------Islamic Movement gathers steam in Israel
By Dina Kraft
November 30, 2009
UMM AL-FAHM, Israel (JTA) -- It's time for noon prayers in this Israeli Arab city, and a jumble of sneakers piles up outside the doors of a mosque on the top floor of a private high school for the sciences.
Inside, the boys, led in prayer by a math teacher, stand in two rows on a soft green-and-beige carpet and then kneel in unison. The $5.8 million tab to construct the high school, considered one of the top Arab schools in Israel with its state-of-the art physics and chemistry labs, was picked up by the Islamic Movement.
Such support -- helping fund community needs not being met by the Israeli government -- is one way the movement is gaining power and influence among Israel's 1.2 million Arabs.
"This vacuum has opened the door for the Islamic Movement to get in and provide alternative services," said Yousef Jabareen, a resident of Umm al-Fahm and director of Dirasat, a nonprofit that advocates for socioeconomic and political equality for Israel's Arab citizens.
The influence of the movement -- particularly its northern branch, which preaches adherence to a devout form of Islam and a code of social isolation from Israel at large -- can be seen in the shift toward increased religious observance among some of Israel's Arab citizens, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Critics say the movement's more extreme elements preach a form of nationalism that is actively anti-Israeli and is radicalizing Israel's Arab citizens. Its social service tactics have been compared to the work of Hamas, which similarly built a base of support among ordinary Palestinians by providing social services not offered by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.
With its power base in Umm al-Fahm, one of Israel's largest Arab towns, the Islamic Movement in Israel is drawing support with the message that pride in Islamic roots can overcome the feelings of second-class citizenship to which Arab citizens often feel relegated in the Jewish state.
The movement is divided into two branches: the more radical northern branch, which eschews the Israeli political process and calls on followers to abstain from voting in national Israeli elections, and the more moderate southern branch, which is represented in Israel's Knesset.
Sheik Ibrahim Sansur, a Knesset member who leads the movement's southern branch, told JTA that the Islamic Movement is united by the goal "to crystallize the religious and national identity of the Arab minority inside Israel."
Representatives of the northern branch refused JTA's requests for interviews. But Sheik Ra'ad Salah, a key leader of the branch and the former mayor of Umm al-Fahm, made headlines during the Jewish High Holidays six weeks ago when he called on supporters to "liberate" the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem "with blood and fire," touching off days of clashes between police and Arab rioters.
Umm al-Fahm is a visible example of the movement's success. Its hilly landscape is dotted with the rounded domes of mosques built by the movement, as well as dozens of other movement-funded projects, including women's education centers, a college for the study of Islamic law and Arabic language, and even a hospital under construction. A growing number -- perhaps a majority -- of women and girls wear headscarves, and men sport thick beards.
The Islamic Movement started to take off here following the 1967 Six-Day War. It was then that Israel's Arab citizens could re-establish ties with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that had been cut off since the 1948 war of Israeli independence. Many Arab Israelis attended Islamic colleges in the West Bank and Gaza, sparking a return to devout observance for some inside Israel. The movement was strengthened by the example of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.
Salah has become the face of the movement's more controversial side. A product of the post-1967 Islamic awakening in Israel, Salah returned from his religious studies in Hebron and Nablus as a leader of the movement. He has been accused of raising millions of dollars for Hamas -- a charge he denies.
Yitzhak Reiter, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University and Ashkelon Academic College, says Salah's broader goal is to connect Israel's Muslims to the larger Islamic world and make Jerusalem the future seat of an Islamic caliphate.
Salah preaches that Israel's archeological activities near the Temple Mount are part of a secret Jewish plan to destabilize the Al-Aksa Mosque, provoke its collapse and pave the way for the construction of the Jewish Holy Temple. Such charges are dismissed as fantasy and incitement by Israeli authorities.
Nohad Ali, a sociologist at Haifa University and an expert on the Islamic Movement, says Salah and his followers nevertheless believe such conspiracies to be true. The fears have been heightened by the agitation of some Israelis to visit the Temple Mount and messianic talk by a few radicals of rebuilding the Holy Temple, Ali said.
Though it's not in the interests of the movement to rush headlong into confrontation with Israel, Ali said, the movement continues to keep the issue a central one in the community, organizing buses daily to the Temple Mount compound from Arab towns and villages throughout the country.
In Umm al-Fahm, the recent tensions in Jerusalem feel remote, but social problems are felt acutely. The city has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Ahmad Kabaha, the math teacher who leads students in prayer, says he admires the movement for its grass-roots work.
"People tend to think about them in a political way," Kabaha said, "but I see their importance in how it helps with problems within our society, in doing good deeds, in helping the poor."
Drop Lashkar, Obama warns Pak president
November 30, 2009
Pakistan’s "use" of militant groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba "cannot continue", US President Barack Obama has warned Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a two-page letter.
The Washington Post reported that the letter, which outlined a new strategic relationship with Pakistan, was “unusually blunt”. But it also offered Islamabad incentives, including an offer to “reduce tensions” between India and Pakistan.
Washington has been trying to piece together a new bargain with Islamabad. The key demand of Pakistan: recognise it cannot be an ally in the “war on terror” and support Islamicist militant groups fighting India and Afghanistan.
In return, Obama offered more economic and military assistance. Obama said Pakistan needed to end “ambiguity” in its relations with five militant groups: Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, L-e-T and the Tehreek-e-Taliban.
The inclusion of Lashkar, a group that until 26/11 had avoided attacking US targets, is a gesture towards the militant group’s main target, India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told Obama during his state visit that Pakistan was leaving Lashkar alone.
The letter, say his officials, is designed to push US-Pakistan relations in a new direction. Without this change the US is “not going to win in Afghanistan”.
US officials described the new US-Pakistan equation as a “cat and mouse game” but one that “requires time”.
Pakistan analysts said Zardari is too weak to dictate to the military and intelligence. Retired General Talat Masood said the US wants “a total change in the thinking of the military through a political leadership that is inherently weak.”
Obama plans 30,000 more US troops for Afghanistan
1 December 2009
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama briefed key allies on his new strategy for the Afghanistan war on Monday and officials said his plan is expected to include about 30,000 more US troops and an exit timeframe.
Obama, after three months of deliberations, is to outline his strategy in an address to the American people on Tuesday night from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. Before that announcement, he issued new orders to his military commanders for US involvement in the war on Sunday night and held a final meeting with top advisers during which he “communicated his final decision on the strategy,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
US officials said Obama was expected to announce a troop increase of about 30,000 additional US troops to secure population centers, beat back the Taliban and train Afghan security forces to assume control. A US official, who declined to be identified, said he expected Obama to offer a timeframe for reducing forces after the buildup is completed in Afghanistan.
Obama’s emerging plan attempts to satisfy concerns on both sides of the US political divide. Sending more troops addresses demands from his generals and Republicans in the US Congress. Stressing that the US commitment is not open-ended is an attempt to placate skeptical Democrats weary of the war and its cost.
Obama briefed Australian PM Kevin Rudd and was on phone with other leaders, including British PM Gordon Brown, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
As Obama adds troops to Afghanistan, U.S. challenges in Iraq aren't over
By Warren P. Strobel
KIRKUK, Iraq -- While President Barack Obama prepares to announce that he's sending tens of thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, his problems in Iraq are far from over.
Military casualties have plummeted and sectarian violence has ebbed in Iraq, but the country's power struggles between Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs and between Arabs and Kurds are unfinished. The question is whether it will turn violent again.
The combatants appear to be repositioning themselves in anticipation of the planned U.S. combat troop withdrawal next year. Iraq's neighbors - Iran, Turkey, Syria and others - could try to fill the vacuum, politicians and analysts warn.
"Those who feel their rights have been taken, and the weak, will ask the help of anyone who can give them a hand," said Burhan Muzhir al-Asy. He's a tribal sheik and a member of the northern city of Kirkuk's provincial council representing Arab citizens, who have suffered political and demographic setbacks here since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. "We say, 'A drowning man will grasp at a straw."'
Many Iraqis say they think U.S. attention already is waning.
"The Obama administration is different. ... They're just watching," said Dleir Ahmad Hamad, the political science dean at Suleimaniyah University in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"There are big fears" about the U.S. troop withdrawal, he said. "I do not exclude the occurrence of a civil war, between Kurd and Kurd, between Arab and Kurd, between Shiite and Sunni, between Turk and Kurd."
Rigs and gas flares ring Kirkuk, the capital of an oil-rich region, and its outskirts look like a chunk of Texas or Oklahoma. It anchors a broad belt of disputed territory, running from Diyala province in the east through Mosul - Iraq's most dangerous city - in the northwest.
The city and the surrounding province are a minefield of conflicting property claims, unresolved lawsuits by the tens of thousands and clashing ethnic narratives.
The late dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab, encouraged Arabs from elsewhere in Iraq to settle in Kirkuk to reinforce his hold on the area, displacing Kurds and Turkomen. When Saddam's regime fell, hundreds of thousands of Kurds flooded in. Many are returnees, and some are said to be carpetbaggers. Kurdish neighborhoods with a just-built look now line the northern approaches to the city.
Disagreements over who belongs in Kirkuk and who can vote here have delayed the Iraqi parliament's passage of a law mandating elections next year. If an accord is finally reached, the elections will be postponed beyond January. Even then, however, no one will be satisfied with the compromise, in which 2009 Kirkuk voter rolls will be used but will be checked by a fact-finding committee whose work won't be completed for a year.
Full report at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/AP/story/1358896.html
Jews and Muslims in Europe must make common cause
November 30, 2009
The Swiss minaret ban is a kind of canary in the coal mine. It's worth noting that though Islamophobia is driven by fear, whereas anti-Semitism is driven by hate, the functional expression of both in European society follows very similar trends. The self-styled defenders of Western Civilization want to forget that anti-Semitism found its ultimate expression in Europe not centuries ago, but mere decades - and the same passions exploited today against muslims run the risk of reigniting the same old hatreds that still percolate beneath the surface of "modern, civilized" Europe.
There is hard data to support the argument that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are linked. The Pew Global Attitudes Project is an invaluable reference; last September they released a report (full PDF; summary) which showed an alarming increase in unfavorable opinions of both jews and muslims alike in all the major European countries (but not in the US or Britain):
A spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project finds 46% of the Spanish rating Jews unfavorably. More than a third of Russians (34%) and Poles (36%) echo this view. Somewhat fewer, but still significant numbers of the Germans (25%) and French (20%) interviewed also express negative opinions of Jews. These percentages are all higher than obtained in comparable Pew surveys taken in recent years. In a number of countries, the increase has been especially notable between 2006 and 2008.
(...) Opinions about Muslims in almost all of these countries are considerably more negative than are views of Jews. Fully half of Spanish (52%) and German respondents (50%) rate Muslims unfavorably. Opinions about Muslims are somewhat less negative in Poland (46%) and considerably less negative in France (38%). About one-in-four in Britain and the United States (23% each) also voice unfavorable views of Muslims. Overall, there is a clear relationship between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attitudes: publics that view Jews unfavorably also tend to see Muslims in a negative light.
Why Israel doesn't talk borders with Hamas
By Stephanie Gutmann
December 1st, 2009
Israel is currently in the middle of talks with Hamas over a possible prisoner swap, but it has held fast to its pledge not to sit down with the organisation, as presently constituted, for what are called “final status” negotiations. Some pundits huff that this shows a reluctance towards finding a “two state solution.” This is nonsense. It would be impossible to list in this limited space the many reasons why such official recognition would endanger Israel — and everybody else in the world. But here are a few of the most obvious reasons:
Hamas has been defined as a terrorist organization by the EU, US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan because it is unapologetic about it strategy of targeting civilians. It apparently does not understand the concept that leaders are supposed to try to protect civilians — their own or others. In the Arab-language press and other places Hamas leaders have crowed about the strategic brilliance of using their own women and children as human shields. Residents of the UK usually point to the transformation of the IRA when the Hamas-is-terrorist point is made, but terrorist status should be considered along with other factors.
Hamas’s raison d’etre, as defined in its founding charter, is the destruction of Israel, as expressed many times in many different wordings in the sprawling document. On its first page, for instance, as translated by Yale University, it states its goals is “to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” (That would include Israel.) Several paragraphs later there is the declaration:
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.
Israel unhappy: Hezbollah will remain armed, says Lebanon
by Iqbal Jassat
(Tuesday, December 1, 2009)
"Expect that Zionist lobbies –whether in America or South Africa – will apply every trick from their arsenal of “dirty tricks” to tarnish Lebanon as “untrustworthy” and “dangerous”. They will seek to influence public opinion by retaining a discourse belonging to the apartheid-era whereby Hezbollah will be smeared as a “terrorist” organization in much the same way the ANC was branded."
Exactly 66 years since Lebanon gained it’s independence from French colonialism, the war-torn country took another major leap worthy of celebration.
President Michel Suleiman’s government of Lebanon issued a policy declaration on November 26th, 2009 that has been described as the most important decision the new unity government has taken since coming to power.
The declaration, not surprisingly, has rocked the American/Israel axis of power for it categorically affirms the right of Hezbollah to remain armed.
It reads: “It is the right of the Lebanese people, Army and the Hezbollah led resistance to liberate the Shebaa Farms, the Kfar Shuba Hills and the northern part of the village of Ghajar as well as to defend Lebanon and it’s territorial waters in the face of the enemy by all available and legal means”.
In an article published on al-Manar’s news site, Franklin Lamb correctly points out that the declaration signals to the Israelis that Hezbollah – which since 2006 has enjoyed majority popular support – and the State of Lebanon are inseparable and indivisible with respect to defending the country from foreign interference and occupation.
While this exciting development has received a muted response in many Western capitals and their media houses, it’s been embraced in Beirut and many Arab streets.
Full report at: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/68928
Hezbollah blames U.S. for all terrorism
November 30, 2009
Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) -- Hezbollah's chief on Monday announced the group's new "manifesto," which calls on all countries to "liberate Jerusalem" and declares the United States a threat to the world.
"American terrorism is the source of every terrorism in the world," Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech from an undisclosed location.
It was his first address since a unity government formed in Lebanon this month, ending a crisis that had left the country with no government since June's parliamentary elections.
Hezbollah, a political party in Lebanon, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel. Nasrallah does not appear in public amid concerns for his safety.
"We invite and call on all Arabs and Muslims and all countries keen on peace and stability in the world to intensify efforts and resources to liberate Jerusalem from Zionist occupation and to maintain its true identity and its Islamic and Christian sanctities," Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks. It has been linked to attacks against against American, Israeli and other Western targets.
In his remarks, which included about 80 minutes of reading the manifesto followed by answering questions from reporters, Nasrallah sought to reject the "terrorist" label, repeatedly saying Hezbollah is a "resistance" force.
"The U.S. administration under President George W. Bush equated the concepts of terrorism and resistance to deny the right of resistance for the people," he argued.
He praised Iran and Syria, which are Hezbollah's chief backers.
Indonesia HIV-Aids 'spreading through sex'
By Karishma Vaswami
1 December 2009
The number of HIV-Aids cases in Indonesia is rising, according to the government in Jakarta.
And UN officials say it is spreading far more quickly through sexual intercourse rather than drug use, which they say is a cause for alarm.
The latest figures show there are at least 290,000 people in Indonesia infected with HIV.
Recent data shows over 18,000 people have the disease - and that number has jumped from last year.
The virus first started spreading amongst drug addicts.
But officials from organisations such as the UN programme on HIV-Aids, UNAIDS, say it is sex which is now the primary cause of infection in the country.
That is worrying because, as the group points out, far more people have sex than take drugs.
In the world's most populous Muslim nation, trying to find a solution for this epidemic can often be a challenging task.
Some Islamic groups have blamed the spread of Aids on what they consider un-Islamic activities - such as pre-marital sex and prostitution.
They want the government to implement conservative Muslim laws which would ban what they see as immoral acts.
The government is doing what it can to stem the spread of HIV-Aids in Indonesia.
Recently the National Aids Commission appointed Julia Perez, a popular Indonesian model and actress, as its condom ambassador in an attempt to encourage more young people to use condoms.
But Aids activists say promoting condom use is a huge challenge in Indonesia as there is strong resistance from religious and conservative groups.
Arab Muslim women start group to serve as resource
By Georgia Pabst
Dec. 1, 2009
Enaya Othman was married and had a college degree in hand when she emigrated from the West Bank to the United States.
She has vivid memories of her life on the West Bank - passing through checkpoints and dealing with restricted movement. But she also has warm memories of the things she missed, such as the beautiful mountains and the smell of coffee in the street.
After arriving in the U.S. she worked on a master's degree and then a doctorate in American and Middle East history. Today she teaches Arabic at Marquette University and advanced-placement high school U.S. history at the Salam School.
Alla Kadadha remembers little of her life before coming to the U.S. She was only 4 years old when her family arrived as Palestinian refugees after the second Gulf War in the 1990s.
One of eight children, she said, she generally found acceptance here. That changed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. As a high school teenager and an Arab Muslim, she said, she faced repercussions that she attributes to a lack of understanding.
Today, she's 22 with a degree from Alverno College in history and philosophy, and contemplating her future.
Othman and Kadadha and a growing number of others have joined forces to create a new organization - the Arab Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute.
By establishing a new nonprofit organization, they hope to research the history of Arab Muslim women in the Milwaukee area and also serve as a resource, especially for women newly arrived from the Muslim world who may need help finding English classes, getting their children enrolled in school and locating employment.
"We also want to promote understanding of the issues that impact the lives of Arab and Muslim women," said Othman, sitting in her office at Marquette.
Full report at: http://www.jsonline.com/features/religion/78194362.html
Iran's capture of British yacht is latest incident to strain relations: analysis
Richard Spencer in Dubai
01 Dec 2009
Iran's seizure of the racing yacht the Kingdom of Bahrain with five Britons on board is the latest in a series of incidents that have caused tensions between Tehran and the West.
Three American backtrackers who in July strayed marginally into Iranian territory while hiking in the mountains on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan remain in Tehran's political prison, Evin. A prosecutor wants to charge them with espionage.
Iran's leaders are known for being anti-American, but their dislike of Britain is just as virulent - the country is the "Little Satan" to the "Great Satan" of the United States.
Britain's imperial role in the Middle East is easily used as a weapon by sabre-rattling regimes, and nowhere more so in Iran, where the British joined forces with the CIA to engineer a coup against a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in 1953. He was attempting to nationalise the oil industry.
Britain's complaints about the election that put the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, back in office are portrayed in this light - as another attempt to engineer regime change.
More to the point, Iranians who work for western organisations, particularly British and American ones, are easily portrayed first as stooges and then as spies, and those who venture into its territory can bear the consequences.
An Iranian employee of the British Embassy in Tehran was sentenced to four years in jail after the elections.
The four British and one Irish crew members of the King of Bahrain may ultimately be released, as the 15 sailors and marines of HMS Cornwall were in 2007. But in the meantime, the Iranian government, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in person, can be expected to milk the crisis for any advantage they can find.
Mr Ahmadinejad is already engaged in a high stakes confrontation over his country's nuclear programme, where rhetoric, such as his recent decision decision to commission ten uranium enrichment plants, can sometimes seem to cast realism into the shade.
Muslim Tory peer pelted with eggs for "not being a proper Muslim"
A tory peer was pelted with eggs yesterday for "not being a proper Muslim".
Baroness Warsi was attacked by a group of male protesters while campaigning.
Recently named Britain's most powerful Muslim woman, the shadow Cabinet minister said she had tried to talk to the protesters in Luton, Beds.
She later told the BBC they were "idiots" who did "not represent the majority of British Muslims".
Protester Sayful Islam said: "We don't know who threw the eggs. We tried to engage her in a conversation, but she did not have the answers.
"We wanted to know why, as a Muslim, she supported soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her views are an affront to Islam."
Suicide blast kills Pakistani lawmaker
December 1, 2009,
A teenage suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban provincial lawmaker in northwest Pakistan today after walking into the official's house and blowing himself up.
More than a dozen people were wounded in the attack in Swat valley, police said.
The army, battling a Taliban insurgency, launched what it said was a successful offensive in Swat in late April that cleared most of the area, but it still faces pockets of resistance.
Pakistan is under growing US pressure to crack down harder on militants in border areas to help it fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama is expected to send 30,000 more troops to try to put down an insurgency.
The slain lawmaker, Shamsher Ali, was a member of the Awami National Party, part of a coalition that rules the North West Frontier Province. Police said two of his brothers were wounded in the attack, one critically.
"People were coming to exchange Eid greetings with him when a man came and blew himself up," his relative Farooq Khan said, referring to the Muslim holy festival which ended yesterday.
Five questions for Obama on Afghan war
By Gordon M. Goldstein
December 1, 2009
New York (CNN) -- As a candidate and president, Barack Obama has distinguished himself as one of the most dynamic and enthralling orators in decades of American politics.
On issues ranging from race to health care to engagement with the Muslim world, he has repeatedly applied his rare gifts to both galvanize supporters and engage his critics and the undecided. Yet it will take more than an eloquent speech before the cadets of West Point to reverse his declining 35 percent approval rating for management of the war in Afghanistan, as his advisers no doubt hope.
Like President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, who tried to balance the demands of his nascent Vietnam policy with a highly ambitious domestic agenda, President Obama confronts a tough series of tests, beginning with his Tuesday night address.
Even more critical than moving the political needle, however, is the imperative of launching a frontal assault on the unanswered strategic questions about Afghanistan that continue to divide the military, his senior counselors and the country at large.
In response to this challenge, Mr. Obama must address the nation not so much as the president he has been but rather as the commander in chief he intends to become, as he finally claims decisive control of a treacherous and uncertain foreign intervention.
Five core questions, in particular, will determine the substantive criteria by which the necessity and viability of his anticipated 30,000 troop escalation in Afghanistan will be evaluated.
Indonesian Islamists protest condom use for preventing AIDS
SURABAYA, Dec 1 (AFP) - Hundreds of Indonesian Islamists rallied on Tuesday, World AIDS day, to demand the implementation of sharia law to prevent the spread of AIDS rather than condom use.
About 700 members from the Muslim Women of Hizbut Tahrir group staged a rally in the city of Surabaya in East Java province, distributing pamphlets on AIDS.
"We have to admit that using condoms is equal to legalising free sex," Muslim Women of Hizbut Tahrir spokeswoman Febrianti Abassuni said in a statement.
"We hope that the government stops the programme and returns to the application of sharia," she said, referring to the Islamic legal code that has strict rules on gender segregation, sexuality and drug use.
Hizbut spokeswoman for the rally Nurul Izzati said that they also rejected harm reduction programmes for drug users.
"It has been proved that harm reduction cannot stop the behaviour of drug users and cannot guarantee that they won't share needles," Izzati said.
"We also urge the government to close down brothels."
Hundreds of members of the Hizbut Tahrir group rallied Sunday on the streets of several cities including Jakarta, Solo, Yogyakarta and Makassar.
Around 270,000 Indonesians are estimated to be infected with HIV, and AIDS has claimed about 8,700 lives in the Muslim-majority nation of 228 million people, according to the UNAIDS agency.
Britain to mediate in Philippine-Muslim peace bid
MANILA, Dec 1 (AFP) - Britain Tuesday agreed to join a special group working to revive formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group.
"I am happy to accept the invitation on behalf of the UK government," British ambassador Stephen Lillie said in a statement.
"I hope the ICG (International Contact Group) will help both parties in their efforts to work for a lasting and just peace in Mindanao," he said.
Talks collapsed in late 2008 when the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) launched deadly attacks across the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The attacks came after the Supreme Court outlawed a proposed deal that would have given the MILF control over large areas claimed by the rebel group as its "ancestral domain".
Over 700,000 people were displaced at the height of the fighting and nearly 400 were killed in the clashes in what aid agencies said was a humanitarian crisis. Over 250,000 people remain in evacuation sites across Mindanao.
Both sides in September agreed to return to talks and enforced ceasefires. They also agreed to create the ICG, comprising foreign observers to help broker the talks.
The contact group also consists of Turkey, Japan and several international non-governmental organizations.
Since 1978, the MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, the southern third of this predominantly Catholic nation.
The insurgency has left over 150,000 people dead and stunted the growth of the mineral-rich southern island.
Muslim British government official pelted with eggs
1 December 2009
MANCHESTER: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was attacked with eggs on November 30 while doing a circuit of the English town Luton, just outside London.
The protesters, who were all male, accused Baroness Warsi of not being a proper Muslim and said that she does not “represent Islam.” They also said that she supported the death of Muslims in Afghanistan.
The Baroness, who is the Conservative Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, had stopped to speak to the group of men, attempting to engage them in a conversation. It was to little avail. She was then taken in to a nearby shop to clear the eggs that had been thrown at her.
She told the local media that had gathered nearby that it was valuable for them to witness the attack as it demonstrates the types of people that do not represent Islam or “real British Muslims.” She commented that it is behavior like this that brings Muslims into “huge disrepute.”
One of the demonstrators, Sayful Islam, told reporters that Baroness Warsi “is not a practicing Muslim. Clearly by looking at her she does not represent Muslims.” The Baroness was wearing trousers and a sweater, but has her hair uncovered as she does not wear the veil, like a number of British Muslims.
Sayful Islam added that the protesters were “against everything she stands for.”
The Baroness added to reporters that “I stood up to this group and said I challenge your views,” adding that “they just weren’t prepared to listen. They shouted. I said if you want to have this debate, listen.”
Earlier this year, Warsi was named the most powerful British Muslim woman at an -----
British Muslim woman lawmaker pelted with eggs
1 December 200
LONDON: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Tory lawmaker and one of the most powerful British women politicians faced the ire of fundamentalist men when they pelted eggs on her, claiming she was not a proper Muslim.
Warsi, a member of House of Lords of Pakistani origin, was confronted by the fundamentalist while she was campaigning in Luton, a London suburb who started shouting abuses at her, according to British Television reports.
The protesters took objection and charged that the Baroness was not properly attired and that she supported the death of Muslims in Afghanistan.
But Warsi, stood her ground and challenged the men to a debate on their charges. But the group of men refused to listen to her.
The television footage showed egg in her hair and on her jacket, and the Baroness later described the men as "a bunch of idiots" who did not represent the Muslims in Britain.
Warsi is a member of the British House of Lords and also a member of the Tory Shadow Cabinet.
Prejudice against Muslims is unfair
December 1, 2009
Whether it is domestic violence or workplace shootings, in a country of 305 million, the Muslim community, as well as Islam, is put on trial and quickly convicted by public opinion and a variety of "watchdog" blogs if the suspect has a Muslim-sounding name.
Recent letters regarding the horrible events at Fort Hood, Texas, are examples.
The media in general, and "watchdog" Web sites in particular, have (appropriately) never questioned Jason Rodriguez's religious affiliation after he killed six employees in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 6. But the Nov. 5 shooting in Fort Hood was automatically perceived to be a result of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's professed faith, Islam.
It should not surprise readers that many members of the Capital Region Muslim community have honorably served, and continue to serve, in the armed services. The Times Union did poignant news coverage of the funeral of Mohsin Naqvi, the Muslim soldier and newlywed, who died in Afghanistan and was buried in an emotional funeral in Colonie last September.
Vitriolic letters with terms like "Islamo-terrorism" do more than just display xenophobia, they show a lack of respect for Mohsin Naqvi and others who are in harm's way today to protect Mark Alesse's right to express his prejudices publicly.
Nigeria: Muslim Lawyers Pray For Yar'Adua
1 December 2009
Abuja — Muslim lawyers under the umbrella of Muslim Lawyers' Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja branch have prayed to Allah to grant President Umaru Yar'adua a perfect health.
MULAN's FCT Chairman Abdullahi Awwal Muhammad also prayed to God to guide the president towards steering the ship of Nigeria to safe abode.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the Association rejoiced with all Muslims on the just celebrated Eid-il-Kabir festival and urged them to always speak the truth and fear Allah in all their dealings.
"May I use this period of Eid Festival, a season so vital in the life of Muslim Ummah globally, to wish our president a perfect health and guide him towards ruling this country to success," the statement read in part.
"In the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he says, there are three people we must love; one is our Parent, second and third are our Kings, Emirs or Obas and our President."
Imam aims to break Aids taboo
1 December 2009
By Robert Pigott
In the mid 1980s, uncompromising government television advertisements told people, "don't die of ignorance".
But, 21 years after the first World Aids Day in 1988, people are still dying of ignorance.
A large proportion of infected people are unaware that they carry the virus, and, such is the taboo surrounding HIV, many of them would rather stay in the dark.
Of those who do know that they are infected, they are desperate not to admit it.
Religions are often credited as the means by which moral values, such as care for others, are reinforced and passed on.
But some charities and anti-HIV groups claim religion is helping to breed the very stigma that the UN says has helped give the UK twice as many new cases of infection each year as any other country in western Europe.
The UK's Health Protection Agency says the number of estimated cases rose by 8% between 2007 and 2008.
But it is thought 22,000 of the 83,000 people with HIV do not know they are infected.
Barrier of ignorance
In denouncing the behaviour that allows the virus to spread, religious leaders sometimes drive HIV-positive people underground.
The same black and white approach can also prevent faith groups from promoting practical measures - such as the use of condoms - because they may be seen as condoning "immoral" behaviour.
Veena O'Sullivan, who heads the HIV Unit in the Christian development agency Tearfund, says stigma and ignorance remain among the greatest barriers to tackling the AIDS pandemic.
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8388047.stm
O.C. man says FBI hired him to spy on Muslims
Monday, November 30, 2009
WEST COVINA, Calif. (KABC) -- An Orange County man was in court Monday to ask a judge to unseal records he says will prove he was an FBI informant who spied on Southern California mosques and the Muslims who worship there.
He also claims those FBI ties led to prison time.
Craig Monteilh went to court to get ammunition in a $10 million lawsuit against the FBI. No one denies that the bulky, bald Monteilh was an FBI informant. However, the FBI does deny that its informants target Muslim mosques as Monteilh alleges.
"I was instructed by my FBI handlers to infiltrate as many as possible using my undercover name Faroq Al Aziz," said Monteilh. "I was instructed to direct my efforts to suspected leadership in mosques."
Monteil wants a judge to unseal records of a hearing involving Ahmadullah Sais Niazi. Niazi allegedly has ties to al-Qaeda, and an FBI agent testified at that hearing that Niazi was secretly recorded by an informant threatening to blow up buildings.
That informant supposedly was Monteilh, and he's suing the FBI for going back on a deal that resulted in Monteilh serving prison time for grand theft. The court records might help his case.
"They essentially destroyed this man's life. He trusted them. In the end, he was allowed to go to prison and his family was allowed to be ripped apart for grand theft," said Monteilh's attorney Adam Krolikowski.
Monteilh says he was recruited by FBI counterterrorism agents to spy on the Islamic community. He says he monitored about a dozen mosques in Orange and Los Angeles counties. He's not a Muslim but says he learned enough of the religion and language to pass for one.
"Agent Armstrong informed me that although my work was a great service to my country, it was also unconstitutional and highly illegal," said Monteilh.
Monteilh will be back in court Thursday when the judge will decide whether to unseal the records.
MARGAO: Muslims will be taken into confidence: CS
TNN 1 December 200
MARGAO: The state government has allayed fears of the Muslim community of a decision being forced on it regarding the long-pending demand for a burial ground.
Chief secretary Sanjay Srivastava told TOI that if there is apprehension among the members of the community of them not being taken into confidence while deciding on the kabrastan issue then it is misplaced. "I will speak to the collector," he said with regard to the growing restlessness of the minorities that the district collector is acquiring land for a burial ground at Rumdamol in Davorlim.
The minority community has sent several representations to the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Minorities and also the state chief secretary.
Indian army chief's comments on war irresponsible: Gilani
30 November 2009
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today described the Indian Army chief's comments about the possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang as "irresponsible" and said "conflicts" between Pakistan and India could only be resolved through dialogue.
Gilani made the remarks while interacting with the media before embarking on a four-day official visit to Germany and Britain. ( Watch Video )
He was responding to a question about Indian Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor's recent comment that "a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still very much a reality in the Indian subcontinent".
"Conflicts between Pakistan and India can only be resolved through dialogue and even India is aware of this," he said.
In response to another question, he said Pakistan had rendered more sacrifices than other countries in the war on terror.
Gilani described Germany as a key economic partner of Pakistan and said his visit will help boost ties between the two countries.
The premier will exchange views on bilateral ties and global and regional matters with the top leadership of Germany and Britain.
Muslim With A Brain, By Sophia Rose Shafi
Dec 1, 2009
I recently had the privilege of seeing Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi speak on the compatibility of human rights and Islam. As I awaited her appearance, two lovely Persian women sat next to me. After uttering the five or six lines I know in Farsi, we began to speak in English, and soon they self-identified as Iranian atheists, after which I revealed that I was in fact a Muslimah. After their jaws dropped to the floor, one of them said, “Why is a woman as intelligent and educated as you a Muslim?”
I wish I had a clever reply, such as, “It is precisely because I am intelligent and educated that I am a Muslim,” but instead I blurted out, “Why is this incompatible?” I was met with several anecdotes of how horrible Islam is, because females inherit half as much as men, and Muslim men have the right to beat their wives, and so on. I was kind of speechless, and while thinking about how to respond (such as with an egalitarian Qur’anic passage or some lines from Hafiz), the program began. Alhamdulillah!
By the end of the speech my neighbors were shaking their heads in agreement with Ebadi’s points, chiefly that Islam is open to various interpretations and that there is indeed a reform movement taking place among ayatollahs, intellectuals, and others in Iran. I didn’t have a chance to speak with the Persian atheists after Ebadi’s speech, but if I had, I would have said, “See? A woman can be both a Muslim AND a rational, sensible intellectual.”
While Islamic intellectuals, such as Shirin Ebadi, Tariq Ramadan, Abdolkarim Soroush and others are working on reform, many continue to resist the idea that Muslims are capable of rational, not to mention revolutionary, thinking. Even those un-antagonistic towards Islam refuse to report on the current state of affairs. Do we have one prominent article on Ebadi’s work in Iran on behalf of reformists, women, and Bahais in the past year? Why is Dr. Ramadan still denied a travel visa to the United States? Do many outside of the field of Religious Studies know about Soroush’s theory of Islamic democracy?
Sadly, I would wager a ‘No, but some may know Ebadi as the Nobel Laurate whose medal was just confiscated by the Iranian government,’ ‘Because sadly, many view him as a jihadi fundamentalist,’ and ‘No, is that like Baba Ganoush?’
Thanksgiving: the Bary family had an empty chair for their daughter Fathima Rifqa Bary.
December 1, 2009
As millions of Americans celebrated family this Thanksgiving, the Bary family had an empty chair at their table for their daughter, Fathima Rifqa Bary.
The child was lured away interstate by people who met her on the Internet. They spoke with this minor, while her parents slept, sowing the seeds of their own prejudice about Islam into this child's impressionable mind. They bought a ticket for her under a fake name and hid her from the authorities. Later on, opportunistic politicians hungry for the right-wing votes in 2010 coarsley inserted themselves in this family matter.
Under interstate compact, the runaway child should have been returned to the Ohio authorities, and her enablers taken to task according to the law. Instead, her family was forced to defend itself in a Florida court against obscene accusations of contemplating "honor killing" and of having terrorist links. Mohamed Bary's clean record of having a Catholic-school education and many Christian friends was overlooked.
The findings by Columbus, Ohio, police and Franklin County Children Services were ignored, and the Florida Department of Children and Families and an attorney asked that the "threat from the [Muslim] community at large" of Columbus, Ohio, be investigated. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement rightly refused to do so.
Jurisdiction is the seminal issue in any litigation, as it was here. But the inappropriate question that repeatedly was allowed in court was whether Muslims are ordered to kill their children for apostasy. Eventually, the Barys had to file a dependency action against themselves in Ohio, in order to wrest their daughter from the grips of a system that refused to give them a fair shake, despite the evidence in their favor.
Sophisticated bigotry is bigotry nonetheless. When intolerant political forces align to misuse the courts to obfuscate the law and violate the civil rights of others, all law-abiding Americans must take heed. Nowadays, it has become too acceptable to stereotype Muslims, even in polite society, and to generalize this faith of millions of Americans without thinking twice of the toll it takes on the community at large.
Not a day goes by that some anti-Muslim rhetoric dehumanizing and reducing them to a caricature goes unchallenged in the media. Meanwhile, the seldom-solicited Muslim perspective is suspected and dismissed as Islamist or Jihadist by a certain audience.
So this holiday season, while we give thanks for our families and freedom, let us also keep in mind the Bary family with one empty chair at the table.
And as we thank our young men and women in uniform, let us also recognize that thousands of Muslim soldiers from many countries are fighting along with our brave troops against the menace of al-Qaida. We are all in this together, and we all have a right to live with honor.
Shayan Elahi is an Orlando lawyer who represented Rifqa Bary's father, Mohamed Bary, in the Florida dependency case.
Murder Of Priest Highlights Missionary Role In Russian Church
December 01, 2009
by Kevin O'Flynn
Flowers still decorate the gates of St. Thomas, the small wooden church in the south of Moscow where Father Daniil Sysoyev served.
They represent an outpouring of grief for the priest who had built his parish from nothing and hoped to eventually build in place of the modest wooden structure a brick church big enough to hold 2,000 people.
Four red carnations adorn a photo of the priest, who was murdered November 19 after an unidentified gunman entered his church and shot Sysoyev twice. Someone has pinned up a poem dedicated to him. A sign nearby notes that surveillance cameras have been installed at the church in the wake of the tragedy.
St. Thomas held a service on November 28 to mark the ninth day after the killing. Sysoyev was only 35 years old but had already built a reputation as a priest who stood out for his proselytizing work among Russia’s Muslim community -- a relatively new phenomena for the Orthodox Church.
Andrei Zolotov, a journalist specializing in religious issues, says Sysoyev was known for his missionary zeal.
“He was one of the several most prominent missionaries, and also someone who was known as a bit controversial -- one of those who insisted on the necessity of missionary work among Muslims,” Zolotov says.
Sysoyev actively sought to convert Muslims, working in the capital city’s Muslim communities and reaching out to the thousands of immigrant workers who have come to Moscow from Central Asia, the North Caucasus, and elsewhere. He would routinely go to the city’s construction sites, where many immigrants are employed, and successfully converted as many as 80 people.
But his work didn’t stop there. He also wrote books warning Christians not to marry Muslims and posted online videos that attacked Islam. Copies of his book, “An Orthodox Response to Islam,” have sold out at St. Thomas in the days since his death.
Terrorist Willie Brigitte to be freed after serving less than half his jail sentence
December 02, 2009
AUSTRALIA'S most notorious terrorist Willie Brigitte will be free from jail next year, having served less than half his sentence for conspiring to blow up the nation's only nuclear reactor and the power grid.
Caribbean-born Muslim convert Brigitte made headlines in 2007 when he was sentenced in France, following his arrest in Sydney, to a maximum nine years in jail for joining an al-Qaeda-backed Pakistani terror cell out to bomb Lucas Heights nuclear plant, the national electricity grid and/or a military base.
But The Daily Telegraph reports that the French Justice Ministry is considering releasing the 41-year-old on an early release good behaviour plan - possibly in the new year.
He is expected to immediately leave France for the Middle East, with Australia definitely off his itinerary.
Authorities close to his case in Paris said the decision would no doubt cause some diplomatic ructions in Australia but that the judiciary was a separate arm of the state.
The French national's lawyer Jean Claude Durimel last night confirmed the expected early release of his client.
"He will be free next year, it was nine years but with good behaviour," Mr Durimel said.
"Of course he is happy. He had no problem in prison, he had good behaviour and when people are of good behaviour they may leave early."
