Standing up for Zwarte Piet

Our Flemish correspondent VH reported last night about a planned protest rally in the Netherlands against Zwarte Piet, “Black Peter”, a traditional Dutch character featured in Christmas celebrations.

If he were in England, Zwarte Piet would be considered part of the Christmas Pantomime tradition. According to Dutch folklore, he was the black servant or companion of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), and he appears in many Christmas season programs in full blackface, a feathered cap, a white ruffled collar, and a brightly-colored velvet doublet.

Zwarte Piet

I went looking for Zwarte Piet photos today, and there were thousands to choose from. I picked three representative samples from the many available to make the layout above. I can tell you from looking at all those photos, and without knowing any Dutch at all, that Zwarte Piet is much loved by children — and pretty much everyone else in the Netherlands, for that matter.

Except, of course, for the hard-core Multiculturalists who planned the protest against the “racist and colonial” tradition of Black Peter. As it happens, the two artists behind the event are not Dutch — one is a Swede and the other a German. But no matter — Zwarte Piet had to go!

Unfortunately for the artists and the Van Abbemuseum, the Dutch people don’t agree. They’ve put up with a lot of Multiculturalism over the last few decades, but abolishing Zwarte Piet — that’s a bridge too far.

The latest word is that the planned protest has sparked a massive public outcry. VH has translated some additional material from Elsevier on the crisis. First, an article from this morning:

Crisis Meeting in Eindhoven on Anti-Black Peter Rally

The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven has received dozens of angry e-mails and phone calls about its protest rally against the “racist” Zwarte Piet that is to be held in the museum this Saturday. A possibility is that the event will be called off altogether.

Tomorrow it will be decided whether action against Black Peter continues, a spokesman for the Eindhoven museum for modern art today told the ANP news service.

– – – – – – – –



According to two foreign artists (Petra Bauer from Sweden and Annette Kraus from Germany) and “Doorbraak” [Breakthrough], known for protests during meetings of Rita Verdonk [of the Proud of the Netherlands Party] — this typical Dutch tradition is full of racism and colonialism.

In a response the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven said it only wanted to offer a platform to these artists. The museum has received a storm of criticism.


Those involved in the anti-Black Peter rally have also received threats over the internet. The police, the city council and the museum have today held consultations on possible “security risks”. Tomorrow it will be decided whether the rally will be called off or not.

And here’s the latest from tonight’s news (early morning in the Netherlands):

Anti-Black Peter demo cancelled

The protest march, initiated by two artists [and the Van Abbemuseum] against Zwarte Piet, which would be held this Saturday in Eindhoven, has been cancelled. Zwarte Piet can be relieved. The Van Abbemuseum announced the organization of a public debate in which the “artistic project and the reactions to it” can be discussed.

In a statement to the the museum says it is “very shocked” by the “extreme negativism and threatened violence in the reactions arising from the announcement of this rally.”

And here’s a quote from the letter written by the Van Abbemuseum to Elsevier:

“We received a lot of vehement reactions. Those responses, with threats of violence, steer the debate more and more away towards one about subsidies, freedom of expression and the public order. This only detracts from what we want to address. A march will only strengthen that effect. Therefore we feel obliged to cancel the march.

“We fully support the artists. The cancellation is in the interest of the artists and art in general. Art can add a major contribution to the rethinking of current topics, provided they are recognized as art.”

So the straw that broke the Multicultural camel’s back was Black Peter — how fitting!

It’s unfortunate that outraged people were moved to threaten violence against the museum and the artists. But maybe Dutch “racists” are taking a page from the Islamic playbook. After the events of recent years, everyone in the Netherlands must have noticed that the best way to get what you want is to threaten violence and then follow up on it if your demands are not immediately met.

It’s depressing to think that this method of doing business may become politics-as-usual in the Low Countries.

Islamic Converts in Mexico

For all practical purposes there is an “open borders” policy in the United States with respect to Mexico, since so much of the southern border is under-fenced and lightly patrolled, while the government declines to enforce our immigration laws. Whether the reason is political correctness, or a fear of being called racist, or a reluctance to engage in “profiling”, or a favor to agribusiness, immigrants can cross the border from Mexico with virtual immunity from federal interference.

It’s encouraging that the number of illegal immigrants is decreasing through attrition as individual states get tougher, resulting in a return migration south. Unfortunately, these actions don’t close the doors to those who want to enter the country, and some of the new arrivals may not be economic migrants. There is increasing evidence that in recent years Al Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations have been infiltrating operatives into the USA through Mexico, using forged identity papers and masquerading as Hispanics.

The chilling Al Jazeera video below will give you an idea of where Islamic radicals might be holing up as they pass through Mexico. Picture these out-of-the-way Muslim villages as staging grounds for honored guests from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.:

Hat tip: LN.

[Post ends here]

New Danish Social Laws

Earlier this week Henrik Ræder Clausen of Europe News contributed a guest-essay here about a proposed revision of the social contract, a new way of doing business within the welfare state.

Henrik’s piece was in synchrony with the recently-announced policy of the Danish government. According to Jyllands-Posten, the Minister of Welfare is preparing a change of focus for the state welfare system.

Here’s Henrik’s translation of the J-P article:

Karen J: Now clear consequences for the youth

by Orla Borg

The Danish government is preparing a shift away from the soft line in social legislation. Misfit children and adolescents are now to experience immediate sanctions when breaking the law.

The government will now fundamentally change the principles of Danish social legislation to counter children and adolescents who damage property, harass others, burn containers, or in other ways engage in socially unacceptable behaviour.

So far, the social system through the “Service Law” has only given the misfit youth “offers” of social measures, unless the situation was dire enough to warrant a removal from home.

But now the Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen (Venstre) is preparing a legal proposal which will focus on making demands on the misfit youth. It will extend the frames of the social legislation to make it possible to pass “social judgement” with strong sanctions against the youngsters breaking the rules. The parents may also incur economic penalties if they do not help bring their children into line.

Firm methods

– – – – – – – –

The intention is that several different kinds of sanctions will be available under the new law. For instance, participants in material destruction will be requested to participate in repairing the damage, there will be mandatory disciplinary programs with firm psychological methods, and the young will be picked up in their homes by social workers if they do not attend school. The sanctions are mainly intended to be used for children under the age of 15, but will also be applicable for offenders over 15 for cases that would not lead to conviction at court.

Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen states:

“This constitutes a breakthrough in Danish social legislation. We wish to end the let-it-be approach that has been dominant for many years. We need to be insistent towards the young, the gang-like groups who ravage the residential areas, destroy property and ignore all rules of conduct. They need to learn that their acts have direct consequences. Therefore we now give all municipalities and social advisors a new toolbox of concrete reprisals which will enable them to run a tougher line. The parents need to understand that they have a responsibility to do something, and we will therefore make it possible to suspend child support payouts for those who do not live up to their obligations.”

In the municipal social departments, the plans of stronger preventive measures are welcomed.

Positive chairmen

The chairman of the Society of Social Leaders in Denmark, Ole Pass from Rødovre, states:

“We appreciate more opportunities to make demands on the misfit youth, and we are particular interested in hearing what the government proposes in case they do not live up to the demands. Our main problem is that the young offenders simply ignore the sanctions they receive. The model of punishing parents economically is one I do not have that much confidence in. Usually the young do not care about their parents getting hurt, for they are in conflict with them already.”

Among the social advisors, temporary chairman Bettina Post states:

“Initially, we welcome more preventive options towards the youth, which will prevent younger brothers from following the criminal paths of their older brothers. But the government must realize that this will be very costly to implement. If no money is attached, this will probably not work.”

The “Service law”: Offers for misfit youth

As of today, the social “Service law” has a selection of around 10 “offers” for misfits under the age of 15. In the milder end are these:

  • Offers of advice to parents
  • Offers of family counselling
  • Offers of support from a contact person

In the “tougher” end are these:

  • Voluntary removal from the home
  • Forced removal from the home

The Danish government now intends to add measures between these opposites:

  • New requirements of the young
  • Immediate consequences when rules are broken
  • A selection of new sanctions

Fjordman: On Human Sacrifice and Political Correctness

Fjordman’s latest essay has been posted at The Brussels Journal:

The head of the Maori Studies Department at Auckland University, Professor Margaret Mutu, said cannibalism was widespread throughout New Zealand. “It was definitely there. It’s recorded in all sorts of ways in our histories and traditions, a lot of place names refer to it.” She said Maori cannibalism was not referred to by many historians because it was counter to English culture.

We are often told that people of European origins invent negative stereotypes about other peoples. Notice how in this case — and it is far from the only such example — Europeans actually downplayed very real and serious flaws in other cultures. And this was long before Political Correctness as we know it today was invented.


So, the Aztecs were a sophisticated bunch of natural philosophers who were great lovers of food and had good health care. They were presumably at the brink of developing microwave popcorn, interplanetary travel and laser eye surgery when the Europeans showed up and invented racism and global warming.

It is undoubtedly true that there were brutal aspects of early modern European culture. It was a brutal age. However, whatever Europeans did at this time, they didn’t eat other people’s internal organs on a regular basis. I know of indications that human sacrifice was once practiced in Europe, China, Egypt and elsewhere, but that was in very ancient times. By the sixteenth century AD, human sacrifice was not an established feature among any of the major Old World civilizations, but it was quite common among New World peoples.

– – – – – – – –

You can find traces of the concept of cannibalism in European culture, for instance in the story about Hansel and Gretel, one of the many traditional fairy tales such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella that were collected and popularized by the Germans Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early nineteenth century. However, in this fairy tale adapted by the Brothers Grimm, the idea of eating people was attributed to the villain of the story, the evil witch, and the practice was seen as self-evidently immoral and unacceptable.

Making apologies for undeniably barbarian aspects of non-European cultures while denigrating European culture has become quite widespread, even among people who are themselves of European origins. When I was reading about the history of chocolate, I found that the author of one of the most commonly cited books, Michael D. Coe, thought that the Aztecs were in some ways better than the Europeans. Yes, those Aztecs, who ripped out people’s hearts, ate their organs with tomatoes and drank their blood mixed with chocolate. They had better health care, while European medicine was “pathetic.”

Read the rest at The Brussels Journal.

The Irish Travel to Copenhagen

Ever since Ireland’s citizens voted a resounding NO on the referendum regarding the Lisbon Treaty, there have been mutterings about what the EU will do to the Irish for such temerity.

Heaven knows that referendum result was a clear case of the average citizen ignoring the media, the intelligentsia, the politicians, and the whole array of public support for the Treaty, to say loudly and with firm conviction, “no way, José” (take note, American MSM, academia, etc. Your boy is not in until he’s voted in, despite your desperate efforts to pull the lever for everyone).

Now, according to The Irish Times it seems that some of Ireland’s civil servants took a quiet trip to Copenhagen earlier this month to ask for advice. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General’s office sent representatives over to ask about the Danish opt-out decisions:

Senior Irish officials met their Danish counterparts in Copenhagen earlier this month to get advice on how Ireland could opt out of significant provisions of the Lisbon Treaty in order to resolve the impasse created by the outcome of the referendum in June.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported that the Danish model, involving opt-outs from certain aspects of EU co-operation, was now being actively considered by the Government. Diplomatic sources in Dublin have confirmed the meeting took place. The newspaper reported a delegation from Dublin visited the foreign ministry in Copenhagen to discuss the technical legal provisions of the Danish agreement from 1993.

The Danish government responded to the rejection of the Maastricht Treaty by its electorate in 1992 by coming up with a proposal to opt out of four key areas of EU activity.

A second Danish referendum in 1993 approved the treaty in tandem with the proposal to opt out of the euro as well as defence, justice and common EU citizenship arrangements established under the treaty.

The Danish opt-outs and the legal drafting entailed in the process was the subject of the discussions with Irish officials, according to sources quoted by the paper. It added that Irish officials would return for further advice if it was required.

…According to sources, Danish officials emphasised that in 1992, its referendum result was regarded as a Danish problem, not an EU problem.

I looked at Jyllands-Posten, but couldn’t find the story, probably because it’s not current. Seems as though this news took a while to percolate even to Ireland. I would’ve thought more people read the JP, but evidently this is not the case, so the story stayed under the radar.
– – – – – – – –
The most important point about the original referendum is that had they been permitted to vote, more people from European countries would likely have rejected the Constitution. Luxemburg’s and Spain’s citizens voted “yes”, but France and the Netherlands rejected the original document – that lengthy, deliberately dense and unreadable offense foisted off on Europe. Those solid rejections alarmed the EUSSR commissars. They quickly shut down of further voting and crafted a separated-at-birth twin to the Constitution, known as the Lisbon Treaty.

On the Treaty, there would be no voting, despite promises to permit such referendums. The UK Parliament, for example, shoved it through with no input from British citizens. Were they afraid of how people would vote? You bet.

The sticking point was Ireland. As we pointed out in May, Ireland’s Supreme Court voted in 1986:

“The Supreme Court ruled…that in the event of any major change within the EU that impacted upon Ireland’s constitution, the government would be obliged to get approval for that change from the Irish people.”

The Irish Times says:

If Ireland proceeds down the road of seeking opt-outs from the treaty on issues like defence and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which provoked such controversy during the referendum campaign, the approval of all 26 EU partners would be required.

In that event, another referendum in Ireland would be necessary, but what form it would take and whether it would be one question or a combination of questions will not become clear for some time.

Jyllands-Posten quoted a leading Danish politician and social democrat spokesman on Europe, Svend Auken, as saying it was sensible for the Irish to investigate the various possibilities, but he pointed to the problems the opt-outs had created for Denmark. “There is a paradox that we teach other nations how to devise opt-outs when we are trying to get rid of them ourselves,” he said.

Last November the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, announced plans for one or more referendums to try and get rid of the opt-outs, which have caused ongoing difficulties in the relationship between Denmark and the rest of the EU.

However, following Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the referendum plan was postponed.

Polls in Denmark had indicated the electorate would approve removing the opt-outs, but there was a shift back to a No majority following a European Court decision that EU states may not refuse entry or right of residence to non-EU spouses and family members.

The Taoiseach told reporters in Galway yesterday the question of whether a second referendum would be held “is a matter the Government has to consider in due course, but we are not at that point in our discussions at all yet. The point of discussion we are at the moment is examining the outcome of the referendum and obviously there will be a lot meetings with EU colleagues between now and the end of the year where it will be discussed further with them. So it’s not just a matter for our own personal consideration or national consideration, it is a matter we have to discuss with colleagues as well.“ [my emphasis – D]

“Colleagues”? If it’s not national or personal, then these colleagues of his are the EU Parliament who are determined, come hell or high water, that there will be no hold-outs.

The same problem that faces Denmark – unlimited immigration from other EU countries – is the same issue that led to the defeat of the Treaty in Ireland. The Irish Savant reports on a letter to the editor of The Irish Independent which covers the average citizen’s sentiments regarding the current problem with unlimited immigration from other EU countries. Because the numbers are so appalling, I am putting the letter in full, though I recommend that you also see the Savant’s post on the Irish homeless for some context on the high feeling this issue generates:

A simple but very much to-the-point letter this week in the Indo:

“KEVIN Myers’ recent article on immigration understates the problem with Nigerian immigration and social welfare benefits. According to the Department of Trade’s records, 332 work permits were granted to Nigerians over the years while fewer than 150 were granted refugee status during the same period by the minister for justice.

Stated Government policy and Irish immigration law prohibits the payment of welfare benefits to non-EU nationals, other than those granted refugee status. That, in effect, means the maximum number of Nigerians eligible to claim welfare benefits here is 150.

A massive number of Nigerians have immigrated illegally to Ireland. The previous Minister for Justice stated that no amnesty was to be granted to these people, yet a scheme was designed to allow them remain in Ireland called the IBC/05 scheme. This scheme granted the right of full welfare benefits to these illegal immigrants.

Those who came to Ireland illegally may, if they so choose, claim unemployment and rental accommodation payments and all other welfare benefits including medical cards. In effect, the scheme created a new category of immigrant, one that has no lawful basis. Thousands of illegal Nigerian immigrants have never worked in Ireland, yet the Irish taxpayer has to pay for them for the rest of their natural lives.

The IBC/05 scheme was grafted on to existing immigration law, even though no legislation for the provision of welfare benefits to illegal immigrants exists. No Bill to accommodate it was brought before the Oireachtas and no vote on this scheme was ever taken even though it requires a massive diversion of publicly raised funds destined for other purposes and voted on by Dail Eireann.

The scheme was implemented in January 2005. More illegal immigrants were granted leave to remain here under this scheme then than the combined total of legal immigrants granted work permits from non-EU countries over the past four years.

Some 23,178 Nigerians are registered with the Department of social welfare. How is this number possible? Extrapolating from the figures published last week Nigerians alone are receiving a minimum of €100m in benefits per year. This figure is likely much higher.

The scale of the problem is apparent to ordinary Irish people. The regulation and enforcement of immigration law and policies is currently in a state of anarchy. Resentment of this injustice against the Irish people is ignored by the political establishment and allowed to fester.

I voted ‘No’ in the Lisbon referendum because of immigration issues. This was the first public expression of that resentment. The time for a debate was before this problem got out of hand, not now. What is now required is action, deportations. We need the political expression of this resentment and soon. [emphasis mine — D]


The Connolly Column quoted Cardinal Seán Brady’s opinion of the reasons behind the Irish rejection. If you go to the article [linked next] from which Mr. Connolly drew the Cardinal’s quote, it is obvious that the hierarchy is in favor of the Lisbon Treaty, however obliquely that support is expressed. Just one more indication of the gap between the servants of the Church and the laity. No wonder the Church’s influence continues to sink:

Cardinal [Sean] Brady…stated the bleeding obvious when he said that a significant part of the Irish rejection of Lisbon came from suspicion of the EU and in particular the anti-Christian, secular thrust of EU policies. When the treaty was defeated in June, the Irish left (especially Sinn Féin) rushed to claim that the rejection was a result of fear of privatisation, the “race to the bottom”, etc which is patent nonsense. While these were doubtless factors in the defeat of Lisbon, particularly from younger and more socialist voters, they were not the real reason for the frustration of Eurocratic plans to rubber-stamp the Lisbon Treaty. Sovereignty, immigration and attacks on national culture played a bigger role than the liberal chattering classes would like to admit. Groups like COIR, which were decried as Catholic and conservative by the pro-Lisbon media, punched well above their weight and contributed to the rejection of the treaty by reminding people – quite rightly – that heroic men and women died so that Ireland could be free of foreign rule…

Finally, to end on a note of comedy, here is the final sentence in the Irish Times story:

Also yesterday, French president Nicolas Sarkozy called on Irish voters to listen to other EU countries who wanted the treaty reforming the EU’s institutions to come into force.

“..Come into force? That word is key, isn’t it?

Ah, yes, by all means follow all those countries who are enjoying the wonderful effects of tsunami waves of illegal immigrants.

Any rumblings by Ireland’s politicians about another referendum will butt up against the Supreme Court’s 1986 ruling. They must be pondering even now ways to get around it.


Hat tip: VH

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/28/2008

Understanding Islam: a Challenge
Europe and the EU
British Muslim Convicted Over Teen Floggings
British Journalism Student Gang-Raped by Asylum Seekers in Calais Squatter Camp They Call ‘the Jungle’
Gang Leader Loses Right to Live in Sweden
Italian Bill to Block Mosque Building
Malta: Mintoff Wins Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights
Netherlands Fears for EU Relations With Russia
Norway Willing to Talk With Osama Bin Laden
Reducing the Fear of Islam, Increasing Love for Muslims
Robbery Wave Rolls Over Oslo
Swiss Government Opposes Ban on Minarets
Ex-Dutchbat Soldiers Offer to Witness for Karadzic [Translation]
Hijab Comeback in Bosnia
Middle East
Hizbollah Training Us: Mahdi Army
Iraq’s Clandestine Alcohol Business
Britain Seeks to Build Coalition Against Russia
Russia’s Not Afraid of a Cold War
Russia Wins Backing From China
South Asia
Sharia Can be Applied Without Making Indonesia an Islamic State
Latin America
Hugo Chavez Gives “Red Ken” Livingstone a Job

Thanks to DC, Fausta, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –


Understanding Islam: a Challenge

Irshad Manji, New York

In the coming weeks, Americans will focus on who should lead the “land of the free and home of the brave.” But does the United States still deserve to be described in the language of conscience and courage? It’s increasingly questionable.

Random House, among the top publishers in New York, has canceled The Jewel of Medina, an historical novel about the Prophet Muhammad’s second and youngest wife, A’isha. Their reason: It might incite a violent backlash.

Might? That’s all it takes these days? According to whom?

Welcome to where things get interesting. Long before controversy arose, Random House sent an endorsement request to Denise Spellberg, a non-Muslim professor at the University of Texas. She found parts of the manuscript offensive and decided that Muslims should feel the same.

Reportedly judging the book to be “national security threat,” she depicted it as “more dangerous than the Satanic Verses.” Prof. Spellberg ought to know: She teaches Salman Rushdie’s notorious novel in her class. Clearly, she doesn’t back censorship.

Yet her lawyer warned Random House not to use Prof. Spellberg’s name in or on the novel.

Random House then consulted more “scholars of Islam.” In effect, the publisher invited post-colonial theorists with narrow specializations to rip apart a mass-market story. Also pulled in was the corporation’s head of security.

Meanwhile, a listserv of graduate students in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies learned of the still-unpublished novel. They heard about it through a Muslim website manager who claims to have received a “frantic” call from Prof. Spellberg. His postings got forwarded to various forums, ultimately reaching a blogger who circulated a protest strategy.

There’s no evidence that anybody paid serious attention to the blogger’s plan. Despite the resounding lack of threats, however, Random House announced that it would postpone publication for the sake of safety — including that of the author, Sherry Jones.

Mind you, she’s free to seek a fatwa: Random House has now terminated Jones’ contract so she may sell the manuscript elsewhere. “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors,” its corporate statement reads. That’s one way to prove it…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

British Muslim Convicted Over Teen Floggings

A British court found a devout Muslim guilty of cruelty Wednesday for forcing two teenagers to flog themselves until their backs bled during a Shiite religious ceremony.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court convicted Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, on two counts of child cruelty over the incidents, during a ceremony in January to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein.

The victims, who were 13 and 15 at the time, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer zani, which has a wooden handle with chains and five blades attached. Zaidi, who denied cruelty, also beat himself during the ceremony.

A prosecution lawyer stressed that the case was not an attack on Islamic traditions.

“The Crown Prosecution Service wishes to make it clear that this prosecution was not an attack upon the practices or ceremonies of Shiite Muslims,” said Carol Jackson of the Greater Manchester CPS.

She noted that the prosecution relied in part on the evidence of the president of the local Shiite community centre.

“The law exists to protect the young from harm or being exposed to harm. In this case, both boys were made to take part in the ritual flagellation and suffered injuries to their backs.

“We are satisfied that, given the age of the children involved, the coercion employed by Syed Mustafa Zaidi, who did not accept that he was wrong, and the possibility of such an incident occurring again, the decision to prosecute… was the correct one.”

The two victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted they wanted to beat themselves, but not to be forced to do so, and not with Zaidi’s zanjeer zani.

They also acknowledged they had flogged themselves with a similar implement from the age of six, in Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

British Journalism Student Gang-Raped by Asylum Seekers in Calais Squatter Camp They Call ‘the Jungle’

Over a hundred asylum-seekers are being held tonight after a British student was gang-raped by illegal immigrants in Calais. The woman was writing a story on asylum seekers for her journalism course when she was attacked, police said.

Up to 100 men have been rounded up as potential witnesses to the crime, which is alleged to have taken place in a notorious squatter camp nicknamed ‘The Jungle’. Police said the attack was of a particularly ‘brutal nature’. The victim is still in Calais.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was described as ‘a London student who had travelled to France to highlight problems surrounding clandestine immigration’. Police confirmed tonight she was born in Vancouver and also carried a Canadian passport.

A police spokesman added: ‘She appeared to be working alone, which was clearly a very dangerous thing to do. ‘We fear that the men she was reporting on attacked her in the wood where they were staying.’

The woman, who is thought to be in her twenties or early thirties, told locals she wanted to spend time with would-be illegal immigrants who were attempting to reach Britain by stowing away on lorries.

The squatter camp is part of a disused an industrial zone called ‘The Dunes’ and is a short walk from the ferry port. Up to 500 men live there, supported by local charities. […]

The Home Office said the number of refugees caught entering Britain illegally from Calais has fallen to around 1,500 a year from 10,000 in 2002, when Sangatte closed.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Gang Leader Loses Right to Live in Sweden

The leader of the criminal network Original Gangsters has had his residence permit revoked by the Swedish Migration Board.

Denho “Dano” Acar fled to Turkey after he was accused of instigating an arson attack in autumn 2006. He has previous convictions in Sweden for a range of serious crimes.

“The decision was made on August 21st and I don’t know if he has received the message yet. But we based our decision on the fact that he no longer lives in Sweden. That is the most common reason for revoking a permanent residence permit,” Migration Board spokeswoman Marie Andersson told newspaper Göteborgs-Posten.

Acar, who came to Sweden with his family in 1985, remains a Turkish citizen. Turkey does not have an extradition treaty with the European Union.

The Migration Board first began looking into the matter after receiving a letter from police in Västra Götaland county.

“The Migration Board has reached a decision that makes life considerably more difficult for organized criminals in the country,” police spokesman Sven Alhin told Göteborgs-Posten.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Italian Bill to Block Mosque Building

A far-right Italian party is planning to table a draft law that would effectively block the construction of mosques in the southern European country. The Northern League will present the parliament next week with a bill that requires regional approval and a local referendum for building mosques.

It would also mandate that mosques should have no minaret or loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer. The motion demands that mosques will have to be at least one kilometer away from any nearby church and that sermons be delivered in Italian, not Arabic.

The Northern League has four ministers in the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, including the interior ministry. The motion is only supported by the small, ultra-Catholic UDC party with no immediate support from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party or from the ex-Fascist National Alliance. […]

On August 8, Northern League MP Mario Borghezio burst into a church in the northern city of Genoa shouting anti-Islam statements. He vowed to “continue the fight of the Knights of the Order of Malta to defend Christianity.”

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta began as a Christian charity in Al-Quds in 1080 to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. It is now a state located in Rome and is recognized by 50 countries worldwide.

It is accused of conducting massive missionary work in troubled regions in Muslim countries like Sudan’s Darfur under the guise of aid and charity.

Its locals or members must take a solemn oath reading: “I will provide myself with arms and ammunition that I may be in readiness when the word is passed, or I am commanded to defend the church either as an individual or with the militia of the Pope.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Malta: Mintoff Wins Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights

The International Committee for the Al-Gaddafi Award for Human Rights has awarded its prize for 2008 to former prime minister Dom Mintoff, the Tripoli Post reported yesterday.

“In their appreciation of those honourable leaders of the North who have stood by justice and rights and who defended the causes of oppressed peoples, especially in Palestine and Iraq, the International Committee of Al-Qathafi Award for Peace of 2008 is awarded to the European leader and former Prime Minister of Malta,” the committee said.

The prize is awarded to “international personalities, bodies or organisations that have distinctively contributed to rendering an outstanding human service and have achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the causes of freedom and supporting peace everywhere in the world”.

Former recipients of the award, which carries a prize of $250,000, include Hugo Chavez, Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro.

The Al-Gaddafi Award for Human Rights is an annual prize founded in 1988 by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi together with Swiss globalisation critic Jean Ziegler. Mr Gaddafi initially granted U$10 million to the Swiss-based foundation North-South which awards the prize.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Muslim Council Chiefs Ban All Members From ‘Tea and Sandwiches’ in Meetings Which Take Place During Ramadan

Muslim council leaders have sparked outrage after trying to ban all councillors eating in meetings until sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. Politicians have hit out after the move to impose hardline Islamic rules on non-Muslim colleagues throughout September.

The bombshell has been dropped by Labour chiefs of the notoriously loony Tower Hamlets Council in east London. The storm was sparked by an email sent to all councillors this week highlighting arrangements for Town Hall committee meetings next month, which marks the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.

The memo said that new council leader Lutfur Rahman and his deputy, Siraj Islam, had requested that meetings be kept to a minimum to accommodate fasting councillors. They have also urged all other councillors to resist eating until the breaking of the fast at sunset.

Cllr Stephanie Eaton, leader of the Lib Dem group on the left-wing East End authority, said she would be ignoring the new Ramadan regime. She insisted the new Labour leadership was favouring one religious group over others.

Cllr Eaton said: ‘The Liberal Democrats have enormous respect for the contribution of all faith groups and cultures to the life of the community of Tower Hamlets. ‘But we fervently believe that the rules of any one religion should not be imposed upon others.’

It is the first time such a request has been made and it comes as Ramadan falls earlier this year during the longer daylight hours.

Council bosses have also ordered that the town hall’s business agenda should be reduced, with only seven scheduled committee meetings for the entire month, to deal with the Ramadan restrictions. Officers have also been barred from arranging any more and been told to explore ways of dropping some of the scheduled seven.

[…] Normally tea, coffee and sandwiches are set aside for councillors to nibble at during evening meetings. But during Ramadan these will be reduced and complemented by special Muslim food packs containing chicken, lamb and vegetarian snacks. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Netherlands Fears for EU Relations With Russia

THE HAGUE, 28/08/08 — The Netherlands does not appear to want to take any high-profile position within the EU regarding the position of Russia on Georgia.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday signed a decree whereby Russia recognises the independence of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two regions have been operating as if independent for years, but are under the UN’s definition simply part of Georgia.

“For the Netherlands, the territorial integrity of Georgia within the internationally recognised borders, also earlier recognised by Russia, remains the basis for a solution to this crisis,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen. The one-sided recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by Russia does not bring this solution nearer, he added.

Verhagen expressed on behalf of the cabinet his “great concern” about the Russian position. The relations of the country with the EU cannot as a result be “business as usual,” the minister said. But the Netherlands does not use the term “unacceptable” to describe the Russian step.

The developments will be discussed at a special summit of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. Verhagen holds it important that they determine a joint position.

Earlier this month, an attempt made by Georgia to subdue South Ossetia by a military attack provoked a violent riposte by Russian armed forces. A cease-fire was then concluded, but Russian troops continue to occupy positions in Georgia outside the two secessionist regions.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Norway Willing to Talk With Osama Bin Laden

Norway has joined Switzerland in opening up for talks with terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. That doesn’t mean Norway is going soft on the fight against terrorism, though, said the country’s deputy foreign minister.

“You don’t make peace with your friends, but with your enemies,” said Raymond Johansen, state secretary in Norway’s Foreign Ministry and deputy foreign minister, on Wednesday.

Johansen told the website for newspaper Dagsavisen Wednesday afternoon that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also called for reconciliation among the various groups in Afghanistan. That would include Osama bin Laden’s followers.

“We support that,” Johansen said. “Engagement and dialogue have a lot going for them.” He also stressed that “negotiations are not the same as weakness.”

Johansen’s remarks come in the wake of a visit by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to Iran, and her call for dialogue with Osama bin Laden. She’s the first foreign minister of a democratic country who has promoted dialogue with bin Laden, saying Switzerland has no other alternatives.

“We have no military forces, we don’t have anything other than the power of the word to influence other states or to influence decisions in a multilateral setting,” she said Tuesday.

Johansen, who also was the first high-ranking Western official to meet with Hamas leaders last year, didn’t reject her call. He noted, though, that he has no illusions that bin Laden would sit down for negotiations.

“I don’t think Osama bin Laden or the forces around al-Qaida want dialogue,” Johansen said. “They prefer rather to take the lives of infidels.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Reducing the Fear of Islam, Increasing Love for Muslims

Prayer events and seminars from sunrise until midnight at St Aldates Church, Oxford

Around the world millions of Christians face persecution for their faith, many in Muslim societies. Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, pioneered the way for Church in the West to reach out to its persecuted family in love, prayer and commitment. Brother Andrew advocates a fresh and dynamic approach to Muslims characterised by the acronym, I.S.L.A.M. — I Sincerely Love All Muslims.

By distinguishing between Islam as an ideology and Muslims as human beings, we seek to reduce the fear of Islam and increase Christians’ love for Muslims, for our Lord Jesus commands and enables us to love all people, and the Apostle Paul notes that ‘perfect love drives out fear’.

Sunday 31st August is the day before the beginning of Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting). Take an honest look at some of the challenges posed by Islam today and join us as we seek to love, bless and pray for Muslim people in Britain and around the world.

           — Hat tip: DC [Return to headlines]

Robbery Wave Rolls Over Oslo

Three men were in police custody on Thursday after they allegedly carried out no less than six robberies or attempted robberies on the streets of Oslo during the night.

Two men aged 20 and 18 are suspected of knocking down an apparently random victim on Vogts Gate in Oslo’s Torshov district around 10:30pm. He was found unconscious on the sidewalk by a passerby who ended up chasing the robbers away.

While the victim was rushed to Ullevål Hospital, the robbers allegedly attacked two others in the Torshov area before they were apprehended by police about an hour later. Neither victim in the second and third assaults was seriously injured. The first victim was listed in stable condition on Thursday.

Meanwhile, on the west side of town in Oslo’s affluent Skøyen district, another man was being robbed at knifepoint. Police also received a call just after midnight that a woman walking with her husband in nearby Frogner was kicked and beaten in another robbery attempt at Skarpsno, home to several foreign embassies.

Twenty minutes later, a 29-year-old man was accosted by a man with a knife near Olaf Ryes Plass.

“The victims could give us good descriptions of the offender,” said Even Jørstad of the Oslo Police District. “Around 2am, police on patrol spotted a man at Skøyen who began to run when he saw the police car. He was apprehended and matched the descriptions.”

The offender is 18 years old and faces charges for the last three assaults.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swiss Government Opposes Ban on Minarets

ZURICH: A ban on construction of new minarets in Switzerland would violate international human rights and the country’s Constitution, the Swiss government said Wednesday.

A group of politicians from the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the matter, saying minarets threaten law and order, but the government opposes the measure.

“The popular initiative against the construction of minarets has been submitted in accordance with the applicable regulations but infringes guaranteed international human rights and contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution,” the Department of Justice and Police said.

“Such a ban would endanger peace between religions and would not help to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs.”

The Swiss People’s Party has courted controversy, having previously run an anti-immigration campaign featuring three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag, which was condemned as racist by rights groups and the United Nations.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Ex-Dutchbat Soldiers Offer to Witness for Karadzic [Translation]

At least fifteen Dutchbat soldiers offer to witness in favour of Radovan Karadzic in the Yugoslavia Tribunal. “Two of them have visited me this week and we have talked about their possible testimony,” said Milivoje Ivanisevic, a member of the defence team.

The two have told him that many ex-Dutchbat soldiers still walk around with a trauma because they are accused of not having defended Srebrenica against the army of the Bosnian Serbs.

The Bosnian Serbs army is accused of having murdered over 7,000 Muslim men after the conquest of Srebrenica in July 1995. This is one of the main points in the indictments against Radovan Karadzic and the remaining fugitive ex-General Ratko Mladic. One of the accusations against them is committing genocide.

“They (the ex-Dutch blue helmets) have told me that Dutchbat had to protect themselves against Muslims much more than to protect the Muslims against the Serbs. According to them, for example, the Bosnian Serb army brought food and water to the Muslim women and children,” said Ivanisevic.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Hijab Comeback in Bosnia

SARAJEVO — After being banned for decades by communist Yugoslav rulers, hijab is making a comeback to the streets of post-war Bosnia.

“Being headscarved, I could not study in France, where basic rights are being violated, while here it is possible and normal,” Alma, a student at Sarajevo’s Political Science Faculty, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday, May 17.

In 2004, France banned the wearing of the hijab at public schools and institutions. Since then the issue of hijab, as an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, has been thrust into the limelight with many Western European countries following suit. […]

Since the 1992-1995 war, hijab-clad women have become a common sight on the streets of the capital Sajajevo, which has a strong Muslim majority. [….]

Yet, in regions mainly populated by Christian Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats, the hijab is still frowned upon as it was in the communist era.

In the ethnically divided northern town of Brcko, the issue of freedom of choice surfaced in a conflict between a Serb teacher and a veiled Muslim psychologist in an elementary school. “My colleague refused my regular visit to his class because of my headscarf,” said psychologist Semsa Ahmetspahic. […]

Brcko and its surrounding region populated by Muslims, Serbs and Croats was proclaimed a special district in 2000 by the international community overseeing peace in Bosnia. […]

Milan Puric, a Serb deputy in the city’s council, wants regulations banning hijab in public institutions. He said the issue “once again highlighted ethnic divisions” in the country. “We haven’t reached that level of tolerance yet,” Puric told AFP.

“But if I’m wrong, then it should be all or nothing, without any discrimination,” he said, adding that would mean Orthodox Church icons and crosses should also be allowed into classrooms. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Black List of Agricultural Dealers With “Israel” Soon

AMMAN- The Jordanian Agricultural Engineers Association, in cooperation with the National Anti-normalization Committee, has finalized preparations to identify areas of agricultural cooperation between Jordan and Israel, including the names of companies and businessmen dealing with the Zionist entity.

According to figures obtained by Fact International (FI), Jordanian tradesmen, during the first seven months of this year, imported from Israel, about 1465 tons of barley and 2183 tons of soya.

Sources, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said that 5610 tons of maize and about 1285 tons of silage, which is used for animal fodder, were also imported from Israel.

Sources said that about 99 per cent of mangoes in the Jordanian market are imported from Israel, although merchants claimed it is from Egypt. The Agriculture Ministry confirmed that documents do not show any deals for the importation of mangoes from Egypt, particularly during the first six months of this year.

The Jordanian Agricultural Engineers Association has contacted Jordanian companies doing business with Israel and has stopped them from trading with Israel. According to sources some importers were responsive and have submitted written pledges to the Association to cease transactions with the Israelis.

A recent Israeli report stated that Jordan is the ‘biggest Arab importer of Israeli commodities, even bigger than Egypt.’

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Hizbollah Training Us: Mahdi Army

Fighters from Iraq’s Mahdi Army have detailed how they are receiving training from Lebanese Hizbollah in advanced insurgency tactics to use against US troops, even as Washington continues to negotiate a pact that may see most American soldiers leave Iraq by 2012.

At least 100 militants from the Mahdi Army, a powerful militia that opposes the American presence in Iraq, went to Lebanon earlier this summer to receive the training, according to two fighters who claim to have taken part.

In a series of interviews, they described being instructed in leadership methods and religious indoctrination techniques, as well as how best to ambush US troops and evade American air strikes. Their claims have not been independently verified and Hizbollah denies any such link with the Iraqi group. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Hizbullah Accuses Lebanese Church of ‘Interfering’ in Politics

Hizbullah on Wednesday accused the Maronite church of “interfering in politics.” Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, member of Hizbullah’s political council, made the remark in a television interview.

“It is obvious that Bkirki interferes in details of the political life. Whether this is its right or not, is another issue,” Abu Zeinab said.

He said Parliament would adopt the election law by Sept. 25, predicting that neither March 14 nor March eight would win the two-third majority of parliamentary seats. “The opposition would win the (simple) majority” in the new parliament, Abu Zeinab predicted.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Iraq’s Clandestine Alcohol Business

BAGHDAD — When you approach, it just looks like an ordinary clothing for food shop. But if you are known to the owner, then you get to buy the “real” precuts on sale, which are always stored in backrooms away from public eyes.

“I use my food shop to sell the alcoholics because it provides a good incoming and help Iraqis forget the daily problems and dangers in our country,” Abu Hussein, a alcohol seller in the capital, Baghdad, told

“I started to store and sell only for friends and now it has become a prosperous business. It is too dangerous if fighters discover my hidden place; however, I have to take the risk because it is a good way to get easy money.”

Clandestine alcohol sellers are gaining thousand of dollars offering the products at huge prices, sometimes with 400 percent of profit, for security issues.

Selling alcohol in a Non-Muslim Country

The business operates underground because of fears of being attacked by militants and resistance groups.

They sellers use food and clothes shops to hide their true business.

Using backrooms equipped with fridges, they keep the beverages stored and sell just to people they know that can thrust or someone sent by old clients.

“We didn’t have choice. It was supposed that Iraq had become a democratic country but fighter groups want to turn us into an Iran without choice or democracy,” claims Abu Hussein.

Islam forbids Muslims from drinking or even selling alcohol.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Britain Seeks to Build Coalition Against Russia

Russia is facing increased Western pressure today as the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, arrives in Ukraine to build a coalition to counter Russia’s conflict with Georgia.

The United States, Nato and European powers condemned as unacceptable Russia’s recognition yesterday of two breakaway Georgian regions as independent states, and demanded Moscow recognise Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Mr Miliband is due in Kiev to meet the leadership of Ukraine, home to a large Russian-speaking population and a major Russian naval base. “I am holding talks today with international partners and will be visiting Ukraine to ensure the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” Mr Miliband said.

Ukraine, like Georgia, has angered Moscow by actively seeking membership of Nato. But divisions within the pro-Western camp there may complicate Mr Miliband’s mission. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Russia’s Not Afraid of a Cold War

by Geert Groot Koerkamp

Russia does not want a Cold War, but it’s not afraid of one either. And if NATO wants to break relations with Moscow, it should go ahead. It is all the same to Russia. The country isn’t worried about any delays in joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO). All commitments made by Russia in order to join which are detrimental to the Russian economy have been put on ice.

Those are just a few of the messages that Moscow has sent into the world in recent days. They are Moscow’s response to the growing criticism of the Russian operation in Georgia and its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The West should take a good look at itself, says Moscow.

Why should Russia recognise the territorial integrity of Georgia whatever the cost? Wasn’t Serbia a member of the UN, whose territorial integrity was recognised by everyone until Kosovo declared independence? No, the official view of Moscow is that Russia’s behaviour has been impeccable and its sole intention has been to “save human lives.” If the West refuses to see that, that’s the West’s problem…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Russia Wins Backing From China

RUSSIA today won support from China and Central Asian states in its standoff with the West over the Georgia conflict as the European Union said it was weighing sanctions against Moscow.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said he hoped the “united position” of a summit of Central Asian nations would “serve as a serious signal to those who try to turn black into white.” […]

China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan voiced support for Russia’s “active role” in resolving the conflict in Georgia, according to the draft of a joint statement released by the Kremlin. […]

On a visit to Ukraine yesterday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned Russia not to start a new Cold War. But he also conceded that isolating Russia would be counterproductive because the West relied on cooperation with Moscow to tackle global problems like climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Sharia Can be Applied Without Making Indonesia an Islamic State

Fuad Amsyari of the Crescent Star Party, Partai Bulan Bintang [Crescent & Star Party, PBB], said in Jakarta on 21st August that the basic form of the state, Pancasila, did not need to be changed in order that sharia be applied. Instead, every law that was made could incorporate Islamic law.

It was a mistake to think that sharia application depended on an Islamic state, he said, and there was nothing in Pancasila that prevented sharia law from being applied in Indonesia. Every government policy and law could employ sharia, he said, and no discrimination against non-Muslims would occur.

There will be no discrimination because in Islam there can be no discrimination.

Another PBB leader, Sahar L. Hassan, agreed that sharia could be adopted without altering the constitution, and hoped that it could be applied at the level of the state, however, someone convicted of theft in an area for which the state was responsible would not suffer hand amputation, but in ordinary theft cases hand amputation would occur.

Meanwhile, in the interests of the further application of sharia law, the PBB is inviting clerics from throughout the country and well-known figures […] to attend a meeting in Bogor, 24-26th August.

During this meeting it is hoped that ways to apply sharia in all aspects of life can be discussed, as well as the means of bringing this about, and specific proposals that can be put to the government and parliament.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Hugo Chavez Gives “Red Ken” Livingstone a Job

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has got himself a nice little earner — from his old friend and fellow socialist, Hugo Chavez (pictured right with Livingstone). The Venezuelan president has invited him to work as a consultant on policing, urban planning and transport in the country’s notoriously badly-run capital, Caracas, in the run-up to local elections in November.

“I believe that Caracas will become a first-world city in 20 years,” Livingstone told reporters on a surprise visit to Venezuela. “I have a very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally which I will be calling on to assist in this.”

It is two years since Livingstone and Chavez first attempted an arrangement between the two capitals with a deal to supply London with cheap fuel for its bus fleet in return for advice on city management. When Boris Johnson became Mayor in May, he made the cancellation of this agreement one of his first priorities, at the cost of £7m in compensation.

Yesterday, the mayor’s office said of Livingstone’s new arrangement: “Boris Johnson made it clear during his election campaign that he did not want to be on the payroll of Hugo Chavez and did not believe a poor South American country should be subsidising one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

“Ken Livingstone is free, as a private individual, to offer his advice and services to whomever he wants.”

Asked by journalists in Caracas what he was being paid, Livingstone said: “It depends to what extent we will be tapping into our individual resources. The whole cost of this trip has been paid for by the government of Venezuela and as an unemployed citizen I would not be able to pay for my own fare otherwise.”

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Rule by Social Worker

In a comment on last night’s news feed, Queen had this to say :

The welfare state has two clients, not one. One is the designated “victim” receiving hand-outs, and the other is the person making a comfortable living out of distributing the hand-outs. And these last clients are the real reason why these types of laws get made, not the first clients.

Queen’s insight is right on the money. In an ideal soft-socialist regime, there would be only two classes of people: social workers and clients. Needless to say, the former group would absorb a much larger per-capita share of state funding, as would befit their lofty mission.

Oh, and there would also have to be one remaining capitalist — a really, really rich guy — 99.7% of whose filthy lucre would be taxed in order to support the entire system.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I bring all this up because Queen’s comment reminded me of my own brief encounter with a corrupt social welfare system.

Thirty years ago I left a well-paying IT job to move to the countryside and live as a landscape painter. Needless to say, the change of career required that I impoverish myself, and for two decades Dymphna and I scrimped by on next to nothing, sometimes hovering just above the official poverty level.

After a year or two in my new life, the Second Great Oil Crisis arrived. Americans of a certain age will remember those grim times in the summer and fall of 1979, when Jimmy Carter froze oil prices and motorists could only buy gasoline every other day, depending on whether they had an odd or even license plate number. I remember helping a poor guy who was out of gas on his no-buy day and had to get to work. He paid Dymphna for the privilege of siphoning out some gas from her tank, and got a mouthful of gasoline for his troubles when he was getting the siphon started.

That’s what the times were like back then, before Reagan took over and restored some common sense to the country’s economic policies.
– – – – – – – –
That fall, looking ahead to a winter of limited and high-priced fuel supplies, Congress took pity on the poor and the elderly and enacted the Federal Fuel Assistance program. If you qualified, the federal government (acting through the local county authorities) authorized you to receive fuel for heating your home at a discount rate, or even for free.

At the time we were heating our house with a woodstove, and we bought our wood by the pickup load from a good ol’ boy (I’ll call him Duane) who lived just down the road from us. One day Duane told us that he had signed up as a supplier for the fuel assistance program, and that we ought to apply — he could then deliver our wood at no cost to us.

So I went on down to the Social Services office at the courthouse and filled out the forms. I was totally honest, and recorded all our income and assets accurately. I could see by the accompanying benefits schedule that even with our meager income we didn’t qualify for assistance. Obviously, Duane didn’t know what he was talking about.

Sure enough, a few days later the county sent us a notice, saying that we didn’t qualify for fuel assistance. I called Duane and told him the news, but he said, “Don’t worry — I know the county administrator. I’ll talk to him.”

Another week went by, and the county sent us a second form letter, this time telling us that we qualified for federal fuel assistance after all! We were given a voucher for six loads of firewood for the winter, to be delivered by Duane.

Duane came by the next day and explained the deal to us. By his timely intervention with the county administrator he had enabled us to obtain free firewood, so it was only fair that we split the take with him: we were to receive three loads of oak firewood at no charge.

That’s the way the Federal Fuel Assistance Program worked in our neighborhood.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

That tawdry little incident — my only brush, inadvertent or otherwise, with official corruption — was an eye-opener. It made me realize that there are people out there who make a good living by gaming the system, and it helped give me a taste for low taxes and limited government.

When the state takes vast quantities of money from its citizens and redistributes it, the resulting slush pile is a tempting target for shrewd and unscrupulous people. The opportunity is there, and there will always be people ready to take advantage of it.

Federal welfare money is like pure Bolivian cocaine — it gets stepped on so many times by several layers of middlemen that only a small fraction of it remains when the final product is delivered to the people it was intended to reach.

I don’t think Duane was an anomaly. I wasn’t even looking for him, but he found me. He was a microcosm, a miniature example of what goes on at all levels of the government, right up to the high-flyers’ club where a favored campaign contributor gets that plum billion-dollar contract.

Uncle Sam coerces money from you, Joe Citizen, with the threat of arrest and imprisonment if you don’t hand it over. It is then collected together to benefit the “needy”, but before the client receives a penny, the middlemen are lined up with their hands out, ready to get their share.

The real outrage is that most of those grasping hands are receiving their slice of the pie legally. Social workers, administrators, professional grant-writers, legal aid workers, consultants of various stripes — all of them get a share, none of them has to engage in what I call productive labor, and all of it is quite legal.

After my little lesson in socialist economics, I swore off government benefits. I had several opportunities to apply for state fellowships or artists’ grants, but I turned them down.

Every penny I made during those years came from ordinary citizens who parted with their money voluntarily because they liked my paintings.

My choice kept me quite poor, but it was deeply satisfying. I have no regrets.

Abolish Black Peter!

Dymphna wrote a couple of years ago about the efforts of the city of Vienna to ban St. Nicholas from kindergartens at Christmas time. As a part of her post, she mentioned Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, who is generally accompanied by his servant Zwarte Piet, or “Black Peter”.

Zwarte Piet is absolutely politically incorrect in these days of High Multiculturalism, so it’s only a matter of time before the people of the Netherlands are forced to kiss him good-bye.

Elsevier has a report on the latest effort to abolish Black Peter. Our Flemish correspondent VH has kindly translated the article for us, and follows it with his commentary:

Modern Art Museum wants Dutch “Black Peter” tradition abolished

Zwarte Piet and SinterklaasIn the Van Abbemuseum this weekend an exhibition opens opposing the Zwarte Piet (“Black Peter”) phenomenon. This typical Dutch tradition is “full of racism and colonialism and must disappear,” two foreign artists and the Doorbraak [“Breakthrough”, an extreme militant leftwing group — translator] activist organization say.

The museum in Eindhoven wants this exhibition to reopen the discussion about a “cultural tradition that is made politically neutral and is included in the collective mind of Dutch society.”


The two artists, Petra Bauer from Sweden and Annette Krauss (from Germany, living in the Netherlands), see the Sinterklaas festival as the “colonial relationship between the old, wise, and strict white boss and ‘good saint’ on the one hand, and the young, quite naughty, stupid black servant Piet on the other, who dances childishly, jumps around like a fool, and has insufficiently mastered the Dutch language.”

– – – – – – – –

They wonder whether it is possible to reopen the debate about the Zwarte Piet tradition. “It is difficult to discuss this in the Netherlands, because many people want keep the tradition alive.” They say the two were much criticized because they themselves are not Dutch and therefore don’t understand the tradition very well.

Protest rally

During the opening of the exhibition Be(com)ing Dutch a protest rally will be held under the leadership of Doorbraak. This club organized “noise-protests” during meetings of Rita Verdonk’s Trots op Nederland [“Proud of the Netherlands”].

The exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven can be visited until September 14.

Commentary by VH:

Doorbraak (Breakthrough) is a nationwide organization against racism and immigration control. In 2007 they crashed a private gathering in Amsterdam that concluded the Michiel de Ruyter Year. They said De Ruyter’s military expeditions supported Dutch colonialism and the slave trade. Michiel de Ruyter, a famous 17th century Dutch Admiral is according to Doorbraak a “colonial fighter-bully”. Doorbraak claims to be “an organization by and for young people dealing with the history and current situation of black people in the Netherlands”.

The Doorbraak representatives involved in the “Abolish Zwarte Piet” exhibition and rally are:

  • Harry Westerink, who is part of the Fabel van de illegaal (the Chimera of the illegal) a strongly left-wing oriented organization from Leiden. Founded in 1990 the Fabel’s ideology is to establish a free-socialistic, feminist, and ecologically sustainable society.
  • Jos Hooijmeijer, squatter: “By doing something that is illegal you break out of that daily drag and discover you can shape your life yourself, and it even gets you a house.”

The Road Back to Damascus

As I reported last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad made a pilgrimage to Moscow to see if he could shake some apples out of the Russian tree. His specific goal in meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was to obtain Iskander missiles, and his more general aim was to revive the good old days of the Soviet Union, when Moscow was Syria’s best buddy and made sure that Israel could do the regime in Damascus no harm.

I admit to surprise that Boy Assad came home empty-handed. It had seemed that Russia’s star was in the ascendant, and that recent events in Georgia, plus saber rattling over Poland and Moldova, meant that the bear was back in action.

However, the Georgian operation has had its consequences. Russia is now a capitalist nation, and deeply intertwined with the world economy. The last month has seen significant capital flight from the country as a result of events in the Caucasus, and Putin and Medvedev seem to have banked the fires of adventure for the time being.

The Soviet Union never faced the same difficulties, but today’s Russia is a different place. According to an op-ed in today’s YNet:

Assad slapped in the face

Syrian leader thought Cold War is back, but Russia made it clear Assad was wrong

The Syrian army’s aging generals couldn’t believe their eyes: The Soviet Union is back. After seeing Russian tanks entering Georgia, they thought that time can be turned back two decades, to the era where the Soviet superpower backed President Hafez al-Assad; an era where Soviet advisors stayed in Syria, Soviet warships docked at the Tartus port, and Moscow transferred missiles and tanks to Damascus for free. Most importantly, it was an era where the Soviet Union provided Syria with protection against Israel.

Bashar Assad’s advisors therefore gave him the worst possible advice. The time has come to make Russia an offer it cannot refuse, they told him. And Assad, the perpetual rookie, of course took the advice. And so, the Syrian president headed to Moscow with a series of proposals, which the generals thought both sides will benefit from.

1.   Syria agrees to Russian deployment of advanced ground-to-ground missiles in its territory as a counterweight to the American missile deployment in Poland.
2.   Syria agrees that Russian Air Force jets will use Syrian territory and airspace.
3.   The seaport at Tartus will be reopened.
4.   Russia will be granted a friendly military outpost in the Middle East, at the gate to Europe, and go back to being a regional power.

In exchange, Assad intended to request advanced ground-to-ground missiles, as well as other weapons. His gut-feeling was excellent, and he mentioned his proposal in a briefing with Russian reporters ahead of his trip to Moscow.

The Syrian leader was stunned when the Russians slapped him in the face. Putin and Medvedev’s answer to his request was “not interested.” They have no interest in embarking on a new cold war. The slap was even worse because the Russians refused to sell advanced missiles to the Syrians, and added a few conditions: Firstly, they will be selling Syria defensive weapons only, rather than offensive ones. Secondly, they will not be selling Syria arms that would change the status quo of full Israeli supremacy over Syria. Thirdly, everything they sell will be paid for in cash, in advance.

– – – – – – – –

The Russians know very well that Syria’s economy is unstable. They know that the Iranians help the Syrians with payments, but they also know that Iran itself is facing great difficulties. Assad swallowed the insult and returned to Damascus.

Why was there no chance for Assad’s “golden package” to begin with? Because Russia is not the Soviet Union. What Assad’s generals failed to grasp is that by invading Georgia Russia caused itself economic and political damage that would take years to repair. Russia is a capitalistic country that relies on its economy, and the economy responded with immense anxiety to the Georgia events.

The investors who lifted the Russian economy are simply running away now: $12 billion were taken out of Russia in the past two weeks. The Russian stock exchange’s RTS index declined by 32%, and the Russian Ruble was depreciated. Russia had no ability to continue this conflict.

So Bashar Assad has been humiliated.

More importantly, however, he was unable to acquire the hardware that would have put him in a stronger position in his negotiations with Olmert the Appeaser, and might have even helped him get the Golan Heights back.

Syria and Iran are currently preparing to ignite another proxy war with Israel through Hizbullah. If Assad was counting on Russian help to avoid the consequences, he’ll now have to find a different way to protect Damascus from any potential Israeli reprisals.

Hat tip: Abu Elvis.

FRP: Move the Norwegian Embassy to Jerusalem

The largest opposition party in Norway is the Progress Party (FRP). It has lately been growing in popularity, and routinely takes positions that run contrary to politically correct opinion.

The latest FRP announcement is at odds with the consensus EU position. According to yesterday’s VG Nett, as translated by our Norwegian correspondent The Observer:

Jensen wants to move the Norwegian embassy in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Siv JensenThe Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv could be moved to Jerusalem if Siv Jensen becomes Norway’s next prime minister after the general election in 2009.

The FRP chairman (Progress Party) made the promise during a speech to the organization Med Israel For Fred/MIFF (United With Israel For Peace) last Tuesday.

There will be dramatic changes in Norway’s Middle East policies if the FRP chairman becomes the next prime minister, according to DagenMagazinet (Norwegian newspaper), which was present at the meeting

Enormous Arab pressure

“I intend to move the Norwegian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as quickly as possible. Why should the rest of the world cave in to the enormous Arab pressure, and not have their embassies in the capital of the country? This is not happening anywhere else. We need to stand tall and give our support to Israel,” said Siv Jensen to the hundred or so people attending the meeting.

– – – – – – – –

She also heavily criticized the official Norwegian Middle East policies, which she described as unrealistic and hostile to Israel.

Has no faith in the road map

“I don’t believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved by using the Road Map for Peace. Any truce negotiated with Fatah will be sabotaged by organizations loyal to Hamas. Hamas is part of an international terror network trained and financed by Iran. Hamas and other organizations like them are constantly provoking Israel to keep the conflict alive,” Jensen said.

The MIFF (United With Israel For Peace) supporters were satisfied with Jensen’s refusal to accept a division of Jerusalem, but not all of them were happy to hear that the FRP chairman supports the creation of a Palestinian State.

“I think we have to accept the creation of a Palestinian State. It is important for the Palestinian people to have somewhere to live. Both the Arabic countries and the Western world will have to join forces and work together to achieve this, but Israel will also have to contribute to peace in the region,” Jensen said.

Stop the Ethnic Cleansing of Greenlanders!

Last Saturday a group of demonstrators, under the leadership of SIOE, converged on Aarhus in Jutland to protest the racist behavior of local Muslim immigrants. The issue that sparked the protest was a series of violent attacks by Muslims against Greenlanders, who are native Danes, in a housing project in Gjellerup.

SIOE England issued a press release yesterday with a report on demonstration:

Press release for the Anti-ethnic cleansing of Greenlander Danes in Aarhus.

The demonstration was relatively peaceful despite attempts to disrupt it by Autonomer groups.

We were surprised that self-styled anti-racists turned up to try to spoil an anti-racist demonstration.

Pictures and text at the SIOE blog.

And here are some excerpts from the SIOE blog post, with photos:

Racism is the lowest form of stupidity! Islamophobia is the height of common sense!”

The Autonomers in the counter demonstration could not grasp the simple truth that islam is not a race. They were left speechless when Anders Gravers pointed this out.

Stephen Gash delivering his speech about islamisation and muslim persecution. Behind him the signs read:

“In with SIAD out with Jihad” (left) and “Stop racism” (right)

Aarhus demo


SIOE conducted a peaceful demo in Aarhus to support the poor Greenlander Danes who have been ousted from their hometown of Gellerupparken.

This is ethnic cleansing of the worst kind taking place in a sophisticated European country with a mature democracy.


We doubt that this was due to any sense of shame Gelleruppen muslims felt. They most likely stayed in Gellerup to stone a few Greenlander Danes.

– – – – – – – –

Anyway, the small number of Autonomers who turned up had no answer to this suggestion…

The sign reads “Open borders” which was a pretty stupid thing to say at a demo protesting against the ousting of Greenlander Danes from their homes by muslim immigrants.

Aarhus demo

They also had no answer when asked why they were not supporting the persecuted Greenlander Danes instead of shouting in an imbecelic manner at SIOE the only group openly protesting about the treatment of Greenlanders at the hands of bullying muslims.

The only real anti-fascists present in Rådhusplads, Aarhus today were SIOE supporters. Other self-styled anti-fascists were the real fascists who only pretend to be against oppresssion and persecution.

The Autonomers in Denmark have lost all credibility. To regain it they should read the Koran and find out what a fascist manifesto looks like.

A speech by Stephen Gash of SIOE England was made describing what islamisation is and how the EU is moving towards a totalitarian Eurabian superstate.

See the SIOE blog for more text and photos.

Fjordman: On Science and Religion

Fjordman’s latest essay has been posted at Dhimmi Watch. Some excerpts are below:

It is true that there were translations from Arabic and that some of these did have some impact in Europe. It would be historically inaccurate to claim otherwise. But although this translation movement was significant, we should focus at least as much on how these different civilizations used this information.

In this case, we are dealing with an example where three different civilizations, the Islamic world, the Christian East (the Byzantine Empire) and the Christian West had access to much of the same material, yet where the end results were quite different. I have read a lot about the history of mechanical clocks and eyeglasses, both of which were invented in Europe in the second half of the thirteenth century AD. These inventions had no counterparts in any other civilization and were important for later scientific and technological advances, which often benefited from more accurate timekeeping. The creation of microscopes and telescopes was to some degree an extension of the invention of eyeglasses and the use of glass lenses.

– – – – – – – –

I cannot point out any significant piece of information that Europeans had access to at this time which Muslims didn’t also have access to. If anything, Middle Easterners had more knowledge at their disposal since they had regular contacts with the major Asian civilizations and could supplement Greek natural philosophy with Indian and Chinese inventions. Europeans were prevented from having extensive direct contacts with these civilizations because they were geographically isolated from them by a large bloc of hostile Muslims. The only possible conclusion why Europeans invented mechanical clocks is that they were more efficient and creative than Muslims in using the body of information they had at their disposal. Muslims could have done the same, but they didn’t. They failed, pure and simple.

Read the rest at Dhimmi Watch.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/27/2008

The news feed is outgrowing its format. Readers have been inspired by it to send in more tips, so that tonight there are more than fifty articles here. I can’t create headline links for all of them; otherwise the top part of the post would be too long, So, if you want to read all the news that’s fit to post, click “read further” and keep scrolling.

I’m working on a revised version of the software that will change the format, but that will take time. Bear with me for a while longer…

Muslim Obama Supporter Declares White People Deserve and Want to Have Their Ears and Noses Cut Off
The Hollywood Offensive: Islamic Group Offended by Alan Ball’s ‘Towelhead’
One Man’s China Crusade
Europe and the EU
Accused Terrorist Sues Norway
Denmark Pledges to Defend National Immigration Laws Against EU
Ireland: Conor Lenihan Pushes the Myth of Replacement Migration
Irish Women’s Fertility at Highest Level in 16 Years
‘Sharia’ Law Firm Secretaries Unmasked as Porn Actresses
Swedish Bank Probed Over Muslim Names Ban
UK: One in Seven Children Growing Up in Households Where No-One Works
North Africa
Algeria: End of Ethyl Alcohol Monopoly, No to Beverages
Algerian Town Rocked by Car Bombs
Tourism: Oil Dollars Flood Paris and Rescue Season
Israel and the Palestinians
Dangerous Talks With Syria
Middle East
Golf: Tiger Woods Presents Super Exclusive Complex in Dubai
Holy Sinod Meeting Sparks Debate in Turkey
Kuwait: Parliament Divided on Women Ministers’ Veil
Lebanon Issues Arrest Warrant Against Khadafi
Hamas First to Recognize Russia’s Ossetia Annexation
South Asia
Border Villages Rise Up Against Taliban
Islamic Party to Protest Avril Lavigne Concert
Kashmir Keeps Burning as Manmohan Singh’s Failed Policies Backfires
Night Life in Jakarta Limited During Ramadan
Orissa: Burning and Looting Continues, Christians Beaten and Cut to Pieces
Statement of Imran Raza Regarding Release of American Children From Pakistani Taliban Madrassa
Far East
ASEAN Agrees Region to Have Nuclear Power Plants
Bank of China Denies Aiding Terrorists
OIC Secretary General Calls for Pacification of the Tense Situation in Southern Philippines
Sub-Saharan Africa
Al Qaeda-Linked Shabab in Control of Southern Somalia
‘Pretoria Had to Fight Harder for Detainees’
Latin America
Hezbollah Presence in Venezuela Feared
Morocco: Europe ‘Punishing the Victims’ of Illegal Immigration
Sweden: Immigration to Pass Births by 2030
Culture Wars
Will Cross Adorn Coca-Cola Cans This Christmas?
2008 Olympics: Why Intolerant Societies Can’t Jump by Louis Palme
Pirate Attacks Up 75%; Nearly One Raid Per Day

Thanks to Abu Elvis, ACT for America, Barry Rubin, BJM, C. Cantoni, CzC, Fausta, Fjordman, Insubria, LN, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –


Boeing Awarded Contract to Continue Developing Mobile Laser Weapon

The Boeing Company has been awarded a U.S. Army contract valued at approximately $36 million to continue developing a truck-mounted, high-energy laser weapon system that will destroy rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds.

Under the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) Phase II contract, awarded Aug. 15, Boeing will complete the design of, then build, test and evaluate, a rugged beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. Boeing also will develop the system-engineering requirements for the entire HEL TD laser weapon system. Boeing successfully completed the preliminary design of the beam control system earlier this summer.

“This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army’s high-energy laser program,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “HEL TD will give warfighters a transformational capability to counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles.”

“Boeing spent the past year developing the preliminary design of the HEL TD beam control system, and we appreciate the confidence the Army has shown in our efforts by awarding us these contract options to continue working on the program,” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems.

The objective of the HEL TD program is to demonstrate that a mobile, solid-state laser weapon system can effectively counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles. The program will support the transition to a full-fledged Army acquisition program. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Muslim Obama Supporter Declares White People Deserve and Want to Have Their Ears and Noses Cut Off

And that Muslims shouldn’t worry, “because God wants you to do it”

Old videos appear to show a radical Muslim named Khalid Al-Mansour helped Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gain acceptance into Harvard Law.

In one of the videos, titled “Christians Designed Discrimination” uploaded by a YouTube user named IslamStudios, Al-Mansour said, “White people don’t feel bad, whatever you do to them, they deserve it, God wants you to do it and that’s when you cut out the nose, cut out the ears, take flesh out of their body, don’t worry because God wants you to do it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Hollywood Offensive: Islamic Group Offended by Alan Ball’s ‘Towelhead’

It has almost come to the point where I could turn this into a regular weekly column, where I single handedly track down all of the activist groups who are needlessly offended by the “art” of mainstream film and set them straight with a simple dose logic. This time we will travel a little wide of the mainstream, to an indie film from a big name director that is getting some attention from the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The film in question is American Beauty writer Alan Ball’s Towelhead, a drama about a young Arab-American girl (Summer Bishil) who struggles with sexual obsession as she goes to live with her very strict father (Peter Macdissi), who just so happens to live next to a bigoted, kid-touching Army reservist (Aaron Eckhart).

The CAIR-LA asked via a press release yesterday that Warner Bros., who is distributing the film under their now-defunct Warner Independent Pictures label, to change the title of the film before its September 12 release. In the statement, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in part:

“The title…is of great concern to us, since the word is commonly used in a derogatory manner against people of the Muslim faith or Arab origin…We have no desire to inhibit the creative process or your right to produce any film you wish. However, I ask you to take the above concerns into consideration and examine the social implications of releasing the film under its current title, ‘Towelhead.’“

Now, unlike the issue over the word “retard” related to the recently released Ben Stiller film Tropic Thunder, this one seems to be a bit more straight forward. In fact, once again we see a group who does have the right to be offended, as anyone would. The term “towelhead” is a very derogatory term; I don’t think anyone would argue that. The problem is that once again we are dealing with the right of the artist, in this case Alan Ball, to create art and deliver it uncensored. It has nothing to do with the fact that the film’s title has significant relevance to its message, one that displays many of the struggles that young American Muslims face every day in our country, and more to do with Alan Ball’s right to call his movie whatever he so chooses…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


One Man’s China Crusade

For Canadian diplomat Brian McAdam, it wasn’t that he had uncovered the lucrative sale of Canadian visas during his posting at Canada’s Hong Kong consulate.

Both Canadian and Chinese consular staff, he says, were selling visas to members of the Chinese mafia and Communist China’s intelligence service. The price, he heard, ranged from $10,000 to $100,000 per visa.

It wasn’t that reports he sent to his bosses in Canada — details on murderers, money launderers, smugglers and spies trying to enter Canada — were met with silence or mostly destroyed.

It wasn’t dozens of threatening calls — “Stop what you’re doing or you’re going to find yourself dead” — from Triad members during his 1989-1993 stint in Hong Kong.

What finally broke him down, he says, was “the incredible feeling of betrayal from my colleagues. I’d worked with these people for years.”

“It goes to your very soul,” he says. “It is a spiritual crisis. It is a psychological breakdown.”…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Accused Terrorist Sues Norway

The co-founder of a suspected al-Qaeda linked militant group in Iraq who lived a double life as a refugee in Norway’s capital Oslo is suing Norway for violating his rights. The bizarre saga began when Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar, fled an onslaught by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991.

Krekar, who had been a member of a Kurdish Islamist militant group battling both the Iraqi regime and the largest Kurdish resistance organisation Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), arrived in Norway, where he was granted refugee status.

So far so good, but Krekar did not rest on his laurels, according to the U.S., and officials in Kurdish Iraq. Instead, they say, he returned to Iraq on several occasions during the 1990s to help support Islamic militant organisations. Then, in 2001, he co-founded the radical Salafist group Ansar-al-Islam, which ruled according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law in the villages it controlled.

Ansar-al-Islam is the organisation that former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell told the United Nations provided an operational link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Such an operational link has later been denied both by former CIA director George Tenet and the 9/11 Commission, among others, although some contact may have existed.

The U.S. and others say there is evidence linking Ansar-al-Islam to al-Qaeda, including claims that it helped former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, enter the country.

It has also been accused of masterminding several attacks against Kurdish officials in 2001 and 2003, including suicide bombings, although U.S. allegations that Krekar personally ordered suicide bombings and controlled a chemical weapons factory have never been proven.

Ansar-al-Islam was designated a terrorist organisation by the U.S. in 2004, and Krekar was put on a U.N. sanctions list for his alleged al-Qaeda affiliations in 2006 (reportedly under U.S. pressure).

How, then, has Krekar managed to escape the clutches of the Guantanamo Bay prison — or at least a Norwegian jail cell — and instead court the tabloids in Oslo and even find the time to release an autobiography titled ‘In My Own Words’ in 2004? If a 2006 article in the newspaper Washington Post is to be believed, it is not for lack of trying by the U.S.

The article claims the U.S. sent undercover CIA agents to Oslo to abduct Krekar in 2003 — with quiet acquiescence by the Norwegian government — only weeks after completing another ‘extraordinary rendition’ of a Muslim cleric in Milan, Italy, who later said he was sent to Egypt to be tortured. However, Krekar’s lawyer was tipped off by an anonymous Norwegian government source, and a police guard was arranged.

The previous year Krekar was arrested in the Netherlands when returning to Norway from Iraq. The Dutch authorities said he was wanted for extradition to Jordan on drugs charges. However, his lawyers said the charges were trumped up by the U.S., and Krekar was released four months later.

Norway revoked Krekar’s refugee status during his 2002 visit to Iraq, and was none too eager to allow him back into the country after his release by the Netherlands. However, they could find no legal reason to refuse him entry. In 2003 he was arrested as Norway’s financial crimes agency investigated accusations that he had used Norway as a base to finance terrorism, but again the charges did not stick.

Norway also sought to deport Krekar back to northern Iraq in 2003 for allegedly posing a threat to national security. The case did the rounds in the Norwegian courts until 2007, when the High Court confirmed that he could be deported. However, as Norway has a policy of not expelling people to countries where they may be tortured or executed, the ruling has not been carried out, and may not be for a long time.

As a result, Krekar has been trapped in a legal limbo for the past six years.

“He has no identification papers, no freedom of movement and no rights in this country economically or socially speaking. Instead he has been forced into a situation reminiscent of house arrest, without any possibility of for instance earning an income,” his lawyer Brynjar Meling told Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang on Aug. 5. Krekar, he said, has to support his wife and four children.

Meling is helping Krekar file a case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg alleging that Norway has violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. According to Meling, this includes charges for “inhuman treatment”.

“I am suing Norway to check whether I have all the rights I am entitled to,” Krekar told the newspaper. “I’m only demanding to get what I am entitled to, and I don’t care how people react.”

As regards the allegations against him, Krekar says that he left Ansar-al-Islam in 2002, and denies that he has ever been involved with any terrorist activities.

Despite the denials, Krekar is not afraid to voice controversial opinions. In 2005 he declared al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Norwegian television “the jewel in the crown of Islam.” The following year he lamented the “bad news” of al-Zarqawi’s death in a U.S. air strike, although he was “proud of what (al-Zarqawi) has done and that he has become a martyr.”

This former refugee and militant leader will be heating tempers in chilly Norway for some time to come.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Danish Publisher Hopes to Publish ‘Inflammatory’ Islam Novel

A Danish publisher is in negotiations to buy Sherry Jones’s novel about the child bride of Muhammad, which was dropped by Random House in America and pulled from bookshops in Serbia.

The Jewel of Medina tells the story of Aisha, one of Muhammad’s wives, from the age of six to 18 when Muhammad dies. It was bought by Random House US for a reported advance of $100,000, but then dropped after the publisher was told by academics and security experts that publication was potentially more risky than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the Danish publication of cartoons of Muhammad.

Last week, Serbian publisher BeoBook withdrew 1,000 copies of the book from shops across Serbia, following protests from an Islamic pressure group. BeoBook also apologised for publishing the novel.

Now small Danish publisher Trykkefrihedsselskabets Library (Free Speech Library) is in negotiations with Jones’s agent over publication of The Jewel of Medina in Denmark. Co-owner Helle Merete Brix said that the fact that Random House was prepared to pay $100,000 for the book showed its quality, and that she was determined not to “bow to any censorship”.

She added: “I think that whether you are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or atheist you have to be able to bear insults. You can’t say ‘I’m a Muslim, and that means I should be above criticism’. You can freely insult Jesus Christ, you can mock other religions.”

Brix said that, following Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the cartoons of Muhammad in 2005, which prompted protests across the Muslim world, she felt it was “deep in the mentality of Danish people that we will not tolerate people saying ‘you can’t say or publish that’…There is a growing awareness in Denmark that we have to keep it the bastion of free speech that it has been for many years.”

Brix expects to conclude negotiations with Natasha Kern, Jones’s agent, on Friday. Trykkefrihedsselskabets Library was founded in 2004, and published four books last year. Brix herself is also the author of Towards Darkness: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, which was published in April, and editor-in-chief of, a Danish site about free speech, radical Islam, culture and politics.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Denmark Pledges to Defend National Immigration Laws Against EU

By Tasneem Brogger

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) — Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the country would keep immigration limits that contradict the free movement of labor enshrined in the European Union’s founding treaty.

“Denmark’s immigration policy is not going to change; the voters need to know that the law holds,” Rasmussen told voters in a speech last night in his constituency of Greve. “We’re going to the EU to change the rules.”

Rasmussen faces an uphill battle. The European Court of Justice struck down an attempt by Ireland on July 25 to keep its stricter immigration standards, stating EU rules override national laws. Now, keen to stem the flow of immigrants, Denmark is seeking support within Europe to win limited jurisdiction from EU rules on immigration.

“We’ve already written to some of our ambassadors and our friends, I’ve spoken to the EU Commissioner, I’ve spoken to my French colleague and I’m in the process of writing to other colleagues,” Integration Minister Birthe Roenn Hornbech told lawmakers on Aug. 12.

Denmark is trying to stem an inflow that saw the number of non-western immigrants jump 50 percent to 177,5000 between 1990 and 2000.

“We’re trying to change the set of rules inside the EU so that we can get things as we want them,” Rasmussen said today.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Doubts About the European CO2 Network

A near-disaster last week in Germany involving a cloud of CO2 gas made it clear that transporting CO2 by pipeline can be hazardous. It is an important lesson to learn since Rotterdam is about to become the hub of a European network of pipelines for the storage of greenhouse gas. The “Rotterdam Climate Initiative” will involve the permanent storage of CO2 in exhausted gas fields. [….]

If Rotterdam gets its way, within a couple of decades CO2 from all over Europe will be transported there by high-pressure pipelines. Pumps will then inject the gas into empty underground gas fields in Groningen and even under the North Sea. The theory is that the CO2 will remain stored there permanently where it cannot affect the environment. […]

Menso Molag, an engineer and risk management expert, thinks too little is known about the risks of CO2 transport: “Transport will cover long distances, passing partly through inhabited areas. We must know precisely what risks are involved and what to do if anything goes wrong.” […]

So isn’t the proposed CO2 network extremely vulnerable to terrorist attack? Like the natural gas network, the high-pressure pipelines will be close to the surface of the ground. But Mark Spruijt doesn’t believe that will necessarily make them an attractive target:

“I don’t regard that as a real threat, in any case no more than holds true for the natural gas transport network. Moreover, both sabotage and technical failure will be taken into account during the design stage. There will always be “traps”, valves which close whenever the pressure drops. So only a small amount of gas can escape. Safety is built into the design of this kind of pipeline.” […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Conor Lenihan Pushes the Myth of Replacement Migration

In an extraordinary new twist to the immigration debate, Conor Lenihan, speaking at the Parnell Summer School on August 14 2008, has introduced the myth of replacement migration in relation to Ireland. In other words we are not, he says, having enough children to sustain our population and so we must bring in immigrants.

This myth is demographic nonsense and was totally demolished by Anthony Browne in his book “Do We Need Mass Immigration?”

           — Hat tip: BJM [Return to headlines]

Irish Women’s Fertility at Highest Level in 16 Years

Fertility rates among Irish women are at their highest in 16 years, according to new figures from the CSO.

The statistics agency says the lifetime fertility rate for the average Irish woman last year was 2.03 children.

This is up from 1.9 children the previous year and is the first time since 1991 that the rate has been higher than two children.

The increase in fertility was most pronounced in the 30-39 age group.

Elsewhere, just over two-fifths of births last year were to first-time mothers, while 33% were outside marriage.

           — Hat tip: BJM [Return to headlines]

Islam: Ramadan; Imams, Women Preachers From Morocco to Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — Some thirty imams from Morocco and with them a few “mourchidat” (spiritual advisers) are to reach these days Italy to follow the Muslim community in Italy in the sacred month of Ramadan which begins next week. A measure wanted by the Moroccan Government and agreed with the Italian one, MP of PdL, Suad Sbai, specifies, to contribute to avoid that the rites of Ramadan are managed by unprepared imams if not even directly related to the extremist currents. “Some imams, maybe six or seven had already come last year and were welcomed with enthusiasm. But this year the news is exactly that apart from being more numerous the group of imams is accompanied by women or by the Mourchidat’,” Sbai who is also president of the Association of the Moroccan Women in Italy says. The reference is to the “spiritual advisers” of the mosques with function of preachers even if without a title to lead the prayer whom for several years Morocco has begun to educate in order to approach them to the imams. This innovation is introduced and supported by King Mohammed VI also with the intent to stem extremism. And it was exactly “against extremism and violence” that the Moroccan government wanted to “export” its imams for Ramadan not only in Italy, but also in other European countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, Sbai adds. The initiative has been coordinated also with the Italian government by Moroccòs Islamic Affairs Ministry. Imams and ‘mourchidat’, whose expenses for the stay will be covered by Morocco, will work in particular for the evening prayer at the mosques and prayer centres throughout the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Music: Jewish World Leit Motif of Festival of Nations

(ANSAmed) — CITTA’ DI CASTELLO (PERUGIA), AUGUST 27 — The Jewish world in its different European derivations and Israel as a symbolic place for the interaction among different cultures: this is the leit motif which connects the programme of the Festival of Nations, running in Città di Castello and other places of the Upper Tiber Valley in Umbria until September 5. The Festival, whose formula envisages every year a guest country, is dedicated this time to the state of Israel, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation, but already from the previous editions the artistic director Aldo Sisillo had explored the most significant presences of Jewish culture in Poland, Bohemia and Spain. The Festival’s programme offers an original overview of the itineraries of the Jewish culture and, inevitably, also of the Arab culture. As regards the latter, the most interesting moment is the concert in Piazza Fanti, next Monday, of the Arab Music Orchestra from Nazareth. The orchestra was set up some ten years ago within the music conservatory in Haifa, and includes Israeli and Palestinian musicians, with the ideal of peaceful coexistence, or rather of close artistic cooperation and mutual acceptance. It plays only instruments of the Arab tradition, strictly acoustic, which however did not prevent it from crossing for a few years the visionary path of the British band Radiohead, one of the most important examples of today’s rock scene. The concert in Città di Castello is dedicated to the art and the voice of Oum Koulthum, an Egyptian singer just short of being a legend, who has been for years not only the ‘voice’ of Arab music, but has represented also a kind of spokeswoman of her peoplés culture and identity. Her funeral, in March 1975 in Cairo, was followed by millions of people, and had the character of national mourning. Tomorrow evening, the Festival of Nations will live one of its most important days from the point of view of classical music in the traditional sense, with the arrival of great violinist Gidon Kremer, conducting the Kremerata Baltica, founded by him. Kremer, in the artistic project of the Festival, represents at the highest level the extraordinary school of violinists of Jewish origin, which in the last century generated very great artists and virtuosos of the instrument. The concert’s programme includes music from Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt and compositions by Nino Rota, Astor Piazzolla and even by jazz pianist Chick Corea. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Sharia’ Law Firm Secretaries Unmasked as Porn Actresses

THE HAGUE, 27/08/08 — Faizel Ali Enait refuses to shake hands with women and prefers them to wear burqas. But on the website of his law firm, two hard-core porn actresses posed as its secretaries.

Faizel Ali Enait claims to be a lawyer. He works for Jairam Advocaten, a law firm for Muslims in the Netherlands. Ali Enait lost a court case last week against Rotterdam municipality, which he accused of discrimination.

The municipality rejected the Muslim for a job as client manager at the Social Services department because he refused to shake hands with women. The judges ruled that Rotterdam had the right to do so.

Ali Enait, who regularly appears on talk shows, also wants women to wear burqas. But on the home page of Jairam Advocaten, two porn stars posed as its secretaries. Although wearing clothes, they were identified by news website as well-known ‘adult entertainment’ models Anetta Keys and Rahilla.

Based on cache data, established that the pictures had already been on the website since 2005. They therefore seem to have been deliberately picked by the ‘sharia lawyers’.

Jairam Advocaten removed the porn actresses’ portraits from its website yesterday, replacing them with a picture of what appears to be its office. This time discovered that the picture chosen was a prestigious office building in Rotterdam. In reality, Jairam Advocaten is located in a shabby building in Amsterdam.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swedish Bank Probed Over Muslim Names Ban

Sweden’s anti-discrimination agency said Tuesday it was investigating a Swedish bank that blocks customers with certain foreign names from using routine banking services.

Ahmad Waizy reported his bank, Skandiabanken, to the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO) in late July, accusing it of racial discrimination, according to a copy of his complaint obtained by AFP.

He tried to pay a bill and transfer money to Germany online but was unable to complete the transaction.

Skandiabanken told him “it was because of my first name (Ahmad), and they said there were other names also on the blacklist,” he said.

At the bank’s suggestion, he removed his first name and the transaction went through.

DO, a government agency that identifies ethnic and religious discrimination, said it was investigating the complaint and had given the bank until September 3 to respond to a series of questions.

Skandiabanken spokeswoman Lena Hoek told Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet the bank merely checked names against the European Union’s list of suspected terrorists drawn up after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Among the names on the list were names such as Ahmad, Mohammed, and Hussein, as well as Jose Maria and James, the paper pointed out.

“Like all other banks we have to follow the list. We are required to by law,” Hoek said, saying Skandiabanken welcomed a probe into its practices in order to clarify procedures.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Switzerland Denies Desire for Bin Laden Talks

Switzerland said on Tuesday there was “no question” of talks with the world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden, after the Swiss foreign minister on Monday questioned what limits should be put on international diplomacy.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry (FDFA) said in a statement on its website that “in practice there is no question of the FDFA proposing a dialogue with Osama Bin Laden.”

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey “did not state that she would promote such a dialogue, nor has she proposed such a dialogue,” the statement added.

In her speech on Monday to 170 assembled Swiss ambassadors in Bern, Calmy-Rey said they needed to talk to “heavyweight political figures” on the world stage even if they are considered persona non grata by other powers.

“It is important to get away from a Manichean view of the world in black and white, where peoples and countries can only be allies or enemies,” she said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: One in Seven Children Growing Up in Households Where No-One Works

Six million Britons are living in homes where no one has a job, shocking official figures revealed yesterday. They include almost 1.8million children, one in seven of all under 16s, growing up in households entirely dependent on state handouts. Experts say these youngsters are more at risk from drifting into a life of joblessness, poverty, ill-health and crime.

This army of families on welfare — costing taxpayers nearly £13billion a year in benefits — has been untouched by a decade of Labour’s efforts to get them into work, critics claim. In total, the number of homes where no one works has risen by 43,000 in the past five years to a shade over three million — nearly one in six of all UK working-age households. […]

Mr Brown has hailed Labour’s New Deal schemes and other welfare-to-work programmes as a success, claiming they have helped 1.8million people find jobs. However, a damning report by an influential Commons committee earlier this year, found that the Government still cannot say how many benefit claimants are jobless because they cannot work, and how many because they will not work. […]

The most spectacular failure was the New Deal for Partners, aimed at finding jobs for the domestic partners of long-term benefits claimants. In 2006, it found jobs for only 61 people at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,100 each. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

War Crimes Trial Underway

A 41-year-old Bosnian who’s now a Norwegian citizen pleaded not guilty in Oslo on Wednesday to charges that he tortured and raped civilian Serbs during the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Many of the defendant’s alleged offenses were carried out at this prison camp in Capljina south of Mostar.

The man later came as a refugee to Norway and now is at the center of the country’s first war crimes trial since World War II.

The 41-year-old, who in accordance with local press practice isn’t expected to be publicly identified until a verdict is reached, is charged with serious abuse of 18 civilian Serbs in the early 1990s, including the rape of a Serbian woman after he raided her home 1992.

She couldn’t endure the trauma of testifying during the trial, however, and hasn’t traveled to Norway. Other alleged victims of the defendant are expected to testify, also via video links.

The charges against the 41-year-old are detailed in a seven-page indictment. Much of the alleged torture is believed to have taken place at the prison camp Dretelj south of Mostar.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: End of Ethyl Alcohol Monopoly, No to Beverages

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 18 — The Algerian Finance Ministry specified in a statement that the new complementary 2008 budget has liberalised the import and sale of ethyl alcohol “to guarantee the supply with pure alcohol for industrial and pharmaceutical purposes”. There is no change — as the new regulation seemed to hint — in the import of alcoholic beverages like beer or wine, the Algerian media pointed out. The ban to import alcoholic beverages was approved by the Parliament in 2004 although it has never been strictly applied and products from various foreign countries are present on the Algerian market. The Islamic parties such as the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP, former Hamas) have been fighting for the banning of alcohol production and consumption in Algeria. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Algerian Town Rocked by Car Bombs

Two car bombs have rocked a hotel and a military headquarters in the Algerian town of Bouira, killing 11 people a day after a suicide bombing in a neighbouring region killed 43, official media and witnesses said. The first bomb targeted Bouira’s regional military command and injured four soldiers, the state-run APS news agency said.

A minute later, 11 people died and 27 were wounded when a second bomb went off next to a hotel in downtown Bouira, APS and the state-run national radio said. A security official in the Bouira area told The Associated Press that nearly all the victims were civilians. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to discuss such matters with the media. […]

Some 27 miles to the north of Bouira in the adjacent Boumerdes province, a suicide bomber on Tuesday rammed a car into a line of applicants at a police academy in the town of Les Issers, killing at least 43 people and injuring 45.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Tourism: Oil Dollars Flood Paris and Rescue Season

(by Antonella Tarquini) (ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 27 — Oil dollars are flooding Paris, and are rescuing the tourist season of Ville Lumiere struck by a heavy decline (down 20.1% in terms of hotel overnight stays) in American tourists, in addition to, by a smaller rate, Japanese ones (down 8.1%). In the first half of the year the presence of rich tourists coming from the wealthy Gulf monarchies — like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — rose by 14% compared to the same period of 2007, and by 23.7% in terms of overnight stays in hotels, the director of the Paris tourism office, Paul Roll, said, showing his contentment. And it is well known that this clientele does not stay in the small two and three-star hotels, and not even in the four-star ones: luxury is and remains their codeword, and luxury are the shops where the Middle Eastern ladies — designer sunglasses, and headscarf just put on the head, designer purses in hand — leave heaps of dollars. They enter Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, as if they entered a supermarket, and go out with notably slimmer wallets and credit cards, in exchange for precious jewels. “The rich Gulf travellers are deserting the United States, which was their preferred destination before September 11, and are opting for Paris where they find the hotel quality and the luxury they are searching for,” Roll explains. The new clientele, very demanding and with habits differing from the Western, has caused a small revolution in the management of the hotels: many, for example, like Warwick on the Champs Elysees, have delayed the time for serving breakfast. “They go to sleep and get up very late, and for this reason we have set extra shifts of the staff,” an official of the Fouquet’s hotel, opened two years ago nearby the cafeteria bearing the same name, which is the stronghold of cinematographers, explains. Many of the restaurants in the capital are also fitting into the Arab schedules and customs. This is how Monte Cristo offers to its customers narghile and certain discos on rue de Washington play Arab music. Several dozens of metres away Elysee Biarritz, a private cinema, organised for the second summer in a row a festival of Arab films with extraordinary prices: 20 euro (compared to 9.0 euro in regular cinemas) for a show and also offers private showings in the middle of the night at a price of 5,000 euro. And often even much more. “We show films still unreleased in the Middle East and since in Saudi Arabia cinemas are forbidden our customers do not mind the expenses,” said Hugues Piketty, the director of Elysee Biarritz. Recently, a Saudi prince spent 15,000 euro to see an Egyptian film which had not been included in the programme. “We had to bring a specialist from Egypt with the film for the VIP showing for the prince at 3am,” Piketty said. Unfortunately, the prince did not say whether he liked the film. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Women’s Rights, Unique Case in Arab-Muslim World

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 26 — The Tunisian woman, especially after the coming into effect a few years ago of the Personal Status Code which established the equality of men and women, is a case ruled unique in the Arab-Muslim world. Among the numerous regulations in the Code, those which abolish the polygamy, repeal the forced marriage (on the part of the parents or relatives in general), legalise the divorce, recognise the right of children in case of divorce, and so on, are worth mentioning. And all this given the fact that, especially in the medium-low class of the population, the old mentality of the father-family head exists and stubbornly resists, especially in rural areas and in the southern part of the country in general. Another fact is that the Code is constantly being updated in order to follow the development of the modern society. And thus this year it was subject to two new amendments: the first refers to the right of women to receive the conjugal residence in case of divorce if they have little children (and it is guaranteed in terms envisaged by the law); the second one refers to imprisoned mothers who can dispose of specifically expanded room in order to take care of children at tender age. Statistics show that in the period between 2000 and 2007 women represented a total 25.3% of the active population. Women accounted for 29% of magistrates, for 31% of lawyers, for 6.3% of directors general in the public administration and for 15.2% of the managers in the same sector. The average presence in the sector stands at 40%, the percentage of heads of companies and the percentage of admittance to professional training courses at the National School of Administration is the same. It is finally worth reminding that the Tunisian legislation has introduced amendments to the Tunisian Code of the Obligations and Contracts in order to guarantee the rights and the role of employees both as women and mothers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Dangerous Talks With Syria

Uzi Dayan and Jonathan Spyer

The current indirect talks between Israel and Syria are highly unlikely to result in a peace agreement. The talks, far from playing any positive role for Israel, are mistaken both in terms of our values and in terms of our practical interest. They are being conducted by an irresponsible government with no public mandate, and are already causing real harm. We should be working to isolate the Syrian regime, not rehabilitating it.

From the point of view of values, the government’s approach is fundamentally mistaken. The Golan Heights were taken in a just war in 1967, a war which was provoked by an extremist and reckless Ba’athist regime in Damascus. Our presence is both legal and essential. The Golan Heights must be retained under Israeli sovereignty.

The Syrian regime preached the destruction of Israel, and was directly responsible for the deterioration which made the 1967 war inevitable. There is no moral content to the claim by the same regime that its “rights” were violated by defeat in a war which it had actively sought. Independent Syria controlled the Golan Heights for exactly 21 years. Its borders are based not on some ancient patrimony, but rather on the division of the Ottoman Empire by the Western powers after 1918. Syrian rhetoric regarding its connection to this area lacks all content.

Since the indirect talks with Syria are taking place in Turkey, it is worthwhile comparing our willingness to part with the Golan with Turkey’s attitude to a parallel border dispute with Syria…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Mus’ab Hassan Yousef, Son of a West Bank Hamas Leader: Atrocities Committed by Hamas Led Me to Convert to Christianity

[Memri Video]

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Golf: Tiger Woods Presents Super Exclusive Complex in Dubai

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 26 — An exclusive residential complex dedicated to the golf enthusiasts. This is the plan presented by Tiger Woods, the world’s richest golf player, who has personally designed the course, the soul and the philosophy around which the entire project is developed. “To be a part of this has been a lifelong dream of mine. I want this to be an oasis, an escape from the city,” the winner of the 2008 U.S. Open said. An escape that very few will be able to dream of. The plan envisages the construction of 22 palaces, 75 mansions and 100 signature villas with private parks and prices ranging between 7.5 and 30 million euro. On a surface almost four times the size of London’s Hyde Park, the exclusive community will also include golf academy, clubhouse and wellness centre. For all guests and tourists, a 100-million-euro hotel complex will offer 90 suites and 14 bungalows, each with its private garden. Tiger Woods Dubai (TWD) to be built by Tatweer, is taking shape in the heart of Dubailand, the area that is scene of the development of numerous huge amusement projects. It will be completed by 2009, according to the builders. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Holy Sinod Meeting Sparks Debate in Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 26 — A former Turkish mayor sought to block the meeting of the Holy Synod Assembly of the Fener Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul claiming that the meeting violated the Lausanne Treaty while the Patriarchate claims that the Synod does not have legal personality to be bound by the treaty, daily Hurriyet writes. Tahsin Salihoglu, former mayor of Istanbul’s Avcilar district and president of the Solidarity Association of Western Thrace, petitioned the Istanbul Governor’s office and demanded the Fener Greek Patriarchate block the meeting claiming the Holy Synod violated the 1923 Lausanne Treaty as it contained non-Turkish members. “According to the Lausanne Treaty, the founding document of modern Turkey, all the Holy Synod Assembly members have to be Turkish”, Salihoglu said, adding that “if the foreign members of the assembly attend the meeting in Istanbul the Lausanne Treaty would be violated”. “We have the right to invite any members to the Holy Synod meeting as the Synod does not have a legal status and personality to be recognized by Turkey”, the Greek Patriarcate said in a statement. The Holy Synod Assembly of the Fener Greek Patriarchate convened in 2004 for the first time since 1923 with foreign members. Fierce debates have been made every year ahead of the Holy Synod Assembly meetings in Istanbul since that time. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Parliament Divided on Women Ministers’ Veil

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 27 — It is not only the economic reforms promised during the electoral campaign or the alleged illegalities carried out in the construction of the fourth oil hub which are dividing the Parliament of Kuwait: it is also the issue whether the women Ministers are obliged or not to wear the traditional long dress with the veil in the Parliament hall. The MPs of the Islamic block, which represent the majority in the National Assembly, want to force Nuraya Al Sabih, Education Minister, and Moudhi Al Homoud, House Minister, to wear the hijab, “in respect of the Islamic dictates”. Clarifying that the request “is not a matter of extremism”, MP Mohammad al Kandari insisted today from the pages of daily Kuwait Times that “according to Islam and according to Kuwait’s traditions, women must wear the hijab”. The other section of the Parliament answered that “in a democracy such as Kuwait, the hijab cannot be imposed”. “It is a matter between women and God”, MP Saleh Al Mullah pointed out. The criticism of the Islamic majority targeted Minister Al-Sabieh since the first day when she entered the hall, wearing a two-piece suit and no veil, in April 2007. At the time, the president of the Parliament had supported the Minister, saying that the regulation of the Assembly does not explicitly mention the obligation to wear the veil. The controversy, however, is still raging. The women of the oil Emirate became protagonists of the political life with full rights in 2005, with the clause that they comply with the dictates of the Islamic law. This indication, however, does not specify which behaviours are acceptable and which are considered disrespectful or improper. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon Issues Arrest Warrant Against Khadafi

Lebanon has issued an arrest warrant against Libyan leader Muamar Khadafi in connection with the disappearance of one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of Lebanon’s Shiite community 30 years ago.

Imam Mussa Sadr, founder of the Shiite Amal movement, disappeared along with two companions during a visit to Libya. Libya has always maintained that the three left the country and travelled to Italy. An arrest warrant has also been issued for six other Libyan suspects charged with taking part in the alleged abduction.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]


Hamas First to Recognize Russia’s Ossetia Annexation

( The revolutionary government of Hamas in Gaza is the first entity in the world to recognize the annexation of separatist areas in southern Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Hamas announced that the Russian move has its backing.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Alleged Mata Hari of Al Qaeda Could Provide ‘Treasure Trove’ of Intelligence

When she was arrested in Afghanistan last month, Aafia Siddique allegedly had in her possession maps of New York, a list of potential targets that included the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the subway system and the animal disease center on Plum Island, detailed chemical, biological and radiological weapon information that has been seen only in a handful of terrorist cases, as well as a thumb drive packed with emails, ABC News has learned.

That haul of information has led multiple government sources to describe Siddique, a 36 year-old MIT graduate, as a potential “treasure trove” of information on terrorist supporters, sympathizers or ‘sleepers’ in the United States and overseas. “She is the most significant capture in five years,” said former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who said she lives up to her reputation as an alleged terrorist ‘Mata Hari.’

And there is an eagerness to see what, if anything, she can add to the thin trickle of fresh information on the activities of terrorists and terrorist supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as what if any risk she might pose to national security.

Only a “handful” of captured alleged Al Qaeda associates have had the kind of detailed information on weapons of mass destruction that Siddique, who attended MIT as an undergraduate and earned her PhD in neuroscience at Brandeis, had in her handbag, multiple current and former US intelligence and law enforcement officials told ABC News.

“She is a very dangerous person, no doubt about it,” said a senior US counter terrorism official. “This is a major haul, a major capture for the FBI,” said Kiriakou. “To find someone who has such rich information, computer hard drives, e-mails, that is really a major capture.”

US authorities are analyzing Siddique’s saliva, hair, and fingernail scrapings to determine, if possible, what evidence they can find of any exposure to chemical, biological or radiological materials with potential use in weapons of mass destruction, sources said.

“Her education troubled us. We know that she’s extremely bright. She’s radicalized. We knew that she had been planning, or at least involved in the planning, of a wide variety of different operations, whether they involved weapons of mass destruction or research into chemical or biological weapons, whether it was a possible attempt on the life of the President,” said Kiriakou. “We knew that she was involved with a great deal and we had to bring her into custody.”


           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Army Takes Over Other Parts of Kashmir

CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] is in total command in Srinagar and army in other towns. With a strictly enforced curfew, use of excessive force, very tight security arrangements and arrest of senior separatist leaders, the state government today thwarted the Coordination Committee (CC) sponsored march to Lal Chowk.

However, there were widespread protests as curfew was defied at a number of places and marches taken out. Security forces and police opened fire, lobbed smoke shells and resorted to cane charge killing five persons and injuring 140 others.

Official reports put the death toll at seven. Police and security forces arrested Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman Hurriyat (M) from their respective residences last night.

Another senior leader Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman JKLF [Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front], was arrested after he defied curfew at Maisuma and started marching towards Lal Chowk along with his supporters. Some other leaders were also arrested and raids were being conducted to nab those, evading arrest.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Border Villages Rise Up Against Taliban

“We are trend-setters. Others are following us,” boasts Rauf Khan, mayor of Pakistan’s Buner district, where villagers killed six militants in the Dara Shalbandi area on Aug. 14. In some parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), people are enlisting in anti-Taliban squads to take on the extremists who are blamed for a spate of abductions and arson attacks on girls’ schools, rural clinics and cyber cafes.

Rauf Khan is leading the village defence squads in Buner, a small valley between Peshawar and Swat. On Aug. 8, the Taliban had attacked the Pir Baba police station in Buner and killed nine policemen. The village defence squad retaliated with indiscriminate firing that resulted in the deaths of eight militants, including Kamran Khan, the so-called chief of the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in adjacent Mardan district.

“Villagers had asked the militants to surrender before they laid siege,” Khan told IPS. “But the militants requested safe passage. That was denied. Then the militants threw a hand-grenade in the direction of the villagers to break the siege,” he recounts. […]

Initially the local people — ethnic Pakhtoon or Pashtun cousins of the Afghan Taliban — welcomed the guests from across the border. But in 2005, the U.S., in the pursuit of its so-called ‘war on terror’ on militant Islam, began putting pressure on the Pakistan government to evict the outsiders, and FATA became a battleground for the military.

The following year the U.S. launched unmanned drone attacks on North and South Waziristan, forcing thousands to flee their villages. The Taliban capitalised on the strong anti-U.S. sentiment to challenge the Pakistan military.

Fear of intensifying military action in Swat and neighbouring Bajaur Agency, FATA, have triggered the current backlash against the Islamic fighters. “We are seeing the writing on the wall. If we don’t prevent the Taliban at this stage, there is every possibility the military would launch an operation and the 11million population would be migrating in a state of helplessness to safer areas,” says Rauf Khan.

On Aug. 15, a jirga (assembly) of elected councillors in Mardan district (NWFP) decided to set up anti-Taliban squads on the Buner model. “The Taliban had already bombed about a dozen girls’ schools besides bombing 50 CD shops and attacking police stations,” says Shakoor Khan of Bakhshali locality who participated in the jirga. “Before the Taliban resorts to torching more schools, we have decided to resist them,” he told IPS. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Islamic Party to Protest Avril Lavigne Concert

Malaysia’s conservative Islamic party has said it will mount protests at Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne’s concert here on Friday, after failing to have it banned. The concert is an insult to Islam as the fasting month of Ramadan is due to start just a few days later, said Mr Nasrudin Hassan of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party PAS. […]

Last year, US singer Beyonce scrapped a planned concert in Malaysia due to fears of protests, when Gwen Stefani went ahead with a performance but was forced to cover up after complaints about her outfits.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

It is Time for Bengal Communists to Return Illegally Snatched Land From Poor Farmers

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Monday rejected West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s fresh offer of talks to end the Singur deadlock and stuck to her demand that 400 acres be returned immediately to farmers.

It is time for them to first return the land they snatched with force from these poor farmers, the vibrant anti-communist Bengal leader said. The Tatas thought like the oligarchs from Marwar, they could bribe the communists and do anything they like in West Bengal. If Marwar oligarchs can do it, why can’t the Farsi oligarchs? The fact of the matter is the communists of Bengal are ready to deal with any one who can supply them the money they waste in keeping cadres and incompetent Government employees. […]

Threatening to intensify the indefinite dharna launched since Sunday to other parts of the state, Banerjee said, “We are ready to join a discussion, but land should be returned first.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Kashmir Keeps Burning as Manmohan Singh’s Failed Policies Backfires

Kashmir is slowly and steadily going out of hand as Indian Government cannot bring reconciliation between the Hindus and Muslims in Jammu. Indefinite curfew was imposed in Kashmir today to stop the Coordination Committee (CC) sponsored march towards Lal Chowk tomorrow.

Several separatist leaders were arrested and others placed under house arrest. One person Ghulam Qadir Hakim was killed and his son Mohammad Yaqub critically injured when CRPF opened fire at Dalgate here. The local people said the incident occurred when the deceased and his son were moving in their area to get some milk and bread.

While curfew continued for the second consecutive day today in violence-hit Poonch town, situation remained tense in the entire town with more incidents of violence being reported. A total of seven shops, two houses and at least ten vehicles of both the communities were either completely damaged or set on fire in fresh clashes between the members of both communities at Painch and Khanetar villages. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Malaysia Wants 25,600 Aceh Tsunami Refugees to Go

Malaysia has ordered more than 25,000 refugees who fled Indonesia’s Aceh province after the 2004 Asian tsunami to leave by early January, an official said Tuesday. Authorities will deport any Acehnese migrants who remain illegally in Malaysia beyond Jan. 5, said Ishak Mohamed, enforcement director of the Immigration Department.

About 40,000 people from Aceh came to neighboring Malaysia after a giant quake off their province spawned the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 130,000 people in Indonesia alone. “We allowed them to work here (for humanitarian reasons) because we are helping them to earn money for their families to rebuild their homes,” Ishak said. […]

Malaysia’s government has been trying to reduce its reliance on migrant workers amid concerns that they contribute to crime and unemployment among Malaysians. Authorities earlier this month launched a crackdown to expel more than 130,000 mostly Indonesian and Filipino illegal immigrants in an eastern state on Borneo island. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

New Afghanistan Weapon Criticised

Amnesty International has criticised the military for its purchase of a new shell that indiscriminately distributes small spikes upon impact

Danish Defence has purchased a new shell that releases 1100 small spikes upon impact for use in the Afghanistan War, reports public broadcaster DR.

The shell is fired from an 84mm hydraulic canon and is primarily used against human targets. The spikes distribute at a radius of 10-12 metres and travel at 300 metres per second.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International calls the purchase irresponsible and claims the weapon has caused many civilian deaths in Gaza and Lebanon from its use by the Israeli army.

‘This is an imprecise weapon that strikes randomly and thereby increases the risk of killing civilians,’ said Lars Norman Jørgensen, Amnesty’s secretary-general.

But Danish Defence says the weapon is necessary for the army’s intense battles with the Taleban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Lars Møller, head of the army’s combat training centre, added that the weapon will be used only in sparsely-populated corn fields where the Taleban commonly hides.

‘The fighting takes place out in the countryside. It would be completely idiotic to use this kind of weapon in the cities,’ said Møller.

‘Obviously if we use it in a marketplace or bazaar we’d hit civilians — we’ve managed to figure that out ourselves.’

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Night Life in Jakarta Limited During Ramadan

Operating hours for tourism establishments will be subject to several restrictions during Ramadan, the head of Jakarta’s tourism agency announced Tuesday.

Tourism spots — including night clubs, spas, massage parlors, video game centers, bars, billiard halls, karaoke and live music lounges — must cease operations on the following days: the day before the fasting month begins, the first day of Ramadan, the tenth night before Idul Fitri, the day before Idul Fitri, throughout the two days of Idul Fitri and one day after Idul Fitri ends.

“The regulation also covers businesses managed by starred hotels,” head of the city tourism agency Arie Budhiman said in a statement released Tuesday. […] Those who violate the regulation face up to three months in prison and/or a maximum fine of Rp 5 million (US$549).

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Orissa: Burning and Looting Continues, Christians Beaten and Cut to Pieces

by Nirmala Carvalho

Vikram Nayak was killed, and then cut to pieces. Two Christians die two days after suffering serious injuries. Unrest by radical Hindus continues as police is ordered to shoot on sight those who break the curfew. Two nuns who were attacked tell their stories; Catholic schools to close for a day; the faithful are called to observe a day of prayer and fasting.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Burning, looting, manhunts and violence against women continue today in the state of Orissa as the curfew imposed by the government is expanded from the district of Kadhamal to other cities. Police are ordered to shoot on sight.

Only now the death of a Catholic man in the village of Tiangia has come to light. After he was killed Vikram Nayak he was cut to pieces. Two other people close to him were so seriously beaten up and hurt that they died two days later.

The murder took place last Sunday evening at the end of the funerals of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati whose assassination was blamed on Christians.

Christian homes in Tiangia were torched and families forced to flee into the forests. They were however pursued and attacked by extremists.

Sister Karuna, a nun with the order of the Precious Blood, was one of the first to be hit. Speaking to AsiaNews, she confirmed that “burning and looting were continuing this morning. Women are being molested and brutalised and extremists are doing what they want with them.”

Sister M. Suma, from the Sisters of Mother Teresa, said that ‘Christian villages are being razed to the ground. Terrified, Carmelite nuns have had to flee their convent to find shelter in the woods.”

Rumours that extremists from other states are coming to Orissa to help local radicals have also been confirmed. Hindu supremacists from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra have converging in the district of Kandhamal.

Some Protestant Christians have said the government of the state of Chhattisgarh is helping paramilitary groups to reach Orissa to attack Christians.

Attacks continue in spite of the curfew and the presence of anti-riot units. Police yesterday killed four radical Hindus as hundreds of others attacked the village of Barakhama. Law enforcement agents can shoot on sight those who violate the curfew.

Fresh attacks and burning were reported in Baliguda, Udaygiri and Raikia.

Orissa’s government has come under criticism by Indian political leaders and leading public figures for being slow in enforcing law and order.

Some people suspect that it wants to cover up the violence perpetrated by Hindu extremists. On the day violence first broke out with looting, killing and fires, Home Secretary Tarunkanti Mishra told journalists the demonstrations organised by the Sangh Parivar after Swami Laxmanananda’s death were “almost entirely peaceful.”

Sangh Parivar is an umbrella group of Hindu nationalist associations, including paramilitary groups linked to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Sr M Suma, from the Missionaries of Charity, appealed to AsiaNews. “Please, let the whole world that we should love one another—we are al children of the same Father.”

Elsewhere male and female missionaries of Charity have had stone thrown at them; one of their orphanages and one of their hospitals have been damaged. The same has happened to the vehicles they use to transport the sick and ill.

In light of the situation Catholic schools across India have decided to close down next Friday as a protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa. For that day the Indian Church is planning a day of prayer and fasting in solidarity with Orissa’s persecuted Christians.

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

Population Decline — Enter the Matchmaker

After failing to induce young people to marry early and raise families with tax breaks and ‘baby bonus’ schemes, the government appears ready to fall back on the matchmaker to give the stork a chance. The government’s concern was reflected in the fact that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spent more than 30 minutes of his two-hour long National Day (Aug 9) televised speech encouraging young educated Singaporeans to marry early, and even set parenthood before careers.

Lee, who seemed to be targeting young career-minded Singaporean women, referred to a recent conversation he had with two Indian women migrants. Lee said they expressed satisfaction with the marriages arranged for them by their parents and that, for them, love blossomed post-marriage.

In the Mandarin version of his speech, directed at the majority Chinese community, Lee pointed out that arranged marriages were now being encouraged by the Chinese government. In Beijing, he said, thousands of parents go secretly to “Parental Matchmaking Sessions” to find suitable partners for their children. […]

Lee pointed out that the low total fertility rate (TFR) is especially acute for the Chinese community (that makes up about 70 percent of the population here) and stood at 1.14, which is almost half of the replacement level of 2.1.

“Many singles do want to get married” he noted. “They are serious, and not just out to have a good time. But they face difficulties because some have never dated, and once they start work and settle into a routine, there’s no opportunity to socialise and meet new people.” [….]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Statement of Imran Raza Regarding Release of American Children From Pakistani Taliban Madrassa

(Atlanta, GA) — Imran Raza, the director and executive producer of the documentary “Karachi Kids” who discovered up to 80 American children in a Taliban-backed madrassa in Pakistan released the following statement regarding the return of two American children to Atlanta:

I am grateful for the safe return of the two American children from Atlanta from a Taliban- backed madrassa but the mullah claims to have up to 78 more in his institution. The headmaster comes to the United States once a year and personally recruits American children to enroll in his madrassa.

The remaining 78 children must be returned to the United States. This pipeline to jihad must be closed.

Let me be clear — these children do not learn math, or science, or liberal arts. They learn one thing — they memorize over the course of seven years every verse of the Koran coupled with the radical interpretation of their teachers.

This is just the first step in integrating these children back to American society. I am proud we did our part so we could say “Welcome Home.”

It is imperative that Members of Congress and the State Department undertake an accounting of just how many Americans are in the other 20,000 madrassas in Pakistan. Hundreds remain behind.

The Karachi Kids is a documentary about American children in the Jamia Binoria madrassa in Karachi Pakistan. A trailer of the film is available at

           — Hat tip: ACT for America [Return to headlines]

Far East

ASEAN Agrees Region to Have Nuclear Power Plants

The ASEAN working group on the establishment of nuclear power plants announced on Wednesday that the ten member countries* supported all current nuclear projects in the region. The working group head, Carunia Firdausy, in Jakarta on Wednesday said no ASEAN member country objected to the plans of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam plans to establish nuclear power plants.

Firdausy explained that all nuclear power plant projects in the region were for peaceful purposes with the main aim of reducing the countries’ dependency on fossil fuel to generate electricity. Fossil fuel dependency is not only inefficient in terms of costs, it is also detrimental to the environment, he said.

The Indonesian government has set a modest target of four percent of the country’s total electricity supply to be generated by nuclear power plants in 2025, Firdausy said. […]

* Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Indonesia; Lao PDR; Malaysia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; Vietnam

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Bank of China Denies Aiding Terrorists

A major state-owned Chinese bank on Wednesday denied accusations in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles that it transferred money to terrorist groups and said it would fight the case. “The accusation is absolutely groundless,” Bank of China Ltd. said in a statement. “Bank of China is prepared to fight the suit.”

The lawsuit filed last Thursday by victims of terrorism in Israel accused the bank of putting through dozens of wire transfers totaling several million dollars to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and ignoring Israeli demands to stop the practice. The lawsuit said the money helped to finance attacks between 2004 and 2007.

The Beijing-based bank “knowingly assisted Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” the lawsuit alleged. […] The U.S. lawsuit says Israeli officials met with Chinese police and central bank officials in 2005 seeking action to prevent Bank of China from making more transfers but the practice continued.

Transfers for Hamas and Islamic Jihad were initiated in the Middle East, sent to branches in the U.S., then to an account at a bank branch in Guanzhou, China, the suit said. It said the money was then wired to group leaders in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

OIC Secretary General Calls for Pacification of the Tense Situation in Southern Philippines

The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, expressed his deep concern over the recent outbreak of hostilities in the Muslim region of Mindanao in southern Philippines, giving rise to a military standoff between the Philippine government military forces and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The confrontations caused the death and injury of civilians.

The Secretary General condemned the illegitimate acts conducted by wayward elements affiliated with the MILF refusing to abide by the repeated appeals by the Front’s leadership to maintain calm, peace and restraint. He also called on the Philippine government to put an end to its military operations in the region which inflicted tremendous damage among civilians.

Likewise, Ihsanoglu expressed concern over reports that the Philippine government intends to freeze the memorandum agreement for ancestral domain which came about as a result of strenuous, long and sincere efforts by both sides. He stated that it is unfortunate to let undisciplined elements from the MILF determine the course of negotiations or halt the peace process.

The Secretary General urged the parties to the conflict to rapidly return to the negotiating table and continue working together in the same positive spirit that led to the conclusion of the agreement. The parties, he added, need to preserve and build upon the accomplishments so far achieved in a bid to reach the just and durable peace desired by all.

The Secretary General further stated that all friends of the Philippines, notably Malaysia, which has played a key role in facilitating the process towards the agreement had expressed the hope that the Philippine government and the MILF would persevere in their efforts to support peace and restore calm and stability in southern Philippines. He stressed that the parties ought to work out a swift settlement to the current crisis that threatens to thwart the peace process and refrain from giving extremist elements the opportunity to dictate their own agenda or determine the course of events.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Al Qaeda-Linked Shabab in Control of Southern Somalia

Just one and a half years after Ethiopian forces ejected the Islamic Courts Union from power in the failed state of Somalia, the country is poised for a takeover by a radical al Qaeda regional group. Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, has taken control of most of southern Somalia and portions of the central region, according to press reports from the troubled nation.

Late last week, Shabab fighters overran the strategic southern port city of Kismayo, Somalia’s second largest city. The capture of Kismayo capped a yearlong campaign by Shabab to retake territory lost to the Ethiopians in late 2006 and early 2007.

Shabab, the radical Islamist youth movement formed from the leadership and fighters of the ousted Islamic Courts, has teamed up with the powerful Hawiye clan to attack Ethiopian and Somali security forces. These attacks soon spread north, south, and west of Mogadishu. […]

The Kenyan border regions have been used to train Shabab and al Qaeda fighters and to launch attacks into the Shabelle and Jubba provinces. Much of Lower Shabelle and Upper and Lower Jubba are under control of Shabab.

Shabab’s campaign in western Somalia has endangered the Ethiopian Army’s long supply lines to Baidoa and Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian forces, along with several thousand African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, are deployed in Mogadishu in an effort to quell the insurgency.

Shabab’s longtime links to al Qaeda

Shabab spokesman Sheikh Mukhtar Robow admitted the group is closely aligned to al Qaeda, and seeks to merge with the terror group. “We are negotiating how we can unite into one,” Robow said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “We will take our orders from Sheik Osama bin Laden because we are his students. Al Qaeda is the mother of the holy war in Somalia.”

But the senior leaders of Shabab have had long links to al Qaeda, and Shabab and its predecessor have been al Qaeda affiliates in all but name. Hassan Dahir Aweys, Aden Hashi Ayro, and Hassan Turki have trained in al Qaeda camps during the 1990s. Robow admitted this in his interview with The Los Angeles Times. “Most of our leaders were trained in Al Qaeda camps. We get our tactics and guidelines from them,” Robow said. “Many have spent time with Osama bin Laden.”

Turki, Sheikh Yusuf Indha’adde, and Sheikh Mukhtar Robow have appeared on al Qaeda propaganda tapes training and fighting with foreign fighters. Both Turki and Indha’adde admitted to foreign al Qaeda involvement in Somalia in the summer of 2006. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

‘Pretoria Had to Fight Harder for Detainees’

By Hazel Memani

Two South African Muslim clerics have been detained by the Ugandan government on suspicion of being involved in terrorism.

IOL asked readers: “Should Pretoria have taken tougher action about the South Africans detained in Uganda?”

Of the 130 readers who responded to our poll, 52 percent (68 votes) said ‘Yes’, 18 percent (24 votes) said ‘No and 30 percent (39 votes) said ‘Who cares?’.

           — Hat tip: CzC [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Hezbollah Presence in Venezuela Feared

Via Irish Spy and Jihad Watch, a detailed article reviewing information regular readers of this blog have known for a while, but it’s a good article:

Western anti-terrorism officials are increasingly concerned that Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militia that Washington has labeled a terrorist group, is using Venezuela as a base for operations…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]


Migrants: New Arrivals and Reception in Locride

With a boat intercepted by the Italian Revenue Guard corps off Calabria’s coasts, another 155 immigrants, including some thirty children, including newborns, and around 20 women, arrived in Roccella Ionica (Reggio Calabria, Southern Italy). This was the fifth, and most numerous, landing in Calabria since May. Among the new arrivals are entire families of Iraqi and Kurdish origin. Meals and medical visits were provided before transferring them all temporarily in port facilities. Based on first reports, the migrants travelled at sea for a week onboard a large fishing boat with Greek and Turkish flags, with the name cancelled but over all in fairly decent condition. “We are for reception and integration and certainly not barbed wire”, said the Mayor of nearby Riace, Domenico Lucano, yesterday morning, referring to the initiative of the mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, in announcing the will of the communes of Locride to welcome the new arrivals on the island. “Our message aims to go in the opposite direction of that of the mayor of Lampedusa, who considers immigration a mere problem of public order and proposes to set up barbed wire around the temporary centre. We, instead, are convinced that immigrants are a resource”, specified Lucano, adding: “The experience we have lived in Riace in these years demonstrates that immigrants are a resource that needs to be valorised. Over here, immigrants have contributed to revitalising our historic centre. We have set up a hostel type hotel, with work opportunities for the local youths. We have restored handcraft activities, also using the experiences offered by the immigrants”. For seven years Riace has been part of a network of communes linked to the protection service for asylum seekers and refugees. “I am not racist. Also I am convinced that immigrants are a resource for Italy, but I am contrary to what has now become a trade of human meat”, De Rubeis responded promptly. Lampedusa’s temporary reception centre, built to hold around 700 people, in the past days passed the 2,000 mark.

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

Morocco: Europe ‘Punishing the Victims’ of Illegal Immigration

Rabat, 27 August (AKI) — Security measures adopted by European countries against illegal immigration are misallocating funds and penalising the victims of illegal immigration, Moroccan activist Khalil Jammah told the Al-Jazeera satellite TV network late on Tuesday.

Jammah spoke about a recent incident in which African would-be illegal immigrants to Europe admitted dumping the bodies of 25 of their peers who died at sea.

“This is additional evidence to the failure of the security approach adopted by Europe as a solution to illegal immigration,” he said.

“Europe has slotted immense funds for this approach which could have paid the debts of the countries of the South.”

He is the head of Morocco’s Committee of Friends and Families of Victims of Illegal Immigration.

“There are no laws in the countries of the South that sufficiently protect the victims, many of whom are young people,” he stated.

The hundreds of would-be illegal immigrants who die each year during the perilous sea voyage to Europe are “a stigma for some of the South’s regimes and governments,” Jammah said.

“And we find the laws drafted in Europe, as well as the funds, are directed against the victims of immigration.”

“The security approach including the radars, the logistical means and the plans set by Europe are not directed towards the illegal immigration mafias,” he said.

He claimed Spain has publicised the illegal immigration issue excessively to receive European aid although it actually receives smaller boatloads of illegal migrants than other southern Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece.

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

Sweden: Immigration to Pass Births by 2030

A new report by the Institute of Future Studies claims that the number of immigrants in Sweden will soon be double that of new births each year.

Sweden’s number of immigrants has risen annually by 3 percent since 1980 and if it continues at this rate as many as 200 000 people will immigrate annually to Sweden in 2030, twice the number of births estimated per year.

According to the report’s authors Professor Bo Malmberg and Charlotta Hedberg at Stockholm University, Sweden needs to rethink the way they view increasing numbers of immigrants. The authors believe that migration contributes to a better economy and better relations between countries in the long run.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Will Cross Adorn Coca-Cola Cans This Christmas?

The crescent moon and star — yes, the same symbol featured on the flags of so many Muslim countries — is an internationally-recognized symbol of the Islamic faith in much the same way as the cross represents Christianity and the star of David Judaism. When I learned the symbol of the Islamic faith will appear on Coca-Cola packaging during Ramadan 2008, I found myself wondering whether or not the Atlanta-based soft drink maker will soon include the Christian cross and Jewish star of David in future holiday packaging designs targeting people of those faiths.

The firm selected by Coca-Cola to help interpret its brand across a number of events is ATTIK, according according to Brand Republic. Notable among those events are Ramadan, a Muslim religious observance that runs from Sept. 1-30, and Christmas 2008. [Note: I’ve found no evidence that the company plans to focus any efforts on Hannukah or any other Jewish holiday.]

During Ramadan, the ATTIK design shown above will adorn packaging in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia and other countries with a great many Muslims.

With hopes of finding out whether the Christian cross — instead of the penguins, polar bears and snow of recent years — will grace Coca-Cola packaging for Christmas 2008, I sent an e-mail to Roger Darnell at the firm’s San Francisco office at 11:52 a.m. (Central) today…

           — Hat tip: LN [Return to headlines]


2008 Olympics: Why Intolerant Societies Can’t Jump by Louis Palme

The 2008 Olympics inspired and thrilled viewers all around the world. The “One World One Dream” theme was played out over and over as competing athletes treated one another with respect and admiration. For example, when the tanks of the Russian Federation invaded Georgia, their athlete representatives on the medal award stand gave each other a hug. That dispute had nothing to do with the Olympics!

On the other hand, some other countries displayed some very mixed responses to the Olympic games, as will be shown below. Just after the opening of the Olympics, the U.S. Congressional Research Service prepared a list of twenty-three countries who will not issue visas to foreign religious workers. As Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said, “This gives us a better picture of what countries discriminate against us based on religion.” It is also a indisputable indicator of intolerance. The countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. With the exception of North Korea, all of these countries are Muslim.

So, how did these intolerant countries fare at the Olympics? The following compilation shows the leading “tolerant” countries, China, and the twenty-two “intolerant” Muslim countries listed above in terms of medals awarded per million citizens. To counter the argument that athletics is a middle-class pursuit and that medals are a function of per capita income, the list also includes Jamaica — one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and Zimbabwe — one of the poorest countries in Africa.


Population (M.)

Olympic Medals






























South Korea












“The intolerant 22”




To put the data above into perspective, if the United States had earned medals at the same proportional rate as “the intolerant 22,” the US would have earned just eleven medals. So what would explain the significantly poor showing of “the intolerant 22”? While individual athletes work hard to compete in international sports, their best efforts can be thwarted or even undone by the society around them. The remarks below, therefore, do not reflect on individual athletes but the climate under which some are forced to compete.

[Return to headlines]

Pirate Attacks Up 75%; Nearly One Raid Per Day

Somewhere on the world’s waterways, a pirate will try to strike today. Another will tomorrow. And another the day after that. Piracy is on the rise, across the globe — up nearly 75%, from last decade to this one, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation. There’s now at least an attempt at a pirate attack nearly every day. […]

There were “a total of 2,463 actual or attempted acts of piracy were registered around the world between 2000 and the end of 2006. This represents an annual average incident rate of 352, a substantial increase over the mean of 209 recorded for the period of 1994—1999,” the report notes. “The concentration of pirate attacks continues to be greatest in Southeast Asia, especially in the waters around the Indonesian archipelago…. which accounted for roughly 25 percent of all global incidents during 2006.”

The post-9/11 environment has also made some shipping lanes more vulnerable. Since then, governments have been pressured to “to invest in expensive, land-based homeland security initiatives” — often ignoring maritime security, as a result. In addition:

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

The Georgian Mistake

That’s not my phrase, it comes from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He used it in a minatory fashion, to describe the behavior which would tend to evoke a response from Russia resembling recent actions against the Georgians in South Ossetia.

He was addressing the nation of Moldova, which is in the midst of a long-term crisis with its own breakaway region, Transdniestria. The Russians consider themselves to be the protectors of Transdniestria; hence Mr. Medvedev’s warning to the Moldovans.

Transdniestria map

Transdniestria or Transnistria is a narrow sliver of territory lying north of the Dniester but within the boundaries of Moldova. It is somewhat ethnically distinct — roughly a third of the population is ethnically Russian, another third Ukrainian, and the remaining third Moldovan, i.e. Romanian.

Even during the Soviet period, strong tensions existed between Transdniestria and the rest of Moldova (then called the Moldavian S.S.R.). Late in 1991, while the U.S.S.R. was still nominally extant, a war broke out between the central government in Chisinau and the separatists across the Dniester. Russian and Ukrainian volunteers arrived in Transdniestria to help the would-be nation, but it never achieved official international recognition after the Soviet Union disintegrated. It has gained extensive autonomy, but remains legally a part of the nation of Moldova.

Flush with their success in Georgia, the Russians are now flexing their Slavic muscles towards Moldova. According to Reuters.

Russia Warns Moldova Against “Georgian Mistake”

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned ex-Soviet Moldova on Monday against repeating Georgia’s mistake of trying to use force to seize back control of a breakaway region.

Russia sent peacekeepers to Moldova in the early 1990s to end a conflict between Chisinau and its breakaway Transdniestria region and is trying to mediate a deal between the two sides.

Transdniestria, one of a number of “frozen conflicts” on the territory of the former Soviet Union, mirrored the standoff between Georgia and its rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia until they erupted in war earlier this month.

Russia sent troops to Georgia to crush Tbilisi’s military push into South Ossetia and Moscow says Georgia has now lost the chance of ever re-integrating the breakaway provinces.

“After the Georgian leadership lost their marbles, as they say, all the problems got worse and a military conflict erupted,” Medvedev told Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin.

– – – – – – – –

“This is a serious warning, a warning to all,” he added. “And I believe we should handle other existing conflicts in this context.”

As the two leaders spoke in Medvedev’s Black Sea residence in Sochi, Russian lawmakers were voting non-binding resolutions urging the Kremlin to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

Before Slavophile readers get all dreamy-eyed about the freedom-fighters of the Dniester, you might want to consider the coat of arms and flag of Transdniestria:

Transdniestria flag

The Russian Republic may have transcended its Soviet past, but Transdniestria appears to be wallowing in nostalgia for the days of the commissars.

Russia’s claim to Transdniestria is tenuous at best. In recent years it has followed the Ossetian playbook in the region, issuing Russian passports in generous numbers to Transdniestrians so that it may act to “protect” them when the moment is right.

Russia doesn’t share a border with Transdniestria (or Moldova): Ukraine lies in between. Not everyone considers this an obstacle; there are many Russians who consider Ukraine to be a rightful Russian province which just happens to be in a state of rebellion, and has been for the last seventeen years.

But Ukrainians don’t agree. If you do not consider those Transdniestrian Ukrainians to be Russians, then Russia has at best a third of a voting share in the affairs of Transdniestria.

The situation in Moldova will bear watching over the next few months while the world is preoccupied with the advent of the Messiah election season in the USA.

Hat tip: Abu Elvis.