- You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Hot News From Shelbyville: Union Overturns Controversial Contract
- Texas Executes Illegal Immigrant From Honduras
- Sweden Pays Damages to Fired Intern
- Who Speaks for European Muslims Online?
- What the UK Government Thinks is the Biggest Threat to the UK
- Fears Over Brussels Plans for ‘European CIA’ Which Would Force Britain to Share Security Secrets
- Italy-Libya: Govt Ignores Rights of Repatriated, Ortu (AIRL)
- Mideast: Gaza, Hamas Accused of Prisoners’ Rights Violation
- ‘Hezbollah Prepares for New Confrontation With Israel’
- Subtly and Determinedly, Syria is Taking Over Lebanon
- Nepali Maid Raped, Dumped in Front of Placement Agency
- Olympics: Controversy in Iran Over Female Flag Carrier
- Russia Today Poll Results: Suspicious Timing for South Ossetia?
- Impeach Musharraf?
- Hindu-Muslim Violence Paralyses Kashmir
- Jack Thomas for Retrial on Terror-Related Charges
- Italy: Illegal Immigrants Arrive Off Coast
Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Dymphna, Gaia, Insubria, KGS, Nilk, No2Liberals, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
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You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad
Starting in 2002, Spokane, Wash., journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha’s life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of “The Jewel of Medina” — a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet’s harem.
It’s not going to happen: In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book. The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.
Random House feared the book would become a new “Satanic Verses,” the Salman Rushdie novel of 1988 that led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book’s Japanese translator, among other horrors. In an interview about Ms. Jones’s novel, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it “disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now.” He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received “from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.”
After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Mr. Perry said the company decided “to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel.”
— Hat tip: KGS
Sympathy for the Devil
If the world press corps had reported that Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, had been convicted and summarily hanged by the military tribunal in Guantanamo, I doubt the media could have been more outraged:
“A Mixed Verdict on Hamdan” the L.A. Times headlined it.
In its op-ed piece, it expressed relief that at least Hamdan was only convicted on one count. Still, according to the Times’ editors, “the trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan fell short of the highest traditions of American justice, and even if he files a successful appeal, he would not be set free.”
I had to read it carefully to be sure it was talking about Osama bin Laden’s driver, on trial, for all intents and purposes, for BEING Osama’s “driver.” The lead paragraph made it sound like some guy named Hamdan may have been wrongly convicted of making an illegal left turn during rush hour.
But no. The Times was referring to Salim Hamdan, who was on trial for providing material support to al-Qaida and for conspiracy. As Osama’s driver, Hamdan facilitated meetings between Osama and his henchmen by driving him to them.
Hot News From Shelbyville: Union Overturns Controversial Contract
From Refugee Resettlement Watch
Just in from the Times-Gazette of Shelbyville, TN (see last Friday’s report that started all this):
Members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Tyson Foods workers at the poultry processing plant in Shelbyville overwhelmingly voted to overturn a union contract that replaced Labor Day as a paid holiday with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, it was announced this morning.
The new agreement will increase the number of paid days off for workers in the current calendar year to include both Labor Day and the Muslim observance as paid holidays for workers in the Shelbyville plant.
The agreement amends the existing contract negotiated last year, according to a press release from the RWDSU.
In a statement by Tyson spokesperson Libby Lawson, the food processing giant made this request on behalf of its Shelbyville plant employees, “some of whom had expressed concern about the new contract provisions relative to paid holidays.”
“In an effort to be responsive, Tyson asked the union to reopen the contract to address the holiday issue, and the union agreed to do so.” Lawson said.
— Hat tip: acorcoran
Texas Executes Illegal Immigrant From Honduras
Lawyers for [the executed man] Chi had claimed in appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court that he should have been told he could get legal assistance from the Honduran consulate when he was arrested in California and extradited to Texas to face charges for killing his former boss, Armand Paliotta, at a men’s clothing store during a robbery 7 1/2 years ago. Chi had once worked for Paliotta as a tailor at the store in Arlington, between Dallas and Fort Worth.
The Supreme Court, ruling about 2 1/2 hours before his scheduled execution time, rejected his appeal without dissent.
Chi had visited the suburban Dallas store in 2001, then returned after closing and was let in by Paliotta after saying he’d left his wallet behind. Once inside, he pulled out a gun and demanded a money bag.
Paliotta was shot and killed. Another employee was wounded trying to run away and a third hid among clothing racks and called 911 for help. On a recording of the call played at his trial, Chi can be heard calling the hiding employee, in Spanish, to “Come to the front” of the store.
With police on the way, he fled a few minutes later, jumped into a waiting car and sped off.
He was arrested in Reseda, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles, about six weeks later. His 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend had turned him for assaulting her and told authorities he was wanted for murder in Texas. The couple had been on the run, crisscrossing the country.
Note: Urban Grounds has a list of Texas executions scheduled between now and August 21st.
Urban Grounds also has a picture of Ms. Kirstin Wood of Norway, comforting one of the relatives — not of the victim’s family, but of the mother of Mr. Chi. The latter tried to kill two other people when he shot his former boss.
— Hat tip: No2Liberals
Power Games in Paris
Mohammed Moussaoui, the new President of the CFCM, France’s most important organisation representing the Muslim community there, presents himself as an enlightened and polyglot Muslim. However, he too appears to be a representative of a French Islam that has “been imposed from high above”. Only 4900 people voted in the first ballot, out of a community counting almost 5 million members. The CFCM increasingly appears to be an empty institution and distant from the Muslim population: “Those elected by the French Muslims — as scholar Fiammetta Venner explained to Resetdoc.org — are only the representatives of the number of square metres the mosques occupy”. Now Moussaoui will have to deal with the UOIF, which has suddenly become the second most powerful force after the CFCM. And it is precisely this that worries French public opinion.
There were no surprises in the election of the President of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), the most important institution representing French Muslim communities, which elected with 40 votes out of 54 the one and only candidate running for this position, Mohammed Moussaoui, a 44 year old Moroccan professor, Vice-President of the RFM (Ressemblement des musulmans de France), who had obtained 43.2% of votes in the first ballot. 72% of the Board of Directors voted for the single list, which included Moussaoui and his three Vice-Presidents, representing the main schools of thought in French Muslim communities, voted in the course of a significantly challenging election. These men are Fouad Alaoui, Vice-President and Secretary General of the UOIF (Union of French Islamic Organisations and close to the Muslim Brotherhood, who obtained a total of 30.2% in the first ballot), Chems-eddine Hafiz, a lawyer and the person responsible for the Great Mosque in Paris, and Haydar Nemiryurek, President of the Coordinating Committee for Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF), who obtained 12.7% of the votes.
The CFCM’s outgoing President and rector of Paris’ Great Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, had invited people to boycott these elections, since they were considered to be non-representative and even anti-democratic. In reality, while the second ballot that led to Moussaoui’s election was simply a formality for the CFCM’s Board of Directors, only 4900 people from one of the largest communities in Europe — with almost five million members — voted in the first ballot, which was meant to provide a specific guideline for French Islam’s most important representatives. Hence one can legitimately question whether the CFCM’s elections were truly democratic and whether this institution really represents French Islam. Furthermore, what is even more perplexing, is the archaic method used for appointing voters who are supposed to represent all French Muslims, and that consists in measuring the square metres of the surface area of the mosques.
— Hat tip: Insubria
Sweden Pays Damages to Fired Intern
Sweden’s highest legal official has awarded damages to a member of the nationalist Sweden Democrat party who was relieved of his work experience duties at the Swedish Embassy in Israel after his party allegiances came to light.
Kent Ekeroth was taken on as an intern at the embassy in Israel in September 2006. In October of the same year staff at the embassy were made aware of the fact that Ekeroth was an active Sweden Democrat who had run for local election in Lund.
His work experience at the embassy was immediately terminated.
According to Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz, the decision to fire Ekeroth was unconstitutional.
“The decision was taken on the basis of the fact that he was a Sweden Democrat, which he had not said anything about. It was later argued that there were other reasons but none of them were sufficient to warrant terminating his employment,” Lambertz told news agency TT.
Former Ambassador to Israel Robert Rydberg informed Lambertz that Ekeroth was asked to leave after writing in “a xenophobic and anti-Muslim manner” on his blog. This could “damage the embassy’s credibility,” said Rydberg.
But the main problem, according to Rydberg, was that Ekeroth wrote his blog entries during work hours.
In one instance he compared immigration with a HIV epidemic, said the embassy.
But Lambertz reiterated his belief that Ekeroth was in fact fired simply because he was a Sweden Democrat.
“If we get rid of employees with uncomfortable opinions it becomes very uncertain as to who will be allowed to stay. This is not up to an individual manager to decide. Freedom of expression is very much fundamental to our democracy and administration,” said Lambertz.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been ordered to pay Ekeroth a total of 30,000 kronor ($4,800): 10,000 kronor for financial damages and a further 20,000 kronor for violating his rights.
— Hat tip: Steen
New Sharia Law Marriage Contract Gives Muslim Women Rights
Hailed as the biggest change in Sharia law in Britain for 100 years, a married Muslim couple will now have equal rights. A husband will have to waive his right to polygamy, allowed under Islamic law, in the new contract which has been described as “revolutionary”.
Currently Muslims in Britain have an Islamic ceremony called a nikah (a non register office marriage) which, although it is guaranteed under Sharia law, is not legally binding and does not provide a woman with written proof of the marriage and of the terms and conditions agreed between the spouses.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Director of the Muslim Institute and one of the authors of the contract, told The Daily Telegraph: “The document is a challenge to various sharia councils who don’t believe in gender equality but the world has changed and Islamic law has to be renegotiated.”
— Hat tip: Gaia
Who Speaks for European Muslims Online?
These websites reflect the issue of representing Muslims in Europe.
European Muslim websites can be a means that clearly shows the large spectrum of ideologies and attitudes among European Muslims. Consequently, these websites reflect the issue of representing Islam and Muslims in Europe.
There is diversity in the categories of these websites, for example, organizations’ websites, personal homepages, academic and research centers and interactive forums. However, by scanning most of the related links (topics, websites, and forums) in English, one can hardly find a comprehensive website that engages with the issues and debates of European Muslims.
— Hat tip: TB
Dutch More Positive About Muslims
Dutch people are less negative about the presence of Muslims in their midst. That’s the significant finding in a survey of 1100 Dutch adults carried out by TNS NIPO. But at the same time, there are also fewer and fewer Dutch people who believe that the integration of Muslims into Dutch society will ultimately be successful.
NIPO has carried out similar surveys in recent years. Particularly in 2005 and 2006, shortly after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the attacks in London and Madrid, a large percentage of Dutch people appeared to regard Islam as a threat, and the presence of Muslims as disagreeable. Hatred of Muslims amongst the ethnically Dutch population was a fact that the politicians couldn’t continue to ignore. The support for anti-Islam politicians such as Geert Wilders could no longer be shrugged off with an air of moral superiority. It had to be taken very seriously.
The current survey, commissioned by RTL News, appears to give some reason to modify this conclusion. Since 2006, the Dutch seem to regard the presence of Muslims as far less disagreeable. Only a quarter of those surveyed admitted to negative feelings about the Muslim community. This is considerably less than in 2006, when forty percent of Dutch people surveyed said they felt negatively about Muslims. The concern about Muslims has almost halved since 2006. Only 11 percent now regard them as a threat, compared to 21 percent in 2006. In July 2005, immediately after the attacks in London, no less than 68 percent of those surveyed feared an attack by Muslim fundamentalists; this figure has now fallen to 36 percent…
Commentary from TB: “How can the media keep on getting away with this kind of comparison? Dutch people versus Muslims!! Where exactly is the Muslim state to be found? I mean Dutch people are from Holland. Danes are from Denmark. Swedes are from Sweden… but where do Muslims come from? Muslimistan? Islamistan? The moon?
Or Khalifa maybe?”
— Hat tip: TB
What the UK Government Thinks is the Biggest Threat to the UK
Britain is more likely to face another attack on the transport network than any other kind of threat, the Government revealed today. Previously secret information ranked a terror attack on transport as the most likely risk faced by the country, raising the spectre of another 7/7.
The second most likely form of threat is an electronic attack on IT and communications systems, and the third most likely is a terror strike on a crowded place. The complex analysis in the Cabinet Office’s National Risk Register looked at a wide range of threats to the country, including natural disasters and industrial accidents.
The document said: “Of the different malicious attacks outlined in this document, conventional attacks on transport systems are judged to be some of the more likely to occur. “This assessment is supported by the many examples of this type of attack perpetrated by different groups across the globe.”
Railways, including underground train systems in UK cities, are “more vulnerable to attack” than airlines because of different security levels, it said. Today’s new information ranked a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attack by terrorists as about as likely as a major incident of inland flooding.
“The use of some CBRN materials has the potential to have very serious and widespread consequences,” it said. “An example would be the use if a nuclear device. There is no historical precedent for this type of terrorist attack.”
— Hat tip: VH
Fears Over Brussels Plans for ‘European CIA’ Which Would Force Britain to Share Security Secrets
Brussels is planning a ‘Euro CIA’ which would threaten Britain’s national security by forcing MI5 to pool its intelligence, critics warn. France and Germany are pushing for the sharing of security secrets and far greater integration between national police forces to tackle terrorism.
It led to fears that the U.S. would stop sharing important security secrets with the UK because the European Union has such a problem with leaks. The proposals are contained in a document by six EU countries, known as the Future Group. They want to see the beefing up of a shadowy Brussels-based intelligence-sharing body known as the Joint Situation Centre.
The organisation, also called Sitcen, was established in the 1990s to provide analysis on international crises to the EU foreign affairs commissioner. But following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the secretive organisation has seen its role grow to focus on counterterrorism and security.
Now the document, drawn up by the governments of France, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, says the body should have a much bigger role, co-ordinating the work of intelligence services across Europe.
It would be in charge of a network of anti-terror centres, which would have access to secret intelligence from each of the EU’s 27 countries. The plan has already been dubbed the European CIA, named after the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The eurosceptic organisation Open Europe said that any EU version would be far less effective and reliable than its American counterpart — and would put Britain’s relationship with the U.S. at risk.
— Hat tip: VH
Italy-Libya: Govt Ignores Rights of Repatriated, Ortu (AIRL)
(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 7 — “This new government seems to be totally ignoring the legal rights of Italian citizens repatriated from Libya in 1970,” Giovanna Ortu, the president of Association of Italians Repatriated from Libya (AIRL), writes in a letter addressing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who met today Libyàs Prime Minister al Baghdadi Ali Al Mahmoudi in the headquarters of the Italian Government. “Mr. President, we are referring to today’s meeting with the Libyan prime minister in order to remind You, as on various occasions in the past weeks, that the accord with Libya, ever more necessary for the illegal immigrants emergency, cannot leave out of consideration an internal collateral provision on the final compensation of the repatriated for their goods confiscated by Gaddafi in 1970,” the letter reads. “No commitment with this regard was made by the Government, which seems to be totally ignoring the legal rights of a too much punished group of people,” Ortu sustains. “‘We are expecting a formal confirmation of our repetitive requests for a meeting.’’ (ANSAmed).
— Hat tip: Insubria
Mideast: Gaza, Hamas Accused of Prisoners’ Rights Violation
(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 7 — A Palestinian NGO accused today Islamic movement Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, of preventing the lawyers defending recently arrested Palestinians, belonging to rival organisations, from meeting their clients, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) affirmed. According to PCHR, Hamas prevents the organisation’s lawyers from meeting the prisoners for political reasons. The NGO stated also that it has information according to which part of the prisoners are being tortured and abused. Hamas carried out a wave of arrests, especially of supporters of rival party Al Fatah, after an attack on July 25, in which five of its militants and a little Palestinian girl were killed in a bomb explosion in Gaza City. Hamas blamed Al Fatah for the attack, but the latter rejected the accusations and reacted to the arrest of its supporters by arresting activists and members of Hamas in the West Bank. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas’ spokesman, affirmed that PCHR’s accusations are “unfair and biased”, also because they ignore the arrests made by Fatah. Zuhri did not specify how many are the Palestinians arrested after the July 25 attack; Al Fatah said that they are at least 120. (ANSAmed).
