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Islamic World News ( 11 Dec 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A capable Muslim can become PM: Rahul Gandhi

Belgian Muslim woman fined $300 for wearing burka

Developing an anti-terrorism curriculum

Freedom of Religion versus Content of Religion: Canada Joins Debate

Five US students arrested in Pakistan over suspected links to terrorist groups

Imam of Walthamstow mosque condemns terrorism plotters

Swiss minaret ban has sinister implications

Fort Hood ups challenge to recruit Muslim, Arab troops

Training for terrorists comes from Pakistan: Clinton

'Burqa won't get you French citizenship'

Sarkozy's message to France's Muslims -- the good, the bad, and the ugly

Six arrested in Pakistan for links to terror activities

Lack of dialogue hampering 26/11 probe, says Pak

Pak Col among 3 to face court-martial for spying

Farewell video led parents of American 'jihadis' to raise alarm

Bangalore blasts: 3 Nasir aides taken into custody

Babri demolition: Govt to probe source of funds

Centre must take remedial measures: Muslim MPs

27% OBC quota may include reservation for backward class Muslims

Yemen's proxy war that isn't

Al-Qaeda group claims Iraq attack

American-Islamic group alerted FBI to missing students

OIC urges Swiss authorities to annul minarets vote

Israel obstructs prisoner swap talks: Palestinian minister

Pakistan wages inept war on terror

Why the Afghan War was a Mistake -- And Why that Matters

Africa becoming drug trade hub for organized crime and terror groups

Barack Obama’s Nobel speech: Hawkish but not hawkish enough?

 Pakistan fighting war on terror for world peace: governor

Christian couple not guilty of abuse of a Muslim woman

Koran teacher gets 30 months jail for child abuse

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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A capable Muslim can become PM: Rahul Gandhi

Dec 07, 2009

Aligarh : Religion does not matter when it comes to becoming the prime minister and a Muslim can get the top job provided he is the most capable person for it, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in Aligarh on Monday.

"It is not about what religion or community you come from, it is what you bring to the table, what capability you have," he said in an interaction with students of the Aligarh Muslim University.

He was replying to a question that having come a long way after Independence how much more time will it take for India to have its first Muslim prime minister.

"Today, Manmohan Singh is not the Prime Minister of India because he is a Sikh. He is the Prime Minister because he is the most capable person to do the job.

"And let me tell you something that even when you do have a Muslim prime minister, he will be a prime minister because he is the most capable person," 39-year-old Gandhi said.

He told a questioner, "You need to step up and the number of leaders coming out of your community needs to go up. You got today a Sikh prime minister that nobody would have ever imagined in a country of over a billion people that we would have a Sikh prime minister. Sikhs are a very small percentage of this country."

Gandhi said his effort was to involve people from different communities and from different parts of India in the political system.

Exhorting Muslim youths to participate in national politics in a big way, Gandhi said, "Increased participation of Muslim youths is the ideal way to take on problems not only of the Muslim community but the country as a whole."

He said it was unfortunate that today there was hardly any young Muslim leader active in national politics.

Earlier, Gandhi was given a rousing reception on his arrival at the AMU campus. He first drove to the grave of AMU founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to pay tributes.

The Aligarh Muslim University Teachers' Association, which also hosted a reception in his honour, described his visit as "historic" and called Gandhi "the modern face of Congress party in India."

Gandhi told the gathering at AMU's Kennedy Auditorium, his political idol was Mahatma Gandhi, whose political method was to find suitable people and then make effective leaders out of them.

He said, "It is my aim that within the next five years there should be at least 25 young Muslims at the centre stage of Muslim politics."

Replying to a question from the audience, Gandhi said the Prime Minister had already instituted a high-powered committee to work out the modalities for implementation of the Sachchar Committee recommendations on the status of Muslims in the country.

Referring to his interactions with different segments and groups, Gandhi said, "My main objective today is to go out and meet the entire spectrum of Indian masses and find out what they are thinking. Unless I do so there is nothing much that I can achieve by remaining in the confines of my own environs."

He said barring criminal elements and religious fundamentalists all other people should participate in the political system if the country has to progress.

"I will come back to AMU very soon to fully understand your sentiments," he said.

Gandhi's visit to AMU is the seventh by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family since its establishment in 1920.


Belgian Muslim woman fined $300 for wearing burka

Friday, December 12, 2009

A Belgian Muslim woman was ordered to pay 200 euros ($300) for wearing a burka, a Islamic outfit that covers everything but the eyes, in a public place, the La Capital paper reported on Thursday.

The woman was detained while taking her children to an Islamic school in the Etterbeek municipality of the Belgian capital, Brussels. She was initially ordered to pay a 35-euro fine for violating a local ban on covering faces in public places.

When the woman was caught wearing the outfit the second time, she was fined 200 euros, but refused to pay and went to court.

"The rule is the rule, and we must obey it," local mayor Vincent De Wolf said.

The Belgium Muslim community ranges from 400,000 to 600,000 people.

BRUSSELS, December 10 (RIA Novosti)


Developing an anti-terrorism curriculum


Last month the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama organized an international seminar on anti-terrorism. One of its agendas is to develop an anti-terrorism curriculum in religious education. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is not the only institution that is developing an anti-terrorism curriculum and its application.

Several related parties such as the National Education Ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Defense Ministry and civil society organizations also have similar concerns. But they have been able to formulate a suitable curriculum, especially regarding its content, method and teaching and learning process application.

Before developing a curriculum, it is important to consider terrorist ideology characteristics. In general, there are at least four characteristics.

First is rigidity, the manifestation of Islamic practices with a strict understanding. Most terrorists reject facts that show the flexibility of Islamic practices applied to Islam in different specified contexts.

Second is literalism. Most terrorists understand the Koran and the hadith in the literal sense.

Third is generalization. Most terrorists see the world in a simplified manner, mainly dividing human into two Muslims and infidel, without considering the world's circumstances.

Fourth is the pathway to absolutism and rejection, where most terrorists see their own opinion as the ultimate truth, in the name of God, and therefore tend to reject the opinions of others.

Considering the above four characteristics of terrorist ideology, I want to make some notes for developing an anti-terrorism curriculum in religious education. I will apply Brenda Watson's explanations about orientation, method and content of education curriculum as shown in her book, Education (1987). The notes are based on big mistakes within orientations, methods and contents of our current religious education, while at the same time provide alternatives to solve those problems.

First, it often is that religious education faces disorientation. Instead of the education process, it changes the orientation to the process of indoctrination. In religious education that changes its orientation from education to indoctrination, students are not encouraged to practice maturity, tolerance, creativity and rational and critical thought. There is no opportunity for students to question their teachers. Students more likely enforced to understand teachings in a dogmatic sense and believe information is absolute. This kind of teaching process creates fertile soil for the embryo of radicalism and terrorism.

Second, the religious education syllabus is more concentrated on the normative aspects of religious teaching than other aspects such as spiritual growth, moral education, character development and social attitude. Using Watson's concept, religious education should value these aspects by applying at least the three central education methods: experience, imagination and thinking.

Experience is a basic element to build self-awareness and tolerance among students. Religious education should help students to understand the meaning and implications of experiencing certain religious rituals. It is hoped students understand there should be a balance between ritual and social piety.

