Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/11/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/11/2009The crisis in western China continues, and Turkey has accused China of “genocide” for its treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.

In other news, the Saudi Gazette reports that “nano-particles” in camel can urine help cure cancer. Also in Saudi Arabia, a family is suing a household djinn for harassment.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Lexington, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Economic Crisis Boosts Dutch Calvinism
EU Attack on City of London is ‘Opportunistic’
Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ At G-8
The Case for Doing Nothing
Could the Cloud Lead to an Even Bigger 9/11?
Eligibility Claims Attracting High-Level Interest
Gore Boasts: ‘Global Governance’ Coming With Carbon Tax
Government Control Goes That Extra Mile
In Florida With Another Woman and His Sons… Husband of the Dubai Adulterer
The Tyranny of Transnationalism
Why We’ll Leave L.A.
Europe and the EU
‘Britain Has Become a Cold Place for Christians’ — Bishop Warns
EU to Propose 2010 Budget Cut
G8: US First Lady Develops a Taste for Roman Cuisine
Germany: Father of ‘Veil Martyr’ Urges Dialogue With Islam
Italy: Masks, Spaghetti and the Mafia
Körting Says Stasi Checks Not Needed in Berlin
Netherlands: Help Muslims Escape the Tyranny of Sharia Law
UK Sleepwalks to the Fringes of Europe
UK: ‘Kill Soldiers’ Muslim Blogger is Back in Job as Treasury Civil Servant
UK: Bishops ‘Will Lose Right to Vote’ In Labour’s Reform of Lords
UK: Child Killer Gets Legal Aid to Launch Bid for Right to Vote (And You’re Paying)
UK: Gipsy and Traveller Children Get Priority at Popular State Schools
UK: Inayat Bunglawala
Youths Riot in French Town Over Death in Custody
Serbia: Muslims Demand More Rights in South
North Africa
Tunisia: Terrorism, Two Air Force Officers Arrested
Tunisia: Terrorism, 19 Sentences
Israel and the Palestinians
Reporter Feels Mob’s Hate in the Holy City
Middle East
Concerns Over Detained Iranian Christians Amid Political Turmoil (Bosnewslife in-Depth)
IDF and Iran Already Engaged in ‘Cyber War’
Obama: World Won’t Allow Iran to Develop Nukes
Sarkozy: Israel Attack on Iran ‘Absolute Catastrophe’
Saudi Gazette: Nano-Particles in Camels’ Urine May Help Treat Cancer
Saudi ‘Genie’ Sued for Harassment
Turkey: Alleged Anti-Gov’t Plan Aims to Slander Military
Turkey: End of an Era, 90% Support Smoking Ban in Bars
Turkey: Supreme Court Annuls Jail of Marxist Party Members
Russian Orthodoxy: Ethnic or Religious Identity?
South Asia
Pakistan: Faisalabad, A Christian Tortured and Detained on False Charges of Blasphemy
Pakistan: PM Says ‘1,700 Extremists Killed’ By Army
Far East
China-Indian Conflict Simmering on Low Boil
Mosques Closed in Urumqi While China Fights “Terrorism”
Turkey Attacks China ‘Genocide’
Sub-Saharan Africa
Islamist Insurgents Behead 7 Somalis for ‘Spying on Government and Abandoning Islam’
Obama Takes Family ‘Who Lead Blessed Lives’ To One-Time Slave Fortress in Ghana
USA Says That Dialogue With Sudan is Necessary
Latin America
Brazilian Supreme Court Rules That Sex With Children Not Necessarily a Crime — Denounced by United Nations
Illegal Arrivals From Sea Halved in Italy

Financial Crisis

Economic Crisis Boosts Dutch Calvinism

Five hundred years after the birth of French Protestant theologian John Calvin, his teachings seem more topical than ever.

Hard work and frugality, the values espoused by Calvinism, are back in fashion as people reassess their lives because of the economic crisis.

Nowhere is this more so than in the Netherlands, which is often described as the most Calvinist nation in the world. Calvin never set foot there, but his influence is hard to miss.

The Thomas church, in Amsterdam’s financial district, looks far from inviting, with stark concrete walls and bare brick floors. You could call it Calvinist architecture — but the simplicity has a calming effect.

Ruben van Zwieten, 25, is training to be a reverend here. Unusually, he also runs a recruitment company.

So he feels he is uniquely placed to give business people a chance to unload their burdens.

“I know a lot of people working in the business district, I know their doubts,” Ruben said. “They are working harder and harder and it seems increasingly meaningless.”

Bringing people together

With his navy blazer, this tall young man looks more like a fashion model than a man of the church.

Maybe that is why Ruben has found ways to make Calvinism cool. In the autumn, he is planning to bring together bankers and local Muslim youths for a football match.

On Valentine’s Day, he asked some 200 young professionals to “date” senior citizens from the parish.

So, for instance, a 35-year-old banker from ABN-AMRO went to a park with an 88-year-old woman.

Afterwards, a young man told Ruben: “I feel more like a human being after this day.”

Among those who have started coming to Ruben’s lunch-time services is Ingrid Toth, a translator.

When asked if Calvinism is relevant today, she laughs.

“It’s very strange to hear myself saying this, but yes. With all the excess, I thought the sobriety, the down-to-earth approach to things, is right after all.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

EU Attack on City of London is ‘Opportunistic’

The European Union’s plan for a new machinery of financial regulation is an “opportunistic” attempt to extend EU power and is largely based on unsubstantiated claims, according to a hard-hitting report by the Adam Smith Institute and the London Business School.

The study said the British Government has responded with incoherent or irrelevant objections as Europe’s elites seize on events to rush through laws that greatly increase EU control over the City of London.

“The proposals seem opportunistic, using the financial crisis to provide an opening for long-held political objectives,” it said, accusing Brussels of trying to transform the financial system “while it is too weak to object”.

“Since financial crises of this scale come along only every sixty years, there is no economic reason for this haste,” it said.

The European Commission has made no attempt to validate it claim that lack of EU cross-border rules was a key cause of credit crisis, ignoring evidence that the real damage stemmed from the failure of countries to enforce their existing rules properly. “Instead of dealing with the fundamental problem, the Commission is instead proposing to add new bureaucratic structures.”

The key bone of contention is the creation of three new “Authorities” with a permanent staff and binding powers: a European Banking Authority in London; a European Insurance and Pensions Authority in Frankfurt; and a European Securities Authority in Paris.

While they look like the current advisory committees made up of chief regulators from the 27 member states, they are in reality executive agencies able to impose their agenda, with powers to “settle the matter” in the case of disputes. They effectively strip Britain of ultimate control over much of the City, leaving “day-to-day” matters to the Financial Services Authority.

Keith Boyfield, co-author of the report and chair of the Regulatory Evaluation Group, said the raft of proposals coming from Brussels together amount to an extremely serious assault on the City .

“When you look at this you wonder whether Alistair Darling’s White Paper is a pointless exercise,” he said.

The Government appears confused by the rush of events. Rather than fight the core issue of transferring control to Brussels, it has been arguing over whether the bodies should be run by the Commission or the Council. Either way, London loses ultimate control.

Gordon Brown agreed to the plans at last month’s Brussels summit, provided they do not impinge on “fiscal sovereignty”. Lord Mandelson has since said Britain should forge an alliance with those EU states in our camp to limit it saying “we have more skin in this game than the rest of Europe put together”.

An EU insider said the credit crisis had thrown up an unholy alliance between nationalist politicians from France, Italy, and Spain hoping to chip away at the City, and Left-wing forces opposed to market capitalism.

The two together are a formidable bloc.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ At G-8

July 10 (Bloomberg) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev illustrated his call for a supranational currency to replace the dollar by pulling from his pocket a sample coin of a “united future world currency.”

“Here it is,” Medvedev told reporters today in L’Aquila, Italy, after a summit of the Group of Eight nations. “You can see it and touch it.”

The coin, which bears the words “unity in diversity,” was minted in Belgium and presented to the heads of G-8 delegations, Medvedev said.

The question of a supranational currency “concerns everyone now, even the mints,” Medvedev said. The test coin “means they’re getting ready. I think it’s a good sign that we understand how interdependent we are.”

Medvedev has repeatedly called for creating a mix of regional reserve currencies as part of the drive to address the global financial crisis, while questioning the U.S. dollar’s future as a global reserve currency. Russia’s proposals for the G-20 meeting in London in April included the creation of a supranational currency.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

The Case for Doing Nothing

The first thing to note about the financial crisis is that the federal government never had any business intervening in the personal decision of whether you want to own a home. There is no rational economic argument, or any argument I know of, that says the market of buying and selling homes is imperfect in some way, requiring government action. Construction firms have plenty of incentive to build homes and sell them. People who have the wherewithal have plenty of incentive to buy homes if they so choose. For the government to intrude into homeownership was an off-budget, nontransparent, backdoor attempt at redistributing income. And when the policy became a way of transferring income to people who couldn’t afford those homes, it was doomed to failure.

This provision of risky debt to low-income homeowners was exacerbated by a second misguided federal policy: the longstanding practice of bailing out private risk taking. Although this has gone on for decades in the U.S. and other countries, the Federal Reserve played a special role during the tenure of former chief Alan Greenspan. The Fed’s implicit and almost explicit policy before the housing crash was to say to the financial markets: “Don’t worry about the fact that there’s a bubble. We’ll lower interest rates and keep them low enough to prevent a collapse in asset prices.” This logic, broadly applied, was commonly called the Greenspan Put. The Federal Reserve was basically selling the market an option for getting out comparatively unscathed when things turned bad. The result has been a widely held assumption that market actors would not have to bear the full losses from their own risky behavior.

When people try to pin the blame for the financial crisis on the introduction of derivatives, or the increase in securitization, or the failure of ratings agencies, it’s important to remember that the magnitude of both boom and bust was increased exponentially because of the notion in the back of everyone’s mind that if things went badly, the government would bail us out. And in fact, that is what the federal government has done. But before critiquing this series of interventions, perhaps we should ask what the alternative was. Lots of people talk as if there was no option other than bailing out financial institutions. But you always have a choice. You may not like the other choices, but you always have a choice. We could have, for example, done nothing.


From the distributional perspective, the choice is a no-brainer. Bailouts took money from the taxpayers and gave it to banks that willingly, knowingly, and repeatedly took huge amounts of risk, hoping they’d get bailed out by everyone else. It clearly was an unfair transfer of funds. Under bankruptcy, on the other hand, the people who take most or even all of the loss are the equity holders and creditors of these institutions. This is appropriate, because these are the stakeholders who win on the upside when there’s money to be made. Distributionally, we clearly did the wrong thing.


