Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/1/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/1/2009The Swiss minaret ban is still reverberating, with reactions coming in from around the world. In Italy, the Lega Nord has been inspired by the Swiss referendum, and hopes to follow the example of its northern neighbor.

In other news, USA Today reports on the rising incidence of honor killings in the United States, and actually quotes Robert Spencer.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Dubai: Press Backlash on International Media
Fed Moves to Drain Some Money Out of Economy
India Grappling With Inflation Above 15%, Record Gold Process and the Crisis in Dubai
Ex-Con Counts on “Faith Community” To Pass Health Care
Fiscal Responsibility — Or Just Plain Socialism?
Gibbs: ‘No Dispute’ On Global Warming
‘Honor Killings’ In USA Raise Concerns
How Anwar Awlaki [Hasan’s Imam] Got Away
Mychal Massie: It’s Not a Hate Crime if …
Scientist Calls Nation’s Biggest Solar Plant a Toy
Suspect Released in Arkansas After Claiming He Had Changed
Suspected Cop Killer’s Clemency Haunts Huckabee
White House Still Listening to Van Jones ‘Green’ Advice
Europe and the EU
Europe Reacts to the Swiss Minaret Ban
Fears Grow Over Dangers of Swiss Minaret Vote
‘Germany Would Also Have Voted to Ban Minarets’
Italy: ‘Cross on Flag’ Flap
Italy: Right-Wing Minister Wants ‘Cross’ On Flag
Italy Receives Two Guantanamo Inmates
Lisbon Treaty Comes Into Force — The Inglorious Revolution
Minaret Referendum Mulled in Parliament
Muslim Leaders Condemn Swiss Ban
Swiss Minaret Ban Sends Ripples Worldwide
Swiss Minaret Ban Reflects Fear of Islam, Not Real Problems
Switzerland: Minarets; Muslim Brothers, Human Rights Denied
The Minaret Ban Hits the Swiss Headlines
The Swiss Minaret Result Explains Why They’ll Never Allow Democracy in Britain
UK: Dutch Mother Posed as Penniless Somalian Immigrant to Claim £70,000 Benefits
UK: University of East Anglia Launches Investigation Into Leaked Emails
World’s Press Dissect Swiss Minaret Ban
EU: Schengen Opens to Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians
Kosovo: UN Court Begins to Examine Independence Declaration
North Africa
Egypt: Stock Exchange, Dubai Sends Local Market Down
Egypt Kills Migrant Trying to Slip Across Israel Border
Libya Sentences Swiss Men to Jail Amid Gaddafi Son Row
Terrorism: Algeria, Algerian Guantanamo Prisoner Sentenced
Tunisia: Kairouan, 40 People Stabbed on Night of Eid El Idha
Israel and the Palestinians
EU ‘Ready to Recognise East Jerusalem as Palestinian Capital’
Goverment-Settlers Clash Over Settlements
Import of Arab-Language Books to be Eased
Middle East
Dubai: Central Bank Offers Liquidity, Markets in Spotlight
EU-Jordan: Science and Technology Agreement Signed
Iran Warns it Will Take ‘Serious’ Action Against Seized British Sailors if it Proves They Had ‘Evil Intentions’
Iran’s New Anti-Israel Ally: French Comedian Dieudonne
Swiss Ban on Minarets Condemned in the Muslim World, But Many Voices Call for Moderation
Turkey’s Erdogan Says Minaret Ban is Sign of Fascism
South Asia
Pakistan: More Than 60 Militants Killed in Tribal Region
Far East
China: Solar Toys
Philippines: Protesters Demand Justice for Massacre Victims
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somali Pirates Capture Huge Tanker Taking Oil to US
Italy: Frattini, Safeguard Our Identity and Integrate
Culture Wars
Climate-Cult Con is Hard to ‘Bear’
Leaked Emails Won’t Harm UN Climate Body, Says Chairman

Financial Crisis

Dubai: Press Backlash on International Media

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 30 — Following on from several days of calm, the Emirati financial press is now letting off steam over the “distortion” organised, in its view, by international media over the financial situation in Dubai. “It is laughable” states the daily Emirates Business, “that what would have been an insignificant announcement in pre-recessionary times could have brought markets crashing down”. Not only were stock-market jitters connected to the announcement, but also the fall in the price of oil, the slump in the value of the dollar and instability in the price of gold, the paper points out. “That all this should come about just because Dubai World requested a six-month respite for sorting out its balance sheet, is hard to digest. Above all because it doesn’t make sense”. These digs were aimed at Associated Press, who headlined a piece “The Collapse of Dubai” which in fact told of additional funds being made available by the Central Bank, as well as at the Sunday Telegraph, which used the unsettling headline “Emirates Director: Dubai’s Business World Under Shock” to introduce a piece in which the airline’s CEO stated that “Dubai will find its way out of this” impasse. Ending by stressing that the amount of debt to be restructured “is not huge” and that state-backed companies should not be confused with the government itself, Emirates Business explains that “the government’s objective is clear: to review the problematic debts to consolidate profit-making enterprises” which is why DP World (as operator of the global port) was not included in the restructuring”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Fed Moves to Drain Some Money Out of Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is fine-tuning a strategy to reel in some of the unprecedented amount of money that’s been pumped into the economy during the financial crisis.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Monday that investors and others shouldn’t conclude anything about when the central bank will reverse course and start boosting interest rates and removing other supports to fend off inflation.

The upcoming operations will involve so-called reverse repurchase agreements. That’s when the Fed sells securities from its portfolio, with an agreement to buy them back later.

Reverse repos are one tool the Fed can use to drain some money it has plowed into the economy to ease financial troubles.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

India Grappling With Inflation Above 15%, Record Gold Process and the Crisis in Dubai

The rise in prices, especially for basic necessities, creates broad discontent among the population and a trading of accusations between political parties. The state buys gold, but says it still has confidence in the dollar. Major impacts from the real estate crisis in Dubai.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — In a developing economy like the Indian one, the rise of the industrial production index is inevitably followed by the rise of the price of food. In this month, food inflation touched a record high of 15.48%. Prices of vegetables and essential food items have risen to new levels of absurdity. Some people blames the recent cyclone Phyan but some other accuses the government of faulty policies.

Vinod Jadav, who sells vegetables at both wholesale and retail rates in Dadar Market in Mumbai, said: “I have been in this business for several years, but I have never seen prices skyrocket like this”. Krishnakant Gandhi importer of frozen food blames the ministry of manipulating the market to suit local powerful lobby. Experts also question agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s frequent forecasts about retail prices being set to rise further due to the failure of the monsoon. This gives hoarders the psychological advantage to drive up rates immediately rather than wait for the next crop to arrive.

But also the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, interviewed by school children during the celebration of Children’s Day, requested to do something about the rise of food prices, he explained that something can be done, but as the per capita income of the nation is rising, it is but natural that also the farmers should get better prices for their produce.

Never the less the Congress Party has moved swiftly to political damage control reminding the government to take all steps to curb the menace of shooting prices. Congress general secretary, Janardan Dwivedi said the reminder was required as it was a “coalition government and not a full-fledged Congress regime”. This is a reference to agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, who is not a member of the Congress. A day before this statement, the Opposition protested to the treasury benches over price rise of essential commodities.

On an other front also the price of gold has crossed the mark of 18.000 rupees per 10 gram (Euro=66 rupees). This is due to the fact that the Reserve Bank of India had bought 200 tonnes from IMF of gold between October 19 and October 30. Two factors: apprehension of depreciation of dollar and expectation of more central banks buying gold, are pushing up the price. The retail demand in India, which regained its position as the largest consumer of gold in the world market, has also picked up with the marriage season setting in.

But in spite of India buying gold, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the state visit to USA declared: “As far as I can see right now, there is no substitute to the dollar”. The Reserve Bank of India’s dollar-for-gold swap was seen in the world’s financial and political capitals as an implicit vote of no-confidence in the US economy. This is also in contrast to the Chinese suggestion that the dollar’s days as the preeminent currency may be drawing to an end. As America’s largest creditor, China holds sway over Washington. For the moment Singh is applying balm on America’s wounds.

The third factor upsetting the Indian economy is the storm building up in Dubai There are fears that Dubai government-owned Dubai World and its real estate arm Nakheel may default on debts worth $59bn. The companies were badly hit by real estate crash due to the global financial crisis.

Despite the brave front put up by the Indian government, the debt crisis that has enveloped Dubai World threatens to hit the struggling Indian overseas labour market that is largely dependent on short-term Middle East job contracts. The latest crisis comes at a time when official estimates have admitted that unemployment rates have spiraled to 30% in the Middle East in the last one year. As a consequence remittances to India are certain to be much lower then last year, 2007-08, $43.5 billion. It is well known that when Dubai sneezes, south India, especially Kerala, catches more than just a cold.

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


Ex-Con Counts on “Faith Community” To Pass Health Care

The media furor over the White House state dinner crashers ignores the convicted felon who was invited to attend with the approval of Obama’s inner circle. The ex-convict, Robert B. Creamer, is a friend of White House adviser David Axelrod and the husband of Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. A major Democratic Party political strategist, he is the author of a 628-page book that describes how the Democrats can become the permanent majority party by passing a national health care bill and giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.

With the support of major elements of the “faith community,” the first part of Creamer’s plan is on track.

Creamer’s Stand Up Straight! How Progressives Can Win,” is the book “penned in the pen,” as one observer described it. “I did much of the preliminary work on this book while spending five months on a forced sabbatical at the Federal Prison Camp at Terra Haute Indiana,” Creamer says. Creamer emerged from federal prison in November 2006 after serving five months for financial crimes. His prosecutor was the famous Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who also nailed disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

But this didn’t stop Creamer from being invited to the White House for the first state dinner. Indeed, it makes complete sense in view of the fact that Creamer’s book is full of praise for Obama and even reprints Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address.

The acknowledgements section of Creamer’s book describes how he, like Obama, was influenced by Saul Alinsky, described as “the legendary community organizer.” Book endorsements are featured from David Axelrod; Greg Galluzo of the Gamaliel Foundation, which originally sponsored Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago; and Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).


Creamer himself spoke in his book of a “public plan,” which is supposed to guarantee that “right” to health care and which eventually became the “public option” in the actual legislation. In a speech captured on YouTube, Creamer’s wife, Rep. Schakowsky, candidly said that a public option is a Trojan Horse for a complete federal takeover.

Next is the immigration battle. Creamer explains that this “will have an enormous impact on the battle for power between the progressive and conservative forces in American society.” He explains that “If the Democrats continue to stand firmly for immigrant rights, the issue will define immigrants’ voting loyalties for a generation. If we are successful, a gigantic block of progressive votes will enter the electorate over the next 15 years—a block that could be decisive in the battle for the future.”

[Comments from JD: See article for video link.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Fiscal Responsibility — Or Just Plain Socialism?

With the information that has now come to light about the costs of “reform,” there is no other rational explanation for Obama’s obsession to enact Obamacare than his desire to increase government control over every aspect of our lives.

As others have noted, Obama and company have employed multiple gimmicks to conceal and misrepresent the true costs of Obamacare. Like other groups wanting to destroy America from the outside, liberals are patient. By backloading their spending, they hope to deceive Americans into thinking their plan is budget-neutral.

Thus, their bills disguise their true net costs by deferring most new spending for five years (while increasing taxes and cutting Medicare almost immediately). This trick is so transparently deceitful that if attempted by a Republican administration, we’d have already heard rumblings for impeachment.

