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Islamic World News ( 24 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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26 killed in three blasts in Pak in one day

Pakistan Air Force Site Is Bombed

Seven dead in latest Pakistan violence

Now, Karnataka wants probe into 'Love Jihad'

Hindu temple demolished in Malaysia

PATNA: Muslims make 'chulhas' for Chhath devotees

Islamic fundamentalism rising in Maldives

Chechnya: Radical Islamization or Local Tradition?

Sudanese Women Sentenced For Wearing Pants

Egypt's women plagued by sexual harassment

Five Indonesian banks set to launch Islamic units

Dhaka -- Bomb injures 13 in Dhaka, ruling party MP escapes unhurt

Tajikistan begins work on Central Asia's biggest mosque

Islamists in Somalia Threaten Other Nations

Berlin - 'Veil martyr' trial to start

Grand Mufti’s mission in Egypt, issuing 5,000 fatawas a week

Al-Qaida threat looms over India

RDX being smuggled into India with cement from Pak

US tells Pak not to use aid for confrontation against India

NATO Defence Ministers Endorse Wider Afghan Effort

Iran Defers on Nuclear Deal, Proposing Alternative

Iranian nuclear deal under threat

A Lone Cleric Is Loudly Defying Iran’s Leaders

Can the Muppets Make Friends in Ramallah?

Israel Signals Concern on Iran Talks

Refusing runoff would be 'insulting democracy: Karzai

Harun Yahya, Islamic creationist superstar

Women Marines want a chance outside the Afghan wire

Indonesia a hub for human-trafficking gang bosses

Jakarta: Communities key in preventing terrorist-cadre links

Nick Griffin of BNP uses BBC to attack Islam and defend the Ku Klux Klan

CAIRO: Aussie Muslim MP Decries Racism

Ottawa: Dr. Farhang Rajaee opens lecture series on Islam and the West

Egypt Air hijack attempt thwarted

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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26 killed in three blasts in Pak in one day

23 October 2009

ISLAMABAD: A fresh wave of terror gripped Pakistan today when suspected Taliban bombers struck a key air force base and an upmarket restaurant and blew up a bus ferrying a marriage party, killing at least 26 people in an apparent reprisal of the army offensive on their stronghold of Waziristan.

As clashes intensified in lawless tribal belt of South Waziristan, militants brought the fight to military's front door again when a cycle-borne suicide bomber blew himself up at a security check point of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra in Punjab province, 50 kms from here, killing eight people, including two air force guards, and injuring 15 others in an early morning raid.

The attack on the strategic Kamra base came nearly two weeks after the Taliban stormed army's General Headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, leaving 22 people dead.

Kamra is Pakistan Air Force's largest maintenance and research base and this was the second assault on the facility reportedly linked to the country's nuclear weapons programme. The first attack had occurred in December 2007.

The base also houses combat jets equipped to carry nuclear warheads, reports said.

According to US intelligence think-tank Stratfor, the strike against the Kamra complex is likely to raise renewed concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Hours after the Kamra attack, militants exploded a landmine under a bus ferrying a marriage party killing at least 18 people, including women and children, and injuring six others in Pakistan's restive Mohmand tribal region.

The incident occurred in Lakaro sub-division, a remote region of Mohmand Agency where security forces are conducting operations against militants.

The mine was planted by militants to target security forces, reports said.

Another suspected Taliban militant detonated a car bomb outside a restaurant in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, injuring at least 15 people.

Witnesses said the blast occurred soon after a man parked a car outside the restaurant in Hayatabad, an upmarket neighbourhood on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. The man, who had long hair, fled immediately after parking the car.

Over 50 kgs of explosives were used in the attack, police said. The walls and windows of the restaurant were blown out by the blast.

Police fired in the air after the explosion to disperse people from the area.

Reports said the restaurant targeted in the attack belonged to the son of a senior leader of the Awami National Party, which is in power in North West Frontier Province and is part of the ruling coalition at the centre.



October 24, 2009

Pakistan Air Force Site Is Bombed


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bombing at Pakistan’s premier aeronautical manufacturing complex killed seven people on Friday morning, the ninth attack on major government installations this month.

The bomber blew up himself at the checkpoint at the entrance to the complex, 40 miles northwest of Islamabad, as workers arrived for the morning shift, said a district police official, Fakhur Sultan.

Two men guarding the checkpoint and five civilians were killed, Mr. Sultan said. The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra is the country’s main air force maintenance and research hub, where engineers and workers build and overhaul fighter jets and radar systems.

The relentless pace of assaults against sensitive and prominent targets in Pakistan comes as the army is conducting a major offensive against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the remote tribal area of South Waziristan. The attacks are seen as reprisals by the militants for the campaign against them in their tribal heartland.

On Thursday morning, a senior army officer, Brig. Moinuddin Haider, was assassinated by two gunmen who attacked his jeep during rush-hour traffic in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

The Taliban had warned before the start of the campaign in South Waziristan that they planned to unleash attacks against Pakistan’s military assets.

The Taliban attacked the headquarters of the Pakistani Army, in Rawalpindi, in a commando-style raid on Oct. 10. The insurgents took more than 40 civilians and soldiers hostage for 20 hours, and more than 20 people were killed in the siege.

With the military nearing the end of its first week of fighting in South Waziristan, some military reports said Friday that soldiers had captured the strategic town of Tor Ghundai on the southeast axis of the army’s assault path.

Elsewhere, at least 16 people were killed when a minibus hit an anti-tank mine on Friday in the tribal area of Mohmand, bordering Afghanistan, district officials said.

“It was an anti-tank mine and consider the damage it would have caused to a mini-bus,” said a senior official in Mohmand tribal region said, requesting that he not be named. “There have been few survivors.” Among the dead were four women and two children. Six others were wounded, he added.

He said that the area was under control of militants, and that troops from the government’s paramilitary Frontier Corps had launched an operation to flush them out of the area. “It seems that the militants had planted the mine to stop the advancing forces,” he said.

Six people wounded in the minibus explosion were brought to Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, where there was another attack Friday. Militants exploded a car bomb in the parking lot of a banquet facility in Peshawar, wounding 10 people, district officials said.

Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar.



Seven dead in latest Pakistan violence

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Bombings across Pakistan on Friday killed at least seven people and wounded 24 others, officials said.

A suicide bomber detonated near a military facility outside the capital, Islamabad, killing seven people and injuring nine others, according to Cantt District Police Officer Fakhar Sultan. Five civilians and two security personnel were killed.

The attack took place at Kamra checkpoint near the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Kamra is about 40 miles (60 kilometers) northwest of Islamabad.

At least 15 people were wounded -- nine seriously -- when a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in northwestern Pakistan, said Peshawar District Coordination Officer Sahibzada M. Anis Khan.

The blast occurred near the Swan restaurant in Peshawar's Hayatabad neighborhood. Two suspects were arrested at the scene, police said.

