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Islamic World News ( 15 Feb 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Australia Eyes Islamic Finance Growth

Indonesia's Sharia banks to maintain returns

Muslim Fatwas on technology

Out of Marjah, safe in Pak?

Marjah: Heroin, Taliban nexus in the eye of a storm

Qaeda-linked terrorist group vows attacks across India

Top Taleban commander Mullah Baradar captured in Pakistan

Generation Jihad: Young people 'brainwashed with Al Qaeda propaganda on the internet'

Al-Qaida's Dirty Little Secret

Massive human rights abuses in Iran highlighted at UN debate in Geneva

Islam-related films look beyond stereotypes

Obama names Bihar-origin man as spl enoy to muslim world

The Muslim World and Climate Change

Iraq has top terror risk, Israel 17th

Martin Kramer: America and Afghani, the Historical Hero of Afghanistan

Anti-Islam book launch cancelled

Muslims discover quickie digital divorces

Shia & Sunni Muslims: The War Within Islam

US sees progress in winning Saudis over to Iran sanctions

Yemeni Shia rebels hand over Saudi soldier

Arab, Islamic Countries Praise Iran’s Human Rights Efforts

Mothers of captive hikers ask Iran's president for personal meeting

Afghan situation like Bosnia: Holbrooke

Conference on Muslims in the media too hot for some of its speakers

US woos Muslims with study initiatives

Haitian Contributions of The Islamic Medical Association of North America

Qatar Rejects Appeals to Respect Human Rights

Nakheel Troubles Not Tied to Islamic Banking, ADIB Chief Says

Cinemas Fight Islam Stereotypes

Carnival celebrates Muslim integration

Obama appoints Quran expert with ties to Detroit

Indian American Muslims demand fair probe of Adv Shahid Azmi’s murder

Stone-pelting kids in J&K arrested for ‘waging war’

Move on Muslim quota questioned

India signals change of tack by agreeing to talk despite Pune

Pune blast: CCTV footage shows 2 persons walking into bakery with bag

Troubled waters: Jamat-ud-Dawa used river dispute to raise heat

Maoists kill 21 jawans in West Bengal

Blast shouldn’t block Indo-Pak talks: Kerry

Exercise caution: US, UK, Oz advisory to tourists

Musharraf hints at return to Pakistan politics

US, Pakistan capture Taliban's top commander: Report

US joins France, Russia in denying new Iran nuclear offer

Palestine prez sacks aide for sex scandal

7 killed in mine blast in Yemen

Pak looking up to US to match India’s military might: Envoy

Hillary: Iran becoming military dictatorship

Iran moving toward military dictatorship, says Clinton

Not hesitant on solving terror-related issues with India: Pak

Militant: Plot by Pak ex-Armymen

2 militants killed in Kashmir

Hundreds protest at funeral of ‘tortured’ Darfur student

Only 1 in 5 blacklisted Iraqi candidates to run

Nobel laureate Ebadi says Iran opposition strong

Baby Girl Abandoned at RAK Mosque

People want to rewrite Arab history to serve vested interests: Al-Zuwailaei

Economic issues Pakistan’s top problem

Adabiyat dedicated to Amrita Pritam

No Basant festival in Gujranwala

Bahrain Ideal Base For Deloitte’s Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre”, EDB Chief Operating Officer

Jihadi links have been known for long

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/australia-eyes-islamic-finance-growth/d/2470

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Australia Eyes Islamic Finance Growth

Phil Mercer | Sydney

15 February 201

Government aims to create finance hub for nearly one billion Muslims in Asia-Pacific region

The Australian government plans to attract Islamic banks after publishing its first report on this booming area of finance. The government wants Australia to become a finance hub for almost one billion Muslims in the Asia-Pacific region.

Banking systems that comply with Islamic beliefs are a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry.  While such banks are common in Indonesia and Malaysia, they remain on the fringe of Australia's finance sector.

That could be about to change. The government has released a report that details how Australia's well-regulated economic system could cater to the Islamic market.

Trade Minister Simon Crean says expanding Islamic banking would help Australia become a dominant player in regional financing.

"The thing that struck me when we had our discussions in Malaysia 18 months ago, was how they were positioning themselves to become a financial services hub, particularly for Islamic finance. Where the U.K. has done it, given active support to it, if Australia wants to position itself as a financial services hub for the Asia-Pacific region, it has to, in my view, embrace Islamic financing too," Crean said.

