New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 07:09 PM

Islamic World News ( 2 Feb 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

'Prison Muslims' fastest growing religious group in the US

Poetry contests in Saudi Arabia anger Grand Mufti

How democracy loses its footing in Middle East by Joel Brinkley

Under Obama, `war on terror' catchphrase fading

Obama and the War on Terror -- the real thing

Why Obama’s Message is Not Complete by Samar Fatany

Muslims should see Gaza not merely as a tragedy for the Islamic world

In Kufa, Shiites bemoan Sadr movement's diminished role

Iran Detains Three Women’s Activists - Campaigner

Dhaka: Indian cleric leads world Islamic meet prayer

Fighting violence against women Katherine Bradstreet

Smoking still popular despite Ulema edict by Kyle Taylor

Islamic association seeks to teach Americans about the Quran

Ismailia: Egyptian Islamic activist detained at Gaza border

Women refuse refuge due to nearby mosque by Esther Harward

Small US bank goes Islamic

Slain Exile Detailed Chechen Ruler’s Systematic Cruelty by C. J. Chivers

Ghaza: Muslim world showers praise on Turkish PM

Some see Mumbai terrorism as an attack on India-Israel ties By Peter Spiegel

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/"prison-muslims"-fastest-growing-religious-group-in-the-us--/d/1168

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One in 10 inmates behind bars turns to Islam

"Prison Muslims" fastest growing religious group in the US: Many embrace faith to help ease the desperation of prison

 

By Krista J. Kapralos

Herald Writer

MONROE -- The announcement rang out across the open courtyards of the Monroe Correctional Complex.

 

"Movement is now open."

 

Men wearing baggy navy-blue sweatshirts and loose-fitting pants or jeans drifted from one building to the next. They ambled along, laughing with one another and gulping in fresh air. It's free time, when prisoners who are being held for rape, burglary, murder and other crimes can attend classes or read in the library.

 

A small group of men, many wearing crocheted skullcaps, filed into a windowless room. They tug off their shoes and ease down cross-legged on thin rugs that have been spread on the floor for the service.

 

Prison is a tomb or a womb, they say. Either a man wastes his years on the inside and allows bitterness to rot his soul, or he uses the time to quiet the rage or fear or desperation that landed him in prison. Anthony Waller, like many Muslims at Twin Rivers, converted to the faith while behind bars. That changed everything, he said.

 

"If I wasn't a Muslim I'd still be in closed custody," Waller, 31, said, referring to prison facilities that strictly control prisoners with violent pasts.

 

"Or, I'd be dead," he said.

 

Waller, who doesn't expect to see freedom until 2033, attends a Muslim prison service every week with dozens of other men who have converted to the faith since being locked away. These "prison Muslims" are among the fastest-growing religious groups in U.S. correctional facilities.

 

A movement that began in the 1970s under Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to evangelize inmates has evolved into one of the most effective religious rehabilitation agendas in the U.S. Imams under the Nation of Islam continue to draw converts, but most Muslims in prison today are Sunnis, said Lawrence Mamiya, a professor at Vassar College who has studied Muslim prison ministries.

 

Mamiya estimates that about 10 percent of all prison inmates have converted to Islam. Using his estimate, about 1,800 of the state's 18,000 inmates would be Muslim.

 

About 1 percent of Washington residents claim to be Muslim, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That's the same as the national average.

 

For most men behind bars, their conversion is temporary. Just one in five who convert to Islam while in prison continue on in that faith once they are released, Mamiya said.

 

That makes experts wonder whether "Prison Islam" isn't a religious movement but a convenient infrastructure for a prison gang that affords members special privileges, including rugs and sticks of incense for their cells.

 

Chaplains who supervise Muslim services say most men are genuine in their faith.

 

As of August, Muslim inmates in Washington prisons have received halal meals, said John Barnes, a chaplain at McNeil Island Corrections Center. That change came after a rash of lawsuits nationwide by Muslim prisoners who claimed that they were given vegetarian meals instead of meat slaughtered as required by Islamic law.

 

Meals specially prepared for religious inmates are usually better quality than standard fare, said Walter Taylor, a 32-year-old inmate in Monroe. He is a devout Muslim, but said he had to claim other faiths with the prison system in order to meet requirements in the Quran for the practice of Islam.

 

Before the prisons began serving halal meals, Taylor registered as Jewish in order to eat kosher meals, which have similar dietary restrictions as halal meals.

 

He has also registered as a Wiccan for the privilege of having scented oils in his cell.

 

"Then I became a Sikh so I could get a turban," he said, motioning to the thin skullcap he wears to Muslim services.

 

Each privilege is necessary to fully practice Islam, said Taylor, who converted to the faith in prison 11 years ago -- about a year after he was incarcerated. He began studying Arabic about four years ago, and said he is now fluent. Other Muslims in the Monroe prison are dabbling in the language, too, creating a community bound not only by faith but also by tongue.

 

 

A 2006 report by George Washington University and the University of Virginia found that tight-knit communities of Muslims in prison are ripe for radicalization, and could easily become terrorist cells. A shortage of trained, federally approved imams has left openings for prisoners themselves to lead Muslim congregations, without supervision through chaplain programs.

 

A Monroe inmate acts as full-time imam for Muslims in the prison. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

 

Most of the inmates who convert to Islam are African-American, and are attracted to Islam for its discipline and belief in equality, said Faheem Siddiq, a longtime planner for the city of Everett who has acted as a Muslim chaplain in state prisons for more than five years.

 

"In Washington state, from Walla Walla to McNeil Island, the majority of these guys are low-income African-American converts who have an opportunity in a sober environment to try to reflect and change their lives," Siddiq said. "Islam offers them that opportunity."

 

Terrorist plots have been hatched in prisons, but that is a problem largely in Europe, where many Muslim prisoners are of Middle Eastern or Arab descent, Mamiya said.

 

"With African-Americans, it's very different," Mamiya said. "They have their own problems they want to concentrate on."

 

Muslim communities in prisons also provide some of the same benefits of gangs, Mamiya said. They protect one another, but they don't "demand extortion in order to be initiated," he said.

 

"Many of the men don't like the idea of the Christian 'turning the other cheek,' " Mamiya said. "Islam emphasizes self-defense as an ethic, so they prefer that."

 

There is also a strong sense of responsibility and discipline.

 

"In Christianity, Jesus Christ died for sins," Taylor said. "But in Islam, there's no scapegoat. I can't say that the devil made me do it."

 

Taylor and other Muslims say they pray five times each day. The constant reminder of their faith helps keep them on a straight path, Taylor said.

 

"Being a Muslim is the hardest thing you could possibly do," said Phil Thomes, 32. "Just being a Christian, it wasn't enough. Islam is a total way of life, which is good because I needed extreme change."

 

Most men who convert to a religion undergo a dramatic change while in prison, Barnes said.

 

"It changes his character," Barnes said. "He becomes more responsible, he's not self-­centered. ... Instead he's others-centered. He becomes a team player."

 

"I've seen that over and over again," he said.

 

Thomes has been in prison for 12 years. He converted to Islam shortly after he was incarcerated, but he said he took him nearly a decade to begin avoiding prison gangs and the trouble that comes with them. Since then, he said, his life has changed.

 

"A lot of people look at me like I am my crime," he said. "But I know I'm not that guy anymore. I became a brand new person."

 

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

 

Muslim population multiplied 10 times faster in UK

 

Posted: Feb 01, 2009 at 1858 hrs IST

 

London Immigration, higher birthrates and conversions to Islam are considered as major factors behind rise of the Muslim population in UK by more than 5 lakhs to 2.4 million in just four years.

 

Experts have also suggested a growing willingness among believers to describe themselves as Muslims because the western reaction to war and terrorism had strengthened their sense of identity.

 

The Muslim population multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society, the research by the Office for National Statistics done during the period of 2004-2008 reveals. In the same period the number of Christians in the country fell by more than 2 million.

 

"The implications are very substantial. Some of the Muslim population, by no means all of them, are the least socially and economically integrated of any in the UK... and the one most associated with political dissatisfaction," David Coleman, Professor of Demography at Oxford University was quoted as saying by 'The Times'.

 

"You can't assume that just because the numbers are increasing that all will increase, but it will be one of several reasonable suppositions that might arise."

 

There are more than 42.6 million Christians in Britain, according to the Office for National Statistics, whose figures were obtained through the quarterly Labour Force Survey of around 53,000 homes.

 

Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain said that the greater platform that Muslims would command in the future should not be perceived as a threat to the rest of society.

 

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Muslim-population-multiplied-10-times-faster-in-UK/417773/

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Poetry contests in Saudi Arabia anger Grand Mufti

By Abdul Rahman Shaheen, Correspondent

Published: February 02, 2009, 14:27

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Alu Al Sheikh has come out heavily against the practice of poetry contests and reality shows hosted by several satellite television channels.

 

"These contests were tantamount to the practices of the Pre-Islamic Period (Jahiliyyah) that harbour feelings of hatred in the minds of people." he said. The grand mufti made these remarks while replying to queries from the audience following a lecture he delivered at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh on Friday.

 

Answering a question about taking part in poetry competitions being aired by satellite channels, the grand mufti said: One should not take part in such contests. All these are Jahiliyyah (practices) that incite feelings of hatred. They will also generate feelings of envy in the minds of children toward their elders. Such practices would also cause to trigger envy and hatred among different tribes. Therefore, it is good for us to keep away from such practices," he said.

 

There has been a mushrooming of satellite channels over the past three years - these host poetry contests in which amateur poets compete to win grand prizes. Most of these poems focus on pride and glory and they boast about their tribes. A large number of participants of these contests encourage their kin to vote for them through sending SMS (each SMS costs a minimum of SR 4), with the hope of winning grand prizes amounting to millions of riyals. Minimum prizes for some of these contests are valued at SR 1 million.

 

The GCC countries have witnessed the launching of a large number of television channels for hosting such reality TV shows and poetry contests during the past few years. There are at least 15 major satellite channels in the Gulf countries that host contests of traditional popular songs and poetry.

 

These channels include Li Saha, Al Waha, Al Sahraa, Al Bawadi, Fawasil, Al Dana, Al Mukhtalif, Nujum 3, Nujum Al Khaleej, Rotana Shier, Al Dar, Awtan, Soutul Badiya, Al Hurr, and Al Khaleej. Launching such a satellite channel would cost an average SR 1.3 million ($346,000) excluding the cost for manpower.

 

A number of Saudi analysts told Gulf News that some of the tribal poets are taking advantage of poems that incite tribal passions or pride through these satellite reality shows or even occasional beauty contests for camels.

