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Islamic World News ( 2 Jan 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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'Internet imams' the new recruiters for al-Qaida

Pakistan volleyball game bombing toll nears 100

Beware the militant engineers

British universities 'a hotbed of Islamic radicalisation'

Role of Internet: How Young Muslims Get Radicalized

Muslim loony toon is shot in Mohammed artist attack

'Minority' for 'Muslim' in BPL census?

 Shopian deaths mishandled affair of Omar Govt

Yemen slams Shebab pledge to send fighters

Devotees asked to rebuild Muslim community image

Documentary explores Muslim, Baptist friendships

IDF-Jewish-Muslim noise dispute in Hebron in West Bank

Another Islamic terrorist plot, this time by 23-year-old

Suicide bomber entered US base as potential CIA informant

Suicide bombing by a Sunni of a Shia procession on Muharram, exposed the war within ISLAM

Mixing politics and Islam: Political organisations whose aim is to establish an Islamic state operate under the garb of missionary and reformist outfits

Indonesia's champion of Islamic tolerance

Obama Ties Failed Plane Attack to Al Qaeda

Outrage over Islamic fanatics march in UK war heroes' town

Man held for funding militant activities

‘Pak illegally occupying part of J&K’

 Hamas blasts Abbas' speech as "comic"

Here, everyone is a minority

Terror handbook artist appeals for watchdog's aid

Iran in serious crisis -- opposition leader Mousavi

Algerian Muslims Block Christmas Service

I shall send hundreds of men to fight alongside our neighbors, vows al-Qaeda ally in Somalia

Al-Qaeda threat looms into new decade: Brown

Our universities face a radical upheaval

Afghan troops kill 3 Pakistani shepherds

Outrage over Hyderabad attack on Dawn reporter

Israel strikes Gaza targets after Grad rocket attack

French mosque's symbolism varies with beholder

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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'Internet imams' the new recruiters for al-Qaida

Eric Schmitt & Eric Lipton, NYT News Service 2 January 2010, 02:39am IST

WASHINGTON: The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born

Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaida, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.

American military and law enforcement authorities said the man accused in the bombing attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, most likely had contacts with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, whom investigators have also named as having exchanged email messages with Maj Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Texas.

Speaking in eloquent, often colloquial, English, Awlaki and other internet imams from the Middle East to Britain offer a televangelist’s persuasive message of faith, purpose and a way forward, for both the young and as yet uncommitted, as well as for the most devout worshipers ready to take the next step, to jihad.

“People across the spectrum of radicalism can gravitate to them, if they’re just dipping their toe in or they’re hard core,” said Jarret Brachman, author of “Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice”.

“Awlaki is, among other things, a talent spotter,” a US counterterrorism official said. “That’s part of his value to Qaida. If people are drawn to him, he can pass them along to trainers and operational planners.”

Sheikh Khalid bin Abdul Rahman al-Husainan of Kuwait mixes contemporary politics with talk of martyrdom. “Obama, in the same way that you raised the slogan, ‘Yes We Can,’ I too have a slogan,” Husainan wrote in August. “My slogan in this life is ‘Happiness is the day of my martyrdom.’”


Pakistan volleyball game bombing toll nears 100

AFP 2 January 2010,

ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber blew himself up in an SUV at a volleyball game in northwest Pakistan on Friday, killing 88 people in a village that opposes al-Qaida-linked Taliban insurgents, police said.

The bomber struck as young men played volleyball in front of a crowd of spectators, including elderly residents and children, near the town of Lakki Marwat, officials said.

The bloodshed will put President Asif Ali Zardari's efforts to fight the Taliban under greater scrutiny, pressure he does not need at a time when corruption cases against his allies could be revived.

"It's just a disaster. I can see flesh, bodies and wounded all around," Fazl-e-Akbar, a witness, told Reuters by telephone. "It's dark. Vehicles' headlights are being used to search for victims."

Local police chief Ayub Khan said the bomber blew himself up in his sport utility vehicle in the middle of the field. A second vehicle was believed to have fled the scene.

"We have removed all bodies and wounded from the rubble," Khan said, adding that 88 people were killed.

It was one of the bloodiest bombings in US ally Pakistan since the October 2007 attack that killed at least 139 people when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Zardari's wife, returned home from self-imposed exile.

An attack on a sporting event is highly unusual, but could be part of the militants' strategy of bombing crowded areas such as markets to inflict mass casualties and spread fear and chaos.


Police said the village had formed an armed anti-Taliban militia, a phenomenon that started in Pakistan last year.

Despite major military offensives against their strongholds, the Taliban have killed hundreds of people in bombings.

Britain's Foreign Office described the attack as horrific and said it underlined the urgent need to fight extremism.

"It is a threat that the international community must help Pakistan to tackle, in the interests both of Pakistan's people and of wider stability," it said in a statement.

In a sign of growing security fears, the United Nations will withdraw some of its staff from Pakistan because of safety concerns, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Thursday.

"We have got to be on the offensive and launch precise strikes on (militant) training centres and hideouts. They're losing the battle. Nobody in our society supports them," North West Frontier Province's information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, told Reuters.

Violence has intensified since July 2007 when the army cleared militants from a radical mosque in Islamabad.


Zardari's options are limited. Security policies are set by Pakistan's all-powerful military, which nurtured militants in the 1980s to fight Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan.

Washington wants Pakistan to root out militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack U.S.- and NATO-led troops. But doing so would require strategic sacrifices. Pakistan sees them as leverage against arch-enemy India in Afghanistan.

Washington, frustrated by what it says are inadequate efforts to wipe out the militants, has stepped up pilotless U.S. drone aircraft attacks on Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan.

While the strikes killed high-profile figures, they have also generated anti-American anger, making it difficult for Zardari to accommodate his U.S. supporters.

The latest attack came on a day of strikes in the southern city of Karachi, the country's biggest and its commercial capital, to denounce violence gripping the nuclear-armed nation.

The strikes were called by religious and political leaders after a suicide bomber killed 43 people at a religious procession on Monday. The Taliban claimed responsibility and threatened more violence.

"They are hired assassins. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters on a trip to Karachi to show support for residents.

Security forces carried out patrols. But residents were taking no chances.

"We are already losing business and can't take the risk of going out today and opening our shops," said Saleem Ahmed, who sells electronics at one of the city's markets.


Beware the militant engineers

Is there a connection between the mindset of those who study engineering as a subject, and violent extremism?

Amid all the discussion of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his activities prior to boarding flight 253 for Detroit, the fact that he spent three years in London studying mechanical engineering has attracted relatively little attention.

A degree in engineering has no obvious connection with terrorism or religious/political extremism – and yet some research published earlier this year suggests it may be highly relevant.

Looking at the educational background of known militants, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog found that "engineers are three to four times as likely as other graduates to be present among the members of violent Islamic groups in the Muslim world since the 1970s". In fact, the engineers in their sample outnumbered graduates of Islamic studies by more than two to one.

Gambetta and Hertog then set about trying to explain these findings. After rejecting several hypotheses, they settled on two factors as "the most plausible explanation". One was the "relative deprivation" of engineers in Muslim countries and the other was what they called the "engineering mindset".

"Relative deprivation" happens when high expectations or ambitions run into high levels of frustration. In Muslim societies engineering is an elite profession and the entry requirements set by universities are correspondingly high. Engineering has also been promoted by governments in the Middle East and elsewhere as part of their rhetoric of modernisation and technocratic development.

The rhetoric, however, has not been matched by reality – and the researchers suggest it could be a radicalising factor:

Individuals with above-average skills selected on merit are, one would expect, particularly exposed to the frustration and the sense of injustice that comes from finding their professional future hampered by lack of opportunities. This happened on a large scale as a result of the economic and technological development failures that Middle Eastern countries have witnessed since the 1970s.

How much of this applies to Abdulmutallab as a Nigerian is unclear but, considering his privileged family background, it seems quite likely that he felt he was not getting the recognition he was entitled to.

More interesting, and perhaps more likely to apply to Abdulmutallab, is the "engineering mindset". The idea here is that engineering as a subject – unlike, say, history or literature – appeals to students who like to deal in certainties and adopt a rather mechanical view of the world. "A lot of piecemeal evidence," Gambetta and Hertog write, "suggests that characteristics such as greater intolerance of ambiguity, a belief that society can be made to work like clockwork, and dislike of democratic politics which involves compromise, are more common among engineers".

Is this preponderance of engineers something that applies only to violent Islamists, Gambetta and Hertog wondered, or can a similar pattern be found among other kinds of extremists?

Among 19th and 20th century anarchists in a variety of countries they found plenty of lawyers, philosophers and doctors but relatively few engineers. Analysis of leftwing revolutionaries since the second world war showed "engineers were never a significant presence" except in Turkey and Iran (the only two Muslim countries surveyed). Palestinian militants (of a non-Islamist variety) included some engineers but not a disproportionately high number.

Intriguingly, though, the engineering-extremism connection found among violent Islamists does seem to be replicated to some extent, though less strikingly, among extreme rightwing and neo-Nazi groups in Germany, Austria and the US.


British universities 'a hotbed of Islamic radicalisation'

Sat, Jan 02, 2010

The Straits Times

British universities, especially those in London, are becoming a hotbed of Islamic radicalisation, the Times reported yesterday.

Quoting security sources, the newspaper said there was concern that the picture emerging of the undergraduate years of the Nigerian suspect in the Christmas Day airline bomb plot suggested that he was recruited by Al-Qaeda in London.

Security sources said that Islamic radicalisation was rife on university campuses, especially in London, and that college authorities had 'a patchy record in facing up to the problem'.

Previous anti-terrorist inquiries had uncovered evidence of extremists using political meetings and religious study circles to identify potential recruits to be groomed and sent for training.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, organised a conference under the banner 'War on Terror Week' as he immersed himself in radical politics while a student in London, according to The Times.

A former president of the Islamic Society at University College London (UCL), Abdulmutallab advertised speakers including political figures, human rights lawyers and former Guantanamo Bay prison camp detainees.

One lecture, Jihad versus Terrorism, was billed as 'a lecture on the Islamic position with respect to jihad'.

Abdulmutallab is the fourth president of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years.

One is facing a retrial on charges that he was involved in the 2006 liquid bomb plot to blow up airliners. Two others have been convicted of terrorist offences since 2007.

Abdulmutallab left UCL last year.

The Times said he tried to renew his student visa in May this year, but it was refused on the grounds that it was based on an application to study 'life coaching' at a non-existent college.

That visa refusal may have saved Britain from an attack, the newspaper said.

Abdulmutallab then decided to move to Yemen, ostensibly to study Arabic, in August and received training from Al-Qaeda to carry out an airline attack.

He left Yemen in December.


Role of Internet: How Young Muslims Get Radicalized

Zeeshan Aleem

Special to Sphere

(Dec. 31) -- Two big questions are driving the coverage of failed Christmas Day bomber suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and they are these: How was it that the warning signs were missed and he was allowed to board the airplane he allegedly intended to destroy? And just what is it that drives young men like him – incidentally Muslim young men of privileged upbringing and Western education – to turn to violent religious extremism?