The problem isn’t only that the bailout wasn’t necessary in the first place. The bailout may have made the credit situation worse. When banks hear that the Treasury Department is dangling hundreds of billions of dollars out there to purchase their toxic assets, what are they going to do? Sell their assets for 20 cents on the dollar, or hold onto them in the hope that the government will eventually buy them for 80 cents on the dollar?

The moment Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson got in front of the cameras last fall and announced that we were on the brink of catastrophe, Wall Street was bound to freeze, because bankers wanted to figure out how much money was available and how they could get some. Let’s not realize any losses we don’t have to realize, they figured, because Treasury’s going to bail us out.


The latest government program, the Public-Private Investment Program, is just another handout to the banks. It sets up a system where a small amount of private money is combined with a small amount of government money and a big loan guaranteed by the government to buy the toxic assets from the bank.

So what are the incentives to private-sector actors? Well, they’re putting hardly any money in. If it turns out that the toxic assets they bought aren’t worth anything, they haven’t lost much. If the assets are worth a lot, they make some money. Either way, the Treasury Department is guaranteeing everything. Reasonable estimates indicate that these toxic assets are not worth very much, so this is just another way of transferring resources to the banks by buying their toxic assets at inflated prices.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Could the Cloud Lead to an Even Bigger 9/11?

Late last week I attended an event sponsored by IBM/Lotus and Technology Review. A very credible “End of the U.S.” doomsday scenario tied to the public cloud was outlined that I believe warrants further thought.

Charles Burns, who I used to work with at Giga Information Group and now works at Saugatuck Technology, was the one who brought this subject up. Be aware: In the following discussion, I’m talking about something that is in the future — not a risk that currently exists — but one we still need to plan for.

The Cloud’s Expected Growth

The concept of the cloud is amorphous at the moment, but it is basically a flexible hosting model in which applications and storage flow freely to meet performance requirements while optimizing on cost. Its potential to reduce complexity and cost long term is massive, but it is currently being held back in terms of adoption by three factors: concerns surrounding any major change, a lack of critical cross-vendor standards, and the technology’s immaturity.

Customer pressure is expected to eventually correct the standards problem, though that could take five to 10 years — a sentiment echoed at the event by IBM Software VP Sean Poulley. During that time period, IT is likely to experience a massive influx of younger talent as the market improves and organizations staff up. These new employees will have come up during the Google years, and will be much more comfortable with the cloud concept.

The Public Cloud: Building the Next Terror Target

As we have seen in the past with other technologies, while cloud resources will likely start out decentralized, as time goes by and economies of scale take hold, they will start to collect into mega-technology hubs. These hubs could, as the end of this cycle, number in the low single digits and carry most of the commerce and data for a nation like ours. Elsewhere, particularly in Europe, those hubs could handle several nations’ public and private data.

And therein lays the risk.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Eligibility Claims Attracting High-Level Interest

Joint Chiefs counsel, Justice Department now involved

California attorney Orly Taitz, who has pursued multiple legal challenges to Barack Obama’s eligibility to be the president, is attracting high-level attention, with the Justice Department trying to add itself onto one of her cases and the legal counsel for the Joint Chiefs of Staff being assigned to review another issue.

Taitz has filed multiple legal actions around the country alleging Obama does not meet the constitutional requirements to occupy the Oval Office. One of her cases, filed against Obama as an individual for actions before he took office, is scheduled for a hearing in a California court Monday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gore Boasts: ‘Global Governance’ Coming With Carbon Tax

Tells conference U.S. responding to warming threat with ‘cap-and-trade’

Former Vice President Al Gore, whose “An Inconvenient Truth” video epistle on the claims of global warming has not weathered recent scientific research, now has promised at a conference in the United Kingdom that the impending virtual energy tax under the U.S. “cap-and-trade” legislation will bring about “global governance.”

Gore, who this year famously left his Nashville mansion’s driveway brightly illuminated during the “Earth Hour” event that promoted energy savings, was speaking at the Smith School World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment.

He cited the “cap-and-trade” legislation in the U.S. Congress that by President Obama’s own estimate would cause utility bills to skyrocket for American consumers.

Those taxes are good, Gore said.

“But it is the awareness itself that will drive the change, and one of the ways it will drive the change is through global government and global agreements,” he said.

[Comments from JD: Video of his speech at url above.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Government Control Goes That Extra Mile

Sara was late for work. The alarm clock didn’t alarm, the kids were unusually slow getting ready for school, and nothing went right. She finally got to her car — a brand new 2020 Chevy Adventure. She touched the finger-print secured start button. Nothing. It wouldn’t start. She touched it again. Nothing. Furious, she banged the steering wheel with her fist. Then she noticed the paper hanging from the receipt printer on the dash.

“Your designated visa account rejected your Road Use Tax in the amount of $87.32 for the month of June, 2020. You must insert a valid account card to activate your automobile.”

It’s coming. With a $16 million grant from the federal government, the University of Iowa is developing a Global Positioning Satellite system that can measure the mileage, apply a variable tax rate that will increase during rush hours and in high-traffic areas, calculate the total, charge a designated account card, and shut down your automobile if unpaid when due. Some 2,700 automobiles in five states will be used in the test.

The system has been under development for more than a decade. The concept was proven in a similar, but smaller test in Oregon two years ago. The new tax system is being designed to replace the outdated by-the-gallon tax. Government mandated higher-mileage requirements result in less tax revenue for all governments. Hybrid and all-electric cars contribute little or nothing to road tax revenues.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

In Florida With Another Woman and His Sons… Husband of the Dubai Adulterer

By Sharon Churcher, In Orlando

They look like any normal family coming back from the supermarket with their groceries.

But these happy photographs in a Florida suburb are the latest twist in the bitter row over the imprisonment for adultery of British florist Marnie Pearce in Dubai.

The man in the pictures is her ex-husband, Ihab El-Labban, 41. The woman is Tonya Thompson, a 47-year-old former American actress with whom Marnie claims he is conducting a secret affair.

Ihab El-Labban, whose British wife was jailed for adultery in Dubai, has been exposed staying with another woman in Florida

Marnie claims Ihab framed her for adultery to win a divorce. He was then awarded custody of their two sons, Ziad, five, and Laith, eight.

And, as our pictures reveal, Ihab has now flown with the two boys to Tonya’s home in Orlando.

‘I had to beg for photos of my children’: British mother jailed in Dubai for adultery tells her harrowing tale

Last night, Tonya insisted that her ‘close’ friendship with Ihab is platonic. ‘Marnie is a big fabricator,’ said Tonya. ‘I am not living with Ihab. I have never had sex with him. I invited him and the kids here for a two-week holiday. This is a four-bedroomed house and we sleep in separate rooms. We are close friends, but it is too soon for him to commit to another woman.’

American actress Tonya Thompson admitted Mr El-Labban had been staying with her and their friendship was ‘progressing’

Tonya added: ‘Neither Ihab nor I would live together before marriage because I am a committed Christian and he is a committed Muslim.

‘He didn’t frame Marnie. I know she committed adultery because I have read her diary and I have seen emails between her and Brian Clark [the Briton named as her lover in the Dubai case].

‘Ihab was living apart from her but he had provided her with a house and a car and a maid and he was supporting her and the children.

‘She must have known she could get jail time for adultery and possibly lose her children, and that doesn’t say much about her priorities.’

Campaigners, led by Amnesty International, demanded Marnie’s freedom and criticised Ihab, a Dubai-based executive for Proctor & Gamble.

Marnie Pearce blamed the break-up of her marriage to Mr El-Labban on a love letter she found from Tonya

Marnie, 40, said their marriage broke up after she discovered a love letter Tonya had written to him. And she claimed that for years she had lived in fear. He battered her over the head and beat her during both her pregnancies, she said.

Tonya denied these accusations and insisted: ‘Marnie was verbally abusive to him. I’ve heard her on the phone. The so-called love letter wasn’t from me. If she and Brian were innocent, why didn’t he submit samples of his DNA? Hers was on the condoms.’

Tonya, who owns a Florida entertainment company, met Ihab during a 2007 business trip to Dubai.

‘We talked about how he was going through a divorce and how I had been divorced and he told me the cool places to go to in Dubai,’ she said.

Marnie has told The Mail on Sunday that Ihab has not allowed her to see the boys.

But Tonya contends she refused an offer of supervised visitation. She said: ‘The boys seem very comfortable with me, very loving, but I do think they could use a mum.’

Asked about the future with Ihab, she said: ‘Our friendship is progressing very, very gradually.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

The Tyranny of Transnationalism

I am rare among law academics in that I consider international law to be essentially a legal fiction. For the sake of argument assume that my thesis is correct. This enigma then begs the question: How can international law, which by definition is made up of the laws of many sovereign nations, be applicable to all nations on an equal basis? Answer: It can’t.

Modern international law had its origins concurrent with the inauguration of the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference (April, 1945) and its first international trial, the Nuremberg Trials (1945-48). Since the end of World War II international law has evolved to create and integrate other aspects of law, namely transnational law which in essence is a form of supranational law, which contends that laws of nation states are held inapplicable when conflicting with a supranational legal system.

On March 29th, the Obama Administration nominated Harold Koh (on leave as the Dean of Yale Law School), as the senior legal advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On June 25, 2009, Koh was confirmed by the Senate in a 62-35 vote. Koh is one of the foremost experts in the field of transnational law and has written extensively on this subject both in books and in law journals. While his nomination has been generally supported in the Senate and by most law academics, Koh’s nomination did have some criticism from some conservative commentators for his views on international law and its use in American legal analysis and jurisprudence.

Surprisingly, other conservatives such as former Bush 41 Solicitor General, Ted Olsen, former Whitewater Special Counsel, Kenneth Starr and even generally conservative publications such as Forbes Magazine, have all supported Koh’s nomination.

In a recent article, a law professor at Pepperdine said of Obama’s nominee: “Koh has defined his academic career by arguing for the mandatory authority of international law in domestic realm of American jurisprudence.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why We’ll Leave L.A.

If New Yorkers fantasize that doing business here in Los Angeles would be less of a headache, forget about it. This city is fast becoming a job-killing machine. It’s no accident the unemployment rate is a frightening 11.4 percent and climbing.