Mr Durimel visited Brigitte in his maximum security cell in a complex outside Paris in the past couple of months to break the news.
Full report at:-----
Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah announces new manifesto
30 November 2009
The head of the Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah, has set out a new manifesto for the party.
In a televised speech Hassan Nasrallah focused on the group's armed confrontation with Israel, saying negotiations would not bring peace.
"The Israeli threat calls for a defence strategy built on popular resistance to defend against aggression," he said.
Hezbollah holds 10 seats in Lebanon's 30-member unity government formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The speech took place from an undisclosed location as Sheik Nasrallah fears Israeli assassination.
The AFP news agency reported him saying he would increase Hezbollah's military strength to stop Israel making the Lebanese suffer.
"The ongoing Israeli threat forces the resistance to continue to boost its capacity in order to fulfil its role in liberating occupied territory," he said.
The Hezbollah leader, who is backed by Iran and Syria, called for Lebanese political unity and the end to sectarianism, insisting Hezbollah and the Lebanese army had to resist Israel together.
The Lebanese unity government was only formed after five months of political deadlock that had threatened the country's stability.
Hezbollah's armed militia remains a divisive issue in parliament.
In May 2008 it deployed forces in parts of the Lebanese capital dominated by pro-government groups when political negotiations failed.
Hezbollah fought a war with Israel in 2006 during which more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, were killed. Some 160 Israelis, most of whom were soldiers, also died.
Faiths called to account over women's lot
December 2, 2009
TWO-THIRDS of the world's hungry, two-thirds of the world's illiterate and two-thirds of the world's poor are women, and this is no accident, an international summit in Melbourne will hear today.
''Someone somewhere has decided that women deserve less,'' Sister Joan Chittister, chairwoman of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, will tell a summit on religion and development at Federation Square.
''If the faith communities brought their faith to bear on public policy we would change the world overnight, we would double the resources available, we would bring a new perspective.''
Though not doubled, resources are growing. In a ''massively significant investment'', the summit will announce nearly $1 billion in funding for programs to improve gender equality and maternal health in the Asia-Pacific region, according to organiser Jane Sloane of the Melbourne-based International Women's Development Agency.
The programs made possible by new funding would be run by independent aid organisations such as AusAID, Care Australia and World Vision across the region, Ms Sloane said.
The UN Population Fund plans a campaign to tackle maternal mortality, violence against women, faith-based outreach, female genital mutilation and empowering adolescent girls in more than 50 countries. United Way will bring women's leadership councils to 46 countries, while the Sister Fund and Women's Funding Network will greatly enlarge the Women Moving Millions campaign.
The two-day Breakthrough summit, whose deliberations will be shown live on Federation Square's giant screens, would launch an alliance of faith communities and development agencies to fight the feminisation of poverty, Ms Sloane said.
Then its deliberations and recommendations will be given on Friday at the Parliament of the World's Religions, which opens in Melbourne tomorrow night.
''The parliament's executive director, Dirk Ficca, told us the summit was a fantastic model for this and future parliaments. Policy impacts can be discussed beforehand to inform the parliament,'' Ms Sloane said. Delegates to the summit include Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist organisations across the region.
Sister Joan, a Benedictine nun and social commentator who is also involved in several programs at the parliament, told The Age it was time for every religion and every society to give the treatment of women their full moral attention. ''You cannot treat half the human race as less than human,'' she said.
US Jihadists Travel to Somalia for Terror Training
By Jim Kouri
December - 1 - 2009
Terrorism charges were unsealed in federal court in Minnesota last week against another eight suspects. According to the documents obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police's Terrorism Committee, the criminal charges include providing financial support to those who traveled to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda and a designated foreign terrorist organization; attending terrorist training camps operated by al-Shabaab; and fighting on behalf of al-Shabaab.
So far, 14 defendants have been charged in the District of Minnesota in indictments or criminal complaints that have been unsealed and brought in connection with an ongoing investigation into the recruitment of persons from U.S. communities to train with -- or fight on behalf of -- extremist groups in Somalia. Four of these defendants have previously pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
“The recruitment of young people from Minneapolis and other U.S. communities to fight for extremists in Somalia has been the focus of intense investigation for many months,” Assistant Attorney General David Kris said.
“While the charges unsealed today underscore our progress to date, this investigation is ongoing. Those who sign up to fight or recruit for al-Shabaab’s terror network should be aware that they may will end up as defendants in the United States or casualties of the Somali conflict,” he said.
According to court documents, between September 2007 and October 2009, approximately 20 young men, all but one of Somali descent, left the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area and traveled to Somalia, where they trained with al-Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization.
Many of them ultimately fought with al-Shabaab against Ethiopian forces, African Union troops, and the internationally-supported Transitional Federal Government (“TFG”).
Switzerland and its Muslims
December 1, 2009
Switzerland passed a referendum as a first step in its reaction to Islam. The referendum amended the Swiss Constitution to ban erection of minarets on mosques, but not mosques, themselves. The Constitution otherwise guarantees freedom of religion.
Switzerland already banned projection of high decibel levels. Minarets there do not broadcast into the streets. Therefore, the move for banning new minarets was not against noise. The party that initiated the referendum described the new ban as symbolic. That foretells of further efforts along those lines.
The successful current effort bears no relation to the problems concerning Switzerland and many other countries: (1) A large Muslim immigration coupled with a low native birth rate; (2) Increasing Muslims efforts to change the national culture over to an Islamic one, starting small but having ambition, and less and less tendency to assimilate and live in tolerance; and (3) Terrorism from radicalization (New York Times and Wall St. J, 11/30).
Not remedying any problem, the new ban is just intolerant. Hurts without healing.
Immigration reform would be less of a remedy than imagined, now that Radical Muslims can use Internet to radicalize young Muslims in Western countries.