New Age Islam
Mon Apr 15 2024, 08:52 PM

Islamic World News ( 2 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Al-Azhar fatwa grants Muslim women the right to hit their husbands in self-defence

Jaddah: Islamic Banking - Steady in Shaky Times

Jakarta: Indonesia's anti-porn legislation too vague: critics

Doha: Credit crunch may spur Islamic financial system

Bamako: Al-Qaeda offshoot frees Austrian hostages

WAM, Pakistan: Islamic hard-liners help Pakistan quake victims

Washington: American Muslims Demand Immediate Release of Afghan Journalist,

Deplore Stoning to Death of    'Adulterous' Somali Woman

Washington: Libya paid $1.5 billion to terrorism victim’s fund

Mogadishu: Cleric held in Somali attacks

Mumbai: City gears up for 3 Islamic meets

US media coverage of unilateral attack on Syria: a perfect example to evaluate the US foreign policy and the ideological constraints that shackle our "free" press, By Max Kantar, The Washington Post

Compiled by Syed Asadullah


Muslim women slowly gaining power: Al-Azhar fatwa grants Muslim women the right to hit their husbands in self-defence

11Oct 08, By Iulia Anghelescu

News to Cheer This Week:

    Iraq's female lawmakers are slowly gaining power, USA Today reported Oct. 30. Female legislators comprise 25 percent of the parliament but were often relegated to "soft" issues such as family law. Now they are increasingly speaking out and influencing committee meetings. One sign of change came when the women boycotted a parliamentary session after Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the parliament speaker, said women make poor leaders because they are easily distracted by worries their husband might take a second wife.

    Muslim American women are encouraged by their communities to run for political office and their number has significantly increased as a result, the Associated Press reported Oct. 30. "Before Sept. 11, less than 5 percent of Muslim political candidates were women," said Agha Saeed, founder of the American Muslim Alliance. "Now about 1 in 3 is."

    The world's largest female-only institution of higher learning, the Riyadh Women's University in Saudi Arabia, is expanding and will include 13 colleges and a 700-bed teaching hospital. Officials laid the hospital's first stone on Oct. 29, the Arab News reported. The university has already enrolled 17,000 students, said Princess Al-Jowhara bint Fahd, its president.

   Hawaria Fattah, a Muslim professor, has been nominated to the post of imam in a southern Belgium mosque to supervise the preaching activities for women. Her selection was approved by the Belgian Justice Ministry, Islam Online reported Oct. 25. Fattah is believed to be the first female imam in Europe.

    Female playwrights are holding a town hall meeting Nov. 3 to denounce gender inequity in the theatre industry, the New York Times reported Oct. 24. Four times as many leading Off Broadway plays are written by men than by women.


Thumb pointing down Rape, assault and sexual harassment during military service were reported by 14.5 percent of female veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study released Oct. 28 by the Veterans Administration, U.S. News and World Report reported Oct. 28.

Seventy-six percent of those women were diagnosed with a mental illness such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or drug addiction. The female soldiers experienced rape rates nearly three times higher than women in the general population.

It is unclear when those sexual abuses occur, study co-author Joanne Pavao told the magazine. "It could have occurred at any point during the service history of these men and women."

News to Jeer This Week:

    A 23-year-old woman was buried up to her neck and stoned to death in Somalia after an Islamic Sharia court found her guilty of adultery on Oct. 20, the first such public killing by militants in about two years, Reuters reported Oct. 28. Witnesses said a child was also killed by guards who fired into a crowd when a relative and others surged forward in an attempt to intervene.

    Esha Momeni, a graduate student at the Northridge campus of California State University and a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, has been arrested in Teheran and faces accusations over her involvement with women's rights equality campaign, Agence France-Presse reported Oct. 28. Momeni traveled to Iran to carry out research for her thesis on women's rights.


  A fatwa--or religious decree--by Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Atrash of Al-Azhar University, an influential centre for Sunni Islam religious doctrine, grants Muslim women the right to hit their husbands in self-defence, the AFP reported Oct. 28.



Islamic Banking: Steady in Shaky Times

Principles Based on Religious Law Insulate Industry From Worst of Financial Crisis

By Faiza Saleh Ambah, October 31, 2008; A16

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- As big Western financial institutions have teetered one after the other in the crisis of recent weeks, another financial sector is gaining new confidence: Islamic banking.

Proponents of the ancient practice, which looks to sharia law for guidance and bans interest and trading in debt, have been promoting Islamic finance as a cure for the global financial meltdown.