 

Muhammad Al Suhaimi, a Saudi writer, told the story of a Saudi poet, who spent more than SR 1 million to buy votes for a participant belonging to his tribe in such a contest. "If we ask him to give Zakat (charity) in this amount in order to settle the debts owed to a member of his tribe or to sponsor an orphan or to support a widow, he will refuse. Is this not stupidity?” he asked.

 

Dr. Muhammad Al Zulfa, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council, promised earlier that he would present a recommendation to the Council explaining the negative impact created by tribal poets taking part in such contests as well as at the tribal festivals, the latest of which is the Otaiba Tribal Festival that grabbed great media coverage and popular attention and camel beauty contests

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How democracy loses its footing in Middle East

Joel Brinkley, February 1, 2009

 

I found myself chatting some time ago with Theresa Loar, who ran the State Department's women's office, when she told me about how she had tricked other senior officials in the building.

This was during the Clinton administration, and she was trying to persuade them to attend a meeting on an issue they weren't likely to care about. "So I told them we were going to talk about democracy promotion - the department's evergreen issue."

As Loar noted, promoting democracy has been a foreign-policy priority for decades-since long before former President George W. Bush soiled the brand. President Obama has said he intends to increase funding to agencies involved in democracy promotion because, as he put it last year, "we benefit from the expansion of democracy. Democracies are our best trading partners, our most valuable allies and the nations with which we share our deepest values."

 

But then comes the thorny question: What about democracy promotion in the Middle East - easily the most repressive region in the world and, arguably, the most important?

 

The recent history is not encouraging. The Egyptians staged elections, and the Muslim brotherhood won 88 seats in parliament. The Palestinians staged elections, and Hamas won. The Lebanese staged elections, and then Hezbollah managed to force the elected government to give it veto power over its decisions.

And there's more.

While working in Cairo last summer, I interviewed several leaders of Kefaya, a small citizens group calling for democratic change. The Egyptian government has arrested and harassed its members. These leaders decried the government's repressive policies and said all the right things to an American visitor. In fact, they sounded almost like Jeffersonian democrats. Then, when I headed out the door, they handed me a sheaf of papers.

I filed them away, but when I finally managed to read them, I was shocked. These people were well-educated, English-speaking, seemingly Western-oriented Egyptians.

 

And yet, their literature frothed with invective about the "Zionist lobby" and its "odious assault on Arab native soul." The United States and the world's Jews "are two sides of the same coin, each nourishing the other, and neither curable alone."

Even liberal democrats are besotted with angry, racist prejudice - and worse. Do we want these people governing Egypt? Does the Obama administration really want to promote democracy in the Middle East?

 

By most accounts, Obama is not going to make the same mistakes Bush made. To the Bush administration, promoting democracy meant encouraging, even forcing, nations to hold elections. That's what happened in Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

But democracy cannot flourish in nations that have no middle class - and no history of free political discussion.

 

In those places, the church, or mosque, offers the most accessible shelter and organizing philosophy. Because almost no one else can speak out publicly, the clerics' views, radical or moderate, become the most important political voices in the land.

A society that can embrace democracy is one whose citizens have something they want to protect. Democracy promotion, then, should involve economic development - and with it greater social freedoms, such as freedom of speech, assembly and the press.

 

Egypt has none of that.

But remember, the United States gives Egypt $2 billion a year, the legacy of a deal struck during the Camp David negotiations with Israel in 1978. Why couldn't the Obama administration condition that aid? Why couldn't Washington insist on greater freedom of speech this year, greater freedom of the press next year?

 

In truth, for Egypt, like many autocratic countries, those two steps alone probably would begin moving the country in the right direction.

 

Why hasn't Washington done this before? Arabists in the State Department will tell you: We need Egypt to help solve the Gaza problem, to help us pressure Iran. We need Egypt to support us in the war on terror.

 

Persuading Egypt and other states to offer more political freedoms will, in fact, deal a blow to terrorists. As Tamara Cofman Wittes writes in her book "Freedom's Unsteady March: America's Role in Building Arab Democracy," granting political freedoms will "increase the ability of Arab societies to debate, test and, it is hoped, reject the claims of the radical Islamic movement."

I have no doubt that democracy promotion will be an important part of Obama's foreign policy.

 

But let's hope that, unlike his predecessors, he has the fortitude to confront Arab dictators and persuade them to begin taking small steps.

 

Creating democracies in the Middle East is a generational project. But it will never begin unless we take the first steps now.

Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. To comment to him, e-mail brinkley@foreign-matters.com. To comment, e-mail us at forum@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page H - 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Source: vhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/31/IN9B15I725.DTL

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Under Obama, `war on terror' catchphrase fading

  By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer   – Sun Feb 1, 6:12 am ET

 

WASHINGTON – The "War on Terror" is losing the war of words. The catchphrase burned into the American lexicon hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is fading away, slowly if not deliberately being replaced by a new administration bent on repairing the U.S. image among Muslim nations.

Since taking office less than two weeks ago, President Barack Obama has talked broadly of the "enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism." Another time it was an "ongoing struggle."

He has pledged to "go after" extremists and "win this fight." There even was an oblique reference to a "twilight struggle" as the U.S. relentlessly pursues those who threaten the country.

But only once since his Jan. 20 inauguration has Obama publicly strung those three words together into the explosive phrase that coalesced the country during its most terrifying time and eventually came to define the Bush administration.

Speaking at the State Department on Jan. 22, Obama told his diplomatic corps, "We are confronted by extraordinary, complex and interconnected global challenges: war on terror, sectarian division and the spread of deadly technology. We did not ask for the burden that history has asked us to bear, but Americans will bear it. We must bear it."

During the past seven years, the "War Against Terror" or "War on Terror" came to represent everything the U.S. military was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the broader effort against extremists elsewhere or those seen as aiding militants aimed at destroying the West.

Ultimately and perhaps inadvertently, however, the phrase "became associated in the minds of many people outside the Unites States and particularly in places where the countries are largely Islamic and Arab, as being anti-Islam and anti-Arab," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Now, he said, there is a sense that the U.S. should be talking more about specific extremist groups — ones that are recognized as militants in the Arab world and that are viewed as threats not just to America or the West, but also within the countries they operate.

The thinking has evolved, he said, to focus on avoiding the kind of rhetoric "which could imply that this was a struggle against a religion or a culture."

Obama has made it clear in his first days in office that he is courting the Muslim community and making what is at least a symbolic shift away from the previous administration's often more combative tone.

He chose an Arab network for his first televised interview, declaring that "Americans are not your enemy." Before his first full week in office ended, he named former Sen. George J. Mitchell as his special envoy for the Middle East and sent him to the region for talks with leaders.

According to the White House, Obama is intent on repairing America's image in the eyes of the Islamic world and addressing issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unrest in Pakistan and India, Arab-Israeli peace talks and tensions with Iran.

Using language is one way to help effect that change, said Wayne Fields, professor of English and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

"One of the contrasts between the two administrations is the care with which Obama uses language. He thinks about the subtle implications," said Fields, an expert on presidential rhetoric. The Bush administration "didn't set out deliberately to do things that were offensive but they liked to do things that showed how strong they were, and to use language almost in an aggressive sense."

Obama, he said, understands that language and conversation must be worked at and that it's "not just a series of sound bites."

White House officials say there has been no deliberate ban on the war-on-terror phrase. And it hasn't completely disappeared. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has used the wording in briefings, and it's still in vogue among some in the Pentagon and State Department.

Asked about Obama's avoidance of the phrase, Gibbs said the president's language is "consistent with what he said in his inaugural address on the 20th. I'm not aware of any larger charges than that."

Juan Zarate, who served as the deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism during the Bush administration, said he has seen signs that the new White House is trying to subtly retool the words, if not the war.

"There's no question that they're looking very carefully at all issues related to how the war on terror is packaged, to include lexicon," said Zarate. "All of this is part of an attempt to see how they could at least frame a change in policy even if, at the end of the day, the actual war on terrorism doesn't change all that much."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090201/ap_on_go_pr_wh/war_on_terror_4

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Obama and the War on Terror -- the real thing

By Nicolas J S Davies

Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 2, 2009, 00:25

My brother gave me War on Terror, the boardgame for Christmas. It’s a world domination game like Risk, but with the added feature that players employ terrorists as well as conventional armies to attack each other. The real twist is that the terrorists can and usually do end up turning against the player who recruited them in the first place. As it says on the box, “Fight the terrorists. Fund the terrorists. Be the terrorists.” The game is a razor-sharp satire of the world according to Washington.

Barack Obama got War on Terror for Christmas too, but, unlike me, he got the real thing. Every day, as the Obama presidency begins, American weapons are blowing real people to bits -- men, women and children -- all over the world.

The so-called surge in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 provided cover for a massive escalation of U.S. air strikes. These were mostly in civilian areas and therefore illegal under international law, as the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq reminded U.S. officials. The climax of the campaign was 760 air strikes between June and September 2007, but it continued at full force into 2008, with about 110 air strikes per month through at least the first half of the year. In terms of devastation, Iraq remains the “central front in the War on Terror,” with a million dead and 5 million refugees.

U.S. Central Command’s numbers on air strikes in Iraq don’t include cannon or rocket fire by planes or helicopters, nor attacks by AC-130 Specter gunships operated by U.S. special forces. These modified cargo planes are equipped with machine guns, howitzers and every weapon in between “to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods” according to the U.S. Air Force web site. In other words, they cruise over and around targets, pouring a torrent of bullets and shells into them for as long as necessary to completely obliterate them. The United States has 13 of these planes operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere. Incredibly, the Air Force touts their value in “urban operations.”

It was a Specter gunship that killed 90 civilians at Azizabad in Afghanistan in August 2008, according to U.N. and local officials. The U.S. initially denied killing civilians in that attack, but was forced to admit it had killed at least 33 civilians after American officials and journalists were confronted with cell phone video footage of the bodies of dead children. In Afghanistan, in the first week of the Obama administration, another American Special Forces attack killed 16 civilians in Garoosh in Laghman province, resulting in demonstrations in Kabul and an official protest by President Karzai. According to figures released by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies killed at least 472 civilians in 2007 and 577 in the first eight months of 2008. Considering the geography of Afghanistan and based on the results of studies in other war-zones, these numbers from passive reporting probably represent only 5 percent to 20 percent of the actual number of civilians killed.

