persepolis” on October 7.

The globally acclaimed animated film on Iran’s 1979 revolution offended many Muslims because it depicts an image of God as an old, bearded man. All depictions of God are forbidden by Islam.

Earlier Friday, police fired tear gas at demonstrators as some of the protests against the station degenerated.

The main demonstration began peacefully at a central Tunis mosque after Friday prayers, with men and women chanting slogans against Nessma. Thousands of people, many of them Salafist Muslims, were present.

But traders shut up shop as the group approached government offices and the rally grew tense as protesters approached the Kasbah area of Tunis where the main government buildings are located.

“Separate! Mixing of men and woman is prohibited,” shouted a Salafist as he divided the protesters.

Other protests took place elsewhere in the capital.

Those protesting were mainly Salafists, but they were joined by groups of youths with no obvious allegiance, who in some places began tearing up posts and throwing stones at police.

The officers replied with volleys of tear gas.

It was the second time protesters had demonstrated against the station this week. On Sunday, Tunisian police broke up a crowd of angry Salafists intent on attacking Nessma offices.

Already on Tuesday, Karoui had apologised for having broadcast the scene depicting God, but most mosque preachers devoted their Friday sermons to the issue. After the attack on his home, the station accused some imams of having incited the faithful to target station staff.

The protests have increased fears of unrest barely a week away from historic polls on October 23, the first since January’s overthrow of president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Earlier this week, the national media and communication authority, INRIC, condemned “all attempts to terrorise media professionals.”

The government called for “respect for sacred things.”

In June, six Salafists were arrested in Tunis after they stormed a movie theater and broke its glass doors in a bid to stop the screening of the film “Neither Allah nor Master” on secularism in Tunisia.

Rights campaigners, including feminist activists, have expressed increasing concern at what they say is the hypocritical line being taken by some extremist groups in the run-up to the election.

They accuse groups like the Islamist party Ennahda, tipped to dominate the upcoming election, of publicly condemning violence while privately encouraging it.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

A Deal With the Devil

The dramatic news this evening that Israel and the Hamas have agreed a deal which will see the return to Israel of its kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, will be provoke the most bitterly mixed reactions amongst Israelis and all who care about peace and justice. If Shalit is indeed returned alive and well, it will of course be a matter for rejoicing that he is unharmed after his appalling five-year ordeal and that the terrible suffering of his family is now at an end. But the price that Israel has reportedly agreed to pay for his release is itself a terrible one which will have untold consequences. It will apparently release 1000 Palestinian prisoners, including 400 serving long sentences for some of the worst terrorist atrocities in the country’s history.

For the IDF it is a moral imperative to bring home its fallen or captured soldiers. But the terrible thing is that by releasing 1000 terrorists back to Gaza and the West Bank, it makes it more likely that not just the Hamas but Hezbollah in Lebanon too will redouble their efforts to kidnap yet more Israeli soldiers in order to further this devilish barter.

So while this deal — brokered by Egypt and Germany — redeems one Israeli soldier, it puts more Israeli soldiers at risk. Moreover, it strengthens Hamas in Gaza — they are already boasting that this is a great victory — makes it more likely that more Israelis will be murdered by terrorism in Israel, and demoralises those IDF soldiers who brought these 1000 terrorists to justice in the first place.

And Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu knows all this. As the Jerusalem Post notes, in a book published in 1995 Netanyahu wrote that prisoner exchanges were

‘“a mistake that Israel made over and over again” and that refusing to release terrorists from prison was “among the most important policies that must be adopted in the face of terrorism. The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmailed situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best,” Netanyahu wrote. “Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.”

Worse still, it seems that Israel has now gone back on its previous opposition to such a deal, apparently because it fears that with Egypt about to turn hostile any chance of freeing Shalit would disappear out of the window. The Jerusalem Post reports:

‘The framework for this deal has been on the table for years, but was rejected as Israel demanded that the terrorists with blood on their hands be deported to Gaza or abroad, and Hamas demanded that all the names they submitted be on the list. In the final analysis, both sides showed flexibility, with Israel agreeing to let hundreds, but not all, of the released terrorist remain in the West Bank, and Hamas dropped some of the names on its list.’