This week, Kuwait's commerce minister, Ahmad Baqer, was quoted as saying that the global crisis will prompt more countries to use Islamic principles in running their economies. U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmet, visiting Jiddah, said experts at his agency have been learning the features of Islamic banking.

Though the trillion-dollar Islamic banking industry faces challenges with the slump in real estate and stock prices, advocates say the system has built-in protection from the kind of runaway collapse that has afflicted so many institutions. For one thing, the use of financial instruments such as derivatives, blamed for the downfall of banking, insurance and investment giants, is banned. So is excessive risk-taking.

"The beauty of Islamic banking and the reason it can be used as a replacement for the current market is that you only promise what you own. Islamic banks are not protected if the economy goes down -- they suffer -- but you don't lose your shirt," said Majed al-Refaie, who heads Bahrain-based Unicorn Investment Bank.

The theological underpinning of Islamic banking is scripture that declares that collection of interest is a form of usury, which is banned in Islam. In the modern world, that translates into an attitude toward money that is different from that found in the West: Money cannot just sit and generate more money. To grow, it must be invested in productive enterprises.

"In Islamic finance you cannot make money out of thin air," said Amr al-Faisal, a board member of Dar al-Mal al-Islami, a holding company that owns several Islamic banks and financial institutions. "Our dealings have to be tied to actual economic activity, like an asset or a service. You cannot make money off of money. You have to have a building that was actually purchased, a service actually rendered, or a good that was actually sold."

In the Western world, bankers designing investment instruments have to satisfy government regulators. In Islamic banking, there is another group to please -- religious regulators called a sharia board. Finance lawyers work closely with Islamic finance scholars, who study and review a product before issuing a fatwa, or ruling, on its compliance with sharia law.

Islamic bankers describe depositors as akin to partners -- their money is invested, and they share in the profits or, theoretically, the losses that result. (In interviews, bankers couldn't recall a case in which depositors actually lost money; this shows that banks put such funds only in very low-risk investments, they said.)

Rather than lend money to a home buyer and collect interest on it, an Islamic bank buys the property and then leases it to the buyer for the duration of the loan. The client pays a set amount each month to the bank, then at the end obtains full ownership. The payments are structured to include the cost of the house, plus a predetermined profit margin for the bank.

Sharia-compliant institutions also cannot invest in alcohol, pornography, weapons, gambling, tobacco or pork.

Computer engineer Tarek al-Bassam said the crisis made him glad that he had chosen an Islamic bank to take his money. His Islamic savings account has made about 4 percent profit, he said. "Usually it's a very low risk or a very low gain. But I'm happy with it," Bassam said.

He has also borrowed from an Islamic bank, to buy a building. Even if he's late in his payments, he said, he will not have to pay cumulative interest or a larger sum than the one agreed upon. But he notes that under this system, it can be harder to get a loan than from a conventional bank. Islamic banks have stricter lending rules and require that their borrowers provide more collateral and have higher income.

Islamic banking has grown by about 15 percent a year since its modern inception in the 1970s, fueled by the Middle East oil boom of that decade. "There was a lot of hostility when we first started out. We were regarded with suspicion, especially by the regulatory authorities. We were an odd fish. Authorities only acquiesced when they saw the huge demand," said Dar al-Mal al-Islami's Faisal, who has been in Islamic finance since the late 1970s.

Islamic finance now accounts for about 1 percent of the global market, according to Majid Dawood, chief executive of Yasaar, a Dubai-based sharia financing consultancy. "We had expected to be at 12 percent of the global market by 2025, but now with this financial crisis, we expect to get there much faster," he said in a telephone interview from New York, where he was speaking at a conference on Islamic banking.

Growth in Islamic banking picked up even before the current financial crisis, mainly because of strong client demand for safe, religiously acceptable investments and a recent explosion in new and innovative financial instruments, said Jane Kinninmont, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and advisory company.

Islamic banks now offer credit cards in which the full balance must be paid off at month's end. They have devised a kind of commercial paper known as sukuk, which generates a predetermined return that is called a profit, not interest. It is tied to a specific asset and conveys ownership of it. A sukuk might be issued by a government or a company that is building a hospital or a bridge, for example.

Work in Islamic banking by the King & Spalding law firm has grown roughly 40-fold in the past four years, according to Jawad Ali, a Dubai-based partner at the firm. The firm has 35 lawyers "who do nothing but structure sharia-compliant investment and financing on a daily basis," he said.