Hayatabad is a mostly residential area in southwest Peshawar, very close to the border with Khyber agency. Khyber is one of seven districts in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border.

Taliban insurgents have staged attacks across the country in recent weeks in retaliation for a military offensive against Islamic militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Gunmen opened fire on a military vehicle in Islamabad on Thursday, killing an army brigadier and a soldier. On Tuesday, at least six people were killed and 29 others wounded when suicide bombers detonated explosives in the men's and women's sections of International Islamic University.



Now, Karnataka wants probe into 'Love Jihad'

By: Babu Thomas, 23 October 2009

After Kerala, it is now Karnataka that is taking 'Love Jihad' seriously. The Karnataka High Court has directed the state police to join with Kerala in probing the alleged religious conversion racket.

A Division Bench comprising Justices K Sreedhara Rao and Ravi Mallimath issued the direction after hearing a petition filed by the parents of a missing girl.

The petitioner claimed that his daughter Silja Raj was converted to Islam and began staying at a madrasa with the intention of marrying a man from Kerala, whom she fell in love.

Although the girl denied any forced conversion, the court said: "We have serious suspicion regarding the statements of the petitioner’s daughter and the case has ramifications for national security. It has raised questions of unlawful trafficking of girls and women in the state. So it has to be investigated by the police."

The court has demanded a detailed report on November 13.

Talking to reporters, Home Minister V S Acharya said, a series of incidents had come to the government's notice and it will now co-ordinate with the Kerala police to investigate the Islamic radical outfits converting naive girls in the pretext of love.

The government fears that like Kerala many in the state would have been entrapped by Muslim fundamentalists luring Christians and Hindus into marriage. Incidentally, there has been an alarming statistics of missing girls in Karnataka in the last six years. Soon a meeting of top police officials will be convened in the state

According to reports, the case in Kerala received more prominence after two female students in a Christian college - one Hindu and the other a Christian - fell victims to the ploy. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Christian groups have both agreed to join hands to fight against this conspiracy.

‘Both Hindu and Christian girls are falling prey to the design. So we are cooperating with the VHP on tackling this. We will work together to whatever extent possible,’’ K S Samson of CASA earlier said.

The VHP which has started a 'Hindu Helpline' claims to have received as many as 1,500 calls in last three months.



Hindu temple demolished in Malaysia

October 23, 2009

A Hindu temple was demolished in Malaysia’s Opposition-ruled Selongor State on Thursday, prompting an angry reaction from the ethnic Indian political party Malayian Indian Congress which termed it as an act of “treachery” against the minority community.

“The Selangor (State) Government has committed treachery to the Hindu community by not stopping the demolition of the temple,” party president Samy Vellu said commenting on the demolition of the Mathurai Veeran Temple in the Shah Alam neighbourhood, which saw protests last month by some Muslim residents who were against the relocation of a Hindu temple to the area.

Vellu noted that this was not the first incident as another shrine, the Sri Maha Kaliamman Temple, in the state had been demolished in September last year.

The MIC president said despite an appeal by the Mathurai Veeran temple committee in March this year to the February notice sent by the Shah Alam Municipal Council (MPSA).



Muslims make 'chulhas' for Chhath devotees

Faizan Ahmad, 23 October 2009

PATNA: Soon after Durga Puja, Mohd Muslim and his family get busy in procuring clay and other materials to make clay and mud chulhas' exclusively

for Chhath festival. The devotees purchase these chulhas' and cook Chhath prasad on them using firewood.

Mohd Alauddin, Imtiaz, Maimoona Khatoon, Sarwari, Nasso, Shamila Khatoon and others spend days making these chulhas. These are sold in the market a few days prior to the Lord Bhaskar's festival of devotion.

"We have been doing this for years and now it is like a devotion for us to prepare these chulhas," said 55-year old Mohd Muslim.

Mohd Makkan, who has been doing this for over 25 years, said the Chhath devotees prefer to purchase the chulhas from them.

"We do it with full devotion and take care that no dirt touches the chulhas," said Umaida Khatoon.

These families live at Adalatgunj, the locality besides the posh Beer Chand Patel Path here. The chulhas are sold in the markets on Serpentine Road, Meethapur, Bailey Road and other places. The cost of the chulhas range between Rs 25 and Rs 35.

Full Report at:


Islamic fundamentalism rising in Maldives

October 23rd, 2009

President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Saleem has said that Islamic Fundamentalism is rising day by day in Maldives. He said this in an interview given to Miadhu Daily about how the Commission has come to know that there are 9 year old girls married in Maldives.

Ahmed Saleem said that they have officially requested the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to look into this matter and to take necessary steps against it.

“We have information from reliable sources about how some people who had been given permit by the Islamic Affairs Ministry to give religious sermons had visited some islands during Ramadan and talk about their nine year olds being married. We have passed on detailed information about this to the Islamic Affairs Ministry. The Ministry has to take action against this and also advice the man behind this.” said Saleem.

In the Maldives, the legal age of marriage is 18, but provision is made where girls under this age can marry with the permission of their parents and court consent.

Saleem said that it was religious fundamental scholars who were talking about marring 9 year old girls and that different social problems will crop out of it. Speaking in this regard President of HRCM said that Islamic Affairs Ministry should be more efficient in curtailing Islamic fundamentalism.

Saleem also said that Islamic fundamentals were denying their children a number of child rights. He said, “They don’t send their children to school. This is even against Islamic principles. They don’t vaccinate their children. Vaccination is a right of every child and by denying their children this right they are going against basic human rights. Even religion will not allow it. Islamic fundamentalism rising day by day in Maldives. ”

Full Report at:


Islamization or Local Tradition?

by Asya Ramazanova

23 October 2009

The Chechen president insists his morality campaign is aimed at foiling radicalism, but many Chechens don’t see it that way. From Liberali.

GROZNY, Chechnya | “The Heart of Chechnya” is the big new mosque in the center of the Chechen capital, Grozny. Its size and design is so impressive that locals are sure it is the biggest mosque in Europe.

The mosque was built by special order of the young president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. He dedicated it to his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, the Chechen leader who, several years ago, was killed by guerillas for being too close to the Kremlin.

“Islam is flourishing here,” Ramzan Kadyrov said of post-war Chechnya. He is a frequent visitor to the mosque.“We are doing everything to make it attractive for people to become Muslims,” he continued.

This large mosque is one of many erected since 2008 in line with Ramzan Kadyrov’s “return to spirituality and morality” campaign. Local people call these processes “the Islamization of Chechnya.”

Women’s dress was the first item regulated under Kadyrov’s new campaign. Since the beginning of 2008, no woman is allowed to enter a state building unveiled. Those who try are fired, and not allowed to enter the building.