So now Israel will have hundreds of terrorists literally just down the road, presumably poised to strike yet again and murder more Israel innocents. Either way, this was a terrible decision to have to take. On the other hand, once Shalit comes home the Hamas in Gaza will have lost their most valuable human shield of all. For five years, they have used their young Israeli captive — whose fate has been the focus of such public agony within Israel — to tie the Israelis’ military hands. Now, it would seem, all such bets will be off.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Saudi-Backed Institute for “Tolerance” And Irony Appreciation Inaugurated in Vienna

The situation in Saudi Arabia itself proves that this outfit, the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (you can’t make this stuff up), is nothing but an outpost for dawah, or Islamic proselytizing, and deception. If it is good for anything, it sets up a glaring study in contrasts between Sharia as advertised, in this “interfaith” scam in Vienna, and Sharia as observed, in Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: About ‘1.8 Million People’ Have Terror Links

Jakarta, 12 Oct. (AKI) — About 1.8 million of Indonesia’s 246 million people have potential links to terrorism, according to the country’s anti-terror chief.

“The number is this. More or less 1.8 million people take part in terrorist networks,” said Ansyaad Mbai., who heads Indonesia’s National Anti-Terrorism Agency, or BNPT, speaking during a panel discussion in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Indonesia, world’s most populous Muslim country, is combating Al-Qaeda linked terrorists whose most notorious attack was in Bali in 2002 when 200 people died in an attack by the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group. The country is also fighting a separatist movement in the Aceh region of northern Sumatra.

In the last few years Indonesia has formed links with moderate religious groups that are working to counter radical religious ideology, the Jakarta Post quoted Mbai as saying.

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

Indonesia: Bogor Yasmin Church Controversy: Authorities “Manipulating” Videos to Slander Christians

The mayor calls in security forces to stop prayers. The videotapes of the incident are manipulated in order to blame Christians for the violence. Nahdlatul Ulama comes out on the Christian side. The Wahid Institute calls on the president to remove local leaders and uphold religious freedom.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The mayor of Bogor, a town in West Java, has banned Christian worshippers from using the road near the Yasmin Church for prayer. The construction of the church is at the centre of a fierce dispute between local Christians and municipal authorities. When police moved in to disperse the crowd, Christians reacted by protesting. A clash ensued between the two sides. The Wahid Institute, which is named after former Indonesian President Gus Dur Wahid and is dedicated to interfaith dialogue, has accused Bogor leaders of manipulating news reports and video images of the incident in order to push Muslims to punish Christians.

For months, the Yasmin Church has been the object of a clear violation of the law and of religious freedom by the local mayor who, disregarding the constitution and a ruling by the Supreme Court in favour of Christians, has prevented them from using their unfinished place of worship.

Last Sunday, he sent security forces against the faithful who had gathered for Sunday services on the church site. A row followed between parishioners and police agents, which the mayor used as a pretext to ban Christians from praying on the road near the Christian place of worship.

Rumadi, an activist with the Wahid Institute in Jakarta, points the finger at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a lack of “political will” to end the hostility against Bogor Christians, and this despite the powers at his disposal. The president can in fact suspend Mayor Diani Budiarto for failing to uphold a decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the application to build the church was done in accordance with the law and had all the right construction permits.

Contacted by AsiaNews about last Sunday’s disturbance, Bona Sigalingging, a spokesperson for the Yasmin Church, said that the faithful had been together for ten minutes to pray when security forces moved in to disperse them by force. The Sunday before, 2 October, police seized the church’s ceremonial bread and wine.

Indonesia’s most important and moderate Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, supports the Christian community’s right to freedom of religion. Its leaders have written to President Yudhoyono asking for his direct intervention to settle the issue and protect the rights of Christians.

However, extremist Muslims have come out in support of Bogor’s mayor and oppose the construction of the church.

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

Malaysia: Selangor Dances the Limbo for JAIS

The Sultan’s decree does not resolve important issues raised by the farcical raid on DUMC and has left many with bottled up feelings of resentment and discontent

The principal parties involved in the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) raid on a Methodist church function last August have officially endorsed the sultan’s solution, and the matter is deemed closed. The Sultan of Selangor’s brief statement said that “….there had been attempts to subvert the faith and belief of Muslims” during the dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) organised by the NGO Harapan Komuniti during Ramadan. Despite this, many issues remain unresolved and the rakyat is more perplexed than ever because his statement raises more questions than answers. How much involvement has Umno in the affairs of an opposition led state, do state religious authorities think that they are above the law and had abuses of power by JAIS been swept under the carpet?