Islamic finance first sparked interest in the United States in the late 1990s. The Dow Jones Islamic Index was established in 1999, and the Dow Jones Islamic Fund, which invests in sharia-compliant companies, the following year.

But interest cooled after some Islamic banks were accused of financing terrorism in a lawsuit filed by family members of Sept. 11, 2001, victims, and a lot of Persian Gulf money left the United States for Europe.

In 2004, the German state of Saxony-Anhalt issued a 100 million-euro sovereign Islamic bond. That same year, the first Islamic bank opened in Britain, which now has six Islamic financial institutions, including a retail bank.

Although the biggest Islamic banks are in the Persian Gulf -- Dubai Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance House and Saudi Arabia's al-Rajhi Bank -- Malaysia and London are growing as major centers of Islamic banking as well.

Islamic institutions are not immune to ills plaguing other banks, such as corruption charges and bad investments. Differences of interpretation between sharia scholars about what is permissible and what isn't also create confusion. The sukuk market, which had doubled each year since 2004, growing to a total of about $90 billion in bonds issued, fell 50 percent this year after a Bahrain-based group of Islamic scholars decreed that most of the bonds were not compatible with sharia law.

But as banks turn borrowers away in these times of economic turmoil, Islamic institutions continue to close deals in Europe, the Gulf and the United States, bankers said. "Banks feel safer and more comfortable with us because we put down more money, more equity. We are not allowed to borrow with very little down," said Tariq Malhance, a former chief financial officer for the city of Chicago who now heads Unicorn Investment Bank's U.S. office.

And those who have been in Islamic banking for a long time now feel vindicated.

"The current financial collapse is an opportunity. The ugly side of Wall Street is exposed; it's always been there but covered by a layer of glamour that is now stripped away," Faisal said. "We are more conservative and sober in our investments. That used to be considered a handicap. Now it's considered the height of wisdom."



Indonesia's anti-porn legislation too vague: critics

Human rights groups are concerned that Indonesia's new anti-pornography legislation could lead to attacks on artistic, cultural and religious freedom.

The legislation, which was passed by parliament on Thursday, prohibits the dissemination of pornographic material with sentences of up to 12 years in prison and $750,000 US in fines.

Pornography is described as any material — written, illustrated, photographic, conversation, sound, gestures, video or performance — which may incite obscenity or sexual exploitation that "violate the moral values of society."

"We're worried it will be used by hardliners who say they want to control morality," said Baby Jim Aditya, a women's rights activist.

Some of the Islamic parties in parliament argued globalization is chipping away at the country's moral fibre and the legislation is necessary.

The moral decay in Indonesia is illustrated by the rising number of adultery cases and use of obscene language, said Balkan Kaplale, head of the parliamentary committee that drafted the bill.

Two members of parliament were recently fired by their parties following scandals where they were caught in adulterous relationships.

"If a husband and wife are in one room, nobody is prohibiting it, because it's pleasure but legal," Kaplale said. "What is being protested is if they are not husband and wife... that must not happen."

Parliamentarians refuse to vote

More than 100 parliamentarians from the Democratic Party of Struggle and the Prosperous Peace Party refused to vote on the legislation.

"The public strongly opposes this bill," said legislator Cahyo Kumolo. "We don't want to be involved in the process of adopting it into law."

Protesters and supporters of the much-debated bill have regularly gathered in front of the Jakarta legislature for almost three years.

As the legislation passed on Thursday, a crowd of female university students stood outside chanting, "God is great."

"Today in Indonesia particularly, there are so many, you know, victims of the pornography issue — prostitution and free sex," said 21-year-old Lia Amelia.

Minister of Religious Affairs Maftuh Basyuni had insisted the bill, which must be signed by the president before taking effect, would protect women and children against exploitation.

Bill goes against diversity: critics

Some legislators who refused to vote complained that while the bill's final version removed contentious clauses regulating dress and social behaviour, which included a ban on bikinis, it still it went against the country's tradition of diversity.

About 90 per cent of Indonesia's population of 235-million practise moderate Islam. But many of its islands have large Christian and Hindu populations and some women in tribal regions, like Papua, still go topless.

Predominantly Hindu Bali, a resort island that depends heavily on tourism, has been particularly concerned about the implications of the legislation's impact on local artists and foreign visitors.

Bali's governor, Made Mangku Pastika, said Friday that the island will not abide by the legislation.

"We cannot implement the law because it isn't compatible with Balinese philosophy and social values," he said.