The first has sparked a vicious blame game and could well prompt a full-blown congressional inquiry. But the second is just as important, especially as the United States becomes an increasingly fertile ground for homegrown terrorism, with more terrorist threats uncovered on U.S. soil in 2009 than in any year since 2001.

In his Pulitzer-winning book "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and The Road to 9/11," Lawrence Wright wrote that the terrorist network was from its origins composed of people with widely divergent motivations who varied greatly in religiosity and degree of radicalism. To an extent, that remains true today: Certain recurring narratives serve as a springboard for resentment – most prominently, the notion of an unjust occupation of the Muslim nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. But nine years on, there is no single consensus explanation for why some forgo peaceful forms of protest and instead opt to attempt mass-murders.

That said, there are many smart takes on how the radicalization process works, with the following among the most noteworthy:

Six Steps to Terror

A recent study by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Center for Terrorism Research proposes that there are six distinct steps toward radicalization that are at least "partially observable." Five of those involve the adoption of a strict and manifestly intolerant interpretation of Islam.

One critical step examined in the study is the decision to trust only strict religious authorities. And such was the case for Maj. Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas on Nov. 5. Hasan was a loner, but not without mentors: He heeded the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni imam at a mosque he attended in Virginia, who was later identified as an al-Qaida senior recruiter and counselor to two 9/11 perpetrators who'd attended the same mosque. Hasan looked to al-Awlaki for personal advice, going so far as to ask him his opinion on the legitimacy of killing American soldiers. (Al-Awlaki, last seen in Yemen, commended Hasan's actions in an interview after the shooting.)

Another element of the radicalization process singled out by the Center for Terrorism Research is perceiving of the differences between Islam and the West as irreconcilable. Hasan made it clear that he did not feel comfortable being part of a war against Muslims: During the senior year of his residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed Medical Center, he gave a now infamous presentation recommending that the Department of Defense allow Muslim soldiers to conscientiously object to deployment in Islamic countries to "decrease adverse events."

Through this lens, reports that Abdulmutallab once wrote online that he was grappling with the "dilemma between liberalism and extremism" as a Muslim – he asked the forum, "How should one put the balance right?" – take on an even more-chilling resonance.

Dislocation and Displacement Factors

Many terrorists in the making don't start with a blind hatred of foreign cultures born of isolation, but rather acquire their views during or after stints abroad. Living far from home and juggling sometimes-conflicting cultural values, they cultivate an extremist worldview, paradoxically, in a bid to fashion a stable identity.

Steve Coll of the New Yorker, summing up the analysis of forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman, described Abdulmutallab's biography as "one of dislocation," and, more to the point, also as fitting an increasingly established formula. That formula "often seems to involve a young man who is raised in country A, becomes radicalized in country B and then decides to attack country C, with 'C' often (but not always) being the United States." Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, studied in Togo, the United Kingdom and Yemen. In that, he resembles many of the key figures behind the 9/11 attacks, who often attended college in the West. He then traveled everywhere from Oklahoma to Pakistan to the Philippines developing relationships and then strategies for terrorist acts.

The Internet Makes Them Do It

It's practically expected now, but that doesn't make it less relevant: Many jihadists-to-be are exposed to the people and the ideas that radicalize them through the Internet. "Homegrown Terrorism: The Threat Within," a paper released by National Defense University analysts in 2008, laid out how the Web serves as the most effective tool for terrorist recruitment across the world, distributing "translated radical messages and videos of acts of terrorism to incite the gullible and impressionable." Indeed, the Internet allows for the mobilization of terrorist-inclined youth to an extent not otherwise be possible.

The five young Muslim Americans from Virginia who were arrested early in December in Pakistan while trying to connect with extremist groups provide a prime example. Their journey from, by all accounts, relatively assimilated American life began with connections forged online. The Washington Post reported that the young men communicated with militants and Taliban insurgents using social media sites, and through that apparently came to the attention of an Islamist recruiter. The recruiter, identified as "Saifullah," found them through their YouTube activities, sent them coded e-mails and guided them once they arrived in Pakistan.

But even that disclosure leaves some of the mystery unsolved. Like other made-in-the-U.S. terrorists, they were "self-starters" who meet recruiters halfway, rather than wait to be enlisted. And it is not yet known what compelled them to seek out a guide into the world of terror.

Filed under: Nation, World

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Muslim loony toon is shot in Mohammed artist attack


January 2, 2010

They're not exactly proving him wrong.

A crazed Muslim radical from Somalia with al Qaeda ties was shot yesterday as he tried to attack the Danish artist who sparked fury in the Muslim world for drawing a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed wearing a turban that looks like a bomb.

The 28-year-old terrorist hoped to hack Kurt Westergaard to bits, as he tried to break into his home in the town of Aarhus, Denmark, wielding an ax and a knife.

he maniac shouted "revenge" and "blood" as he tried to get into a secure bathroom where the artist and his 5-year-old granddaughter -- staying with him for a sleepover -- had sought refuge.

"It was scary," he told the Jyllands-Posten daily. "It was close. Really close. But we did it."

The artist was saved when an alarm went off as the Somali thug broke a window at about 10 p.m.

Cops soon arrived and opened fire on the raging Islamoloon after he tossed his ax at responding officers. He was hit in the leg and suffered non life-threatening injuries.

The assailant has known terror links, including "close ties to the Somali terror organization al-Shabaab as well as to al Qaeda leaders in East Africa," the Danish Security and Intelligence Service PET said in a statement.

The man has been "suspected of being involved in terror-related activities in East Africa," intelligence officials said, and has long been probed in connection with threats against Westergaard.

Nevertheless, he was a legal resident of Denmark. He will be charged with attempted murder of Westergaard and of a police officer.

The artist has been the target of several death plots since his 2005 cartoon was printed in newspapers around the world along with other images of the prophet.

Read more:



'Minority' for 'Muslim' in BPL census?

TNN 2 January 2010,

Subodh Ghildiyal,

NEW DELHI: The Centre is veering round to accepting the N C Saxena committee’s methodology for identifying below poverty line (BPL) families

through a census but may go in for a crucial change — replace ‘‘Muslim’’ with ‘‘minority’’ for extra weightage on poverty index.

The Union rural development ministry is considering minorities as a whole, in place of only Muslims, who are to be given an extra point weightage in BPL identification. The ministry conducts a census to identify BPL families, which is now due this year.

Sources said a rethink on whether Muslims as a community should be retained as beneficiary of special points in BPL census started after a few states said it was not prudent. In their comments on the Saxena report, the states, reported to be mostly BJP-ruled ones, felt it would send out a wrong message.

Sources said the ministry is still to decide between ‘‘Muslim’’ and ‘‘minority’’ and a final view is to be taken on Saxena report’s methodology for the BPL census. The debate, however, seems interesting.

While Sachar commission and other surveys, from time to time, have identified a vast section of Muslims as poor, sources said it was suggested that use of the word ‘‘minority’’ would pre-empt any misgivings that one community was being given preference in poverty welfare. It would, while removing the possible grounds for social envy, also not disturb other minority communities who could feel let down.

Among the families to be surveyed, there is certain weightage to be given to social groups. While SCs/STs would get three points, Most Backward Castes (MBC) would be given two points. The Saxena report added that Muslims and OBCs be given one point each.

RD ministry feels the methodology suggested by Saxena panel for BPL census is otherwise strong, especially the method of ‘‘automatic inclusion and exclusion’’. The concept is seen as ‘‘fair and robust’’.

According to the concept, certain families would not be considered for BPL category at all. They include households which own double of a district’s average irrigated landholding or have a three-wheeled or four-wheeled motor vehicle or a mechanized farm equipment or have a member who is a government employee or have a private sector employee drawing above Rs 10,000 per month salary.

In contrast, the primitive tribal groups, households headed by single-women or a minor, families which have disabled persons as main bread-earners or the households of ‘‘mahadalits’’ would be automatically included, without a survey, in the BPL list.



Shopian deaths mishandled affair of Omar Govt

t Khursheed Wani

2 January 2010,

n Srinagar

The mysterious death of wo women on May 29 in Shopian remained the most mishandled affair of the Omar Abdullah-led coalition Government. Though the CBI conclusively declared that the women died of drowning in a mountain stream and not because they had been raped and murdered, the common people were not ready to accept the inference.

Even the Chief Minister, whose initial stand -- "It is a case of drowning" -- was in tune with the CBI findings, did not publicly claim credit that he was vindicated by the CBI. So, the mystery is unresolved, at least in public perception. The case is in front of the division bench of J&K High Court, whose verdict on the Shopian case would be keenly watched in 2010.

Two girls -- 23-year-old Neelofer Jan and her unmarried sister-in-law Aasiya (17) -- were found dead on the banks of Rambiara stream on May 30, a day after they went missing while returning from a family orchard. The bodies, with a deep wound on Aasiya's forehead, were found almost a kilometer apart.

At a time when tourist season was picking up in Valley, the death of these women came as a thunderbolt and triggered a spontaneous reaction. Thousands protested against the deaths blaming the involvement of security forces in "rape and murder."

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani sponsored a three-day Valley-wide strike while Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a consultative body formed by locals in Shopian, called for an indefinite strike in the town, which went on for 42 days.

On June 1, the Chief Minister announced that the deaths would be probed by a retired High Court judge Muzaffar Jan in three weeks.

Omar said the doctors were not ready to testify rape or murder but maintained that his initial input was that the women died due to drowning.

Jan's appointment, he said, was to show the reality as "people do not trust the investigations conducted but the Government agencies."

Jan's inconclusive report threw hints that an agency of J&K police was involved in rape and murder. In fact, acting on the Commission's recommendations, the State Government arrested four police officials -- including SP Javed Iqbal and Deputy SP Rohit Basgotra -- while some doctors and forensic experts were suspended. Omar even punished the in-charge top cop who reportedly "misled" him on initial findings.

But the mystery continued along, with political turmoil fanned by separatists and mainstream adversaries of the Government like the PDP . The Government finally called the CBI to unravel it.

The move was initially appreciated by the Mushawarat.

The CBI exhumed bodies after seeking permission from the deceased's family.

First revelation CBI made was that Aasiya died a virgin as her hymen was found intact.

Subsequently, the CBI claimed that the women were washed away by the gush of water which arrives on evenings of hot days due to extra melting in glaciers.

The rape and murder theory was negated by claims that local lawyers threatened witnesses and doctors conducted autopsy unprofessionally, besides fudging samples.

The CBI is confident but the common people and political class view the findings with suspicion. Perhaps that is why Chief Justice Barin Ghosh said the CBI's findings were not gospel truth.

The case is in the high court pending decision. If the court expedites proceedings, the Shopian verdict would be the most interesting decision of the High Court in 2010.


Yemen slams Shebab pledge to send fighters

2 January 2010,

SANAA — Yemen said on Saturday it will not allow foreign fighters to infiltrate the country after Somalia's Shebab insurgents said they will send militants to help an Al-Qaeda affiliate behind the failed US airliner bombing.