I never could have imagined that, after living here for more than three decades, I would be filing a lawsuit against my beloved Los Angeles and making plans for my company, Creators Syndicate, to move elsewhere.

But we have no choice. The city’s bureaucrats rival Stalin’s apparatchiks in issuing decrees, rescinding them, and then punishing citizens for having followed them in the first place.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

‘Britain Has Become a Cold Place for Christians’ — Bishop Warns

By Jonathan Petre

A leading Church of England Bishop has warned that Britain has become a ‘cold place’ for Christians because of a raft of controversial equality laws.

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, criticised the new Equality Bill, due to be law next year, which will force religious organisations that regard same-sex relationships as sinful to employ gay workers.

In a foreword to a report by the pressure group Christian Action Research and Education, the Bishop wrote: ‘The sad fact is that Britain — which owes so much to its Christian heritage — is increasingly becoming a “cold” place which, as any reflection on the fruit of Christian good works will demonstrate, is not in the general interest of society.’

He said there appeared to be a ‘concerted’ attack on the rights of Christians and when there were clashes, gay rights triumphed.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

EU to Propose 2010 Budget Cut

European Union governments will on Friday propose to trim the bloc’s 2010 budget by more than €600m in an attempt to keep a tight grip on spending without hindering efforts at economic recovery.

At a meeting with European parliament delegates, the EU’s 27 governments will recommend that authorised expenditure for 2010 should total €137.9bn ($194bn, £118.4bn), about 0.4 per cent less than the European Commission proposed in a draft budget last April.

Negotiators representing the governments and the parliament will set the budget’s final terms, which EU officials said would not be substantially different from those now under consideration.

The EU budget represents little more than 1 per cent of the bloc’s combined economic output, but governments are more conscious than ever of the need to control expenditure as the financial crisis and recession drive their budget deficits and public debts upwards.

According to Commission forecasts, the EU’s total budget deficit will rise to 7.3 per cent of gross domestic product next year, up from 6 per cent this year, 2.3 per cent in 2008 and 0.8 per cent in 2007. Public debt in the EU will shoot up to 79.4 per cent of GDP next year from 72.6 per cent this year, 61.5 per cent in 2008 and 58.7 per cent in 2007, according to the forecasts.

Partly in response to this sharp deterioration in their public finances, governments are determined to keep EU spending under tight control, even if the structure of the bloc’s budget makes it impossible to take an axe to spending.

The biggest category of EU expenditure is that of “growth and employment measures”, which eat up about 45 per cent of the overall budget. Governments want to reduce spending in this area by €100m.

They are seeking €363m of cuts in “preservation and management of natural resources”, a category that includes agriculture, traditionally an important area of EU spending.

Governments also want to deduct €89m from the Commission’s proposed expenditure on aid to developing countries and other EU international activities, and to cut administrative spending by €40m.

According to a background paper prepared by the European Council, which represents the 27 national governments, the proposals seek to strike “a sound balance between targeted cuts in some areas and the financing of political priorities such as measures stimulating growth and employment”.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

G8: US First Lady Develops a Taste for Roman Cuisine

Rome, 9 July(AKI) — America’s first lady Michelle Obama has been developing a taste for Roman cuisine while her husband, US president Barack Obama, is attending the G8 summit outside Rome. After meeting the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, at the town hall on the Capitoline Hill on Wednesday, the president’s wife joined other first ladies for lunch on a terrace next to the famous Campidoglio square designed by the famous Renaissance artist Michelangelo in the 16th century.

For dinner, the first lady chose the restaurant ‘Maccheroni’ in the city’s historic centre near the renowned monument, the Pantheon, with her two daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Her presence at the typical Roman restaurant caused quite a sensation and the small streets surrounding the restaurant were closed to the public during the family’s visit.

The owner of the restaurant said staff did not know Obama was coming for the dinner, so they did not prepare a different menu for the family who ordered typical Roman fare.

“They were very happy, they said good-bye to everyone and left very satisfied,” said the owner, adding that she was a very cordial woman who greeted the waiters and other restaurant guests.

The first lady dined on typical Roman dishes including lasagna and spaghetti alla carbonara and red wine. The family also tasted several kinds of desserts.

For lunch on Wednesday, Obama and other first ladies of the G8 leaders dined on an impressive spread of traditional dishes prepared by Heinz Beck, one of Rome’s eminent chefs from the “La Pergola” restaurant at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton.

Beck created three kinds of risotto and eleven kinds of pasta for the special occasion and several kinds of desserts.

President Obama’s wife and two daughters toured the Colosseum on Wednesday and she is expected to join her husband at the Vatican on Friday when they are due to be received by Pope Benedict XVI.

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

Germany: Father of ‘Veil Martyr’ Urges Dialogue With Islam

Veiled women in Europe need protection: Marwa Sherbini’s father

The murder of Marwa Sherbini in a German court last Wednesday must not set in motion a wave of racial violence but rather a cross-religious dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim countries, the father of Egypt’s “veil martyr” told Al Arabiya Friday.

In an interview with the pan Arab news channel Dr. Ali Sherbini, father of the late Marwa Sherbini, called for dialogue between nations in the wake of his daughter’s death and said Europe must make a sincere effort to understand Islam.

“I call upon Europe and the west to take pause and make the effort to understand Islam,” a tearful Sherbini told Al Arabiya. “Marwa’s death should not be in vain…non-Muslim countries should engage diplomatically and politically with Muslim ones to come to terms with Islam,” he added.

The father stressed the importance of cross-religious dialogue as a means to quell Islamophobia in Europe, which many Arab and Muslim intellectuals said has gained ground in the recent decades following the Danish cartoons and recent anti-veil statements that have stigmatized Muslim communities in Europe.

“Europe must understand that hijab is part of Islam…a religious duty women take up out of belief not because of extremity…it is not a political insignia like they [western countries] make it out to be,” Sherbini added, and called for the protection of veiled women in the west, who lately have become the subject of political debate within Europe.

Recently French President Nicola Sarkozy said the burka, or face veil some Muslim women wear was “not welcome” in France because it is not a symbol of religion but a sign of subservience for women.

In 2004 France passed a controversial law forbidding pupils from wearing veils and other religious symbols in state schools as part of the government’s drive to defend secularism.

Marwa Sherbini was stabbed 18 times inside a full courtroom when she appeared to testify at an appeal hearing against her assailant who was in court to appeal a previous defamation conviction against her.

Twenty-eight-year-old Axel W. managed to leap across the courtroom and stab Sherbini to death and critically injure her husband in front of the judge, lawyers and witnesses. Sherbini’s three-year-old son also witnessed the killing.

Axel was found guilty last November of insulting and abusing Sherbini, calling her a “terrorist” and a “whore” after she asked him to let her son sit on a swing in a playground in Dresden, eastern Germany.

Sherbini the father said he refused calls from lawyers of Islamic groups in Egypt to represent the murder case of his daughter fearing the association with Islamic groups would offer fodder for an “already biased” western media against the “hijab martyr.”

“Outrageous crime”

Dr. Ali Sherbini was equally critical of what seemed to be Germany’s racism towards its Muslim community to the point of having lax security measures that have led to an “outrageous crime.”

“What kind of a civilized world is this that would lead to murder in the middle of a courtroom while the German judiciary looked on and a security guard shoots a man simply because he looked non-white?” Sherbini told Al Arabiya.

Tarek Sherbini, Marwa’s brother who left to Germany with lawyers to start legal proceedings into the murder said the killing was a microcosm of the racism Muslims face in Germany and Europe in general.

Sherbini the son also condemned Egyptian authorities for not officially condemning the murder while his father said Azhar failed to send representatives to attend the funeral whereas Pope Shenouda III the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria sent two representatives to the funeral.

“Two senior representatives of the Pope came to the funeral and sat through two lengthy Quranic recitations but no one from Azhar came,” Sherbini said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Italy: Masks, Spaghetti and the Mafia

Stereotyping Silvio. Foreign media and the labels they attach to Italy

“Why does Heaven send such riches to those so little able to appreciate it?” wondered Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade. More than two centuries later, the undercurrent of anti-Italian prejudice, of admiration edged with incredulous irony and of goodwill veined with diffidence, continues to permeate foreigners’ views on Silvio Berlusconi.

We should say that criticism of Italy’s prime minister, however harsh it may be, is legitimate. Readers know that the Corriere della Sera has never pulled its punches. And it is equally true that the premier sometimes sets himself up. An example? Inviting American business people to invest in Italy because we have the sun and “as well as the good weather and the beauty of the country, we also have stunning secretaries”. To say nothing of the way he harps on about how Italians are the most “simpatico” people in the world. No one chooses a dentist or a surgeon out of “simpatia”, and it’s the same with partners for major industrial investments.

That said, even Silvio’s most critical opponents would have good reason to be annoyed at the way the Berlusconi phenomenon fuels the intolerably sour stereotypes that hurt and angered our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The former editor of the Economist, Bill Emmott, admitted as much some time ago in the Corriere della Sera: “We can’t wait to find an excuse to wheel out the same old prejudices and cliche’s about Italy and the Italians. We want to talk about sex and beautiful women, and the Italian passion for calcio. (…) we adore discussing the Mafia”.

Women, sex, football, Mafia. Each and every one of the topics used against Berlusconi has automatically been turned against all Italians, including the ones who don’t like Silvio. Der Spiegel ran Berlusconi on the cover under the headline “Der Pate” (the Godfather) and called him “Al Cafone” [“cafone” means “yob” or “lout” — Trans.]. The BBC aired a documentary on Berlusconi’s Italy using the soundtrack from the Francis Ford Coppola film.

Eva Erman in the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter wrote that “today’s Mafia saga, with Don Berlusconi in the leading role, does not have the same pathos as the story. Berlusconi is just a wannabe godfather. (…) to build his empire and protect his family, Don Corleone had no qualms about breaking the law or corrupting politicians, or even killing them. He made his own rules and his own morality. Don Berlusconi, on the other hand, changes the law. If he is on trial for false accounting, he tweaks the law on time bars”. Conclusion: “Perhaps the time really has come for a parricide to let a little fresh air into Europe’s Boot and get rid of the nasty smell of sweaty feet”.