Several foreign governments, including Denmark, the United States, and the Philippines, have also sent official letters of enquiry about the application of the legislation.

The legislation also has a provision that allows the community to play an unspecified role in preventing the production, distribution and use of pornography.

Some legislators complained that provision was too vague and may divide communities and incite vigilante actions against those who do not comply.

Political observers have suggested the passage of the legislation demonstrates the growing influence of Islamic political parties in the run-up to next year's presidential elections. The parties play an important role in forming coalitions after any election in the country.With files from the Associated Press and Reuters



Credit crunch may spur Islamic financial system

Doha (ANTARA News) - The fast growing Sharia financial system may receive a further boost as an alternative to capitalism amid the credit crunch and banking crisis, Islamic academics and clerics believe.

Already said to be worth 300 billion dollars and expanding at 15 percent a year, the Islamic system forbids the levying or payment of interest, preferring shared ownership and splitting of profits.

The global economic meltdown shows "the need for a radical and structural reform of the global financial system. The system based on the principles of Islam offers an alternative which could reduce risks," Hatem al-Naqrashawi, head of theological studies at Doha University, told AFP.

"Islamic banks don't buy credit but manage concrete assets... which shelters them from the difficulties that American and European banks are experiencing," explained Abdel Bassat al-Shibi, managing director of Qatar International Islamic Bank.

Islamic finance is different from capitalism in two main ways. It bans interest-bearing loans, seen as usury, a practice forbidden by Islam, and also forbids speculation. Instead, it favours sharing risks and profits between a bank and a client.

Sharia compliant products include Ijara, a way of buying a house through a lease and subsequent ownership, rather than through a mortgage. Others are Musharaka, the sharing of profits and losses, and Murabaha, under which the seller declares the profit margin being made on the sale of a commodity.

Murabaha is seen as a way of enabling a buyer to avoid taking an interest-bearing loan, though some Islamic scholars say it is too similar to the charging of 'riba', or interest.

In the past three decades, the number of Islamic financial institutions has risen above 300, spread among 75 countries. Their total assets are more than 300 billion dollars and are growing an at average rate of 15 percent a year, according to studies.

"The collapse of capitalism based on usury and paper and not on the trading of goods on the market is proof that it is in crisis and shows the Islamic economic philosophy is holding up," prominent Egyptian-born Qatar-based cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi told a recent conference in Doha.

"We have all the wealth... the Islamic nation has all or nearly all the oil and we have an economic philosophy which no one else has," he said, referring to the fact that Islamic countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, hold a large part of the world's proven crude oil reserves.

Suleiman al-Audah, an influential Saudi cleric, called for an "international Islamic summit to define the framework and the stages of an Islamic economic alternative."

Some Islamists admit, however, that this alternative is not yet operational.

"Theoretically, the Islamic economic system offers a complete and solid mechanism... but in practice, the Islamic banking experience is not yet mature, because it offers limited products like 'Murabaha'," Audah, a moderate Islamist, told AFP.

His caution is shared by Egyptian Islamist intellectual Fahmi Howaidi, for whom the Islamic system "could bring solutions to certain banking problems but cannot be a magic wand" to end the financial unheaval which is shaking the world.



Al-Qaeda offshoot frees Austrian hostages


BAMAKO (AFP) — Two Austrian hostages kidnapped eight months ago in the Tunisian desert by Al-Qaeda's north African offshoot have been freed and safely handed over to the Malian authorities, officials said on Friday.

Confirmation of their release came from the Austrian foreign ministry in Vienna shortly after a source from the Malian presidency in Bamako said the pair had been freed.

Wolfgang Ebner, 51, and his partner Andrea Kloiber, 44, disappeared while on holiday in southern Tunisia in February. A few weeks later, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.

The hostages were later moved to northern Mali, where the kidnappers initially demanded the release of a number of Islamic extremists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia. They subsequently demanded a five million euro ransom (6.4 million dollars), according to unconfirmed press reports.

"The two Austrian hostages are free, in the hands of the Malian army and in good spirits," a source at the Malian presidency told AFP. "They are still in the north of Mali and will be repatriated soon."

In Vienna, the news was confirmed by a statement from the Austrian foreign ministry.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik "informed the public today that Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber, who were kidnapped on February 22, are free," it said.

The release of the hostages comes after several months of intensive negotiations with the kidnappers by the Malian authorities and the Austria government. Vienna has consistently refused to comment on the kidnappers' demands or ultimatums.