Imagination is needed to help students have a wider and broader sense of their environment. In term of religious subjects, imagination can be a medium to exercise empathy, putting oneself in another person's mould.

Critical thinking is a way for students to learn to be rational and critical. Applied to religious education, it may help students to think rationally and critically, not dogmatically and literally. They will learn to challenge their religious teaching if they learn information that contradicts the context they live in.

Third, often religious education scholars only know about their religion. They do not want to enrich their knowledge about other religions for themselves and students. Consequently, teachers mostly teach religious education with a narrow perspective. It is rare that teachers teach comparative religions and explain more about other religions and their common platform.

Also, it is rare that religious education teachers, for example, take students to other places of worship such as churches, temples and synagogues to promote interfaith dialogue or volunteering involving cooperation between students from different religions. In my opinion, this is an effective way to build student's perspective of religious plurality and enhance inclusiveness and tolerance.

Fourth, that is also no less important in religious education. To measure the success of a religious education-based anti-terrorism curriculum, it cannot only assess the level of students' memorization of and attitude to the words of God in the holy text.

The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Philosophy & Religion, Paramadina University, Jakarta, and is currently a PhD student at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany.


Freedom of Religion versus Content of Religion: Canada Joins Debate

Raghda Salama

10 December 2009

Burqa vs. SkirtCAIRO: In the past few years, issues surrounding the niqab have escalated. Governments and their leaders worldwide have expressed their condemnation of the niqab. To further amplify such criticism, Sheikh al-Azhar Mohamed Tantawi has expressed the illegitimacy of the niqab in the Islamic faith. His comments on the necessity of a niqab ban in schools have ignited a controversy that had been relatively static in previous years. Sheikh Tantawi’s recent comments, however, crossed out the “Islamophobic” factor of the debate. As the Grand Sheikh of Egypt’s and the Arab world’s leading Islamic institution and an influential actor in Middle Eastern affairs, Sheikh Tantawi justifies his position by stating that the niqab is under no circumstances part of Islamic doctrine.

New faces and organizations have been pulled into this storm following Sheikh Tantawi’s comments. One organization at center-stage is the Muslim Canadian Congress. Executive members of the MCC have openly condemned the niqab stating it as “not a religious obligation” and “[making] the position of Muslim women worse”. This however is not a new doctrine upheld by the MCC.

This year, the Muslim Canadian Congress has taken an unprecedented initiative in Canada. Last month, the MCC has called for passing federal legislation that bans the niqab. The Government of Canada has not reacted to the request.

The MCC argues that concealing one’s identity cannot be justified. It insists that the niqab has no foundation in Islam and that it is merely a Bedouin tradition. It maintains that the niqab is a symbol of isolation, and may even be a security threat.

On the other hand, Sheikh Khaled El Azhary, Imam and Sheikh of Ottawa’s Main Mosque and the Ottawa Muslim Association, quotes the Quran and more than one hadith in defense of the niqab. He believes it to be “a necessary component of Islam” and that it is in no way to be ashamed of.

However, the question remains, how can a ban of the niqab be justified under the Canadian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and religion? There has been no evidence provided to support the claim that the niqab has become a security threat in Canada. In fact, procedures in public places, like airports, schools, and universities, have accommodated niqab-wearing women. Therefore, no harm is done to society as no identity is concealed.

Many strongly believe that the niqab ought to be banned because it has no basis in Islam. Consequently, they neglect the fact that the majority of niqab-wearing women in Canada do so willingly and because they believe it to be a necessity in the Islamic religion. In addition, Canadian law handles religion as a set of beliefs, for which there are infinite possibilities.

How can one expect a nation founded on liberal and democratic ideals to suppress a form of religious expression is a question that yet remains, but scholars and religious figures are attempting to answer.


Five US students arrested in Pakistan over suspected links to terrorist groups

December 11, 2009

Five American Muslim students have been arrested in Pakistan after their families discovered a video in which they pledged to fight jihad against the West.

Their arrest, after they contacted radical groups linked to al-Qaeda, has raised fears that homegrown terrorism is spreading in the United States.

Officials said the five men, all from the Washington area, wanted to join militants in Pakistan’s tribal area before crossing into Afghanistan but were turned down because they lacked “references” from trusted sources.

It appears they had made internet contact with radicals before arriving in Pakistan in late November and meeting representatives of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Hyderabad. The al-Qaeda allies are accused of murdering the American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

They then travelled in Lahore to meet members of Jamat-ud-Dawa, the charitable wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, which is accused of perpetrating last year’s attack on Mumbai.

All aged between 19 and 25, the suspects were arrested on Dec 5 in Sarghoda at the house of a suspected JeM member who was related to one of the group.

Their arrests followed a tip-off from one or more of their parents who had been alarmed by their sudden disappearance and the discovery of a video featuring military footage in which they declare Islam must be defended against the West.

None had shown signs of radicalisation before, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations, which was alerted by parents and in turn informed the FBI.

Nihad Awad, director of CAIR, said the 11-minute video was a “farewell” that “showed a profound misunderstanding and potential misuse of Koranic verses”.

Three of the men were of Pakistani origin, one of Egyptian parentage and one of Yemeni origin. One, Ramy Zamzam, is a dental student at Howard University in Washington.

Usman Anwar, Sarghoda’s police chief, suggested the suspects had sought to make contact with al-Qaeda.

“They wanted to go to heaven, perhaps,” he said. “I suppose having American citizens here doing jihad would have been a big blow for US interests.”

No details however have yet emerged of any plot or proposed plot involving the group.

News of their arrest came as David Headley, a Chicago man with Pakistani roots, accused of scouting targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court on Wednesday.

He is being investigated for alleged ties to LeT. His case is among several recent incidents that have led to warnings that the US could suffer a similiar attack to that perpetrated by Britons of Pakistani descent in London in July 2005.

In November, a Muslim army psychiatrist massacred 13 people at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

In September, police foiled a plot to bomb New York involving an Afghan-born US resident, while more than a dozen young Somali Americans have been recruited by Islamist radicals in their parents’ war-torn homeland.


Imam of Walthamstow mosque condemns terrorism plotters

10th December 2009

A MUSLIM leader has condemned the actions of the young bomb plotter jailed for conspiracy to cause mass murder.

Following the jailing of three young men on terrorism charges, part of a terrorist cell led by Abdullah Ahmed Ali, also from Walthamstow, the Iman at the Masjid-E-Umer mosque in Queens Road, Walthamstow, said the actions of a few damage the whole Muslim community.

Imam Mohammed Shoaid said: “What they were thinking of doing was wrong. They say they are doing it in the name of Islam but that is wrong. To kill innocent people is not permissible even in times of war. It is murder and nothing else.”

Mr Shoaid, who said he did not know the convicted men, said he worries about the negative affect the recent terror trials could have on the local Muslim community.

He said: “It is a worry and it is frustrating because it is the actions of a few individuals, but blame comes to the whole community - and even to the mosque.

“In reality, the mosque has nothing to do with those people and their actions, but because of their actions the whole community suffers.”

Mr Shoaid said the mosque is sometimes targeted by Muslim extremists who leaflet outside the building after Friday prayers, and he has even turned CDs promoting terrorism training into the police after they were left in the foyer.

But he said he confiscates any dubious material and is not afraid to confront the offender and report it to the police.