Ramzan Kadyrov

The leader gives orders; people under his command follow the instructions. Last summer, local women walking along the streets of Grozny without veils and in short skirts were filmed, and later the same day shown on local television.

“Where are the eyes of her male relatives?” “How can we entrust them with the upbringing of future generations?” Comments like these dotted the special reports on these women.

Islam is supposed to be everywhere. New regulations have been imposed for taxi and mini-bus drivers. They are now obliged to have a television set inside their vehicles. Readings from the Koran and sermons of mullahs and imams are to be shown to their passengers. If no TV set is installed, the driver gets fired.

Scenes like these amaze newcomers to Chechnya. They may worry about the favoritism shown to Islamic customs in a republic well known for its problems with Islamist radicals and Wahhabism.

In the past few years, Chechnya experienced two bloody wars between local guerillas and the Russian army. Religious struggle against the Russian rulers was one of the main reasons for this conflict.

Full Report at:


Khartoum -- Sudanese Women Sentenced For Wearing Pants

Oct 22, 2009

Two Sudanese women who dared to show the country they can wear trousers ended up with Sudanese officials showing them it's the government that really wears the pants.

The Muslim women were sentenced to 20 lashes and fined for committing an act of indecency by donning the trousers in public.

Female activists are denouncing the sentencing, saying Sudan's public order regulations are vague.

They also contend police are given too much free rein in deciding what is decent clothing for women.

The incident involving the two women comes just weeks after a female journalist was arrested and flogged for the same offense.

All of the women were arrested while attending the same party in July.

(Copyright 2009 by VERTEXNews/Newsroom Solutions)



Egypt's harassment disease

23 October 2009

From street assaults to abusive phone calls, women in Egypt are plagued by sexual harassment. It's time to act against it

When I was a student at university in Cairo, the college campus was considered a safe haven, a refuge from the lewd and abusive harassment that female students suffered on their way to class. American year-abroad students in particular regularly stumbled on to campus in tears of rage, fuming at the liberties men took on the streets of Cairo.

Last week's report on the rise of phone harassment in Egypt illustrated an extension of this culture. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where consensual phone relationships between men and women are struck up to circumvent the gender segregation in the country, in Egypt these calls are one-sided and predatory – an outlet for lewd and violating language. We're not talking good-natured flattery. References to body parts and sexual acts are common.

Apparently, however, this is how males act in a sexually repressed society. This is an unsatisfactory and patronising explanation. It is also a cop-out, allowing offenders to claim some sort of victimhood and sympathy for their "repressed" state. Egypt is hardly the most sexually repressed country in the Arab world; indeed, it is one of the most liberal in terms of pop culture and social freedoms. The gender segregation and extreme repression in some Gulf countries has not spawned this visceral and endemic degradation of women.

Full Report at:


Five Indonesian banks set to launch Islamic units

By Sonya Angraini and Gde Anugrah Arka, Oct 23, 2009

BI says sharia units can become sharia banks in one month

Revised law on VAT encouraging banks to set up sharia units

Paper reports U.S. insurer looking at buying sharia bank

Five Indonesian banks including Bank Central Asia (BBCA.JK), the No. 3 lender, expect to launch standalone sharia units next year, boosting the sharia market in the world's most populous Muslim nation, officials said.

Industry officials said the revised law on value added tax, which removed double taxation in the Islamic market, would encourage more banks to set up Islamic banking subsidiaries. The double taxation had made Islamic transactions more expensive than comparable conventional deals.

"We hope that it would be easier for us to expand business and seek strategic partners. We also hope to grow faster and attract investors from Middle East," said Barno Sudarwanto, head of planning and development at the sharia unit of Bank Negara Indonesia (BBNI.JK), the No. 4 bank, which will be spun off.

Others due to set up separate sharia banking units include mid-sized lenders Bank Panin (PNBN.JK), Bank Victoria (BVIC.JK) and unlisted Bank Jabar Banten.

Investor Daily newspaper on Friday reported that a U.S. insurance firm had met with central bank officials this week to discuss the possibility of buying an Islamic-compliant lender in Indonesia, without giving details.

Conventional banks typically set up their Islamic subsidiaries by first setting up Islamic banking departments and later on converting them into separate Islamic banks. Others, including BCA, may acquire smaller conventional banks and turn them into Islamic subsidiaries.

Full Report at:


Dhaka -- Bomb injures 13 in Dhaka, ruling party MP escapes unhurt

October 23, 2009

A ruling party lawmaker escaped unhurt from a terrorist attack, which left at least 13 people injured in Bangladesh’s capital on Thursday, police said.

Unidentified attackers threw a powerful bomb just behind the car of Fazle Noor Taposh, an MP of the ruling Awami League party and one of the close relatives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed, as he left his private office for the evening.

The explosion ripped out his car’s rear windows and injured passersby and party deputies, said Wahidul Alam Arif, a member of the politician’s personal staff. The blast also left a hole on the busy street, police said. The injured were being treated in different city hospitals.

“We are looking into what kind of bomb it was and who was responsible for the attack,” the chief of Bangladesh Police, Noor Mohammad, said.

Security has been beefed up across Bangladesh capital following the attack while the ruling party activists brought out processions protesting the attack.



Tajikistan begins Central Asia's biggest mosque

By Khayrullo Fayz

On what now looks like an enormous car park in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, work has begun on a gigantic new mosque.

One square block of stone has been laid by President Emomali Rakhmon to signal the start of construction.

When completed in five years, Central Asia's poorest state will be home to the region's largest mosque, dwarfing the Turkmenbashi mosque in neighbouring Turkmenistan, which can hold 10,000 people

It will include tall minarets and painted columns that are to symbolise the world and the seven gates to paradise.

There will be fountains to represent Tajikistan's large water reserves as well as a museum, library and conference halls.

But with the capacity to hold 150,000 worshippers in a city of just over 700,000 people, critics are saying the mosque is an extravagance and that the money would be better spent on poverty reduction.

Public opinion

Tajik state media say that the multi-million dollar project will not cost the cash-strapped country anything, because the government of Qatar has agreed to foot the bill as part of what it calls its commitment to Islam.

“So many people are homeless and barely making ends meet. Why don't they build several houses for those needy people? ”

Tajik resident

On the streets of Dushanbe, one resident said he liked the idea of having the biggest mosque in the region, especially if it is free.

Sobit Valiev, 70, says the country may as well be a record breaker in some field.

"Why shouldn't we", he says. "At the end of the day, it's not our money, is it? If I am alive in five years time, sure I will go there and pray."

Ismail, a driver, thinks the mosque is a good idea, but he is worried that there will be corruption.

"I am sure there will be a few officials who are going to get richer. It is a big project and big money."

While some Tajiks seem to welcome the plan, others are more critical.

Salohiddin, a 34-year-old from Dushanbe says helping the many poor would be a better way to spend the money.