Then there is the first specific military operation known to have been ordered by the new Obama administration, a series of Predator or Raptor drone attacks in Pakistan on January 23. Five American missiles killed 22 people, including at least three children. This was about the fortieth American attack inside Pakistan in the past year. U.S. officials claim they have killed eight “senior al-Qaeda leaders,” but they have killed at least 120 other people, too.

Even as President Obama issues orders to close Guantanamo, the Pentagon is expanding the capacity of its prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan from 600 to 1,100 prisoners, more than picking up the slack. Prisoners who have passed through both prisons have reported equally disturbing forms of torture in each of them. In Five years of My Life, Murat Kurnaz described being hung in excruciating positions and beaten for days on end at Bagram. Later he was repeatedly suffocated to the point of unconsciousness for a month at a time in an airless, stifling shipping container at Guantanamo. It would be difficult to make a case that the treatment of prisoners has been better or less criminal at Bagram or Guantanamo.

Many other people have disappeared without trace into the world of secret American prisons, on U.S. ships at sea, on U.S. bases in Europe, and in the “frequent flyer program” of extraordinary rendition to Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. The human rights group Reprieve has compiled a list of 39 people who have disappeared without trace in U.S. custody. Some of their names were read into the Congressional Record on July 19, 2006, by four Republican members as part of a mysterious “No Longer a Threat” list. Since at least 96 prisoners are known to have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, including cases of death by torture for which U.S. troops have been court-martialed, it is feared that many of the disappeared may also have died horrific deaths.

Since the launching of the War on Terror, at least 19 U.S. allies or clients have used newly acquired American weapons against their neighbors or their own people (Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Yemen). U.S. arms exports hit an all-time high in fiscal year 2008 at $32 billion, but this barely maintained America’s 40 percent share of global arms exports as its allies and competitors have eagerly joined the new arms race. British arms exports exploded from $600 million per year in 2000-2003 to $5.4 billion per year since then. In 2006, Pakistan was the largest customer for American weapons, surpassing even Israel and Saudi Arabia, and now it’s also a target of U.S. weaponry -- an arms merchant’s dream come true.

Across the border in Afghanistan, the absurd premises of the War on Terror make even less sense. Every Afghan knows that it was the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI “intelligence” service that recruited, funded, trained and deployed Al Qaeda and the Taliban. So, when the United States sends its own troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, seven years after Al Qaeda fled back over the mountains to Pakistan, the only two possible explanations for this behavior are that Americans are just utterly stupid or that we have ulterior motives. Either way, the prospect of persuading Afghan Pashtuns to take our side in our war against the terrorists we unleashed on them and ourselves is zero. And the Tajiks and Uzbeks of the Northern Alliance, now dubbed the “Afghan Army,” are just more foreign invaders to 40 million Pashtuns on either side of the border. Afghan drug gangsters are glad to profit from American policy, but they offer no prospect of salvaging America’s honor or investment in this futile adventure.

The justification for all the violence I’ve described is that the United States and its allies face serious threats from “non-state actors,” wielding box-cutters and homemade bombs and missiles. In a microcosm of the wider War on Terror, the recent Israeli attack on Gaza demonstrated the obvious, that the latest weapons technology inflicts disproportionate casualties (about a hundred to one) on lightly armed resistance forces and civilians. This disproportionality is an essential feature of the War on Terror, making it politically expedient to use increasingly destructive weapons without a backlash from large numbers of Western casualties. The people of Gaza and the Pashtun tribesmen of Afghanistan and Pakistan therefore have so much more reason to fear Israelis and Americans than we have to fear them, and yet our leaders claim that our fear gives us the right to attack them in their homes. Their assigned role is just to die in whatever numbers we deem necessary without ever fighting back, but of course they o fight back, which then serves to justify the next American or Israeli escalation. As in War on Terror - the boardgame, we fight the terrorists, we fund the terrorists, we are the terrorists.

Our leaders claim that all of their interventions in other countries are designed to bring “stability” or “security.” But killing people and blowing up their homes and infrastructure does not ring stability or security. On the contrary, it brings death, terrible injuries, devastation and chaos. The use of military force is destructive by definition. The fact that people and societies eventually recover from war does not mean that war or those who engage in it deserve the credit for their victims’ recovery. Only a drunk driver who is still very drunk would take credit when a person he injured finally emerged from hospital and rehabilitation, but militarists drunk on aggression are quick to do just that.

No American war is ever launched without reference to the recovery of Germany and Japan from the Second World War as an example of the benefits of aerial bombardment and military occupation. Both countries built new societies out of the ruins of war, but their success was the result of rejecting militarism and redirecting their substantial national resources into peaceful economic development. Now there’s a model the United States could follow!

The reason American leaders are still patting themselves on the back over Germany and Japan (even if they were still in diapers at the time) is that they don’t have more recent examples of successful American military interventions to point to. They understand that the invasion of Grenada does not provide a convincing precedent for bombing Iran. In fact, since the 1950s, it is hard to find a case where American military intervention can legitimately be credited with bringing stability or security anywhere in the world, because that’s just not what military force does. That is why the nations of the world came together in 1945 after the two worst wars in history, signed the U.N. Charter and universally accepted its prohibition on the “threat or use of military force.”

Unfortunately, since then and especially after the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy specialists came to believe that a state of limited war might serve American interests better than a state of peace. With no serious military competitor, they were determined to find new justifications for the use of military force, to make the most of America’s unchallenged military superiority. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 just as the Soviet Union was collapsing, Michael Mandelbaum, the director of East-West Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times, “For the first time in 40 years we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III.”

The Clinton administration’s “humanitarian” claims for both of its interventions in Yugoslavia muddied the waters between peacekeeping in Bosnia (to keep a peace that was established by diplomacy, not by force) and aggression against Serbia in 1999. Even after attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa and the U.S.S. Cole at Aden, terrorism still seemed a flimsy justification for widespread U.S. military operations in the Middle East. But then the September 11 attacks provided the opportunity to condition the American public to view that entire region as a legitimate target for the use of military force. The predictable outcome that this would only exacerbate the threat of terrorism it claimed to address was viewed only as a public relations problem by the reinvigorated militarists in Washington. They eventually delegated the diplomacy to mitigate worldwide outrage at U.S. policy to Karen Hughes, a public relations expert with no experience in foreign relations.

The British government has officially replaced the term “War on Terror” with “the struggle against terrorism.” But President Obama has not challenged the legitimacy or rationality of what War on Terror - the boardgame proclaims as “war on the most dangerous abstract noun known to man.” Nor has he unmasked for the American public the opportunism that was inherent in the original choice of words and obvious to the rest of the world all along.

War on Terror - the boardgame can theoretically end in one of three ways: “empire victory,” “terrorist victory” or “world peace.” The first two are almost impossible to achieve. Describing the third option, the “rules of engagement” (the instructions for the game) read, “In this case, the remaining empires share a victory and can give themselves a well-earned pat on the back for being so nice and possessing the wise understanding that this is a war no one can win.”

The world is now holding its collective breath, teetering between the hopes Mr. Obama has raised and awareness of the powerful interests invested in American militarism. Fidel Castro spoke eloquently for the naysayers, “It would be supremely naive to believe that the good intentions of one intelligent person can alter the results of centuries of interests and greed.” Code Pink and other American peace groups are keeping our hopes alive and urging Obama to live up to them. This just may be one of those times in history when smart and committed political activists can actually change the world. We have nothing to fear but fear itself -- our elected officials’ fear of the all-powerful military-industrial interests behind these policies; and the irrational fear of terrorism they have spread among the public to justify disproportionately more deadly state terrorism and a $700 billion annual military budget.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of “Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq,” to be published later this year. He is a member of Miami for Peace.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal

http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4309.shtml

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Why Obama’s Message is Not Complete

By Samar Fatany, 1 February 2009

 

 There are many in the Arab and Muslim world who have been encouraged by US President Barack Obama’s words in his interview to Al-Arabiya TV when he said, “…

 

and so what we want to do is listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years … and I think if we do that, then there’s a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs.”

However, the vast majority remains sceptical about America’s efforts to repair relations with the Arab and Muslim world. Allow me to explain why and I hope President Obama is listening.

 

The Arabs and Muslims find it difficult to acknowledge the positive points in Obama’s speech simply because it included the repeated stabbing statement that, “the US is and will remain a solid ally of Israel.” It is as if he is saying to the Arab and Muslim world that the US is and will remain its solid enemy.

 

This biased remark ruined Obama’s message, especially since it was declared after Israel brutally waged a disproportionate war against the Gaza Strip and deliberately targeted the civilian population, mainly women and children while arrogantly stating that it was acting in self defence against Hamas.

The so-called Hamas rocket barrage has so far killed only a few while the number of women and children killed by Israel in Gaza is horrific. More than 1,300 people died, including 410 children and 100 women. Another 5,300 were wounded — 1,855 of them children and 795 women.

Israel continues to repeat its blatant lies labelling the freedom fighters of Palestine as terrorists and going on a killing spree in Gaza claiming that it is the Palestinians who have no respect for human lives.

 

For how long will the Jewish state act upon these distorted claims with the support of the US, its “solid ally,” defying international condemnations and trampling all human rights conventions and treaties? In its war against the Gaza Strip Israel did not hesitate to use lethal banned weapons, bomb the UN relief agency headquarters, or target schools, hospitals and ambulances and it was adamant in denying medical help to the injured leaving them to die a slow and savage death.

 

Unless the US holds Israel accountable for its war crimes against humanity, many would find it hard to believe that America could act as an honest broker for peace and not an enemy of the Arabs and Muslims.

 

The US has been an accessory to the Israeli brutality against innocent Palestinian women and children for many years. It bears responsibility for providing the US-made lethal and sophisticated weapons that have killed and maimed hundreds, and destroyed a defenceless community that has suffered a life of poverty, hunger and indignity under Israeli occupation for many years. It is the Palestinian people who need protection against the strongest army in the Middle East.

 

The Arab and Muslim armies are incapable of defending their brothers and sisters in Palestine and fighting the US war machine that has been at Israeli Army’s disposal.

 

This is the main reason behind the rage and anger in the Arab streets. Ultimately it is the American blind support that puts Israel above the law and allows it to break every international law and gives it the green light to crush anyone who stands in its way.

In his Al Arabiya interview, Obama said: “If we are looking at the region as a whole and communicating a message to the Arab and Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think we can make significant progress.”

 

Well, the Muslim world will hold him to his words and demand fair treatment and just solutions to address the root causes of the conflicts and wars that were waged for obvious American interests and Israel’s hidden agenda.