He said: “It is very hard to identify those being influenced by extremists. But I think the groups are more prevalent in Universities. Here, I wouldn't expect it because I would confront them and report it.

"But I have children at University and I told them to use the prayer rooms but not to join an Islamic Society as you don't know who will be giving the lectures. I think it is a problem that is not being addressed.”

He continued: “But we are connecting with young people and at Friday lectures sometimes we touch on these issues. People need to know this is wrong and I hope this serves as a lesson to them.”


Swiss minaret ban has sinister implications

Friday,11 December 12, 2009

In reference to the letter Ambassador comments on Swiss minaret ban (December 9), the Swiss ambassador’s attempt to assuage public outrage over that country’s minaret ban may be noble and well-intentioned, but fails to address the seriousness of the issue.

Whatever he may state in his official capacity as state apologist for the unfortunate outcome of the referendum, it cannot hide the sad truth of the matter. The minaret ban is not about planning permission for towers, but is a direct assault on the status and presence of Muslims in that country.

One only has to look at the campaign poster for the minaret-ban movement to be convinced of that – it depicts a threatening, niqab-clad woman in front of a Swiss flag embellished with black minarets taking the form of missiles. The message is all too clear.

Far-right, openly racist political movements are emerging in Europe, and Switzerland is the latest casualty. These movements go beyond the “loony right” parties in their anti-Islamic message. Normally sane and respected individuals have been dragged into the hysteria and paranoia surrounding Islam and Islamic fundamentalism.

Even the much respected Scottish historian Niall Ferguson has predicted that “a youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonise – the term is not too strong – a senescent Europe”.

How a much oppressed, normally poor and disempowered, frequently unemployed, minority religious community in Europe could ever offer a sustainable political challenge to the might of an established European democracy is beyond the realms of imagination of any rational mind, but the fear is clearly embedding itself in the political landscape of Europe.

Europe has trodden this path before, as our fathers and grandfathers will remember only too well. It is the slippery slope of racial, religious and cultural intolerance which, history has taught us, can lead to unmitigated disaster.

Peter Hardcastle, Abu Dhabi

The Swiss justice minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf commented that the minaret ban was not “a referendum against Islam ... but a vote directed against fundamentalist developments”.

Initially a Muslim fundamentalist was categorised by policy makers as being one who believed in establishing transparency, accountability and rule of law in the form of Islamic governance in the Muslim world. Soon afterward the definition was remoulded to include any Muslim criticising the use of military force to spread so-called “freedom, tolerance and democracy” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Then they turned on Muslim schools and Muslim women who willingly wore the hijab. Now a fundamentalist is a Muslim who expresses an opinion that favours the construction of minarets. One wonders what to expect next from these policy makers.

What really should be worrying is not fundamentalism but rather the increasingly anti-Muslim and xenophobic agenda by some parties in Europe. European leaders in France, the UK and Italy have all contributed in creating an environment which is breeding intolerance and xenophobic attitudes.

G Mohamed, Abu Dhabi


Fort Hood ups challenge to recruit Muslim, Arab troops

By Kathleen Gray and Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY

Friday, December 11, 2009

DEARBORN, Mich. — Army recruiter Sgt. Chris McGarity is on the front lines of the military's effort to add troops who speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern culture — a battle that grew more challenging after the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

McGarity says he recently signed up an Arab-American high school student who lacked only her parents' approval to enlist. Then came the Nov. 5 rampage at Fort Hood. The Army has charged Maj. Nidal Hasan, 39, a Muslim and Arab American, with killing 13 people and wounding 32.

The high school student's mother "made her withdraw her application," McGarity says.

Such experiences illustrate heightened fears of discrimination and harassment aimed at Arab-American and Muslim troops since the Fort Hood shooting, says Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for separation between church and state in the military.



Training for terrorists comes from Pakistan: Clinton

10 December 2009

WASHINGTON: Expressing concern over series of arrests of US nationals as terror suspects, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said much of the

training and direction for terrorists comes from Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan.

"We know that much of the training and the direction for terrorists comes from Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan," Clinton told reporters at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

It has always been a concern, Clinton said when asked about several cases of home grown terrorists in the country.

"We know we've got to work more closely with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to root out the infrastructure of terrorism that continues to recruit and train people who are willing to do what is alleged with Zazi, David Headley, and others in the recent cases that have come to light," Clinton said.

Headley, a US national of Pakistani origin was arrested by the FBI in October on charges of planning terrorist attacks in India and Mumbai.


'Burqa won't get you French citizenship'

11 December 2009

PARIS: Muslim men who force their wives to wear the full Islamic veil should not be granted French citizenship, Justice Minister Michele

Alliot-Marie said on Thursday.

Wading into the debate over whether to ban the burqa, Alliot-Marie said the government would await the recommendations of a parliamentary panel considering possible legislation to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil.

But the minister went on to say that "there are a certain number of basics on which we must stand firm."

"For instance, someone who would be seeking French citizenship and whose wife wears the full veil is someone who would not appear to be sharing the values of our country," she told LCI television.

"Therefore in a case like that one, we would reject his request," she said.

The justice minister said the wearing of the niqab or burqa was a "problem that affects our ability to live together, the values of the republic and in particular human dignity."

A French court last year denied citizenship to a veiled Moroccan woman on the grounds that her "radical" practice of Islam was incompatible with French values.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has proclaimed the burqa "not welcome" in secular France but he has not waded into the debate on whether the full veil should be banned.

The panel of 32 lawmakers from across the political spectrum are to hand in their much-awaited report on whether to ban the burqa next month.



Sarkozy's message to France's Muslims -- the good, the bad, and the ugly

December 10, 2009

Earlier this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed French Muslims in a statement published in Le Monde. As is often the case with Sarkozy, the statement is a mixed bag of good and not-so-good ideas.

I address my Muslim countrymen to say I will do everything to make them feel they are citizens like any other, enjoying the same rights as all the others to live their faith and practice their religion with the same liberty and dignity. I will combat any form of discrimination.

Sarkozy continued:

But I also want to tell them that in our country, where Christian civilization has left such a deep trace, where republican values are an integral part of our national identity, everything that could be taken as a challenge to this heritage and its values would condemn to failure the necessary inauguration of a French Islam.

This is mostly good too, I think. Certainly the practice of Islam cannot be permitted to run roughshod over France's republican values. However, Sarkozy may go too far when he condemns "everything that could be taken as a challenge to" France's heritage (I'm assuming accurate translation here). It is too easy to misconstrue foreign practices as a challenge to the national heritage. Sarkozy isn't strking quite the right balance here.

Sarkozy remains somewhat off-key when he calls on Muslims to avoid "ostentation or provocation" in the practice of their religion. A "provocation" standard could condemn behavior that is fundamental to religious observance while not inconsistent with core French republican values.

For example, Sarkozy reportedly has said that "the burqa has no place France." But although the wearing by Muslim women of veils that cover their entire face may offend feminists, for instance, it's not clear that it violates more fundamental principles, at least so long as the act is voluntary on the part of the woman in question.

Sarkozy also touched on the hottest issue regarding Muslim religious observance right now -- the question of minarets. These are those towers you sometimes see alongside mosques, from which Muslims are summoned to prayer.