The statement did not allude to any evidence uncovered in these “attempts” at proselytisation, neither did it make reference to the Christians. However, it mentioned that no further legal action could be taken because of insufficient evidence and that JAIS had acted correctly in conducting the search. Sultan Sharafuddin said: “Therefore, after carefully deliberating the report by JAIS and after obtaining advice from religious authorities and legal experts, we are in agreement that there would be no prosecution against any party. We are satisfied that the actions of JAIS were correct and did not breach any law enforceable in Selangor. We command that (Islamic officials) provide counseling to Muslims who were involved in the said dinner, to restore their belief and faith in the religion of Islam.”

Officials of DUMC have, from the outset, vehemently denied the allegations that Muslims had been proselytised at what they claim was a multiethnic gathering to raise funds for HIV/AIDS. They have however, criticised the actions of JAIS enforcement officials for their role and conduct in the unauthorised raid. Perhaps, the most disquieting statement was when the sultan said that he was “gravely concerned and extremely offended by the attempts of certain parties to weaken the faith and belief of Muslims.”

Malaysians have remarked that they are just as offended because nothing has been done to check high-handed officialdom and the mistrust which the officials have in the rakyat.

Firstly, they are offended that Malays are perceived to be of weak faith and an even weaker constitution, that their presence in a largely Christian flock, when hymns are sung or prayers said, could make them denounce their faith. Secondly, the notion that any multiethnic event, be it a funeral, Christmas party, celebration of a festival or something as innocuous as a dinner, is seen as an attempt to convert the Muslim brethren.

As defender of the faith, the sultan had also directed his subjects to stop questioning the actions of JAIS and that activities which spread other religions to Muslims should cease.

He said: “The religion of Islam as practised in Selangor is one of tolerance. Muslims are always encouraged to respect the believers of other religions. However, persons or parties cannot take the opportunity to spread other religions to Muslims.”

What if a similar raid was on a mosque?

But disgruntled non-Muslims have remarked: “It is all right for you Muslims. But who speaks for us, when members of our community undergo forced conversions? Families are torn apart, children are separated from their mothers, bodies are snatched from graves, marriages cannot be registered. Where is the freedom to practise our religion as provided in the constitution?”

A Malay resident of Petaling Jaya living beside a Church said: “No one questions JAIS for wanting to do its job. The issue is how JAIS conducted itself when it carried out the raid.

“Did JAIS have any respect of the sanctity of a place of worship? Did it even follow procedures when conducting the raid? Are there any standard procedures in the first instance?

“If a similar raid were to be conducted on a mosque, wouldn’t there be a Muslim backlash? Without search warrants or strict adherence to guidelines to raid, do you think anyone will have any respect for authority if they simply bulldoze their way in? Where is the respect for another person’s religion?” Where is our tolerance?”

Mindful of the many illegal and unlawful precedents of the raid, the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khalid Ibrahim has said that the Selangor government would form a special committee to scrutinise the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of JAIS with regard to attempts to proselytise Muslims. Khalid said that the committee would include religious leaders, legal experts and senior government officers, and in an attempt to draw a line over the incident and prevent royal dissent, he acquiesced and said: “The Selangor government will not look back on this issue. Rather, we will enhance awareness on the need to strengthen JAIS’ enforcement and gathering of evidence.”

Khalid’s delicate role as diplomat-cum-politician is misconstrued as a feeble attempt to placate certain quarters, not least to salvage JAIS’ reputation. Nonetheless, the Christians are left bristling with discontent. Questions have been raised as to why a six-minute video clip of the raid surfaced on pro-Umno blogs a fortnight later. There were security concerns when photographs and personal details of the Muslim dinner guests were leaked. How did the bloggers obtain supposedly confidential JAIS evidence?