Nobel laureate José Saramago also noticed the whiff: “But in the land of the Mafia and the Camorra, what does it matter if the prime minister is a proven criminal?” It goes without saying that the verdict on Berlusconi reflects on those who voted him in. “Some countries don’t deserve their rulers. Almost none. But no matter how little Italy thinks of politics, it should behave with more dignity”, Antonio Gala wrote in El Mundo on one occasion. His conclusion: “You just can’t take people who vote for such a monster seriously. Unless they elected him for a laugh…”. El País agrees. What headline did they use for one article on Italy? They focused on pasta, macaroni, spaghetti, and came up with: “La espagueti-democracia”. The strapline: “Italy revives its reputation as Europe’s Odd Man Out”.

In any case, what do you expect from a country that produced Punchinello, Harlequin and the many other masks that lent lustre to Italian comedy, puppet theatre and literature? “We have to admit that our scandals have less brio than those of our neighbours. For example, we would look in vain for anyone as picturesque as Berlusconi”, noted Gerard Dupuy in Libération after Silvio’s first election triumph. Dupuy did concede that “it is a French habit to moralise and look down our noses at others. A classic superiority complex. We do it with other countries, too”. But “with Italy, it’s easier, given who is in government”. What epithet did The Times choose years later to slap down Silvio? “Buffoon”.

It always comes back to that. Buffoons, masks, spaghetti, Mafia, sunshine and mandolins, or if you prefer Mariano Apicella’s guitar. Italians are crafty, and occasionally inspired, but still as unreliable as when Montesquieu wrote that “each thinks only of deceiving the others, lying and denying the facts”. Then there’s Rudolph Valentino and the charming Italian womaniser in a society as corrupt and hypocritical as it was when Flaubert, writing about Naples, said: “I am perpetually tumescent. I

like a donkey on the loose”.

What about Mamma? Is there nothing about Italy, the land of mummy’s boys and mammas for whom “my song flies”? Of course there is. We have not been spared the mamma angle. The New Yorker explored the theme six years ago: “In the official literature, this extraordinary rise is transformed into Silvio’s vision of making the world safe and free for Rosella. She is his fallback Italian mamma. “She comes up in almost every conversation with the men in his inner circle, a woman of such improbable homilies that she could be June Allyson in a fifties weepy”. The piece carries on: “If the cliché is true that Italy’s most enduring institutions — the Mafia and the Church being the obvious examples — owe their success to the prototype of a big, bossy Italian family, full of threats and pieties, then you have to look at Italy today as Rosella Berlusconi’s legacy”.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Körting Says Stasi Checks Not Needed in Berlin

Berlin’s state interior minister Erhart Körting says he does not want to see background checks made to root out workers in public services with an East German secret police (Stasi) background.

Calls have been made over the last few days for another round of checks to be made after the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Thursday that around 17,000 former Stasi employees were still working in state public services across former East Germany.

But Körting said on Saturday he felt a general check was not necessary, and that the current law, which prescribes a check on people taking on particular, high-level positions, was enough.

He told Deutschlandradio Kultur that although an informed coming to terms with the past was necessary, he had the impression that the current discussion was no more than a “battle from the past”.

The 1990 reunification did not include the forcing of a “Western attitude in the East, but rather an agreement which was made between the East and West,” he said. That included the idea that the key was not what job a person had, but whether a person had done anything wrong.

He added that in Berlin, around 5,000 individual checks had been conducted on people working in municipal jobs, half of whom had been fired. “That shows that we already conducted a rigid selection here in Berlin,” he said.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Help Muslims Escape the Tyranny of Sharia Law

Would it be such a terrible thing if sharia courts existed in the Netherlands? Yes, says Nahed Selim, we have to stop giving in to the Islamic fundamentalists. No, says Maurits Berger, we already have Jewish and Catholic ‘courts’.

By Nahed Selim

Sharia law in the Netherlands may not be practised in an actual ‘sharia court’, but that makes little difference. The point is that Islamic rules about marriage, divorce, custody, parental authority, alimony and inheritance are being implemented according to the sharia, and that these contradict Dutch law.

The clearest example of this is polygamy. Marriages are made and dissolved in mosques in the Netherlands, including polygamous marriages. On September 19, 2008, newspaper De Telegraaf reported that 173 men in Amsterdam are registered as having two legal wives, two men even have three wives. A spokesperson for the city of Rotterdam admitted in NRC Handelsblad last year that polygamous marriages are being registered in that city on an almost weekly basis.

It’s a pity that the national statistics bureau automatically rejects these marriages because it thinks they’re mistakes. Because of this there are no national data about polygamy in the Netherlands. (Non-registered polygamy is probably even much wider-spread.)

The same goes for marriages with underage girls. They are mostly not registered, but sometimes they are. Either way, according to the national statistics bureau they don’t exist.

In a way, we already have two parallel legal systems: some things are illegal for non-Muslims but not for Muslims. This is typical of the Dutch attitude towards the Islamisation of Dutch society. Things are happening that the government doesn’t know about or doesn’t want to know about. They just throw away the statistics, case closed.

Verdicts by imams should not be tolerated by Dutch society even if they happen in the backrooms of mosques. That Catholics and Jews do the same thing, as Berger says, is up to them. Presumably their ‘courts’ do not impose decapitation for heretics or homosexuals, or condone disobedient wives being beaten up by their husbands.

For everything in sharia law is discriminatory against women: marrying a non-Muslim is not allowed, divorce is not allowed unless the husband agrees to it. The man, for his part, can disown his wife whenever he wants. (A sharia court in Malaysia has ruled that a text message saying ‘I disown you’ suffices.) If he changes his mind within three months, he can take his wife back. He can do this up to three times. Custody always goes to the father: the mother may raise the children, but he always has the final word.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

UK Sleepwalks to the Fringes of Europe

The composition of the newly elected European Parliament, which holds its first session next week, will make many Britons hang their heads in shame. For British politicians are either poorly represented, or not represented at all, in the 736-seat assembly’s three biggest political groups: the centre-right, centre and centre-left. By contrast, Brits dominate the Eurosceptic and far-right fringes.

The loss of British influence in the parliament, which has a say in most European Union laws, will be substantial. The likely damage to Britain’s reputation in Europe can only be guessed at.

We’re already getting a taste of what may happen in practice. In a BBC interview, Nick Griffin, leader of the extreme-right British National Party and newly elected MEP for north-western England, discusses how the EU should handle the problem of illegal migrants travelling across the Mediterranean from north Africa to Italy. “I say boats should be sunk, they can throw them a life raft, and they can go back to Libya,” he tells his interviewer. He is not advocating that “anyone should be murdered at sea”, he adds.

The BNP has been unable to form a political group in the European Parliament, with all the perks and influence that go with it, because for that you need at least 25 MEPs from seven countries. The BNP tried to entice Italy’s Northern League, whose rabble-rousing leader, Umberto Bossi, refers to immigrants as “bingo bongos”. But the League preferred the company of the UK Independence Party.

For its part, the UK Independence Party sees itself as part of a seamless anti-EU political trend that starts on the nationalist right, extending to and embracing Britain’s Conservatives — and as everyone in Europe knows, the Tories are likely to win the UK general election due next year.

A few data about the new European Parliament may drive the point home. The mainstream centre-right European People’s Party is by far the legislature’s largest group, controlling 265 seats. Not one of them is British. The centre-left Progessive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the second largest group, has 184 seats, of which 13 are British.

The centrist liberals are the third largest and have 84 seats, 11 of them British. German, Italian and French legislators dominate these three groups as well as the Greens, in whose group the British hold two out of 55 seats.

The core of the 72-strong British representation in the new parliament will be the Tories and the UK Independence Party. The first is highly critical of the EU, and the second wants to pull the UK out. They hold 25 and 13 seats respectively, or 53 per cent of the British total.

All in all, Britain appears to be sleepwalking into a serious crisis in its relationship with the rest of the EU. Does anyone in London know — or care?

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Kill Soldiers’ Muslim Blogger is Back in Job as Treasury Civil Servant

A Muslim civil servant suspended amid claims that he used his personal website to justify the killing of British troops in Iraq has returned to work at the Treasury.

Azad Ali, an IT worker and president of the Civil Service Islamic Society, was suspended on full pay for six months following comments on his blog.

In one post Mr Ali quoted an interview with an Islamic militant who said: ‘If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation.

‘If I found the same soldier in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier, here he is not. I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.’

Sir Gus O’Donnell, Britain’s most senior civil servant and patron of the Civil Service Islamic Society, ordered that Mr Ali be suspended while an investigation was carried out.

It is understood there were concerns that Mr Ali may have breached the Whitehall code of practice that restricts civil servants from political activities.

The investigation has now finished and Mr Ali has returned to his job.

A Treasury spokesman said last night: ‘Azad Ali is back at work. The Treasury has dealt with the matter in accordance with our disciplinary procedures. We will not comment on individual cases.’

Mr Ali refused to comment.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Bishops ‘Will Lose Right to Vote’ In Labour’s Reform of Lords

Bishops are expected to retain their seats in the House of Lords but be stripped of their voting rights under reforms being drawn up by Gordon Brown.

The Government will opt for an all-elected upper chamber when Justice Secretary Jack Straw unveils plans later this month, according to Whitehall sources.

Church of England Bishops had expressed fears that they would lose the 26 seats traditionally reserved for them if all peers were elected.

Such a change would be regarded as a massive loss of power and status by the Church which could trigger a serious constitutional crisis.

Plans to strip Bishops of their right to vote in the House of Lords are expected to be met with anger when the General Synod takes place this weekend

However, a compromise is being secretly prepared to allow a number of Bishops and other religious leaders to continue to sit in the Lords and take part in debates, even if they could no longer vote.

Another option still under discussion is for an 80 per cent elected Lords, with the remaining seats reserved for appointed members and others, such as Bishops.

Sources said that both options are due to go before the Cabinet next week, but senior Ministers are said to favour a wholly elected second chamber which would begin in 2010 if Labour win the next Election.

The 26 Bishops, known as the Lords Spiritual, sit in the House of Lords because of the Church’s established status.

Constitutional experts believe that removing them would lead to the unravelling of the historic ties between Church and State.

Many radical reformers have been pressing for the Bishops to be banished from the Lords altogether, saying that it is an anachronism for them to retain such a privileged role in a multi-faith society.

However, Church leaders fear that if they lose their foothold there, religion will be further marginalised. The proposal to strip Bishops of their voting rights was met with anger by senior clerics meeting in York this weekend for the General Synod.

Canon David Houlding, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, said: ‘This is a punch to the solar plexus. It is a direct threat to the establishment of the Church.

‘The Bishops provide a crucial voice for an important strand of life of this country, and if you strip them of their vote that voice is destroyed.’

However, the Rev Colin Coward, a Salisbury cleric, said: ‘There should be a fully elected second chamber and Bishops should be eligible for election like everyone else.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Child Killer Gets Legal Aid to Launch Bid for Right to Vote (And You’re Paying)

A child killer is using taxpayers’ money to take the Government to court for refusing to let him vote in elections.

Peter Chester, 54, was jailed for life for raping and strangling his seven-year-old niece in 1977.

He has repeatedly been denied parole and is considered too dangerous to be freed despite serving 12 years more than the recommended minimum 20-year term.

However, he believes the law banning him from voting is a breach of his human rights and is using Legal Aid to bring a challenge in the High Court.

Chester, who is being held in Wakefield jail, West Yorkshire, is seeking a judicial review, and a High Court hearing to consider the application will take place in October.

The move has outraged June Gillbanks, his sister and the mother of his victim.

Mrs Gillbanks, 56, of Blackpool, said: ‘I wouldn’t wish my life on anybody. I don’t want him to get out or vote. He gave up the right to vote when he strangled and raped my daughter. I think prisoners have enough rights and victims very little.’

Mrs Gillbanks says she is still haunted by the memory of finding Donna Marie dead in her bed the morning after Chester murdered her.

He had placed her body under the covers, and put her favourite cuddly toy beside her.

‘That picture in my head won’t go,’ Mrs Gillbanks said. ‘I’ll never forget it. It still hurts today like it did when it happened. It will be with me until my last breath.’

Chester’s lawyers will argue a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights means the ban on voting is a breach of the right to free and fair elections..

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Gipsy and Traveller Children Get Priority at Popular State Schools

Gipsy and traveller children are being given priority admission to popular state schools, it emerged yesterday.

Schools are being told to offer places to such children even if they are full or have a long waiting list.

They must take in the pupils even if travellers ‘are camped on the roadside and may not be here long’, according to Government guidance.

Traveller children can also be registered at two schools at once, with their place at a ‘base’ school kept open for as long as they might need it, even if other children are on a waiting list.

Further guidance states that schools should ‘doubly scrutinise’ any decision to expel a traveller or gipsy child.

Teachers warned that the rules — which are intended to help children who have traditionally suffered a fragmented education were being ‘very rigorously applied’, fuelling resentment among local taxpayers.

Concerns were raised in the wake of news that doctors have been told that gipsies and travellers should be given priority in NHS hospitals and GP surgeries.

Health Service guidelines state they should be fast-tracked to see doctors, nurses and even some dentists.

GPs have also been told to see any travellers who simply walk in without an appointment, even if all consultation times for the day are taken up.

According to mandatory Government guidance, traveller children must be considered under ‘fair access protocols’ when they request school places.

These protocols also extend to several other groups, including children of UK service personnel and other Crown Servants, as well as those with special educational needs and young carers.

They also cover youngsters who attended special units for expelled pupils and are now ready to be reintegrated into ordinary schools.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: ‘The vast majority of children get a place at their first choice school, but it is absolutely right that disadvantaged groups can get back on track with their education quickly when they move to a new area.

‘Everyone, regardless of background, should have fair and equal access to a place of their choice.’

           — Hat tip: Lexington [Return to headlines]

UK: Inayat Bunglawala

On March 15 we suggested that Inayat Bunglawala’s stabbing an intruder at his home questioned his suitability as a Government adviser on terrorism.

In fact Mr Bunglawala acted entirely in self-defence and no charges were brought against him.

Also, Mr Bunglawala does not support Al Qaeda or Abu Qatada as the article may have suggested.

We apologise to Mr Bunglawala for the distress caused and have agreed to pay him damages.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Youths Riot in French Town Over Death in Custody

LYON, France (Reuters) — Youths in the southeastern French town of Firminy burned cars and destroyed a social centre on Wednesday night as protests over the death in police custody of a young man continued for a second night.

Around 200 riot police were deployed into the early hours on Thursday, with a helicopter circling overhead as groups of young people set fire to rubbish bins before moving on to torch cars and the social centre.

The protests followed the death on Wednesday of Mohamed Benmouna, a local man arrested for attempted extortion, who fell into a coma after what police said was a suicide attempt and died several hours later.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Serbia: Muslims Demand More Rights in South

Belgrade, 30 June (AKI) — Minority Muslims living in Serbia’s southern Sandzak region have demanded more rights and a reorganisation of the region in the future decentralisation of power in the country.

The Bosniac National Council which represents Sandzak Muslims, adopted a declaration made public on Tuesday, protesting plans to split Sandzak into two administrative units.

It also demanded “greater national equality” and proportional representation of Bosniacs — or Bosnian Muslims — in all state institutions.

Observers said the declaration was likely to trigger bitter debate, especially a clause referring to Bosnia as the Bosniacs’ home state.

The declaration called on Belgrade authorities to “fully and efficiently implement the constitution and legal and international obligations in the promotion of minority rights of Sandzak Bosniacs in Serbia”.

It also demanded protection of the Bosniac heritage and the introduction of the Bosniac language as the official one in communities with a sizeable Muslim population.

These demands were “essential elements of the national identity of Sandzak Bosniacs”, the declaration stated.

With the exception of Kosovars of Albanian descent, most Muslims in the former Yugoslavia are Slavs who converted to Islam during centuries of Ottoman occupation. They were granted nationality status as Muslims by the late communist leader General Tito in 1963.

But after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, most of them opted to call themselves Bosniacs, considering neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina their home country.

Sandzak Muslims recognise Bosnian Reiss-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric as their spiritual leader, while Muslims in other parts of Serbia elected their own leader with a seat in Belgrade.

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

North Africa

Tunisia: Terrorism, Two Air Force Officers Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 6 — Two officers of the Tunisian Air Force, accused of planning an attack on US officers, have been arrested. They appeared before the examining magistrate of the Court of Tunis last Saturday. The two, serving on the base of Bizerte, have been charged with planning an attack on American officers, present in Tunis for the joint exercises of both Air Forces. The magistrate, granting a petition lodged by the defending lawyer, Samir Ben Amor, has postponed the hearing by some days. According to the lawyer there is no evidence against his two clients. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Terrorism, 19 Sentences

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 6 — 19 Tunisians, charged with being part of a foreign Islamic organisation, have been sentenced by the Tunis court according to the law on terrorism to jail for periods ranging from eleven to fourteen months. According to the prosecution the defendants, mostly young, were part of the Liberation Party, an organisation set up in Jordan which aims to set up an Islamic caliphate in the Arab/Muslim world with a government system based on Koranic law. According to defence lawyer Samir Ben Amor, who has already announced an appeal, there is no evidence against the defendants. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Reporter Feels Mob’s Hate in the Holy City

By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker

The ABC’s Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became caught in violent street protests involving ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the weekend. This is her graphic account of her ordeal.

As a journalist I’ve covered more than my share of protests. Political protests in Canberra. Unions protesting for better conditions. Angry, loud protests against governments, or against perceived abuses of human rights.

I’ve been at violent rallies in East Timor. I’ve had rocks and metal darts thrown my way. I’ve come up against riot police.

But I have to admit no protest — indeed no story in my career — has distressed me in the way I was distressed at a protest in Jerusalem on Saturday involving several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This particular protest has been going on for weeks.

Orthodox Jews are angry at the local council’s decision to open a municipal carpark on Saturdays — or Shabbat, the day of rest for Jews.

It’s a day when Jews are not supposed to do anything resembling work, which can include something as simple as flicking a switch, turning on a light or driving.

So even opening a simple carpark to accommodate the increasing number of tourists visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is highly offensive to Orthodox Jews because it’s seen as a desecration of the Shabbat, by encouraging people to drive.

I was aware that earlier protests had erupted into violence on previous weekends — Orthodox Jews throwing rocks at police, or setting rubbish bins alight, even throwing dirty nappies or rotting rubbish at anyone they perceive to be desecrating the Shabbat.

But I never expected their anger would be directed at me.

I was mindful I would need to dress conservatively and keep out of harm’s way. But I made my mistake when I parked the car and started walking towards the protest, not fully sure which street was which.

By the time I realised I’d come up the wrong street it was too late.

I suddenly found myself in the thick of the protest — in the midst of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in their long coats and sable-fur hats.

They might be supremely religious, but their behaviour — to me — was far from charitable or benevolent.

As the protest became noisier and the crowd began yelling, I took my recorder and microphone out of my bag to record the sound.

Suddenly the crowd turned on me, screaming in my face. Dozens of angry men began spitting on me.

Spit like rain

I found myself herded against a brick wall as they kept on spitting — on my face, my hair, my clothes, my arms.

It was like rain, coming at me from all directions — hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.

Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.

Somewhere behind me — I didn’t see him — a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.

I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?

In fact, I was later told, it was because using a tape-recorder is itself a desecration of the Shabbat even though I’m not Jewish and don’t observe the Sabbath.

It was lucky that I don’t speak Yiddish. At least I was spared the knowledge of whatever filth they were screaming at me.

As I tried to get away I found myself up against the line of riot police blocking the crowd from going any further.


Israeli police in their flak jackets and helmets, with rifles and shields, were yelling just as loudly back at the protesting crowd.

I found them something of a reassurance against the angry, spitting mob.

I was allowed through, away from the main protest, although there were still Orthodox Jews on the other side, some of whom also yelled at me, in English, to take my recorder away.

Normally I should have stayed on the sidelines to watch the protest develop.

But when you’ve suffered the humiliation and degradation of being spat on so many times — and you’re covered in other people’s spit — it’s not easy to put it to the back of your mind and get on with the job.

I left down a side street and walked the long way back to the car, struggling to hold back the tears.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Concerns Over Detained Iranian Christians Amid Political Turmoil (Bosnewslife in-Depth)

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)— As the world focuses on the political turmoil in Iran, two detained Christian women are “in danger of being forgotten” amid concerns they may face execution, Iranian Christians said Tuesday, July 7.

Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, and Maryam Rustampoor, 27, have been held for over four months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison apparently for converting to Christianity from Islam.

Iranian Christians and rights investigators said the two young women, who were arrested March 5, suffered sleep deprivation as part of police interrogations and were held in solitary confinement for three weeks in May and early June.

Later, they were put together in one small cell for about two weeks before being moved to a larger area to make place for other inmates, including many protesters who were detained following last month’s disputed presidential elections, said Christians with close knowledge about the situation.

About 600 women were reportedly brought to Evin prison during the protests.


There was still no clarity regarding the case of the two Christian women, Tuesday, July 7, with one judge reportedly telling them they were both to be executed as ‘apostates’. “Maryam and Marzieh have responded with courage, however, telling the judge to ‘expedite his sentence’,” said Pray for Iran, an Internet initiative of Iranian churches.

After international pressure, the Iranian Government’s Parliamentary Committee reportedly removed articles stipulating the death penalty for apostasy from the Islamic Penal Code Bill, but the changes have to be approved by legislators.

“Until the Islamic Penal Code Bill is finalized by the Iranian Parliament and Guardian Council, there is still a danger that the judicial committee’s revisions may not be taken into account,” explained Alexa Papadouris, Advocacy Director of Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious rights group.

Apostasy along with murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, and drug trafficking are all punishable by death in Iran, and last week Iranian media reported that at least six people were hanged for murder in the same prison where the two Christian women are held.


Yet, “Maryam and Marzieh have demonstrated great courage and trust in God.

They believe the promise of Jesus that they will be given the words to speak when they are taken before judges,” said Sam Yeghnazar, founder of Elam Ministries, an organization supporting te growing churches in Iran.

Elam Ministries said the outcome of the “political turmoil” in Iran “could crucially impact the level of suffering” of the two women and other Christians who were formerly Muslim.

Besides Amirizadeh and Rustampoor, over 50 Christians were arrested, some being held for weeks in solitary confinement, several Christian sources said.

At least eight prominent Christians were killed since 1979, Elam Ministries added.


“If the position of hard-liners is strengthened there is a real danger they could unleash more persecution against the church,” the group added.

Elam Ministries linked the attacks to concern among Iran’s leaders about the spread of Christianity in the Islamic nation. “Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world.”

The group said in 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. “Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation.”

Church leaders have reportedly said that they believe “millions” can be added “to the church in the next few years-such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime.”


Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed Monday, July 6, to continue his campaign against the re-election of the perceived hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

However Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned demonstrations and accused Western leaders for their alleged “meddling” in Iran’s internal affairs, threatening to respond with a “Iron fist.”

At least 20 protesters and eight members of the feared Basij militia have died in recent protests, officials said. They include Neda Agha Soltan, a 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed by a suspected militia sniper.

Pictures and video footage of Soltan, with blood pouring from her mouth and nose as a few Iranian men struggled to save her, have became a powerful symbol of the protests taking place over Iran’s disputed presidential election.

Authorities have reportedly forced her family to leave their Tehran home, and refused to return her body for a proper funeral.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

IDF and Iran Already Engaged in ‘Cyber War’

( While Israel has publicly refrained from striking Iran, a secret “cyber war” may have already begun, according to ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood. Clandestine computer battles are used both to gather information and to launch offensive strikes, he says.

Israeli defense expert Alon Ben-David, who spoke with McGregor-Wood, believes cyber warfare has become “a very important area in Israeli strategy.” Israel began hacking into foreign systems years ago, after a routine exercise demonstrated that Israel’s own systems were shockingly unprepared for a cyber assault.

It did not take long for Israel to apply those findings to other countries, experts say.

‘Unexplained breakdowns’ Ben-David relates that Israel’s war on Iran has been successful so far. “The Iranians have experienced a number of malfunctions and unexplained breakdowns,” he says.

Targeting Iran is particularly easy as the Islamic Republic imports the vast majority of its computer equipment and expertise. This allows Israel to target Iran’s computers before they even reach the country.

Israel successfully attacked computer-based systems in Syria as well, Ben-David says. Only the use of “cyber war” allowed Israel to conduct an airstrike on a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007 without setting off Syria’s air defense systems, he explains.

Cyber attacks have also been used against Israel. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israeli government sites came under attack and were briefly paralyzed. More sensitive systems were not breached.

The attack on Israel’s systems, in January of this year, involved more than half a million computers sending a total of 15 million junk mail items each second, causing server overload. While cyber attacks are notoriously difficult to track, Israeli experts believe they may have pinpointed the culprit: a criminal group based in the former Soviet Union that used similar tactics against Georgia months earlier. The group may have been paid off by Hamas or Hizbullah, they say.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Obama: World Won’t Allow Iran to Develop Nukes

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday the world would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, a day after a senior Iranian official vowed his country would not back down “even one step” over its nuclear work.

“We’re not going to just wait indefinitely and allow for the development of a nuclear weapon… and wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act,” Obama said at the close of the G8 summit concluded in Italy.

The president stressed that he and others were not looking for their summit partners to embrace sanctions at this week’s meeting. Advertisement

Instead, he said, “What we wanted was exactly what we got — a statement of condemnation about Iran’s actions in the wake of its disputed presidential election.”

[Comments from JD: The Helvetica font in those condemnation letters can be intimidating.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sarkozy: Israel Attack on Iran ‘Absolute Catastrophe’ A unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be an “absolute catastrophe” for the world, warned French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday at the G8 summit in Italy. Among other issues, the forum discussed Iran’s nuclear program which is believed by leading Western powers to be secretly pursing an atomic bomb.

“Israel should know that it is not alone and look at all this calmly. If I have fought so hard in the name of France to get people talking about Iran it’s also a message to the Israelis that they are not alone,” Sarkozy said.

Speculations that Israel might attack Iran grew earlier in the week after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden responded to a question about that possibility by saying that Israel had a sovereign right to decide what were its best interests.

September deadline

Leaders at the summit agreed to pursue a negotiated deal with Iran, setting a September deadline for the theocracy to accept negotiations on its nuclear program or face more sanctions. Russia blocked the G8 leaders from immediately pushing for further sanctions.

While Tehran continues to reject all overtures for talks and insists it is developing nuclear technology to generate electricity, Sarkozy acknowledged that patience was running thin.

“For the past six years we have extended our hand saying ‘stop your nuclear armament program’… Do they want discussions or don’t they want them? If they don’t, there will be sanctions,” he said.

The Iran nuclear situation will be reviewed at a G-20 meeting of developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh on September 24, and that “if there is no progress by then, we will have to take decisions,” Sarkozy said.

Israel: ‘Positive and negative’ Senior Israeli government officials said they viewed the G-8 September deadline as both positive and negative. The events following the contested June presidential elections in Iran had Israel concerned that the international community would try to push back discussions until things settled. The new deadline shows a commitment to deal with Iran’s nuclear program despite the country’s internal issues, the officials said.

On the other hand, they added, the deadline signals that the international community prefers engagement to immediate sanctions which many felt should be imposed following the Iranian regime’s brutal repression of election protests.

The U.S. is still waiting for an Iranian answer to President Barack Obama’s offer of engagement on the nuclear issue.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Saudi Gazette: Nano-Particles in Camels’ Urine May Help Treat Cancer

By Farah Mustafa Wadi

Dr. Faten Abdel-Rahman Khorshid is responsible for one of the Kingdom’s greatest national achievements in the field of science for her work which began with the urine of camels and concluded in a potential cure for cancer. After spending more than five years in lab research, this Saudi scientist and faculty member from King Abdul Aziz University (KAAU) and President of the Tissues Culture Unit at King Fahd Center for Medical Research, has discovered that nano-particles in the urine of camels can attack cancer cells with success. Her work began with experiments involving camel urine, cancer cells found in patients’ lungs and culminated in injecting mice with leukemic cancel cells and camel urine to test the results.

Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Dr. Khorshid claimed that she was inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) medical advice and that camel urine consists of natural substances that work to eradicate malignant cells and maintain the number of healthy cells in a cancer patient.

“This treatment is not an invention, but rather, taken from our Prophet’s legacy,” she remarked. A Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari (2855) and Muslim (1671) claims that some people came to Madina and fell ill with bloated abdomens. The Prophet (pbuh) told them to combine the milk and urine of a camel and drink that, after which they recovered. A swollen abdomen may indicate edema, liver disease or cancer. Dr. Khorshid added that she is not a medial doctor but a scientist and her job involves the preparation and testing of a drug in the lab and supervising the manufacture, testing and application of the drug.

“We have researched and studied (camel urine) for seven years, during which we have tested the effectiveness of camel urine in fighting cancer to prerequisites set by the International Cancer Institute,” she explained. According to her published study on the subject, the clinical trial her team conducted on patients indicated that the medicine (capsules and syrup) did not entail any harmful side effects.

In the case of a volunteer patient with lung cancer, the medicine helped in halving the size of the tumor after only one month. The patient, and others like him, are still undergoing treatment. Heeding the advice found in the Hadith, Dr. Khorshid is combining specific amounts of camel milk and urine to develop her medicine and focuses on particular types of cancer, including lung cancer, blood cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, brain tumors and breast cancer.

She added that she advises all of her volunteer patients to use fresh camel milk and urine with the two components given individually for a period of time and then combined together later. Other illnesses, including vitiligo (depigmentation in certain areas of the skin), eczema and psoriasis (an autoimmune disease which affects the skin and joints). However, Dr. Khorshid adds that she will only dispense this medicine to patients on a non-voluntary basis when pharmaceutical companies obtain a license to do so. Currently, the medication is still undergoing tests.

“We will provide ointments, capsules, syrup, shampoo, soap and gels to combat a number of the illnesses mentioned, but only after they have been licensed by the Ministry of Health and mass-manufactured by the pharmaceutical company,” she explained.

Her study has obtained the formal approval of the Ethics Committee of Scientific Research at KAAU. Meanwhile, her research has earned her team the gold medal for innovation in the Kingdom in 2008, and the medicine was also chosen as one of the six best innovations out of 600 entrants at the International Innovation and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) 2009, held in Malaysia in May.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Saudi ‘Genie’ Sued for Harassment

A family in Saudi Arabia is taking a “genie” to court, accusing it of theft and harassment, reports say.

They accuse the spirit of threatening them, throwing stones and stealing mobile phones, Al Watan newspaper said.

The family have lived in the same house near the city of Medina for 15 years but say they only recently became aware of the spirit. They have now moved out.

A local court is investigating. In Islamic theology, genies are spirits that can harass or possess humans.

‘Get out of the house’

“We began to hear strange sounds,” the head of the family, who come from Mahd Al Dahab, told the Saudi daily. He did not want to be named.

“At first we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones.”

He added: “A woman spoke to me first, and then a man. They said we should get out of the house.”

A local court says it is trying to verify the truthfulness of the claims “despite the difficulty” of doing so.

Many Westerners know the term genie from the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp, or the 1960s American sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie.