"It's now a matter of organising their rapid and safe return to Austria," Plassnik's statement said.

An Austrian plane would be sent to Bamako in the next few hours to bring the two homes, it said.

The Austrian authorities also said Ebner and Kloiber were "in good health" considering they had been held for eight months.

"I've already spoken personally to their families in (the western Austrian city of) Salzburg and informed them of this happy turn of events. Along with the families, I'm happy these long weeks of worry and uncertainty are now at an end," the statement added.



Islamic hard-liners help Pakistan quake victims


WAM, Pakistan (AP) - An Islamic charity accused of terror links by the United States pledged to build 1,000 temporary homes for survivors of the Pakistan earthquake on Friday as authorities said the death toll would likely top 300.

The vow by Jamaat-ud-Dawa shows how hard-line groups are helping quake victims and perhaps expanding their influence in impoverished Baluchistan province, where the government has struggled to provide basic services in the past.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa and other hard-line groups aided survivors of a quake that killed 80,000 people in Kashmir and northern Pakistan in 2005, saving lives as well as winning friends.

Wednesday's 6.4-magnitude quake hit the poor mountainous region near the Afghan border before dawn, destroying 3,000 houses and making about 15,000 people homeless.

Troops and foreign relief agencies have scrambled to help communities in remote valleys affected by the disaster, handing out food, blankets and tents to ward off near-freezing temperatures. But many victims say they have received little help.

On Friday, the United States said it would provide an initial $1 million in assistance to help immediate needs in the aftermath of the quake and was prepared to give more if needed.

Baluchistan provincial minister Zamrak Khan said 215 people had been confirmed dead so far, but reports from four districts indicated that other victims had been buried without authorities being informed and that the real toll was «somewhere above 300.

The affected area of Baluchistan province is inhabited mainly by Pashtuns, the same ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its strength. But the region has not seen the level of militant influence common in other tribal districts along the Afghan border.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government in May 2008 for links to Muslim separatists fighting in India's portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

«In Kashmir and Afghanistan, we fought against the enemy, but here we are trying to help quake survivors in the name of God and humanity,» said Jamaat-ud-Dawa member Abdul Rauf, as he sat in a camp in the hard-hit village of Wam.

«We have no other motive,» said Rauf, who also helped after the 2005 earthquake. The group denies any link to violence.

He said Jamaat-ud-Dawa would provide 1,000 wooden structures strong enough to withstand the rigors of winter, due to begin in earnest in about two weeks. He said the funding came from «affluent individuals.

Analysts noted that the government, the army and many secular parties and relief groups were also helping out after the quake, and that Jamaat-ud-Dawa and at least two other hard-line Islamic political organizations were there primarily for humanitarian reasons.

Mahdi Hassan, a respected political commentator, said he believed the group did not have a violent agenda, and noted that foreign aid workers were not harmed or harassed after the 2005 quake.

«These jihadi people were active in Kashmir, and they are not the type of people who support 'Talibanization,»' he said. «This time too they are involved in relief and rehabilitation work. They should not be discouraged while doing a good job.

Pakistani authorities have vowed to help all those affected by the disaster, but the suffering of survivors was still apparent Friday.

At a small clinic in the devastated village of Kawas, Dr. Nek Mohammed said he had treated 300 minors since Thursday and that he hoped medicine would arrive soon.

«Most of them are developing the symptoms of pneumonia and that is inevitable given the serious cold they are exposed to,» Mohammed said, as scores of people squatted outside waiting for treatment.

Those seriously injured when their houses fell down around them have been taken to the regional capital, Quetta, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. Even there, doctors said they were stretched.

Many villagers, accustomed to a life of hardship and self-sufficiency, were not waiting for aid to arrive.

In Wam Kotal, a village in the shadow of a towering mountain, Haji Abdul Latif, a turbaned 60-year-old, watched as a son and a nephew began clearing the rubble of their house with the intention of rebuilding as soon as possible.

«We have no option except to help ourselves,» he said. «Snow will start falling soon and we have no place to live.



American Islamic Congress Demands the Immediate Pardon and Release of Afghan Journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, Deplores Stoning Death of 'Adulterous' Somali Woman

Oct. 31, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 31, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The American Islamic Congress (AIC) today reiterated its call on the Afghan government to drop all charges against journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh.