Specifically, Democrats have said their proposal would cost $848 billion over 10 years, but the true cost would be some multiple of that. Using Congressional Budget Office figures, Investor’s Business Daily reports that only 1 percent of the spending would come in the first four years of the 10 years the Democrats are counting (2010-13). If you begin the 10-year calculation in the year appreciable spending would begin — 2014 — the cost would be $1.8 trillion. (Sen. Judd Gregg, it should be noted, estimates the costs for that 10-year period — 2014-23 — would be much greater, at $2.5 trillion.) Over the next five years (2024-28), the costs would escalate even faster, totaling $1.7 trillion.

In addition, the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon reveals another gimmick Democrats are using to understate the actual costs for the first true 10-year period. Obama, despite his campaign promises to the contrary, would force the voluntarily uninsured to purchase health insurance. Those mandated costs should be counted as a tax just as surely as if they were first paid to the government for distribution to the insurance companies. In fact, the CBO did score similar mandates as taxes under Hillary Clinton’s reform plan in the ‘90s. But by treating these mandated costs as “off-budget,” Obama hides 60 percent of the bill’s total costs, according to Cannon. When all these gimmicks are correctly accounted for, says Cannon, “the total cost of Obamacare reaches … $6.25 trillion.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gibbs: ‘No Dispute’ On Global Warming

Dismisses 31,000 scientists who signed petition challenging ‘consensus’

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today brushed aside the concerns of more than 31,000 scientists who have signed a petition challenging the theory of man-made global warming.

WND White House corrrespondent Les Kinsolving brought up the petition as a follow-up to an earlier comment.

Gibbs had been asked by Fox News correspondent Major Garrett, “On climate change, why is it a good idea for the president to arrive near the beginning of the climate talk negotiations (scheduled by the United Nations in Copenhagen early in December) as opposed to the end, when the ultimate deal is going to be struck? And secondarily, does the White House have any evaluation or comment on this controversy of the hacked e-mails that suggest that some of the underlying science through some of the propositions put forward by climatologists may be in error or may have been altered in some way?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘Honor Killings’ In USA Raise Concerns

Muslim immigrant men have been accused of six “honor killings” in the United States in the past two years, prompting concerns that the Muslim community and police need to do more to stop such crimes.

“There is broad support and acceptance of this idea in Islam, and we’re going to see it more and more in the United States,” says Robert Spencer, who has trained FBI and military authorities on Islam and founded Jihad Watch, which monitors radical Islam.

Honor killings are generally defined as murders of women by relatives who claim the victim brought shame to the family. Thousands of such killings have occurred in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Palestinian territories, according to the World Health Organization.

Some clerics and even lawmakers in these countries have said families have the right to commit honor killings as a way of maintaining values, according to an analysis by Yotam Feldner in the journal Middle East Quarterly.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

How Anwar Awlaki [Hasan’s Imam] Got Away

U.S. Attorney’s Decision to Cancel Arrest Warrant “Shocked” Terrorism Investigators

A felony arrest warrant for radical Islamic cleric Anwar al Awlaki was rescinded in 2002 a day before he was intercepted as a terror suspect at New York’s JFK airport, forcing authorities to release him, according to sources familiar with the case. The warrant was cancelled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, even though Awlaki was on a terror watch list, and even though the office’s supervising prosecutor for terror cases — who has now been appointed by the Obama administration as the U.S. Attorney in Denver — had been fully briefed on Awlaki’s alleged terror ties, according to investigators.

Soon after the 2002 warrant was canceled, Awlaki left the United States for good, settling in Yemen. Since his escape, Awlaki, now considered by intelligence officials to be an al-Qaeda recruiter, has been implicated as the spiritual inspiration for terror plots in Canada and the U.S., and was in e-mail contact with Major Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with 13 counts of murder in the recent mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mychal Massie: It’s Not a Hate Crime if …

“What kind of nigger are you?”

Like being asked, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” — it’s a loaded question to which there is no right answer.

It’s even harder to answer when you’re a 130-pound black cancer survivor and the question is being yelled at you by one of two angry men — both of whom are over six feet tall and totaling close to 500 pounds.

Making it even more uncomfortable (if possible), is the fact that both men are also black.

Welcome to the world of Kenneth Gladney.

This past Aug. 6, Gladney was handing out pens and buttons outside a St. Louis—area town-hall meeting sponsored by Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo. People there were concerned about Obama policies such as the cap-and-trade energy tax, runaway “stimulus” spending and a government takeover of health care. Despite the crowd’s anxiety, Gladney — by all reports — was far from what one might consider “angry.”

Leave the anger to Elston McCowan and Perry Molens. McCowan and Molens work for the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. When town-hall meetings became uncomfortable for Obama-friendly lawmakers, the SEIU essentially became the White House’s muscle.

According to the recently released police report from that particular event, witnesses saw McCowan approach Gladney and begin berating him. That’s when McCowan asked the previously mentioned revulsive question. McCowan then punched Gladney in the face. Molens grabbed Gladney by the collar and dragged him over the table, where the both proceeded to punch and kick Gladney.

McCowan and Molens were arrested on charges of assault and interfering with an officer. Gladney went to the hospital with a sore shoulder and multiple contusions.

A black man was beaten for expressing his political beliefs. Isn’t that a hate crime?

Where are the Jacksons and the Sharptons calling the SEIU leadership on the carpet and demanding answers? Where are the Congressional Black Caucus demands for hearings and investigations? Why hasn’t Obama said these union thugs “acted stupidly” — why hasn’t the White House publicly condemned their actions?

Probably because the SEIU is a special friend of the left and of the White House. When the White House visitor logs were recently released, SEIU President Andy Stern was Obama’s most frequent guest. SEIU chapters also work hand-in-glove with ACORN.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Scientist Calls Nation’s Biggest Solar Plant a Toy

Researcher’s report claims advocates inflating numbers to hide cost

Green energy advocates are promoting the newly built, largest solar-power plant in the nation by means of hiding costs and inflating energy output claims, according to a prominent research scientist and founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, who says he has crunched the numbers.


But the OISM’s Dr. Arthur B. Robinson has dug deeper into claims of just how much energy the plant will produce.

Robinson cites an FPL estimate published in Renewable Energy News that the plant will produce 42,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity. Robinson calculates that level of output only makes the DeSoto plant a 4.8-megawatt facility, or roughly one-fifth the “25-megawatt” boast.

“This fivefold difference is typical of reports on solar installations,” Robinson writes.

Robinson also criticized the project after comparing its purported energy savings to the $150 million it took to build the plant.

Based on the 42,000 megawatt hour estimate, Robinson calculates the plant will produce $2.52 million worth of electricity per year — which means it would take 60 years for the plant to pay for its construction costs, or 36 years if the numbers were recalculated with peak power cost scales.

“These estimates of years to recover cost do not include maintenance and other expenses,” Robinson writes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Suspect Released in Arkansas After Claiming He Had Changed

Documents released this morning by the Arkansas Parole Board show police slaying suspect Maurice Clemmons was supposed to remain in prison there until at least 2015, but won his release by claiming he’d changed while behind bars.

Clemmons’ appeal for clemency was granted in May 2000 by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee, who commuted Clemmons sentence and made him immediately eligible for parole.

Clemmons wrote in an appeal to Huckabee that he’d been sent to prison after an extended crime spree that started in 1989 when he was a teenager — and that he was a different person now.


Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley said that by his count, Clemmons would have been in jail until 2021, but was released from prison in August 2000.

“Mr. Huckabee made him parole-eligible 21 years before he would have been,” he said, “otherwise, he’d be cooling his heels in the Department of Corrections.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Suspected Cop Killer’s Clemency Haunts Huckabee

Alleged gunman’s prison release brings back 2008 campaign charges

Maurice Clemmons, the alleged gunman sought in the recent slaying of four Seattle-area police officers, was released from a Washington jail just six days ago, but it’s his prior release from an Arkansas prison that is returning in news accounts to haunt the then-governor of the state, Mike Huckabee.

“The political future of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee could be damaged by his role in commuting the sentence of a man who is now suspected of killing four police officers in Washington state,” writes Nicholas Johnston of Bloomberg News.

“Back then, Gov. Huckabee granted clemency to a disturbing number of people, including a man named Maurice Clemmons who should have never been let out,” said Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas’ Pulaski County. “This is the day I’ve been dreading for a long time.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

White House Still Listening to Van Jones ‘Green’ Advice

Communist-group founder on team influencing environmental policies

Van Jones, President Obama’s controversial former “green jobs” czar, serves on the advisory board of an independent environmental organization actively working with the White House, WND has learned.

Jones resigned in September after it was exposed he founded a communist revolutionary organization and signed a statement that accused the Bush administration of possible involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Jones is one of 20 advisers to the University of Colorado—based Presidential Climate Action Project, or PCAP, which draws up climate-policy recommendations for the White House and has been working with members of the Obama administration.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Europe Reacts to the Swiss Minaret Ban

By J. David Goodman

In the village of Amsteg, Switzerland, a poster promoting the ban on minarets became the site of competing messages on Monday.

When Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on construction of minarets in a referendum on Sunday, they surprised some pollsters and disappointed many European leaders, including those of their own government, who opposed the ban and now must find a way to implement it.

A day after nearly 58 percent of Swiss voters supported the ban, Europe found itself thrust into another round of soul-searching precipitated by yet another clash over integrating — or not integrating — a swelling Muslim population.

In France, where similar debates have focused not on architecture but on how some Muslim women dress, Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister, was quick to condemn the results of the Swiss referendum.

“I am a bit shocked by this decision,” Mr. Kouchner said on a French radio program on Monday. “It is an expression of intolerance, and I detest intolerance. I hope the Swiss will reverse this decision quickly.”

Muslim response in Europe has so far been measured, including a small protest in Bern, Switzerland, on Sunday night. “My first reaction is one of surprise and disappointment,” Babacar Ba, the Geneva ambassador of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, told Swissinfo on Monday. “It is a bad answer to a bad question. I fear that this kind of thing is simply a gift to extremism.”

By contrast, far-right politicians in several countries were predictably gleeful over the results, and publicly wishing for similar bans.

“It’s a signal that they have to adapt to our way of life and not the other way around,” Filip Dewinter, a member of the Vlaams Belang party in Belgium, told Le Monde. Mr. Dewinter said he plans to pave the way for a minaret ban in Belgium soon; Geert Wilders, a prominent right-wing politician in the Netherlands, has called for a Swiss-style referendum there too.

Other, lesser-known far-right parties are also trying to latch on to what they perceive as a victory. Mario Borghezio, an Italian member of the European parliament, echoed the call for a referendum in Italy, declaring that “the flag of a courageous Switzerland which wants to remain Christian is flying over a near-Islamised Europe.”

But while Swiss the ban has touched off some emotional reactions, its legal status remains in doubt. As my colleagues Nick Cumming-Bruce and Steve Erlanger point out, the referendum approved adding a single sentence to the existing Swiss constitution, which provides for freedom of religion, that specifically restricts construction of minarets. Such narrowly aimed language against one religious group may run afoul of international conventions on human rights. By contrastm when French officials succeeded in implementing a ban on head scarves in public schools in 2004, they were careful to write legal language that would affect any element of dress that was overtly religious, including kippahs, turbans and large crosses.

Switzerland is party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the European Convention on Human Rights. On the Volokh Conspiracy blog, David Kopel writes that Article 9 of the European convention will probably be the basis for legal challenges to the Swiss ban. As the second part of that article says:

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Indeed, though the Swiss government was confident that voters would reject the ban, United Nations rights experts fretted before the referendum that approval would thrust Europe into unknown legal waters.

“What would happen if the initiative were accepted?” Philippe Gerber, a member of the Swiss justice ministry, told the U.N. Human Rights Committee before the vote. “It’s a delicate question that has never been posed before and there is no established practice. It’ll be up to the courts to decide.”