But the BBC’s Sebastian Usher says genies, or jinn, in Islamic theology can be a lot more sinister.

They are believed to be normally invisible but with the ability to assume human or animal form, and are often said to be motivated by revenge or jealousy.

There is a lingering belief in genies in the Muslim world that predates Islam, our correspondent says.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Alleged Anti-Gov’t Plan Aims to Slander Military

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 26 — An alleged military drafted anti-government document published in a national daily has been prepared as part of a smear campaign against the army, the chief of the Turkish General Staff said Friday as daily Hurriyet websited reported. Gen. Ilker Basbug said civilian prosecutors should find out who is behind the document he referred to as “just a piece of paper” that is aimed at dividing the military. He also guaranteed the military would not allow in its ranks anti-democratic elements involved in coup plots. Basbug slammed criticism of a military investigation that concluded the alleged document was a forgery, not prepared at the General Staff headquarters. “The remarks suggesting that military courts are biased are very ugly,” he said, calling on all to respect the prosecutors’ findings.”I, as the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, am telling you very frankly to remove your hands from the Turkish Armed Forces and give up on your thoughts, as well as efforts, to politically identify yourself through the armed forces,” Basbug said. The alleged military plan published in daily Taraf earlier this month has increased tension between the government and the military and has changed the entire country’s political landscape. The document was aimed particularly at the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Gulen movement, which are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s secular order and establish an Islamic state. The issue is to be investigated by a civilian court after the military probe concluded the document is a forgery. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: End of an Era, 90% Support Smoking Ban in Bars

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — A myth up in smoke: Turks put out cigarettes. According to a poll of 600 people by Quirk Global Strategies, Hurriyet daily news reports, ninety percent of Turks support the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants that will come into force this month. More than half the respondents said they were concerned the July 19 ban would not be properly enforced. About 35 percent of all adult Turks smoke, including more than half the men in the country of 72 million. This month’s ban follows legislation in May 2008 that outlawed cigarettes in workplaces, shopping malls, schools and hospitals. According to Toker Ergüder, who runs the World Health Organization’s tobacco-control project in Turkey, “government collects about USD 8.5 billion a year in taxes on tobacco products, and spends about half that amount treating smoking-related illnesses”.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Supreme Court Annuls Jail of Marxist Party Members

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 9 — The Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals annulled on Thursday the imprisonment terms of members of an illegal leftist party, as Anadolu agency reports. The Criminal Department of the Supreme Court overruled the prison terms for 21 suspects in the illegal extreme leftist “Dev-Yol” organization going on for 27 years. The criminal department ruled that the right to self-defense of suspects were restricted during the trial process. An Ankara criminal court had sentenced 21 suspects to several imprisonment terms in the trial that began in 1982. The court decided to sentence 19 people to life imprisonment, and gave almost 17 years of prison terms to two other people. One of the people, who was sentenced to life in prison, died in February 2008. The local court will try the suspects again. The Dev-Yol case began when a court martial in Ankara filed a lawsuit against 574 people on October 18, 1982. The number of suspects tried in Dev-Yol case reached 723 since then as the case was combined with some other files. On July 17, 1989, the court martial sentenced seven people to death penalty, 39 others to life imprisonment and 346 others to prison terms ranging between two and 20 years. After this verdict was annulled and court martials were abolished, Ankara Criminal Court began trying 22 suspects. The court sentenced two of the suspects to death penalty and 20 others to life imprisonment. On May 28 of 2004, the Supreme Court Criminal Department overruled the decision because the local court had sentenced the suspects to death penalty that was annuled in Turkey in 2002. Ankara Criminal Court re-heard the case, and sentenced 20 suspects to life imprisonment and two others to almost 17 years in prison. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Russian Orthodoxy: Ethnic or Religious Identity?

A survey finds that 72.6% of the inhabitants in the Federation consider themselves Orthodox, but only 3% of them go to church every week. For Prof. Filipp, professor of history of the Church of Moscow state university, the data highlights the need for adequate training of religious leaders of all denominations present in the Federation.

Berlin (AsiaNews / Agencies) — “I am Russian and so I am Orthodox.” The sociologist Natalia Zorkaia, from the NGO Levada Center, thus summarizes the results of research conducted among the population of the Federation entitled “Religion and Religiosity in Russia.” It notes that over 72% of people claim to be Orthodox, but only 3% go to church at least once a week. A high percentage loosely follows the precepts of their faith.

The research, commissioned by the Catholic organisation Renovabis, was born of a desire to “observe the return of the religious phenomenon in Eastern Europe and nothing more,” says Christopher Dam representative of the organisation that is based in Berlin. Zorkaia says that, interviews from a sample group of 1600 people showed that “Orthodoxy in contemporary Russia is a form of ethnic identity rather than religious conviction.”

The figures, presented in late June at a press conference in Berlin, show that 72.6% of respondents stated they were Orthodox and only 7.3% claimed to be atheist. People, who claim to belong to other Christian groups, including Catholicism, count for 1.2%, while Judaism, Islam and Buddhism count for 6.3% of respondents.

The Levada Center research shows that among those who consider themselves Orthodox only 42% say they believe in “unconditionally” God. The survey also notes that of these 55% attend church on the occasion of major celebrations, only 3% visiting every week while 12% never go to church. Data regarding the rules and precepts of the faith, such as fasting, confession and prayer, reveals a similar breakdown in percentages.

Hegumen Filipp, professor of Church History at the State University Mgu Moscow, says that the results of research show that “people come to church with their own superstitions and they try to make them a part of church life.” The project promoted by Renovabis has aided understanding of the development of the religious phenomenon since the end of the prohibitions of the Soviet era. With regard to the orthodoxy in particular, it covers the period under Patriarch Alexei II.

For Filipp this snapshot of the situation sets out a future task both for the Orthodox clergy and for the leaders of other religions in the country. The Professor, who participated in drawing up the questionnaire, considers training of the clergy to be a vital element. Proper education of the people entrusted with the leadership of the different communities of believers is the only way to raise a genuine religious experience among the laity and greater awareness of the meaning of their faith.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Faisalabad, A Christian Tortured and Detained on False Charges of Blasphemy

He is accused of having burned pages of the Koran. Charges invented by Muslims in the area, envious of the successful business done by the shop owned by the couple. Director of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue warns of a “wave of anti-Christian extremism” in the country.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — Tortured at length by a group of Muslims, then arrested by police on charges — perfectly fabricated- that he had burned pages of the Koran. This is what happened last July1st to Imran Masih, a young Christian from Hajwary, Faisalabad district, yet another victim of blasphemy. For the director of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue “a new wave of anti-Christian extremism” has started.

Father Yousaf Yaqub, of the parish of Hajwary confirmed to AsiaNews that the allegations “are totally invented” and the reasons for the attack originate from “business questions.” The shop belonging to the young Christian’s family, in fact, is better located and has higher revenues than others in the area. For fear of further attacks by extremists, the relatives of Masih fled to a secret hiding place.

“Imran was cleaning his fruit and vegetable shop —Fr. Yaqub reports — then he collected waste paper and burned it in the street, a common practice in the area. “ The owner of a nearby shop accused the Christian of burning pages of the Koran, calling the attention of other Muslims. Before long, a crowd began to beat and torture the young man, who was only saved by police intervention. The testimony of another Muslim also favored the opening an investigation against Masih.

The news of his arrest and spread quickly through the various mosques in the city. The prison where the young Christian was being held was besieged by thousands of furious extremists, who called for his death. The crowd blocked the main roads and burned tires

Fr. Yousaf said that Christians and Muslims have lived in a peaceful way for decades in that area and had never registered incidents of this nature. Poverty, envy in business affairs and the economic crisis may have exacerbated tensions, causing confessional hatred.

Father Aftab James Paul, director of the diocese of Faisalabad’s Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, announced a meeting in the curia between Muslims, Catholics and Protestants in an attempt to dissolve the tension. According to Fr. Paul the recent attacks are a sign of “a new wave of anti-Christian extremism” in the country.

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

Pakistan: PM Says ‘1,700 Extremists Killed’ By Army

Islamabad, 9 July (AKI) — Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said on Thursday at least 1,700 militants have been killed in the government’s military offensive against the Taliban in the country’s volatile northwest.

Addressing a media conference in the capital Islamabad, the prime minister said the government had achieved its military targets in Malakand and people displaced by the conflict could begin returning to their homes from 13 July.

“We have achieved the targets,” the prime minister said.

However prime minister Gillani made it clear that the army would remain in the area even at the end of the operation.

Aid agencies including the United Nations estimate more than two million civilians have been displaced by the fighting.

Gillani said that the war against extremists was Pakistan’s war, and the Pakistani military would remain in some parts of Malakand to ensure security.

He said extremists had disgraced the Muslim shrines and had slaughtered children while challenging the writ of the government.

Gillani said the government would continue to pursue its policies of fighting militants and termed recent US drone attacks as counterproductive.

“We don’t need to convince them, but if they really want to help us, they should stop the drone attacks.”

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

Far East

China-Indian Conflict Simmering on Low Boil

Troops, equipment being staged, airfields planned

With the two most populous nations of the world sparring for influence in South Asia, the effect of China’s recently renewed efforts to contain India is simmering at a low boil, and an eruption could have worldwide implications, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

China has renewed its claim over a swath of land called Arunachal Pradesh in China’s southern Tibet region, prompting India to move troops and deploy its SU-30 fighter aircraft to the disputed border.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mosques Closed in Urumqi While China Fights “Terrorism”

The places of worship and the main roads of the city are patrolled by tens of thousands of soldiers. The Politburo has announced a hard line against “extremists, separatists, terrorists.”

Urumqi (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Xinjiang government has ordered the closure of mosques for Friday prayer. The official reason is for the safety of the inhabitants, still fearful of finding itself caught between belligerent groups of Han Chinese or Uyghurs but in reality the suspicion is that the places of prayer are used to instigate the revolt.

Urumqi mosques are guarded by soldiers and signs inviting the faithful to pray at home have been hung on the buildings. Despite this, a Xinjiang government spokesman has said that “all religious activities should carry on as normal.”

The city is quiet, but it is being patrolled by tens of thousands of armed soldiers. The reason given is “for traffic control,” but in fact the deployment of armed forces is to prevent demonstrations and riots as seen in recent days, with clashes between Uyghurs and thousands of police and violence between groups of Han and Muslim Uyghurs.

The situation is so tense that President Hu Jintao rushed back to China from the G8 summit in Italy. The inter-ethnic conflict, which could spread to other regions of the country, has drawn a hard line response from the Leadership. Yesterday, a communiqué was released at the conclusion of an emergency meeting of the Communist Party Politburo, presided over by Hu Jintao. It is stated that “The planners of the incident, the organisers, key members and the serious violent criminals must be severely punished.” Previously, the Xinjiang Party secretary had threatened the death penalty for all those who were responsible for killings in recent days.

After this week’s incidents, which killed 156 people, injuring nearly a thousand, there were at least 1400 arrests.

While telephone lines have been cut and the Internet does not work, the Chinese media continues to proclaim that the riots in Urumqi and other cities in Xinjiang are part of a subversive Islamic extremism. Yesterday, Qin Gang, a spokesman of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said that there is “much evidence” that some of those involved in the violence “have been trained by terrorist groups including al Qaeda.” Qin did not mention what that evidence was, but said that the groups are “closely linked with three evil forces abroad.”

The “three forces” being extremists, separatists and terrorists.

Among the Uyghurs there are groups that are inspired by Islamic extremism, but most of them only seek greater autonomy and religious freedom in the face of a forced colonization of the region. To combat “terrorism” Beijing controls every aspect of life of the Uyghurs and their religion.

Every Friday morning, the Muslim holy day, the imams have to present themselves at the local Office for Religious Affairs to explain the text of the sermons that they will give and receive “general indications”. Every religious group must be registered with the National Religious Committee and the appointment of leaders must be approved by the authorities. Parents’ are not permitted to give religious education to their children. Children under 18 are forbidden to attend mosques. During the fasting month of Ramadan, the school authorities force Muslim students and teachers to eat, breaking the fast. In many cities — also thanks to a rampant modernization — mosques, Islamic schools and houses have been expropriated and destroyed to make room for banks, buildings and offices.

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

Turkey Attacks China ‘Genocide’

Turkey’s prime minister has described ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang region as “a kind of genocide”.

“There is no other way of commenting on this event,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

He spoke after a night-time curfew was reimposed in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, where Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese clashed last Sunday.

The death toll from the violence there has now risen from 156 to 184, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reports. More than 1,000 people were injured.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighurs in China’s western-most region.

“The event taking place in China is a kind of genocide,” Mr Erdogan told reporters in Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

“There are atrocities there, hundreds of people have been killed and 1,000 hurt. We have difficulty understanding how China’s leadership can remain a spectator in the face of these events.”

The Turkish premier also urged Beijing to “address the question of human rights and do what is necessary to prosecute the guilty”.

Mr Erdogan’s comments came a day after Turkish Trade and Industry Minister Nihat Ergun urged Turks to boycott Chinese goods.

Beijing has so far not publicly commented on Mr Erdogan’s criticism.

But it said that of the 184 people who died, 137 were Han Chinese.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Islamist Insurgents Behead 7 Somalis for ‘Spying on Government and Abandoning Islam’

Islamist fighters beheaded seven Somalis accused of renouncing their Muslim faith and spying for the government.

The public killings in the southwestern town of Baidoa followed weeks of fierce fighting as the Islamists try to seize Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

The beheadings were the largest mass execution since the Islamists were pushed from power two and a half years ago, but they follow many individual executions, amputations and stonings.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Takes Family ‘Who Lead Blessed Lives’ To One-Time Slave Fortress in Ghana

By Adam Boulton

It was a poignant moment for Barack and Michelle Obama. Visiting a one-time slave fortress at Ghana’s Cape Coast yesterday with their daughters Sasha and Malia, they looked just like any other American tourists.

But this was not a fun day out in the sun. Obama told me that he felt it was important to bring his children, who had such ‘blessed lives’, to a place of such sadness.

He said that the fortress, where tens of thousands of black Africans were kept imprisoned before being shipped out as slaves, reminded him of a visit he had paid to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Paying tribute: The Obamas with a guide at the slave gate of Cape Coast Castle

Lessons: Obama points out the door of no return to youngest daughter, Sasha

For many African-Americans the most poignant moment of a visit to Cape Coast is when they pass out of the fort’s Gate Of No Return, through which slaves were forced to board the ships taking them away from their home for ever.

The Obamas came out of the gate, but then turned and went back in. Above them was a new sign — The Gate Of Return — to symbolise the fact that descendants of slaves can now rediscover their roots.

Mr Obama himself, of course, is not a descendant of slaves. But Michelle is. And with a white American mother, he likes to point out that his children have ‘the blood of slaves and slave-owners in their veins’.

The visit of the first African-American President to sub-Saharan Africa has certainly excited the Ghanaians.

The streets of the capital Accra are decked with decorations and photographs of the President. The loudspeakers blare out reggae tunes, showing how easily Obama can be rhymed with Ghana.

However, Mr Obama found little time for the lighter side. His keynote address at a joint session of the Ghanaian parliament was a wake-up call.

Wake-up call: In his keynote speech Obama insisted the future of Africa lay in the hands of Africans

The future of Africa, he insisted, lay in the hands of Africans. He complained that too often they had let themselves down, giving an example of how a member of his Kenyan family had had to pay a bribe to get a job.

But Mr Obama did dispel one accusation of prejudice: that he dislikes the British because of what the Empire did to his Kenyan grandfather, who was imprisoned and allegedly mistreated.

The President told me: ‘I think this story has just been got up. I love the British and say so every time I go there.’

The British preyed heavily on his mind yesterday due to the increasing casualties we are suffering in Afghanistan — in the military surge that he ordered.

The President even felt it necessary to get back in touch with Gordon Brown just a day after he saw him at the G8 summit in Italy.

Support: Ghanaian men, women and children turned out onto the streets to celebrate the President’s visit and wore clothes featuring his image

Mr Obama told me: ‘My heart goes out to the British families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan. The British troops are making an outstanding contribution there.’

But he seemed well aware of the danger that Afghanistan could turn into his Vietnam. While pointing out that the people we are fighting are those ‘who bomb train stations in London or buildings in New York’, he stressed that the Afghans themselves have a far greater interest still in dealing with the Taliban.

Mr Obama said: ‘We will have to reassess where we are after the Afghan elections.’ These are due in the autumn, and Mr Brown has already made it clear that the increase in British troops to 9,000 is only to cover the election period.

The President did not confirm, when I asked him, that he had requested Britain to up its numbers.

There had been fears that bad weather would prevent the President from visiting Cape Coast. In the end the sun shone and ‘no drama Obama’ got his message out.

Perhaps, though, it is of more resonance to African-Americans than to Africans themselves.

Minutes after the Marine One helicopters had flown out above the seashore, the gates of the fortress were thrown open to tourists.

Hundreds of Ghanaians streamed in screaming, taking photographs and playing around. For them, this slave fortress appears to be just another photo opportunity.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

USA Says That Dialogue With Sudan is Necessary

Dialogue with Khartoum is the only way to resolve the problems of the Sudanese people said the American envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, referring to the arrest warrant that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched against president Omar Hassan el-Beshir. “El Beshir — said Gration — is the head of state of Sudan: we must work together to resolve the people’s problems”. The words of Gration come just days after a statement issued by the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo of documents that could lead to the arrest of el-Beshir for “genocide”. In March, el-Bashir was charged with crimes against humanity, perpetrated in the context of Darfur. During a recent summit in Libya, the heads of state and government of countries of the African Union (AU) had refused to cooperate with the ICC “in the arrest and the transfer” of the el-Beshir[AB]

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

Latin America

Brazilian Supreme Court Rules That Sex With Children Not Necessarily a Crime — Denounced by United Nations

SAO PAULO, June 7, 2009 ( — The Brazilian Supreme Court and a lower appeals court have nullified two sentences against child sex abusers in recent months on the grounds that their behavior did not constitute a crime under Brazilian law, sparking a protest from the United Nations.

On June 23, Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice (the nation’s Supreme Court for cases not involving Constitutional law) upheld the acquittal of several men who had paid two girls, 12 and 13 years of age, to have sexual intercourse with them, on the grounds that prostitution was not covered by child sex abuse statutes.

The men, one of whom has been identified as a Brazilian sports celebrity, reportedly took photos of the encounter.

Although the fact that the men engaged in sexual intercourse with the girls was apparently not in doubt, the Tribunal of Justice of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul had ruled that it was not a crime, because the girls were engaged in prostitution. Brazil’s Superior Tribunal agreed, upholding the lower court ruling.

“The prostitutes waited for the client in the street, and are no longer people who enjoy a good image in society,” the judge ruled in the original case, adding that “prostitution is such an old profession and is considered to be barely a moral abuse, but never a crime subject to penalty.”

Ariel de Castro Alves, a member of Brazil’s National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, expressed horror at the ruling.

“The decision is almost a license for abuse and exploitation to be committed without punishment. Currently, cases like these are difficult to punish,” she told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “It is a difficult process, that involves impediments, and very often, threats against the victims and their families. When punishment is possible, we have an absurd decision like this.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Illegal Arrivals From Sea Halved in Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 9 — The arrival of illegal immigrants in Sicily and Sardinia has fallen by 54% and 56% respectively. The data was collected during operations carried out by the European agency Frontex in the Mediterranean and released today in Rome. The decrease in the number of arrivals, according to Frontex’s vice-director, Gil Arias-Fernandez, was also influenced by the agreements made between Italy and Libya. “From January 1 2009 to July 5,” he affirmed, “there were 333 illegal arrivals according to our people in the field. For the same period last year there were 776. As for Sicily, including Lampedusa, the figure passed from last year’s 14,806 to 6,760 this year. From May 15 on, that is from when the agreements became effective, our agents noticed even more of a decrease. The decrease in this last month and a half may have even reached -70%.” A positive vote therefore for the agreements between Italy and Libya. “Based on our statistics,” Arias-Fernandez concluded, we are able to say that the agreements have had a positive impact. On the humanitarian level, fewer human lives have been put at risk, due to fewer departures. But our agency does not have the ability to confirm if the right to request asylum as well as other human rights are being respected 3in Libya.” The arrivals from sea on Italy’s shores from the Mediterranean represent around 5% of the total of illegal migrants, while the other 95% come from the East, often carrying tourist visas.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/11/2009

  1. Thrasymachus,

    I really liked the narrator’s description of the earth as “disturbingly beautiful”. That is now my favourite phrase and I intend to use it with regard to anything I find sufficiently haunting and beautiful.

Comments are closed.