Notwithstanding the relief felt in that Kambakhsh's original death sentence, delivered last October, was overturned, AIC finds it unacceptable that this 24-year-old man now faces 20 years of imprisonment for "blasphemy". "No one should be punished for merely distributing materials, as Kambakhsh did with a document on women's rights in Islam. It cannot be possible that every time there is controversy surrounding an issue of faith in the Muslim world, Muslim governments resort to sending their citizens to jail," said Jana El-Horr, AIC's Government and Political Affairs Director.

As Americans and as Muslims, AIC works vigorously for freedom of expression in the Muslim world and sees it as a cornerstone that must not be underestimated or overlooked for the sake of "preserving" traditions. President Karzai, stuck between his own conservatism and modernizing the system of government in his country, must do what is morally right--intervene and secure the release and exoneration of Kambakhsh. "Imprisoning this young man is completely unacceptable and constitutes a step in the wrong direction for the future of democracy in Afghanistan. Mr. Kambakhsh should be pardoned and released at once," said El-Horr.

AIC is also outraged today at the execution of Asha Dhuhulow by Somali Islamists in power in the south of the country. According to an Islamic Sharia law court, 23-year-old Dhuhulow was guilty of adultery and consequently sentenced to death by stoning. In front of hundreds of townspeople, she was buried in the ground up to her neck while stones were pelted at her. This was the first of this type of public killing since the Islamists took power two years ago. It was determined that Dhuhulow had been raped and had not voluntarily taken part. She was violated and then condemned to death.

AIC is deeply saddened by this outrageous act and believes it plays into a broader phenomenon of misuse of the law. "The murder of Ms. Dhuhulow--by stoning, no less--is unconscionable," said Nasser Weddady, AIC's Civil Rights Outreach Director. "Anyone claiming to invoke religion for such a practice must be condemned by all people of conscience. We call upon the international community to act now to protect women in Somalia from such atrocities--and not to excuse the stoning death sentence as any kind of legitimate cultural practice."

The American Islamic Congress is a civil-rights organization promoting tolerance and the exchange of ideas among Muslims and between other peoples. With the motto "Passionate about Moderation," the organization leads initiatives around the world and has offices in Washington, Boston, Egypt, and Iraq. For more information see American Islamic Congress http://www.aicongress.orgCopyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire.

All rights reserved End of Story, Comtex Source:{13C55FE7-A8A5-46C7-94D5-2158094E7BAE}


US media coverage of unilateral attack on Syria: a perfect example to evaluate the rationale behind US foreign policy and the ideological constraints that shackle our "free" press

By Max Kantar, The Washington Post

31 October, 2008

Last week's unilateral attack on Syria and the subsequent coverage of the events by the mainstream US media give us an impeccable illustration of the prevailing ideologies that dictate how news is received, composed, and understood by respectable journalists and reporters.

In fact, considering all of the variables surrounding the recent US attack, this single case could not be a more perfect example to evaluate for the sake of gaining a clear understanding not only of the rationale behind US foreign policy, but the ideological constraints that shackle our "free" press.

As most of the mainstream and establishment newspapers follow a reasonably similar framework of news reporting, there is no need to use excessive space critiquing all of them. In this brief examination, I will use the report and coverage put forth by the Washington Post on Tuesday, October 28th, entitled, "U.S. Calls Raid a Warning to Syria."

On October 26th, four US helicopters flew from US-occupied Iraq into Syria. Upon landing, US ground troops attacked a civilian center, which was under construction, killing at least seven civilians and wounding several more. According to multiple sources, such as Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, all those killed were civilians, including "a father, his three children, and wife."

The reasons provided for the US military strike in Syria were very explicit, as told to the Washington Post by several officials US military sources. [1] The justifications cited for the attack are as follows:

1) The attack was orchestrated and intended to "send a warning to the Syrian government."

2) The attack was intended to kill an "insurgent" who is allegedly responsible for the presence of "hundreds of foreign fighters" stationed in Iraq, who have killed "thousands of Iraqis."

3) The attack was intended to pressure Syrian officials to "clean up the global threat in [their] backyard," and if they do not "clean up" their "backyard" to the satisfaction of the US, then the US will "be left with no choice but to take these matters into [its] own hands."

4) The attack, according to US officials, has the advantage and purpose of "goading such countries into action." US military analyst, Anthony Cordesman, added that such strikes and "operations" like the US killings in Syria are "the only way you can deal with" countries like Syria.

5) The attack was also hinted at potentially falling under the recent US claims of "self-defense" in its unprovoked military strikes in Pakistan which have killed many children and other civilians.