The total disrespect for Arab blood and the inability to feel the pain of Arab and Muslim human lives does not give the US any credibility to bring justice and peace to the region. If Obama wants to apply a policy of mutual interests there should be no more vetoes of UN resolutions that condemn Israeli atrocities or any American aggression against Arab and Muslim sovereign states.

If Obama is serious about applying a policy of mutual respect he must allow equal support for the innocent and the defenceless and put a stop to Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian lands.

 

America should not deny the Palestinians the right to resist occupation and continue to aid Israel to confine a whole nation into Bantustans and deny its people the right to fight for their freedom and their basic human rights.

 

In his inaugural address, Obama spoke about the American ideals of justice, opportunity and community. We urge him to apply these ideals to the Palestinian people, offering them an opportunity to exist and live in dignity. Obama said that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.

 

Well, the innocent Palestinian civilian population has been calling for this right for decades.

We need to see America apply its sense of justice and stop Israel’s ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, call for the breakdown of the apartheid wall, stop the siege of Gaza and end the humiliating checkpoints and the imprisonment of over 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

 

According to the latest survey conducted on the conditions of the children of Gaza, 70 per cent said they had witnessed a killing.

Almost 30 per cent had post-traumatic disorder: agitation, inability to sleep, violent outbursts, nightmares of traumatic events and flashbacks of them during the day, withdrawal from ordinary activities and emotional numbing. America has a responsibility to check the continued criminal behaviour of the State of Israel.

 

The conditions in Gaza call for immediate action from the US. The siege imposed on Gaza is creating a humanitarian crisis.

 

Poverty, hunger and disease are rampant due to lack of food and freshwater, a broken sewage system, destroyed homes and displaced women and children and meagre medical supplies and facilities. All this cruelty is directed on a totally defenceless and besieged people and Israel continues to claim it is acting in self defence.

Obama says he wants to listen; there are many grievances and lots of pain: We in the Arab and Muslim world hope he would stop listening to the Livnis and the Olmerts in Israel and lend his ear to the voices of wisdom and the seekers of peace like the members of the Peace Now movement and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network who grieve with the people of Gaza, who feel the pain of the Palestinian women and children and hear their cries and believe in a just peace with the Palestinians.

 

They openly criticise the blind support of America for the war criminals of Israel. They also condemn the silence of the leaders of Western countries.

Every Arab and every Muslim and all the noble people of conscience in the world — Christians, Jews, Hindus or otherwise — will forever support the brave Palestinians to resist Israel’s attempts to destroy them.

 

Obama, please listen carefully to the outcry from every capital in the world and act wisely to save the innocent. Yes, Mr. President, people will judge you by your actions. We in the Muslim world sincerely wish you luck and hope you will be brave enough to live up to your promises and ideals and recognise the Palestinians’ right to exist. It is time for America to desist from pursuing the tired, old policy of blind support for Israel and correct the historical injustices that have caused so much pain and anguish to this region and to the rest of the world.

 

Samar Fatany is a Saudi radio journalist based in Jeddah. She can be reached at samarfatany@hotmail.com

Source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2009/February/opinion_February3.xml&section=opinion&col=

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Beyond the bounds of religion

Muslims should see Gaza not as a tragedy for the Islamic world, but for all human beings

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, 31 January 2009

 

Obama is offering a hand of friendship to the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. This week he marked this new relationship, based in "mutual respect", by dispatching George Mitchell as his special envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is a veteran of the Northern Ireland peace process and is widely held to be a fair broker.

 

"I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries," Obama stated. But is this enough to allow him to connect to the worldwide Muslim community which is watching to see whether his actions live up to his words?

The internet has exploded with Muslims expressing their anger, despair and frustration at the ongoing war. My inbox bubbles up with the emotion of email after email with photos of death, invitations to rallies and lectures, multiple Facebook campaigns and groups as well as the urgency of fundraising for aid.

 

For the first time since the rally attended by a million Britons just before the invasion of Iraq I have joined in protests. Held in London, around the country and across the world, they represented the people's voice in its most raw and purest form. Those who participated came from all over the country, from all ages, creeds, colours and backgrounds, including, but not limited to, Muslims. Those who raised their voices were all human beings, religious or not. But who was listening?

Not the BBC it seems, which has drawn huge criticism from across the board for refusing to air the Gaza appeal. Nor Lord Falconer who defended the BBC decision on Question Time on Thursday night by saying that seeing the suffering of Palestinians might make people "sympathetic to the Palestinians" and "hostile to the Israelis", implying that our instinctive moral judgment was wrong.

Muslims have expressed their feelings as members of the "ummah", sharing their anguish and heartbreak at the suffering of other Muslims in Palestine. The notion of ummah is embedded very deeply in the Muslim psyche. Its basis is Prophet Muhammad's observation that someone who does not wake up in the morning and feel the pain of other Muslims around the world is not a Muslim.

 

But Palestine is not a state populated only with Muslims; it encompasses those of Christian faith or none, all of them human beings. As well as the concept of "ummah", Muslims should be invoking the wider idea of humanity. There might be additional benefits in seeing the crisis in this way: evoking sympathy from the wider public and making common cause with those who support Palestine in order to achieve justice and peace, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Beyond the labels and stereotypes, Muslims, politicians, the people of the world, should know that this is a human calamity. Human beings are being killed before our eyes with nowhere to run, no food to eat, no water to drink. A Palestinian mother will see leaflets floating down from the sky to tell her that she and her children will be bombed and should leave. But where should they run? Egypt closed the border and places of refuge such as mosques are also hit.

 

This is a human crisis that the Palestinians have recorded on film, and which will haunt all of us as human beings. Once we said "never again". We must live by that promise.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jan/31/gaza-islam-protests

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In Kufa, some Shiites bemoan Sadr movement's diminished role

A few young men long for the days when anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia controlled the town. They say the government of Nouri Maliki hasn't done much to help them.

By Ned Parker and Usama Redha

February 1, 2009

Reporting from Kufa, Iraq -- After voting, the young men stand cursing those they consider the hypocrites -- plundering Iraq's wealth; campaigning for office with tousled hair, 5 o'clock shadows and knockoff Italian suits.

They remember the days when Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia made people tremble, when it wasn't relegated to the shadows.

In ratty, grease-stained sweat suits, they survey the run-down industrial buildings of Kufa, grass growing out of the concrete, and they jealously view neighboring Najaf, home of Iraq's elite Shiite clergy, with its flow of religious tourism, its packed bazaar and the golden dome of the Imam Ali shrine.

 

In Kufa, burned trash lies in the street. Metal girders poke out from an unfinished soot-stained building. Voters stream by, groups of women in dark head-to-toe gowns, and men in traditional brown robes, emblematic of the town's conservative culture.

Sadr's movement still enjoys some popularity here, where the young preacher once delivered his sermons that challenged the Americans. His lieutenants still deliver his sermons from the Kufa mosque. But it's not the same.

 

As crowds walk by, a policeman in a dark beret keeps his eyes fixed on the pack of young men. Haidar Lafta shows his index finger, stained a deep purple after he voted for the Independent Movement of the Free People list, one of the two Sadr-sponsored slates in the election. The movement's poster displays a pair of fists tearing apart a rope binding them.

His friends applaud as Lafta curses the ruling Shiite powers, the ones they believe conspired against Sadr's militia with a military offensive in Basra last spring. After that campaign, the Sadr movement went from a powerful force that many suspected would sweep elections in the Shiite south to one in disarray.

Lafta shakes his fist when he talks about Sadr's movement. "They are strong. They know how to talk, to defend the oppressed people," he says.

 

He disparages Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who ordered the Basra campaign and reaped benefits afterward: "He has done nothing for Kufa."

 

The men reminisce about the sights of full-blown war in the spring and summer of 2004, when the Mahdi Army was at the height of its power, fighting U.S. Army tanks and helicopters with young men equipped only with rocket-propelled grenades, rifles and crude bombs. They mention the names of some of their dead.

 

But other matters are more pressing than the past. "We want the government to help the young people," Lafta says. He is tired of wasting his days loitering in alleys. Email Id: ned.parker@latimes.com

Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-iraq-sadr1-2009feb01,0,27753.story

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Iran Detains Three Women’s Activists - Campaigner

`Obviously there are people who don't want laws that are discriminatory against women to change, ` Tahmasebi told Reuters.

Iranian police have detained three women's rights activists, the latest in dozens of such arrests over the last few years in the Islamic Republic, a fellow campaigner said on Sunday.

 

They were seized in the mountains north of Tehran on Friday when collecting signatures in support of a campaign seeking changes to legislation which activists say discriminates against women. Iran rejects accusations of bias.

Sussan Tahmasebi, a leading member of the campaign, said one of those held was accused of spreading propaganda against the state, a common charge against women's rights campaigners.

A second detainee was released on Saturday, and the third was likely to be released on Sunday, she said.

 

Activists say 47 of them have been detained since they launched a campaign in 2006 to collect 1 million signatures in support of demands for changes in laws they say deny women in Iran equal rights in matters such as divorce and child custody.

Most were freed after a few days or weeks.

"Obviously there are people who don't want laws that are discriminatory against women to change," Tahmasebi told Reuters.

 

She suggested the latest arrests may be a message from the authorities ahead of the International Women's Day on March 8, when activists in the past have held rallies or meetings.

 

"We faced a lot of pressure all along," she said of the so-called 1 million signature campaign. The latest detentions could be an "attempt to reel us in right before" March 8.

Western diplomats and rights groups say the arrests of women's rights campaigners form part of a broader crackdown on dissenting voices, possibly in response to external pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Activists say women in Iran face institutionalised discrimination that makes them second-class citizens in divorce, inheritance, child custody and other aspects of life.

 

Iran dismisses accusations it discriminates against women, who are legally entitled to hold most jobs and can vote.

 

Despite the arrests, Tahmasebi said the campaign had been successful in raising public awareness about women's rights.

 

A recent parliament decision to allow women to inherit land from their husbands or fathers was a "huge accomplishment".

She also praised a judiciary directive last year under which women who suffer injury or death in a car accident will be entitled to the same insurance company compensation as men.

 

Under Iran's sharia law imposed since the 1979 Islamic revolution, compensation for the loss of a woman's life, "blood money", is half that paid for a man. This rule, which applies to physical injury as well, had also governed payments from insurance companies even though both sexes paid equal premiums.