"Yemen will not accept on its territory any presence by (foreign) terrorist elements and will be on guard against anyone who tries to act against its security and stability," the official Saba news agency quoted Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi as saying.

Saba said Kurbi was "astounded" by the Shebab pledge to send militants to fight Yemeni government forces who have been battling Al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, a senior official of the militia that pledges allegiance to Al-Qaeda, announced the plan on Friday as he presented hundreds of newly trained fighters in the north of Mogadishu.

"We tell our Muslim brothers in Yemen that we will cross the water between us and reach your place to assist you fight the enemy of Allah," said Robow, to chants of "Allahu Akbar" -- God is greater -- by the young fighters.

"Today you see what is happening in Yemen, the enemy of Allah is destroying your Muslim brothers," he added. "I call upon the young men in Arab lands to join the fight there."

On Saturday Kurbi said: "It would have been wiser for those who promise to export terrorism to work towards stability in their own war-ridden state."

Yemeni forces last month launched raids on suspected Al-Qaeda targets in the central and the Sanaa regions, killing more than 60 Islamist militants.

Several others were also wounded in clashes this week in a western province of the impoverished Arabian peninsula state which lies north of Somalia across the Gulf of Aden.

Saba reported that Yemen was tightening security along the coast and that the Coastguard had stepped up its maritime search operations.

Yemen is Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland and has seen a spate of attacks against Western targets over the past decade.

An Al-Qaeda affiliate based in Yemen claimed it was behind the botched Christmas Day plot to bring down a US airliner from Amsterdam to Detroit.

On Saturday US President Barack Obama, in his weekly broadcast, promised to hold Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to account for the attack, declaring the United States was at war with a "far-reaching network of violence and hatred."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.


Devotees asked to rebuild Muslim community image


January 2, 2010,

COTABATO CITY – Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Maguindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have joined hands in urging the Christian and Islamic devotees to help each other in rebuilding the image of the Muslim communities tarnished by the recent massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao.

Ustadz Aripin Mujain, a Yakan Islamic preacher said over the weekend that the November 23 Maguindanao massacre was perpetrated only by very few people “so we appeal to people in Luzon and Visayas not to judge the entire Muslim community based only on the wrongdoings of the few.”

Mujain said “true Muslims are peace-loving and fear Allah so much.”

Islamic faithful Farida Mantatu said the mass slaughter of 57 people in Barangay Salman in Maguindanao’s Ampatuan town had embarrassed the Muslim communities in Mindanao before the international community.

“Following the incident, the Muslims have been projected as warriors, very violent people just because a group of 10 of more perpetrated the massacre to suit their vested interests,” Mantatu lamented.

Alim Bandar Macaguiling, a preacher in Lanao del Sur, said the Islamic Darul Iftah (House of Opinions) should issue a fatwah (religious edict) against the perpetrators of the atrocity.

He said coming out with a fatwah would project that Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao have a strong position against the suspects and would show to the whole world that true Muslims are against what they had done.

Maguindanao Islamic preacher Amerodin Saliman, who hails from the first district of Maguindanao, called on Muslims and Christian alike not to vote political candidates who maintain private armies in the ARMM.

Police records indicate that in the ARMM alone, each of the more than 100 mayors in the region has at least 50 firearms, both being used as status symbol and as tools to attain political victory.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, all in Central Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.


Documentary explores Muslim, Baptist friendships

January 2, 2010

Commentary by Ray Waddle •

"Muslims and Baptists" — you don't usually see them together in the same sentence, much less in the same room.

But Baptists and Muslims talking together, facing problems together, is the theme of a new documentary that gets national TV attention this month. Different Books, Common Word, produced by in Nashville, challenges hostility toward Islam in American society and sanctuaries.

Spoiler alert: The hour-long documentary reveals Muslims as human beings. These American Muslims value friendships with non-Muslims. They come to the aid of non-Muslims in crisis. They admire America's pluralism. They have a sense of humor. And Baptists reciprocate.

If such revelations sound jarring, it's a measure of how lazy and underachieving inter-religious relations are today.

"We hope the documentary provides positive narratives for relationships between Baptists and Muslims, narratives that begin to challenge the negative narratives that dominate American culture," says Robert Parham, who heads the Baptist Center for Ethics, which operates has produced previous videos aiming to reconcile spiritual and political conflict. This is the first to reach national TV. It airs in Nashville Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. on ABC. (The DVD can be purchased at

The program reminds me how rare it is to see goodwill interfaith relationships get publicity.

Profiled are five Muslim-Baptist friendships across the country, including Columbia, Tenn., where a mosque was burned in 2008 by white supremacists. In each case, mutual wariness eventually yielded to a more honest commitment to caring for the neighbor, a command both religions hold in common. We hear Baptists talk about misplaced fears of their Muslim neighbors and how they received emergency help from local Muslims when other civic leaders hesitated. We hear Muslims praise Baptists for their commitment to pluralism as something Muslims should learn from.

The documentary focuses on face-to-face human encounters. Left out are many of the seething forces driving the global conflict — the Mideast stalemate, the war against two Muslim countries, the economy of militarism, the delusional anti-Semitism, the sick gullibility that leads lonely young men to terrorism.

But the fact is many American Christians regarded Islam as an enemy faith long before 9/11. It suits the ideological purposes of many a preacher to unify flocks through sermons that reinforce prejudice and boast heavenly superiority.

The believers featured in Different Books, Common Word reach for something more courageous, a call to healing and patience. "If we can't be friends in Oklahoma," one minister says, "how can we be friends in the Middle East?"

After the documentary has its TV run, vicious extremism will still exist. The world jostles between hope and hopelessness. But no one religion has the monopoly on terror. Timothy McVeigh was no Muslim.

Columnist Ray Waddle is a former Tennessean religion editor now based in Connecticut. His column appears the first and third Saturday of the month. He can be reached at


IDF-Jewish-Muslim noise dispute in Hebron in West Bank

January 1, 9:52 AMNY Israel Conflict ExaminerRichard Shulman

Earlier I reported that the Army ordered a Jewish center adjoining the Cave of the Patriarchs to stop broadcasting Jewish religious music into the street, on pain of arrest.  Similar orders were not given to the muezzin whose loudspeakers inform Muslims of the times for prayers, including 4:30 a.m..

Police in Hebron ordered the respective decibel levels measured.  The Jewish music was within the legal limit, but Muslim announcements were outside it.

The Jewish Community of Hebron expects the Army to rescind its orders against the Jewish center, letting its music be aired, and to issue restraining orders against the muezzin  (Jewish Community of Hebron, 12/21).

I checked with the Community.  When they indicated what they expect, they mean on the basis of the Army rationale and equity.  However, I find that the government is not fair to Jews in Hebron, and its rationales are pretexts.


Suicide bomber entered US base as potential CIA informant

PTI 1 January 2010,

WASHINGTON: A breach of security procedure at a heavily guarded CIA base in Afghanistan allowed a lone Taliban suicide bomber, who was posing as

an informant, to inflict one of the deadliest blows ever on the US spy agency.

The bomber, who killed seven CIA officials and injured six others, was allowed to enter the compound without the mandatory security screening and search, the ABC news said on Friday based on information received from CIA officers.

It said the bomber, invited to the Forward Operating Base in the Khost province as a possible informant, was escorted to the gym at the fortified complex for a meeting with a senior CIA debriefer.

"When the bomber, who was dressed in an Afghan military uniform, arrived in the gym, he blew himself up, killing seven and seriously injuring an additional six officers who had gathered there to wait for him," the news channel said.

The second-largest single-day loss for America's premier spy agency, reports said, has devastated the critical hub of CIA activities.

The US embassy bombing in Beirut that killed eight CIA officers in 1983 is considered to be the deadliest attack so far on the agency.

US President Barack Obama and CIA Director Leon E Panetta, have mourned the death of the CIA employees and wrote personal messages.


Another Islamic terrorist plot, this time by 23-year-old

2 January 2010,

The Nigerian man who allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb on a Detroit-bound flight had links to an al-Qaeda splinter group responsible for bombing other targets, U.S. President Barack Obama said in his weekly address released Saturday.

"This is not the first time this group has targeted us," Obama said. "In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies — including our embassy in 2008, killing one American."

In his most direct public language to date, the president described the path through Yemen of 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to destroy Northwest Flight 253, an Airbus A330 with 278 passengers and 11 crew members aboard, near the end of its journey from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

"We're learning more about the suspect," Obama said. "We know that he travelled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group — al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America."

Obama was speaking from Hawaii, where he is on holiday with his family.

He emphasized that the United States would continue its partnerships with friendly countries — citing Yemen, in particular — to fight extremist groups around the globe.

Last week, Obama said a "systemic failure" in security protocols allowed the suspect to board the plane and that officials did not properly handle information about Abdulmutallab, including a warning from the suspect's father, who had told U.S. diplomats in November that his son's devotion to Islam had taken an extremist turn.

Officials allege the explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, was concealed in the suspect's underwear and that he used another chemical and a syringe in an attempt to ignite the powder. The device failed to explode and the fire that followed was extinguished by fellow passengers and a crew member.

With files from The Associated Press


Suicide bombing by a Sunni of a Shia procession on Muharram, exposed the war within ISLAM

2 January 2010,

The suicide bombing by a Sunni of a Shia procession on Muharram, the holiest day of the year for Shias, once again exposed the chasms within the

Faces of ISLAM

Muslim world. Despite the Quranic injunctions that Muslims should not create divisions among themselves, the community has split into several sects and sub-sects. The divisions occurred after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Although they were caused by political reasons, over the years they became doctrines of the faith. Mohammed Wajihuddin looks at some contemporary sects and popular strains in Islam.


Sunni Muslims are the largest sect of Islam. Derived from the word Sunnah, which means the examples or actions of the Prophet, Sunnis are those who follow the Sunnah. They believe in the legitimacy of the four caliphs - Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Hazrat Ali. The caliphate is collectively called Khulfa-ul-Rashidun (the rightly guided caliphs). The four caliphs were democratically elected. But after the death of Hazrat Ali, the caliphate degenerated into dynastic rule. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, the caliphate formally ended.

Sunni Islam is divided into four schools of law or fiqh (religious jurisprudence): Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali. There are minor differences among these schools of law.


Followers of Imam Abu Hanifa, the Hanafis see Quran, the Sunnah, the ijma (consensus) and qiyas (deduction from analogy) as the sources of law. Hanafis are based mostly in the Indian subcontinent, Iraq, Turkey and the western world.


Followers of Imam Malik, the Malikis lay great emphasis on istadlal - juristic deduction. It is practised mostly in North and West Africa.


The Shafis are the followers of Imam Shafi and give emphasis on ijma (consensus). The Shafis are widely spread and form around 15 per cent of Muslims globally.


The Hanbalis are followers of Imam Hanbal. This school is the most rigid and follows the Sunnah literally.