All of these justifications were given to Washington Post journalists and were simply restated for the readership without a hint of criticism. The report in the Washington Post for all intents and purposes served most literally as a government statement issued by the Ministry of Truth. [2] If the reasons for the attack, as noted above, truly deserved any further investigation, commentary, or thought, the Washington Post report presumably would have covered it. Therefore, the proper conclusion readers are supposed to reach is that the talking heads of the State department are reasonable, within their rights, and unchallenged in their assertions and cause.

If the Washington Post had any commitment to serious journalism or the principle of universality, meaning that moral and legal norms apply equally to everyone, the justifications given by the US State department spokesmen for the attack on Syria would have been treated with ridicule, assuming that readers have a basic respect for human rights and international law.

To put the US attack and the respective justifications for the attack into a universal context, we should judge the situation using official US laws and standards of conduct. According to Section 2331 under Title 18 of the US Code,

"Violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or by [using force] or violence to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" constitute "international terrorism" [3]

Because the US military strike, as proclaimed by its orchestrators, was explicitly intended to "goad" or "coerce" Syria's government into "action" and serve as a "warning" to "intimidate" the government and population, the US assault was a textbook case of "international terrorism" by its own standards. The violent US action, clearly not only "dangerous to human life," but indeed, intended to destroy human life, was by definition a terrorist attack.

We might pause to ask had the attackers been an part of an occupying army in Mexico and the target had been a civilian center in California, if the Washington Post and its friends in the State department would've then called it a "terrorist attack."

One might then inquire about the "foreign fighters" crossing the Syrian border into Iraq—a topic which the Washington Post dedicated substantial space to in their de facto government statement release. Whether this is true, or significant, is a matter that could be discussed in academic circles. Incidentally, it has absolutely no bearing on the moral or legal status of the US military assault in Syria. Based on the accepted understanding of terrorism under US law (similar to most states and the UN) the US attack can not be described as anything other than terrorism, or perhaps even worse, aggression.

This brings us to yet another interesting ideological constraint present in the Washington Post's coverage. The authors of the report continually quoted at length, terrorism experts, analysts, and senior officials talking about the horror of "hundreds of foreign fighters" being "smuggled" into Iraq and killing "thousands of Iraqis" without so much as a bat of the eye. A pertinent response to such hypocritical lamenting would be to ask what one would call over 130,000 US troops and tens of thousands of privately contracted US mercenary troops? Are they foreign? Were they "smuggled" into Iraq?

The Washington Post cited the US Treasury in noting that al-Mazidih, (an alleged "target" of the US raid) was a "key facilitator of the transfer of money, weapons, and fighters into Iraq" by implication, making him a legitimate target for assassination. Is Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates or even the Democratic-led US senate "key facilitators" of these crimes of carrying out extensive violence against the Iraqi people? Are they legitimate assassination targets for Iraqis, Syrians, Pakistanis or Afghans?

Clearly, fighters are only "foreign" if they do not serve US power. The assumption therefore teaches us that American soldiers cannot be considered foreign in a land that belongs to America, a land that has been subject to American conquest. The "facilitators" of war money, weapons, and fighters from America are not subject to the same standards either, for the same reasons mentioned above.

By entertaining these assertions handed down by the lords of state power and propaganda, the Washington Post is, by presupposition, giving the discredited and utterly illegal US invasion and occupation of Iraq, a stamp of legitimacy. This sort of ratification of illegal and immoral state terror and aggression is a serious barrier to peace. It reinforces deeply entrenched imperial beliefs and assumptions that guarantee the continued suffering of millions of victims of US crimes, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide.

Speaking of the world, "senior US officials" seem to have an interesting conception of what is "global." Again, restated in the Washington Post unremarkably and without question, US officials pointed to the "global threat" in Syria's "backyard," (a reference to "foreign fighters" crossing Syrian/Iraqi border) as one of its justifications for the assault.

Coincidently, the leading global polls consistently show that a majority of the world sees American involvement in Iraq, not Syrian, as the leading source of instability in the world. Even in Europe, the area of the world most sympathetic to the US, the US was cited as the greatest threat to peace and stability. [4] To allow such a blatantly misleading and false statement go unchallenged and unchecked is simply more evidence of the Washington Post's role as a platform for state propaganda glorifying and rationalizing US global domination through force and violence.

US terror such as the recent attack on Syria is regrettably, not an unfamiliar scene, but more so, the official US policy for decades. The dismal and propagandistic coverage and reporting of such events in mainstream newspapers such as the Washington Post is also an old and powerful institution in American life.

