News Feed 20120126

Financial Crisis
» China Bailing Out EU Pure ‘Media Fluff’
» EU Financial Transaction Tax ‘Madness’: Cameron
» Merkel: Transfer More Powers to EU, Not More Money to Bail-Out Fund
» Oslo Braces for Wave of Homeless Europeans
 
USA
» As Longview Mosque Goes Up, Opposition From Neighborhood Grows
» Attorney: Dearborn Heights Football Players Charged Because They Are Arab-American
» Axe Murderer ‘Killed a Homeless Man With a Hatchet and Ate His Brains and Eye’
» Charges Against Star Academy Football Players Based on Race, Attorney Says
» Georgia Court Told Obama Slam-Dunk Disqualified
» Is End Near in Mosque Battle?
» Protests Against Maryland Mayor Attending Prayer Breakfast Featuring Notorious Islamophobe
» Rocket Men: Meet the 21st-Century Pioneers Who Want to Take You Into Space
 
Europe and the EU
» Airbus Says A380 Wing Cracks Pose No Danger
» Are Europe’s Muslims America’s Problem?
» Beastweek vs. Wilders: No Contest
» Dutch Zoo Fits Elephant With Contact Lens
» EU Muslims or Muslims in Europe?
» EU Threatens 13 Nations With Action for Cruelty to Hens
» France: Police Arrest Boss of Breast Implant Company
» Hirsi Ali’s Advice to Geert Wilders
» ‘Human Rights Laws Put Lives at Risk’: Cameron Tells Euro Court it Harms Fight Against Terror
» Mummified Body Found in Air Duct at French Bank Identified as Illegal Immigrant
» Researchers Defend Benefits of Mutant Flu Research
» Swiss Absinthe Makers Froth Over CSI Slur
» UK: ‘Strict Muslim’ Raped Four Women at Knifepoint to ‘Punish Them for Being on the Streets at Night’
» UK: Cardiff Meeting Halted by Anti-Terror Police ‘Was Study Class’
» UK: Negative Portrayal of Muslims in Media Fuels Prejudice, Leveson Inquiry Told
» UK: Rapist Who Struck ‘To Teach Women a Lesson’
» UK: SOAS ‘Biter’ Acquitted of Assault
» UK: Star Carr Archaeologists Given More Than £1m in Funding
» UK: Skeletons Found in Dorset Mass Grave ‘Were Mercenaries’
» UK: Tory Iconography in a Whig Nation
» Underwater Archaeology: Hunt for the Ancient Mariner
 
North Africa
» Controversy in Egypt Over Newly Established ‘Religious Police’
» Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood is Not the Taliban
» Jihad: When Elections Fail
» Two Copts Killed in Egypt for Refusing to Pay Extortion Money
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Isma’il Haniya’s First Regional Tour Transforms Him From Hamas PM in Gaza to Regional Palestinian Leader
 
Middle East
» China Slams EU’s Iran Sanctions
» Muslim Cleric Banned From Britain Claims Al-Qaeda Poised to Launch Suicide Attacks in Syria
» Revenge for EU Sanctions: Iran Set to Turn Off Oil Supply to Europe
» Tension in Yemen: Al-Qaida Activity Puts Regime Change in Doubt
» Why Iran Will Not ‘Come to Its Senses’
 
Russia
» 7,500-Year-Old Fishing Seines and Traps Discovered in Russia
 
South Asia
» India: Salman Rushdie and the Jaipur Literary Festival: The Zealots Have Triumphed Again
» India: Not Letting Him Speak is a Travesty: But the Rushdie Affair Should Not be Allowed to Damage a Great Literary Festival
» India: To Name the Unnameable [Rushdie/Jaipur Literary Festival]
» Pakistan: Sign the Petition for Mr Edhi to be Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2012
 
Australia — Pacific
» Bashed Teen Speaks of Terror
» Hogg Bowled Over by His Own Tastelessness in Pot Shot at Muslims
» Hogg Tweets Australia Day Slur to Muslims
 
Latin America
» Slave Port Unearthed in Brazil
 
Immigration
» Gingrich Opens Door for Illegal Immigrants
» UK: Iain Duncan Smith Rebuked by Watchdogs for Figures on Migrants
» UK: Two Vicars ‘Conducted Hundreds of Sham Marriages to Help Illegal Immigrants Stay in Britain’
 
Culture Wars
» Study: Abortion Safer Than Giving Birth
» Switzerland: Gay Sperm Donor Frozen Out by Lesbian Mums
 
General
» How Circumstance Dictates Islamic Behavior
» Huge Asteroid Vesta May be Packed With Water Ice
» New Star Discoveries Found in Antique Telescope Plates
» Why Do Britain and America Have Less Press Freedom Than Just a Year Ago? Countries Which Pride Themselves on Free Speech Slide Down International League Table

Financial Crisis


China Bailing Out EU Pure ‘Media Fluff’

(DAVOS) — Talk that debt-ridden Europe is counting on China to come to its rescue is just “media fluff,” members of the political and business elite said Thursday at the Davos forum. “In my own view… this is media fluff fluff,” World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy told the World Economic Forum meeting at the Swiss ski village.

“I don’t believe one second that there would be negotiations between the Chinese government and the Europeans saying ‘we will buy your debt if you do this or if you do that’. “They don’t even do that with the US, they buy US debt without condition. So I don’t believe that,” added the WTO director-general, referring to Beijing’s massive investment in US Treasury bills.

Debt-roiled European leaders have called on China, which has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves of about $3.2 trillion, to invest in a bailout fund. But China has so far made no firm commitment to provide financial assistance, saying only that it would “continue to support” EU efforts to fight the debt crisis.

Nasdaq chief executive officer Robert Greifeld also dismissed talk of any Chinese rescue funds as pure media speculation. “We define China as a developing country and we’re putting forward the proposition that a developing country should bail out developed Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Financial Transaction Tax ‘Madness’: Cameron

(DAVOS) — The European Union’s plan for a financial transaction tax is “simply madness”, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday. “Even to be considering this at a time when we are struggling to get our economies growing is quite simply madness,” Cameron said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Of course it’s right that the financial sector should pay their share. In the UK we are doing exactly that through our bank levies and stamp duty on shares. And these are options which other countries can adopt,” Cameron added. “But look at the European Commission’s own original analysis. That showed a Financial Transactions Tax could reduce the GDP of the EU by 200 billion euros, cost nearly 500,000 jobs and force as much as 90 per cent of some markets away from the EU.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Merkel: Transfer More Powers to EU, Not More Money to Bail-Out Fund

BRUSSELS — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said transferring more powers to EU institutions rather than increasing the size of the eurozone’s future bail-out fund is the way to overcome the euro crisis. “We have said right from the start that we want to stand up for the euro, but what we don’t want is a situation where we are forced to promise something that we will not be able to fulfil,” Merkel said Wednesday (25 January) in the opening speech of the World Economic Forum, an informal gathering of leaders and business magnates held every year in Davos, a Swiss mountain resort.

Merkel resisted calls made by the International Monetary Fund and the Italian Prime Minister to increase contributions to the European Stability Mechanism, set to come into force in July with a firepower of €500 billion and aimed at lowering the borrowing costs of large euro-economies such as Italy and Spain. “Some say that it has to be double the size, then if that’s not big enough, others will say it has to be three times as big,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Oslo Braces for Wave of Homeless Europeans

Oslo city authorities have expressed concerns that as many as 2,000 job seekers from southern and eastern Europe could end up living on the streets of the capital this spring. With the economic crisis tightening its grip on large parts of the continent, the city fears that growing numbers of jobless Europeans will make their way to Oslo in the hope of finding work, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

“Last year we estimated that 500 to 1,000 people were living more or less permanently in different outdoor areas in the city,” said Hans Edvardsen, head of the city’s Urban Environment Agency (Bymiljøetaten). “Because of the financial crisis we expect a major increase in the number of people heading north to seek a better life.”

The agency is now calling for the creation of an action plan to prepare for the expected influx. A meeting is being planned with the police, volunteer organizations and municipal authorities in order to discuss how best to deal with the situation.

Social affairs councillor Anniken Hauglie of the Conservative Party (Høyre) said she welcomed the initiative, since she believed many new arrivals in the city would soon learn that it was more difficult than they had imagined to find work. She also suggested that the city should be able to rely on help from the state if the problem escalates.

“Citizens of countries in the European Economic Area are clearly required to be able to provide for themselves,” she said. “Nobody can travel to Norway and expect to be given housing or other social benefits. People who are unable to support themselves must therefore be strongly recommended to go home.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


As Longview Mosque Goes Up, Opposition From Neighborhood Grows

Longview, TX – Longview-area Muslims hope to complete a mosque on the northern edge of the city in coming months — amid opposition from residents in the neighborhood — a mosque spokesman said Tuesday. Islamic Community of Longview member Saleem Shabazz said the 35 or 40 Muslims planning the worship center are encountering opposition from some future neighbors. “We expected that,” he said. “I don’t think we’re asking for anything from anyone that anyone else doesn’t have.” Envisioned as a 2,500- to 3,000-square foot mosque and cultural/education center, the facility on Amy Street would take the place of an apartment where local Muslims have held Friday prayers for about two decades, Shabazz said.

[….]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Attorney: Dearborn Heights Football Players Charged Because They Are Arab-American

Southfield— The attorney for four Star International Academy football players, charged with assault and battery following a scuffle at an October high school game against Lutheran High, said he believes the players were criminally charged because they are Arab-American.

Farmington Hills attorney Nabih Ayad plans to ask Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy that the charges, all misdemeanors, be dropped.

Worthy said in a statement: “Our investigation in this case includes a videotape which captured the incident. After a review of the evidence, we have charged the people involved in this incident with the appropriate charges.”

Ayad said Tuesday that while he doesn’t excuse the actions of the four players from the Dearborn Heights school, he believes Dearborn Heights police did a “sloppy” job investigating the matter and were wrong to charge the teens when they were doing what a lot of student and professional athletes have done.

“After the play, they hit those kids … it was wrong, but it doesn’t rise to this level of criminal liability,” said Ayad during a news conference Tuesday at the Southfield office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group.

The Prosecutor’s Office said ethnicity did not factor into the charges. “The policy of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is not to let race or ethnicity influence any of our charging decisions,” said spokeswoman Maria Miller. “The facts and the evidence are what guided us in the decision to charge the four football players with assault and battery.”

In the Oct. 21 incident, Star players are accused of kneeing players on the offensive line of the Westland school and the team’s quarterback.

In the police report, the quarterback for Lutheran was going to “take a knee” on the snap of the last play of the game. Lutheran won the game, 48-6.

According to the report, after the ball was snapped, Star players “attacked and assaulted” the Lutheran player, who said he was picked up by two Star players and “body slammed” to the ground.

“They then kicked him in the head, kicked him in the chest and twisted off his helmet,” according to the police report released to The Detroit News on Tuesday.

The Lutheran player lost consciousness, suffered minor abrasions to his face, neck and chest and was transported to a nearby hospital, the police report said. The teens charged were all minors at the time of the incident.

CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid and Rashid Baydoun, the executive director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, were joined at the conference by Aaron Sims, the director of the NAACP’s Western Wayne County branch.

The students were suspended from school for two days and two or three games each. Ayad said the school and game suspensions should have been enough.”Yes, the students should be punished, but there is protocol against such actions,” said Baydoun.

Efforts to reach officials for Lutheran High and Dearborn Heights police were unsuccessful. The teens are due back in court Feb. 29. If convicted, they face a maximum of 90 days in jail and $500 fine.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]



Axe Murderer ‘Killed a Homeless Man With a Hatchet and Ate His Brains and Eye’

Smith put the body parts in a bag and walked to cemetery where another cousin is buried.

‘At the cemetery he said he ate the eyeball, which tasted like an oyster, and the brain matter,’ according to the warrant.

Rabb contacted authorities after the victim’s body was discovered Friday.

Angel Gonzalez’s decomposed, significantly wounded body was found in an abandoned building and blood was spattered on a nearby wall.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Charges Against Star Academy Football Players Based on Race, Attorney Says

This story has been updated to reflect comments from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Misdemeanor assault or just misguided aggression?

When it comes to the charges against four Star International Academy football players for an on-field scuffle, it depends on whom you ask.

Following a three-month investigation, the Wayne County Prosecutor last week filed charges against Star Academy seniors Mohamed Ahmed, Fanar Al-Alsady, Hadee Attia and Ali Bajjey, all age 17, for an incident that happened as time expired in the school’s lopsided defeat to Westland Lutheran High School in October.