— Hat tip: Insubria
‘Hezbollah Prepares for New Confrontation With Israel’
BEIRUT- Lebanon has accused the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) of devising a plan to return Israeli pilots to their bases in the event that their aircraft is shot down over Lebanon.
UNIFIL’s Commander General Claudio Graziano was quoted in the Lebanese daily newspaper al-Akhbar as saying that “in case an Israeli warplane was shot down in UNIFIL’s area of influence, the pilot should be rescued as soon as possible and taken to the closest UNIFIL post to be returned.”
According to the newspaper, Israeli officials have criticized the UN over “Hezbollah’s acquisition of effective anti-craft missiles” that could target Israeli fighter jets that violate Lebanon’s air space.
“Insisting on maintaining overflights in Lebanese airspace to confront Hezbollah’s armament, Israel has asked the UN to upgrade UNIFIL’s operational activities to confiscate such weapons,” the daily said, citing unnamed Western diplomatic sources at the UN.
Meanwhile, UNIFIL said in a statement that it was committed to the UN Security Council resolution 1701, which obliges the UN forces to do everything in their power to save the lives of foreign soldiers that end up inside Lebanon.
Since the UN-brokered ceasefire that put an end to the 33-day Israeli war against Lebanon Israel has violated Lebanon’s airspace repeatedly. Over the last two months Israel has violated Lebanese air space 1660 times.
This increased violation of Lebanon’s airspace has raised fears among the Lebanese citizens that Israel may wage a new war against their country.
According to well informed sources in Beirut, Hezbollah is preparing for a new confrontation with the Israeli occupation forces especially after the successful prisoner swap and the UN involvement in the Occupied Shebaa Farms issue.
‘Hezbollah now is determined to defend the air and regional water of Lebanon from any expected Israeli strikes.’
— Hat tip: TB
Subtly and Determinedly, Syria is Taking Over Lebanon
by Jonathan Spyer
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is to visit Syria next week, to discuss the opening of diplomatic relations between the countries, a Lebanese official told reporters this week.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month hailed President Bashar Assad’s expression of willingness in principle to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon as “historic progress.”
The establishment of a first-ever Syrian Embassy in Beirut is probably not imminent, for various reasons. Nevertheless, the signs of normalization in relations between Syria and Lebanon are significant. They are the latest indication of Syria’s growing confidence, and far from being a harbinger of more peaceful times in the neighborhood, they offer clues as to the shape of possible further strife.
The formation of the new Lebanese government after the Beirut clashes in May represented a very significant gain for the pro-Syria element in Lebanese politics. Hizbullah now controls a blocking 11 of the 30 cabinet seats. With a Lebanese government of this type, there is no reason for Syria to be in dispute there. The short period when Damascus felt the need to express its will in Lebanon solely in a clandestine way is drawing to a close.
Still, Western hopes for the rapid establishment of formal relations between the two countries are probably exaggerated. Damascus is in no hurry. Syria’s return to Lebanon is a work in progress. Assad has listed the preconditions for the establishment of diplomatic relations to become a real possibility. These include the passing of an election law, and the holding of the scheduled May 2009 general election.
Behind Assad’s honeyed words, one may glimpse the contours of Syrian strategy in the next stage. The election of May 2009 will be conducted under the shadow of Hizbullah’s independent and now untouchable military capability.
— Hat tip: Barry Rubin
Nepali Maid Raped, Dumped in Front of Placement Agency
RIYADH: A Nepali housemaid is fighting for her life after suffering sadistic torture and rape by her sponsor, said Pushparaj Bhattarai, a spokesman for the Nepalese Embassy, yesterday.
The woman, who was identified only as Maya, walked into the local Nepalese mission yesterday showing evidence of physical and sexual abuse, including injuries to her abdomen.
The age of the woman was not disclosed.
“Maya was sent to a local hospital for a comprehensive medical examination including a DNA test yesterday itself,” said Bhattarai, adding that the matter has been reported to the Diplomatic Quarter police.