In Switzerland last month, voters enacted a ban on the construction of minarets. Sarkozy told French Muslims that instead of being outraged by the vote, they should reflect on the resentment felt by Swiss people and many other Europeans, "including the French people."

However, Sarkozy stopped short of taking a position on whether France should enact a similar ban. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has called the ban oppression of religion. But Xavier Bertrand, head of Sarkozy's political coalition, has questioned whether French Muslims "necessarily need" minarets for their mosques.

Supporters of the ban in Switzerland claimed that the minaret is not mentioned in the Qur'an or in any other holy scripture of Islam. They argued that it is mainly a symbol of religious-political power and a place where Islamic law is established. But legitimate religious practice isn't necessarily confined to items mentioned in religious texts, and banning minarets isn't going to prevent efforts to establish and enforce Islamic law.

Sarkozy is correct, I think, that European Muslims should reflect on whether they have been too aggressive in challenging core societal values. But European politicians and non-Muslim citizens should reflect on whether a ban on the building of towers traditionally used to call Muslims to prayer is an undue violation of religious freedom


Six arrested in Pakistan for links to terror activities

10 December 2009

LAHORE: Six men, including three foreigners and three activists of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed, have been arrested by the Pakistani law

enforcement agencies in the eastern city of Sargodha for their suspected links to terror activities.

The men - two Egyptians, a Yemeni, two Pakistanis with US nationality and a local government employee - were yesterday arrested during a raid in a posh residential area of Sargodha, located 200 kms from here, police sources said.

Laptop computers, some CDs, jehadi literature and maps of sensitive locations were seized from their possession during the raid.

"The three foreigners, the two Pakistanis with US nationality, identified as Omer Farooq and Waqar Hasan Khan, and a highways department employee named Fahim were arrested from Farooq's house," a senior police officer of Sargodha division said.

The officer said the arrested men had links to the Jaish-e-Mohammed and were planning terror attacks. They were taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation.

Sargodha is home to one of the most important bases of the Pakistan Air Force. It has witnessed several terror attacks over the past two years.


Lack of dialogue hampering 26/11 probe, says Pak

Omer Farooq Khan, TNN 11 December 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has called for resumption of the composite dialogue with India and claimed that the absence of a cooperative regional

framework was impeding its ability to bring 26/11 perpetrators to justice.

"The framework can't be worked out unless India agrees to resume an unconditional dialogue,'' Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson, Abdul Basit, told TOI in an exclusive interview. He said pre-conditions to the dialogue were untenable. "The dialogue is a must if New Delhi is interested in resolving the bilateral problems, including the core Kashmir issue and also deal effectively with terrorism,'' he said. "If you meet all pre-conditions before resuming the dialogue, then perhaps we don't need to talk.''

He said India was yet to respond to Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's proposal for the dialogue resumption. "Qureshi had given the proposal to his Indian counterpart (S M Krishna) in New York and had New Delhi agreed, it would have led to the dialogue's resumption,'' he said. He didn't elaborate on the proposal.

Pakistan has maintained that India was dragging its feet on the composite dialogue. India suspended a five-year-old peace process that included broad talks — the composite dialogue — with Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks in November last year. Indian and Pakistani leaders and senior officials have met several times on the sidelines of international gatherings over the past year but India insists Pakistan must take "forceful action'' against militants before talks are resumed.

Basit said the trial was a very complex issue. "The information from India has many gaps and the case has several external and internal dimensions (like) David Headley was arrested in the US and half of the conspiracy was hatched in India,'' he said.

Basit maintained that Pakistan can't arrest Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed based on hearsay.


Pak Col among 3 to face court-martial for spying

11 December 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani military is set to launch the court-martial of a colonel and two ex-armed forces personnel on charges of spying, including

leaking secrets of the Shamsi Air Force base to those planning to attack it, and inciting fellow soldiers to commit acts of terrorism.

The court-martial of Col Shahid Bashir, Nadeem Ahmad Shah, a former air force pilot who is now an advocate, and Awais Ali Khan, an engineer who resigned from military two years ago, will get underway in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Friday, BBC Urdu reported.

The three men were arrested by the military intelligence in Rawalpindi in May. Their families said they had been informed that the three men will face court martial proceedings for spying. The three men are currently in army's custody in Kotli district of PoK.

BBC reported that they had been accused of leaking secrets about the Pakistan Air Force base at Shamsi in Balochistan and inciting army officers to commit acts of terrorism.


Farewell video led parents of American 'jihadis' to raise alarm

11 December 2009

WASHINGTON: When five young American Muslims were arrested in Pakistan over possible links to terrorism, a key break in the case came not from

federal agents or spies, but parents worried their sons may have made a terrible decision.

The families, based in northern Virginia and Washington, were worried after watching what is described as a disturbing farewell video from the young men, showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

"One person appeared in that video and they made references to the ongoing conflict in the world and that young Muslims have to do something," said Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

After the disappearance of the five men in late November, their families, members of the local Muslim community, sought help from CAIR, which put them in touch with the FBI and got them a lawyer. The missing men range in age from 19 to 25. One, Ramy Zamzam, is a dental student at Howard University.

They were arrested on Wednesday in Sargodha and linked to the banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Three are of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent and the other has Yemeni heritage, Pakistani cops said.


Bangalore blasts: 3 Nasir aides taken into custody

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Bangalore police have taken into custody three key accused in the blasts who were already in jail to corroborate information being provided by primary accused Nasir Tadiyandavede. Thirty-three-year-old Nasir was secured from Bangladesh where he had escaped in November 2008.

The Bangalore police got custody of Sarfaraz Nawaz, an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba intermediary accused of funding and facilitating the Bangalore blasts from the Gulf, Abdul Jabbar, 35 who was part of Nasir’s inner circle, and P Mujeeb, 25, whose rented house in Bangalore was used as the base for the serial blasts .

The move came even as police units from Kerala and Bangalore carried out fresh detentions of five accomplices of Nasir in Kannur district of Kerala and found a hidden cache of ammonium nitrate explosives at the home of a relative of a new detainee.

Sources said Nasir had identified the location of some of the explosives, based on which the Kerala police had carried out searches. Reports from Kannur said the explosives were traced at the home of a relative of a man, Afzal, detained for his association with Nasir as well as participation in meetings to plan attacks.


Babri demolition: Govt to probe source of funds

Express News Service Posted online: Friday , Dec 11, 2009 at 0402 hrs

New Delhi : The government will examine whether the chargesheets filed against those accused in the Babri Masjid demolition were complete or needed revisiting, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. In a reply that was frequently interrupted by the BJP members, Chidambaram said the government will also examine the source of the huge sums of money received for the conspiracy that ultimately led to the demolition of the disputed structure. “We will have to examine what action, if any, should be taken, can be taken against people who collected money, transferred money... whose money was it and was it accounted for,” he said.

Stating that the then UP CM Kalyan Singh had given assurance before the National Integration Council and the Supreme Court that the responsibility to protect the structure was that of the state government, Chidambaram made a pointed reference towards Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, saying it was Jaitley who represented the then UP government before the apex court and had said that the structure will be protected.

Jaitley, however, was quick to point out that his plea in the apex court did not relate to the entire structure.

“The divide between the Hindu and Muslim community became a chasm on December 6, 1992. We paid a very heavy price. In the three months that followed the demolition, 2,019 people were killed in violent incidents while 7,786 were injured,” Chidambaram said.

He said the government had fulfilled its statutory obligation by tabling the Action Taken Report.

Stating that the Liberhan panel had found that in the “family of organisations which directed the movement, the largest constituent was the RSS”, Chidambaram drew attention to the recorded admissions made before the Commission by Mahant Paramhas Ramchandra Das, who’d told the kar sevaks “demolish the structure, you will not get such an opportunity”.


Centre must take remedial measures: Muslim MPs

Friday , Dec 11, 2009

New Delhi : Several Muslim MPs on Thursday articulated the view of the minorities on the Liberhan Commission Report and the Trial of the Babri Masjid Case.

“The Babri Masjid issue is essentially an issue of land in which a court case is on since 1949. The Government of India could have got the matter resolved had it wanted to,” Independent MP Mohammed Adeeb said in the Rajya Sabha

“We see the demolition of Babri Masjid not as a demolition of a masjid, just a structure, but we see it as a challenge to the honourable existence of the Muslims in secular India,” Muslim League’s Abdul Wahab Peevee said. “It is the duty of the Centre to compensate the 3,000 displaced, killed and affected Muslims and others in the riots following the Ayodhya incident. This report came after 17 years. We do not know how many years would it take to take remedial measures.”

Calling the events of December 6, 1992 a “pre-planned and calculated vandalism” by RSS, Bajrang Dal and the BJP, CPM’s Moinul Hassan said, “It was nothing but the worst expression of vote bank politics. It was not only the demolition of the Babri Masjid, but it was also the demolition of the future of modern India.”


27% OBC quota may include reservation for backward class Muslims

Friday , Dec 11

New Delhi : Union Minister of State (Independent charge) for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid on Thursday said reservation to Backward Classes of Muslims within 27 per cent OBC quota is under consideration of the government. In a written response, to an un-starred question from Karimnagar MP P Prabhakar, on whether the “government has any proposal to amend the Constitution to provide reservation to the minority communities”, Khurshid said: “Providing reservation to Backward Classes of Muslims minority community within 27 per cent OBC quota is under active consideration of the government”. He, however, said there was no move to amend the Constitution.

In response to another un-starred question, of BSP MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq, on whether “the government had issued any guidelines to employment exchanges regarding employment to minorities in view of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee”, Khurshid, said: “The Prime Minister’s new 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities provides for giving special consideration to minority communities in recruitment of police personnel, Central police forces, Railways, nationlised banks and public sector enterprises, and for this purpose, the composition of selection committees should be representative”.

He cited a Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) Office Memorandum, dated January 8, 2007, which says that in order to make these selection committees “representative”, “it should be mandatory to have one member belonging to SC/ST and one member belonging to minority community in selection boards/committees for making recruitment to 10 or more vacancies”.


Yemen's proxy war that isn't

Dec 09, 2009

It is in the interests of both Saudi Arabia and Yemen to prolong the conflict with Houthi rebels – Iran has little to do with it

Thursday 10 December 2009

The conflict in Yemen initially started off as a local affair between the country's Sunni-dominated central government and Shia rebels in the north, known as the Houthis. It now has a regional dimension that pits two regional powerhouses against each other: Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. But for all the hype and conspiracy theories that abound, there is no significant Iranian support for the Houthis, despite Yemeni and Saudi protests.

Exchanges between Iran and the Saudi-Yemeni coalition fighting the rebels have certainly been heated. Iran recently named a Tehran street The Martyrs of Sa'ada (Sa'ada being the province where the Houthis are based) and named another after a senior Houthi leader. Yemen, for its part, renamed a street in Sana'a, its capital, after Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian protester who was shot dead in June during the post-election unrest in Iran.

The Saudi-Iranian rivalry over Yemen is also reflective of other rivalries elsewhere. Both have supported proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza. Saudi military attacks on the Houthis along and within the Yemeni border are still going on, in tandem with the Yemeni state's crackdown on both the rebels and Shia culture and identity.

From a purely emotional perspective, it would therefore make sense for the Iranians to support the Houthis. This is, after all, the all-too-familiar story of a distinct minority group (the Shias) being besieged by an anti-Shia, Sunni Arab establishment (the Saudi-Yemen alliance).

Ideologically, the Houthis belong to a sect of Shia Islam (Zaydism) that is in fact closer to Sunni Islam and at odds with the predominant and more global version of Shiism practised in Iran and elsewhere (known as Twelver Shiism); hence the fact that senior clerics in Iran have provided only a limited level of public backing to the rebels. Sources have suggested that Tehran is bringing Zaydis to religious centres like Qom, in Iran, in an attempt to convert them, or provide them with the opportunity to convert to Twelver Shiism.

Right now, Iran's denunciation of Saudi interference and provocative offer to mediate stems primarily from a humanitarian concern; the conflict also provides Tehran with an opportunity to flex its muscles and repair some of the post-election damage inflicted to its credibility and axis of influence in the region.

The Houthis require no military training from outside, given that most members have been through the state military service system, and require no arms, with weapons coming from a black market that underwent a boom after the 1994 Yemeni civil war. The Yemeni government did say it had seized an Iranian-crewed vessel containing weapons near the Houthi stronghold in the north. Yet its failure to parade the seizures made it difficult to confirm and verify its claims. Though there are allegations of Iranian financial support for the Houthis, Yemeni officials have admitted the Houthis are more likely to be financed by non-governmental Shia religious and economic actors. Further, Yemen is not geographically convenient for Iran; notably, the Houthis have offices in the holy Shia centre of Najaf that could serve as a contact point with Tehran (though there is nothing to suggest this is the case).

What is clear is that one regional power, Saudi Arabia, is playing an active and, arguably, unhelpful role in the Yemen-Houthi war. Its military incursions – which give the Houthis a bloody nose and nothing more – and repeated, almost hyperbolic, claims of Iranian support for the Houthis has created a proxy war that does not, in any tangible form, exist.

Rebel movements seldom disappear through force alone. With both the Saudi and Yemeni courts failing to show any serious commitment to a long-term, equitable, solution to the Houthi problem, the assumption is that both believe resolution would be in nobody's interest. The Saudis may want to just contain the Houthis and ensure there is no prominent force of Zaydi Islam across its borders, perhaps in the form of a federal autonomous region, supported possibly by Iran or Libya who would welcome any opportunity to pressure the Saudis. Too much stability, coupled with social and political reform, could run counter to this objective.

Within Yemen, power is preserved through a system of patronage made up of tribal and socio-economic complexities. Social and political reform, imperative for a long-term resolution to the conflict, would undermine this system and therefore undermine the power held by the upper echelons of power within the corrupt Yemeni government, and the military. Collectively, they reap the riches of the country's declining oil reserves, smuggling networks, and Saudi financial assistance. Keeping alive both the Houthi and the al-Qaida threat in Yemen guarantees the flow of these lucrative sources of income, and they will do everything, and anything, to protect it.



Al-Qaeda group claims Iraq attack

Dec 11, 2009

An Iraqi man grieves over his wife's coffin

The four bombs killed 127 people and wounded over 400

A militant group linked to al-Qaeda has said it carried out five connected suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday that left scores dead.

The Islamic State of Iraq posted the claim on a website used by militants, news agencies reported on Thursday.

The attacks on government-run buildings in Baghdad killed at least 127 people and wounded 400, according to police sources.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Baghdad on Thursday.

He is on an unannounced visit at a time when the US is making preparations to reduce its troop levels from next year.

Iraq's decision to hold parliamentary elections in March, a delay of several weeks from the original date, will not affect US plans to end combat operations next August and reduce the number of US troops to 50,000 from about 115,000 now, Mr Gates told the Reuters news agency.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliated group, claimed attacks in August and October which killed 240 people.


The statement, posted by a website forum contributor, said the bombings "targeted the headquarters of evil, the nests of non-belief".


Mar 2004: 171 killed in bombings in Baghdad and Karbala

Nov 2006: 202 killed in multiple blasts in Baghdad

Mar 2007: 152 killed in truck bombing in Talafar

Apr 2007: 191 killed in car bombings in Baghdad

Aug 2007: More than 500 killed in attacks on villages near Sinjar

August 2009: 95 killed in truck bombs in Baghdad

Oct 2009: 155 killed in twin truck bomb attacks in Baghdad

Dec 2009: At least 127 killed in a series of car bombs in Baghdad

Source: News agencies, BBC

"The list of targets will not end," the statement said.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has arrived at a special session being held at the Iraqi parliament to to answer questions from lawmakers on how the bombers were able to get past security services to carry out the attack.

Iraq has claimed that former Baath party loyalists could also be responsible for the bombings.

Jihad al-Jabiri, head of the Interior Ministry's bomb squad, said the militants had backing from Syria, Saudi Arabia or another government.

On Wednesday Mr Maliki sacked the government's security chief for Baghdad because of the security failings around the bombings.

In previous attacks it has been suggested that the bombers had help from sympathisers inside the security services.


American-Islamic group alerted FBI to missing students

Dec 11, 2009

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) played a key role in alerting U.S. authorities about five young Americans who were arrested in Pakistan for possible terrorist links after going missing from the United States, according to media reports.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, says the Muslim community "took the lead in bringing the case to law enforcement authorities," The Washington Times reports.

In October, four  conservative members of Congress called on the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives "to determine if CAIR is a security threat." They charged that CAIR was trying to influence national security policy by trying to place interns lawmakers on Capitol Hill. See letter by clicking here.

The five, who ranged in age from 19 to 25, all lived in Northern Virginia.

Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, says one family member became concerned when a call to one of men on his cell phone "ended abruptly,"  The Washington Post reports.

CAIR then got the family members in touch with the FBI last week and played an 11-minute English video for agents and Muslims leaders at a lawyer's office.

Awad told The Post he was "very disturbed" by the contents of the video that showed  "a profound misunderstanding and potential misuse of Koranic verses" and appeared to be a "farewell" statement.

The Post also says the men's families turned over their writings and computer files to authorities.

(Posted by Doug Stanglin)



OIC urges Swiss authorities to annul minarets vote

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Organisation of Islamic Conference has urged Swiss authorities to annul a vote banning the construction of minarets saying it could fuel similar moves across Europe.

Envoys from the 56-nation member states made the demand to the Swiss ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

The Swiss voted on November 29 on a proposal brought by the far-right to ban the construction of minarets but the ban was opposed by the bulk of Switzerland's political parties as well as the economic establishment.

It also drew widespread criticism from the UN, Muslim states, fellow European countries and the Vatican.


Israel obstructs prisoner swap talks: Palestinian minister

Friday, December 11, 2009

    GAZA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Israel on Thursday eased restrictions on flowers exports from the Gaza Strip to Europe, amid Palestinian accusations of its setting obstacles in talks over a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Islamic Hamas movement.

    Israel allowed Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a tight Israeli blockade for more than three years, to export flowers to Europe through border crossings controlled by Israel, Palestinian officials said.

    "The Israeli authorities allowed us today to export 28,400 roses to Europe," said Saleh Khalil, director of Gaza Flower and Strawberry Farmers' Association, adding that it is the first time in a year that Israel allows Gaza farmers to export.

    "We have also got a permission to export another shipment next Thursday," Khalil told Xinhua. A truckload of flowers passed through Kerem Shalom crossing between southeast Gaza and Israel, he said.

    Israel imposes a tight siege on the Hamas-controlled Gaza since2006, after the Islamic movement captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border attack. Israel tightened the blockade after Hamas seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007.

    Israel allowed Gaza farmers to export flowers to European markets on the eve of the Valentine's day last year. The limited exporting of flowers -- and sometimes Strawberry -- always comes as a result of pressure on Israel by European diplomats.

    The Netherlands sponsors a project involving about 54 farmers to plant flowers in Gaza for the European markets. If Israel keeps flower exports flowing, the farmers expect to ship 40 million roses for this season that ends in May 2010.

    Meanwhile, Ra'ed Fatouh, goods entrance coordinator between Gaza and Israel, said, "allowing a truck of flowers out of the Gaza Strip for the first time since last winter is giving hope to Palestinian farmers to export their products from Gaza to all overthe world."

    Fatouh said Israel opened Kerem Shalom crossing for 115 truckloads of humanitarian aids into Gaza, which included commercial and agricultural products.

    However, Israel keeps two other crossings located between eastern Gaza and Israel -- Karni and Nahal Uz -- closed, Fatouh said. The two crossings are used for shipping fuels and cooking gas into the Gaza Strip.

    Israel has linked any major easing of its blockade on the territory on captive Israeli soldier Shalit's return home.

    The partial easing of the blockade on Gaza came as the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) accused Israel of obstructing the indirect negotiations on the prisoner swap.

    Eissa Qaraqe', Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs, said earlier in the day that Israel puts obstacles in the negotiations on exchanging Shalit for Arab and Palestinian prisoners.

    Israel refused to free a number of prisoners who are on a list presented by Islamic Hamas movement which has been holding Gilad Shalit hostage in Gaza since June 2006, he said.

    "Israel also wants to deport several prisoners and exclude" Arab-Israeli prisoners who live in Jerusalem or other Israeli towns from the negotiations, Qaraqe' told Voice of Palestine radio.

    "These obstacles have appeared, but I think the negotiations are still going on but not that fast," Qaraqe' said.

    Hamas and Israel have been holding indirect talks through Germany and Egypt to finalize the prisoner swap deal that exchange around 1,000 prisoners for the Israeli corporal who was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

    On Thursday, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted a Hamas official as saying that the Islamic movement has answered all questions related to the swap and that the deal was in Israel's hands.

    Israel said last week that it refused to release about 50 prisoners in the list of the 450 Palestinian militants Hamas insists on freeing.

    In early October, Israel released 20 Palestinian women prisoners in return for a "proof-of-life" video tape of Shalit that showed him to be in good health.



Pakistan wages inept war on terror

Friday, December 12, 2009

Obama recognizes need to combat terrorism along Afghanistan-Pakistan border

People are missing the point of President Barack Obama’s speech on Dec. 1 about increasing troop numbers by 30,000 to root out al-Qaeda in 18 months. The speech was more about what is going on in Pakistan than Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan was ignored for seven years during the Bush administration. Obama has inherited a massive mess. That region has now catapulted into a political and strategic quagmire engulfing neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country.