But the players’ attorney and civil rights groups say the charges are based solely on the players’ Arab ethnicity.

“I’m not siding with their conduct — we’re just saying these charges are ridiculous,” said attorney Nabih Ayad. “We could not find one case for high school football in Michigan where players were charged (for an on-field fight). The only thing we can conclude is that this was based on race.”

The incident took place Oct. 23 at Star Academy, located just behind the Caroline Kennedy Library in Dearborn Heights. The charter school, which serves students mostly of Middle Eastern descent, was taking a 47-6 drubbing at the hands of Westland Lutheran and tempers flared. As Westland’s quarterback was taking a knee to run out the clock, Star players burst through the offensive line and threw him to the ground. The impact, according to published reports, ultimately sent him to the hospital with a grade-three concussion.

A letter approved by the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan, the newly formed Arab Civil Rights League and the local chapter of the NAACP has been sent to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy requesting the charges be dismissed, said Ayad. The letter also questions why a Westland Lutheran coach was not charged for pushing a Star Academy player to the ground during the melee.

“It’s disturbing that the Westland coach basically grabs one of the Star Academy students and just tosses him to the ground, yet they don’t bring charges against him,” Ayad said.

Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Spokeswoman Maria Miller said that as of Tuesday, the letter had not yet been received, but either way, race was not a factor in the charges.

“The policy of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is not to let race or ethnicity influence any of our charging decisions and that protocol was followed here,” Miller said, adding, “Once a case is in progress we don’t comment upon the facts; we let the legal process take its course.”

Westland Lutheran families are speaking out and they don’t see it the same way.

“If this happened on the street corner, then clearly there would be people arrested, there would be consequences,” said Westland Lutheran Coach Paul Guse, whose son P.J. is the team’s quarterback, in an interview with WXYZ. “And so just because it happened at the end of a football game, I don’t think it should be any different.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



Georgia Court Told Obama Slam-Dunk Disqualified

Georgia citizens today delivered sworn testimony to a court that Barack Obama is slam-dunk disqualified from having his name on the 2012 presidential ballot in the state, because his father never was a U.S. citizen, which prevents him from qualifying as a “natural-born citizen” as the U.S. Constitution requires for a president.

The historic hearing was the first time that a court has accepted arguments on the merits of the controversy over Obama’s status. His critics say he never met the constitutional requirements to occupy the Oval Office, and the states and Congress failed in their obligations to make sure only a qualified president is inaugurated. His supporters, meanwhile, argue he won the 2008 election and therefore was “vetted” by America.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Is End Near in Mosque Battle?

THE BATTLE for control of a West Philadelphia mosque may soon be over. The imam and members of the board of the Philadelphia Masjid, at 47th Street and Wyalusing Avenue, the city’s oldest continuously operated African-American mosque, filed an emergency injunction nearly two weeks ago after what they described as a hostile takeover by a rival faction calling itself the “concerned believers.” Religious services were interrupted and fights broke out inside the mosque in which the chairman of its board, Rafiq Kalam id-din, and Imam Malik Mubashshir were assaulted, court documents allege.

Accusing the leaders of changing the bylaws to let them keep their positions and turning members away, members of the rival group voted to remove the board. The board argued that only members can vote and that some of the votes are not from members. One member of the elected board even jumped ship and joined the rival group. But an order issued yesterday by Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox called for Kalam id-din to “stand for a retention election” March 3. The elected officials said that the rival group includes supporters of ousted imam Shamsud-din Ali, a main figure in the 2005 City Hall bugging scandal, now completing an 87-month prison term. “It’s not coincidental that this is all happening when Shamsud-din is looking to be released next year,” said Willie Lee Nattiel, attorney for the elected officials. “My clients believe he’s behind this. [Kalam id-din] was the champion against this fallen leader [Ali] and now he has become the despot,” said Darwin Beauvais, attorney for the rival group. “He takes away titles and decided to lock doors. What happened to the spirit of community?”

Fox ordered that a committee of five members be selected to oversee the election and determine voter eligibility. Both sides will name two individuals whose names will be submitted to the court Jan. 30, and those members will select a fifth member by Feb. 4. If the four committeemen cannot select a fifth member, the court will. A status hearing is slated for March 26.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Protests Against Maryland Mayor Attending Prayer Breakfast Featuring Notorious Islamophobe

Protesters are pressuring Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan to shun a prayer breakfast that features a former high-ranking Army officer who has made anti-Muslim remarks. Leaders of People for the American Way, a left-leaning advocacy group based in Washington, say they have sent hundreds of emails to town officials this week over retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin’s scheduled appearance at the breakfast Thursday. Boykin, a former senior Pentagon official, bills himself as a warrior for Jesus Christ. He made headlines nationally for describing Muslims as idol-worshipers and comparing the war on terrorism to the biblical fight between Christians and the devil. Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said his group wants the mayor to refuse to attend to the event, or to force the organizer to revoke Boykin’s invitation. More than 700 people have emailed Meehan and town officials since Monday through a tool on its website to protest the gathering, according to the group, which says its mission is to advocate for equality, free speech and freedom of religion. Maryland’s ACLU staff attorney David Rocah said in a statement: “The group that invited Boykin has a First Amendment right to chose whomever it wishes as its speaker, and Gen. Boykin has a First Amendment right to make whatever offensive comments he wishes.” But Rocah added: “Anyone who cares about religious freedom and equality has a perfect right to be concerned about Gen. Boykin’s islamophobic statements, and a right to protest any group that invites him.”

Baltimore Sun, 24 January 2012

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Rocket Men: Meet the 21st-Century Pioneers Who Want to Take You Into Space

Lots of kids go through an astronaut phase, usually sometime between fireman and president of the United States. For the last three generations of American children dreaming of slipping the surly bonds of Earth, the only game in the galaxy has been a federal agency: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). But since NASA’s space shuttle program shuddered to a stop in July 2011 with the final flight of the Atlantis, those kids-and the adults they have become-have been forced to look outside of government for liftoff.

As luck would have it, there are quite a few men (and they are virtually all men) who would be more than happy to help. These 21st-century pioneers want to make spaceflight affordable, accessible, and commonplace, making a buck off your childhood fantasies in the process.

After SpaceX executed a nearly flawless launch and recovery of its Dragon capsule in December 2010, the company’s CEO and founder, Elon Musk, had only one regret-that there wasn’t anyone on board. “If there were people sitting in the Dragon capsule today,” he said at a post-launch press conference, “they would have had a very nice ride.” The Dragon voyage was the first time a commercial space vehicle had made it into orbit and back-a major milestone for the industry.

Musk, a Stanford grad school dropout who was born in South Africa, made his fortune-estimated at $670 million-as one of the founders of the online payment site PayPal. Then he founded Tesla Motors, where he led development of an all-electric sports car. After the space shuttles were retired, NASA was forced to start paying Russians to ferry Americans and their gear back and forth to the International Space Station, at about $63 million per seat. Musk says SpaceX can do it for one-third the price. The added risk of throwing humans-or as Musk refers to them, “biological cargo”-doesn’t seem to worry him.

Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson isn’t a rocket scientist, but he knows a good publicity stunt when he sees it. The Ansari X Prize, which offered $10 million in private money for the first nongovernmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft twice in a two-week period, brought a burst of public attention to the commercial space race in 2004. Branson quickly snapped up the rights to the winning vehicle, SpaceShipOne, and the team that went with it, including famous aviation whiz Burt Rutan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Airbus Says A380 Wing Cracks Pose No Danger

Tiny cracks discovered in the wings of Airbus superjumbo A380 planes can be easily repaired and pose no danger, the aircraft’s manufacturer said on Wednesday. Airbus’ statement came the same day the European Aviation Safety Agency said 20 of the aircraft must be inspected after cracks were found in the wings of Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air France planes.

“This is not a fatigue cracking problem,” said Tom Williams, a vice-president with Airbus, blaming the cracks on design and manufacturing issues. “The cracks do not compromise the airworthiness of the aircraft.” Dominique Fouda, a spokesman with the European air safety agency, said eight planes must be fully inspected by Friday and the remaining 12 within six weeks. “The most urgent inspections concern six planes from Singapore Airlines and two from Emirates,” he said.

Among the 12 others, one plane belongs to Air France and another is a test plane belonging to Airbus. A source close to the matter had earlier told AFP that 30 A380s were the subject of concern.

“The goal of these inspections is to understand a little better the origin of these problems,” Fouda said. “This directive is aimed at having a better understanding of this phenomenon, which is not complete for the moment.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Are Europe’s Muslims America’s Problem?

by Hisham Aidi

“Soft power” programmes in the US that reach out to European Muslims have drawn ire from EU governments.

New York, NY – As the presidential campaign begins in earnest, Republican contenders are stirring up racial animosities: Newt Gingrich calls President Obama a “foodstamp president”, and demands a federal law to preempt sharia; Santorum makes derogatory remarks about “blah” people and welfare, and warns of “Eurabia”; Mitt Romney declares that he will not have Muslims in his cabinet and that Obama is trying to turn the US into a “European-style entitlement society”; Gingrich agrees, but then attacks Romney for speaking French. Scapegoating and race-baiting during a US electoral season are not new; as the campaign heats up, so will the rhetoric. The irony is that the negative rhetoric surrounding race, Islam and Europe is rising — just as the State Department is trying to counter the “nativist surge” in Europe by showcasing the US model of racial integration, and dispatching African-American and Muslim-American goodwill ambassadors to Europe to extol the civil rights movement.

For several years now, the State Department has been quietly trying to introduce its ideas around race, multiculturalism and affirmative action into European policy and activist circles, aiming to alter the discourse on Islam in Europe — and in some cases, actively trying to help “integrate” European Muslims. The WikiLeaks cables that probably stirred the most anger in European capitals were those where US diplomats castigated allies — France, Britain, Holland — for mistreating their Muslim minorities, and not doing enough to battle domestic extremism. In August 2006, a year after the bombings in London, the US embassy there sent a cable to Washington stating that “little progress” had been made in combating extremism, warning of rising tensions between the Muslim community and Her Majesty’s government (“HMG”). The US embassy in London then established a project of “Reverse Radicalism” focusing on “at risk” youth. The London cables also describe the US embassy’s efforts to reach “moderate” Muslim communities that “lack the institutional infrastructure to actively mobilise against radicalising influences”. Many among the British press were unhappy with the US embassy’s “secret campaign” to de-radicalise British Muslims, and especially with the embassy’s outreach to mosques considered “radical”, such as the Finsbury Park mosque in North London. US embassy officials and British public opinion don’t appear to agree on what constitutes a “moderate” Muslim.

But it is, perhaps not surprisingly, in France that the State Department’s assessments and outreach to Muslim communities have triggered the most outrage. The dispatches from the US embassy in Paris are blunt in their appraisal — “the French have a well-known problem with discrimination against minorities”. Some cables read like descriptions of a pre-civil rights United States: “The French media remains overwhelmingly white… Among French elite educational institutions, we are only aware that Science Po has taken serious steps to integrate.” The thrust of the correspondence from the Paris embassy argues that the French approach to assimilation has not worked, because, of an “official blindness to all racial and ethnic differences”. And the fear is not only that young French Muslims will gravitate towards extremism — “the USG [United States government] takes seriously the potentially global threat of disenfranchised and disadvantaged minorities in France” — but that ethnic and racial conflict would weaken France. “We believe that if France, over the long term, does not succeed in improving prospects for its minorities and give them true political representation, it could become weaker, more divided and perhaps inclined toward crises… and a less effective ally as a result.”

The US embassy staff acknowledge France’s reluctance to accept the US model of integration or to “partner” with the embassy, but the cables describe numerous outreach projects (exchange programmes, conferences, media appearance) to raise awareness among state and societal actors about the US civil rights movement. The response from youth in the banlieues to these programmes has been largely positive. Young French Muslims note that the US embassy’s outreach is different from the French government’s security-centred approach and shrill rhetoric about Islam and immigration (Sarkozy a few years ago threatened to clean up a cité with a Kärcher, a high-pressure hose). Widad Ketfi, a young blogger, who participated in an embassy-sponsored programme says she knows she was targeted by the US embassy because of her Algerian-Muslim background, but adds: “What bothers me is being the target of the French state.” These youths claim that French politicians will visit their enclaves only during election time, surrounded by security guards. “We’re waiting for the president of the republic, for his ministers,” observes Gilbert Roger, the mayor of Bondy, a gritty suburb in northeastern Paris. “And we see the ambassador of the United States.” The residents of Bondy, he says, “have the sense that the United States looks upon our areas with much more deference and respect”. US diplomats expected resistance to these public diplomacy initiatives from the French establishment. “While direct development assistance from USG is not likely to be available for France,” notes one cable, requesting the availability of funds “to address the consequences of discrimination and minority exclusion in France” — stressing that, given France’s official discourse and self-image, “such an effort will continue to require considerable discretion, sensitivity and tact on our part”.