Whatever the legal result, architecture that provides a space for Islam in Europe has been and continues to be a source of consternation — from Cologne in 2007 to the continuing travails surrounding the construction of two grand mosques in Copenhagen.

And while Mr. Kouchner, the French minister, may decry the Swiss result as a manifestation of xenophobic populism, his own government is currently batting back criticism of its efforts to define “Frenchness,” which have been called a veiled attack on Muslims and immigrants.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when a majority of Europeans can look upon a mosque, as the mayor of Vienna apparently did in the 1970s, and see in it “a welcoming and friendly home to all people who live and work here.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Fears Grow Over Dangers of Swiss Minaret Vote

GENEVA — The Swiss foreign minister warned on Tuesday that a decision by voters in Switzerland to ban new mosque minarets could endanger security, amid stark warnings about a broader threat of extremism.

Opponents of the ban in Switzerland vowed to press ahead with legal challenges, while Turkey and the UN human rights chief delivered sharp rebukes over a broader and growing trend of European intolerance that they believe the vote revealed.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey also acknowledged that Muslims in Switzerland now faced a restriction on their freedom to exert their religion, in the first overt expression of government concern since Sunday’s referendum.

More than 57 percent of voters upset the opinion polls and defied their government by approving the right wing motion to ban minarets. Related article: UN rights chief slams minaret ban

“In any event, we are concerned by this vote,” Calmy-Rey told a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Greece.

“The reality of our societies, in Europe and in the world (is that) every blow to the co-existence of different cultures and religions also endangers our security,” she added, according to a written transcript of her remarks which was released by the ministry

Calmy-Rey warned of the risk of a chain reaction in such instances, as repeated “provocation” triggered outrage, thereby “fanning extremism.”

Turkish leaders joined widespread condemnation on Tuesday, denouncing the Swiss vote as a “mistake” and a reflection of Islamophobia as well as “racist and extreme nationalist waves surging in Europe.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that it “has irked not only the Islamic world, but also those who fear a clash of civilisations.”

He called on Europeans to act against the ban “so as not to plunge the world, particularly Europe, into tensions.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called tha ban a “deeply discriminatory, deeply divisive and a thoroughly unfortunate step for Switzerland to take.”

“I have no hesitation at all in condemning the anti-foreigner scaremongering that has characterised political campaigns in a number of countries, including Switzerland, which helps produce results like this,” she added.

Anti-immigrant party leaders elsewhere in Europe have hailed the outcome of the referendum brought by members of the hard-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — Switzerland’s biggest party — and other right-wing groups.

Meanwhile, the head of the Swiss Green Party, Ueli Leuenberger, pledged to support appeals against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights.

“It’s extremely important,” he told AFP.

“For Switzerland… but also at European level when you see the reactions of populist parties and the extreme right, who are celebrating and taking the Swiss example to launch campaigns against Muslims in their countries,” said Leuenberger.

The Swiss constitutional amendment does not affect mosques or religious worship.

However, opponents charged that right-wing campaigners portrayed the towers, of which there are just four in Switzerland, as symbols of “power” and whipped up fears about the burqa, women’s rights and Islamic extremism.

[Return to headlines]

‘Germany Would Also Have Voted to Ban Minarets’

Switzerland’s vote to ban minarets is a disaster for its image, write German commentators. The vote doesn’t just reflect a fear of “Islamization” but also shows that setbacks in recent years have shaken its national self-confidence. But Germans would probably vote the same way, warn some observers.

Switzerland’s decision to ban the construction of minarets in a referendum on Sunday has drawn condemnation from politicians across Europe and from Muslim leaders, but far-right politicians have welcomed it as a courageous step that should be copied by other countries.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country’s top cleric, called the ban an “insult” to Muslims across the world but called on Muslims not to be provoked by the move. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was shocked by the decision which showed “intolerance.”

However right-wing and far-right parties such as Italy’s Northern League in Italy and France’s National Front were quick to welcome the decision. The right-wing populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is famous for his anti-Islam views, called the result “great” and said he would push for a similar referendum in the Netherlands.

More than 57.5 percent of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons voted in favor of the ban on Sunday. The initiative was brought by supporters of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and a smaller party. The campaign’s organizers had argued that minarets are a symbol of a Muslim quest to dominate others and to introduce Shariah law, and that banning them would help stop an “Islamization” of Switzerland. Muslims make up around 5 percent of the Swiss population.

In Germany, Wolfgang Bosbach, the spokesman on domestic security for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, said the vote expressed a fear of Islamization that also exists in Germany. “One has to take this concern seriously,” Bosbach told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

German media commentators writing in the Monday editions of Germany’s main newspapers said the decision reflects more than a fear of Islamization. The vote, they write, is a sign of how unsettled Switzerland has become in the last two decades that have seen its self-confidence shaken by the collapse of national economic symbols such as the airline Swissair, international criticism of its secretive banking system and setbacks in its foreign policy.

But mass circulation Bild, which can claim to have its finger on the nation’s pulse more than other newspapers, said Germans would probably vote the same way if they were allowed a referendum on the issue:

“The minaret isn’t just the symbol of a religion but of a totally different culture. Large parts of the Islamic world don’t share our basic European values: the legacy of the Enlightenment, the equality of man and woman, the separation of church and state, a justice system independent of the Bible or the Koran and the refusal to impose one’s own beliefs on others with ‘fire and the sword.’ Another factor is likely to have influenced the Swiss vote: Nowhere is life made harder for Christians than in Islamic countries. Those who are intolerant themselves cannot expect unlimited tolerance from others.”

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“The referendum is a disaster for Switzerland. There is no such construction ban anywhere else in Europe. When those six words ‘the construction of minarets is prohibited’ are written into the Swiss constitution, they will breach that constitution in several ways, as they violate its guarantee of freedom of religion and the ban on discrimination.

“The ban also constitutes a flagrant breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It won’t take long before someone affected by this ban takes the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which will result in an embarrassing condemnation and possibly Switzerland’s expulsion from the Council of Europe.

“There will be a storm of outrage, especially in the Muslim world. The worst mistake now would be for Switzerland to react by stiffening its stance. Because in its heart, this country is cosmopolitan and liberal.”

The conservative Die Welt writes:

“The Swiss decision gives the wrong answer to the right question. The question concerning all European societies is how to find the right way to deal with a growing Muslim minority, and where the limits of tolerance should be regarding the practice of traditions that are in some cases backward.

“The referendum has provided an excessively simplistic answer. It condemns the minaret which it interprets as a symbol of Islamic power — as if the traditional architectural feature so closely related to the Christian church steeple were more important than what is preached inside the mosques.

“It throws Switzerland back behind the level of enlightenment and tolerance that Europe has toiled to attain in the past — and which turned multi-ethnic Switzerland into such a successful model.

“The referendum shows how deep the fear of Islam runs in Europe and that the issue isn’t being taken seriously enough by the political elite — and not just in Switzerland. But it doesn’t provide a solution to Europe’s pressing integration problems.”

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Fundamentally democratic, cosmopolitan, tolerant — that’s how the Swiss always liked to see themselves. But with the vote to ban further minarets, the country has also shown other traits that smack of narrow-mindedness, fear and the desire to wall themselves in.

“Many Muslims in Switzerland have integrated themselves well. The problems that do exist can’t be solved with a ban on minarets. But the Swiss People’s Party has succeeded in broadening the issue to Islamization. Existing problems with immigrants from Kosovo, for example, were simply combined with the religion issue.”

The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

“The campaign was targeted at a Swiss population that has felt increasingly unsettled since the end of the Cold War. Switzerland, which according to official myth is ‘neutral’ but which is de facto aligned with NATO, hasn’t come to terms with the loss of the communist bogeyman as well as the members of the Western alliance have. From compensation claims for the theft of the assets of Jewish refugees by Swiss banks, to the recent softening of banking secrecy for foreign tax evaders — all corrections of obvious historical lies and foreign policy mistakes since 1989 took place not through a realization of wrongdoing on the part of Switzerland itself, but through pressure from outside.”

“In addition, the collapse of Swissair and other objects of Swiss national pride was also painful, as was the humiliating treatment by Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi who has been holding two Swiss nationals as hostages for more than a year. The global economic crisis has also left clear marks on Switzerland.

“The perfectly devised campaign for a ban on minarets provided a suitable bogeyman for those who were unsettled by this general uncertainty and whose self-confidence has been shattered. Encouraged by their victory on Sunday, the initiators will next call for a ban on mosques and Islamic cultural centers. It is also to be feared that there will be more frequent acts of violence against such institutions.”

— David Crossland

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

Italy: ‘Cross on Flag’ Flap

Italy must show Christian colours says League man

(ANSA) — Rome, November 30 — A prominent rightwing politician on Monday called for a cross to be added to the Italian flag, drawing angry responses from majority and opposition figures. Junior Transport Minister Roberto Castelli of the Northern League, a member of the governing centre-right coalition, said he hoped his party would back the idea as part of a constitutional reform package scheduled for next year. “I believe Europe has the right to rediscover its own identity, which is in the process of being entirely lost,” said Castelli, whose Northern League party is often accused of being against immigration. “There must be respect for other religions and ways of thinking but we must return to our own faith”.

Castelli first touched on the idea on Sunday night, while commenting on the outcome of a referendum in Switzerland, which voted to ban the construction of minarets.

Praising Swiss voters for their “civilisation lesson”, he said a strong sign was needed to fight “pro-Islamist ideology”.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, of the other coalition governing party, the People of Freedom (PdL), said the idea was “appealing”. “There are in fact nine European countries that already have the cross on their flag, so this would be an entirely normal thing to do,” he said. But other MPs in the PdL criticized the idea.

European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi described the proposal as “absolute garbage”. “The Tricolor is a symbol that can’t be touched,” he said. “It has a long tradition, is immensely relevant and must be white, red and green, period”.

The Farefuturo web magazine of House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, also a PdL member, branded the proposal “provocative and political propaganda”.

“This is dangerous nonsense that risks sending out a message of closure that has less to do with legality and security and more to do with the ethnic and religious situation of Muslims,” it said.

Members of the opposition also voiced anger over the proposal. The shadow immigration minister of the largest opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD), said “the nonsense the League continues to spout should be ignored”. “These forays damage Italy and the Italians, and besmirch the value of religion,” said Livia Turco.

The deputy chair of the House European affairs committee, Enrico Farinone, another PD member, accused the League of being confrontational and said the crucifix should be used “to unite people rather than divide them”. The Senate whip for the centrist Catholic opposition UDC, Gianpiero D’Alia, warned: “Those preaching intolerance and racial hatred, as the League does, cannot exploit Christian values and use them for political point-scoring”.

The House whip for the small opposition Italy of Values party, Massimo Donadi, said the Northern League had “descended into farce”, while Alessandro Pignatiello of the Italian Communist Party described the suggestion as “beyond all decency”.

Pignatiello also accused the League of hypocrisy in its bout of flag-waving.

At a rally near Como in 1997, he recalled, League leader Umberto Bossi said he only used the tricolor “to wipe (his) *ss”.

Prominent Northern League figures have frequently made headlines for their stance on Islam and immigration, most notably during the Danish cartoon row in 2006, when Roberto Calderoli wore a T-shirt emblazoned with one of the images. Most recently, the Northern League was accused of racism after it emerged that a local scheme to rid a town of illegal immigrants had been nicknamed “White Christmas”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Right-Wing Minister Wants ‘Cross’ On Flag

Milan, 30 Nov. (AKI) — A conservative Italian minister from the anti-immigrant Northern League has lauded the decision by Swiss voters to ban minarets and called for the Christian cross to be included on the Italian flag.