During his speech, Obama continually focused on the issue of having a “safe haven” for violent al-Qaeda extremists on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The idea of having a strong terrorist safe haven next to a nuclear-armed country is not only an enormous risk, but ignoring it would have drastic repercussions.

The only strategy that would contain the risk is to keep pressure on Pakistan to target extremists’ flow of money and weaken their stronghold. It is important to note that the presence of American forces in that part of the world is deeply unpopular. All attempts to weed out al-Qaeda in those provinces should first come with convincing the native people that al-Qaeda does not have their best interests at heart.

This would require strong cooperation from Afghanistan and Pakistan, countries that have long been hotbeds of anti-American sentiment. To ratchet up the pressure on Pakistan, the presence of troops in Afghanistan is imperative for the time being.

But so far, Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders have been unwilling to accept the augmented U.S. intelligence presence and operations. The Pakistani government is barely holding on to its power, and its military is overtly anti-American.

Obama cited in his speech that the Pakistani military is launching an offensive pursuing Taliban extremists who have found refuge in border provinces. He pointed to an ongoing offensive in South Waziristan, as well as to an earlier operation in the Swat Valley, an area of 1.3 million people north of Islamabad.

To better understand the political intricacies of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, America needs the strong support of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. For Pakistan, to be able to confront the popular Taliban/al-Qaeda insurgency is not going to be easy.

Pakistan’s recent attempts to counter the issue have had little or no results. Pakistan had to submit to the demands of the Taliban. The Taliban were allowed to set up a court system of their own demented interpretation of Sharia law in the Swat Valley – allowing them to rule a region where a majority of people voted for secular candidates recent elections.

It is obvious that Pakistan is unable to counter al-Qaeda and the Taliban on its own. They are increasingly becoming popular in Pakistan’s northern borders. Obama realized Pakistan poses a major threat and could be the world’s biggest potential source of global terrorism. Even if the war in Afghanistan goes efficiently, it would all be for nothing if Pakistan falls apart.

Afghanistan, a country that has long had a history of violence, now shares a border with a nuclear-armed country that is on the verge of political meltdown. The strategy dictated by Obama, although not exhibiting the qualities of a Nobel Peace laureate, may hold the key to stabilize an increasingly unstable region.


Why the Afghan War was a Mistake -- And Why that Matters

Friday, December 12, 2009

By sending 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, President Obama has made a tragic mistake that could define, and undermine, his entire presidency. But this mistake, which promises to prolong an impossible mission and take countless more Afghan and American lives, is only the most recent error in a war of choice that has from the beginning been not only impractical but also unjust.

If we are going to end the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, we have to put an end to the "war on terror." My first week at college, I woke up to see a plane crash into the second tower on TV, and rushed to call my family in Washington. A few weeks later, I protested the impending invasion of Afghanistan, one of a small number amidst a remarkably hostile political climate. I then joined the much larger protests against the Iraq war and witnessed the arrival of John Kerry's "good war/ bad war" campaign, later picked up by candidate Obama. The "war on terror" continues.

The liberal consensus has been that we "took our eye off the ball" when we could have grabbed Osama in the caves of Tora Bora. While "good war/bad war" helped mobilize public sentiment against the Iraq War, it laid the groundwork for Obama's escalation in Afghanistan. And while a new consensus is emerging amongst the liberal-left that Afghanistan is not a winning proposition, it has come too late. "Good war/ bad war" has born fruit. Eight years later, the fighting drags on.

Many who oppose the escalation in Afghanistan still think that our adventure in Central Asia is a good war gone bad. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has made impassioned arguments against an escalation in Afghanistan, calling Obama's decision "a tragic mistake." Yet he insists that the venture was born of pure and just intentions, writing "there was every reason for American forces to invade Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001." He does not articulate what those reasons were, perhaps assuming that many readers simply agree.

While many Times readers might buy that narrative, Herbert is wrong. Al Qaeda was from the beginning a global terror network and the attacks were as much launched from "safe havens" in Hamburg as from the rocky mountainsides of Afghanistan. In the wake of our two wars they are now even more dispersed, a multi-celled organization stretching from Waziristan to Somalia to Europe that depends on no command center. Fighting Al Qaeda, the only causus belli still seriously entertained by either right or left, was no reason to go to war.

The Taliban are a brutal regime, but there are many such governments around the world, some enemies, others friends. This has from the beginning been an ex-post-facto justification to rally liberal support--and is seriously suspect given our history of cynically supporting the very same mujahadeen against the Soviets. That there is no realistic end game in Afghanistan without significant Taliban involvement fatally undermines it. And to presume that most Afghans, tied to various ethnic and geographic loyalties, prefer the corrupt Karzai government to the vicious Taliban is the sort of wishful thinking that neoconservatives made famous.

That eight years later this war became the very sort of disaster we protesters were then predicting is not a cause for I-told-you-so's--however tempting that might be. The future of this war in some part depends on the conventional wisdom surrounding the legitimacy of its origins. We cannot end the Afghanistan war until we acknowledge that it began in the same heady, frightened and bloodthirsty moments in the wake of 9/11 that nurtured the more widely condemned Iraq War--the "9/12 America" that Glenn Beck tearfully pines for. This was a time when Americans hid cravenly behind the flag, with just one congresswoman brave enough to vote "no."

Ending the war is, of course, more important than quibbling over its beginning. But progressives at the very least must come to terms with how wrong this war has always been if we are going to lead the fight to stop it.


Africa becoming drug trade hub for organized crime and terror groups

December 10

Senegal officials handling a cocaine seizure, file image

Drug trafficking is funding terror groups

The US and UN have found that drug trafficking is one of the biggest problems in peacekeeping missions, as well as in the war on terror.

In Afghanistan the selling of opium is not only lucrative for the farmers, but also the major source of funding for the Taliban.  The US and its allies have been working to stem the flow of opium out of the country, but just as in the West, stopping drug trafficking is nearly impossible.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asserted that UN efforts in peacekeeping missions have been under-minded by drug trafficking in Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere.

"So far, co-operation between governments is lagging behind co-operation between organized crime networks," Mr Ban said.

These remarks came as Mr. Ban was questioned over the new report released by the UN drugs agency (UNODC), that said Africa was being transformed into a major crime-hub for organized crime and terror group drug trafficking.

Antonio Maria Costa, a spokesmen for the agency, asserted that large amounts of cocaine and heroin were being traded by "terrorists and anti-government forces" to fund their operations around the world.

And indeed the trade is a global affair, as only last month a 747 crashed in Mali that contained over 10 tons of Venezuelan cocaine.  Mr Costa told the UN Security Council that "It is scary that this new example of the links between drugs, crime and terrorism was discovered by chance."

The agency reports that 50 to 60 tons of cocaine are trafficked every year across West Africa, while another 30-35 tons of heroin makes its way into East Africa each year.

UNODC has found that the collapse of Somalia in the East and Guinea-Bissau in the West, has allowed for a flooding of the drug trade, which the report says is being used to fund terror operations, buy weaponry and equipment, as well as pay foot-soldiers.

With this influx of drugs to the continent, Africa is seeing a dramatic rise in drug addictions that is in turn contributing to the AIDS epidemic that has ravaged the continent.

Mr. Costa made a call for African nations to work more effectively together in order to combat the trafficking of drugs on the continent, and create a trans-Saharan crime monitoring network.  Though most analysts agree that chances of improvement in either area are minimal.