Backlash

And there has been a backlash from French officials and commentators. France has long viewed itself as being immune to US-style race politics, priding itself on providing refuge, since the late 19th century, to African-Americans fleeing discrimination, so depictions of the French republic as a prejudiced country in need of US aid and tutelage were not well received. The cable that drew the most indignant responses from French state officials was written by then US Ambassador Craig Stephenson, at the height of the civil unrest in November 2005: “The real problem is the failure of white Christian France to view its dark-skinned and Muslim compatriots as citizens in their own rights.” Speaking on a television show, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin scoffed [FR], “This [cable] shows the limits of American diplomacy,” adding that US diplomats were wrongly reading the banlieues crisis through their own history, and viewing France’s urban crisis through a religious prism.

The French didn’t like it either when US goodwill ambassadors drew parallels between the banlieues and the US South. When the US ambassador, Charles Rivkin, a former Hollywood executive, brought actor Samuel L Jackson, to visit a community centre in Bondy, and Jackson, addressing a group of youth, compared their struggle with the hardships of his childhood in segregated Tennessee, French media resented the comparison. Another awkward moment came at the unveiling of a painted mural for the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr at the Collège Martin Luther King in Villiers-le-Bel, another restive Parisian suburb, when a group of African and Arab children stood around Ambassador Rivkin and sang “We Shall Overcome”.

As in Britain, segments of French society were displeased by revelations that the US had, since 2003, been deeply involved in the integration process — trying to shift the media discourse, to get French leaders to rethink their “terminology” and “intellectual frameworks” regarding minority inclusion; trying to generate public debates about “affirmative action”, “multiculturalism”, and hyphenated identity; pushing to reform history curricula taught in French schools, and working with French museums to exhibit the contributions of minorities. Left-leaning analysts opposed to US policies in the Islamic world saw this “Marshall Plan” for the banlieues as a diversionary tactic [FR]. One cable notes that, by improving the lot of French Muslims, the US embassy can alter French-Muslim perceptions of the US, to show that the US respects Islam and “is engaged for good in the Arab-Muslim worlds”. Other critics just don’t think US conceptions of race and integration can travel across the Atlantic.

More surprising was the negative reaction of some (neo)conservative voices in France, who tend to agree with the US right’s apocalyptic tone regarding “Eurabia” and Muslim immigration to Europe. Right-wing US bloggers and authors of books such as While Europe Slept and Surrender — that speak of Europe’s “smouldering Muslim ghettoes” and the imminent Muslim takeover of Europe — have long resonated with a segment of the European public. Yet many conservative-leaning French journalists and commentators expressed anger at this exercise in US “soft power”, saying that the “head-hunting” efforts, the grooming of future Muslim leaders constituted a “direct interference”, that was undermining the authority of French institutions and French sovereignty.

French outrage

As in Britain, the Paris embassy’s efforts to empower “moderate” Muslim voices caused considerable anger. When it emerged that one of the Muslim organisations the embassy was supporting was the magazine Oumma.com — described by the US ambassador as a “remarkable website”, polemicist Caroline Fourest, author of a manifesto warning of the coming “Islamic totalitarianism”, charged that the US right and French Muslims were allying to undermine French laïcité. Western states have a long history of intervening in the Muslim world to protect and empower religious minorities. This practice continues, in different forms to this day, but it is unprecedented for Western states — allies — to court or protect each other’s minorities. And yet the US is spending millions of dollars to win the hearts and minds of Europe’s disaffected Muslim communities, often vying with European states’ own local efforts.

These outreach efforts show that US diplomacy increasingly views the moral and symbolic capital of the civil rights movement as a form of soft power that can help improve the country’s image in Europe’s urban periphery, while imparting some US racial commonsense. But ironies abound: the efforts to exhibit US racial harmony and forestall ethnic conflict in Europe are taking place as political hopefuls whip up resentment of Muslims and African-Americans in the US. Imagine the reaction — in the current Euro-bashing climate — if it were revealed that the French government was pumping millions of dollars to help “integrate” African-Americans, and elevate the discourse on race in the US.

Perhaps the greatest irony of the State Department’s efforts to showcase the model integration of US Muslims, and to deploy the images and ideas of the civil rights movement in Europe, is that these efforts have been occurring against a backdrop of unfavourable media images of Quran burnings, anti-mosque rallies and accusatory Congressional hearings. The anti-mosque movement has now morphed into a broader “anti-Sharia” movement. Thirteen states from South Carolina to Arizona to Alaska have introduced bills banning Islamic law. The Texas Board of Education passed a resolution rejecting high-school textbooks that are “pro-Islam [and] anti-Christian”, and a similar campaign is underway in Florida. American Muslims are facing a rising tide of discrimination that will no doubt worsen as the 2012 presidential campaign progresses. As for the Democrats, maybe it is politically easier to be photographed with Muslims in Paris singing “We Shall Overcome” than to challenge the organised bigotry brewing at home.

Hishaam Aidi is editor, with Manning Marable, of Black Routes to Islam (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), and a fellow at the Open Society Foundation in New York. For more on US policy towards European Muslims, please see this longer study by Dr Aidi.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Beastweek vs. Wilders: No Contest

by Diana West

Beastweek decided to take a swipe at Geert Wilders this month — no particular reason, just because he’s still there. It’s a singularly empty piece, a selection of complaints by Christopher Dickey rattling around, anchored by an almost comically validating chorus.

Example:

“There’s no such thing as moderate Islam, Wilders insists, and he’s tired of hearing that radical Islam is something different from the mainstream faith.”

BTW, Beastweek, Turkey’s Erdogun goes ballistic at the very notion of “moderate Islam.” The Turkish PM doesn’t like assimilation, either — calling it “a crime against humanity.” But never mind. You’re perfect the way you are. Don’t ever change.

Beastweek:

“It means nothing to him that among Muslim believers there are many different sects and currents.”

Chorus:

“He makes no distinctions whatsoever,” says Robert Leiken, author of the just-published study Europe’s Angry Muslims. “He wants to throw out the whole Quran because of some things that are objectionable—but you could say the same thing about the Book of Joshua.”

Robert Leiken, an old friend of mine, is the man who brought us all “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” which is kind of like the Edsel, or even the Titanic, for intellectuals. “Abrogation” doesn’t seem to have entered the syllabus yet.

Back to Newsbeast:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



Dutch Zoo Fits Elephant With Contact Lens

An elephant at a Dutch zoo has become the first in Europe to be fitted with a contact lens. The pachyderm had injured her eye in a scrap with a fellow elephant, but her caretakers say it will now be able to heal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



EU Muslims or Muslims in Europe?

Part 1 of Dr. Ramadan’s talk in Austria on Islam as a European Religion, at the Salzburg Seminar. The session was entitled “Immigration and Inclusion: Rethinking National Identity

I’m sorry not being able to speak in German. I studied six years in Switzerland and my first PhD was on Nietzsche’s philosophy, and I lost everything. So this is the first thing to take which is not my example of forgetting a language that you have studied at school, and unfortunately I’m obliged to speak in English. I was asked to speak about a certain topic. Do we have to speak about being European Muslims or being Muslims in Europe? And I think it’s not by accident, 15 years ago when I first wrote a book to be a European Muslim I got some reactions from my fellow Muslims saying: “No you have to say being a Muslim in Europe”. I say “No I’m European by culture, and I’m a Muslim by religion so I’m a European Muslim”. So it’s not to be a Muslim somewhere else. This is home for me, and this is home for you, and this is home for us.

Integration is a Word of the Past

As an introduction, I think it’s really important to face the reality of being Muslims or European Muslims in our countries. And I heard of course that your situation in Austria may be better than others in other European societies. Still, if you look at what is going on now in the mainstream media around the world and especially in Europe, what we have to say is that the coverage of Islam and Muslims is mainly negative. So the perception the people around have about Islam and Muslims is negative, and we are facing this everyday. Just arriving here, reading in a UK newspaper, The Times, an article saying the problem is not with radical Muslims, the problem is with Islam itself because radical Muslims are in fact following the true message of Islam.

You know that we have far-right parties and something which has been normalizing the discourse in Europe about this. So the Muslims have two choices: the first one is to say “OK, look, the people around us don’t like Muslims and they don’t like Islam” and to nurture something which is the victim mentality: “They don’t like us, they don’t like Islam, let us be among ourselves, to withdraw among ourselves and to be Muslims far from the society”. This is the wrong answer. This is exactly what far-right parties want in our European societies. What the Muslims should do is to refuse the victim mentality. It’s not a question to be liked or not to be liked. It’s a question of rights, it’s a question of understanding, it’s a question of self-respect. It’s to stand up for our responsibilities as citizens and as Muslims and to say “Look, we are not going to accept you to target us and promote racism. It’s now time to live together, to respect each other and to know each other”. So to stand up for our responsibilities is the only right Islamic and positive answer that Muslims should promote and not the victim mentality which is sometimes around in the Muslim communities in Europe.

The second point is that what we have now normalized in the discourse is people coming to you and saying you Muslims and us as Europeans. This “us” vs. “them” is not acceptable. I’m part of this new “us”, I’m not outside Europe. It’s “us” as Europeans and us as Europeans, Muslims, atheists, Jews, Christians and whatever you want to be, you are European. So the problem here is to say “Look, it’s a question of common values and common citizenship”, and be careful because till now even though you are less advanced as to the history of the Muslim presence in Austria as for example in France or in other countries in Europe with decades of Muslim presence, we still have people say “You have to integrate”. I think we have to be cautious with the concept of integration, because people are nurturing this “You have to integrate, you have to integrate” and nurturing in their own minds and in our minds that to be integrated still means that you are not part of us, so we are waiting for you to be part of us. What we have to say is “We are sorry. We are already integrated. Our main concern today is not to be integrated, it’s to contribute to the future of our society”.

So it’s different now. Integration is a word of the past. The word of the future and the word of the present is contribution; what could we give as Austrian citizens, European citizens to our country. Stop talking about integration. Talk about living together, acting together, and contributing together for the sake of our common future. So the last point is really something that we have to say. Maybe some people don’t want to listen to this: Islam is a European religion. Islam is part of the European landscape. By the way, it’s not new. For all the people who are now building a new past to Europe and saying “We want to talk to you as people coming from outside” we have to tell them “Look, you have to revisit your own past, because it’s not true that the European history is only based on Greek or Roman and Judeo-Christian legacy. It’s wrong. The past of Europe is Judeo-Christian-Islamic, and we are part of Europe for a long time. So what we are trying to do by our presence is to reconcile yourself with your own past, because by having a selective approach of your past you are building a selective present.

So this is something which is really important and this is our business to come to something which should be important in our curriculum in the schools. We have to integrate this past as part of the European legacy. If you put us outside your past it means that you have difficulties to consider us as part of your present. So we have to take this as something which is a deep challenge. What I want to say is now not only to speak about our fellow-citizens, but as we are here as a very impressive gathering of the Muslim community, the Austrian Muslim community, is to come to something which is from within. What do we have to say to ourselves to move from a victim mentality to our responsibilities as Austrian Muslims and European Muslims?

The Seven Cs

I want to share with you the promotion of 7 Cs. The first one which is really important is confidence. The second one is criticism; the critical mind. The third one is communication. The fourth one is contribution. … The sixth one is citizenship and the last one is creativity. Let me go very quickly through all this, and share with the Muslims here, the young and the not so young Muslims, something which should be heard by our fellow-Europeans, your fellow-Austrian citizens, in order to build a future together. The first one which is really important: If now you don’t get this confidence that you are at the same time fully Muslim and fully Austrian and there is no contradiction between being a Muslim and being an Austrian, and you are at peace with yourself you will not spread peace around you. Faqid alshai’a la yo’utih as we say in Arabic (If you don’t get something you can’t give it) So the point here is to be confident with our own values…

[JP note: The mystery of the 5th C — why is it missing? I can’t even begin to guess what it might be.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



EU Threatens 13 Nations With Action for Cruelty to Hens

(BRUSSELS) — The EU executive gave 13 member nations a two-month deadline Thursday to improve the fate of tens of millions of laying-hens confined in cramped cages. The European Commission listed countries failing to comply with animal welfare rules as Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

One out of seven laying-hens in Europe — or 47 million of 330 million— are kept in tiny cages no bigger than a standard piece of typing paper. Under a 1999 law that came into force on January 1, egg-laying hens must be kept in so-called “enriched cages” providing “extra space to nest, scratch and roost.”