Source: http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=229895

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Indian cleric leads world Islamic meet prayer

February 1st, 2009

Dhaka, Feb 1 (IANS) An Indian cleric led the final prayer at the 45th Bishwa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims that ended here Sunday, seeking divine blessings for global peace and prosperity. More than two million Muslims from across Bangladesh and other countries gathered along the banks of the river Turag, some 25 km north of the national capital, at Tongi for the three-day event. The final prayer, known as the Akheri Munajat, was led by Maulana Jubayerul Hassan of India.

Separate platforms were built for Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, opposition leader Khaleda Zia, various ministers and other VVIP personnel to participate in the final prayer, Star Online said. Special security measures were taken for them.

 

This year, a record figure of 10,500 foreign devotees joined the congregation.

On the second day of the Ijtema Saturday, a dowry-free mass wedding programme was held at the venue as is traditionally done every year. A total of 115 couples, in presence of their relatives and guardians, got married.

The annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca is the largest gathering of Muslims in the world.

Source: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world-news/indian-cleric-leads-world-islamic-meet-prayer_100149763.html

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Fighting violence against women

By Katherine Bradstreet, 4 February 2009

 

In a 2003 lecture subsequently posted on Youtube, Samir Abu Hamza, director of the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia, claimed that it is acceptable for a man to hit his wife and that rape is impossible in marriage. It is only right that anyone who cares about women’s rights would be outraged.

 

However, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and media commentators who have condemned the Islamic cleric have failed to address the critical issue: Abu Hamza’s comments reflect an attitude held by many Australian men, not just some Muslim men.

 

The dredging up of a six-year-old recording of an Islamic cleric’s offensive comments in the lead-up to Australia Day has been met with an understandable cynicism. After all, this is the same Abu Hamza, also known as Samir Mohtadi, who was an important Crown witness in the trial of accused terrorist Abdul Benbrika.

At that time he was described as “a moderate Islamic cleric” on ABC radio, an interesting contrast to the labels like “self-styled cleric” and “outspoken Islamic cleric” that have been used in the media over the last week.

 

Speaking at an Australia Day event in Hobart on January 22, Rudd said that the remarks “have no place in modern Australia at all. … Under no circumstances is sexual violence permissible or acceptable in Australia. Under no circumstances are other forms of violence towards women acceptable in Australia.”

If only that were true. The sad reality is that violence against women is prevalent in Australia, with one in five women experiencing sexual violence by the age of 15, according to a 2006 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault also report that intimate partner violence is the number one contributor to preventable deaths, disabilities and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44.

 

Women’s Health Goulburn North East released a study in July 2008 entitled Raped by a Partner, which interviewed 21 women who had been raped by a partner.

In the report, each woman believed that her partner would not have recognised his actions as rape. This is a frightening indication of the extent to which violence against women is accepted within our society.

 

The Herald Sun’s January 23 editorial wrote that Abu Hamza “would be better off living somewhere else. His inflammatory teachings are not welcome here.”

 

Rather than echoing the line that migrants should live “our way” or leave, a serious stand against domestic violence needs to recognise that it is not an issue only affecting any one religion or culture, it is a social issue that women from all cultural, economic and religious backgrounds struggle with.

Using such remarks to attack a section of the community for not fitting into the “Australian” way does nothing to tackle the issue of violence against women.

 

The horrifying statistics revealed in these recent reports illustrate a violent, murky side to the “Australian” way, a side brushed under the carpet, especially during times of nationalistic outbursts such as January 26 — apart from examples in which the perpetrator in question happens to be from an already marginalised section of the population, such as the Islamic community.

 

Such race-based wedge politics is another favoured tool of staunch supporters of “Australian values”, which — along with all forms of violence against women — must be opposed.

Source: http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/781/40256

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Smoking still popular despite Ulema edict

Kyle Taylor

 

When the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's largest Islamic council, issued a number of controversial fatwa (edicts) earlier in the week, they were met with a mixed reaction.

 

But while bans on yoga and abstaining from voting have attracted the attention of some, it is the issue of smoking that remains the most disputed among Indonesians

In South Jakarta, it is just before sunset and the room is full of fifty or sixty teenage boys. Each is dressed in a slightly different variation of a black T-shirt and jeans. They crowd into the simple rooftop stage area of the Rossi Musik Centre.

 

They're here to listen to or play in one of the dozen or so punk bands scheduled to perform at night. The sign on the wall says no drinking or smoking.

While there isn't a drink in sight, every second hand holds a cigarette. Underneath the screams and distorted guitars, the call to prayer can be heard in the distance.

The MUI edicts ban women and children from smoking, as well as smoking in public places. Smoking in all other circumstances is deemed makruh (blameworthy).

However, But there has been conflict between different Islamic bodies.

"Smoking is a problem but we need to emphasize the health aspects not the religious," says Masdar F. Mas'udi, Deputy Chairman of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization.

Even within the NU there appears to be different views.

Mas'udi told The Jakarta Post that a better way to address the issue of smoking is for religious leaders to set an example by not smoking themselves.

But Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the NU, who had also criticized the edicts earlier in the week, is still a smoker.

Despite this, Mas'udi says that other methods would be more effective than the edicts, like better enforcement by the government of existing smoking bans in public spacesÿ

"What we need is not to threaten those people who are addicted with hell, but consistent enforcement of smoking regulations," he says.

 

Groups like the Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) agree that basic things are not being done in Indonesia to protect the young.

"It appears that the Ulema Council is coming out because nothing is being done by the government," says Dr. Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor with SEATCA.

But unfortunately there is no evidence that issuing this fatwa will affect the tobacco industry, she says.

"Indonesia is not the first country to do this, Malaysia did the same, so did Brunei, that's just in Southeast Asia."

 

Still, health officials have welcomed the move by the MUI, while trying to avoid the conflict between the Islamic bodies.

 

"We are all doing our best to keep the youngsters away from smoking, because if they start smoking, once they are adults they are already addicted," a spokesperson from the Indonesia Cancer Foundation says.

Tobacco farmers on the other hand objected to the bans during the week.

"When you look at what the fatwa is about - how it is harmful for young people and pregnant women to smoke - for farmers to say that they object to that means they approve of children and pregnant women smoking, which is unacceptable," says Assunta.

The SEATCA are one of several groups who campaigned unsuccessfully for Philip Morris International (PMI), one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, to withdraw sponsorship from a recent series of concerts featuring popular Indonesia band, Slank.

"Philip Morris is arrogant enough to go ahead with these concerts because ... there are no rules against it in Indonesia," Assunta says.

 

In 2008, PMI faced international pressure to withdraw its sponsorship from a scheduled appearance by Alicia Keys in Jakarta.

 

"There is quite a difference because Alicia Keys is an international star ... and she had to face the American public about promoting smoking in Indonesia," Assunta says

So while PMI withdrew from the Keys concert it did not do the same for the Marlboro Rocks concert series this month, which featured Slank. A campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an American lobby group, called for PMI Chairman and CEO Louis C. Camilleri to stop sponsorship of concerts due to their appeal to youth.

 

"How can we reach any conclusion other than the fact that PMI, under your leadership, does not place the same value on the life of a youth in Indonesia that it does on the life of an American child," says Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids President Matthew Myers in a letter to Camilleri.

Source: http://old.thejakartapost.com/detailfeatures.asp?fileid=20090201.B04&irec=1

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Islamic association seeks to teach Americans about the Quran

An Islamic Association in Oklahoma has presented an impressive idea for non-Muslims in America to learn more about the faith.

 

The organization began in 2003 after the unfortunate treatment by American soldiers of the Holy Koran in the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

 

The association decided to teach Americans about Islam and Muslims, and they recently decided to print the Holy Quran in English. This English language version will come with explanations of the Holy verses, an introduction to Islam, the fundamental of Islam, and how to deal with Islam. This idea has yielded considerable success, and the organization has raised a lot of contributions from Muslims and non-Muslim Americans. The organization has said they have received many requests from non-Muslim Americans for a copy of the Holy Quran.

Source: http://www.yobserver.com/local-news/10015678.html

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Egyptian Islamic activist detained at Gaza border

Jan 31, 2009

ISMAILIA, Egypt, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces detained an Islamist opposition activist on Saturday as he crossed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip, saying they believed he had entered Gaza illegally via a cross-border tunnel, security sources said.

 

The sources said that Magdy Ahmed Hussein, the head of the Islamist-oriented Labour party, was carrying no papers other than a driving licence when he tried to return to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing.

 

The government suspended the activities of Hussein's party in 2000, partly due to its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group.

For the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels have become a main source of goods, including fuel, since Israel tightened its embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

 

Israel bombed the tunnels during its recent 22-day Gaza offensive, and its military fears Hamas could use them to re-arm. But many tunnels have sophisticated systems and seem to have survived weeks of Israeli bombardment.

Roughly 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the Gaza offensive before both sides declared an end to the fighting on Jan. 18. Israel says its offensive was aimed at halting Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities.

 

Egypt, which has kept its Rafah border crossing with the territory largely closed, has agreed to help stop the tunnel smuggling with international technical assistance.

But no firm plan is yet in place as Israel and Hamas argue through Egyptian mediators about installing a longer term ceasefire that would meet Israel's demands for shutting off the arms supply and Hamas's demands for an easing of the blockade. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Charles Dick)

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/middleeastCrisis/idUKLV350313

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Women refuse refuge because of nearby mosque

By ESTHER HARWARD - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 01 February 2009

Muslim women are staying away from a domestic violence crisis centre since a mosque opened next door.

 

The Auckland Shakti Asian Women's Centre in Onehunga helps women escape violent domestic situations but women are too scared to go because they may be recognised by their husbands or relatives attending the mosque.

The centre has an alternative premise but cannot move in because Auckland City Council has held back planning permission for more than a year.

 

Meanwhile, Housing New Zealand Corporation is paying $310 a week $4030 so far for security guards to keep vandals away from the empty building that the women could move into.

Centre spokesperson Shila Nair said victims were "really afraid" to go to the centre in Church St, Onehunga in case they were recognised by men worshipping at the Onehunga Islamic Mosque, which is over a boundary fence.

 

Women who visited the centre usually did so without telling their husbands, she said. "If their husbands, in-laws or any other family members or friends were to know that they have visited Shakti, life for them would be even more difficult. We have had instances of women who visited our Women's Centre later accessing our refuge."

 

Most were from Middle Eastern, Africa and Asian countries that don't legislate against domestic violence. Staffs tell them what their rights are under New Zealand law.

 

The crisis centre took 4800 phone calls last year on a 24 hour nationwide helpline of which 90% were about family violence. Of the calls, half of the women were recommended to visit for counselling, legal advice or training.