The Shias are the second largest sect of Islam. Followers of Hazrat Ali, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, the Shias oppose the institution of the caliphate and follow imamate (divine appointment as imams among the descendants of Hazrat Ali). The Shias believe that the Prophet's family (Ahl al-Bayt ), including his descendants known as Imams, have a divine right to rule over the community. Though a minority in the Muslim world, the Shias are in a majority in Iran (70 million). Over 90 per cent of the population in Iran is Shia while the minorities comprise Sunnis, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

The differences between the Shias and the Sunnis were accentuated by the murder of Ali in 661 AD. His chief opponent , Muawiah, became caliph. Caliph Muawiah was later succeeded by his son Yazid, but Ali's son Hussain refused to accept his legitimacy and differences between the two erupted. Hussain and his followers were massacred in battle near Karbala and this gave rise to the Shia cult of martyrdom.

To this day, the Shias and Sunnis have a schism. Shia and Sunni militias have fought pitched battles in Iraq. The Shia militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr has tried to gain control over several areas in Iraq. The Shias of Iraq and Lebanon are believed to receive support from Iran.


Mixing politics and Islam: Political organisations whose aim is to establish an Islamic state operate under the garb of missionary and reformist outfits

TOI Crest 2 January 2010,

Contemporary Islam as practised and propagated by the radicals - the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan and

Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - is part of political Islam. Political organisations whose aim is to establish an Islamic state operate under the garb of missionary and reformist outfits.

The adherents of political Islam believe that Muslims must strive for an Islamic state, even if it needs an armed struggle. Scholars say that political Islam, to give religious legitimacy to violent activities, has misused the Quranic injunctions about jihad. The word jihad appears 44 times in the Quran. Nowhere has it been used in the sense of war. For war, the Quran has words like qatal and harb. Derived from the Arabic word juhd, jihad literally means to strive, to struggle.

The founding fathers of political Islam are: Hasan al-Banna (1906-49 ) who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; Syed Qutb(1906-66 ) who succeeded him after al-Bannah's assassination in 1949; and Maulana Abul-Ala Maududi (1903-70 ) who founded the Jamaat-e-Islami in Lahore in 1941. These ideologues propounded that jihad can be used as armed struggle to realise the dream of an Islamic state. Decades later, some of Maududi's followers founded the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), now banned. The manifestations of political Islam - Hamas in Palestine, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan use violence for political gains.


Founded by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab (1703-1792), this reformist movement flourished in the Arabian Peninsula and was later exported to other parts of the world. Wahab made a pact with the House of Saud and started the puritanical movement with handsome patronage from the Saudi kings. Also called Salafism, Wahabism, apart from the Quran and the Hadith, use works of Ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th century Syrian scholar, as guidance. The Wahabis reject Sufism as innovations.


Though they don't like to be called Wahabis, the Ahle Hadees are ardent practioners of Wahabism. In India, Salafi scholars attended an annual function of Madrassa Ahmedia in Arrah (Bihar), and founded Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadees on December 22, 1906. Headquartered near Jama Masjid in Delhi, the Jamiat Ahle Hadees practises pristine monotheism (Tawheed) and follow the Sunnah. It has a wide network of madrassas across the country, including Jamia Salfia in Benares founded in 1963. The Jamiat Ahle Hadees claims that scholars and freedom fighters like Maulana Azad, Maulana Abdul Majeed Hairi, Maulana Abdul Wahab Arvi and Maulana Abdul Qayyum Rahmani were Ahle Hadees.


Deobandis are one of the major divisions of the Hanafi school. After the British brutally crushed the 1857 rising, a group of Muslim clerics saw the Raj as an extension of the Christian missionaries. To offset the "negative" impact of Christianity and safeguard the purity of Islam, the clerics started a movement. They established the Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom, at Deoband in western UP in 1867. The products and adherents of the Deoband madrassa were called Deobandis. The Deobandis advocate a return to the early days of Islam. However, many prominent Deobandi ulema, including Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madni, opposed the twonation theory of the Muslim League and preferred a multicultural India to a monotheistic Pakistan. The Taliban are inspired by the Deobandis.


Founded by Maulana Mohammed Ilyas, a product of the Deoband madrassa, in the 1920s, the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) aimed to popularise the teachings of Islamic reforms among poor Muslims. Maulana Mohammed Ilyas began his teachings first among the poor Meos (Muslims in Mewat of Haryana). The Tablighis leave home and hearth in groups (jamaat) for three days, a month and chillah (40 days) and tour hamlets of Muslims. Headquartered at Nizamuddin in New Delhi, TJ is now a world-wide movement. Intelligence agencies have often accused the Tablighis of radicalising Muslims, a charge the Tablighis vehemently deny. Pakistani cricketer Yusuf Yuohana was influenced by the TJ and converted to Islam a few years ago.


Another divison of the Hanafi school, the Barelvis are mostly based in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Founded by Ahmed Raza Khan of Bareilly in UP (hence the name), the Barelvi sect believes in seeking Allah's blessings through the medium of sacred souls (pirs ). While the Ahle Hadees and Deobandis consider visiting the graves of saints innovations, Barelvis see it as part of faith.


Founded by Syed Abul Ala Maududi in the 1940s, the Jamaat-e-Islami is a political movement which believes that Muslims must strive to live in an Islamic state. In India, it has gained acceptance among a section of educated Muslims. They have often been blamed for radicalising the Muslim youth. The SIMI originated in the womb of Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1970s. Headquartered in Delhi, the Jamaat-e-Islami functions through its branches across the country. Its student wing is called the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) which holds its camps, lectures and seminars in Muslim pockets regularly.


Indonesia's champion of Islamic tolerance

Daniel Dale Staff Reporter

Published On Sat Jan 02 2010

Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, sometimes fell asleep during speeches – his own speeches, which he gave others to read because he was nearly blind. He was Indonesia's president for less than two years. After he was forced out of office, he said: "You don't realize that losing the presidency for me is nothing ... I regret more the fact that I lost 27 recordings of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which I collected for more than 20 years."

He was jovial to a fault. His tenure was brief. And yet Wahid was one of the most consequential figures in recent Indonesian history. He mattered even before he became the country's first democratically elected leader. As the chairman of the country's largest Muslim group, the conservative 40-million member Nahdlatul Ulama, he championed liberalism, defending Salman Rushdie and travelling to Israel. Born in 1940, the son of an independence hero, he had studied at Egypt's religious Al-Azhar University but had also lived in Europe; he could recite Arabic poetry but also Hegel. "Those who say that I am not Islamic enough should reread their Koran," he said. "Islam is about inclusion, tolerance, community." After the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1998, Wahid ran for president under the banner of the National Awakening Party he founded. In the 1999 elections, it received only 12 per cent of the vote. But when Wahid managed to earn the backing of other small parties, a man who laughed about his own disorganization, who never believed he was a real politician, was the man in charge.

His tenure, biographer Greg Barton wrote this week, was "big on symbolism and genuine sentiment rather than policy substance." Wahid visited East Timor to apologize for Indonesian abuses, worked for peace with secessionists and embraced ethnic minorities. But his freewheeling style was ill-suited to a country that needed prudent management during an economic crisis, and his coalition backers grew disenchanted. He lost a confidence vote in 2001 amid unproven allegations of corruption – briefly refusing to exit the palace, then surrendering.

In the end, Wahid was nothing more than a transitional leader. Yet his carefree personality may have permanently shaped Indonesia's political culture. Under his leadership, Barton wrote, "Indonesians came to expect freedom of the press, transparency and accountability from both the president and the government, greater autonomy for provincial and district governments and the withdrawal of the military from political life."

Wahid had suffered from diabetes, kidney problems and the effects of two strokes. He died Wednesday at 69.


Obama Ties Failed Plane Attack to Al Qaeda


January 2, 2010

HONOLULU, Hawaii — President Obama declared for the first time on Saturday that a branch of Al Qaeda based in Yemen sponsored the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American passenger jet, and he vowed that those behind the failed attack “will be held to account.”

The latest on President Obama, his administration and other news from Washington and around the nation. Join the discussion.

In his first radio and Internet address of the new year, Mr. Obama also rebutted attacks by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republicans who since the incident have accused him of not recognizing that the struggle against terrorists is a war. Mr. Obama said he was well aware that “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

The president’s speech, taped from Hawaii where he is nearing the end of a 10-day holiday vacation, was the third time he has publicly addressed the failed attack on Northwest Flight 253 bound for Detroit on Dec. 25. Mr. Obama noted that he has received preliminary reports about the incident but gave no more details about how a Nigerian man with known radical views was allowed to board a flight to the United States with explosives in his underwear.

Mr. Obama’s comments about the involvement of Al Qaeda, however, were the most direct to date by the highest reaches of the American government. Administration officials and intelligence analysts previously had said they were increasingly confident that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni branch calls itself, was involved, as it claimed.

But the president until now had shied away from referencing that until analysts were further along in their assessment of the group’s activities and its ties to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with attempting to blow up the airliner.

“We’re learning more about the suspect,” Mr. Obama said in the Saturday address. “We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of Al Qaeda and that this group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America.”

Mr. Obama’s comments indicated that he and the government largely accept the accounts offered by Mr. Abdulmutallab since he was taken into custody and by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a statement on the Web. The National Security Agency had intercepted communications among leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula months ago talking about an unnamed Nigerian preparing to attack, but the government never correlated that with information about Mr. Abdulmutallab’s radicalization collected by embassy officials in Nigeria from the suspect’s own father.

Mr. Abdulmutallab had studied Arabic in Yemen in 2004-05 before going to school in London and becoming increasingly devout in his Muslim views. He returned to Yemen in early August, according to the Yemeni government, and reenrolled in an Arabic school there, remaining in the country until early December. Some officials in the United States and Yemen suspect the school enrollment was a cover to train with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Obama noted that this was not the first time the group has tried to attack America and its friends. “In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies, including our embassy in 2008, killing one American,” he said. “So as president, I’ve made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government.”

He said those efforts had already led to strikes against the group’s leaders and training camps. “And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know, you too will be held to account,” he said.

The president also used the address to implicitly deflect Republican critics and to explicitly call for an end to the partisan recriminations that have erupted since the Christmas Day plot. Although he did not name Mr. Cheney, Mr. Obama was clearly responding to the former vice president’s assertion that the president is “trying to pretend we are not at war.”

Republicans have blamed some of his policy changes for weakening the struggle against terrorism. On Friday, for instance, Senator Jon Ensign of Nevada, a Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, pointed to Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to ban especially harsh methods of interrogation that he deemed torture, like waterboarding, a form of near drowning.

“We are in a war against radical Islam,” Mr. Ensign said on CNN. “We have to understand that. And we have to use all of the tools necessary — interrogation. We have to use all of our intelligence tools. We have to use our military, everything we can do, along with homeland security to keep our country safe.”

Mr. Obama noted that he used the term “war” in his inaugural speech on his first day in office. “On that day, I also made it very clear, our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations,” he said. “And make no mistake, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”

Mr. Obama defended his policies as tough but reasonable, and called for an end to the sniping that both parties have engaged in since the Christmas episode. “As we go forward, let us remember this — our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans, not each other,” Mr. Obama said.

He added: “Instead of succumbing to partisanship and division, let’s summon the unity that this moment demands. Let’s work together, with a seriousness of purpose, to do what must be done to keep our country safe.”


Outrage over Islamic fanatics march in UK war heroes' town

London, Jan. 2

Islamic extremists plan to march through a town that has become a symbol of British war heroes.

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary said the marchers would be carrying coffins through Wootton Bassett, the place through which the bodies of most of the British troops killed in Afghanistan passed during repatriation ceremonies after being flown home.

Choudary's Islam4UK will march to represent the "well over 100,000 innocent Muslim men, women and children" who have died in the fighting.

Local councillor and ex mayor Chris Wannell begged Choudary to call off the march.

Ex-lawyer Choudary, 42, of Ilford, East London, told The Sun that the march, expected to take place in the next few weeks, would not coincide with the return of a hero's body.

Andrew Rosindell, Tory MP for Romford, East London, said: "This is a despicable proposal."


Man held for funding militant activities

SRINAGAR: The police on Friday arrested a person here and froze two bank accounts he allegedly used for funding the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Baramulla district.

Parvaiz Akbar Lone, a resident of Kanlibagh, was arrested. A sum of Rs. 2 lakh was seized. He passed on more than Rs. 20 lakh to LeT commanders Abdullah Uni and Chota Salahuddin, who were active in Sopore of Baramulla district, the police said.

He was also in contact with top LeT operatives who used to guide him. The names of a few more persons funding militants came to light during the probe. — PTI


‘Pak illegally occupying part of J&K’



Jan. 1: Contesting the claim by the "so-called CM of Gilgit-Baltistan", India on Friday said that any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable. The so-called CM of Gilgit-Baltistan had said that Gilgil-Baltistan has beco-me the "fifth province" of Pakistan and therefore had no connection to Kashmir.

Ministry of external affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash said here in a statement that the entire state of J&K is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession to India in 1947.

"Pakistan’s actions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan in the past few months cannot camouflage its illegal occupation of part of the state of J&K, nor can they hide the denial of basic rights to the people in that part for the past six decades," Mr Prakash said.

He was responding to Pakistani media reports, which cited the "so-called chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan" Mehdi Shah as saying that the people of the area had decided their accession to Pakistan.


Hamas blasts Abbas' speech as "comic"

          January 2, 2010

GAZA, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Hamas movement on Friday slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and described his speech on Thursday to mark the 45 year anniversary for establishing his Fatah party as "comic".

Salah al-Bardaweel, a Gaza-based Hamas leader told Xinhua on telephone that what Abbas said in his speech on Thursday night "isa clear evidence of this man's bankruptcy."

In his speech, Abbas accused Hamas that it refused to sign on the inter-reconciliation in Egypt and conditioned to sign it in another country.

Abbas didn't say which country Hamas wanted to host the signing ceremony of the reconciliation agreement. However, Palestinian sources closed to Abbas said that he was referring to Syria.

Al-Bardaweel denied Abbas' claim and said "accusing Hamas aims at destroying the good relationship between the movement and Egypt," adding "Hamas has never asked for such a request to sign the deal away from Egypt."

Abbas slammed Hamas movement for keeping control of the Gaza Strip and refusing to sign on an Egyptian-drafted pact of reconciliation. He called on the Islamic movement to end the current split and sign on the pact.

"Abbas avoided slamming the Israeli occupation all the time, because he dares not to attack Israel, but he always slams Hamas movement," said al-Bardaweel.


Here, everyone is a minority

January 2, 2010

Leicester will soon become the first British city with a non-white majority – a transformation which is welcomed by its citizens

Andrew Brown

The Guardian, Saturday 2 January 2010

ugandan asians

Ugandan Asians arriving in Britain in 1972 – many of whom settled in Leicester. Photograph: Refugee Council

Some time in the next five years Leicester will become the first English city where everyone is a member of some ethnic or religious minority. The schools are already there. By 2007, only 44% of pupils across the city were ethnically white. By 2015 at the latest, the adult population will be less than half white. Of course there are parts of every city in England where white people are a minority, but they are only parts. In Leicester this is the situation in the city as a whole. An enormous transformation is under way, and no one outside seems to have noticed. But does this make the city a model for our future? Or is it a proof that mass immigration brings unmanageable strains?

Talking to people around the city, two things are obvious. The first is that Leicester works, mostly, and diversity is genuinely popular here; the second is that it is unique. In important ways it is more like London than like other provincial cities and this has helped it on.

"People in London think we're a Muslim city in the north," says Viv Faull, the dean of the cathedral, "but they're wrong on both counts." For a start, Leicester is not in the north. London is only an hour and 10 minutes away by train. Nor is it "a Muslim city". The unique character of migration into Leicester is twofold: firstly, that it is multicultural, not bicultural. Instead of a simple divide between Asian Muslims and the rest, as is common further north, everyone here is a minority. The largest community was, until very recently, Hindu not Muslim; and the overwhelming majority of the Asians here, whether Hindu or Muslim, came from families which had first emigrated to east Africa a couple of generations before arriving here after their expulsion in the early 1970s.

This makes the picture very different to the towns further north. In Bradford the Muslim population is larger than in Leicester, but they are almost all Pakistani in origin, without any intermediate migration, and there are no other significant minorities.

"Leicester is a Gujarati city," says Riaz Rafat, a Muslim interfaith worker: "At one stage it was the biggest Gujarati city in the world outside of Durban in South Africa. And the fact that we have had a Gujarati-speaking population – with Muslims, Hindus, and Christians all speaking the same language – means that a Muslim in Leicester will feel more in common with a Leicester Hindu than with a Pakistani Muslim."

I heard the same observation from Suleman Nagdi, a remarkable man who helped invent the Muslim community in Leicester after his father died on a bank holiday. Islam demands that bodies be buried within 24 hours of death (in fact, this early disposal is practised by all Gujarati religions: Hindus and Christians do it too). British practice, on the other hand is much slower, and in Leicester 20 years ago no cemeteries were open on bank holidays. Nagdi complained to the city council, and when the council told him it was sympathetic, but could not deal with individual grievances and needed a body to negotiate with, he decided to make one.

Over a period of four months, he walked into every one of the city's 36 mosques and talked to the elders. He had soon formed the Muslim Burial Council, which now consults widely, even in Europe.

"We are a community of communities," says Nagdi, "that's why umbrella organisations are important."

But not even the Gujarati element predominates in Leicester. Although the centre of Leicester has been redeveloped with all the normal chain stores, the rest of the city is not in the least bit homogenised, and is full of an individualistic commercial energy.

Nick Carter, who as editor of the Leicester Mercury had a deliberate policy of promoting good community relations and not running Daily Mail-type scare stories, says that the east African immigration brought "a particular entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong family and community ethic. It's always been very difficult in the last 30 to 40 years for anyone to point to the minority and say, 'They are living off us.' In times of recession, Leicester never seems to recess as badly as other places because of these multiple small businesses."

Walking a quarter of a mile down the studentish bit of the Narborough Road I found foodstores from India, the Caribbean, Poland, Africa, "Kurdish, Turkish, Lithuanian and English specialities"; two chapels, a Hindu temple, a signpost to the nearest mosque, half a dozen restaurants, two bars and one brothel. There was not a single chain store. The same was true of the shops in the Evington region, where much of the Muslim settlement has concentrated.

Here, a Deobandi mosque, built in 2000, faces the Edwardian church of St Philip's, started in 1909. The church's congregation is about 30, mixed white, Indian and African; the mosque across the road holds 500 people. And on Fridays "it's full: prostration room only, with another hundred outside on the pavement," says the rector of St Philip's, Alan Race. But Race does more than watch, with a certain wry envy. His church is also the home of a study centre for interfaith relations. The local parish raised £60,000 towards the cost of the centre. "The faithful group here have seen their area utterly reshaped. Nonetheless, they have come to see that a new way of being a parish church has to be invented, and shaped," he said.

Leicester is, on some measures, the most religious city in Britain: 20% to 25% of the population takes part in religious life. But although religion has provided ways for communities to define themselves politically, it does seem that the defining elements in the story have been cultural. There is a genuine and widespread belief in tolerance, which does not exclude conflict but does seem to bring politics down to the personal, where these difficulties can be resolved. "In London, there's a heck of a lot of tolerance," said Erfana Bora, a science teacher at a Muslim girls' school, "But that's because nobody gives a damn."

But to export Leicester's peculiar and hard-won tolerance is not easy. There are a couple of policy tricks that could work. The Church of England has helped manage the transition gracefully; the St Philip's parish has turned itself into a resource for the whole community, while the bishops' interfaith council provides a way for other religions into the establishment. The Leicester Mercury's scrupulously anti-inflammatory reporting has helped; so too has the work of the Muslim Burial Council. This brings mosques together with each other, and with the unglamorous end of local politics, in a way which sidesteps theological differences and knits the religious into local, democratic politics.

But none of these things are magic remedies. No one I talked to believed that Leicester had the answer for anywhere else; they were modestly confident that it might have the answers to its own problems.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


Terror handbook artist appeals for watchdog's aid

January 2, 2010

Lord Carlile of Berriew advises Xenofon Kavvadias over freedom of speech project amid threat of arrest

 Xenofon Kavvadias

Xenofon Kavvadias with two of the sealed terror manuals. Photograph: Martin Godwin

The government's anti-terror law watchdog has become involved in an artist's attempt to use jihadist handbooks and extremist tracts in his work.

Lord Carlile of Berriew has advised Xenofon Kavvadias after the Metropolitan police warned the Greek artist he could be arrested and prosecuted under the Terrorism Act if he mounts an exhibition featuring texts such as The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations, a justification for suicide bombings used by Chechen extremists.

Kavvadias, a graduate of Central St Martins School of Art and Design who has lived in the UK for six years, sought Lord Carlile's advice when he staged his MA degree show, featuring the covers of three extremist texts secured in centimetre-thick clear plastic cases in an attempt to explore the legal boundaries of freedom of expression.

He now wants to install a bookshelf in an art gallery stocked with texts presented in court to secure terrorism convictions. They include Defence of Muslim Lands by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, a jihadist who influenced Osama bin Laden, The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, which details how to kill using homemade ricin and how to make poisons from tobacco and potatoes, and the Manual of Afghan Jihad (also known as the al-Qaida Manual), which explains how to plan, finance and execute terror attacks.

Courts have handed down custodial sentences for possession of these and similar documents. Last year Khalid Khaliq, a friend of two of the 7 July 2005 suicide bombers, was jailed for 16 months for possession of the al-Qaida Manual.

Kavvadias says he is a pacifist and has no sympathy with Islamist extremism, but wants "to use art to reclaim something that is lost right now: freedom of publishing and freedom of expression".

He argues that most of the texts he proposes to feature are accessible on the internet and is keen to point out that the broad wording of anti-terrorism legislation criminalises thousands of people who have no criminal intent.

The Met's director of legal services told him the police are "duty bound to investigate acts relating to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism … this includes offences about the possession, collection or record-keeping of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

However, Carlile, the government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation since 2005, has offered cautious encouragement to the project. "I am sure there is a visual arts context into which counter-terrorism legislation can be put," he advised. "The best and shortest answer to your question is that you are unlikely to be prosecuted, and if prosecuted not convicted, if you do not break sections 57 and 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 … I am sorry that I cannot answer your question more directly than that, but I am afraid that the law is no less conceptual than fine art."