Full Report at:


October 24, 2009

Islamists in Somalia Threaten Other Nations


MOGADISHU, Somalia — A senior leader of the Shabab, the most feared Islamist insurgency in Somalia, said his forces would soon attack the capitals of Uganda and Burundi in retaliation for the alleged shelling by African Union peacekeepers of a Mogadishu market on Thursday.

The union’s peacekeeping force of more than 5,000 is comprised mostly of soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.

“If our people are killed today, they will see a loud cry over Kampala and Bujumbura,” the Shabab commander, Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein, told reporters late Thursday, referring to the capitals of Uganda and Burundi.

He also threatened to expand his group’s fight against the government of Somalia into a regional conflict, saying the other two countries “will have their share of crying, as our people have cried.”

“We will avenge our people,” he said.

The Shabab is a radical Islamist militia that has taken over much of southern Somalia, invoking a harsh version of Islamic law, beheading its opponents and stoning adulterers.

Earlier Thursday, Shabab forces attacked Somalia’s main airport in Mogadishu with mortars as the president prepared to board a plane to Uganda, Somali officials said. The peacekeeping force also maintains a base at the airport.

The president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, was unharmed, the officials said, but the attack was followed by an artillery strike on the nation’s biggest market that left at least 18 people dead, according to witnesses and ambulance workers.

Several members of Parliament called a news conference to denounce the artillery barrage, which they said had been fired by African Union peacekeepers, who are here to protect the weak transitional government but are finding themselves increasingly under fire from militants.

Full Report at:


Berlin - 'Veil martyr' trial to start

23 Oct 2009

Berlin - Under tight security, a man stands trial in Dresden on Monday for the murder of a pregnant Egyptian woman that stoked anger against Germany and its media in her home country and the wider Muslim world.

The defendant, for legal reasons named only as Alex W, is accused of stabbing to death Marwa al-Sherbini on July 1 in a courtroom in the very same building where he will appear for his three-week-long trial.

The 28-year-old, who was born in Russia, plunged an 18cm kitchen knife into Sherbini, 31, three months pregnant at the time with her second child, at least 16 times. She bled to death at the scene.

He is also charged with attempting to murder her husband, Elwy Okaz, in the same frenzied attack. All this happened in front of their young son, aged three and a half at the time.

The fact that such an incident could happen, and the slow reaction by Germany's media and its politicians left the country open to charges of Islamophobia and worse in Egypt and the wider Muslim world.

With no security in the courtroom at the time, it took several minutes for a police officer to arrive, who then proceeded to shoot Okaz in the leg, believing him to be the attacker. He survived.

It took a week for the murder to become a big story in German newspapers, many of which focused on the issue of court security, linking it to an earlier incident in April, not the background to the incident.

Anti-German protests

The country's politicians were caught on the hop, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson not commenting on the killing until a week afterwards.

Full Report at:


Grand Mufti’s mission in Egypt

The Grand Mufti's mission

By Michael Gerson, October 23, 2009

Sheik Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, possesses a wonderfully exotic title, a scholarly manner and the unique burden of issuing about 5,000 fatwas a week -- the judicial rulings that help guide the lives of the Muslim faithful. On a recent visit to the United States, he explained to me the process of "resolving issues of modern life." And modern life offers Gomaa and his team of subordinate muftis plenty of fodder for resolution, from the permissibility of organ transplants, to sports gambling, to smoking during Ramadan, to female judges, to the use of weapons of mass destruction, to mobile phone transmitters on the tops of minarets.

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of Islam for many non-Muslim Americans, who must look back to Puritan Massachusetts for a time when hermeneutics -- the art of interpreting a holy text -- was such a consequential public matter. In the West, theological debates have long been confined to seminaries, causing nothing more serious than denominational splits. In Egypt, Gomaa is a theological celebrity. His office, the Dar al-Iftaa, is part of the Ministry of Justice. And though his rulings are nonbinding unless adopted into Egyptian law, they are widely influential.

Reform in the Arab world is not likely -- at least soon -- to reflect the Western privatization of theological beliefs. All of life is subject to sharia law, and most Arab governments gain at least a part of their legitimacy by reflecting it. At its worst -- but rarely -- this involves the classical Islamic punishments of stoning and amputation. At its best, sharia law plays an equivalent role to the rule of law, binding both rulers and ruled by the same objective standard of justice.

So it obviously matters greatly how sharia law is interpreted, and who does the interpreting. But Islam, for better or for worse, has no pope or traditional clergy. Instead, it has several schools of interpretation -- all of which view the Koran and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad as normative but reconcile local customs with Islam in different ways.

Full Report at:


Al-Qaida threat looms over India

Indrani Bagchi, 24 November 2008

NEW DELHI: The repeated Predator air strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas are beginning to show results, say Indian security officials closely following the operations.

The US strikes "have succeeded in cracking the networking capabilities of al-Qaida", said sources here. But since Pakistan's ISI is the primary sponsor of both al-Qaida and Taliban, India's concerns are that the ISI could "re-deploy" these jihadi fighters from the FATA areas into the Kashmir zone or in other parts of India for surgical suicide strikes.

In Washington last week, CIA director Michael Hayden detailed the US strategy against al-Qaida in Pakistan. "It is no overstatement to say that al-Qaida 's base in Pakistan is the single most important factor today in the group's resilience and its ability to threaten the west," he said.

The air strikes have proved to be a kind of "disruptive" activity in the region, that keeps the Taliban-al-Qaida guessing. The very uncertainty of the strikes mean that Taliban are now more concerned about personal survival than about operations. This is leading to a serious war of attrition, which is also disrupting their networking capabilities.

Indian sources said the aggressive strikes have also disrupted intra-group coordination -- which has always remained a strong point of the al-Qaida. The additional reason for this has also been the diplomatic push on countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Philippines et al to deal with their respective Islamic groups.

Full Report at:


RDX being smuggled into India with cement from Pak

Pranati Mehra, TNN 28 January 2009

MUMBAI: Police and security agencies here have got a specific alert — from the police of a North Indian state — about RDX having been smuggled into the country as part of a cement consignment from Pakistan and the target being an oil refinery.

Officials said the high alert sounded at vital installations like railway stations and hotels in Mumbai last December was not a reaction to the 26/11 carnage but had its basis in this specific intelligence input.

Officials also told TOI that more RDX could be coming in as part of cement or other consignments. But the alert did not name any refinery that was supposed to be the target.

That explained the reaction by Delhi Police and Mumbai Police during the days following the terror attacks on Mumbai. The two closest refineries to Delhi are at Panipat and Mathura. But most of the major refineries are near the coast, including those at Vishakhapatnam, Paradip and Jamnagar.

Full Report at:


US tells Pak not to use aid for confrontation against India

Chidanand Rajghatta, 23 October 2009

WASHINGTON: Implicitly heeding New Delhi’s grievance for the first time in this regard, the United States on Friday set exacting conditions on military aid to Pakistan to ensure it is focused on the war on terror and not diverted for a confrontation against India.