Lawyers representing Harapan Komuniti said that they had not been given a final report nor any details about the JAIS raid. They also said that investigations into the death threat received by their clients, had not achieved any progress. Meanwhile, the Selangor executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs, Hasan Ali, was satisfied with the sultan’s decree and said that he was grateful that the sultan “wanted stern action to prevent proselytising”…. “because of the attempts to influence people’s faith”. If there was insufficient evidence, why should the Muslims be counselled? And if there were indeed attempts to proselytise, shouldn’t the offenders be punished? What about the lawfulness of the raid itself? This decree does not resolve any of the important issues raised by this farce and has left many with bottled up feelings of resentment and discontent.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Malaysia: Grateful for Timely Royal Intervention

THE flap over the attendance of some Muslims at a dinner in the Damansara Utama Methodist Church complex that resulted in the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) being called to the scene by some other Muslims is thankfully over.

The Sultan of Selangor had to step in and in doing so, prevented the incident from being exploited by politicians of all stripes that would have served nothing but ill for the country and society at large. The royal statement over the matter was a masterful compromise that draws a line under any further debate over the very subjective rights and wrongs of all parties involved in this episode. The royal statement was something that no political or religious figure, no matter how prestigious or eminent, could have pulled off without igniting a further round of inflammatory language or worse.

All that remains is for all concerned to draw useful lessons from the episode and strive to avoid repeating it. This bears repeating because one can never be sure it would have sunk in otherwise. There is, to be sure, enough blame to go round in every which direction one chooses to view the whole incident. The greatest blame is a collective one; that no matter what our leaders and ordinary citizens may say or think, the level of religious tolerance — let alone acceptance — in the country leaves much to be desired still.

As well, there is something to be said for our Muslim population generally to behave with greater confidence and self-assurance as befits its status as a majority in a country where Islam enjoys the august position as official religion and the protection of state sovereigns or the national sovereign, as the case may be. We should be slow to react to any report of attempts by non-Muslims to proselytise among Muslims, illegal as any such case would be if proven. Responsible Muslims must be careful lest any rush to judgment alarms the larger population, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. We only need to look at similar incidents occurring in poorer and less developed Muslim countries that lead to bloodshed and riots to realise how incendiary the whole thing can be.

That realisation needs to dawn equally on non-Muslims, of course. Special care needs to be taken that leaves as little room for doubt as possible that ecumenical events are indeed as they are proclaimed to be, particularly where Muslims are invited. That said, let us not beat about the bush that Christian charity does not have a well-documented history of proselytising, inherent as it is to this missionary faith. Christian missionaries first landed in this country with undoubtedly the noblest of intentions to spread their faith by ministering to the poor, sick and unschooled through charity homes, hospitals and schools.

These early missionaries went about their good work with little to no hint of coercing those they serve into converting. Those who did convert did so mostly out of admiration for the Jesus-like examples of selflessness and humble devotion of those missionaries. There is, today, in our midst a certain new class of Christian missionaries whom, to put it mildly, this writer has concerns about. They seem to cater to a class of flashy and rich Christians, the very antithesis of a poor and humble Jesus and a seeming throwback to the bad old days of the secularly powerful Roman Catholic church before the Protestant reformation.

It will not be far-fetched to think that at least some of the new Christian missionaries and independent churches flourishing in the country today will raise some eyebrows with their religious zealotry. Perhaps the greatest perception gap between Muslim and non-Muslim Malaysians exists in a nebulous understanding of the concept of apostasy. Non-Muslims, including Christians, frequently parry the assertion that there should be absolutely no compulsion on matters as private as religious affiliation.

This writer claims no special knowledge of faiths other than Christianity and will say Christians contradict themselves when they pronounce on Muslim apostasy. Christians may claim to have renounced their faiths but in the eyes of their respective churches, they would remain Christians till death, once baptised. Religious sensitivities are a dangerously slippery slope everywhere and Malaysians of all faiths need to be much more sensitised to the reality that mutual understanding, respect, tolerance and acceptance is the only way forward if we value the peace we enjoy.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Bashir Says Sudan Will Adopt Islamic Constitution

KHARTOUM (Reuters) — Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Wednesday, three months after its former civil war enemy South Sudan became independent. Juba seceded on July 9 after a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the South where most follow Christian and traditional beliefs. Bashir had said in December that Sudan would adopt an Islamic constitution if Juba seceded but many southerners had hoped he would not deliver on this.

His comments will add to uncertainty for more than a million southerners who still live in the north and are now treated legally as foreigners. Khartoum has given them until spring to leave or obtain the legal right to stay, a complicated process. “Ninety eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source (of the constitution),” Bashir told students in Khartoum in a speech. “We call it a Muslim state,” said Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Dafur. The 2005 peace deal set up an interim constitution which limited Islamic law to the north and recognised “the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people”. Many southerners say they feel no longer welcome in the north since the split. They have lost government jobs and now need work and residency permits to stay in the north.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Islam Not Related to Violence — Al-Mu’minaat

AL-Mu’minaat,an organisation of Muslim women, has dissociated Islam from chaos, saying that peace remains a fundamental principle in the religion.

The Oyo State chapter of the body disclosed this during a courtesy visit by its executive members to the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, publishers of Tribune titles, in Ibadan, Oyo State. In an address read by its Public Relations Officer, Muhibbah Bakre, the body advised Nigerians to shun all acts of violence because no meaningful development would occur in a charged atmosphere. The organisation described Muslims as peace loving and called on the media to desist from painting the religion of Islam and its adherents in negative pictures. Al-Mu’minaat urged the Boko Haram and other violent organisations to embrace peace as a tool for conflict settlement. The Property Manager, ANN Plc, Alhaji Oluwole Akinloye, who led the management team of ANN Plc, admonished mothers to give sound academic and moral trainings to their wards for them to become useful individuals in future. He commended the effort of the Muslim women at enlightening the populace on the need to live righteously.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Officials in Sudan Threaten to Raze Three Church Buildings

Christian leaders say authorities are gathering information on churches, activities.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, October 12 (CDN) — Local authorities have threatened to demolish three church buildings in Omdurman as part of a long-standing bid to rid Sudan of Christianity, Christian sources told Compass. Officials from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities-Khartoum State appeared at the three church sites in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, the afternoon of Sept. 11, threatening to demolish the structures if the churches continued to conduct worship services, church leaders said.

Church leaders from the three churches in the Madinat al Fath area of Omdurman — the Sudanese Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Roman Catholic Church — said they were surprised to see government officials come to their church premises and accuse them of operating churches on government land without permission. The church leaders told Compass the buildings were not located on government land and required no permission. They said that, starting at 2 p.m. the officials asked leaders of the Sudanese Church of Christ who had given them permission to build on government land, and then proceeded to the other two churches. The officials marked the three church buildings for demolition with red crosses, saying, “We are going to demolish these churches,” the church leaders said.

Jaafer al Sudani, manager of Church Affairs in the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment, told Compass that officials there had no knowledge of church buildings to be demolished. The state planning officials insist that the churches are operating on government land. Citing a growing tide of hostility toward Christians, members of the threatened churches said they were concerned about their future. “These are clearly evil plans directed against churches and Christians in this country,” said Kornules Yousif, an area Christian leader. “This is serious,” said another church member who asked to remain unnamed. “We do not want them to demolish our churches.” Local Muslims complain of the Christian presence in the area, Yousif said. “Muslims say churches are not supposed to be given permission to operate because the number of Muslims is greater than that of Christians,” he said.

Area Christians told Compass they take seriously such statements by Muslims as they reveal hostile motives by both the Islamic government and Muslim communities. “These people can do everything possible to clear this country of Christianity,” said a member of one of the threatened churches. At the same time, area Christians said they believe the government is quietly carrying out surveys on Christians and church programs as part of a broader effort to make Islam the official state religion; officials from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment have called church leaders, asking them to reveal information about their church members and activities of the Churches, they said. “This is purely for intelligence purposes, so that they can put more restrictions on churches and Christians,” said the Rev. Yousif El-Denger Kodi, general secretary of the Sudanese Lutheran Church. “We as church leaders are aware of their plans, but we pray for God to rescue us from their evil plans.”

Islam is favored in law and policy in Sudan, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report. While sharia (Islamic law) is only “a source of legislation” according to the Interim National Constitution, there is a movement afoot to make Islam the official state religion following the secession of largely non-Muslim southern Sudan on July 9. “Muslims are not happy to see churches in their areas, because they believe in Islam and fear the influence of the church, and that is why they hate to see churches,” a church leader who requested anonymity told Compass.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sudan to Become Africa’s First Theocracy

Sudan will implement an Islamic constitution and Sharia law, creating Africa’s first fully theocratic state. This is a sensible domestic move, as far as Khartoum is concerned. It also signals the beginning of the end of Africa’s influence in Sudan, and opens the door to Iran or Saudi Arabia to establish a solid foothold in Africa. By SIMON ALLISON.

In a not-unexpected announcement, Sudan’s beleaguered President Omar Al Bashir said his country would become Africa’s first proper theocracy. “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source (of the constitution). We call it a Muslim state,” Bashir told Khartoum students in a speech.

Domestically, the move makes pragmatic sense. Without the south, Sudan doesn’t have to pretend to be tolerant and inclusive; it can just do what it wants. And it needs to do something. The government is perhaps the weakest it has ever been, with the secession of the south, a failing economy and the spectre of the international arrest warrant hanging over the president’s head all making the government weaker. Mass protests peaked this week when hundreds of people demonstrated against rising food prices — relatively small numbers, but still an unprecedented challenge to the government’s authority.

By turning Sudan into an Islamic theocracy, Khartoum will be hoping to consolidate support among the country’s majority Muslim population. And it’s also likely to persuade the mostly Christian southerners who remain in the north — a potential source of instability as far as the government is concerned — to get out, quickly. It’s estimated that over a million southerners have been stranded in the north after Sudan’s official split, unwelcome in the north but having no opportunities in the south either. Their Sudanese citizenship has been revoked, and if they want to stay, they must go through a long and complicated bureaucratic process. All this to remain in a country where their religion will be illegal?

The process of establishing the pre-eminence of Islam has already begun. Three churches in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city, were notified that their buildings were on government land (not true) and would be demolished shortly. In unwitting irony, the church buildings were marked with red crosses, to show the bulldozers where to start. Religion in the old Sudan was a fraught subject. The rebellious south was mainly Christian or animist, while the north was strongly Muslim. Ever since independence, Sudan was ruled by a Muslim government and this was a large part of the problem for the south’s rebels. The new South Sudan, while officially tolerant of all religions, is overwhelmingly Christian. The north, in contrast, is overwhelmingly Muslim (although the 98% figure claimed by President Bashir is a definite exaggeration).

The move to entrench Islam as the source of law and authority for the northern Sudanese state will also have interesting geopolitical considerations. Sudan is, of course, an international pariah nation with very few friends. But among its allies, it counts two very different and rival Islamic theocracies: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and Sudan recently announced an ambitious, long-term project to mine the bottom of the Red Sea which lies between them for a variety of precious metals including gold, silver and copper. The project is expected to cost billions to implement, most of which will come from Saudi, so the deal is a strong show of support for the regime in Khartoum. And as most of Sudan’s Muslims are Sunni, it would make sense that an Islamic Sudan is modelled on Saudi Arabia, which is also almost exclusively Sunni; this would give Sudan a rich and powerful friend, and give Saudi Arabia a sphere of influence in Africa.

But there are also Shia Muslims in Sudan, most of whom are based in Khartoum, the centre of power. And it’s also true that the Sunni-Shia divide in Sudan has never been a major political issue, thanks perhaps to the influence of Hassan Al-Turabi, which looms large over Sudanese politics. For years, Turabi was Bashir’s chief ideologue, before Bashir got nervous about his popularity and put him under house arrest. But Turabi was a vocal proponent of a kind of pan-Islamic ideology which ignored the differences between sects in favour of presenting a united front. He was even rumoured to have accepted money at one time from Iran, a Shia theocracy, which was trying to establish a Shia foothold in Africa.

Iran is still looking for an African foothold. Three short weeks ago Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Khartoum, pledging support and cooperation and bonding with Bashir in their shared persecution complexes. The narrative which emerged from the leaders’ statements was very much one of Sudan and Iran, together against the world; allies against what Ahmadinejad termed the “powers of arrogance”. Is Sudan’s sudden move toward entrenching Islam further into the DNA of the state a sign of a growing closeness with Iran?

Perhaps. For now, the full geopolitical implications of Khartoum’s decision remain obscure. But what is clear is that this represents a comprehensive rejection of Africa in favour of the Middle East. It’s not difficult to see why Khartoum might feel alienated by Africa. Sub-Saharan African countries have been falling over themselves to celebrate the birth of South Sudan, and the African Union has been similarly effusive. Sudan’s also been frustrated in its attempts to rejoin the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, the Horn of Africa regional body, which is stalling until South Sudan submits an official application for membership. So it makes sense that Khartoum would look east for friendship rather than south, and in so doing emphasise the main thing it has in common with its Middle Eastern allies: Islam. DM

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Europeans Up Sticks

Adevarul, Bucharest

The crisis is forcing more and more Europeans to emigrate. For young people in Mediterranean countries, as well as for those in Eastern Europe, it’s the north of the continent where salvation lies

Mariana Bechir

Within a century, European countries have gone from being countries of emigration to countries of immigration, and so have been transformed into host countries. The magnet has been industrial development, which has drawn in workers from poorer countries.

Many migrants ended up going back to where they came from, but in the meanwhile, they were an injection of external labour that covered the shortfall of workers in Europe. The last countries to become hosts were those in southern Europe, the destination of choice notably for Romanians, who now find themselves competing in the labour market with the indigenous unemployed. Faced with this situation, and with new restrictions on employment of foreigners, immigrants from eastern Europe and natives of southern Europe are tending to look for work in northern Europe.

Europe has gone through massive migration flows in the past. Between 1950 and 1970, about ten million Italians, Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese took the open road to the more developed European countries. After 1973, as populations in the Mediterranean area began to decline, the states affected opened their doors to foreign workers.

The inflection point — when immigration overtook emigration — was reached in the 1980s. The flows came from north Africa, then central and eastern Europe, and the process accelerated after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today Germany, the UK and the Nordic countries could be facing an unprecedented surge of in-migration, because in addition to people with a strong tradition of leaving home (Spain, Italy, Ireland and even Greece), there is now the enormous pressure from the states in eastern Europe, with Romanians in the lead. As for Romania, it will in its turn become a destination country, but probably for workers coming from Asia, the Middle East or Africa.

Crisis more easily bearable abroad

The latest statistics from the UK also point up an unusual dynamic in the relationship with Spain. The number of Spaniards registered with the British social security system rose by 85 percent in the last fiscal year (April 2010-April 2011) over the previous year. For the first time, Spain is among the top five countries of origin of immigrants to the UK — after Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Lithuania and Ireland.

According to the Spanish branch of the temp agency Adecco, about 110,000 people left Spain between 2008 and 2010, as the unemployment rate in Spain climbed past 21 percent; today, more than 4.2 million people in Spain are unemployed. A significant increase was also recorded among Italians: the number of resumes submitted to Eurostat rose from 60,000 in March 2010 to nearly 90,000 by September 2011.

The migration of the “one-way-ticket” kind, which saw Italians and Irish board a ship bound for the United States and stay there until they died, has disappeared. Today the journey has become merely a trip from one country to another, chasing openings in the labour market. Migrants move tacitly about that market based on the acceptability and drudgery of the work.

And here lies a major difference between the Spanish emigrants and the Romanians. The latter are called “strawberry pickers” because they work mostly in agriculture in the host countries and take up the least skilled jobs. As for the Spaniards, says Professor Miguel Pajares, professor at the University of Barcelona, ??”they go to the countries where they can find specialised work. The difference between Romanians and Spanish is not so much skill as it is the acceptability” of different jobs.

In Ireland, the number of those leaving the country is higher than the number of those arriving at the time when the country was regarded as the “Celtic Tiger”. In the last fiscal year, April 2010 — April 2011, over 40,000 Irish left the island, while 36,000 immigrants landed. “The crisis is more easily bearable abroad,” explains Romanian Professor Dumitru Sandu, a specialist in migration.

The current migration trend will continue because of the crisis and the recession that have hit Europe, especially now that the countries that joined the EU in 2004 have exceeded the transition period (a maximum of seven years) that a Member State may impose to protect its labour market. That deadline was May 1 this year for Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia…

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