Alfred McCoy, an expert in the international drug trade asserts that "One has to be pessimistic about the capacity of enforcement to contain a global commodity,"  and that "The problem is not the traffickers or the traffic, the problem is the whole drug war - we're brining the blunt baton of repression down on a global commodity and the results have generally been negative."

This begs the question of whether the War on Terror, as it is being fought, holds the possibility of being won.  Many would say this is a losing battle, and with drugs and oil money funding terrorism the threat may never end.

Perhaps a new approach is needed.  Rather than military and police action, is it possible that economic reform in these nations and regions are the key to ending the terror threat?  If the people of the Middle East and Africa possessed other means of supporting their families, surely the number of recruits for terror groups would drop dramatically.

One can only be pessimistic that the US and its allies will be able to make any real headway in combating global drug trafficking, when it has been futilely trying to do so at home for decades.


Barack Obama’s Nobel speech: Hawkish but not hawkish enough?

Friday, December 12, 2009

Justin Paulette at the conservative blog No Left Turns likes most of what he heard during Obama’s Nobel speech today, except for a couple of little things:

    Naturally, Obama’s speech was not perfect and provided moments of liberal prejudice. By way of omission, he specifically excluded the present war in Iraq from his list of just wars.

I’m personally dubious about the whole concept of “just” war; I’ve come to think wars can sometimes be necessary, but even in such circumstances often inflict such suffering and destruction that it’s somewhat obscene to refer to them as “just.”

That said, is the exclusion of Iraq from the list really controversial? Once again: The invasion of Iraq was justified on the basis of the threat presented by weapons of mass destruction … that didn’t exist. The rest of the war has been an exercise in ass-covering, trying not to leave the country in much worse shape than we found it. Even if you buy  the concept, there’s simply no rational way to make the Iraq war a “just” war.

And Paulette also seems to have some trouble with Obama’s ongoing war for moral equivalence.

    And while praising the “great religion” of Islam, he equates Christian crusaders to terrorists and claims that “no Holy War can ever be a just war.”

Well, that’s probably an insult to the terrorists. The heart of the Crusades lasted about 200 years, inflicting suffering on such a wide scale for so long that our modern “War on Terror” — whenever you judge it to have begun — isn’t even close to being


Pakistan fighting war on terror for world peace: governor

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Sindh Governor, Dr Ishrat-ul-Ebad has said that Pakistan is countering the challenge of terrorism faced by countries around the world and this war against extremism and terrorism is for global peace.

“In this war, the world should fully lend moral, political and economic support to Pakistan for it is in their own interest to do so”, he said while talking to two delegations from the Netherlands and Switzerland at the governor house.

The Netherlands delegation was headed by their Ambassador in Pakistan, T.A. Reintjes while the delegation the of Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs was led by Pierre Combernous.

Dr Ishrat-ul-Ebad said that the extremists are taking advantage of the prevailing poverty conditions as the victims of poverty are easily exploited because of their helplessness.


Christian couple not guilty of abuse of a Muslim woman

10th December 2009

A Christian couple have been cleared of a religiously aggravated public order offence of insulting a Muslim guest because of her faith.

On Wednesday, 9 December 2009, Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang were cleared of insulting a Muslim guest, Ericka Tazi, 60, after a judge heard that she had claimed Jesus was a ‘minor prophet’ and the Bible was untrue.

District Judge Richard Clancy, sitting at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, ruled that the couple were covered by their right to freedom of expression under the European Human Rights Act after they were alleged to have compared the prophet Mohammed to a warlord and called the guest a terrorist.

The judge also suggested that Mrs Tazi’s version of events could not be relied upon and that she was not the religious person she presented herself as in the witness box.

On 20 March 2009, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang argued with Mrs Tazi at the breakfast table in their hotel, the Bounty House Hotel in Aintree, about the history of Islam and Muslim traditions. Mrs Tazi, who converted to Islam 18 months ago when she married a Muslim man, came down to breakfast wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headdress which covers the hair. She had spent a month at the hotel while attending a course at Aintree Hospital.

It was alleged that during the conversation when she challenged the Vogelenzangs about their Christian beliefs, the couple suggested that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a warlord. Mrs Tazi also claimed that the couple, who vehemently denied the allegations and said they were simply defending their faith, described her traditional dress as a form of bondage.

After the conversation ended, Mrs Tazi complained to the police and the couple were arrested and charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and Section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – public order offences designed to target anti-social behaviour on the streets for using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ which were ‘religiously aggravated’.

However, the judge said Mrs Tazi's claim that she was verbally attacked by the couple for up to an hour had not been borne out by other prosecution witnesses, who suggested that any discussions lasted around seven minutes.

He also said her use of colourful language during the exchanges ‘doesn't quite form the same religious view that was put to me on the stand.’

In clearing them of causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, he said that religion and politics was the ‘tinderbox which set the whole thing alight and it would appear because of strongly entrenched positions that is what has happened here.’

The Vogelenzangs, who have five adopted children and fostered a Muslim boy, said that the incident had devastated the business they had spent 10 years building up. They said that their takings were down by 80 per cent at The Bounty House Hotel since they were charged.

‘We’ve been found innocent of any crime. It has been a very difficult nine months and we are looking forward to rebuilding our business and getting on with our lives.

‘We would like to thank all those who have supported us, our family, our friends, our church and Christians all around the world, and non-Christians. And as Christmas approaches we wish everybody peace and goodwill.’

The Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to prosecute saying it was a ‘serious allegation’. Nicola Inskip, a senior prosecution lawyer, said:

‘In looking at the evidence in this case we had to consider whether there was any evidence that the defendants had caused harassment, alarm or distress and in so doing demonstrated to the victim hostility solely based on the fact that she was Muslim.

‘We were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction that a religiously aggravated offence should be charged.’


Koran teacher gets 30 months jail for child abuse

December 12, 2009

LONDON — A Muslim tutor who sexually abused a young girl as she read the Koran to him, was on Thursday sentenced to 30 months behind bars at Leicester Crown Court.

Yusuf Mangera, 56, was convicted in October on six counts of indecent assault relating to a two-year period in the late 70s and early 80s when he was employed by the girl's parents to teach their children to read the Koran.

At the time Mangera, who was in his 20s at the time, would come to the family home to tutor the girl and her younger brother.

During the trial, the woman, who was about 12 at the time, said Mangera initially touched her knee underneath the Koran as she read but became more bold and touched under her clothes and eventually inside her underwear.

She said the abuse occurred after her younger brother was dismissed from the room.

In order to prevent his advances, the victim said she wore tight clothes and tried to avoid lessons.

She eventually told her father about it after it became clear he was going to ask Mangera to tutor her little sister.

In passing sentence, Judge David Price said: "The offences were aggravated by the fact that, as you well know, in your culture and religion the mere touching of a young female who is not a member of your family is thought to be wrong and shameful."

"You did all that to her when her parents placed absolute trust in you as a .. scholar of the Koran," he said.

"As a result of the position you held within your community, the sense of shame the girl suffered was even more profound. She has continued to suffer from that shame for well over 25 years."

The judge also disqualified Mangera from working with children.

It was only last year the woman decided to report the matter to police after undergoing IVF and qualifying as a counsellor.

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