The US move came in amendments attached to the Defence Authorisation Bill of 2010, amid continuing anger and dismay in Islamabad over the so-called Kerry-Lugar Bill. That bill conditions civilian aid to Pakistan ending terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and reigning in its overbearing military.

On Thursday night, the US Senate voted 68-29 on measures which aim at ensuring that US military resources provided to Pakistan are not squandered or diverted to adversely affect the ''balance of power in the region,'' an oblique reference to India and its long standing gripe that Pakistan ends up using US military aid to wage war against India.

"This provision simply ensures that the American peoples' tax dollars are being used for their intended purpose," Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee and co-author of the measure along with Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said. "That fight (against terrorism) is important to our own national security, and we have to ensure that our support for it is not being squandered or diverted,'' Menendez added.

Full Report at:


U.S. commander to address NATO on Afghan war strategy

 (CNN) -- The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, plans to address NATO defence ministers Friday about the next steps for the military strategy.

The NATO meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, comes as the United States wraps up a review of its own military strategy in Afghanistan.

"As has been said in Washington, I think the analytical phase is coming to an end and probably over the next two or three weeks we're going to be considering specific options and teeing them up for decision by the president," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday after the morning NATO session.

McChrystal is pushing Washington to send 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan amid skepticism from some of President Barack Obama's top advisers.

The general planned to address the NATO defense ministers at a Friday afternoon "working lunch" that will focus on the Afghanistan war strategy, Gates said. Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak will also be present, he noted.

A main focus of the meeting is how to transition power of security to Afghan forces. But that is still a long way off, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday.

"We need to start thinking about and planning towards progressively handing over lead responsibility to the Afghan army and the Afghan police," Rasmussen said.

Now let me be clear: We have not agreed to start handing over the lead. The conditions are not yet right. The Afghan security forces are not yet strong enough."

He stressed that when the transition happens, it "doesn't mean NATO forces leave. It means they go into a supporting role." Iranian nuclear deal under threat

A key deal between Iran and Western powers on its nuclear programme appears to be unravelling, as a deadline looms.

Iranian TV reported that Iran would prefer to buy uranium for its research reactor, rather than send its own stock abroad for enrichment as proposed.

France said Iran was not responding positively to the deal from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Full Report at:


October 24, 2009

Iran Defers on Nuclear Deal, Proposing Alternative


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Friday appeared to fall short of accepting a United Nations-drafted plan that would ship most of the country’s uranium abroad for enrichment, saying instead it would prefer to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.

The response will come as a disappointment to the United Nations, Russia and France, which endorsed the plan Friday they drafted in discussions with Iran earlier in the week. The agreement was meant to ease Western fears about Iran’s potential to make a nuclear weapon.

While Iran did not reject the plan outright, a source quoted by state television said that Tehran was waiting for a response to its own proposal to buy nuclear fuel rather than ship low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment. Iran has often used counterproposals as a way to draw out nuclear negotiations with the West.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is waiting for a constructive and confidence building response to the clear proposal of buying fuel for the Tehran research reactor,” state TV quoted an unnamed source close to Iran’s negotiating team as saying Friday.

There was no official comment, and it was unclear whether the source represented the government’s final word on the subject.

Iranian opposition to the United Nations plan could be driven by concerns that it weakens Iran’s control over its stockpiles of nuclear fuel and could be perceived as a concession to the United States, which suspects Iran is using its nuclear program as a way to covertly develop weapons -- an allegation denied by Tehran.

An unnamed member of Iran’s negotiating team urged world powers Friday to “refrain from past mistakes in violating agreements and make efforts to win the trust of the Iranian nation,” state television also reported.

Full Report at:


October 23, 2009

A Lone Cleric Is Loudly Defying Iran’s Leaders


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A short midlevel cleric, with a neat white beard and a clergyman’s calm bearing, Mehdi Karroubi has watched from his home in Tehran in recent months as his aides have been arrested, his offices raided, his newspaper shut down. He himself has been threatened with arrest and, indirectly, the death penalty.

His response: bring it on.

Once a second-tier opposition figure operating in the shadow of Mir Hussein Moussavi, his fellow challenger in Iran’s discredited presidential election in June, Mr. Karroubi has emerged in recent months as the last and most defiant opponent of the country’s leadership.

The authorities have dismissed as fabrications his accusations of official corruption, voting fraud and the torture and rape of detained protesters. A former confidant of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and a longtime conservative politician, he has lately been accused by the government of fomenting unrest and aiding Iran’s foreign enemies.

Four months after mass protests erupted in response to the dubious victory claims of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the opposition’s efforts have largely stalled in the face of unrelenting government pressure, arrests, long detentions, harsh sentences, censorship and a strategic refusal to compromise.

But for all its success at preserving authority, the government has been unable to silence or intimidate Mr. Karroubi, its most tenacious and, in many ways, most problematic critic. While other opposition figures, including Mr. Moussavi and two former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, are seldom heard now, Mr. Karroubi has been unsparing and highly vocal in his criticism of the government, which he feels has lost all legitimacy.

Full Report at:


October 4, 2009

Can the Muppets Make Friends in Ramallah?


This season’s episodes of “Shara’a Simsim,” the Palestinian version of the global “Sesame Street” franchise, were filmed in a satellite campus of Al-Quds University, a ramshackle four-story concrete structure that houses the school’s media department and a small local television station. The building sits in an upscale neighborhood on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, not far from the edge of the Israeli settlement Psagot. Like many structures on the West Bank, the Al-Quds building seems to be simultaneously under construction and decaying into a ruin. Some walls are pocked with bullet holes, from when the Israeli Army occupied the building for 19 days in 2001, during the second intifada. In another life, the building was a hotel, and the balconies out front where TV crews and students take smoking breaks overlook the crumbling shell of its swimming pool.

The TV station at Al-Quds, called Al-Quds Educational Television, was started a decade ago by Daoud Kuttab, a 54-year-old Palestinian journalist who is also the executive producer of “Shara’a Simsim.” Kuttab (who wrote a dispatch for The New York Times Magazine in 2003 on the way Arab TV covered the outbreak of the Iraq war) lives in Amman and works both in Jordan and in the Palestinian territories. He started the channel — one of dozens of tiny mom-and-pop-style microbroadcast operations in the West Bank — in part so that he would have a venue, however small, from which to broadcast “Shara’a Simsim.” At the time, in the late 1990s, the official Palestinian TV station was unwilling to show “Shara’a Simsim” because it was produced jointly with “Rechov Sumsum,” the Israeli version of “Sesame Street.”

Since the inception of “Sesame Street” in the United States 40 years ago, the nonprofit New York City-based organization that produces the show, which is now called Sesame Workshop, has created 25 international co-productions. Each country’s show has its own identity: a distinctive streetscape, live-action segments featuring local kids and a unique crew of Muppets. Bangladesh’s “Sisimpur” uses some traditional Bangladeshi puppets, and South Africa’s “Takalani Sesame” features Kami, an orphaned H.I.V.-positive Muppet. But in each co-production, at least in its early years, every detail — every character, every scene and every line of script — must be approved by executives in the Sesame Workshop office, near Lincoln Center. This requires a delicate balance: how to promote the “core values” of Sesame Street, like optimism and tolerance, while at the same time portraying a version of local life realistic enough that broadcasters will show it and parents will let their kids watch. The Palestinian territories have been, not surprisingly, a tough place to strike this balance, Sesame executives say, rivaled only by Kosovo.

One Tuesday last spring, I attended a writers’ meeting for the coming season of “Shara’a Simsim,” held at the show’s production offices in a quiet apartment complex across the street from the Al-Quds studio. The meeting was scheduled to start at 1 p.m., but the writers lived all over the West Bank, where travel times are unpredictable because of Israeli Army checkpoints. They drifted in one by one and eventually gathered around the conference table.

Palestinian TV is a relatively new phenomenon. Before the Oslo accords in 1993, Israel controlled the airwaves in the territories, and most of the major Palestinian channels that have emerged since then are mouthpieces for one political faction or another, broadcasting mostly news and talk shows. Palestinian-produced media for the sake of entertainment are virtually nonexistent. The “Simsim” meeting reflected this. Kuttab, the show’s producer, is a journalist, and his deputy producer, Layla Sayegh, is a lifelong P.L.O. activist. For the most part, the writers at the table didn’t have much experience; they had been hired only part time, and most of them worked other jobs. A central premise of each “Sesame Street” co-production is that the show should be apolitical, but few of the writers seemed to think that made sense in a Palestinian context.


Taha Awadallah, a 28-year-old rookie “Simsim” writer, spent part of his adolescence serving two terms in Israeli prison for throwing stones at Israeli cars when he was a teenager. A serious young man with a neat crew cut, Awadallah told me he viewed his early years in prison as the best, most edifying period of his life. He met leaders of all the Palestinian factions there and followed their jailhouse regimens of reading and lectures. After his release, he was expelled from high school and spent six years illegally crossing into Israel to work in construction. Then last year, Awadallah enrolled in a Christian-run film school in Bethlehem with the hope of someday working for Al-Jazeera. Because he excelled in his screenwriting class, a teacher sent Awadallah’s writing to “Simsim,” requesting that he be considered for a position on the show.


Awadallah was still struggling to find a way to express himself within the parameters of the “Sesame Street” universe. His first idea for a “Simsim” segment, which he sketched out at a meeting a few weeks earlier, was a series of disturbing vignettes based on the Israeli siege in Gaza last December. In one scene he proposed, Haneen, a girl Muppet, would cower under a table while bats, which Awadallah said represented Israeli fighter jets, swarmed around her. In another, a dove would be shot as it tried to fly to Gaza.

Kuttab, a big, gentle man whose suit pants are perpetually rumpled, told me he specifically wanted to work with untrained writers like Awadallah. He knew that his head writer, Nada Al-Yassir, who was raised in Canada and has produced some short films, could on her own churn out enough Sesame-appropriate scripts, but he was pursuing a bigger goal. Developing an independent television and film industry, he said, was a crucial step in building a Palestinian state, and he told me he thought that if his writers could learn to write hopeful, engaging stories for kids, it would benefit them as much as the viewers.


Children make up the majority of the population in the Palestinian territories, and they have played an iconic role in the Palestinian national struggle. But there is very little programming created with them in mind. More than 90 percent of Palestinian families in the West Bank have a satellite dish, so most kids are able to watch Spacetoon, a Dubai-based channel, popular throughout the Arab world, that shows Japanese anime and American cartoons like “The Flintstones” and “Power Rangers” dubbed or subtitled in classical Arabic rather than local dialects, to minimize distribution costs.

On the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the Palestinian Authority’s official channel, the longest-running children’s program is a slow-moving talk show hosted by a young woman who sometimes reads storybooks aloud into the camera or watches, in real time, as an artist painstakingly paints a parrot. The official Hamas channel, Al-Aqsa television, has several children’s shows, and Al-Aqsa’s director of children’s programming, Abu Amr, told me the network is considering starting a station devoted entirely to children. Al-Aqsa TV’s most famous (and infamous) children’s program is “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” in which Saraa, a Palestinian girl, and several animal characters teach ideological lessons: why it is bad to speak English and good to memorize the whole Koran; how the Danes are infidels who should be killed. Occasionally an animal character will die as a martyr for Palestine.

At the story meeting that Tuesday in Ramallah, Kuttab introduced the novice writers to the concept of pitching, and one by one, hesitantly, they began trying to sell one another on the handwritten scripts each of them brought to the meeting. Some ideas immediately ran afoul of basic “Sesame Street” guidelines — child Muppets couldn’t be seen cooking without an adult, for instance. Other writers’ pitches pushed the conversation toward larger existential questions. Dalia Othman, the 25-year-old daughter of the show’s production manager, proposed a segment in which one Muppet meets a Bedouin, a nomad who herds cattle around the Middle East. Othman said that the segment would help kids “learn about members of the Palestinian people that no one knows about, myself included.”

 “Are Bedouins considered Palestinian?” asked Osama Malhas, a writer in his late 40s who was wearing the logo sweater from the boys’ school in Nablus where he teaches science.

 “I actually don’t know,” Othman said, fiddling with a slice of mushroom pizza. “I am bringing up this idea partly to ask if it makes sense.”

Al-Yassir shook her head. “They don’t recognize borders, Israeli or Palestinian,” she said.

Each season, in each country, Sesame productions are built around a few particular curriculum items, like cooperation or numbers. For the coming season of “Simsim,” respect was one chosen theme. When it came time for Taha Awadallah, the young film student, to share his pitch, he explained, “I focused on the theme of respecting myself and respecting others.” Awadallah had been working on revising his Gaza segments. The new script began with Saleem, the handyman character on the show, watching the Gaza coverage on TV. “Saleem is sad and worried, so he calls his sister in Gaza,” Awadallah said. “She is O.K., but her friend Tariq is missing.” In the next scene, Awadallah explained, the Muppets Karim and Haneen would encounter Saleem while playing hide-and-seek. “He is still sad,” Awadallah continued, “so they do funny things to make him forget he is sad.” He acknowledged that so far he was stumped as to what those things could be. “I need some help in coming up with funny scenes and jokes,” he said. “But they will go on until the conclusion, where Saleem says: ‘You made me laugh! Thank you for making me forget that Tariq is missing.’ ”

No one said anything. Then Othman said, in a quiet voice, that she wasn’t sure that “Simsim” could really address the Gaza issue so directly.

Full Article at:


October 23, 2009

Israel Signals Concern on Iran Talks


JERUSALEM — The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said on Thursday that Iran must cease all uranium enrichment, a statement that reflected Israeli concern over a draft agreement taking shape in Vienna, where earlier this week Iran took part in nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France.

Under the agreement, about three-quarters of Iran’s known stockpile of nuclear fuel would be shipped to Russia for enrichment to levels suitable for a peaceful nuclear reactor but too low for weapons. Such a deal would delay Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon for about a year, buying more time for President Obama to search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

In the first response by a senior Israeli leader, Mr. Barak said what was necessary was “the cessation of enrichment by Iran, and not just the removal of the enriched material.” Speaking at a conference hosted by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, in Jerusalem, Mr. Barak urged “all the players” that “under no circumstances should any option be removed from the table,” meaning that the threats of tougher sanctions and military action should remain.

The emerging deal with Iran, while not yet approved, is generally being treated here with caution and suspicion

One former Israeli official with intimate knowledge of the nuclear issue said that it was better to have the fuel shipped out than left in Iran, but that there may be more nuclear fuel reserves in covert facilities in Iran.

Iran is openly and vehemently hostile to Israel, but insists that its nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes only. Israel is believed to have a large nuclear arsenal but maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying its status as a nuclear power.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli officials confirmed that Israeli and Iranian envoys participated in discussions at a recent multilateral forum on nuclear issues in Cairo, but they said the two representatives held no private meetings and played down the significance of the event.

Full Report at:


Refusing runoff would be 'insulting democracy,' Karzai says

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's president is downplaying accusations of widespread fraud in his country's recent elections, but he's emphasizing the importance of a runoff for the sake of ensuring peace and stability in his nascent and war-torn democracy.

"We must have a second round," Hamid Karzai said in a taped and exclusive interview for the Fareed Zakaria GPS show that airs Sunday on CNN. "If we don't do that, we would be insulting democracy. And I pledge to respect the vote of the people."

In the first interview since a runoff was announced, Karzai said there were so many claims of widespread corruption in the election two months ago that he started to believe that the voting was fraud-laden. In fact, he said, he too began to doubt the results.

"But three days before I made the decision to call for a runoff, I got convinced that all that was said was mostly wrong," said Karzai, who ran for presidential re-election against several candidates. VideoKarzai weighs in on McChrystal report »

"There were some mistakes. There were some instances of fraud, but the nation as a whole was clean, and the result was clear. I decided for peace, for stability and for the future of democracy in Afghanistan and for the future of institutional order in Afghanistan to call for a runoff, and I find that in the interest of the Afghan people."

Last month, final uncertified results showed Karzai with 54 percent of the vote, but a report by a U.N.-backed panel of election monitors said there was widespread fraud in the August 20 presidential election.

The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission invalidated nearly one-third of Karzai's votes because of "clear and convincing evidence of fraud." Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission then certified the voting results, which gave him less than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

The fraud claims reverberated politically in the United States, where criticism of the Afghan war gained even more traction when citizens and lawmakers began questioning whether it was worth sacrificing troops to support what they viewed as a corrupt government.

In light of the fraud claims and in the face of Western pressure, Karzai agreed to a November 7 runoff with his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Full Report at:


Harun Yahya, Islamic creationist superstar

October 22, 2009

Did you know that creationism (versus natural selection) is mainstream in the Islamic world -- and that a secretive Turk named Harun Yahya has a lot to do with it? Steve Paulson reports for Slate:

    Creationist stories are now popping up in Turkish high-school science textbooks, and some government officials in the AKP, the ruling Islamic party, freely criticize evolution. In Ankara, the government's point man on religious issues, Mehmet Gormez, told me, "All the holy texts say human beings are created by God. I think evolutionary theory is not scientific, but ideological."

    The Quran doesn't have a detailed origins story like the six days of creation found in Genesis, but it does say Adam was created out of clay in a heavenly paradise and later banished to earth, along with Eve. Various polls show that many Muslim countries are predominantly creationist, but Turkey has recently emerged as a hub of global opposition to evolution. In 2006 Science magazine found that only 25 percent of Turks accepted the theory of natural selection--the lowest rate among any of the 34 countries surveyed. (The second-lowest was in the United States.)

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Women Marines want a chance outside the Afghan wire

By Golnar Motevalli, Oct 22, 2009

BARCHA, Afghanistan, Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Tiffany Jones chews tobacco, spitting the juice into the Afghan desert as she talks, and wears her M-16 automatic rifle slung across her chest just like her male colleagues.

Jones wanted to be a sniper but, like many women on active service in the U.S. military, she has never been outside "the wire" -- the heavily guarded razor-wire perimeter of her base.

"I don't think the American public on a whole is ready to hear about females in the military getting blown up and their body parts everywhere," Jones said.

Still, Jones said she would like to see more women in combat.

In the U.S. Marines, women cannot fight with units engaged in direct combat with the enemy. While they do get some infantry training, they cannot join infantrymen on the front line.

Jones, 20, works in a motor pool at Camp Leatherneck, a sprawling base of thousands of U.S. Marines in southern Helmand province, the heartland of the Taliban-led insurgency.

Her hair is cut about an inch above her collar, according to Marine regulations for women with short hair, and she works with a unit fixing armoured vehicles.

She longs to go outside "the wire", but the rate at which armoured vehicles are being ambushed and blown up in a growing insurgency means Jones's skills are needed more at Leatherneck's motor pool.

Violence in Afghanistan has reached its worst level this year since the Taliban were overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001. Casualties have soared since U.S. and British forces launched major offensives in the south mid-year.

At least 882 American service members have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, and U.S. President Barack Obama is seriously considering sending thousands more to join a war many at home are becoming increasingly weary with.

Despite the dangers, women like Jones and Sergeant Shannon Boertmann are frustrated that camps like Leatherneck are as close to the frontline as they are likely to get.

Full Report at:


Indonesia a hub for human-trafficking gang bosses

By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun

October 23, 2009

They have suitably piratical names like Ali Cobra and Suparman Tong, but there is nothing swashbuckling about the lives these men lead.

All too often they bring death or years of slavery.

Cobra and Suparman are in prison in Indonesia. They were arrested in May when they organized the breakout from a detention centre of 18 Afghan asylum-seekers.

The refugees were put on a fishing boat bound for Australia, but the vessel capsized in stormy seas and nine of the refugees drowned.

Indonesia has become a hub of people-smuggling in recent years as regional wars, fear of ethnic cleansing or mere desire for economic opportunity drive thousands of people to seek supposed safety in countries like Canada and Australia.

Traffickers' fees can run to tens of thousands of dollars and all too often refugees who cannot pay, sign on for years of bonded labour akin to slavery at their destination to pay off the debt.