“I hope that the party to which I am honoured to belong puts forth my proposal,” said Roberto Castelli, deputy minister of infrastructure and transport.

“Europe has the right to safeguard its own identity, respecting other people’s roots, but it is necessary to return to our roots,” said Castelli.

He said that Islam is an “intolerant religion”.

Castelli made the remarks after Swiss voters supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets.

Switzerland’s Muslim population is estimated to be at 400,000 or 5.2 percent of the total population. However, there are only four minarets in the entire country.

More than 57 percent of voters, as well as 22 out of Switzerland’s 26 cantons voted in favour of the ban, despite the government opposition to such a move, saying it would harm the country’s image.

The federal council (government) however, has to respect the decision by the cantons.

“Once again, the Swiss teach us a lesson in civilisation,” concluded Castelli.

Meanwhile, the leader of Italy’s Federation of the Greens party Angelo Bonelli, responded ironically to Castelli’s demand.

“Deputy minister Castelli wants to put the cross in the flag? So when do we begin a crusade to liberate the holy land?” said Bonelli.

The colours of Italy’s flag, commonly known as the ‘tricolore’, are green, white and red, and are commonly interpreted as the green showing the country’s plains and hills, the white representing the snow-capped Alps, and red representing the blood spilt in the wars of independence.

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

Italy Receives Two Guantanamo Inmates

Two Tunisian inmates of the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay have been transferred to Italy, where they are expected to face trial.

Adel Ben Mabrouk and Muhammad Ben Riadh Nasri are both accused of terrorism-related offences, which they deny.

Italian officials said they were taken into custody upon their arrival in Milan and sent for interrogation.

A third Guantanamo prisoner has arrived in France, but is expected to be allowed to go free.

The French foreign ministry said Saber Lahmar, an Algerian, had been cleared of all terrorism charges.

A fourth prisoner was reported to be bound for Hungary.

Missed deadline

The transfers are part of an effort to deal with Guantanamo detainees internationally, to help the United States close the camp.

US President Barack Obama announced plans to close the camp shortly after taking office.

He set a deadline of January 2010, but has recently been forced to admit there is no chance of meeting that target.

The two Tunisians transferred to Italy are accused of travelling from Italy to Afghanistan and helping Islamist militant groups to recruit fighters.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Lisbon Treaty Comes Into Force — The Inglorious Revolution

1st December 2009 will go down in British history as a turning point; it is as constitutionally significant as that of 15th November 1688, when King William’s fleet arrived in Torbay to deliver the land from tyranny: it was the last successful invasion of England.

There had never been a revolution quite like it. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 is often termed ‘bloodless’, and it was, almost. It was a conspiracy by a faction of the ruling élite which led an invasion by invitation: they were concerned to preserve and propagate their religio-political agenda which involved an internal change of constitution.

The Inglorious Revolution of 2009 has also been bloodless: it is also a conspiracy by the ruling élite which has led to an invasion by invitation: they are also concerned to propagate their religio-political agenda which involves an undeniable internal change of constitution.

The revolution/invasion of 1688 was by the Protestant Dutch, and it heralded an era of constitutional monarchy, the Bill of Rights, religious liberty, material prosperity and political stability. The revolution/invasion of 2009 is by the European Union, the suzerain power, to which the Monarch is now subject: it enshrines a charter of ‘fundamental human rights’, and heralds an era of religious oppression, penal taxation, economic stagnation and political instability.

On this day, the ‘Constitution for Europe’ becomes law, and the ‘President of Europe’ becomes our head of state. The Queen is still the Queen, but she is now subject to the provisions of the new constitution. The Prime Minister is still the Prime Minister, but he is now obliged to promote the aims and objectives of the European Union over and above those of the United Kingdom.

And yet we are no more an ‘occupied’ nation than we became in 1688, for our Parliament has conspired with a foreign power: they have permitted, encouraged, conceded and surrendered. We are now but a province in the Empire of Europa: the Queen is but a regional governor beneath an omnipotent Emperor; Parliament is but a regional council, yet it lacks even the authority to legislate for refuse collection or road repairs. From today, everything is subject to the Supreme Government in Brussels.

And still the people come and go, talking not quite of Michelangelo, but of Coronation Street, X-Factor and I’m a Celebrity.

And still the anoraks pore over their opinion polls, wondering about the size of the next majority or the prospect of a hung parliament.

Nothing, apparently, has changed at all.

But everything has.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Minaret Referendum Mulled in Parliament

Northern League says Italy should follow in Swiss footsteps

(ANSA) — Rome, November 30 — A constitutional referendum to ban the building of Islamic minarets in Italy is soon to appear before parliament, Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli announced on Monday.

Taking the lead from Switzerland, which drew widespread international criticism by passing its own anti-minaret referendum this weekend, Calderoli said it was time Italy affirm its Catholic roots.

The motion in Switzerland passed with a surprise 57.6% vote in the face of opposition from the government, who said it violated the country’s constitution and long tradition of tolerance.

The Catholic Church was among its loudest critics, with the Swiss Bishop’s Conference decrying the move as an “alarming mistake”.

But Calderoli hailed the move as a triumphant “yes to bell towers and no to minarets,” that served as an important example for other European countries losing touch with their Christian identities.

“Respect for other religions is important, but we’ve got to put the brakes on Muslim propaganda or else we’ll end up with an Islamic political party like they have in Spain,” he said.

The announcement followed a short-lived proposal by another Northern League MP, former justice minister Roberto Castelli who seized on the Swiss referendum to suggest Italy put a cross on its flag.

Both proposals received mixed reactions from the center right majority.

While Foreign Minister Franco Frattini pointed to the Scandinavian countries, which all have crossed flags, he joined in the near unanimous criticism from his European Union colleagues in calling the Swiss referendum “a worrying sign of intolerance”.

Deputy House Speaker Maurizio Lupi of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party urged coalition members to let both items drop.

“The last thing we need to be getting into right now is a religious debate about crosses and minarets,” he said.

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has remained steadfast in its opposition to the initiative, which it likened to an early November ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against crucifixes in Italian classrooms.

“Both positions are based on the same, flawed principle that religion ought to be something we do in private,” explained editor Giovanni Maria Vian.

The Northern League was not the only party in Europe hoping to seize on the Swiss referendum to curtail mosque building at home.

The nationalist Danish Peoples Party have said they too will seek a similar referendum in Denmark, where minarets have yet to appear.

Italy, by contrast boasts one of the tallest minarets in Europe standing just a meter shorter than St Peter’s Basilica, at the Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center in Rome.

Italy has around 1.2 million Muslims, making Islam the second religion after Catholicism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Leaders Condemn Swiss Ban

Businesses Fearing Global Backlash Urge Officials in Bern to Calm Tensions Sparked by Minaret Vote

ZURICH — Muslim leaders from around the world condemned a vote in Switzerland to ban the construction of minarets in the Alpine country, raising fresh fears of a backlash against Swiss interests around the world.

Voters in Switzerland approved a referendum Sunday to ban the building of new minarets on mosques. Nearly 58% of voters, and all but four of the country’s 26 cantons, supported the initiative, with support for the ban reaching 70% in some regions.

The outcome was a surprise in a country that has had far fewer problems with the integration of its Muslim minority than its European neighbors. As a result, the government braced for a possible backlash against Swiss businesses, even as companies themselves took a low-key response to the outcome, hoping not to stir tension.

Political and religious leaders of Muslim countries were quick to condemn the vote. Maskuri Abdillah, head of Indonesia’s biggest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, said the vote reflected “a hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities.”

Egypt’s top cleric, Ali Gomaa, called the referendum an “insult” to Muslims, while the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the largest international Muslim group with 57 member states, called the vote a “recent example of growing anti-Islamic incitements in Europe by extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering ultraright politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values.”

“It is a bad answer to a bad question,” Babacar Ba, the Geneva ambassador of the Islamic conference told Swiss journalists Monday. “I fear that this kind of thing is simply a gift to extremism and intolerance.”

The Swiss foreign ministry began Monday to try to ease tensions with the Muslim world. Top diplomats in Bern have contacted leaders of Islamic organizations, including the Islamic conference. Swiss diplomats in Muslim countries also have reached out to local foreign ministries to assure governments that the referendum doesn’t restrict the right of Muslims in Switzerland to practice their religion.

Despite the rhetoric, there were no reports Monday of incidents against Swiss interests. The Swiss government, which waged an aggressive campaign against the initiative, has feared a backlash similar to that suffered by Denmark several years ago after the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, when consumers boycotted Danish goods and protesters attacked Danish embassies in some countries.

In the run-up to the Swiss referendum, the government studied the Danish leadership’s reaction to that incident to prepare for a possible yes vote. As a result, Swiss diplomats in recent months have worked to calm concerns in Muslim countries about the initiative.

On Monday, Swiss companies kept a low profile in the wake of the vote, declining to discuss any possible retaliation while urging the government to work to calm tensions.

A number of Swiss companies, such as engineering group ABB Ltd. and food maker Nestlé SA, have large interests in Muslim countries. Nestlé has about 50 factories in the Muslim world and is the world’s largest producer of halal food, or food permissible under Islamic law. Nestlé has recently begun expanding its halal business in Europe, to cater to the Continent’s growing Muslim population. “Nestlé cannot be associated with any form of discrimination,” the company said.

Switzerland’s main employer’s association, Economiesuisse, called for the government to “limit the potential damage” by keeping a dialogue open with Muslim leaders.

At a business conference in Zurich, Hans-Ulrich Meister, head of Switzerland for Credit Suisse Group, played down concerns. Clients in the Muslim countries “typically are huge investors and very professional,” he said. “They can differentiate between direct democracy banning minarets and religious freedom, but the political bodies in Switzerland have to explain this.”

Nonetheless, the government suggested Swiss business could suffer somewhat as a result of the vote. “I am assuming our trade relations with other countries will become more difficult,” said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf at a news conference.

[Return to headlines]

Swiss Minaret Ban Sends Ripples Worldwide

Swiss voters’ decision to ban the construction of minarets has drawn worldwide criticism, with the United Nations and Council of Europe expressing outright concern.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, criticised the “clear discrimination towards the members of the Swiss Muslim community”, in a statement on Monday.

“I have serious concerns about the negative consequences of the outcome of this vote on the freedom of religion or belief of members of the Swiss Muslim community,” she said, and called for Switzerland to take the necessary measures to protect the freedom of religion.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the UN High Commission for Human Rights also confirmed on Monday that legal experts were assessing whether the ban conformed to international law. The Commission will give its position on the outcome once the legal assessment is complete.

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly said the Swiss referendum outcome risked “promoting feelings of exclusion and deepening divisions” in society.

“The decision, although an expression of popular opinion, is a source of serious concern,” said Lluís Maria de Puig, president of the assembly, in a statement.

This vote is “testimony to the fears at the heart of the Swiss population — and Europe in general — towards Islamic integration”, and the result goes against the values of tolerance, dialogue and respect for others’ beliefs, which the Council seeks to uphold, he said.

The vote on Sunday was backed by 57.5 per cent of Swiss voters and a majority of cantons. Turnout was high, at around 53 per cent.

Negative signal

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner appealed for the Swiss to go back on the decision, which he described as a “show of intolerance”. He said he was “a bit scandalised” by the ban, which amounted to “oppressing a religion”.

Sweden, holding the presidency of the European Union, also came out strongly against the result. Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni said voting on the issue had been “an abuse of the Swiss voting system”, while the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said it was a “display of prejudice and perhaps even of fear … at all levels a negative sign”.

Tobias Billström, the Swedish migration minister, added that it was rare to make such a decision by referendum, with issues such as building height or location usually the domain of town planners. The Austrian interior minister, Maria Fekter, agreed.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he was “greatly concerned” at the signal the vote sent to the Islamic world.

For Germany the outcome demonstrated that there was fear of Islamicisation, which needed to be “taken seriously”, said Wolfgang Bosbach, head of the German parliamentary internal affairs commission. But Christoph Steegmans, spokesman for the German Chancellery, said the government was “certain that freedom of religion was as important in Switzerland as it is to us”.

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders followed the result by calling for the Netherlands to organise its own referendum on the issue, saying: “Whatever is possible in Switzerland could equally be done here.”

What’s this?

People’s initiative

“Distorted image of Islam”

Elsewhere, the Vatican told the BBC on Monday that it endorsed a statement by the conference of Swiss Bishops criticising the vote for heightening “the problems of cohabitation between religions and cultures”.

In Lebanon, influential Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadllallah issued a statement calling the vote racist, and the fruit of a “propaganda campaign aimed at presenting a distorted and frightening image of Islam to the Swiss public”. He urged Swiss Muslims not to respond with violence to the outcome.

In Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, the head of the country’s largest Muslim group Maskuri Abdillah said the vote was a “manifestation of religious hatred”, but called for followers “not to respond with excess”.

Jana, the official news agency in Libya, which is in the midst of ongoing diplomatic spat with Switzerland, issued a statement saying it exposed Switzerland’s racist side and enshrined in law a “racist religious action”.

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, attending a gathering of European Union justice ministers on Monday, was forced on the back foot and had to explain to her counterparts that Sunday’s referendum vote was not “a referendum against Islam … but a vote directed against fundamentalist developments”.

Widmer-Schlumpf noted that it was foreseeable that an appeal against the ban could be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.

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

Swiss Minaret Ban Reflects Fear of Islam, Not Real Problems

A minaret in Wangen bei Olten: The Swiss have voted in favor of a ban on minaret construction.

The Swiss have voted in favor of a complete ban on the construction of minarets. But the decision is not a reaction to problems with Muslims in the country. Instead, it reveals a deep-seated fear of Islam.

There are only four minarets in Switzerland. One of them was completed just a few months ago in the village of Wangen bei Olten, population 5,000. It may just be a tiny tower in the middle of an industrial area, but its construction sparked a national controversy. It eventually led to a referendum campaign by a right-wing religious grouping that wanted to enshrine the following sentence in the Swiss constitution: “The construction of minarets is forbidden.”

On Sunday, the Swiss voted in favor of the ban. The results were highly surprising, contradicting all the polls and the fact that the government and almost all the major parties had campaigned for a “no” vote.

Some 57.5 percent of voters supported the ban. The initiative was also supported by the required majority of cantons, with 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons voting in favor of the ban. The two city cantons of Geneva and Basel-City rejected the proposal, as did two French-speaking cantons, Neuchâtel and Vaud.

It is a shockingly clear success for a proposal which originated from politicians on the far right of the political spectrum.

Symbolic Vote

For a long time, the initiative only seemed to be supported by a right-wing splinter group. Even Christoph Blocher, the longtime leader of the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), publicly distanced himself from the initiative, although his party almost unanimously expressed its support for the ban in the end.

But the organizers of the campaign managed to turn the dispute over minarets into a symbolic referendum on the influence of Islam. They did not speak much about minarets. Instead, they talked about Sharia law, burqas and the oppression of women in the Islamic world. In the end, even the prominent feminist Julia Onken supported the initiative.

The poster which the organizers used for their campaign showed a number of black minarets resembling rockets standing closely together on a Swiss flag. In front of the flag, a woman stared angrily out from beneath a black burqa. It was an image of a Switzerland that had been taken over by Islam. Minarets are “symbols of power” of a foreign religion, argued politician Ulrich Schlüer, who belongs to the SVP’s right wing. The ban, he said, represents a clear statement against their spread.

The debate was largely divorced from the reality of Switzerland. Although around 22 percent of the population is of foreign origin, the country has so far had relatively few problems with its roughly 400,000 Muslims. Most of them are liberally minded Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians and Turks and their approximately 160 mosques are practically invisible. Burqas are seldom seen on Swiss streets and there have never been serious calls for the introduction of Sharia law.

The decision, therefore, does not reflect real problems in Switzerland, but rather a general feeling of unease toward Islam. The issue revolves around a deep-seated fear that society’s values could be in danger.

However it is conceivable that the ongoing conflict with the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi could also have played a small role. Gadhafi is currently holding two Swiss citizens hostage in retaliation for the arrest of one of his sons in Geneva. But the crucial element was probably a fundamental need to clarify once and for all who has the final say in Switzerland.

Part 2: A Violation of Human Rights

The vote will undoubtedly change the image of Switzerland abroad. The country likes to present itself as a neutral guardian of human rights. It is the country where the Red Cross was established and the Geneva Convention was passed. But now the supposed model democracy has violated the human right of freedom of religion and has discriminated against a group solely on the basis of their religion.

The ban will have serious consequences. It will not eliminate immigration-related problems in Switzerland, but it will produce major problems for Switzerland in its international relations. The Swiss banks and the Swiss economy, which have close ties with economies around the world, including in the Arab world, will suffer as a result. There may also be damage to the tourism industry.

The ban will damage Switzerland’s credibility as a mediator in the eyes of Muslim countries, whether it be as a diplomatic representative of the US in Iran or in the conflict between Armenia and Turkey. And finally it will cause massive damage to the relationship between the Swiss and the Muslims living in the country, promoting exactly that isolation from the rest of society which the initiative was supposedly intended to address.

Negative Publicity

The problems for Switzerland don’t end there. The last year has been a difficult one for the country as economic superpowers blasted Bern for protecting tax dodgers, the result being a significant retreat from the country’s almost mythical banking secrecy rules. In addition, Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, almost fell victim to the financial crisis and was further damaged by allegations of illegal activities. Even the arrest of star director Roman Polanski in Zurich generated the kind of publicity many in Switzerland would rather avoid. The fact that Swiss citizens are now discriminating against a religion in a manner that violates human rights will further damage the country’s reputation.

Still, it is likely that minarets will continue to be built in Switzerland. The European Court of Human Rights is sure to take on the case, with most legal experts seeing a violation of freedom of religion and a clear-cut case of discrimination. Nevertheless, the damage has been done.

Europe-Wide Concern

Concern about growing numbers of Muslims and the visibility of Islam isn’t, of course, just limited to Switzerland. Both Cologne and Copenhagen have seen minaret debates of their own, the burqa is an issue in France and anti-Muslim politicians have had great success in Holland. So far, centrist politicians across the continent have failed to find an adequate response to the growing concern.

As such, it would be inaccurate to explain away the Swiss referendum results by merely pointing to xenophobia in the country. It is also an expression of the failures of the liberal political elite to adequately address the issue and to find solutions to the real and perceived problems with Muslim immigrants.

It is an issue that clearly concerns a large portion of the Swiss population; it would be a major misstep to allow right-wing populists to control the debate. Otherwise, extreme measures, like bans on minarets, can be expected to increase — in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe.

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

Switzerland: Minarets; Muslim Brothers, Human Rights Denied

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 30 — Prohibiting the construction of minarets in Switzerland goes against all international customs, human rights, and freedom of religion. The statement was made to ANSA by Mehdi Akef, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brothers, who commented on the result of yesterdays Swiss referendum. He emphasised that All Europeans do not want Islams rebirth and growth. But Islam exists everywhere in Europe and in the world”. Mehdi Akef ought to be at the end of his mandate, but in recent days it was announced that the elections scheduled for the beginning of 2010 may well be postponed to the end of the year. in an article published yesterday by the paper Asharq al Awssat, the groups spokesperson Mohammed Habib stated that in any event his successor will be Egyptian. Circles within the Muslim Brothers (a radical movement established in 1928 in Egypt) were speculating on the potential candidature of exponents from other countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Minaret Ban Hits the Swiss Headlines

Sunday’s clear decision by Swiss voters to ban further construction of minarets in the country has sent shockwaves around Switzerland and elsewhere.

In Switzerland, there seems to be a general concern in the media that the vote (57.5 per cent in favour of the ban) could lead to reprisals from Muslims.

The Fribourg newspaper La Liberté says Switzerland might have to pay for a “democratic luxury”.

“At a time when there are so many other challenges, including the economic crisis, the conflict with Libya and also the disappearance of banking secrecy, let’s hope the price to pay will not be exorbitant.”

The Corriere del Ticino also cites Libya, saying that fear of Islamic fundamentalism had added fuel to the fire.

“Over the last few months the Swiss have also felt the arrogance of a Muslim tyrant like Gaddafi who keeps two of our citizens as hostages and has called for Switzerland to be eliminated from the world map.”

The Tribune de Genève echoes many other newspaper opinions by arguing that the vote was a “yes” related to fear of Islam. Geneva was one of only four of the 26 Swiss cantons to vote against the initiative of the right. The three others were Vaud, Basel City and Neuchätel.

The Basler Zeitung, among others, makes the point that the vote was not about the construction of minarets in Switzerland.

“Gut feelings”

“This weekend gut feelings decided [the result]: these include resentment over the lack of willingness to integrate by some migrants, the widespread fear of the spread of foreign cultures and the fear that the Swiss Christian culture could be under threat.”

The mass-circulation Blick newspaper of Zurich comments that the vote was a “big slap in the face” for the government and most political parties that had opposed the ban.

It asks whether there will now be a big debate in the country about Islam. Blick sums it up this way: “Clear vote, unclear consequences”.

One of its commentators notes that Swiss exporters will now have to beware, explaining that they exported goods worth SFr14.5 billion ($14.49 billion) last year to Muslim countries, seven per cent of total exports.

“After the ‘yes’ vote to the minaret initiative, there is now a fear of boycotts.”

Le Temps of Geneva does not mince its words. It comments that the future will decide if the up-till-now peaceful relations between Swiss and Muslims will deteriorate after “this brutal sign of hostility”.

“The Muslims of Switzerland do not deserve the injustice of this sanction brought on by fear, fantasies and ignorance.

“ Our diplomats will have their work cut out. “

Neue Zürcher Zeitung “Not against mosques”

“But let’s keep in mind that the Swiss voted against minarets and not against mosques.”

L’Express of Neuchâtel was much harsher in its criticism.

Its headline read: “A vote against Islam”. It accused the Swiss of showing irrationality and intolerance.

“Yesterday’s vote ended with the most xenophobic result in several decades… a xenophobia based on fear… It’s a fear that may appear unfounded when you realise that the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly integrated into our country.”

Le Matin of Lausanne said the weekend vote had shown that for many people, Islam could be summed up by “extremists with beards, women wearing a burka and imams calling on the faithful to wage a holy war”.

The Journal du Jura has a headline on its editorial that reads: “An own goal of fear” and criticises the confusion that reigns about the Muslim population of Switzerland and the “religious fundamentalism which is affecting the world”.

Zurich’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung explained that public discussion in Switzerland had gone as far as calling the fears over minarets a “clash of cultures”. Debate was a question of the “advance of Islam” and was mainly against “Islamists prepared to use violence”.

It added: “Our diplomats will have their work cut out.”

Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng told the (Bern) Bund newspaper of his concerns, arguing the decision would have a high cost for Switzerland.

The 81-year-old said the good integration of Muslims in Switzerland was now in danger.

“As a Swiss abroad I was always proud of my country. The latest catastrophic developments for its image — for example banking secrecy — now culminate in this incomprehensible acceptance of an initiative, which not only goes against religious freedom, but also against tolerance that is so prized in Switzerland.”

Robert Brookes,

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

The Swiss Minaret Result Explains Why They’ll Never Allow Democracy in Britain

By Ed West

So the Swiss decided that four minarets is quite enough for one European country, and have voted for a ban, leading to threatening headlines around the world, such as “Vote shows hatred of Muslims” (according to the Indonesians), “Swiss brace for minaret backlash” and “Swiss ban on minarets fuels fear of reprisals”.

No doubt angry mobs from Cairo to Karachi will be furiously putting together little square red flags with white crosses for their “spontaneous” displays of anger and grievance, and no doubt the Islamic world’s leaders will call for an immediate boycott of all Swiss goods, except of course the banks, which are vital and necessary in their campaign against the Zionists.

The Swiss will naturally receive total support from their fellow Europeans, just as the publishers of small Scandinavian newspapers did almost four years ago when they dared to provoke the Islamic world. More than one newspaper has warned that Switzerland risked becoming a “pariah” in Europe, and I don’t doubt it — at least among the elites, who have expressed shock at the vote.

But this result is not that shocking to politicians who bothered to listen to the people. Luckily in Britain, where there is very little actual democracy, they don’t have to. Were Britain an actual democracy in the Swiss sense, we would not be in the EU, for the simple reason that after 1992 we would have had a referendum on membership and we would have voted no. In fact on every single issue under the sun the public are more conservative than the elite.

For example, the reason he United States has capital punishment and Europe doesn’t is not because Europeans are soft, hand-wringing lefties who all have sociology degrees, but because Europe is less democratic. In every opinion poll, the majority of British people have expressed support for capital punishment; even a majority of the Dutch, who we consider the most liberal and decadent people on earth, favour it.

Were Britain an actual democracy we would also still have corporal punishment in schools, Prince Charles would be in charge of the country’s architecture (while Lord Rogers would still be designing loft conversions), and the country would be as diverse as a golf club in the Hebrides. For proof of this I look no further than Roy Hattersley, who recently wrote in the Guardian:

“For most of my 33 years in Westminster, I was able to resist Sparkbrook’s demands about the great issues of national policy — otherwise, my first decade would have been spent opposing all Commonwealth immigration and my last calling for withdrawal from the European Union.”

My colleague Daniel Hannan argues that the Swiss ban was wrong but that his plans for direct democracy are still the way forward. That may be true enough, but I suspect the vote will remind the liberal elite why they think the masses are revolting.

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

UK: Dutch Mother Posed as Penniless Somalian Immigrant to Claim £70,000 Benefits

A mother who claimed asylum under a bogus identity in order to conduct a £70,000 benefits fraud has been told she would have been sent to prison if it weren’t for her five children.

Leyla Yusuf posed as a penniless Somali immigrant who needed state help to raise her and her family, but in reality she was a Dutch national with a comfortable lifestyle including property in Dubai.

The 31-year-old put in an asylum claim under the false name Leyla Hassan and was given a national insurance number enabling her to make claims for child and housing benefit, council tax help, income support, tax credits and community care grants.

Despite the fact that her alter ego had her real year of birth, phone numbers, and some children with the same names, the audacious fraud went undetected for seven years.

Yusuf was only rumbled when suspicious investigators called her in for an appointment — and fixed a second interview up for ‘Leyla Hassan’ on the same day.

She turned up for both and was arrested and charged with committing £70,000 worth of benefit fraud.

Yesterday, however, she was back at her terraced house in Manchester with her taxi driver husband after a judge spared her a prison sentence for the sake of her children.

Yusuf, who is of Somali origin, arrived in Britain on a Dutch passport in 2002, settling here with her husband and two of her children.

A court was told she consulted a British-based Somali lawyer, paying him £1,500, and was told the only way for her to claim benefits here was to create a fictitious identity.

So she invented Leyla Hassan, using as an address an empty property a few streets from her home in Moss Side, and put in a claim for asylum.

While it was processed, the couple went on to have two more children, earning around £10,000-a-year in benefits despite the fact that her husband was working.

She was finally trapped earlier this year when fraud investigators arranged appointments for Yusuf and her alter ego.

Yusuf — who now has a fifth child aged just six weeks — admitted falsely claiming £70,000.

A further four counts relating to £30,000 she obtained by lying that she lived apart from her husband were left to lie on file.

Sentencing her at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Anthony Hammond said she had perpetrated a ‘well-executed’ and ‘cynical milking of the system’.

‘You have defrauded this country of over £70,000 by a deliberate and cynical manipulation of the system,’ he told Yusuf.

‘You richly deserve to go to prison and your husband is lucky he’s not in the dock with you.’

But he added: ‘You have five children, the youngest only six weeks of age and the next youngest two years of age.

‘Were I to send you to prison, it’s going to be very difficult for someone to look after the two-year-old, and the youngest would go with you into prison.’

Instead she was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years with supervision, plus 300 hours unpaid work after admitting six counts of false accounting and one of failing to declare.

Yusuf has been ordered to repay the money, and investigators from the Department of Work and Pensions may try to recoup it by going after her property in Dubai.

An investigation is also expected to be carried out into her claims that a lawyer advised her to carry out the fraud.

Judge Hammond commented: ‘There are one or two dubious practitioners in that area making an awful lot of money.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: University of East Anglia Launches Investigation Into Leaked Emails

University of East Anglia to launch review into theft and online publication of hundreds of emails sent by scientists in climate research unit

Selected and unverified extracts from the emails have been used by climate change deniers to claim that the scientists colluded to manipulate climate data, causing a storm on deniers’ blogs. The charge is rejected as “despicable” by those involved and as groundless by leading scientific bodies.

With less than two weeks before the crucial UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, climate scientists and campaigners are assessing the damage the incident has caused to the public understanding of global warming. Opinion was split last night over how to deal with the fallout.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

World’s Press Dissect Swiss Minaret Ban

The Swiss vote to ban minarets reflects the fears of many Europeans but has tarnished the country’s reputation, many international commentators believe.

“The irrational fear of Islam has struck once again in Europe,” said the French Libération newspaper in an editorial headed “Absurd”.

“The ban on minarets has cast a sudden pall on the image of a country which is used to the peaceful coexistence of religions,” it commented.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the Swiss People’s Party — which backed the ban — managed to make a mountain out of a molehill. The paper points out that less than five per cent of the Swiss population are Muslim, and they are mostly well integrated. “Where difficulties with Muslims do exist, they can’t be solved by banning minarets.”

The Times newspaper of London deplores the vote and sees it as a blow against the principles on which European societies are built.

“In the name of defending the principles of a constitutional society against religious intolerance, Swiss voters have adopted intolerance. That is more than a paradox: it is a calumny,” it says.


Commentators have various theories as to why the Swiss in particular should have voted this way.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper writes of “an Alpine distrust of outsiders which lapsed into racism”.

Austria’s Kurier explains the vote in part by Switzerland’s ongoing dispute with Libya saying that some voters will have taken out their frustration with Moammar Gaddafi by voting to ban a symbol of the Muslim faith.

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung describes the vote as one of “anger and frustration”, coming after the bank secrecy affair and the crisis with Libya…

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


EU: Schengen Opens to Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians

(by Chiara Spegni) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 30 — As of December 19 Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians will feel closer to Europe, in a tangible manner, in their everyday lives. They will be able to travel in the Schengen area (all EU Member States except for Great Britain and Ireland, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) without a visa: a simple biometric passport will suffice. The final approval, which was eagerly expected by Belgrade, Podgorica and Skopje, was decided today by the meeting of Interiors in Brussels. EU Commisioner for enlargement Olli Rehn stated that “this is a great day when the announcement was made in a press conference with Serbian president Boris Tadic and EC vice president Jacques Barrot. Barrot explained that “We are proud of offering the chance, especially to the youth of these countries, of being able to travel this Christmas without having to request a visa”. “This is the beginning of a new era”, said Tadic, who believes that today “represents a key moment ahead of the full integration of the entire region into the EU. Not only is it a great day for Serb citizens, but for all those of former Yugoslavia, including the people of Kosovo, who will be soon able to benefit from the new visa conditions”. In being the first to meet the objective in 2009, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro will act as forerunners for other countries in the western Balkans, especially Bosnia and Albania, who should meet the necessary requisites by the end of 2010. Of course, allowing Serb citizens to travel freely in Europe does not imply admitting Belgrade to the group of 27, but Tadic believes that the elimination of visas represents a key moment in this direction, aside from a tangible result for the government: todays decision was not a gift, but the result of hard work carried out in a short time, considering that the road map started in 2008”. “There is no better way of promoting European values in our region than that of allowing free access to Europe to our youth” is what ANSAmed was told by Slavica Milacic, Montenegros ambassador to the EU, who also sees the elimination of visas as an incentive for entrepreneurs to strengthen trade with Europe. But above all Milacic sees todays events as a tangible sign of the European outlook and a credible EU policy of enlargement, which keeps our governments under check and committed compared to a general agenda of reform. Barrot stated that In this sense, the elimination of visas represents an encouraging signal, but we need to keep pressing to meet the conditions for admittance in terms of the judicial, the respect of European values, and human rights. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: UN Court Begins to Examine Independence Declaration

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — The International Justice Court, which regulates controversies between nations for the UN, began this morning to examine at the Hague the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. Before the UN court, until December 11, Serbia, Kosovo and 29 nations will appear. The court’s ruling will arrive in coming months. Kosovo proclaimed independence on February 17 2008. Until today, 63 countries have recognised its independence as a former Serbian province with a population that is for the most part Albanian. In the EU, 22 of 27 nations have recognised the scission. Serbia has always been opposed to Kosovo’s move, considering it against international law and for this reason opened a case before the international Justice Court.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Stock Exchange, Dubai Sends Local Market Down

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 30 — Local stocks in Cairo suffered early today a severe blow, with an almost 7% decline, on the first trading session of the week after a long four-day Idul Adha (Bairan) feast holiday due to a debt crisis in Dubai. Worried about the potential aftermath from about USD 80 billion debt default to world banks, and scant information about the implications, prompted a widespread sale of stocks particularly by Foreign and other Arab investors, MENA reports. The confusion took the shares of leading companies down, including the two market moving stocks Orascom Telecom (OT) and Orascom Construction Industries (OCI). OCI, Egypt’s biggest maker of nitrogen fertilizers and top listed builder, mosedived by 10.03 peer cent to trade at LE 220.50. OT, the largest Arab mobile operator by subscribers, also plummeted by 6.63 per cent to sell at LE 25.92. Dubai stock market was also a leading victim to slump by seven per cent early Monday amidst thin trading. Shortly before Monday’s close down, the market kept its declining curve on Arab and foreign investors unabated sales. EGX 30 index registered a 6.84 per cent decline or by an average of 436.16 points at 5940.16 points. Meantime, a statement by Orascom Telecom Holding said that its net profits in the last nine months (January to September) dropped 66.81 per cent or by LE 7.747 billion to LE 3.847 billion. The statement relayed to the Egyptian stock market authority said this compares to LE 11.594 billion in net profits in the same period last year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt Kills Migrant Trying to Slip Across Israel Border

An African migrant has been shot and killed by Egyptian police as he tried to illegally cross into Israel, an Egyptian security official has said.

Border police said the man, described as in his twenties and of unknown sub-Saharan origin, ignored orders to stop.

At least 17 migrants have been killed at the Egypt-Israel border in 2009.

Human rights activists have previously criticized Egypt for the practice, but Egyptian police claim they are trying to control people trafficking.

In September there was widespread condemnation from rights groups when a party of four sub-Saharan migrants were shot at the porous, desert border, which is 250 km (155 miles) long.

Eritrea is the most common country of origin for people trying to cross from Egypt to Israel, followed by Ethiopia and Sudan.

Analysts say the number of migrants from the Horn of Africa attempting the journey has increased in recent months because other routes, such as through Libya to Europe, have become more difficult.

‘No threat’

The Sinai border is on one of the main routes for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel.

Egypt has come under pressure from Israeli authorities to clamp down on the traffic.

More than 13,000 people have managed to make the journey since 2006.

Human Rights Watch has criticised Israel for violating the rights of some refugees who arrive in the country and has denounced the forcible return of dozens of them to Egypt.

Egypt maintains that its tactics on the border are part of its strategy to counter terrorism and smuggling, but a Human Rights Watch report in 2008 said there was no suggestion migrants who had been shot posed any threat to border guards.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Libya Sentences Swiss Men to Jail Amid Gaddafi Son Row

Libya has sentenced two Swiss businessmen to 16 months in jail amid a row over the arrest last year of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son in Geneva.

Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani, detained since July 2008, were convicted of immigration offences.

Libya has said their trial and the Swiss “aggression” against Col Gaddafi’s son Hannibal are not linked.

Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were briefly held in Geneva in 2008 over allegations of abusing two servants.

The charges were later dropped, but the case angered Tripoli.

Their arrest sparked retaliatory measures from Libya, including cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

Libyan officials said the Swiss businessmen were also fined 2,000 dinars ($1,700; £1,000) each, but had the right to appeal.

It is believed they will be tried for tax evasion and failure to comply with business laws later in the month.

The case has sparked outrage in Switzerland, and the government has been criticised for its handling of the affair.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz visited Tripoli in August and issued a public apology for the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi.

But he failed to secure the return of Hamdani, a construction company employee, and Goeldi, Libyan operations manager of engineering firm ABB.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, Algerian Guantanamo Prisoner Sentenced

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 30 — An Algerian held in Guantanamo, from where he refuses to be extradited to his home country, has been sentenced in his absence by the Algiers Court to 20 years in prison for “belonging to a terrorist group abroad”. Reports were from the APS press agency, which noted that Ahmed Belbacha had been arrested in Pakistan and transferred to Guantanamo in 2002. Despite the fact that US authorities had decided to release him in 2007, the prisoner refused to be extradited to Algeria and “preferred to stay in Guantanamo”, continued the source within providing any further details. According to some observers, the 37-year-old Belbacha refused to go back to his home country out of the fear that he would be tortured. After leaving Algeria in the 1990s, he is thought to have gone to Afghanistan before being arrested in Pakistan in December 2001. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Kairouan, 40 People Stabbed on Night of Eid El Idha

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 30 — Around forty people suffering from knife injuries were treated at Kairouan’s hospital last Friday night (festival of Eid El Idha). The news appears in the French-language Tunis weekly Hebdo, which states that the injuries did not result from fights but were the outcome of unprovoked attacks. The worst case, involving a cut off nose and lip, was transferred to Sousse Hospital. The trigger of this episode of gratuitous violence may, as in previous cases, have been the consumption of alcohol. But the weekly paper makes no mention of this. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

EU ‘Ready to Recognise East Jerusalem as Palestinian Capital’

Jerusalem, 1 Dec. (AKI) — A document obtained by an Israeli newspaper claims that European Union foreign ministers will next week call for the division of Jerusalem to be capitals of both Israel and the future Palestinian state.

According to a report published on Tuesday in the daily Haaretz, a draft document authored by Sweden — which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency — implies a recognition of the Palestinian state, even if declared unilaterally.

Israel, however, is reportedly waging a diplomatic battle to prevent the EU from issuing such a statement, due to take place on 7 December during a two-day meeting in Brussels on the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The goal is an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the document says, adding that the EU Council “has never recognised the annexation of East Jerusalem.

“If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as capital of two states. The Council calls for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem in accordance with the road map. It also calls on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”

In regard to borders, the document says that the EU will not accept any territory annexations or border changes following the 1967 Six-Day war, unless the Palestinian Authority agreed.

In October, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon stated that Jerusalem must be the capital of two states — Israel and Palestine — with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all, if peace in the Middle East is to be achieved.

East Jerusalem is also where most of the holy sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians are located including the Western or Wailing Wall and Temple Mount, as well as the Al-Aqsa mosque.

On 17 November, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said that conditions in the Palestinian territories “were not there yet” to accept a unilateral declaration of an independent state put forth by top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and without having found a solution to the conflict with Israel.

Bildt’s comments came a day after US state department spokesman Ian Kelly echoed similar concerns.

The US — Israel’s biggest ally — however, has veto power in the UN Security Council, and could in theory exercise it to prevent the unilateral declaration.

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

Goverment-Settlers Clash Over Settlements

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER 30 — The government of Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu and the representatives of settlers who live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank appear today to be on the verge of clashing, which could also end up in open demonstrations of rebellion against the authority of the state. Furious over the PMs decision to freeze all new housing constructions in the settlements for the next 10 months in order to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table for peace, the representatives of settlers had an emergency meeting today. At the end of the meeting, they condemned the Governments illegitimate, immoral, anti-Zionist and inhuman decision. They also decided not to collaborate with the inspectors sent by the authorities to the area with the aim of monitoring whether the government order is being respected and they even threatened to close the gates to the settlements. An appeal against the government was also presented to the High Court of Justice so that it invalidates the governments decision to stop the constructions. In a gesture of open challenge to the government, the head of the regional council of the settlements in the north of the West Bank, Gershon Messica, ostentatiously ripped up the order for the freeze of all constructions that he had just been handed by a government official in front of a television camera. Yishai Hollander, spokesman of the settlements council, said that there will be a number of ceremonies of the next few days for the laying of foundation stones of new quarters in many settlements. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Import of Arab-Language Books to be Eased

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 30 — For those Israelis whose native toungue is Arabic (one in five) new literary horizons are now being opened with the final touches being put to a law which would liberalise importation of Arab-language books, even if they have been printed in “countries hostile” to the Israeli state. In the past, even harmless titles, like “Pinocchio” or the Harry Potter saga, or translations into Arabic of the works of William Shakespeare and Moliere, were held up on their entry into Israel because they had been “printed in hostile states”, including Lebanon and Syria. These restrictions did not exist for books printed in countries that held diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, whose output of printed matter is, however, smaller. The new legislation will look not so much at the country of origin as at the content of the book. Israel’s secret services will nonetheless be able to halt the import of Arab books or magazines which express hatred towards Israel, which negate the Holocaust, or which promote the organisation of terrorist attacks. “This is an important law,” said Labour MP and former education minister, Yuli Tamir, “which will bring about an enrichment of the cultural heritage of all of Israel’s inhabitants, each of whom has the full right to read books in their native tongue”. According to press reports, the new law will boost support for the government. It is still unclear when it will come before Parliament.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dubai: Central Bank Offers Liquidity, Markets in Spotlight

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 30 — After holding its breath for the past two days, the international financial world is today seeing the reopening of markets after the financial difficulties announced by Dubai World which jolted stock exchanges on Thursday, though the following day authorities and banks acted to reduce the domino effect. Today the Dubai stock exchange reopens, and the intentions and asset conditions of the institutes and enterprises working in the Gulf exposed to the public holding will be known. Yesterday the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took action to shore up banks operating on its territory, ordering liquidity to cushion the potential impact on the stocks of the credit institutes most-exposed to Dubai World’s request for debt restructuring on the reopening of regional stock exchanges. The announcement last Wednesday of a request for a debt moratorium came just before the Islamic holiday Eid Al-Adha, during which the stock exchanges of oil-rich Gulf countries were closed. On Saturday, Dubai’s neighbouring Gulf country and one of the largest oil exporters in the world — as well as capital of the United Arab Emirates — Abu Dhabi came to its rescue, though only with limited measures. It announced that it would help out the nearby, indebted emirate of Dubai, but only on a case by case basis and not underwriting all the debt of the state-held Dubai World. Meanwhile, technical experts at Deloitte, Rotshschild and Alix Partners are attempting to restructure Dubai World’s debt, and there will be a number of options to look into. The holding could pay off by December 14 the 3.52-billion dollar ‘sukuk’ (Islamic bond) issued by Nakheel, the real estate operator famous for having built the palm-shaped islands, and set other deadlines for the rest of the debt. Another solution may be to pay back 80% of the debt both to bond holders and to banks. Otherwise Dubai World could go forward with its plan to ask for the previously announced debt moratorium with a freeze on payments until 30 May 2010. In the worst case scenario, reports The National, Dubai World could bring in asset liquidation in response to possible legal actions on the part of its creditors.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU-Jordan: Science and Technology Agreement Signed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOV 30 — The European Union signed today a science and technology (S&T) cooperation agreement with Jordan. This agreement will help structure and enhance S&T cooperation in areas of common interest such as energy and sustainable development where joint research efforts could bring common solutions and mutual benefits. The accord opens a new chapter of scientific cooperation between the EU and Jordan, an important partner in the european neighbourhood policy. “The signature of an S&T cooperation agreement signed Janez Potocnik, European commissioner for Science and Research — is the recognition of our mutual interest in bringing together our scientific capacities to address the great challenges we face today. Under the agreement, a joint EU-Jordan Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation will be created and it will help identify common research priorities and put in place the necessary tools for cooperation (e.g reciprocal participation in research programmes, exchange of researchers). Jordan became the fifth Mediterranean Partner Country to sign an S&T Cooperation Agreement with the EU (the other four being Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iran Warns it Will Take ‘Serious’ Action Against Seized British Sailors if it Proves They Had ‘Evil Intentions’

Iran is prepared to take ‘serious’ measures against five British sailors it is holding hostage if it can prove they had ‘evil intentions’, an aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today.

The president’s head of staff spoke as British diplomats scrambled to free the five sailors and prevent a propaganda coup.

The civilian crew were snatched six days ago after ‘inadvertently’ straying into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf as they sailed their yacht from Bahrain to Dubai for the start of an international race.


Last night 21-year-old Mr Porter’s mother Beverley said her husband Charles had spoken to their son on his mobile phone.

She said the sailors had strayed into Iranian waters by only 500 yards, but were now being held somewhere off Iran.


Her 48-year-old husband added: ‘From what we understand, there was an oil field on their charts — which is a restricted area — so they chose to go one side of it.

‘In doing so they strayed too close to a small island called Sirri. I assume that is when they were picked up. They’re miffed that they are being cooped up and a race was going on.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran’s New Anti-Israel Ally: French Comedian Dieudonne

( French comic-politician Dieudonne, who has been convicted more than once for anti-Semitic speech, has teamed up with Iran, which is funding his production of a new anti-Israel comedy. Dieudonne recently visited Iran and met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Deputy Culture Minister for Cinematic Affairs.

“We received a substantial budget allowing us to make movies on par with Hollywood, which serves as the long arm of Zionist culture,” he told the Tehran Times.

Dieudonne told his hosts, “It is forbidden to talk about the Holocaust in France [sic], but I have arranged the comedy in such a way that it ridicules the issue of the Holocaust. Comedy is an influential tool and now that we cannot speak directly about it, this is the best approach to use. Today, there are only a few countries like Iran that are open to joint productions on these types of issues.”

He said that in his meeting with Ahmadinejad, “We also discussed that the world is dominated by imperialism and that one cannot make use of art to depict this. We also discussed the censorship conducted by the Zionist lobby in Europe and their influence on the media.”

He charged that the “Zionist lobby” has caused the cancellation of 200 performances he had scheduled. “To get around this, I bought a big bus in which I can travel to different districts and then perform my plays when I get there.”

Dieudonne, who previously ran for the European Parliament as head of an anti-Zionist party, was fined earlier this year after he invited a convicted Holocaust denier to receive an award from someone dressed as a Nazi concentration camp victim.

French judges also fined him two years ago for comparing Jews to “slave-traders.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Swiss Ban on Minarets Condemned in the Muslim World, But Many Voices Call for Moderation

Vote result is seen as an expression of Islamophobia. The grand mufti of Egypt calls it an “insult” to Muslims around the world. More voices warn against violent reactions, noting that the Swiss government as well as Christian and Jewish groups are opposed to the ban.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The Muslim world slammed the vote in Switzerland in favour a ban on minarets on Swiss soil (pictured: protest demonstration). For Muslims, the result is case of Islamophobia. However, some voiced urge moderation, especially since the Swiss government, the country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference and groups like Amnesty International have come out against the ban.

“The most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community,” said Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland.

Elsewhere in the Muslim world, reactions are even stronger. For the grand mufti of Egypt, the result is an “insult” to Muslims around the world. “This proposal [. . .] is not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland,” Gomaa said.

Still, many have called for calm. Maskuri Abdillah, the head of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim group, spoke about “hatred” and “intolerance”. The vote for him is a sign of the “hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities. They don’t want to see a Muslim presence in their country and this intense dislike has made them intolerant.” Still, he urged Muslims in his country “to show them tolerance and freedom of religion”.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, said he was confident that “the people of Switzerland will reach the best consensus and will take the best decision,” and overturn the ban.

At the level of media, we find a variety of responses. Al Jazeera spoke of a “shocking result”. Quoting an analyst, the satellite TV said, “It was because people are worried about the growth of Islam in Europe.”

For the Tehran Times, it is a case of rising “Islamophobia in Europe and violation of religious freedom and convention commitments.

An Iranian TV channel said that everyone condemned the Swiss Islamophobic vote, noting that the Swiss government slammed the ban.

Similarly, Lebanon’s Nahar newspaper as well as Hizbollah’s al Manar TV channel noted that Christians also expressed dismay over the outcome, stressing that it was “inadmissible that the religious minority” is now “to subject to unequal treatment.” The Kuwait Times agrees.

Nahar also reported that religious groups, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, have come out in a rare show of unity against the right-wing proposal. (PD)

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

Turkey’s Erdogan Says Minaret Ban is Sign of Fascism

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined a chorus of international criticism of Switzerland’s ban on minarets, saying it refelects an increasingly racist and fascist stance in Europe. The Swiss foreign minister said the vote may pose a threat to the country’s security.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Switzerland’s vote to ban the construction of minarets was a “sign of an increasing racist and fascist stance in Europe,” Turkish television Channel 7 reported on Tuesday. Islamophobia was a “crime against humanity,” just like anti-Semitism, Erdogan said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül also criticized the Swiss referendum in which 57.5 percent of voters had backed an initiative brought by the conservative Swiss People’s Party and a smaller right-wing party which argued that minarets symbolize a quest for Islamic power. Gül said the vote was a “disgrace” for the people of Switzerland and showed how far Islamophobia had advanced in the Western world.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the more than 100,000 Turkish immigrants living in Switzerland were worried about the decision which “runs counter to human values and basic freedoms.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: More Than 60 Militants Killed in Tribal Region

Islamabad, 30 Nov. (AKI/DAWN) — Pakistan’s security forces have killed at least 60 militants and arrested 87 others, including Uzbeks and Afghans, during operations in the Khyber tribal region near the border of Afghanistan.

Commandant Brigadier Fayyaz told a media conference on Monday that security forces had cleared the area of militants.

Security forces also recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition.

They also destroyed 27 vehicles, ten hideouts and five tunnels, he said.

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

Far East

China: Solar Toys

Meanwhile, China is currently building the world’s largest solar array, and the green media is grandly crowing that China has seen the light and is joining the green-energy revolution.

China is building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants and dozens of nuclear-power plants — and has 132 nuclear plants in various stages of planning and construction. “Green” energy makes up about 1 percent of China’s new energy installation. This 1 percent is obviously being built for political advertising purposes. China also plans to sell lots of solar panels to the United States. Energy produced by China’s coal and nuclear industries will be stored in solar panels, shipped to the United States and gradually released over the next 50 years. U.S. capital paid for the panels will build nuclear and coal-fired plants in China.

The entire U.S. energy trade deficit could be reversed and electricity prices lowered fivefold by the construction of 50 nuclear-power stations with 10 reactors each for a private capital cost of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. In a free market, this would be accomplished by a combination of new nuclear and hydrocarbon power plants. Under current U.S. government impediments, this will never be done.

With industry restricted to “green” methods, such as solar panels, and with hydrocarbon energy stifled by cap-and-trade, reversing the energy trade deficit would cost $20 trillion. This is beyond the resources of our currently decapitalized, deindustrialized nation.

For 30 years, U.S. energy production has gradually been restricted by U.S. government actions. Now, with the new Marxists and socialists in charge in Washington, this energy restriction has been markedly increased. Without energy at competitive prices, our country has a very dim future.

If these political processes are allowed to continue, before long there will not be sufficient capital in the United States to correct the problem. If, after that, we manage to change course and build those 50 nuclear power stations, the capital will come from abroad — and the American people will be enslaved to foreign owners.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Philippines: Protesters Demand Justice for Massacre Victims

Manila, 30 Nov. (AKI) — Hundreds of journalists and human rights activists protested near the presidential palace in the Philippines’ capital, Manila, on Monday, seeking justice for colleagues who were among the 57 victims of a massacre in the south last week.

“We call for justice,” Benny Antiporda, head of the National Press Club, said in a statement.

“The whole world has shown its disgust over what happened. The media workers killed in the massacre were not armed.”

The National Union of Journalists said 59 journalists had been killed in the Philippines since 2001, without taking account of the 30 who were among last week’s victims murdered in the southern province of Maguindanao.

Prosecutors have charged Andal Ampatuan Jr, a local mayor and member of a powerful political clan, with seven counts of murder and justice officials said they expected to file more charges in relation to the massacre.

Meanwhile, local media reported that police and military operatives on Monday raided the suspected storage area of high-powered firearms that could have been used to kill the victims of the massacre.

According to GMA News’ security forces seized high-powered guns, ammunition, a grenade, and military paraphernalia from a safe house belonging to a certain Inspector Saudi Mokamad in Cotabato City.

As investigations were continuing into the killings, president Gloria Arroyo, a key political ally of the Ampatuans, last week gave the interior secretary permission to suspend all local officials in the province of Maguindanao who may have a role in the crime.

Ampatuan Jr has denied any involvement in the killings, calling such accusations “baseless”.

On Friday, the justice department moved to stop eight other members of the Ampatuan family from leaving the country as they were also placed under investigation.

The government was also planning to suspend and remove them from positions of power in the province to pave way for a fair inquiry.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somali Pirates Capture Huge Tanker Taking Oil to US

Somali pirates have captured a tanker carrying oil to the US, officials say.

The Greek-owned Maran Centaurus was about 1,300km (800 miles) off Somalia when it was hijacked on Sunday, said the EU Naval task force (Navfor).

The ship was full of oil and is believed to be one of the largest yet seized by Somali pirates. There are 28 crew members on board.

Pirate attacks have been common off the Somali coast and international navies have been deployed to counter them.

A spokesman for the Greek coastguard told Reuters news agency that about nine armed pirates attacked the ship close to the Seychelles.

As it was fully laden, it was moving quite slowly — between 11 and 15 knots (20-27km/h) — when attacked, a Navfor spokesman told the BBC.

Reuters reports the Greek defence ministry as saying that a Greek navy frigate which had been involved with the Navfor operation was now shadowing the vessel.

Navfor said the ship, which has a dead weight of some 300,000 tonnes, had been sailing to New Orleans in the US from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia but was now heading towards Somalia.

Its crew is made up of 16 Filipinos, nine Greeks, two Ukrainians and one Romanian.

Maran Tankers Management, which operates the vessel, told Reuters the crew were “well”.

Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank Rashid Abdi says the fact that pirates are now operating so far out to sea shows that the intervention of the world’s navies has made little difference to the problem of piracy.

“This incident clearly shows the pirates are becoming more bolder,” he says.

“So I don’t think the solution is in building the naval deployment there, or increasing the naval deployment. The problem is actually in dealing with the governance crisis which feeds the problem of piracy.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]


Italy: Frattini, Safeguard Our Identity and Integrate

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 30 — “The stronger we will be in defending and safeguarding the roots of our identity, the more we will be able to integrate the identity of others”. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini made this statement while commenting the issue of immigrants’ rights. Speaking to the State-Regions Conference held today in Villa Madama, the foreign minister specified his thoughts on citizenship for foreigners living in Italy. Frattini emphasised that citizenship for non-Italians must be the end of a path made of respect for rules, and of learning the language. A path rich and complex, but which must not be taken for granted as an acquired right”. According to the foreign minister, the main points of the file on immigration are the respect of the laws, legality, reception and integration”, all of which “without losing our identity”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Climate-Cult Con is Hard to ‘Bear’

When did global warming turn into a forced religion?

My daughter came home from school recently with a spring in her step and a song on her lips. With no foreshadowing — or time to call an exorcist — out came this chilling refrain:

“ . . . You can hear the warning — GLOBAL WARMING . . . “

By the time her father and I removed our jaws from the floor, we had learned that:

A) All the kids had been coerced into singing this catchy ditty, which we called “The Warming Song,” at a concert for parents.

B) Further song lyrics scolded selfish adults (that would be us) for polluting our planet and causing a warming scourge that would, in no short order, kill all the polar bears and threaten the birds and bees.

C) There was no deprogramming session on the menu. And no arguing allowed.

The international “Climategate” scandal is now moving into its third week. And reaction from folks on the scientific and political left — or is that redundant? — who treat global warming as a cult in which naysayers must be crushed has been depressing:

Total denial.

The scandal began when someone hacked into the server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England, and uncovered a cache of messages between leading warming gurus. These e-mails revealed guys deeply frustrated by planetary temperatures that, stubbornly, had refused to rise in some time. Were they afraid of losing their scientific juice? Or their funding?

So, as the e-mails prove, the scientists did something about it. They cooked the books to exaggerate global warming.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Leaked Emails Won’t Harm UN Climate Body, Says Chairman

Rajendra Pachauri says there is ‘virtually no possibility’ of a few scientists biasing IPCC’s advice, after UAE hacking breach

There is “virtually no possibility” of a few scientists biasing the advice given to governments by the UN’s top global warming body, its chair said today.

Rajendra Pachauri defended the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the wake of apparent suggestions in emails between climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that they had prevented work they did not agree with from being included in the panel’s fourth assessment report, which was published in 2007.

The emails were made public this month after a hacker illegally obtained them from servers at the university.

Pachauri said the large number of contributors and rigorous peer review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be rapidly uncovered.

“The processes in the IPCC are so robust, so inclusive, that even if an author or two has a particular bias it is completely unlikely that bias will find its way into the IPCC report,” he said.

“Every single comment that an expert reviewer provides has to be answered either by acceptance of the comment, or if it is not accepted, the reasons have to be clearly specified. So I think it is a very transparent, a very comprehensive process which insures that even if someone wants to leave out a piece of peer reviewed literature there is virtually no possibility of that happening.”


Some commentators, including the former chancellor Nigel Lawson and the environmental campaigner and Guardian writer George Monbiot, have called on Jones to resign but Pachauri said he did not agree. He said an independent inquiry into the emails would achieve little, but there should be a criminal investigation into how the emails came to light.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]