This is the eighth case of the brutal rape of a Nepali maid reported within the last three months in Saudi Arabia. Maya’s sponsor has not been identified, detained for questioning or mentioned as a suspect in the crime.
— Hat tip: TB
Olympics: Controversy in Iran Over Female Flag Carrier
Tehran, 8 August (AKI) — Iranian religious figures have criticised that Olympic female rower Homa Hosseini was chosen as the flagbearer of Iran, calling the move a ‘heresy’.
“To make a woman march with the flag of the Islamic Republic in Beijing, is pure heresy and shows total disobedience of the laws mandated by our spiritual guides,” said Seyye Ahmad Elmalhoda, leader of Friday prayers in Iran’s holy city of Mashad.
Hosseini, 19, grew up in Iran’s Kermanshah province in western Iran, she is one of three Iranian female competitors at the Olympic Games and Iran’s first ever female rower. The other two female competitors are Najmeh Abtin (archery) and Sara Khosjamal (Tae Kwon Do).
“To make this woman march means to openly declare war to our religious values. Whoever is responsible for this unforgivable act, he should know that this gesture constitutes an obstacle for the ‘appearance’ of Mahdi,” said Elmalhoda.
He was referring to the mainly Shia Islam belief that imam Mohammed al-Mahdi will appear to fight a final apocalyptic battle over the forces of evil.
Followers believe he was born in the year 868 and has been in hiding ever since awaiting a decision from god to reappear.
— Hat tip: Insubria
Russia Today Poll Results: Suspicious Timing for South Ossetia?
Did Georgia time its attack on South Ossetia to coincide with the opening of the Olympics?
(See link for news story)
— Hat tip: VH
Georgian Troops Retreat From South Ossetian Capital Ending a Day of Violence
Georgian troops have reportedly left Tskhinvali, ending a day of violence in the South Ossetian capital. The South Ossetian’s authorities say hundreds of civilians have been killed. Russian reinforcements are in the region and say any attempts to attack either civilians or troops will be stopped. Peacekeepers say the city is in ruins. South Ossetia is calling Georgia’s attacks ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic purges’.
According to the president of the self-proclaimed republic South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, hundreds of civilians have been killed. He also said the South Ossetian forces are pushing Georgian troops out of the capital.
Georgia launched a major military offensive against South Ossetia today in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province. Heavy artillery pounded the capital Tskhinvali for hours, reportedly reducing much of the city to rubble.
“The actions of the Georgian side led to deaths — among them are [ten] Russian peacekeepers [30 wounded]. The situation reached the point that Georgian peacekeepers have been shooting at Russian peacekeepers. I, as the President of the Russian Federation, must protect lives and the dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are,” Russian president President Dmitry Medvedev said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, currently on a visit to Beijing for the start of the Olympics, warned that Georgia’s actions would meet a “response.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed there is evidence of ethnic cleansing in villages in South Ossetia.
The [Russian] Transport Ministry has announced the suspension of all commercial air services between Russia and Georgia from midnight on Friday. Meanwhile, Georgian’s President Mikhail Saakashvili has accused Russia of bombing Georgian territory, a charge which Moscow denies.
Elsewhere, the head of Georgia’s national Security Council said: “If Russia indeed sent its troops to Georgian territory, it means we are at war with Russia.”
Georgia, which has irritated Russia by aspiring to join NATO [and maybe the EU later], has accused Moscow of seeking to annex South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia after a bloody war in the early 1990s that made Russia sent in a peacekeeping force.
South Ossetia announced last week it accused Georgia of targeting civilians and was evacuating children to Russia.
— Hat tip: VH
Muslim Maldives Gets Democratic Constitution
The Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ratified the country’s new constitution on Thursday, aiming to pursue a “modern, multi-party, democratic system” and giving more powers to the judiciary and legislature.
New to the Maldives government, these measures and others in the document aim to bring full democracy to the Sunni Muslim nation of 300,000 people scattered across 1,200 mostly uninhabited islands 500km from India.
Opposition parties welcomed the new constitution, but worried about the implementation stage.
The new constitution, developed over the past four years, includes a judiciary run by an independent commission, and independent commissions to oversee elections and fight corruption.
— Hat tip: TB
Rick Moran from Right Wing Nuthouse has a piece on American Thinker. He says there’s a movement afoot to impeach Musharraf and suggests it might not be an eureka moment for those considering it:
Would the military support Musharraf rather than stand with the government? A great unknown to be sure and a risk the Pakistani government should probably not be taking right now. But evidently hatred of Musharraf runs deep — especially after his declaration of emergency last year where many now in parliament were either jailed or lived under house arrest.
The Pakistani People’s Party has seemed reluctant to proceed with impeachment. Some suggest that they made a secret deal with Musharraf during the months of painful negotiations to bring back Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf agreed not to prosecute both Bhutto’s huband Asif Zardari…
— Hat tip: Dymphna
Hindu-Muslim Violence Paralyses Kashmir
India’s Kashmir valley faced shortages of food, fuel and medicine as the worst Hindu-Muslim tensions in decades, sparked by a planned land transfer, gripped the revolt-hit region, according to locals. Protesters in Hindu-dominated Jammu in Indian Kashmir have been attacking trucks ferrying supplies to the Muslim-majority valley, defying an army curfew.
Radical Hindu groups have told Muslims living in Jammu to leave and the latter’s houses have been set ablaze. Meanwhile, in Srinagar, the urban hub of a 19-year Islamic revolt against New Delhi’s rule of the disputed Himalayan region, brick-hurling Muslims have been staging running battles with police and the city has been paralysed by strikes.
The Indian Army was preparing to send 10,000 extra soldiers to Kashmir yesterday amid fears that the violence would spread. An army source said the fresh forces would back up paramilitary and police units that have been stretched close to breaking point.
The latest turmoil, in which 15 people have been killed in the past week, erupted after the state government reneged on a plan to transfer land to a Hindu trust shrine. The government backed down on the plan after days of riots by Muslim separatists, who charged it was the start of “Hindu colonisation”, left six dead and hundreds injured.
— Hat tip: VH
Jack Thomas for Retrial on Terror-Related Charges
Jack Thomas will face a retrial on terror-related charges next month.
The 36-year-old former Melbourne taxi driver has pleaded not guilty to charges of intentionally receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and possessing a falsified Australian passport.
The Supreme Court heard yesterday the case was ready to proceed and prosecutors were keen to get it under way as soon as possible.
Interviews Mr Thomas gave to the ABC’s Four Corners program will be key evidence in the case.
Justice Elizabeth Curtain continued Mr Thomas’s bail until the trial date of September 22.
— Hat tip: Nilk
Italy: Illegal Immigrants Arrive Off Coast
Palermo, 8 August (AKI) — At least 350 illegal immigrants arrived off the coast of the Italy on Friday on numerous rubber dinghies and boats.
Half the immigrants were rescued by an Italian military vessel off the southern island of Sicily on Friday morning.
Another 72 illegal immigrants, including 10 women and one child, were later rescued by Italian Finance Police.
Before the military vessel could return to port with the immigrants, it had to divert to rescue another 40 migrants who were making their way to Italy.
More dinghies and vessels were spotted by Italian maritime authorities early on Friday, and more immigrants were expected to arrive.
On Thursday, about 200 immigrants arrived on the southern Italian coast. It is believed more than 13,000 would-be migrants have landed in southern Italy since January 2008 in 300 landings.
During the summer months, the number of illegal migrants crossing to southern Europe from North Africa rises.
They travel aboard fragile people smugglers’ boats, typically paying thousands of dollars for their passage.
Scores drown or die of dehydration, hunger and heatstroke on the perilous journey.
Italy recently approved a controversial new law targeting illegal immigrants with harsher penalties and swifter deportation procedures, following an election pledge by the new centre-right government to stop illegal immigration.
Illegal immigration is now treated as an “aggravating circumstance” punishable with a custodial sentence of between six months and four years in prison.
The new Italian law extends the period of time for which illegal immigrants may be detained from two to 18 months.
— Hat tip: C. Cantoni