However, the casual extension of US terror and aggression in the region to two additional sovereign nations in less than a month, (Syria and Pakistan) signal, even by Washington's grim standards, a new sort of bold, reckless, and systematic disregard for global and national conventions such as US law, international law, (binding) UN resolutions, and human rights accords. The open declarations of US terrorism as reported respectably and unchallenged in mainstream publications are telling as to the boundless nature of the US crusade for global domination and the lengths that media outlets will stretch themselves to in order to conform to the dictates of elite interest and state power.

So long as the American mind is held hostage by a system of thought control which adheres to the doctrine that textbook international terrorism is "the only way [the US] can deal with" independent and sovereign nations, the power structure will continue to do as it pleases no matter how many people it slaughters along the way. [5]

Max Kantar is a freelance writer and undergraduate. He can be reached at

1 Military sources include an unnamed "senior US official," US military analyst, Anthony Cordesman, the "Combating Terrorism Center" at West Point Military Academy, and other unidentified "US officers" or "officials"

2 The term "Ministry of Truth" is originally from George Orwell's novel on totalitarianism, 1984. In the novel, "The Ministry of Truth" was a sector of the government in charge of spreading lies and propaganda to glorify the state.

3 The US Code consists of "laws made by the United States Congress, which is legislation that passes both the Senate and the House of Representatives." The entire US code can be accessed at:

4 A 2007 survey conducted by Harris Research for the Financial Times showed that Europeans saw America as the greatest threat to global stability. ( The 2006 Pew Research Center Poll, which surveyed 15 different countries, showed that the presence of the US in Iraq was understood to be the greatest danger to world peace. (

5 The quoted words are those of military analyst, Anthony Cordesman, as quoted in the Washington Post, advocating state terror as a reasonable way of "dealing" with nations not subservient enough to the US.



Libya paid $1.5 bln to terrorism victim’s fund

Nov 1, 2008, By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Libya has paid $1.5 billion into a fund for American victims of terrorism from the 1980s, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, removing the last big obstacle to a normal relationship between the two countries.

Payments to U.S. victims should begin within days, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told reporters. The fund was agreed upon in August by the United States and Libya to settle terrorism claims on both sides from the 1980s.

American victims covered by the fund include those who died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, and the 1986 attack on a West Berlin disco that killed three people and wounded 229.

"This removes the last obstacle to a normal relationship between the United States and Libya and we will work on that now going forward," Welch, the assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters at the State Department.

He said he hoped the Senate would soon move to confirm Gene Cretz, the Bush administration's nominee as ambassador to Libya. The confirmation had been delayed by lawmakers until Tripoli put money into the fund.

One of those lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, issued a statement praising the Libyan payment but avoided the subject of Cretz's confirmation.

"American victims and their families have waited decades for Libya to pay for its deadly acts of violence -- and today they have received their long-overdue justice," Lautenberg said. "I am pleased that our relentless pressure and support for terror victims has led to this historic moment."

Settling the issue of terrorism claims was a key factor in improving ties between the two former foes, which first began warming after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction program in 2003.  Continued...

View article on single page



Cleric held in Somali attacks

The Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali authorities have arrested an elderly Islamic cleric suspected of involvement in a wave of suicide attacks that killed more than 20 people this week, an official said Thursday.

Sheik Mohamed Ismail, believed to be in his 80s, was arrested in connection with five apparently coordinated attacks Wednesday, said Muse Gelle Yusuf, a governor in Puntland. He said several other people were being sought.

No one claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the U.S. says they had the signature of al Qaeda.

The attacks targeted a U.N. compound, the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa. Two intelligence facilities were hit in Puntland.



City gears up for 3 Islamic meets

1 Nov 2008,

MUMBAI: Come November and the city will witness three large Islamic meets. To be held at different venues, all the three conclaves will focus on promoting communal harmony and peace.Lined-up first are the Sunni Muslims conclave and the Iqra Foundation's international women's meet on November 7. Next will be Islamic preacher and TV evangelist Dr Zakir Naik's 10-day Almi Islami Conference on November 14 at Somaiya Ground in Sion. Preparations are underway at Azad Maidan for the three-day conclave of Sunni Muslims. "Our session will focus on saving our youth from falling prey to radicals and extremists," said Rizwan Latif Khan, spokesperson, Sunni Dawat-e-Islami. The Iqra Foundation's meet will launch the Iqra International Women's Alliance, an initiative aimed at providing Muslim women a platform to air their views.  Source: