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Islam and the West ( 6 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

How The Charlie Hebdo Attack Changed France: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 7 January 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

07 Jan 2016

How the Charlie Hebdo attack changed France

Agnes Poirier

US-Armed Saudi Coalition Cancels Ceasefire, Renews Military Onslaught In Yemen

By Thomas Gaist

Iran’s aggression demands a harsh response

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor


How the Charlie Hebdo attack changed France

Agnes Poirier

06 Jan 2016

"I owe you the truth - we are not done with terrorism. Our services constantly thwart attacks," said French President Francois Hollande in his New Year's Eve address to the nation.

As wishes for the New Year go, this is a decidedly sombre one. Indeed, how could anyone in France express joy or even hope for some respite when Paris, still reeling from last November's attacks which left 130 people dead and another 350 injured, is about to witness a whole week of memorial services to remember those three days last January when France lost its innocence?

On January 7, 8 and 9 last year, France's most cherished cartoonists, three of them in their 80s, and their colleagues at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, were killed, three members of the police force shot dead, and consumers of a Kosher supermarket targeted and killed for being Jews.

The murder of those 17 French citizens by French-born jihadists was followed by the largest march on the streets of France since the liberation of France in 1944, and before that, since the national funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885.

Four million people - including two million in Paris alone - marched to show unity. Heads of state from around the world, among them both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, but with the notable absence of US President Barack Obama, joined the march in Paris to show support.

What France does best

Big marches and demonstrations are among the things that France does best; January 11 will remain in history as an emotionally charged and powerful display of both resilience and defiance. However, one year on, France may have lost more than just its trademark insouciance.

Today, tens of thousands of armed forces members, deployed at home, are patrolling the streets of France and protecting vulnerable sites such as synagogues, but also mosques, churches and faith schools.

As for the overworked and overstretched French police, they now have a new task, that of protecting hundreds of personalities such as philosophers, writers, and moderate imams who are critical of the leniency shown by past French governments towards radicalism. The Franco-Tunisian Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of Drancy, northeast of Paris, known for his fight in favour of a more inclusive Islam, needs round-the-clock protection.

Much more has changed in France. The country is living in a state of emergency, one which confers considerable additional powers to the police, the details of which are to feature in a proposed revision of the constitution. To be adopted, the bill needs the support of at least 611 of the 925 French parliamentarians, and will be debated early in February.

Among the amendments to the constitution under consideration is the deprivation of citizenship for dual nationals who commit terrorist acts. This symbolic measure, supported by 85 percent of the French people, according to a recent poll, has divided French parliamentarians, beyond their own affiliations to the left or the right.

Many argue against it, arguing that dual nationals shouldn't be specifically targeted and that instead "national degradation" - the stripping of civic rights and imprisonment - should be applied to anyone who commits terrorist acts, stopping short at depriving citizens of their citizenship.

Risky suspension of civil liberties

Of course, the state of emergency is seen by many as an unbearable - or certainly risky - suspension of civil liberties, and the environmental militants belonging to the ecological cause's most radical fringes were the first to experience it in the run-up to the COP21 summit in Paris. They not only braved the ban to march but threw bottles at the police. The Force was not on their side and some of them were consigned to house arrest for weeks.

Most of the French people, wary of more attacks, are for the moment supportive of the government's approach, accepting the limitations on their liberties in the fight against terrorism.

For the moment, living in security feels more important than the right to demonstrate.

However, as time goes by, Hollande, whose presidency comes to an end in May 2017, will have to tread very carefully. The state of emergency must remain a temporary measure; if this is not the case, the definition of democracy in France will have to be amended too.

Agnes Poirier is the UK editor for the French political weekly MARIANNE, and a political commentator.


US-Armed Saudi Coalition Cancels Ceasefire, Renews Military Onslaught In Yemen

By Thomas Gaist

06 January, 2015

Saudi Arabia officially canceled a weeks-old cease-fire in its war against Yemen Saturday, ending a formal period of truce between the regime and the Houthi insurgency that began on December 15.

The regime has already launched a fresh wave of airstrikes since declaring the truce over. According to the UN Saudi jets have pounded areas throughout the country over the last three days in attacks that have already destroyed a handful of civilian targets.

Saudi forces have already attacked several targets in “densely populated civilian areas” within Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, according to UN human rights representative Rupert Coalville. The latest Saudi strikes destroyed a medical center for blind patients on Tuesday. Earlier this week airstrikes also destroyed Yemen’s chamber of commerce headquarters.

Yemen’s main population centers are currently under various degrees of military siege and blockade, including the capital Sanaa and the southern port city of Aden, as well as Taiz, a city of some 200,000.

An 8 p.m. curfew was imposed in Aden on Monday, after pro-government forces wrested control of areas of the city that had been taken over by Al Qaeda-linked militia and other militia factions.

The war against Yemen is only one of countless US-orchestrated slaughters perpetrated against the Middle East. Nonetheless, it is being waged with an especially frenzied level of criminality and recklessness. The Saudi regime and its American backers are proving in Yemen that they will use any level of military force and mass terror in defense of their power and control over the highly strategic region.

Wave after wave of Saudi-led bombing has routinely struck known civilian targets and residential areas. At least 8,100 Yemeni civilians have been killed or wounded since the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in March, according to the latest UN figures. Within days of the beginning of the Saudi air war in March Saudi attacks struck a refugee camp, a civilian market and a medical center.

The number of civilian casualties produced by Saudi air attacks continued to increase sharply throughout December in spite of the supposed truce. Amid the ceasefire and simultaneous “peace talks” in Geneva, the total number of Yemeni civilians killed more than doubled in December by comparison with November.

Saudi airstrikes are responsible for two thirds of the civilian deaths caused by the war, a UN report found in September. More than 2.5 million Yemenis have been displaced and nearly 200,000 have sought refuge in other countries since the Saudi onslaught began.

Saudi strikes have been launched in flagrant violation of international law against areas with known schools and hospitals, according to Johannes van der Klaauw, UN humanitarian official in charge of Yemen. Saudi forces have launched countless “accidental” strikes against civilian areas, wedding parties and medical facilities.

The widespread destruction of Yemen’s social and productive infrastructure has led to conditions in which the vast majority of the population struggles without secure sources of food, electricity or running water.

Within two weeks of the launch of the Saudi air war, more than 10 million Yemenis had lost all access to food, water and electricity, according to initial reports in April 2015. Some 100,000 Yemenis were displaced from their homes within the first two weeks of the Saudi war alone.

The UN food agency warned recently that Yemen as a whole is “at risk of slipping into famine.” Nearly half of Yemen’s provinces are characterized by near famine conditions, according to the World Food Program. One million Yemenis are already malnourished and Yemen’s health care infrastructure is “close to collapse,” according statements by top UN emergency relief official Kyung-wha Kang.

Some 300,000 young children (ages 1-4) are malnourished and some 7.6 million Yemenis are living in borderline starvation conditions. Human rights groups also report that many Yemeni children are showing signs of mass psychological trauma.

In the months since initial accusations of cluster bomb usage by Riyadh were advanced by Human Rights Watch in April, Saudi forces have continued to use illegal cluster munitions against civilian areas. UN investigators found dozens of shell casings from Saudi cluster weapons near villages in Yemen’s Haradh District.

The US media has maintained the maximum level of silence possible in relation to the Yemen war. A Saudi air strike which destroyed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Yemen in late October, just weeks after US forces incinerated a large MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, passed with barely a ripple in the American press.

With the help of the corporate media, the Obama administration has worked to distance the US and NATO from the war and downplay the scale of the crimes being perpetrated by the US-backed Saudi forces.

In reality, the Saudi monarchy has received a blank check from Washington to wage war in Yemen. The US government and military have played a central role in the war, providing close support for the Saudi air campaign, including logistics, weapons, intelligence and target selection. The US has carried out thousands of mid-air refuels of Saudi coalition planes, and has been running joint military operation centers in Saudi territory to streamline the assault.

In November, President Obama signed an authorization green lighting an additional purchase of $1.3 billion worth of US weapons by the Saudi regime.

The Saudi royals have enthusiastically seized on the open-ended US backing for their campaign to place their military apparatus on a total war footing and assemble an “Islamic war coalition” in preparation for confrontation against Iran and Iranian forces and interests throughout the Middle East.

Official Saudi budget estimates for 2016 allocate nearly $215 billion to “military sectors.” The regime plans to double the size of its military by 2020, building up its combat-ready force to over 500,000 soldiers and spending some $150 billion on an array of new advanced weapons systems, according to figures cited by the Daily Telegraph’s Con Coughlin.

Just days prior to the December 15 ceasefire, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of the Islamic Military Alliance, which includes Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi war against Yemen is being waged by a coalition of states that closely overlaps with the roster of the IMA coalition, which is widely understood among regional analysts to be essentially an anti-Iranian alliance.

The renewed Saudi offensive against will include forces from the Kuwaiti military, reports last week revealed. On Tuesday, the Kuwaiti regime announced that it will suspend diplomatic ties with Iran, joining Bahrain, UAE and Qatar in issuing punitive measures against Tehran and signaling their alignment with the Saudi monarchy.


Iran’s aggression demands a harsh response

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

6 January 2016

The gloves are off. Not content with boasting that it controls certain Arab capitals and using militias to destabilise others, the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed the point of no return by directly interfering in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs.

The Kingdom is a country of laws that must be respected by all regardless of their sectarian affiliations and in a region fraught with danger, Saudi’s zero tolerance for terrorists and those inciting people to violence regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shiite, should be applauded.

Nimr Al Nimr, a Shiite preacher, admitted his crimes and is seen on videos whipping up violence and sedition. He was tried in a court of law and sentenced just as the others who received the same fate were. There was no sectarian bias involved when the other 46 individuals were Sunnis.

Condemnation from Tehran rings hollow when it has been accused by human rights groups of being on a hanging spree. Just last month, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning. Since the so-called moderate President Hassan Rowhani took office over 2,000 prisoners, including Sunnis, have been hanged (700 in the first half of last year alone, according to Amnesty International).

Many are cruelly pulled up by their necks on cranes where their bodies are left dangling for all to see and there are reports that some have taken up to 20 minutes to die. In March, 33 Sunni men were on death row and six were executed for “enmity of God”, a charge Amnesty International says was fabricated.

As the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir revealed in a press conference on Sunday, the Iranian authorities organized shifts of thugs to storm and torch the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad ignoring repeated requests from Saudi diplomats for protection.

Pariah state

This flies against all diplomatic norms and proves once again that Iran is a pariah state and an unfit partner within the community of nations. Iran’s lawless character has not changed since the days of the American embassy siege that endured for 444 days during 1979 when authorities stood by as a mob attacked the British embassy in Tehran in 2011.

This blatant infringement of Saudi sovereignty was compounded by rhetoric from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who arrogantly tweeted “Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians” as though he believes he is God’s mouthpiece. Only Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was honoured with the task of revealing God’s will. Iran’s Foreign Ministry warned the Kingdom would pay a high price for its actions, a threat which cannot go unanswered.

Such vicious statements and behaviours can be construed as an act of war. For sure Khamenei has encouraged Shiite communities in Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain to take to the streets in protest and galvanized his Lebanese puppet Hassan Nasrallah to spout fiery anti-Saudi rhetoric amid chants of “Death to the Al-Saud”. I am sad to say that this incident raises questions, in my opinion, as to where the loyalties of Arab Shiites lie. Is their prime allegiance to the countries which bore them or to the ayatollahs in Qom?


With the future of our countries at stake, I believe we can no longer tolerate Iranian sympathizers, whether residents or visitors, in our midst. We must put out a sign saying “backstabbers not wanted.”

It has long been suspected that Iraq’s leadership is under Tehran’s boot and it is now confirmed. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accuses Saudi of “violating human rights” which will have repercussions “on the security, stability and the social fabric of the peoples of the region”. Doesn’t he know that people in glass houses should not throw stones; Iraq post-Saddam leadership has caused the Sunni-Shiite divide while spawning terrorist groups with its unjust treatment of Sunnis.

Any Arab country that fails to quell anti-Saudi demonstrations and attacks on Saudi interests will either be viewed as being in agreement or fearful of Iran’s retribution. Either way, they should be held responsible for their people’s crimes.

Following suit

I have long warned that Iran is the greatest threat to Gulf States and I was reassured that Saudi Arabia acted firmly and decisively to cut diplomatic relations and all other ties with Iran. Adel Al-Jubeir hinted that others should do the same. I could not agree more. Now is the moment for all GCC states (and Arab allies, in particular Egypt and Jordan) to show their solidarity with a member country when times are rough.

I cannot count how many columns I have written urging the GCC to take strong action in response to Iran’s continuous aggression and I am relieved that message has finally hit home. There should be no backtracking or forgiveness. I believe the enemy is at the door. Our self-defence demands that we must continue along this path by implementing the Joint Arab Force and firming-up the Saudi-led anti-terrorism military coalition involving 34 predominately Muslim states.

Our ultimate goals should include the liberation of Al Ahwaz (Arabistan) from Persian occupation and its Arab majority from repression, poverty and denial of religious freedom. This long-suffering population of millions deprived of water and fuel in a region rich with oil and gas, and criminalized for giving newborns Arab names, are crying out to be saved from the mullahs’ fists.

Furthermore, Iraq and Lebanon should not be abandoned to Iranian proxies who obey Ayatollah Khamenei. Saudi Arabia has donated billions of dollars to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces yet no amount of fighter jets or weapons can be a substitute for courage and love of country. What kind of army allows an armed militia to lead its country by the nose? Put simply, we must do our utmost to cleanse the Arab world from the destructive Persian contagion – and there is no time to waste.

Lastly, I would reiterate my call to the decision-makers within the GCC and beyond to cut diplomatic and trade relations with the region’s biggest sponsor of terrorism and its Arab proxies. Any country spewing threats or trying to teach us how we should deal with terrorists, posing a grave danger to our peoples and our very existence, is an enemy that must be shunned and isolated on every level. Let us have the courage to prove to the Saudi government and people, with more than mere sympathetic words, that they are not alone.

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.


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