Carlile told the Guardian: "Nobody is going to give him a yes or a no on any particular item. If he shows anything that shows somebody who does not know how to make a bomb, then that would be a bad decision."

Kavvadias also placed documents in secure cases in a current exhibition at the 10 Vyner Street gallery, east London. Now he wants to have whole books on display with a reading table and public discussion. "I think having these books in a forum like that and in an art context is something essential for an open and free society," he said. "My grand project is to design a library [of banned books] for each country to create a portrait of a country's demons and fears." He said the law as it stands means thousands of people who have downloaded copies of terrorist-related tracts and handbooks, are inadvertently putting themselves at risk of prosecution, even when they don't have any criminal purpose.

Unless he can secure assurances that he will not be prosecuted under laws that proscribe recklessly inciting others to commit terrorist acts, with a maximum jail term of seven years, he will try to stage the show in the Netherlands.


Iran in serious crisis -- opposition leader Mousavi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi said on Friday he was ready to die for his reformist campaign after a disputed election in June, defying hardline calls for his execution.

"I'm not afraid of being one of the martyrs who lost their lives in their fight for their rightful demands since the vote," Mousavi said on his website, five days after his nephew and seven other pro-reform protesters were killed during a rally.

Former Iranian Prime Minister Mirhossein Moussavi speaks during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the start of the Islamic Society at Tehran University March 3, 2009. Mousavi said on Friday he was ready to die for his reformist campaign after a disputed election in June, defying hardline calls for his execution. (REUTERS/Stringer/Files)

Mousavi, whose allegation that the June presidential vote he lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was rigged set off a wave of unrest, said in the statement the Islamic Republic was in "serious crisis".

In his most outspoken remarks of recent months, Mousavi declared that "arresting or killing Mousavi, (or fellow opposition leader Mehdi) Karoubi ... will not calm the country".

The remarks on his Kaleme website were a new challenge to the authorities, who have intensified their crackdown on the reform movement since last Sunday when eight people -- including a nephew of Mousavi's -- were killed in protests on the day of the Shi'ite Muslim ritual of Ashura.

Hardliners have accused opposition leaders of igniting unrest, labelling them "mohareb" (enemies of God), a crime punishable by death under Iran's Islamic law.

Such threats have apparently failed to silence Mousavi, who said he was ready to die for his cause.

"Such harsh remarks ... will create internal uprising ... My blood is not redder than that of other martyrs," he said.

The anti-government protests, which have flared repeatedly since the election, have plunged Iran into the most serious internal crisis in the Islamic Republic's 30-year history.

Mousavi supporters have defied government warnings against holding "illegal rallies", using Muslim festivals and official days of commemoration as a cover for street gatherings.

Opposition leaders say the presidential vote was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election. The country's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it was the healthiest in three decades.

Hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami criticised Mousavi's statement, saying "he is repeating his past mistakes", state radio reported.


The political turmoil has entered a new phase since Sunday, marked by bloody confrontations, arrests and hardline demands for stronger suppression of opponents of the government.

Cleric Ahmad Jannati, a staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, said on Friday the leaders of the "sedition" should be punished.

"I call on the judiciary to accelerate the legal procedure of those behind the recent unrest," he told worshippers at Tehran University in a speech broadcast on state radio.

At least 24 pro-reform figures have been arrested, including three senior advisers to Mousavi, his brother-in-law and a sister of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

"The country's current situation is like a wild river and a hasty solution cannot calm down the situation," Mousavi said, adding that the only way for the establishment to calm the unrest was to preserve the nation's rights.

Mousavi, echoing reformists' demand, called for "a change to Iran's election law, an accountable government, the release of political prisoners and respect for press freedom".

The authorities have accused Mousavi and Karoubi of links to "foreign enemies and anti-revolutionary groups" and vowed to show them no mercy unless they change course.

The clerical establishment has often accused foreign-backed forces of plotting to topple its leadership, which is locked in a dispute with the West over Iran's nuclear work.

The police and Intelligence Ministry have warned Mousavi's supporters they will face harsh treatment unless they halt their "illegal" rallies. Mousavi said the government was making a mistake by using force to end street protests.

"Let's assume that you silence people by arrests, acts of violence and threats ... What solution do you have for the change in people's view of the regime? How can you make up for the lack of legitimacy?" his statement said.

Opposition rallies have shown no sign of dying away. Police said they had arrested 500 protesters on Sunday and the opposition website Jaras said hundreds of protesters had been detained in Tehran and other cities since then.

Thousands of protesters have been arrested since the June election. Most have since been released but more than 80 have been sentenced to up to 15 years' imprisonment and five have been sentenced to death.

The reformist opposition says more than 70 people were killed in violence that followed the June election. Officials say the death toll was half that and included Basij militiamen.

Jannati said "detained 'rioters' should be kept in jail as they will continue their devilish acts as soon as they are freed".

Worshippers held a rally in Tehran on Friday, demanding that judiciary "take legal action" against opposition leaders, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters


Algerian Muslims Block Christmas Service

Written by Damaris Kremida

Friday, 01 January 2010 14:32

Neighborhood residents protest new church building in Kabylie region.

ISTANBUL, December 31 (Compass Direct News) - Nearly 50 Muslim members of a community in northern Algeria blocked Christians from holding a Christmas service on Saturday (Dec. 26) to protest a new church building in their neighborhood.

As Algerian Christian converts gathered for their weekly meeting and Christmas celebration that morning, they were confronted by protestors barring the doors of their church building. Tafat Church is located in Tizi-Ouzou, a city 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of the Algerian capital, Algiers. Established five years ago, the church belongs to the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA). Until recently it met in a small rented building. In November it opened its doors in a new location to accommodate the growing needs of its nearly 350 congregants.

The local residents protesting were reportedly irritated at finding that a church building with many visitors from outside the area had opened near their houses, according to an El Watan report on Sunday (Dec. 27). The daily newspaper highlighted that the residents feared their youth would be lured to the church with promises of money or cell phones.

"This land is the land of Islam! Go pray somewhere else," some of the protestors said, according to El Watan. Protestors also reportedly threatened to kill the church pastor.

The protestors stayed outside the church until Monday (Dec. 28), and that evening some of them broke into the new building and stole the church microphones and speakers, according to the pastor, Mustafa Krireche. As of yesterday (Dec. 30) the church building's electricity was cut.

One of Algeria's Christian leaders, Youssef Ourahmane, said he could not recall another display of such outrage from Algerians against Christians.

"It was shocking, and it was the first time to my knowledge that this happened," said Ourahmane. "And there weren't just a few people, but 50. That's quite a big number ... the thing that happened on Saturday was a little unusual for Algeria and for the believers as well."

A few weeks before the Saturday incident, local residents signed a petition saying they did not want the church to operate near their homes and wanted it to be closed. Local authorities presented it to the church, but Ourahmane said the fellowship, which is legally authorized to exist under the EPA, does not plan to respond to it.

On Saturday church leaders called police, who arrived at the scene and told the Christians to go away so they could talk to the protestors, whom they did not evacuate from the premises, according to local news website The story published on Sunday was entitled, "Islamic tolerance in action at Tizi-Ouzou."

"In that area where the church is located, I'm sure the people have noticed something happening," said Ourahmane. "Having hundreds of Christians coming to meet and different activities in the week, this is very difficult for Muslims to see happening there next door, and especially having all these Muslim converts. This is the problem."

A local Muslim from the neighborhood explained that residents had protested construction of the church building in a residential area, according to El Watan.

"What's happening over there is a shame and an offense to Muslims," he told El Watan. "We found an old woman kissing a cross ... they could offer money or mobile phones to students to win their sympathies and sign them up. We won't let them exercise their faith even if they have authorization. There's a mosque for those who want to pray to God. This is the land of Islam."

Behind the Scenes

Ourahmane said he believes that Islamists, and maybe even the government, were behind the protests.

"Maybe this is a new tactic they are trying to use to prevent churches from meeting," he said. "Instead of coming by force and closing the church, the local police use the Muslim fundamentalists. That's my analysis, anyhow."

In February 2008 the government applied measures to better control non-Muslim groups through Ordinance 06-03. Authorities ordered the closure of 26 churches in the Kabylie region, both buildings and house churches, maintaining that they were not registered under the ordinance.

Despite efforts to comply with the ordinance, many Christian groups indicated they were blocked by lack of information, bureaucratic processes or resistance to their applications, according to this year's International Religious Freedom Report by the U.S. Department of State. None of the churches have closed since then, but their status continues to remain questionable and only valid through registration with the EPA.

"If we have the right to exercise our faith, let them tell us so," Pastor Krireche told El Watan. "If the authorities want to dissolve our association through legal means, let them do so."

Recent growth of the church in Algeria is difficult for Muslims to accept, according to Ourahmane, despite public discourse among the nation's intellectuals advocating for religious freedoms. Unofficial estimates of Christians and Jews combined range from 12,000 to 40,000, according to the state department report. Local leaders believe the number of Algerian Christians could be as many as 65,000.

Increasing numbers of people who come from Islam are like a stab for the Muslim community, said Ourahmane.

"It's hard for them to accept that hundreds of Christians gather to worship every week," he said. "It's not easy. There are no words to explain it. It's like a knife and you see someone bleeding ... They see the church as a danger to Algerian culture."

The Algerian government has the responsibility to face up to the changing face of its country and to grant Christians the freedom to meet and worship, said Ourahmane.

"The local authorities and especially the Algerian government need to be challenged in this all the time," he said. "They have to be challenged: 'Don't you recognize the situation here?' I mean we're talking of tens of thousands of believers, not just a few."

There are around 64 churches in the Kabylie region, where most Algerian Christians live, as well as house groups, according to Ourahmane. The Kabylie region is populated by Berbers, an indigenous people of North Africa.

"There are lots of healings and deliverance, and people are experiencing new things in their life," Ourahmane said of the Algerian churches. "They are finding hope in Christ which they have never experienced before."

There are half a dozen court cases against churches and Christians. None of these have been resolved, frozen in Algeria's courts.

False Accusation

In ongoing negative media coverage of Christians, last month Algerian newspaper Echorouk published a story claiming that the former president of the EPA, who was deported in 2008, had returned to Algeria to visit churches, give advice and give them financial aid.

The report stated that the former EPA president, Hugh Johnson, was known for his evangelism and warned readers of his evangelizing "strategies."

Yesterday Johnson told Compass by telephone that the report was pure fabrication, and that he has not set foot in Algeria since he was deported.

Johnson's lawyers are still trying to appeal his case in Algerian courts.

This year church groups stated that the government denied the visa applications of some religious workers, citing the government ban on proselytizing, according to the state department report.


I shall send hundreds of men to fight alongside our neighbors, vows al-Qaeda ally in Somalia James Hider in Sanaa

02 January 2010

The leader of Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked insurgency yesterday declared that he would send hundreds of fighters to join the Islamist campaign in Yemen, adding to fears that increased US involvement in antiterrorism operations in the country could fuel even greater instability.

As Gordon Brown called for an urgent international meeting to tackle the crisis in Yemen — highlighted by al-Qaeda’s attempt in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a US airliner last week — the international jihadi network was swinging into action to counter Western efforts to bolster the feeble government, which is struggling to confront the Islamist threat.

 “We tell our Muslim brothers in Yemen that we will cross the water between us and reach your place to assist you fight the enemy of Allah,” declared Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, a senior official of the Shebab militia, as he addressed hundreds of newly trained recruits cheering “Allahu Akbar”.

 “Today you see what is happening in Yemen; the enemy of Allah is destroying your Muslim brothers. I call upon the young men in Arab lands to join the fight there.”

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The American military is treading a fine line by expanding its support for Yemeni government forces, providing intelligence for operations, money and expertise for equipment and training.

On the one hand, it has to shore up a failing and often reluctant ally in the war against the Islamists, who launched the Detroit bomb attack from a base in Yemen. On the other, it may energise hundreds of recruits among the fiercely anti-American tribes of Yemen, whose civilians have often been the casualties of airstrikes carried out by Yemeni warplanes acting on US Intelligence.

 “The American entrance into the war is very dangerous,” said Abdulelah Haidar Shaea, a Yemeni expert on al-Qaeda, who has met the Yemeni branch’s leadership.

 “If most people hate the Government, then all the people hate America for its alliance with Israel and its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

He said witnesses to an attack before Christmas on an alleged al-Qaeda base in the south had told him that US missiles had killed at least five civilians. The Government claimed its warplanes had wiped out the al-Qaeda leadership as well as Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Yemeni preacher who inspired both Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Detroit bomber, and Nidal Malik Hasan, the US major who shot dead 13 fellow soldiers in Fort Hood.

After the attack, Mr Shaea said that relatives of the victims took their bloodstained clothes to al-Qaeda leaders and pledged allegiance. The Government has been unable to confirm any of the deaths it claimed because its forces are unable to enter the area without being attacked by the well-armed tribes and al-Qaeda, as happened last summer in Marib, when they lost five tanks in fighting after Yemeni special forces accidentally blew up a tribal residence which they mistook for an al-Qaeda hideout.

Gregory Johnsen, of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, said there was evidence that while the US military was being forced to invest in a weak and unpopular government, al-Qaeda was building a powerful support base among the tribes. Foreign al-Qaeda members are even marrying into local tribes, while many of the fighters are native Yemenis who enjoy the full protection of their clans.

 “This development is both new and worrying because it has the potential to turn any counter-terrorism operation into a much broader war involving Yemen’s tribes,” Mr Johnsen said in a recent article, noting that Said Ali al-Shihri, the deputy commander of al-Qaeda, had moved his family from their native Saudi Arabia to Yemen.

 “Al-Qaeda is not on the run in Yemen, but rather is largely free to do what it wants in certain areas,” he said.

 “Al-Shihri’s move is also indicative of a growing attempt by al-Qaeda to become part of the local scene by integrating itself into the entire community, in a way that a single man is unable to do,” he added.

Even the Government acknowledges the scale of the problem. Abdulkarim al-Eryani, political adviser to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has admitted that his country — already fighting a persistent Shia rebellion in the north and trying to calm increasing secessionist calls in the south — would crumble without international handouts.

He said Yemen was not a failed state like nearby Somalia, but admitted it was certainly “dysfunctional”, with some areas lacking any government infrastructure, including police forces.

Indeed, Mr Shaea said that the recent air strikes against al-Qaeda in remote areas were sometimes the first presence that many local Yemenis had seen of their government. He added that corruption had left the armed forces so weakened that some soldiers fighting the Shia rebels in the north had sold their weapons to the enemy, then declared they were taken hostage.


Al-Qaeda threat looms into new decade, warns Brown

02January 2010

LONDON (AFP) -- The failed Detroit plane bombing showed that terrorism remains a “very real” global threat as the world enters a new decade eight years after 9/11, Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Friday.

World leaders needed to cooperate “urgently” to tighten security at airports and on aircraft following the December 25 attack in which a 23-year-old Nigerian nearly downed a U.S. jet as it prepared to land, he said.

“The new decade is starting as the last began -- with Al-Qaeda creating a climate of fear,” he wrote, saying the failed bombing had “exposed an evolving terrorist threat” and highlighted “a major new base for terrorism.”

“The failed attack in Detroit on Christmas Day reminds us of a deeper reality: that almost 10 years after September 11th international terrorism is still a very real threat,” he added.

The Detroit attack, which has led to a major review of security procedures and the coordination of airline and other watch-lists, had thrown the spotlight onto the threat posed by militants based in Yemen, he said.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is believed to have been trained in Yemen before embarking on the failed bombing, with explosives concealed in his underwear which remained undetected as he passed through Nigerian and Dutch airports.

“Enemies of democracy and freedom -- now trying to mastermind death and destruction from Yemen as well as other better-known homes of international terror such as Pakistan and Afghanistan -- are concealing explosives in ways which are more difficult to detect,” said Brown.

“Al-Qaeda and their associates continue in their ambition to indoctrinate thousands of young people around the world with a deadly desire to kill and maim,” he wrote in an article on his Downing Street office's website.

And he said: “Our response in security, intelligence, policing and military action, is not just an act of choice but an act of necessity.”

Brown said Britain has “one of the toughest borders in the world,” and had screened 135 million passengers in and out of the country against watchlists -- including the Detroit attempted bomber, who was refused a visa in May 2009.

“But in light of the Detroit incident we all urgently need to work together on how we might further tighten these arrangements,” he said.

And he stressed that Britain cannot rely only on a “fortress Britain strategy” -- but must take the fight to where extremists are based, “in Afghanistan, Pakistan and all around the world.”

“The Detroit plot thankfully failed. But it has been another wake-up call for the ongoing battles we must wage not just for security against terror but for the hearts and minds of a generation.”


Our universities face a radical upheaval

02January 2010

Tolerating dissidents is a great campus tradition — soon to end, thanks to the Detroit bomber

John Sutherland

It’s good, if you’re a university administrator, to keep a cool head when the word “hotbed” is being thrown at you. One admires that unnamed UCL official who dryly commented that if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had come to the UK intending to blow up planes, he would surely have done chemistry rather than mechanical engineering. The sad state of the failed bomber’s death-to-the-infidel underpants seems to bear that out.

Abdulmutallab, president of the Islamic society at UCL, 2006-07, expected that, by now, he would be a fêted martyr in paradise. He can instead look forward to an advanced course in waterboarding, or whatever interrogation techniques are nowadays thought to be permissibly humane in the US.

Abdulmutallab did not, thank God, destroy the Airbus 330 he was flying in, but he has succeeded in doing huge damage to the British university system, particularly his alma mater. I’ve been associated with UCL for the best part of 40 years. I’m partisan. But the reflexive assumption that this institution is a safe haven for enemies who plot our downfall needs careful thought before drastic measures are taken.

Universities have to take risks, both with orthodoxies and with those whom they admit. They must tolerate, in so far as it does not threaten their own existence, radical and dissident elements in their institutional population. But although there have been lapses (one thinks of the Cambridge spies), British universities have usually got it right.

You have also to cut students some slack on the ground of youth. Does it matter if, in their wild young days, a future PM or US president snorted something naughty? No. Did it matter that the future 42nd President of the United States took part in a violent demonstration against the Vietnam War outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square? In the long run it didn’t.

But how much slack? A couple of years ago (when Abdulmutallab was around the place), UCL allowed the Islamic Society to put on a show of Islamic art. A friend of mine, an eminent scientist, strolled in to take a look. Was he a believer, asked an obviously Muslim student. No, replied my friend, he didn’t believe in any god, as it happened. “Then,” the young man confidently informed him, “we shall have to execute you.” He wasn’t joking; he was predicting. He wasn’t going to draw a scimitar that minute and lop off the godless one’s head, but he implied that at some future point such things would happen. My friend laughed it off after lodging a mild complaint. It could, of course, have been Abdulmutallab who made the threat.

A hundred years ago, in that same gallery, a fervent Methodist might have told an unbelieving professor that he would, for a certainty, spend eternity roasting in the fires of Hell. That would have been something to laugh off as well. Not a reason to exclude Methodists from UCL. Nor even to keep a close eye on them.

There is, however, a difference. Death threats are different from damnation prophecies. Methodists may proclaim themselves Christian soldiers, marching as to war, but the fact is, they aren’t. It’s a metaphor. They have hymn books, not Semtex at the chapel door. Demonstrably, some Muslim students do now see themselves in a real war — not with a foreign foe, but with the society in which they are living. It’s not (always) metaphorical, as the Abdulmutallab event bears out.

At what point must institutional tolerance give way to heavy-handed control? And if you ban the Islamic Society, do you also ban the Jewish Society, or the female students’ consciousness-raising groups? At what point does militancy — never in itself a bad thing in a young student — become signing up to terrorism? It would have been clearer, if more awful (since he might have made a more efficient weapon) had Abdulmutallab designed his body-bomb in a UCL lab, rather than having it given to him in Yemen. As it is, his activities at UCL seem to have been within the bounds of normally tolerated hot-headedness. He was, one is told, a proclaimed radical and may have become more so, under the influence of outside contacts, during the years of his course. He was not, yet, a terrorist. That clearly happened in the period after he left England.

But what Abdulmutallab did in the two years after he left the UCL campus has created a terrible dilemma for British universities. Once you start “vetting” applicants for future danger it quickly becomes sledgehammers and nuts — and counterproductive educationally. The American university system has suffered hugely from the emergency measures scrambled into law after 9/11, after it was discovered that some of the terrorists got into the country on student visas.

Those visas are now infinitely harder to come by. It means months, sometimes years, before an overseas applicant can get approval to study in the US — particularly if they are applying from countries known to harbour extremists.

Even trickier is how you control extracurricular activity. Should an institution like UCL, for example, monitor groups of its students outside the classroom but within its precincts? Or should it outsource that monitoring to the police? One of the provisions of the US’s Patriot Act was that university libraries should, when required, hand over students’ book-borrowing records. It’s a safe bet that the FBI taps certain campus computers and has agents in place, impersonating students.

A couple more high-profile outrages and British universities will go the same way. Perhaps they will anyway. It’s another reason for cursing the Detroit bomber.

John Sutherland is Emeritus Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London


Afghan troops kill 3 Pakistani shepherds

02January 2010

QUETTA: Afghan soldiers shot dead three Pakistani shepherds who had crossed the border at Kashatu Post in Zhob district during the early hours of Friday.

According to the local police and security officials, the three shepherds – identified as Muhammad Rasool, Saifud Din and Abdul Malik – entered the Afghan territory while grazing their sheep at Kashatu, Qamardin Karez area. The forces fired at them and as a result all of them died on the spot. Their corpses were later handed over to their relatives. app\01\02\story_2-1-2010_pg7_5


Outrage over Hyderabad attack on Dawn reporter

Dawn Report

Saturday, 02 Jan, 2010

HYDERABAD: Political leaders, human rights activists and other members of civil society joined journalists on Friday in expressing shock and anger over the assault on M.H. Khan, the staff correspondent of ‘Dawn’ in Hyderabad, by two activists of the Sindh National Front (SNF) the previous day.

For their part, the journalists vowed that strong-arm tactics would never force them to stop stating facts as they saw them. Politicians and other members of civil society said no leader should resort to violence, no matter how fundamental and deep the differences with a journalist or news organisation.

Prominent among the politicians and civil society members who condemned the attack were Senior Minister of Sindh Pir Mazharul Haq, Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Information Minister Shazia Marri, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahangir, Deputy Convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Anees Kaimkhani, chief of the Sindh United Party Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, chief of the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party Dr Qadir Magsi and PML-F leader Nawab Rashid Ali Khan.

Talking to Mr Khan by phone, Asma Jahangir described the attack as an assault on press freedom. She said politicians should learn to behave properly.

If there was a disagreement with a journalist over how an event or statement should be reported, the HRCP chief said, the politicians should use civilised means to get their points of view across instead of resorting to violence. “There is no room for violence in civilised politics.”

Anees Kaimkhani said it was shocking that a professional and proficient journalist like Mr Khan was subjected to physical abuse by some political workers. He urged the authorities to ensure security of all journalists.

JSQM chairman Basheer Khan Qureshi urged Sardar Mumtaz Ali Bhutto to hand over to police his party’s workers who had attacked Mr Khan. He said he took the attack personally, adding: “It was an attack on me, not on Mr Khan.”

Dr Qadir Magsi called Mr Khan to tell him that he would take up the issue with the SNF chief. He added that leaders must learn to “defend themselves politically” instead of resorting to strong-arm tactics.

Jalal Mehmood Shah said it was a reporter’s job to ask questions. Talking to Dawn, he said it was shocking to see an honest reporter working for a newspaper of repute coming under attack in such a brutal fashion.

Dr Arif Alvi, Zameer Ghumro, Aajiz Dhamrah, Ahsan Abro, Awami National Party leader Haji Asmatullah Mehsud and Maulana Taj Mohammed Nahiyoon of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) also assailed the attack.

Representatives of the Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Anjuman-i-Tajiran Hyderabad visited Mr Khan in hospital. Prominent members of the legal community --- Allah Bachayo Soomro, Noorul Haq Qureshi and Ayaz Tunio --- offered to take the matter to court free of charge.

MNA Nawab Ghani Talpur and District Nazim of Jamshoro Malik Asad Sikandar condemned the attack in separate statements.

In Sanghar, members of the Sindhi Adabi Sangat, district bar association, Citizens Action Committee and National Workers Party condemned the attack.

Mir Mehmood Nizamani of the Hur Historical Society also condemned the attack and said it was aimed at intimidating journalists.

Tags: Dawn reporter,HRCP,Hyderabad attack,journalist


Israel strikes Gaza targets after Grad rocket attack

By DPA and Haaretz Service

The Israel Air Force bombed two smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip overnight Friday in response to a rocket fired by Gaza militants that hit the southern Israeli town of Netivot on Thursday evening.

Palestinian witnesses and medical sources said Israel struck several targets, wounding at least four people.

Witnesses said Israeli F16 fighter jets fired two missiles and tanks fired two shells that landed at empty areas east and northeast of Gaza City. They said huge explosions were heard in the area.

Ambulances took four people to Gaza hospitals for medical treatment, according to medical sources. The four were lightly injured.

Meanwhile, residents said Israeli warplanes carried out a fifth raid on a post belonging to militants from the Islamic Hamas movement in the southeast of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

The strikes came hours after militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for firing two Russian-made Grad missiles Thursday night from Gaza at southern Israel.

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) also claimed responsibility Friday for firing four mortar Shells at Israeli army vehicles near the border between southeast Gaza and Israel. No injuries or damages were reported.

Israeli Radio reported earlier Friday that two Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed Thursday night in southern Israel, one hitting the southern town of Netivot.

The Color Red early warning system did not go off Thursday, giving residents no indication of the coming attack.

One woman suffered shock and no damage was reported.

This was the first such attack on Netivot in nine months. The last Grad rocket to hit the city exploded near a synagogue, causing some damage.

Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar contacted the Israel Defense Forces demanding to know why the early warning system failed to work.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened this week that the Israel would respond to every single rocket by Gaza militants.

The escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza militants comes as Palestinians on December 27 marked one year since Israel's three-week-long military offensive in the Gaza Strip that left more than 1,400 people dead.


French Mosque’s Symbolism Varies With Beholder


MARSEILLE, France — The minaret of the new Grand Mosque of Marseille, whose cornerstone will be laid here in April, will be silent — no muezzin, live or recorded, will disturb the neighborhood with the call to prayer. Instead, the minaret will flash a beam of light for a couple of minutes, five times a day.

normally, the light would be green, for the color of Islam. But Marseille is a port, and green is reserved for signals to ships at sea. Red? No, the firefighters have reserved red.

Instead, said Noureddine Cheikh, the head of the Marseille Mosque Association, the light will almost surely be purple — a rather nightclubby look for such an elegant building.

So is this assimilation? Mr. Cheikh laughs. “I suppose it is,” he said. “It’s a good symbol of assimilation.”

But as Western Europe is plunged into a new bout of anxiety over the impact of post-colonial Muslim immigration — reeling in varying ways from the implications of a recent Swiss vote to ban minarets altogether — some scholars see a destructive dynamic, with assimilation feeding a reaction that, in turn, spawns resentment, particularly among young Muslims.

Vincent Geisser, a scholar of Islam and immigration at the French National Center for Scientific Research, believes that the more Europe’s Muslims establish themselves as a permanent part of the national scene, the more they frighten some who believe that their national identity could be altered forever.

“Today in Europe the fear of Islam crystallizes all other fears,” Mr. Geisser said. “In Switzerland, it’s minarets. In France, it’s the veil, the burqa and the beard.”

The large new mosque, which its builders call “the symbol of Marseillais Islam,” is a source of pride here in France’s second-largest city, which is at least 25 percent Muslim. But it is also cause for alarm, Mr. Geisser said, embodying the paradox that visible signs of integration set off xenophobic anxiety. “All these symbols reveal a deeper, more lasting presence of Islam,” he said. “It’s the passage of something temporary to something that is implanted and takes root.”

The change has been significant over the last five years, Mr. Geisser said. “Now we’re at a crossroads,” he said, of a complicated European anxiety that stems from economic crisis; the fear of globalization; the perceived increase in immigration as European birthrates fall; and the subsuming of national states into an enlarged Europe.

“There is an angst over identity in Europe,” he said. “There’s a feeling that Europe is becoming smaller and less important. Europe is like an old lady, who whenever she hears a noise thinks it’s a burglary.” This generalized anxiety and fear is translated into a specific one, he argues: Islam, “a box in which everyone expresses their fears.”

The European Union is believed to have more than 15 million Muslims and perhaps as many as 20 million. France has five million to six million Muslims, the most in Western Europe.

In general, relations between Muslims and other Europeans have been good. But the terrorism associated with attacks in France in 1995 and 2001 in the United States has resonated through the years, reinforced by the Madrid train bombings in 2004; the killing that year of the Dutch film director Theo van Gogh, a critic of conservative Muslims; the London bombings of 2005; and the controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published the same year.

In 2004, France banned the head scarf (and other signs of religious affiliation) in public schools. It is now debating a ban on the burqa, by which the government seems to mean any full facial covering, including the niqab, which shows the eyes. That controversial measure is caught up in a government-sponsored debate over national identity, led by the ministry that also handles immigration.

Both measures have been widely criticized as political maneuvers by President Nicolas Sarkozy, capitalizing on social fears to unite the center-right and co-opt the far-right National Front before regional elections in March. He has tried to play down the religious element in the debate, but he has also urged Muslims to show “humble discretion” and avoid “ostentation and provocation”; a junior minister, Nadine Morano, said young Muslims should dress better, find jobs and stop using slang and wearing baseball caps backward.

The far-right and anti-immigrant parties did comparatively well in last June’s European elections, which had a low turnout. For the first time, Britain’s far-right party won two seats, and the Dutch Freedom Party secured 17 percent of the vote.

This year, the Danes and the Swiss have brought a new focus to mosques and minarets. Plans for Copenhagen’s first two large mosques have met with strong opposition from the right. The Swiss vote brought widespread condemnation of fear-mongering and racism, including from Switzerland’s own government.

Youcef Mammeri, a writer on Islam in France and member of the Joint Council of Muslims of Marseille, says that the debates over minarets, burqas and national identity have angered many French-born Muslims and brought them together in a defensive circle.

Asked about the source of “this anxiety about Islam,” Mr. Mammeri said: “I ask myself this same question.” He finds “a perverse aspect to all these questions asked Muslims, which are not coherent,” he said, but “liberate and dignify existing racism” and “stigmatize Muslims.”

Racism in France has moved from being anti-Arab to anti-Muslim, he said, “a terrible regression.”

If 10 years ago Muslims debated politics and assimilation, “today everyone agrees and reacts the same way,” Mr. Mammeri said. “They feel they are attacked. Today we realize being a secular Muslim or a moderate or a radical Muslim is not the right question. It’s about being Muslim.”

When he travels abroad, to New York, Barcelona or Algiers, Mr. Mammeri said, “I’m French; I feel French. But in France, in Marseille every day, you have these same questions, repeated stupidly: what about the burqa, the mosque, terrorism.”

An 11-city study of Islam in Europe by the Open Society Institute, published this month, found that 55 percent of Muslims believe that religious discrimination has increased in the last five years. Muslims are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed as non-Muslims and live more poorly, the study said, but it also found that most Muslims feel a strong connection to their current homelands and want to live in mixed communities.

In Marseille, the study found, 55 percent of Muslims and 68 percent of non-Muslims have a fairly or very strong sense of belonging to their city.

Still, the planned mosque, costing about $33 million, is not welcomed by everyone. Local politicians of the far-right Regional Front have vainly filed lawsuits trying to block construction of what they consider an effort to create an alternative landmark to compete with the city’s cathedrals.

At the Grand Bar Bernabo, a gritty cafe near the site of the new mosque, an older man who refused to give his name said, with a thin smile, “I’m going to bomb it when it opens.” Asked why, he said: “There are a lot of them already, and this will bring more of them, and there will be trouble.”

Jean-Claude, 49, a sanitation worker, said: “People in the area are flipping out, but when it’s done, it’s done. You can say whatever you want, but they’re going to build it.” He only hoped that the minaret — limited to just over 80 feet by local zoning laws — would not be taller than a nearby bell tower.

Gabrielle Martelli said Marseille had a good reputation for tolerance, “but things have been tense here for a long time.”

“There’s a lot of racism here” that goes both ways, she insisted. “When you’ve been insulted and called a ‘sale Française’ ” — a filthy Frenchwoman — “you think: ‘Wait, this is my country.’ ”

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