 

The housing corporation renovated another building for the women to move to after the mosque bought a building next door from the Jehovah's Witness church. The women have been waiting for 18 months for the council to grant resource consent for them to use the house. Council resource consents team leader Ian Small burn said the consent was "on hold" because of concerns about the impact of parking on neighbours, trees and storm water. It was not known when the issues would be resolved.

 

The centre opened a decade ago and is the busiest of Shakti's five branches in Auckland, Tauranga and Christchurch, which together they help 6000 women a year escape domestic abuse. 

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/4834845a11.html

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Small US bank goes Islamic

31 January 2009

 

Big financial institutions have been battered by mortgages gone bad. But a tiny Michigan bank is getting attention in the industry by turning a profit on loans without even charging interest. Its specialty: financial products that comply with Islamic law. That means no collecting interest, no short selling and no contracts that are considered exceedingly risky. It also rules out some of the activity that got Western finance in trouble - sub prime mortgages, credit default swaps and the like.

 

When you look at the economic crisis we're in, if you were to follow Islamic or sharia financing, you couldn't have this crisis," said John Sickler, corporate director for the bank, University Islamic Financial Corp in Ann Arbor. Islamic finance operations aren't prohibited from making a profit. Far from it. Instead, banks that comply with Islamic law, or sharia, earn money from fees that are part of the cost of the loan, some paid up front and some over time.

University Islamic Financial has two types of financing, one called a marked-up instalment sale and the other a lease-to-purchase sale. Fees in both cases are comparable to interest payments in traditional loans, bank officials say. For example: A seller who bought a house for $100,000 could sell it for $120,000 or even $300,000, provided the buyer agrees it's a fair deal. The home could be sold on an instalment plan negotiated by buyer and seller. The bank is a subsidiary of Michigan-based University Bank, and its leaders say they have talked recently with executives from two national banks hoping to learn more about the business.

 

Islamic law says money cannot grow by itself, the way it does with compounding interest. Trade is acceptable as long as the equal amounts of money are traded or two different things are swapped with a fairly negotiated price. So a dime for an apple would be considered "halal", or religiously acceptable, while one apple for two apples would be "harem," or unacceptable.

 

Even at University, not everyone is on board. Some customers have closed their accounts when they learned it was engaging in Islamic finance. Some employees who objected to the move quit. The bank also stopped having a Christmas party and no longer serves alcohol at after-hours events. The Michigan bank focuses on contracts that clearly spell out the risk and reward between lender and borrower. University Islamic Financial says it's the nation's first to offer Sharia-compliant, federally insured deposits.

Islamic banking is more common overseas, but some US banks and credit card companies are exploring the idea of branching out into Sharia products to reach out to the growing Muslim population.

 

So Islamic banking is only expected to increase in coming years. Already, Citigroup offers Sharia products and services to clients overseas, and Visa says it has worked with banks around the world to offer Islamic-compliant products. The conventional banking system could learn a lot from the idea, said Jawad Ali, a finance lawyer based in Dubai and London who specializes in structuring sharia-compliant deals.

 

We haven't made as much money as the conventional banks because we can't, for example, sell what we don't own," he said. "We have to own it before we sell it. We may have missed out on gains in good times ... but we haven't suffered any losses." Of course, there's no guarantee that banks will find immunity in Islamic finance from a severe global downturn. "I am not doing banking on Mars," said Afaq Khan, the head of Saadiq, the Islamic banking arm of Standard Chartered Bank, based in London. "If real economic activity slows down significantly, the Islamic banking industry will also be affected.

A sharia-compliant mortgage is like rent-to-own: There is no note, or mortgage, but typically part of each month's payment is held toward the ultimate purchase. The property is titled to an individual trust, or limited liability corporation. Deutsche Bank estimates total assets in the Islamic finance market at $1 trillion - a tiny fraction of global financial assets, but the bank said in a recent report that the sector been growing at a clip of 15 to 20 percent per year.

 

Most big international banks already have Islamic banking arms, and a November report by Moody's Investors Service shows that Islamic banks have been fairly resilient to the global economic downturn. The US banking industry has not embraced sharia banking. Wachovia, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase said they have not adopted sharia practices and declined to comment about what they may do in the future. "As far as the future, we are always looking for opportunities to better serve our customers, but our specific strategy is proprietary," Wells Fargo spokeswoman Lisa Westermann said.

University Bank President Stephen Ranzini declined to name the US banks that University Islamic has talked to. But he said his bank soon plans to offer its services such as residential lending to other banks and credit unions nationwide. Sharia banking is an idea "that is long overdue in this country," said Amal Berry-Brown, vice president at Comerica, a Dallas regional bank that has talked with Ranzini. "At the same time, there really is quite a bit of work to be done.

 

Comerica has a strong customer base around Detroit, home to the nation's most concentrated Muslim population. One issue: There is "a big variance" within sharia law about exactly which financial practices are considered good and bad, said Mustafa Gultekin, a finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For University Islamic, the niche appears to be paying off. Ranzini said he expects it to generate more than 25 percent of the overall bank's revenue this year, up from about 20 percent last year.

Source: http://www.daily.pk/world/americas/9322-small-us-bank-goes-islamic.html

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Slain Exile Detailed Chechen Ruler’s Systematic Cruelty

By C. J. CHIVERS, January 31, 2009

 

Umar S. Israilov saw the men who had come to kill him. They confronted him in the neighborhood where he lived in hiding in Vienna. He must have sensed their intentions, because he ran.

For more than two years, Mr. Israilov, a Chechen in exile, had formally accused Russia’s government of allowing a macabre pattern of crimes in Chechnya. Even by the dark norms of violence in the Caucasus, his accusations were extraordinary.

 

A rebel fighter turned bodyguard of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, Chechnya’s current president, Mr. Israilov had access to the inner ring of Chechen power. Mr. Kadyrov’s career has been sponsored by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who as president lifted him from obscurity with unwavering Kremlin support.

 

In written legal complaints, Mr. Israilov described many brutal acts by Mr. Kadyrov and his subordinates, including executions of illegally detained men. One executed man, Mr. Israilov said, had been beaten with a shovel handle by Mr. Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov, now a member of Russia’s Parliament. Another prisoner, the defector said, was sodomized by a prominent police officer and at Mr. Kadyrov’s order put to death.

 

Mr. Israilov said he and others had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov, who amused himself by personally giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.

 

Mr. Kadyrov and Mr. Delimkhanov refused to be interviewed for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Kadyrov released a statement decrying “a large-scale and purposeful campaign” to discredit Chechnya’s president and government. The campaign, the spokesman said, was the “deeply conspiratorial initiative of some ideologists of terrorism and an armed criminal underground.”

 

Since 1994, Russia’s wars against nationalist and Islamic separatists in Chechnya have been fought with sinister conduct by all sides.

 

Human rights organizations and independent journalists have documented patterns of abduction, detention, disappearances, collective punishment, extrajudicial executions and the systematic use of torture by Russian and Chechen authorities, including Mr. Kadyrov. The separatists have unapologetically employed terrorist attacks, including on children.

 

But the character of Mr. Israilov’s allegations was different. He had been an insider. And with his father, Sharpuddi — who says that Mr. Kadyrov illegally detained him for more than 10 months, and that his captors tortured victims with a gas torch — he filed complaints to Russian prosecutors and the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 and 2007.

 

The Israilovs’ filings, never made public, appear to have been the first formal allegations based on the actions of Mr. Kadyrov, who has been celebrated by the Kremlin as a hero for marginalizing the insurgency in the Republic of Chechnya since 2004.

 

Taken together, their accounts offer a window into Russia’s counterinsurgency campaign and the climb to power of Chechens in Kremlin favor as the separatists’ influence waned. They also detail efforts by Chechnya’s government to suppress knowledge of its policies through official lies, obstruction and witness intimidation.

 

Since last year, the Israilovs had cooperated with The New York Times, including by providing copies of sealed court records.

 

Umar Israilov, 27, was a complicated figure: a participant in a particularly ugly war, motivated at least in part by revenge. The Times spent several months evaluating the allegations by him and his father, examining the charges against the wealth of materials on Chechen human rights abuses, and interviewing supporting witnesses and independent investigators who had examined the Israilov case.

 

In addition, the newspaper obtained corroborating statements from another government insider and from another victim, who fled Chechnya but remain in hiding; they said they saw Umar Israilov being tortured.

 

Almost all of the people who assisted asked for anonymity, saying they feared reprisal. Ultimately, The Times postponed publication of the Israilovs’ accounts out of concern for the safety of witnesses and people who helped the investigation, some of whom wanted to relocate.

 

The threats were palpable. Several of President Kadyrov’s critics have been silenced by violence, including rivals, journalists and former detainees and their relatives.

Moreover, Mr. Israilov told Austrian authorities last year that an agent sent from Russia by Mr. Kadyrov had threatened him. Under questioning by counterterrorism officials, the agent told of his mission to retrieve the whistle-blower, according to a written summary of his interrogation, and said Mr. Kadyrov kept a list of 300 enemies to be killed.

 

On Jan. 9, after consulting with one of Umar Israilov’s legal advocates, The Times notified Mr. Putin’s office that it sought interviews with Russian officials about these allegations. Mr. Israilov was prepared to publicize his story.

Dmitri Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, declined to comment in detail, saying, “It’s not wise to comment on any rumors.”

On Jan. 13, Mr. Israilov left his apartment, where he had been watching his three young children while his pregnant wife was away, to buy yogurt at a nearby market. Outside, he was confronted by at least two men.

 

They argued, and one of the men tried to pistol-whip Mr. Israilov, according to Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for Austria’s prosecutor. Mr. Israilov bolted. He still had received no protection. In broad daylight on a Vienna street, he ran for his life alone.

 

One of his pursuers opened fire. Mr. Israilov fell, shot in an arm, a leg and the abdomen, according to Mr. Jarosch. A short while later, he was dead.

 

A Young Rebel, Caught

 

For Umar Israilov, the pain of Chechnya’s wars began early. He was herding cows in 1995 near his town, Mesker-Yurt, when it was struck by Russian artillery fire. He hid until the barrage ended. When he returned home, he found his mother’s shrapnel-riddled remains. He was 13.

 

Mr. Israilov’s anger simmered, he said, but when he asked to join the rebels, they rejected him because of his age. The first war lasted until 1996, when the separatists won limited independence and the Russian Army withdrew.

In 1999, during a nearly lawless period of Chechen self-rule, Mr. Israilov attended a camp at Kurchaloi, his father said. The camp was in a network of jihadist schools run by Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab, rebel commanders whose drift toward terrorism put them among Russia’s most wanted men.

The Russian Army blitzed Chechnya again in 1999. Mr. Israilov assumed a support role for a guerrilla cell, monitoring Russian troops to help insurgents avoid ambushes and maintaining an arms cache in a cemetery. The Russian military suspected him, he said, and troops searched his relatives’ houses repeatedly. Eventually he joined the insurgency full time.

 

Mr. Israilov insisted that he had never been in combat or committed violence. Such claims are common among former fighters; his could not be independently verified.

Russian prosecutors, in an attempt to have him extradited last year, claimed he gave insurgents a rifle for an attack on a polling station and helped rig an explosion against a convoy in which a Russian soldier was severely wounded.

Austria denied the extradition request, calling the evidence insufficient.

 

By early 2003, Mr. Israilov, then 22, was living in a dug-out shelter in the woods. On April 15, he said, he and two other fighters ventured out to buy food and were arrested by pro-Kremlin Chechens.

 

An ordeal began. After being beaten for two days, he said, the three captives were driven to a boxing club in Gudermes and presented to Mr. Kadyrov. Mr. Israilov’s clothes were bloodstained, his body bruised. His nose had been broken.

 

Today, Mr. Kadyrov, 32, is Chechnya’s most powerful man. Marginally educated but bristling with intensity and self-confidence, he is not just the republic’s president but also the de facto commander of its sprawling security forces and arbiter of much of its oil flow. He also leads an extravagant personality cult and has officially sponsored a local resurgence in Chechen religion and culture.

 

As he has seized power, he has borrowed from Stalinism, Sufi Islam and Chechen nationalism to erode the insurgency, bend a frightened society to his will and rebuild the republic at a blur.

 

Along the way, he has been cast by his critics as Russia’s most sadistic gangster.

He has been accused of crimes capital, carnal and municipal, ranging from murder, torture and kidnapping to cavorting with prostitutes and exacting kickbacks from government workers to build monuments to his father and himself.

He has always denied all the allegations. In interviews since 2004 with The Times, he sometimes laughed at them, and while he called himself “a warrior,” he insisted that he fought only for peace.

“I am a Muslim” he said in 2006, when pressed about allegations of kidnapping.

“A good Muslim would never commit a crime,” he said. “He will always be facing God, and he will always do good to people.”

He added, as he drove a reporter at high speeds through the Chechen capital, Grozny, with assault rifles strewn about his car’s seats: “I am an official person. I am not a bandit.”

 

On the day Mr. Israilov met him, Mr. Kadyrov was almost unknown. His father, Akhmad H. Kadyrov, formerly a leading separatist mufti, had switched sides in 2000 to ally himself with the Kremlin. The reward was a plum: an appointment to Chechnya’s top administrative post.

 

Ramzan Kadyrov led his father’s bodyguard, a growing militia of former rebels known as the Presidential Security Service.

The service, a free-wheeling regiment with military, police and intelligence duties, had no basis in Russian law.

“We’ve caught some devils,” one of their captors said to Mr. Kadyrov as he stepped from his gym, Mr. Israilov recalled. Mr. Kadyrov laughed and gave an order: “Take them to the base.”

The Torture Chamber

The town of Tsentoroi was once a rebels’ redoubt. By 2003 it had become an informal seat of power for rebels who changed sides.

Mr. Israilov was driven there, he said, and confined with other detainees in cells outside a weight-lifting center. According to victims and human rights groups, the weight room was one of several torture chambers run by pro-Kremlin Chechens.

That day, Mr. Israilov recalled, officers from the F.S.B., Russia’s domestic intelligence service, beat him and tried to force him to confess to killing at least 17 people. Mr. Israilov said he refused as Mr. Kadyrov watched.

 

Mr. Kadyrov finally took over. “Ramzan slapped me in the face once; then his guards beat me,” he said. “Ramzan said, ‘Stop it,’ and asked me questions. Then he began beating me again.”

 

According to Mr. Israilov, he was beaten a few times a week for three months, often after being tied to fitness machines. His torturers wanted information about other rebels, he said.

On one occasion, he said, Mr. Delimkhanov, the Kadyrov associate now in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, beat him with a shovel handle just before Mr. Kadyrov twice fired a pistol near his feet. On another occasion, Mr. Israilov said, he was connected to wires and Mr. Kadyrov administered electric shocks. “‘That’s the thing,’ ” he recalled Mr. Kadyrov saying with a laugh. “ ‘That’s the thing.’ ”

 

He was also poked in the leg by unknown men with a heated metal rod, he said, and struck in the lip by a fragment of a ricocheting bullet fired by another unknown man. (Scars on Mr. Israilov’s lip and leg were visible.)

 

Others faced worse. On his third week in captivity, Mr. Israilov said, a cellmate, Shamil Gerikhanov, was sodomized with a shovel handle by a guard commander.

One night he listened, he said, as Aidamir Gushayev, who had organized a rebel cell’s finances, was interrogated by Mr. Kadyrov. The future president demanded money and grew frustrated. Mr. Israilov heard a gunshot. For a moment, Mr. Israilov recalled, there was silence, and then there were bursts of automatic fire. “It sounded like each bodyguard fired an entire magazine,” he said.

Mr. Kadyrov snarled, “‘Gazavat,’ ” he said. The word is Chechen for holy war. It was also the guards’ slang, Mr. Israilov said, for an area where victims were buried in unmarked graves.

 

Two Conversions

When Mr. Israilov was captured, the insurgency had already lost Grozny, but it remained strong. To defeat it, Russia and Mr. Kadyrov fought militarily. Simultaneously, Mr. Kadyrov mounted a campaign of inducements, amnesty offers, threats and violence against rebels’ families to persuade separatists to change sides.

 

In the summer of 2003, Mr. Israilov said, the guards led him in shackles to a sauna, where Mr. Kadyrov made an offer: join the presidential security service and live. The alternative, Mr. Israilov said, was clear. He accepted.

 

Mr. Kadyrov gave him a pistol, according to the court complaint, and Umar Israilov began work in the “kadyrovtsie” — the Kadyrovs’ troops.

 

Asked later why he did not turn the pistol against a man he said had tortured him, Mr. Israilov replied, “Because I wanted to live.”

 

As part of its defense against these allegations, Mr. Kadyrov’s office said last month that it had no record of Mr. Israilov’s is having served Mr. Kadyrov. Russian prosecutorial records from Chechnya, however, show that Mr. Israilov worked in Mr. Kadyrov’s guard beginning in late 2003.

 

For about 10 months, Mr. Israilov said, he worked at Tsentoroi. During this time he saw at least 20 illegally detained people tortured, he said, with Mr. Kadyrov participating in several sessions. Many victims were the relatives of the boyeviki, the insurgents.

 

The sessions Mr. Israilov described aligned with a shift in Russia’s counterinsurgency effort — away from mass detentions and neighbourhood sweeps by the Russian Army, to actions by Chechen units against rebels’ families, a form of pinpoint collective punishment.

 

“Ramzan himself said that the best way to get boyeviki out of the forest was to do it through relatives,” Mr. Israilov said. “It was basically his slogan.”

 

One day, Mr. Israilov said, he watched the commander who had sodomized his cellmate, Shamil Gerikhanov, plead with Mr. Kadyrov to order the victim killed. “Take him and finish him,” Mr. Kadyrov said. Mr. Gerikhanov was driven away and never seen again, Mr. Israilov said; the rapist, whose first name was Alanbek, was promoted to be a police commander in Grozny.

 

In early 2004, Mr. Israilov was transferred to his home village to lead a police squad, according to his court file.

Mr. Kadyrov’s stature in Chechnya was rising. His father was assassinated in May, and Mr. Putin, then president, offered him condolences in a meeting broadcast on state television — a clear endorsement of his role as Moscow’s Chechen strongman.

But as the war evolved from a Russian-Chechen fight to an internecine struggle, Mr. Israilov’s father urged him to desert, saying his job required violence against his former friends, who would retaliate. “I told him he could not keep that job without putting everyone in danger,” Sharpuddi Israilov said.

 

That November, using a counterfeit passport bought with bribe money, Umar Israilov and his wife, Madina Sagiyeva, fled to Belarus. There, he said, he traveled to the border and presented his fake passport and $20 to a Belarussian border guard, who let them cross to Poland, where they asked for asylum.

Retaliation

In late 2003, two weeks after Umar Israilov deserted; a police supervisor appeared at a construction company in Grozny where his father worked. The officer told the elder Israilov that Mr. Kadyrov had summoned him, and led him to a car where his wife sat in the back. The police had already searched their apartment, according to court filings, stolen about $6,000 of their savings and left their three children, ages 6 to 12, locked inside. The police were looking for Umar and his weapon.

 

Sharpuddi Israilov and his wife were driven to Tsentoroi, where they learned that his son’s sister-in-law had also been detained. Within minutes, Mr. Israilov was knocked down, beaten and dragged to the weight room, according to him and his wife.

 

He was handcuffed to a pool table and his legs were lashed to a fitness machine, Mr. Israilov said. Eight Chechens began to beat, kick and stomp on him, he said. Three teeth were knocked out.

 

“They watched until the moment when I was about to pass out; then they stopped and asked a question,” he said. “They did not want a corpse. They wanted information.”

He passed out. When he woke, the men told him they had learned that his son was in Poland. They attached wires to one toe on each foot, he said, and began to shock him, pouring water on him to intensify his pain. “They were laughing, watching my convulsions,” he said.

 

Among the half-dozen others in the room, Mr. Israilov said, was Supyan Ekiyev, one of Mr. Kadyrov’s guards, who was accused of collaborating in an insurgent attack. He hung by his arms from an exercise machine. His jaw appeared broken, Sharpuddi Israilov said. His hands and legs had been burned by open flames. (The next week, his body was found near Grozny, “heavily distorted by torture,” according to Memorial, a Russian human rights group.)

That night, Mr. Israilov said, Ramzan Kadyrov arrived to torture the prisoners.

By this time, the insurgency had passed its peak. A run of guerrilla operations in 2004 had been followed by terrorist attacks, including the siege at a school in Beslan, that showed the rebels still had sizable forces and considerable resources.

 

But the terrorist attacks undercut the insurgency’s support and re-energized Russia’s efforts to defeat it, expanding Mr. Kadyrov’s mandate.

Mr. Kadyrov, by then a deputy prime minister, was viewed as Chechnya’s president-in-waiting. He needed only to turn 30, the post’s legally required age. He was 28.