The European Union legislation states hens must be given at least 750 square centimetres of space — which is not much larger than a piece of A4 paper — “to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Police Arrest Boss of Breast Implant Company

French police arrested Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the breast implant company PIP at the centre of an international health scare, police said Thursday. “Jean-Claude Mas was arrested at the home of his companion … and taken into custody,” said a police source, adding that officers had picked him up on Thursday morning.

Mas was arrested over an investigation opened in December in the southern port of Marseille into the health implications of PIP’s breast implants. Police are investigating possible charges of homicide and involuntary harm.

French doctors have registered 20 cases of cancer among women fitted with the implants, 16 of whom had breast cancer, although as yet no direct causal link has been established. Between 400,000 and 500,000 women around the world are believed to have received implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), the now-defunct company that Mas founded in southern France.

France, Germany and the Czech Republic have recommended that the devices be removed as a precaution but Britain has said it will not follow suit. The prostheses were withdrawn from the European market in 2010 after France’s health watchdog discovered they were made from sub-standard, industrial-grade gel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Hirsi Ali’s Advice to Geert Wilders

Since when has any shade of Muslim been an ally to non-Muslims? It is astonishing that after so many years studying and writing about Muslims, and at one point living the life of a Muslim, Ali can make such nonchalant and ignorant remarks about Muslims and their interaction with non-Muslims. And not only that, it is astonishing how much she undermines the work the Wilders has done which has placed him in the awful predicament he lives in now. The moderate shades of Muslims that Ali talks about have not made a single attempt to get him out of this predicament, since they don’t exist. And Wilders himself is hardly the extremist that Ali makes him out to be, although he has no illusions about Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘Human Rights Laws Put Lives at Risk’: Cameron Tells Euro Court it Harms Fight Against Terror

European human rights laws undermine the fight against terrorism and put British lives at risk, David Cameron warned yesterday.

He said a string of bizarre rulings on terror and immigration cases had ‘distorted’ the ‘discredited’ concept of human rights.

In a thinly veiled reference to the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to block the deportation of hate preacher Abu Qatada last week, the Prime Minister accused it of tying the hands of governments trying to deal with terror suspects.

David Cameron addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

David Cameron addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Prime Minister rebuked the European Court of Human Rights for ‘undermining its own reputation’ by ‘going over national decisions where it does not have to’

Mr Cameron also raised concerns over the growing backlog of more than 160,000 cases awaiting consideration at the Strasbourg court

Mr Cameron’s initiative comes amid anger in the UK over rulings which blocked the deportation of extremist cleric Abu Qatada and required the extension of voting rights to prison inmates

He said: ‘The problem today is you can end up with someone who has no right to live in your country, who you are convinced — and have good reason to be convinced — means to do your country harm.

‘And yet there are circumstances in which you cannot try them, you cannot detain them and you cannot deport them.

‘So having put in place every possible safeguard to ensure that ECHR rights are not violated, we still cannot fulfil our duty to our law-abiding citizens to protect them. Together, we have to find a solution to this.’

Qatada, once described as Osama Bin Laden’s ambassador in Europe, won the right to stay in Britain after the court ruled he might not get a ‘fair trial’ in Jordan, where he is wanted for conspiring to carry out bombings.

If the judgment is upheld he will be freed from jail to live on benefits with his wife and five children.

The Prime Minister said there was now ‘credible democratic anxiety’ about the impact of the court on issues such as the Government’s ability to fight terrorism and control Britain’s borders.

Mr Cameron was heard in stony silence as he delivered his call for sweeping reforms at the Strasbourg headquarters of the Council of Europe — just yards from the court.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Mummified Body Found in Air Duct at French Bank Identified as Illegal Immigrant

An autopsy and fingerprint check on the half-rotted corpse, which was discovered Monday at a branch of Credit Foncier in Lyon, eastern France confirmed he was a man in his thirties known to police in several French cities, Lyon Capitale reported. He had claimed to be just 19 years old and originally from Gaza.

Workers at the bank complained for months about a bad smell emanating from the air vent, prompting an inspection by maintenance workers and the gruesome discovery earlier in the week.

The body was located in a bend in the ducting, which measures just 20 inches across and leads from the roof to a staff bathroom. The man died of asphyxiation and had no other injuries.

Investigators think he became stuck inside the bank just before Christmas, as he was last ticketed by cops on Dec. 11 and a newspaper from Dec. 13 was found with his body.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Researchers Defend Benefits of Mutant Flu Research

A dire lack of global virus surveillance doesn’t negate the potential of mutation monitoring, argue two researchers behind the mutant flu research.

The creation in the laboratory of strains of the H5N1 avian flu virus that are highly transmissible in mammals could eventually open the door for research towards improving pandemic preparedness. But concerns have been raised that the proliferation of such work would amplify the risk of accidental or intentional release of a virus that could spark a human pandemic.

Ron Fouchier and Ab Osterhaus, flu researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, led the team that mutated an H5N1 virus and identified a set of five mutations that made it both highly transmissible and lethal in ferrets. They defend and explain the potential benefits of their work.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swiss Absinthe Makers Froth Over CSI Slur

Swiss distillers of absinthe are mortified by an American television crime drama show that depicts the high-octane spirit as a killer drink. A recent episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a CBS series, features a character who is incited to murder after quaffing the legendary eau de vie.

The show, which airs on the Swiss television channel TSR1, infuriated producers of absinthe in the Neuchâtel region of Val-de-Travers. “To pretend that absinthe can kill someone is not very intelligent,” Yves Kübler, vice-president of the absinthe producers’ association told Le Matin newspaper.

The strong liquor, with roots in Neuchâtel that go back to the late 1700s, was banned for much of the last century because of medical concerns about its addictive qualities and its contents, which include wormwood aniseed mixed with grain alcohol. But now it is enjoying a trendy revival, with various brands offering versions with alcohol levels ranging from 45 to 74 per cent.

In the CSI episode, the murderer drinks some of the liquor, nicknamed the “green fairy” because of the colour it turns when water is added, before committing his crime. A scientific team analysing particles on the victim concludes that plants used to make absinthe can cause hallucinations.

But Pierre Bonhote, the cantonal chemist for Neuchâtel, said the episode was in “bad taste”. Bonhote told Le Matin that it was only during the prohibition period in the early part of the 20th century that absinthe contained a substance — thujone — in large enough quantities to induce hallucinations. Now that component is limited to 35 milligrams per litre, “absinthe is no more dangerous than pastis,” he said, referring to the French liquor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Strict Muslim’ Raped Four Women at Knifepoint to ‘Punish Them for Being on the Streets at Night’

Thus the headline to an article in today’s Daily Mail. As is almost invariably the case when this newspaper reports on any issue involving Muslims, the headline is intentionally misleading. If you read the article, you’ll see it is the rapist’s family background that is characterised as “strict Muslim” not the individual himself. In fact the judge in passing sentence made the point that the rapist carried out the attacks despite and in contradiction to his religious upbringing: “The fact that you have attacked these women not withstanding your background must represent your own wholly warped personality.” But the headline suggests to the reader that it was the man’s strict adherence to his faith which produced the violent misogyny that led him to commit these crimes.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Cardiff Meeting Halted by Anti-Terror Police ‘Was Study Class’

A Cardiff meeting halted by anti-terror police was a study class unrelated to terror, says a speaker at the event. Officers raided Canton Community Hall on 19 January after complaints about the Muslims Against Crusades group. But Abu Hajar, 29, of Grangetown, Cardiff, denied the meeting’s organisers, Supporters Of Tawheed, were affiliated to the proscribed group. The Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit has defended its actions as “entirely proportionate”. Its officers were called to the venue on Leckwith Road last Thursday night. Police said the decision to attend was taken after a series of complaints had been raised about the activities of the Muslims Against Crusades group. Concerns were raised by members of the local Muslim community, the unit said.

The operation was supported by Cardiff council, which owns the community centre. Police said they were met with “hostility” despite trying to “peacefully engage with those present”.

Following the raid Mohammed Abdin, 21, from Grangetown, appeared at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court where he admitted a charge under section four of the Public Order Act 1986.

He will be sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court next month. Mr Hajar told BBC Wales he was shocked at the police’s intervention. “These were not meetings, they were classes to study Islamic subjects,” he said. “People come and study in our classes and go back and live ordinary lives. It was completely uncalled for. If there was criminal activity taking place they would have arrested people for that. There was no need to raid the place. Imagine if someone was suffering from a medical condition. They could have had a heart attack when 20 police officers rushed in.”

Mr Hajar said he challenged police to bring forward evidence if they believed the group was involved in terrorism. “They said they believed people within our group were alleged members or affiliated with Muslims Against Crusades,” he said. “We are not affiliated in any way with other organisations.” On its website, the Supporters of Tawheed organisation says it believes “it is only a matter of time until Islam will prevail in the whole world and this is something that we believe in and are striving to see”. In a statement about the incident posted on the site, the group said it had run weekly classes for the past 15 months to teach “the rules and regulations related to good character and worship, as well as issues of how to make a positive contribution to society”. The statement said: “These classes were known to the police and openly advertised amongst the community since they began.” It added that police “barged in to the class” and “behaved in a hostile manner”.

In response the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said it was satisfied its actions at the meeting “were entirely proportionate to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the wider public”. “In operations such as this, the police service always takes steps to demonstrate transparency in terms of its tactics as well as helping to secure the best evidence and this was certainly the case in this incident,” said a spokesman. “Regrettably, despite the police service’s attempts to peacefully engage with those present, police officers were subject to hostility. It should be noted that one man arrested at the Canton Community Centre has already pleaded guilty to a public order offence and has been remanded in custody awaiting sentence. With the help of Cardiff council, this action was taken as a result of the genuine concerns of Cardiff’s Muslim communities and their response has been very supportive and positive.”

Saleem Kidwai, secretary of the Muslim Council of Wales said his organisation was concerned about “any group or organisation which creates concern in the community, or disharmony”. “If the police have taken this step they must have concerns,” he said. Muslims Against Crusades was made a proscribed organisation in November last year by the home secretary under anti-terror legislation aimed at stopping activities that could promote or glorify terrorism. Being a member of the group or promoting its activities is a criminal offence.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Negative Portrayal of Muslims in Media Fuels Prejudice, Leveson Inquiry Told

The amount of negative stories about Muslims in the UK was demonising a whole religion the Leveson Inquiry has heard. Inayat Bunglawala, consultant editor to ENGAGE, appeared at the Inquiry to present evidence on representations of Islam and Muslims in the British media. In its written submission to the Leveson Inquiry, ENGAGE highlighted the inadequate provisions in the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice to handle third party complaints and its negative cumulative impact on processes for redress of grievance. It also heard that the excessive media attention granted to fringe Muslim groups to demonised the wider British Muslim population; and instances of gross misrepresentation or fabrication in the production of news stories relating to Islam and British Muslims fuelled a false narrative.

ENGAGE stated in its written submission, “In consideration of the enormous impact of coverage that is proven to be inaccurate, inflammatory, prejudicial and detrimental to the representation of social groups in society, whether composed of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, the exclusion of ‘third party’ complaints is deeply unsatisfactory and remains a grave deficit in the complaints handling powers and procedures of the Press Complaints Commission. “A more robust system of self-regulation is required, one which mandates the right of third party complainants to challenge misrepresentations, inaccuracies and false reporting. British Muslims as a social group collectively suffer from poor media practices, whether this be the excessive attention granted to fringe Muslim groups, like Muslims Against Crusades, by the media or poor fact-checking prior to publication. Improving media practices and media responsibility on portraying and reporting fairly on Islam and British Muslims, without bias or discrimination or intent to incite anti-Muslim prejudice, is an urgent concern.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Rapist Who Struck ‘To Teach Women a Lesson’

A man who raped women to “teach them a lesson” for being out at night was jailed indefinitely yesterday.

Sunny Islam, 23, dragged away his victims, including a 15 year-old, at knifepoint, then bound and assaulted them. Police fear that Islam, who raped four women over three months in east London, may have attacked many more. At Woolwich Crown Court, Judge Patricia Lees sentenced Islam to a minimum sentence of 11 years before he is considered for parole. She told him: “The nature and extent of these offences drives me to the conclusion that you represent an extreme and continuing danger to women, particularly those out at night.”