Indonesia is a favourite hub because it has no laws against human trafficking and only minor penalties for breaching the vague rules governing migration.

That's why Captain Bram -- real name Abraham Lauhenapessy -- was in a position to organize the boat, now tied up in the west Java port of Merak after capture by the Indonesian navy, for 250 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers who wanted to go to Australia.

There are suspicions that Captain Bram also organized the voyage of the Ocean Lady, which was detained off the B.C. coast last week with 76 would-be migrants, apparently Sri Lankan Tamils, on board.

Captain Bram is fresh out of prison after serving 20 months of the two-year sentence he was handed in 2007 for breaking Indonesia's migration laws.

He was found on the boat at Merak pretending to be a crew member and was arrested by Indonesian police. Indeed, one of the reasons the boat got captured was that he ordered it to turn around when it failed to make a sea rendezvous with another boat, and he feared being taken to Australia, where he would face 20 years in prison.

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Communities key in preventing terrorist-cadre links: Govt

October 23, 2009

People living around campuses should be wary of any activities that may aim to recruit terrorist cadres, an official said Thursday.

Ansyaad Mbai, head of the antiterror desk at the Office of the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said the threat of terrorism remained even though police had killed terror suspect Noordin M. Top and several of his closest accomplices.

A recent raid in Ciputat, Banten, led to the arrest of two students and a graduate of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Tangerang, for having allegedly assisted suspects in the July 17 hotel bombings. The arrest raised concerns that campuses could be a hotbed for recruitment of terrorist cadres.

Whether terrorists were able to recruit cadres within the campuses depended very much on local communities, Ansyaad said.

"If the neighborhood fights against *the cadre formation*, terrorist groups will not find it easy to recruit," he said on the sidelines of a seminar on Thursday on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's leadership, terrorism and the future of democracy in Indonesia.

The discussion, organized by the Center for Information and Development Studies, concluded that Yudhoyono should be working harder to eradicate terrorism.

Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said terror activities posed a threat to democracy.

"For years, we have managed to bring Islam to live side by side with democracy. We proved that Islam was a religion of peace, but the terrorists have ruined things," Azyumardi said.

Terrorism had not helped Muslims living in Indonesia, he said.

"Instead, terror activities are detrimental to Muslims. Many Muslims have fallen victim to terror activities, not only physically but also financially," he said.

"Many lost jobs and sources of income after the Bali bombing."

To deal with terrorism, Azyumardi urged the government to establish political communication with Muslim organizations such as Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

"An effort to communicate with such organizations was once made by then vice president Jusuf Kalla," he said.

Full Report at:


BNP on Question Time: Nick Griffin uses BBC to attack Islam and defend the Ku Klux Klan

By Robert Winnett and Rosa Prince, 23 Oct 2009

The BBC was under siege last night after the leader of the BNP used his appearance on Question Time to attack Muslims and homosexuals while defending the Ku Klux Klan.

Nick Griffin said Islam was not compatible with life in Britain, while describing homosexuals as "creepy".

However, he admitted sharing a platform with the Ku Klux Klan, which has carried out racist attacks across America’s Deep South, and defended leaders in the organisation as "non-violent".

The remarks provoked indignation from other members of the BBC panel and hostile parts of the audience, some of whom booed, calling him "a disgrace".

The BNP leader said he could not explain for legal reasons why he had previously sought to play down the Holocaust and had now changed his mind. He was challenged by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary and a fellow panellist, who said there was no such law.

Mr Griffin defended his use of Sir Winston Churchill on BNP literature on the basis that his father had fought in the Second World War. He claimed that Churchill would have been a member of the BNP and was "Islamophobic" by "today’s standard".

Asked whether he denied that millions of Jews and other minorities had been killed by the Nazis, Mr Griffin would only reply: "I do not have a conviction for Holocaust denial."

He was then chastised by David Dimbleby, the host of the programme, for smiling.

The controversial statements were made in response to intense questioning by members of the audience from ethnic minorities.

BBC Television Centre in west London came under siege as filming took place, with MPs joining hundreds of protesters behind lines of police. There were six arrests as dozens of protesters attempted to storm the studio.

BBC studios in Hull, Scotland and Wales were also targeted by demonstrators. The cost of the police operation was estimated to have been more than £100,000.

The BBC was certain to be questioned over why it allowed Mr Griffin to air such controversial views but executives were hoping that the intensive questioning that he faced would justify their decision to invite him on the Question Time panel for the first time.

Full Report at:


CAIRO –Aussie Muslim MP Decries Racism

Oct. 22, 2009

CAIRO – Lawmaker John Hamdi Eren had a personal experience with the deep-seated anti-Muslim racism in the Australian society and hopes proposed law amendments doubling racial crimes penalties would help curb the trend, the Australian Star reported on Thursday, October 22.

“When I was first elected to the Upper House there was an underbelly of racism in the Australian community,” Eren told the Victorian Legislative Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Eren, 45, was an Australian Labor Party member of the Victorian Legislative Council, the upper house, from 2002 to 2006, representing Geelong Province.

“I went on to have my fair share of nasty phone calls,” he recalled.

“My office was contacted numerous times by people – gutless wonders who obviously did not want to give their names – who had a go at me because of my Muslim background.”

Eren, born in Turkey, is currently a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly representing the electoral district of Lara.

“I’m big enough…to handle that,” he said.

“Both physically and emotionally I’m fairly secure and solid in my ways.”

A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims, who make up 1.5 percent of Australia’s 20-million population, are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.

Muslims have also been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned in post 9/11 Australia.

A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to their way of life.


Full Report at:


Humanities: From Athens to Ottawa Islam and the West

October 22, 2009

Ottawa – Carleton University’s C

ollege of the Humanities and the Glebe Community Centre are pleased to announce that Dr. Farhang Rajaee will present the first lecture in a new series called Humanities: From Athens to Ottawa.

Dr. Rajaee’s lecture is entitled Islam and the West and is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the community centre, 175 Third Avenue.

Dr. Rajaee is director of the College of Humanities, a noted scholar of international relations and, most recently, the author of Islamism and Modernism: The Changing Discourse in Iran.

The session is free and open to the public.

The new co-hosted lecture series aims to bring faculty research to a broader audience. Meet our award-winning faculty members as they share their excitement about the humanities with the community.

Upcoming speakers include Dr. Angela Sumegi, who will speak about Taming the Mind: Zen Path to Awakening.



EgyptAir hijack attempt thwarted

An attempted hijacking by a man wielding a knife from an in-flight meal has been thwarted by guards, EgyptAir officials said.

The incident happened shortly after the plane, carrying almost 90 people, took off from Istanbul, Turkey, heading to Cairo.

The Sudanese man threatened crew members and demanded that the flight be diverted to Jerusalem, officials said.

He was detained by air marshals, and the flight landed in Cairo.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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