Mr. Kadyrov did not beat the elder Mr. Israilov that night. But watching Chechnya’s most prominent man wander between victims — beating some, shocking others, playing billiards — Mr. Israilov felt disgust. “He just came in to have fun,” Mr. Israilov said.

In Chechnya last year, The Times found another person, unrelated to the Israilovs, who survived detention at the compound at the same time. The former detainee, clearly terrified, corroborated details of the treatment, including the torture of another detainee, and described abductions and the center’s grounds in the same manner as the Israilovs, but did not want to be identified, citing a fear that relatives would be killed.

 

Sharpuddi Israilov’s allegations are also consistent with those of another Chechen in hiding, who has asked that his identity remain undisclosed. The man, who filed a complaint to the European court in 2007, said he was abducted from a bus in November 2004 and detained for a long period at a base controlled by Mr. Kadyrov, where he was beaten, burned by a gas flame and subjected to electric shocks, according to the European Human Rights Advocacy Center, a London-based organization that helps Russians and Georgians seek justice in Europe.

 

After Sharpuddi Israilov was detained, he and Umar Israilov said, Mr. Kadyrov and another Chechen official called Umar in Poland and demanded his return to Chechnya. They apparently found his Polish number on his father’s phone.

Mr. Kadyrov was enraged, Umar Israilov said, and told him of the capture of his father and other relatives. “I will kill them all,” Mr. Israilov recalled Mr. Kadyrov saying.

“I will not come back,” Mr. Israilov said, and hung up.

 

Escape to the West

Umar Israilov’s defiance appeared to work. His relatives were not killed. His sister-in-law and his father’s wife were released. (Both have received asylum in Europe.)

His father’s detention, however, dragged on. He was transferred to Gudermes and held until Oct. 4, 2005, more than 10 months.

Mr. Israilov said he was not tortured again but shared space with as many as 100 detainees, mostly fighters’ relatives or government fighters accused of minor crimes. Many were beaten or subjected to shocks.

Among those he saw in custody, he said, was Khamad Umarov, the 72-year-old father of Doku Umarov, then a senior rebel commander and now president of the separatist shadow government.

 

Khamad Umarov’s kidnapping was reported at the time; separatist Web sites have since reported that he died in custody.

On the day the elder Mr. Israilov was released, he said, he was dropped in front of his home. He was bearded and scarred and had lost about 45 pounds.

In early 2006, according to his complaint to the European Court, a Russian prosecutor asked him to sign a statement saying that he had made up his story of detention to cover for time spent away from home with a mistress.

 

Mr. Israilov said he threw the paper in the prosecutor’s face.

Then he fled with his wife, Shovda Viskhanova, to Norway for asylum. By that time, Umar Israilov had moved to Austria and received asylum there.

In interviews, both men said that though they were granted the possibility of peaceful lives, they wanted to obtain justice and hold the Russian and Chechen governments accountable. They filed separate complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in late 2006.

 

The court, established by the European Convention on Human Rights, has become a legal venue of last resort for citizens of countries that have signed the convention, which include Russia. Chechnya, as a republic of Russia, is covered by Russian conventions and laws.

To hide their locations, the Israilovs provided only a post office box in a third Western country. Unbeknownst to them, the court sought more information but could not find them. The case was dropped and expunged from files, although the Israilov family is resubmitting documents to have it reinstated.

 

In August, the Chechen who said he had been sent to Austria by Mr. Kadyrov found Umar Israilov and asked him to withdraw his complaints or risk being killed and having his family killed. Mr. Israilov refused, he and his lawyer said. The Austrian government released the man and did not protect Mr. Israilov.

In the days since Mr. Israilov’s killing, Austrian police and counterterrorism officers have arrested eight Chechens in the case. All had received or applied for asylum, the prosecutor’s spokesman said. The suspects were still being questioned and the evidence reviewed, he said, and their motives were not yet clear.

Umar Israilov, for his part, had all but predicted his fate.

 

“A guy from our village works as a commander in the kadyrovtsie,” he said at the end of his final interview with a reporter last year. “He told it to my cousin: that I should be very, very careful, because Ramzan promises a bounty for me.”

C. J. Chivers reported from Vienna; London; Moscow; Oslo; and Grozny, Gudermes and Mesker-Yurt, Chechnya. Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Moscow.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/world/europe/01torture.html?_r=1&tntemail0=y&emc=tnt&pagewanted=all

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Muslim world showers praise on Turkish PM

Source: http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/31-Jan-2009/Muslim-world-showers-praise-on-Turkish-PM

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Hamas led the cheers from the Muslim world Friday for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he stormed out of an international debate on the Gaza war with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The group, which rules the tiny Palestinian territory, paid tribute to Erdogan’s “courageous stand” after he angrily left the discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday. Erdogan “directly defended the victims of the criminal Zionist war against our children and women in Gaza,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.

“We consider his departure from the room an expression of support for the victims of the Holocaust carried out by the Zionists,” he said.

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya also showered Erdogan with praise and compared him to Sultan Mehmed II who conquered Constantinople in 1453, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire.

“The Palestinian people, the resistance and Hamas salute you, Erdogan,” Hayya told a rally in Gaza City, during his first public appearance since the end of Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

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Some see Mumbai terrorism as an attack on India-Israel ties

 

IN MUMBAI: Indian commandos descend to the Nariman House in November. Indian media have reported that a suspect said assailants were targeting Israeli citizens there.

They cite the sophisticated attack on the Nariman House Jewish centre. Relations between India and Israel have grown increasingly strong in recent years.

By Peter Spiegel, January 31, 2009

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-india-israel1-2009feb01,0,4924558.story

Reporting from New Delhi -- Some counter-terrorism experts in India are convinced that the country's growing ties to Israel were a prime factor behind the targeting of a small Jewish centre in the deadly Mumbai attacks.

 

These experts, despite an ongoing investigation of the assailants' motives, have concluded that the assault on the obscure Nariman House was more sophisticated than those on the city's two luxury hotels, an indication that it was a prime target in the November operation.

"Their aim was to humiliate India, that is aim No. 1," said retired Indian vice Adm. Premvir S. Das. "Two [was to] tell the Indians clearly that your growing linkage with Israel is not what you should be doing. I think the rest is peripheral."

 

Das and other members of a high-level delegation of Indian government and business leaders met in Washington in December with senior U.S. State Department and Pentagon officials, including then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and discussed the Mumbai violence, in which more than 170 people were killed.

 

The relationship between India and Israel has grown into one of the most important for both countries, particularly in arms sales. India has become Israel's largest customer, acquiring about $1.5 billion in weapons every year. Only Russia sells more arms to India.

 

Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst at the CIA, said the Indian space agency launched a highly sophisticated Israeli spy satellite a year ago, the first of what is expected to be three such launches.

 

Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, declined to discuss the security relationship between the countries, saying Israel never talks about it publicly. But Sofer acknowledged that they had grown closer in non-military areas in recent years, noting that Israeli-Indian trade has increased from $80 million in 1991, the year the nations established diplomatic ties, to more than $3.5 billion last year.

Israeli companies also have invested heavily in India, particularly in the real estate and agriculture sectors, and India, especially the western city of Goa, has become a prime tourist destination for Israelis. According to data compiled by the Indian tourism ministry, the number of Israelis visiting India has more than quadrupled over the last decade, to more than 40,000 annually.

Direct evidence, however, that the Mumbai attackers were targeting this increasingly friendly relationship remains piecemeal.

 

Early in the assault, an attacker who was part of the operation on Nariman House called an Indian TV news channel and railed against the September visit by a senior Israeli military official, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, to the divided Kashmir region. Mizrahi reportedly spoke to Indian officers about counter-terrorism strategies.

In addition, Indian media have reported that the lone suspect captured in the attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab, has told authorities that the assailants were specifically targeting Israeli citizens at the Jewish center and had staked out the facility far in advance.

Das, the retired vice admiral, said the ruthlessness of the attack at the Jewish centre indicated how important the location was to the assailants.

 

"They targeted a nondescript apartment building, which is known to be visited and known to be host to Israeli people," Das said.

But not everyone familiar with the Indian investigation is convinced that the bilateral relationship was specifically targeted.

One senior New Delhi-based diplomat who has been briefed on the investigation said Indian officials were making too much of the relationship.

There are more logical explanations for attacking a facility tied to Israelis, the diplomat said, including a possible effort by militants to strike at a traditional Islamist bogeyman to defray criticism from the Muslim world of attacks on unarmed civilians.

 

"The Indian-Israeli relationship is not something that started yesterday," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. "It's not something that is in the public eye right now, either."

Still, several Indian analysts noted that the attacks came on the heels of increasingly vitriolic rhetoric from militant groups, including Al Qaeda, attempting to link the two countries in a "Zionist-Hindu war" against Islam.

 

The analysts said India was unlikely to change its policies toward Israel because of the Mumbai attacks.

"It was targeted at that cooperation, which was evolving and continues to evolve," said retired Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar, a former commander of counter-terrorism operations along the India-Pakistan border.

Several Al Qaeda leaders, particularly Ayman Zawahiri, the network's No. 2, have alleged a "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu" conspiracy since the late 1990s, and attacks carried out by Zawahiri's pre-Al Qaeda organization have hit targets it said were part of a joint Indian-Israeli effort to spy on Pakistani nuclear sites.

But the rhetoric has become more pronounced. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose initial grievances focused on Western troops in Arab lands and later expanded to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, released an audiotape in 2006 in which he referred to a "Zionist-Hindu war against Muslims" and added Pakistani resentments over India's control of a portion of Kashmir to his list of perceived anti-Muslim grievances.

 

Analysts said the change in rhetoric appears to be a result of cross-pollination between the largely Arab Al Qaeda and Pakistani extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization accused in the Mumbai attacks.

Although many current and former Indian officials said they did not believe the attacks would slow India's diplomatic embrace of Israel, they acknowledged that India's large Muslim population and the country's reliance on Middle Eastern oil made the relationship complex domestically.

 

Prominent Indian Muslim leaders have condemned the Mumbai attacks and have not raised India's ties to Israel as a problem.

"As far as India's relations with Israel are concerned, they have a dynamic of their own," said Rajendra M. Abhyankar, a former Indian ambassador who helped formulate New Delhi's counter-terrorism policies. "They stand on their own and are not hostile to the fact that we still have more than 115 million Muslims in India, the second-largest Muslim community in the world." Email id: peter.spiegel@latimes.com

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/"prison-muslims"-fastest-growing-religious-group-in-the-us--/d/1168

 

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