Islam was traced through the number plate of his girlfriend’s car after he kidnapped and raped the 15 year-old in September 2010. He grabbed her from behind as she walked home with a friend, then drove her to a secluded spot where he raped her twice. In a victim impact statement read to the court, the teenager said: “No one will ever understand the flashbacks, they are so real, at night I lay in my bed and it is like I am there. It is like a screen in my mind forcing me to relive that night again and again. People will say time will heal, but I think time has helped me accept the truth — that I will never escape what happened.”

Judge Lees said: “You told her you were going to ‘teach her a lesson’. Those words are a chilling indictment of your very troubling attitude towards all of these victims. You seem to observe women out at night as not deserving respect or protection.” After Islam’s arrest, his DNA was linked with three other attacks near his home in Barking, said Sara Lawson, prosecuting. On July 8, 2010 Islam raped a 20-year-old prostitute twice, then six days later attacked a 28 year-old, dragging her into his car where he forced her to perform a sex act. She managed to escape by kicking out the back window. The fourth victim, a 30 year-old who was also attacked in September, did not come forward until police identified her blood in the back of the car. Islam, who told the jury he was a practising Muslim, was convicted of seven charges of rape, one of sexual assault and one of kidnap.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: SOAS ‘Biter’ Acquitted of Assault

A PhD student who bit a pro-Israel campaigner on the cheek at SOAS Israel Apartheid Week has been acquitted of assault. Mohamed Abdelkarim was accused of biting Dean Gold on the face during a tussle on March 20 last year, while Mr Gold was filming a man at the event who was making obscene remarks about the Holocaust. After Mr Abdelkarim knocked the camera out of Mr Gold’s hand, both accused the other of throwing the first punch. Mr Abdelkarim said the bite had been in self-defence, as he was immobilised by Mr Gold. Both were originally charged with assault, but charges against Mr Gold were later dropped. Three witnesses from the pro-Israeli campaign outside the university gave evidence, as did others attending the event. District Judge James Henderson said political points of view of the witnesses had affected “what they saw and what how they interpreted it.” But Kuwait-born Mr Abdelkarim, 44, a father-of-two and part time university lecturer, was “consistent and believable”, the judge said. He said: “I cannot be sure that Mr Abdelkarim was not acting in self-defence. The prosecution have not achieved that.” A second charge of criminal damage to Mr Gold’s flip camera was also dismissed, as Judge Henderson said there was not proof cosmetic damage to the camera was not caused during the 10 months it was in police care.

[JP note: The UK where Muslims are always in the right and dhimmis wrong.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Star Carr Archaeologists Given More Than £1m in Funding

Environmental changes have damaged the site of Star Carr in North Yorkshire, England, where hunter gatherers lived in a large settlement some 11,000 years ago. “The water table has fallen and the peat is shrinking and it is severely damaging the archaeology. The water keeps the oxygen and bacteria out and because they are now going into these deposits that is causing a lot of problems,” said Nicky Milner of the University of York.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Skeletons Found in Dorset Mass Grave ‘Were Mercenaries’

A mass grave in Dorset containing 54 decapitated skeletons was a burial ground for violent Viking mercenaries, according to a Cambridge archaeologist.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Tory Iconography in a Whig Nation

by Daniel Hannan

Finding myself in Whitehall with twenty minutes to spare this afternoon, I ducked into the Banqueting House, spread my coat on the floor and lay on it, staring at the ceiling. All this talk of sundering my country has affected me, and I wanted to cheer myself up by looking at Rubens’ massive canvas celebrating the Union of Crowns. It’s a glorious work, swirling and sensual. England and Scotland are portrayed as fleshy women, each holding half a crown. The curly-headed lad between them is the future Charles I. Minerva, goddess of wisdom, hovers above, while below the arms and artefacts of war are consigned to a furnace. In all the arguments about the Union, we have lost sight of the one that contemporaries saw as overwhelming: the belief that, once they stopped bickering with one another, the English and Scots would turn their energies outwards. Sure enough, the merged polity turned out to be a powerful and benign force in world affairs.

Sprawling on the floorboards, I realised that something was bothering me. The nine paintings that make up the ceiling are gorgeous pieces, for which Charles I paid the almost unbelievable sum of £3,000. Yet the whole set-up felt somehow un-British: too ostentatious, too propagandist, too hierarchical in its iconography. Once again, I was infected by the distaste that contemporaries on both sides of the border felt for the Stuarts. In their tastes, as well as in their politics, the monarchs seemed foreign: transalpine, ritualistic, over-elaborate. It is easy to dismiss such sentiments as a kind of artistic anti-Catholicism, and they unquestionably had a sectarian component. But art is never just an expression of religious identity. In Rubens’ native Antwerp, the largely Catholic burghers built handsome town-houses rather than baroque palaces. While Rubens is never exactly restrained, the canvases he produced for his own townsmen seem sober next to the extravagant works he painted for the Protestant Charles I.

Whiggery has an aesthetic as well as a political dimension. Works of art designed to glorify church and state are best left, we Whigs feel, to foreigners. And herein lies the paradox of the Banqueting House and its ceiling. James VI and I saw himself as the first Briton, and looked forward eagerly to the full amalgamation of his two kingdoms. Yet his subjects, English and Scottish, regarded him as rather alien, altogether too keen on peace with Spain and compromised by his foreign queen. They levelled precisely the same charges against his luckless son. The Stuarts set out to unite Great Britain and, in the end, they succeeded, but not in the way they planned. Outside the Highlands, the forging of a common political consciousness in Great Britain owed a great deal to shared hostility to the dynasty.

The Whig tradition is in part a product of the Union, and it is no coincidence that, when they finally broke with the Liberal Party, Whigs on both sides of the border adopted the name ‘Unionist’. The values which they exalted are values of which we should be jointly proud: parliamentary supremacy, British particularism, the rule of law, property rights, religious toleration, open enquiry, meritocratic appointments, representative government. The Whig tradition didn’t simply serve to keep Britain prosperous and free; it also created the United States of America.

Tonight, like many people in England, I’ll be at a Burns Supper. As I munch on the haggis, I shall ponder of the extraordinary things the home nations have done together.

Be Briton still to Britain true

Among oursel’s united;

For never but by British hands

Maun British wrangs be righted.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Underwater Archaeology: Hunt for the Ancient Mariner

Armed with high-tech methods, researchers are scouring the Aegean Sea for the world’s oldest shipwrecks.

Underwater archaeologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Athens are using an autonomous diving robot to search for shipwrecks from the Age of the Minoans, more than 3,000 years ago. “Ships were the way that people communicated and moved about the ancient world. So if we can find these ancient wrecks, we get a much clearer view of the very dim past,” said Brendan Foley of Woods Hole.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Controversy in Egypt Over Newly Established ‘Religious Police’

Following the Egyptian revolution, which granted freedom of expression and assembly to many elements — especially to Islamist circles that were suppressed since the Nasserist Free Officers Revolution of July 1952 — a religious police force was recently established in Egypt. Dubbed “The Authority for Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil,” similarly to the Saudi religious police, it aims to enforce compliance with Islamic shari’a. However, unlike the Saudi religious police this force does not operate on behalf of the state.

In fact, it is unclear precisely who is behind it. Its Facebook page, launched December 25, 2011, states that its founders are members of the Salafi Al-Nour party, “the closest party to Allah’s shari’a,” but that they are not working on its behalf, or on behalf of any other political party. The page features many links to Al-Nour Facebook pages, and its founders seem to support the Islamist presidential candidate Hazem Abu Isma’il. It states that the religious police will not use violence or coercion, but rather dialogue and guidance, in performing its tasks. The page has thousands of followers, and has thus far published eight official statements from the religious police.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood is Not the Taliban

by Shashank Joshi

Those in the West who demonise all Islamic political movements are making a big mistake.

A year on from Egypt’s revolution, a historic change of guard is taking place. The Muslims are coming. As Islamists step confidently into the political arena, anxiety is growing into hysteria. Two weeks ago, Rick Perry, a presidential hopeful at the time, told a cheering Republican crowd that Turkey, a member of Nato, was being ruled by “Islamic terrorists”. Earlier, Newt Gingrich had declared that the winners of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood, were “a mortal enemy of our civilisation”. From this perspective, a rising crypto-fascist tide of jihad is washing over the Middle East. At best, this Manichaean world-view turns shades of green (the traditional colour of Islam) into black and white — at worst, it misunderstands the way in which squeezing out elected and non-violent Islamists can spur on those who really are our mortal enemies.

It’s important to put the Islamists’ victories into context. For a start, hardline ultra-orthodox Salafists have lagged far behind the Brotherhood. In Egypt, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party took nearly 47 per cent of seats against the Salafists’ 25 per cent. There’s little chance that the blocs will band together, because the Brotherhood is already terrified of scaring away Egypt’s liberals and provoking a backlash. It doesn’t want to suffer the fate of Algeria’s Islamists in the Nineties, who won an election that ushered in civil war. This is why the Brotherhood is happy to stay away from foreign policy — why rock the boat on Israel, when there are safer votes to be won on the economy? When Cairo was hit by major protests in 2002 (against Israel) and 2003 (against the Iraq war), the Brotherhood stayed warily on the sidelines; it was also far behind the curve on last year’s revolution.

The second important point is that a military junta is in charge. It’s implausible that the generals would jeopardise their American cash and arms by allowing the Brotherhood to engage in adventurism abroad, or to hijack parliament at home. A new president will be elected soon anyway. Amr Moussa, the former chairman of the Arab League, is likely to win: he would be yet another establishment bulwark against the Brotherhood. In fact, Egypt’s greatest danger today is not that it turns into Iran, but that it ends up looking like Pakistan — a praetorian state ruled by an unaccountable army, covered in a democratic veneer.

Third, remember that it’s not as if the Brotherhood is a total newcomer. Despite facing rigged elections and blatant repression, it abandoned violence decades ago. Its members have been running for elections since 1985, and won a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005. Like any outsider that plunges into the tumult of party politics, the party has evolved under the pressure of electoral competition. Olivier Roy, the French scholar of Islam, has argued that the Brotherhood, having made the same intellectual journey as European socialist parties that shed their Marxist trappings in the post-war decades, is now “post-Islamist”.

But how post-Islamist is the Brotherhood really? In 2007, for instance, the organisation released an especially ill-judged draft manfesto. It rejected the idea of a female or Christian president, and demanded a council of religious scholars to oversee the government. To some extent, this underscored the Brotherhood’s internal divisions. The group is not a monolith and there was an immediate backlash from reformist factions, many of whom were in jail at the time. Essam el-Erian, now vice-chairman of the Brotherhood’s victorious Freedom and Justice Party, was one such opponent. The leadership realised they’d made a mistake, and stepped back from some of the controversial ideas. On top of that, a new generation of pragmatists and young reformers is attempting to moderate the party’s position. This shift won’t be as radical as the move from socialism to social democracy in Europe. There will remain a great deal that is deeply objectionable about the Brotherhood, such as its ambiguous stance towards Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. But it’s hard to take seriously those who profess deep concern for individual rights yet remained silent for decades on the torture chambers and religious discrimination of the old regime.

The Islamists will not completely shed their fundamentally illiberal positions any more than the modern Republican Party will shed its hostility to gay marriage, “secular” Europe, or Muslims serving in the cabinet. But this doesn’t mean the Brotherhood can’t participate in a government that is accountable to citizens or enact real economic reforms in contrast to the crony privatisations of the Mubarak-era. Many of its policies have nothing to do with sharia. Make no mistake: the Muslim Brotherhood is not our friend. We do not share its values on the rights of women or religious minorities, or on foreign policy. We should not embrace it. But those who are unable to tell the difference between mainstream Islamists and the Taliban are doomed to lock themselves into an unwinnable and illusory war of civilisations. The rest of us can get on with understanding the complexities of the emerging Islamic democracies.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Jihad: When Elections Fail

by Raymond Ibrahim

The Obama administration supports “democracy” and “self determination” in the Middle East-two euphemisms that, in the real world, refer to “mob-rule” and “Islamic radicalization,” respectively. Yet, as Jimmy Carter recently put it: “I don’t have any problem with that (an “Islamist victory” in Egypt), and the U.S. government doesn’t have any problem with that either. We want the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Two Copts Killed in Egypt for Refusing to Pay Extortion Money

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Two Copts were killed this afternoon in the village of Bahgourah, a suburb of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, after a Muslim racketeer opened fire on them for refusing to pay him extortion money. Three days ago Ahmed Saber had asked from the Coptic building contractor Moawad Asaad for a considerable sum of money. This afternoon Saber drove to Moawad’s home to collect the money, but Moawad refused to go to his car to speak to him for fear of being kidnapped. Four men came out of the car with machine guns and shot Moawad and his 26-year-old son Asaad Moawad, an engineer. Both were killed instantly.

Bishop Kyrollos of Nag Hammadi said that Ahmed Saber, who is known to the police, has been extorting money from the Coptic community and kidnapping their children for ransom since November last year. “Reports were filed with the police about all incidents. I don’t know why the police have not arrested him,” said the Bishop.

Presently over 4000 Copts are staging a sit-in in front of Nag Hammadi police headquarters until Ahmed Saber and his accomplices are caught. It was reported that the police have brought in four central security vehicles to manage the crowd of protesters.

Bishop Kyrollos said “I hold security forces and the Muslims of Bahgourah fully responsible for terrorizing the Copts living there.” He called on the authorities in Cairo and the interior minister to provide protection for the Copts in the Nag Hammadi area, “who are continuously being subjected to terror and kidnapping.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Isma’il Haniya’s First Regional Tour Transforms Him From Hamas PM in Gaza to Regional Palestinian Leader

By: L. Barkan*

Introduction

In late December 2011, Hamas prime minister in Gaza Isma’il Haniya made an official tour of the region that included visits to Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and finally Tunisia. This was his first official trip abroad since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip five years ago.

Especially noteworthy was his five-day visit to Tunisia, on which Haniya was accompanied by 20 of his government officials, and which came in response to an invitation by the new Tunisian government, headed by Hamadi Al-Jabali of the Islamist Al-Nahda party. Haniya was the first leader to visit Tunisia after the establishment of the new government there.(1) He was greeted at the airport by Tunisian Prime Minister Al-Jabali, government ministers, and Al-Nahda party chairman Rached Al-Ghannouchi, and was received by an honor guard and a band playing the Palestinian and Tunisian anthems — honors usually reserved for visiting heads of state.(2)

During his visit, Haniya met with Prime Minister Al-Jabali, President Munsif Al-Marzouqi, government ministers, Constituent Assembly Chairman Mustafa bin Ja’far, and senior Al-Nahda officials, including Al-Ghannouchi.(3) In his meeting with the president, Haniya invited him to visit Gaza and the latter accepted the invitation.(4) Haniya toured several cities and visited a number of mosques, and delivered a Friday sermon to an audience of thousands at a mosque in Kairouan. In the capital Tunis, he was granted the special honor of attending the conversion ceremony of a Frenchwoman converting to Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East


China Slams EU’s Iran Sanctions

China has criticised the EU’s decision, reached earlier this week, to stop importing oil from Iran over its nuclear programme. “To blindly pressure and impose sanctions on Iran are not constructive approaches,” the foreign ministry is quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Muslim Cleric Banned From Britain Claims Al-Qaeda Poised to Launch Suicide Attacks in Syria

Omar Bakri Mohammed, the radical cleric banned from the United Kingdom for ‘glorifying terrorism’, has told the Daily Telegraph from his base in the Middle East that al Qaeda is poised to wage war against the Syrian regime.

Bakri, once nicknamed the ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’, said hard line Salafi Muslim groups, including al Qaeda, and his own Al-Ghuraba group, also proscribed in the UK, are ready to help their ‘Muslim brothers’ with a campaign of suicide attacks against President Bashar al Assad. “In two or three operations, [al Qaeda] can make the Ba’ath party run away,” he added. “With self sacrifices operations — you call them suicide bombings, al Qaeda will go to the Parliament when the Ba’ath are inside, he will explode and he will say ‘Oh God receive me. Oh God I am hurrying towards you’. Al Qaeda are so clever, they can make so many weapons from nothing. They can go to any kitchen, make a very nice pizza bomb and deliver it fresh,” added Bakri. Speaking from his new home in Lebanon, the self styled cleric who caused controversy after the 2005 London bombings by blaming them on the government and British public, called the wave of pro-democracy revolutions that have swept the Middle East in the past year, ‘al-Qaeda’s victory’. The volatility in the Arab world, and the dismantling of authoritarian regimes and ruthless intelligence services have given Salafist groups room to breathe and the thousands of jailed Islamists in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, released as the dictatorships crumbled, have been perfect for recruiting he added.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Revenge for EU Sanctions: Iran Set to Turn Off Oil Supply to Europe

The European Union embargo on Iranian oil will only come into effect in six months, but the leadership in Tehran wants to act first: Exports to Europe are set to be halted immediately. It is a move which could mean added difficulties for struggling economies in southern Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Tension in Yemen: Al-Qaida Activity Puts Regime Change in Doubt

The security situation in Yemen is fragile — but in recent days it has been even more so. Al-Qaida militants seized a city near the capital, threatening plans for President Saleh to step down. Although he has now left the country and the militants have abandoned the city, there is continued fighting and questions about the future.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Why Iran Will Not ‘Come to Its Senses’

by Melanie Phillips

War with Iran is a truly fearsome prospect. Its likely consequences would include attacks on US air bases from thousands of Iranian missiles, the unleashing of terrorist attacks within the US and Europe, the rocketing of Israeli towns from the tens of thousands of missiles trained on Israel from Lebanon, the closing of the Straits of Hormuz thus paralysing western oil supplies, and doubtless other horrors. But however fearsome this prospect, that of a nuclear-armed Iran is worse. The consequences are simply insupportable.

[…]

What really threatens to bring the west to its knees is its own cultural hubris. Refracting everything in the world through the prism of its unshakeable faith in universal reason, it is incapable of recognising or understanding religious fanaticism — and insists instead upon treating the fanatic as a rational actor. Ironically, it is this belief in reason which has led the west to behave so irrationally in refusing to acknowledge the evidence of the mortal threat to itself posed by Iran — and that there is no alternative to force if it is to be stopped. And now, alas, we’re about to discover the consequences.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia


7,500-Year-Old Fishing Seines and Traps Discovered in Russia

A 7,500-year-old fishing trap has been unearthed near Moscow, along with hooks, harpoons, weights, floats, needles for nets, and knives made of moose ribs. The long term, Mesolithic inhabitants of the site fished during the spring and early summer and hunted during summer and winter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: Salman Rushdie and the Jaipur Literary Festival: The Zealots Have Triumphed Again

by Allan Massie

It is almost a quarter of a century since Penguin published Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, and the storm it incited has never died down. Muslims were infuriated by Rushdie’s portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a fatwa against Rushdie, who for ten years had to live under police protection provided by the British Government. His Japanese translator was murdered. His Italian one was stabbed and beaten up. His Norwegian publisher, William Nygaard, was shot and was lucky to survive. Bookshops stocking the novel were fire-bombed, the book itself burned in public places. It was banned in Muslim countries and also in India, the land of Rushdie’s birth. Penguin and Rushdie refused to give way. (So too did Nygaard.) The novel remained on sale; a paperback edition was published. Peter Mayer, the head of Penguin at the time, said: “If we capitulate, there will be no publishing as we know it.”

The issue was clear. Free speech was being defended against demands for the censorship of opinion that some found offensive. In the late Eighties free speech won that round of the fight. The Satanic Verses remained on sale. Since then however there has been a swing in the other direction. This has been dramatically brought to our attention by the news from the Jaipur Literary Festival. Rushdie had been invited to appear there. Threats of violence — including apparently a death threat against William Dalrymple, the animating spirit of the festival and a lover of all things Indian — made it impossible for Rushdie to appear — even by video link. Free expression was the loser. We should not be surprised. This is the way things have been moving , and not only in Asia and the Middle East. There was the case of the Danish cartoons, mocking Mohammed. There was the bombing of the offices of the French satirical weekly, Charlie-Hebdo. As the author and broadcaster Kenin Malik wrote this week on his blog, “Today free speech is as likely to be seen as a threat to liberty as its shield.”

The new attitude surfaced within ten years of the publication of The Satanic Verses. David Caute, novelist, historian, Fellow of All Souls, sometime Literary Editor of the New Statesman, wrote a novel, Fatima’s Scarf, very clearly inspired by the Rushdie Case. It was a good novel — considerably better to my mind than The Satanic Verses itself. It was turned down by more than twenty publishers, even though Hilary Mantel called it “a dazzling political novel”. Eventually Caute brought it out himself. Reviewing it in The Scotsman, I said it was a book which “should disturb zealots, whether Fundamentalists or Liberals”. I added that it was “a sour joke that a novel about book-burning should have failed to find a commercial publisher”. I was surprised then. I am not a bit surprised today.

We have become timid and mealy-mouthed. Giving offence has become a criminal act. Expressions which may be construed as racist or sectarian lead to prosecution in the courts. The Scottish Parliament, for instance, has just passed a law making the singing of songs that football fans have chanted for generations a criminal offence. Now it is perfectly true that there is always a balance to be struck between entitlement to speak your mind and the good manners which may require you to keep silent. We all recognise this, and most of us also accept that the changed composition of our society imposes certain restrictions; these are, as I say, simply a matter of good manners. Nevertheless the right to express opinion freely is fundamental in a liberal society, and must be defended. We may detest certain opinions, but we should resist attempts to suppress them.

Shabbir Akhtar, a Muslim philosopher and spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques (a man incidentally who wrote admiringly of David Caute’s novel), has called for writers to exercise “self-censorship” which is, he says, “a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held conviction. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone’s — not least every Muslim’s — business…” One may, if reluctantly, respect his call for self-censorship, by which I think he means “self-restraint”, and even accept his conclusion. Yet if one does so, then one must also insist that the proper Muslim response to what Rushdie wrote — or indeed to anything which you may find offensive — is not the fatwa, is not book-burning, is not attacks on publishers and translators, is not banning the speaker or author from public discussion, is not the disruption of a literary festival, is none of these things. It is rather argument. The response to words should be words and words in the form of argument, not abuse.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



India: Not Letting Him Speak is a Travesty: But the Rushdie Affair Should Not be Allowed to Damage a Great Literary Festival

In 1996, in a book release in Washington DC, I posed this question to Salman Rushdie: ‘You have been born a Muslim, and you knew the reaction something like The Satanic Verses would have in the community. So why did you write it?’ Rushdie was a bit taken aback, and his somewhat fumbling response was anodyne- about coming to terms with himself and the faith he was born into and so on. Many Indians, not all fundamentalists, have been a bit uncomfortable with the seeming auto da fé being conducted in Jaipur in the past week, but they are equally bemused by the way in which Rushdie has posed The Satanic Verses as a free speech issue. You don’t wave a red rag at a bull, and then complain when it charges at you. It is not just Muslims-say something derogatory about any of the Sikh gurus, or question Lord Rama’s character in a tea shop in a UP town and you are liable to be at the receiving end of extreme violence.

Most Indians, who live in a crazy quilt of caste and ethnicities know where the red lines are, though as the banning of Ramanujan’s essays on the Ramayana in Delhi University reveals, these lines are changing and becoming narrower. It should not be forgotten that Rushdie, though born in India, is part of the western intellectual tradition which takes for granted certain liberties and rights that came after centuries of struggle there. In India, we have been trying to telescope that experience in a half century. Though our founding fathers gave us a good kick-off, the game has floundered in the past two decades.

Actually, the controversy in Jaipur was not about The Satanic Verses. As Javed Akhtar put it, ‘You may ban a film, but can you ban a film maker?’ It was about Rushdie being able to move around freely and express his views on issues other than The Satanic Verses. India may have a case to ban that book in the interest of public order, but to ban Rushdie’s video link is quite different, and points to an uncomfortable edge of intolerance that we have arrived at in the 21st century. By the way, you can ban film makers, as the mullahs in Iran or the commissars in China have done. But as in the case of the Internet, have we reached a point where we measure our liberties with those of North Korea, China and Iran?

But, the Rushdie issue was not just about Muslim hotheads who had threatened violence at the otherwise remarkably peaceable literary fest. It was also about the manipulation of an incident for electoral gain. Make no mistake, the Muslim Manch and the various fire-breathing maulanas were merely the tools of cynical parties which used them for their purposes. Unfortunately, the negative consequences of the controversy will be to deepen the stereotyping of Muslims as being ‘different’ from us, more violent and intolerant. The facts, of course, are that ‘the different’ are us, and in every community today you have people who will resort to violence at every slight, mostly imagined, on their faith.

On Monday, a police officer recounted to me an incident that had taken place recently in a town in the south-eastern part of the state, in a locality next to a Muslim ghetto. A young man, wearing a blood spattered kurta pyjama had stumbled into a bazaar saying that he had been stabbed by people in the Muslim locality. The canny local police officer immediately took him to hospital and insisted on calling a doctor to examine him in his presence. The young man’s demeanour suddenly changed, he said he would manage on his own and begged to be let off. Then, when the doctor arrived and stripped the ‘patient’, it became apparent that he had not received a single wound, and had merely been play acting on behalf of some people who had paid him for the purpose.

The sinister aim was obvious — trigger communal violence. Such incidents are common in the long and sordid history of communal violence in India. To say dark forces are afoot in the country would not be an exaggeration. Witness the outrageous incident staged by the Ram Sene on the New Year’s day when they hoisted a Pakistani flag atop the tehsildar’s office at Singdi town near Bijapur in Karnataka. The idea was to blame the local Muslim community, trigger violence and gain political ground. If there is a positive takeaway from the Rushdie incident, it is that it brought to the fore for the Indian public, or at least the better- off classes, the contradictions of modern India. At one level, they live in a democracy that promises all the freedoms that their cherished West offers, at another, they are besieged by forces of obscurantism and violence which try to pull them back to the medieval ages in which many of our religious and political leaders live. Yet, we cannot be unaware that we live on the edge of anarchy, public order is tenuous, and a small spark can set off a big blaze. And that we have leaders who first see which way public opinion, or the street is headed, and then take a stand on an issue.

The Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF) is an enormous gift to the country. A compressed intellectual fest- where Harvard’s Steven Pinker can comfort us that violence has indeed declined through history, Abhijit Bannerjee of MIT refines his ideas about the choices we need to make to eliminate poverty, or a Richard Dawkins speaks of the death of religion- has an immediate resonance in contemporary India, but largely to a certain growing middle class. Beyond their ideas, you cannot but think of the intellectual process from which they have emerged and the environment in which they flourish. This is a world which we can only aspire to at this juncture. The JLF has provided the Indian middle class the opportunity to hear Pinker, Dawkins, Oprah Winfrey, Sunil Khilnani, Ben Okri, Mohammed Hanif and scores of other writers, novelists, intellectuals and personalities. It is, in its own way, a major effort to keep open the shutting minds in the country. They do not merely challenge orthodoxy, but our increasingly shoddy intellectual culture and its thirdrate higher education system.

In the end, the battle is for the middle class mind. It is the ideas and aspirations of this class that shape the intellectual traditions of the nation. As of now inborn ignorance, prejudice, “localitis” is tugging at this mind. But in the past decade of economic growth, the rise of information and communication technologies has given these Indians an enormous sense that they are part of the larger, dynamic world, and this is manifested by the crowds thronging the JLF. Among the audience you can see young women and men who had travelled from far, not just the cities of the state like Jodhpur and Ajmer, but smaller towns like Bhilwara and Tonk, and beyond-Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. There were students from ‘deemed universities’ as well as from the best colleges of the country. Given his background, Rushdie does protest too much, and it would be a pity if in defending him, we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That is because ideas are strange things, you never know when or where they flower. But you do require a seeding, and that is what the JLF has been doing in organising the unique intellectual mela in Jaipur for the past several years.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



India: To Name the Unnameable [Rushdie/Jaipur Literary Festival]

by Kenan Malik

‘A poet’s work. To name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.’ So says the irreverent, satirical poet Baal in The Satanic Verses. What the storm over Salman Rushdie’s non-appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival reveals is that too few people these days think like Baal.

Rushdie was due to have attended the festival — which is quickly becoming one of the most important global literary events — to give a talk on Midnight’s Children, the film of which is released later this year, and to take part in a discussion on the history of English in India. Rushdie has visited India many times over the past decade and has attended the Festival before. This time Muslim activists issued threats. Instead of standing up the bullies, both local and state governments caved in, both exerting pressure on the festival organizers to keep Rushdie away. ‘I am sure the organizers will respect the sentiments of the local people’, said Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan, whose capital is Jaipur.

In the end Rushdie cancelled his trip having, he said, received information about a plot to assassinate him, a plot that now appears may have been invented by the Rajasthan police to ‘persuade’ Rushdie not to come. In response, the novelist Hari Kunzru and the writer and poet Amitava Kumar, both speakers at the Festival, publicly read passages from The Satanic Verses. Later, two other speakers, Jeet Thayil and Rushir Joshi, did so too. The novel is still banned in India, having been placed on a proscribed list in 1988 by the then-premier Rajiv Gandhi, who, facing a crucial election, crumbled under Islamist pressure. The Festival organizers distanced themselves from what they called Kunzru and Kumar’s ‘unnecessary provocation’, and put pressure on other speakers not to follow suit. ‘Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the Festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken’, threatened a subsequent press release.

While many have shown support for Rushdie, others have also sprung to the defence of the festival organizers. ‘I’m not sure this Rushdie intervention was wise or effective’, tweeted Guardian books editor Claire Armistead about Kunzru and Kumar’s decision to read from from The Satanic Verses. But if it is not the role of literary festivals to stand up for writers, and to defend their right to speak, especially in these circumstances, it is difficult to know what is. The Festival’s decision not just to distance itself from Kunzru and Kumar but to threaten others who might be thinking of following suit was nothing less than cowardly.

Contrast the pusillanimity of the Jaipur festival organizers with the response of writers, publishers, editors, translators and booksellers faced with Ayotalloh Khomeini’s fatwa in 1989. Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade. Translators and publishers were assaulted and even murdered. In July 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, a Japanese professor of literature and translator of The Satanic Verses, was knifed to death on the campus of Tsukuba University. That same month another translator of Rushdie’s novel, the Italian Ettore Capriolo, was beaten up and stabbed in his Milan apartment. In October 1993 William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses, was shot three times and left for dead outside his home in Oslo. Bookshops were firebombed for stocking the novel. Yet Rushdie never wavered in his refusal to withdraw the novel and Penguin never wavered in its commitment to Rushdie.

Penguin’s CEO at the time was Peter Mayer, and he talked publicly about those events for the first time in an interview he gave for my book From Fatwa to Jihad. Mayer himself was subject to a vicious campaign of hatred and intimidation. ‘I had letters delivered to me written in blood’, he remembered. ‘I had telephone calls in the middle of the night, saying not just that they would kill me but that they take my daughter and smash her head against a concrete wall. Vile stuff.’ Yet neither Mayer nor Penguin countenanced backing down. ‘I told the [Penguin] board, “You have to take the long view. Any climbdown now will only encourage future terrorist attacks by individuals or groups offended for whatever reason by other books that we or any publisher might publish. If we capitulate, there will be no publishing as we know it.”‘ Mayer and his colleagues recognized that ‘what we did now affected much more than simply the fate of this one book. How we responded to the controversy over The Satanic Verses would affect the future of free inquiry, without which there would be no publishing as we knew it, but also, by extension, no civil society as we knew it. We all came to agree that all we could do, as individuals or as a company, was to uphold the principles that underlay our profession and which, since the invention of movable type, have brought it respect. We were publishers. I thought that meant something. We all did.’

Nygaard, too, was resolute in his refusal to give way. He spent weeks in hospital, followed by months of rehabilitation. It was two years before he could fully use his arms and legs again. ‘Journalists kept asking me, “Will you stop publishing The Satanic Verses?”‘, he told me in an interview. ‘I said, “Absolutely not”.’ Mayer and Nygaard belonged to a world in which the defence of free speech was seen as an irrevocable duty. The organizers of Jaipur festival belong to a different world, one in which the idea that a poet’s work is ‘To name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep’ is seen not as self-evident but as shockingly offensive. Over the past two decades, the very landscape of free speech and censorship has been transformed, as has the meaning of literature. The response of the Jaipur organisers gave expression to this transformation. ‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties’, wrote John Milton in Areopagitica, his famous 1644 ‘speech for the liberty of unlicenc’d printing’, adding that ‘He who destroys a good book destroys reason itself’. For the next three centuries all progressive political strands were wedded to the principle of free speech as the necessary condition for social and political advance.

Of course, the liberal defence of free speech was shot through with hypocrisy. Milton himself opposed the extension of free speech to Catholics on the grounds that the Catholic Church was undeserving of freedom and liberty. John Locke, too, fêted as the founder of the liberal tradition of tolerance, held deeply bigoted views about Catholics. A whole host of harms — from the incitement to hatred to threats to national security, from the promotion of blasphemy to the spread of slander — have been cited as reasons to curtail speech. Yet, however hypocritical liberal arguments may sometimes have seemed, and notwithstanding the fact that most free speech advocates accepted that the line had to be drawn somewhere, there was nevertheless an acknowledgement that speech was an inherent good, the fullest extension of which was a necessary condition for the elucidation of truth, the expression of moral autonomy, the maintenance of social progress and the development of other liberties. Restrictions on free speech were seen as the exception rather than as the norm. Radicals recognized that the way to challenge the hypocrisy was not by restricting free speech further but by extending it to all.

It is this idea of speech as intrinsically good that has been transformed. Today, free speech is as likely to be seen as a threat to liberty as its shield. By its very nature, many argue, speech damages basic freedoms. It is not intrinsically a good but inherently a problem because speech inevitably offends and harms. Speech, therefore, has to be restrained, not in exceptional circumstances, but all the time and everywhere, especially in diverse societies with a variety of deeply held views and beliefs. Censorship (and self-censorship) has to become the norm. ‘Self-censorship’, as the Muslim philosopher and spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques Shabbir Akhtar put it at the height of the Rushdie affair, ‘is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone’s — not least every Muslim’s — business.’

Increasingly politicians and policy makers, publishers and festival organizers, liberals and conservatives, in the East and in the West, have come to agree. Whatever may be right in principle, many now argue, in practice one must appease religious and cultural sensibilities because such sensibilities are so deeply felt. We live in a world, so the argument runs, in which there are deep-seated conflicts between cultures embodying different values. For such diverse societies to function and to be fair, we need to show respect for other peoples, cultures, and viewpoints. Social justice requires not just that individuals are treated as political equals, but also that their cultural beliefs are given equal recognition and respect. The avoidance of cultural pain has, therefore, come to be regarded as more important than the abstract right to freedom of expression. As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’ What the anti-Baals of today most fear is starting arguments. What they most want is for the world to go to sleep.

The consequence of all this has been the creation not of a less conflicted world, but of one that is more sectarian, fragmented and tribal. As the novelist Monica Ali has put it, ‘If you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.’ The more that policy makers give licence for people to be offended, the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. It leads to the encouragement of interest groups and the growth of sectarian conflict. Nowhere is this trend clearer than in India. There is a long history, reaching back into the Raj, of applying heavy handed censorship supposedly to ease fraught relationships between different communities. It is a process that in recent decades has greatly intensified. Hand in hand with more oppressive censorship has come, however, not a more peaceful society, but one in which the sense of a common nation has increasingly broken down into sectarian rivalries, as every group demands its right not to be offended. The original confrontation over The Satanic Verses was a classic example of how in encouraging groups to feel offended, one simply intensifies sectarian conflict. The latest row is another step down that road.

It is not just Muslims that are adept at playing the offence card. Hindus have done it perhaps even more assiduously, as have many other groups. Nor is it just an issue for India. Exactly the same trends can be seen in Britain, and other Western nations. The ‘never give offence’ brigade imagines that a more plural society requires a greater imposition of censorship. In fact it is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In a homogenous society in which everyone thought in exactly the same way then the giving of offence would be nothing more than gratuitous. But in the real world where societies are plural, then it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And we should deal with those clashes rather than suppress them. Important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society. Or, as Rushdie put it in his essay In Good Faith, human beings ‘understand themselves and shape their futures by arguing and challenging and questioning and saying the unsayable; not by bowing the knee whether to gods or to men.’

Shabbir Akhtar was right: what Salman Rushdie says is everybody’s business. It is everybody’s business to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to say what they wish, even if it is deemed by some to be offensive. If we want the pleasures of pluralism, we have to accept the pain of being offended. Not least at a literary festival.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Sign the Petition for Mr Edhi to be Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2012

Fabia Martin and Peter Oborne, Chief Political Commentator of The Telegraph travelled to Karachi earlier this year to make a film about an ambulance service there. However since going there, both Fabia and Peter have been determined to get its founder Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Amidst the violence and turbulence of modern Pakistan Mr. Edhi has ceaselessly endeavored to save countless lives. Mr Edhi’s spiritual and social outreach has for many been an indispensable source of comfort and courage, and its effects have been felt across the Muslim world . The great social worker is coming towards the end of his magnificent life and sadly there is not much time left.

Below is a link to sign the petition, a link to Peter’s profile of Mr Edhi written for The Telegraph, and the Unreported World film from earlier this year.

Please sign the petition and encourage others to do the same.

nobelprizeforedhi.com/

telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8440920/The-day-I-met-Abdul-Sattar-Edhi-a-living-saint.html

www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/4od#3187123

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Bashed Teen Speaks of Terror

A PERTH teenager has spoken of his terror after he was violently bashed by a gang of thugs who repeatedly kicked him and stomped on his head after being racially taunted.

Perth detectives are hunting up to 20 youths, believed to be of African descent, who were involved in the attack in the city at 11.30pm last night.

Two males — aged 16 and 17 — have already been charged, but police have not ruled out further charges being laid.

This afternoon, 19-year-old James Claxon told how a night out with mates turned into a nightmare when he was allegedly set upon by the gang, attacked and robbed of his wallet and mobile phone.

Mr Claxon said he and four friends had just got off a train and had been walking through Forrest Place towards a city nightclub when they were confronted by the group.

“They were walking through in the same proximity and they’ve basically started running at us and they caught me and have beaten me up and stolen my things,” he said.

“The only thing I heard before they caught me was: ‘Who are these white c**ts?’ It was totally unprovoked.

“They kicked me in the head a few times, stomped on my head a few times, kicked me in the kidneys and the ribs. It was mostly around the head and the ribs.

“I was probably out cold for two minutes before my mates picked me up and dragged me towards a taxi to get to hospital.”

Mr Claxon sustained facial injuries, including a bruise of shoe tread in the side of his face, and was taken to Royal Perth Hospital for treatment, but discharged yesterday morning.

He said he was stunned by the assault.

“It’s surreal to think that someone could actually do that to me. To think that another person would seek out to hurt me and steal my things is incomprehensible,” he said.

“Mostly I’m just happy I’m still here to be honest. It could have been a lot worse.”

Detective Sergeant Steve Coelho said the gang appeared to have been walking from the McIver train station on a “rampage” last night.

“They have singled out white Australians and for no reason whatsoever, completely unprovoked, they’ve attacked one of the males. That lead to a vicious assault. He’s had severe facial injuries and his head literally stomped on,” Det-Sgt Steve Coelho said.

He called on anyone who may have information about the attack to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, saying it was possible the youths had been involved in other criminal acts on Friday night.

The two charged youths will appear in Perth Magistrates Court tomorrow accused of aggravated assault. A third male was interviewed but released without charge.

Police have not ruled out further charges being laid.

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit [Return to headlines]



Hogg Bowled Over by His Own Tastelessness in Pot Shot at Muslims

RODNEY HOGG took fans “inside the mind of a lunatic fast bowler” in his autobiography and did so again yesterday with a Muslim slur that has landed him in controversy.

The outspoken former Test cricketer, who terrorised batsmen during his six-year international career, was forced to duck and weave after delivering a tweet described as “more than despicable” by the leader of an Islamic group.

“Just put out my Aussie flag for Australia Day but I wasn’t sure if it would offend Muslims … So I wrote ‘Allah is a s***’ on it to make sure,” Hogg tweeted at about noon yesterday.

Hogg, 60, was forced to apologise twice on Twitter after his initial explanation drew as much ire as the offending tweet, which was deleted after several hours.

Hogg did not return calls from the Herald but texted: “Very bad attempted Aussie humour. My apologies for offending. that is all I wld like to say.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Hogg Tweets Australia Day Slur to Muslims

Former Test cricketer Rodney Hogg’s anti-Muslim slur on Twitter was “more than despicable, it’s the pits really”, the leader of an Islamic group said today. Hogg is embroiled in a racial controversy after an ill-advised attempt at humour on Australia Day. “Just put out my aussie flag for Australia Day but I wasn’t sure if it would offend Muslims…So I wrote “Allah is a shit” on it to make sure,” Hogg tweeted at midday today. Hogg later apologised, tweeting: “Bad attempted Australian humour, sorry if I offended you.” When that explanation was also met with angry responses, Hogg issued another apology. “My sincere apologies to the Muslim community. A stupid tweet by me in very bad taste,” Hogg tweeted.

But he declined a request for an interview, telling Fairfax: “Very bad attempted Aussie humour. My apologies for offending. that is all I wld like to say.” The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said the remark was “absolutely despicable” for a person like Hogg, who played against Pakistan during his international career. “For him to say such things is more than despicable, it’s the pits really,” Mr Patel said. “It’s not at all humourous. If that’s level of his humour then God help him.” Hogg’s gaffe comes on the same day as former captain Ricky Ponting was honoured for his “distinguished service” to cricket with an Order of Australia award.

Mr Patel said Hogg, 60, had tarnished his on-field achievements. “I’m very disappointed that I paid money to watch him now,” Mr Patel said. Hogg’s tweet, which was deleted mid-afternoon, sparked a flurry of responses on Twitter “@RMHogg that is a disgraceful thing to say. I hope @Uz-Khawaja sees this,” tweeted jeffrey-gabriel, referring to Usman Khawaja, the first Muslim cricketer to wear the baggy green. His apology also drew a heated response. “Thousands of Australians from all creeds, religions and cultures ? Australia day is for ALL Australians not just redneck yobos,” tweeted 4Q2x. But not all condemned Hogg, who played 38 Tests and 71 ODIs between 1978 and 1985.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Slave Port Unearthed in Brazil

The Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janerio was the busiest of all slave ports in the Americas and has been buried for almost two centuries.

Not far from here at least 500,000 Africans took their first steps into slavery in colonial Brazil, which took in far more slaves than the United States and where now half of its 200 million citizens claim African descent. The “Cais do Valongo” — the Valongo Wharf — was the busiest of all slave ports in the Americas and has been buried for almost two centuries under subsequent infrastructure projects and dirt. That is, until developers seeking to turn Rio’s shabby port neighborhood into a posh tourist center allowed teams of archaeologists to check out what was being unearthed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Gingrich Opens Door for Illegal Immigrants

Fighting to curry favor with Florida’s large pool of Hispanic voters, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday called for a guest-worker program for most illegal immigrants, but his campaign could not say whether those people would be on a path to citizenship — the key question in the immigration debate.

Under close questioning by Univision’s political host, Jorge Ramos, Mr. Gingrich said he would grant quick citizenship rights to illegal immigrants who join the military or to those who have been in the U.S. between 20 and 25 years. He said the rest of the estimated 11 million should be given access to a guest-worker program.

“With most of them? I would urge them to get a guest-worker permit,” he said, calling for a substantial rewrite of immigration laws that would cancel existing penalties and instead let illegal immigrants stay.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Iain Duncan Smith Rebuked by Watchdogs for Figures on Migrants

Iain Duncan Smith was last night rebuked by watchdogs for publishing controversial figures showing 371,000 immigrants are on benefits.

The head of the UK Statistics Authority condemned the handling of the research by the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Sir Michael Scholar said that despite being ‘highly vulnerable to misinterpretation’, the figures were given to the media without the safeguards routinely demanded for official statistics.

The number was arrived at by cross-checking welfare, border and tax records for the first time to establish the nationality of claimants.

In a letter to Mr Duncan Smith, Sir Michael said: ‘There are some important caveats and weaknesses that need to be explained carefully and objectively to Parliament and the news media at the time of publication.’

The Work and Pensions Department said it had no plans to publish statistics on immigrants on benefits in the same way again.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Two Vicars ‘Conducted Hundreds of Sham Marriages to Help Illegal Immigrants Stay in Britain’

The Reverend Elwon John, 44, and Reverend Brian Shipsides, 55, performed the sham wedding ceremonies at All Saints Church in Forest Gate, east London, jurors were told.

Once wed there were a ‘strikingly high proportion’ who then made applications to the Home Office for the right to remain in the country.

In some cases, EU nationals were even flown into Britain just so the marriages could take place before being flown straight out again, Inner London crown court heard.

According to the prosecution, 31-year-old ‘fixer’ Amdudalat Ladipo — herself an illegal immigrant — arranged the weddings between mainly Nigerian and EU nationals.

It was not until officers from the Metropolitan Police and UK Border Agency caught wind of the scam that the trio were finally rumbled on July 31, 2010.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Study: Abortion Safer Than Giving Birth

Dr. Elizabeth Raymond from Gynuity Health Projects in New York City and Dr. David Grimes of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, found that between 1998 and 2005, one woman died during childbirth for every 11,000 or so babies born.

That compared to one woman of every 167,000 who died from a legal abortion.

The researchers also cited a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that, from 1998 to 2001, the most common complications associated with pregnancy — including high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and mental health conditions — happened more often in women who had a live birth than those who got an abortion.

Raymond and Grimes are associated with Family Health International, a leading pro-abortion international family planning group, and both have lobbied for distribution of the abortifacient Plan B pill without a prescription in America.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Gay Sperm Donor Frozen Out by Lesbian Mums

Four years ago, Peter Conti donated sperm to lesbian friends. He was promised a role in the upbringing of the child, but those promises were never met.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

General


How Circumstance Dictates Islamic Behavior

Preach Peace When Weak, Wage War When Strong

by Raymond Ibrahim

Has there ever been a time when one group of people openly exposes its animosity for another group of people-even as this second group not only ignores the animosity, but speaks well, enables, and legitimizes the first group? Welcome to the 21st century, where Western politicians empower those Muslims who are otherwise constantly and openly denouncing all non-Muslims as enemies to be fought and subjugated.

Burhami is referring to the famous Mecca/Medina division: when Muhammad was weak and outnumbered in his early Mecca period, he preached peace and made pacts with infidels; when he became strong in the Medina period, he preached war and went on the offensive. This dichotomy-preach peace when weak, wage war when strong-has been instructive to Muslims for ages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Huge Asteroid Vesta May be Packed With Water Ice

The giant asteroid Vesta may contain a vast supply of water ice, a supply that has sat frozen for billions of years, a new study reveals. The surface of Vesta — the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — appears to be quite dry. But water ice may lurk underground over roughly half of the huge space rock’s area, particularly near the poles, researchers said. And it may have been there for billions of years.

“Near the north and south poles, the conditions appear to be favorable for water ice to exist beneath the surface,” study co-author Timothy Stubbs, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



New Star Discoveries Found in Antique Telescope Plates

A century’s worth of astronomical photographic plates have revealed a slew of new variable stars, many of which alter on timescales and in ways never before seen.

The discoveries come from a new analysis of the 500,000 plates made by the Harvard College Observatory from the 1880s through the 1980s, covering the whole sky. The trove of old-school data has offered astronomers an unprecedented look at how stars change over long timescales.

“The Harvard College observatory has the most wonderful, best collection (of photographic plates) in the world,” said Harvard graduate student Sumin Tang, who works on the plate analysis program. “It’s a very unique resource because it’s over 100 years. No other data set could do this.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Why Do Britain and America Have Less Press Freedom Than Just a Year Ago? Countries Which Pride Themselves on Free Speech Slide Down International League Table

America falls from 20th to 47th after heavy-handed approach to Occupy demonstrators

Britain and the United States have dropped down a league table which rates the freedom of the press across the world, it emerged today.

The UK’s slide from 19th to 28th place is partly blamed on fallout from the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World which prompted the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.

Researchers from watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB), who compiled the World Press Freedom Index, also highlighted liberal libel laws which allow claimants of any nationality to sue in its courts. Libel ‘tourism’ is seen as a way for the richest to clamp down on freedom of expression.

There were also concerns that the police had attempted to extract information from a number of private companies — including Blackberry — to identify looters during the London riots.

America’s performance was even worse. It dropped from 20th to 47th position on the back of heavy-handed police tactics at a string of demonstrations against corporate greed.

A number of journalists — as well as protesters — were arrested as the Occupy movement swept across the country.

Heather Blake, from RWB, described the statistics as a worrying trend.

‘The West prides itself on supporting the principles of free speech and freedom of expression,’ she said.

‘If we are going to promote these principles across the rest of the world, then we’ve got to make sure that we uphold them ourselves.’

In the UK’s case, there are fears that the Leveson Inquiry could have further-reaching consequences than anyone initially envisaged.

Long-overdue reform of archaic libel laws would make it more difficult for foreign nationals to sue through British courts However, there is some suggestion that Parliament could delay enacting them into law because of Leveson.

There is also the possibility that the press could face formal regulation for the first time.

The Press Freedom index reflected a year of upheaval, protest and revolution worldwide — though participation in the Arab Spring was no guarantee of an improved rating.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “News Feed 20120126

  1. Re the last item: The top dog on the Reporters Without Borders “freedom of the press” list is Norway, which will come as a surprise to anyone who has searched its media in vain for any mention of the Norwegian Muslim rape wave often cited at GoV.

Comments are closed.