Under Islamic, or Sharia, law, charging interest is forbidden. In addition, Islamic finance differs from conventional Western methods by focusing on profit-sharing, with wealth generated through trade and investment in assets, such as property or commodities. It also bars investment in businesses that are forbidden in Islam, such as liquor or gambling.

One of Australia's biggest banks, Westpac, is preparing to boost its Islamic banking services by offering a commodity-trading facility for overseas investors.

Islamic finance cooperatives have also been steadily growing in Australia. A government survey found that many of Australia's 365,000 Muslims would use Islamic banking services if they were more accessible.

Major international banks have also been exploring the opportunities that the Sharia model offers.

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Australia-Eyes-Islamic-Finance-Growth-84386582.html

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Indonesia's sharia banks to maintain returns

Feb 16, 2010

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's Islamic banks could offer investors twice the returns of conventional lenders in coming years, driven by solid demand for Islamic products in the world's most populous Muslim nation, and despite growing competition, a banker said.

Beny Witjaksono, president director of Bank Mega Syariah Indonesia, the country's fourth-largest Islamic lender, told the Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit he expected his bank to post a return on equity (ROE) of around 40 percent this year.

That would be in line with the trend in the sharia banking industry in Indonesia, and about twice the ROE for conventional banks.

Indonesian banks, both conventional and Islamic-compliant, have attracted strong foreign interest in recent years, with about half of the country's total banking assets in the hands of foreign-controlled lenders.

Islamic banking assets in Indonesia have seen annual growth of about 40 percent in recent years, but still account for just 2.5 percent of Indonesia's total banking assets of $270 billion, providing strong potential for growth.

"Our return on equity was above 40 percent in the past four years, except in 2008 when it was 11 percent because of large expansion," Witjaksono told the summit.

He forecast ROE growth would be sustainable at a similar rate in coming years.

The bank expected an after-tax profit of 66 billion Indonesian rupiah ($7 million) this year, up from 63 billion rupiah last year, he said.

HIGH PROFIT BUT RISING COMPETITION

Witjaksono said profitability was being driven by strong demand for Islamic products, steady economic growth and finance fees now at around 20 percent, almost twice the rates for conventional banks.

Fees are higher due to the structure of the loans requiring Islamic banks to take a more active role in the lending process.

Under Islamic law, sharia banks are banned from charging interest. Borrowers may obtain funds from Islamic banks in the form of profit sharing, partnership or a joint venture, or alternatively a scheme where banks buy products such as motorcycles and sell them to the bank customers at a profit.

Full report at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61F2B420100216

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Muslim Fatwas on technology

The recent fatwa against Muslims using the world's no. 1 social networking site like Facebook was not the first of its kind. Internet and some other related technology tools like cellphones, TVs etc have been at the receiving end of such religious rulings in the past too.

While a fatwa banned browsing among women another termed Internet trading sinful. In fact there are also some exclusive social networks that aims to protect and connect Muslims on the World Wide Web.

Here's looking into some such fatwas issued against Internet and its related technologies. (A fatwa is a legal pronouncement in Islam, issued by a religious law specialist on a specific issue)

http://infotech.indiatimes.com/quickiearticleshow/5579167.cms

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Out Of Marjah, Safe In Pak?

Rod Norland & C J Chivers

16 February 2010

KABUL: A large number of Taliban fighters have fled the city of Marjah, their former stronghold in Helmand province, under pressure from United States and Afghan forces and may have crossed the border into Pakistan, the Afghan interior minister said on Monday.

At a news conference held by senior Afghan officials and Gen Stanley McChrystal, the seniormost United States commander in Afghanistan, the officials said some Taliban fighters remained in Marjah, largely in the southern part of the city.

“We are not facing any threat now except in South Marjah, where there is a slight resistance, not enough to be an obstacle to our forces, “ Gen Sher Mohammed Zazai, the Afghan National Army commander in Helmand, said.

" bazaar in the south of Marjah had previously been a stronghold of the Taliban within the city. The city of 80,000 people is the last large population center held by the Taliban in Helmand, but officials at the press conference said there were still three more districts in the province under Taliban control outside the scope of the current offensive.

The interior minister, Mohammed Hanif Atmar, said authorities were investigating reports that Taliban from Marjah had fled across the frontier, presumably to Pakistan, which borders Helmand province.

The nearest large Pakistani city, Quetta, is believed to serve as a sanctuary for senior Taliban leaders from Afghanistan.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Out-of-Marjah-safe-in-Pak/articleshow/5577935.cms

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Marjah: Heroin, Taliban nexus in the eye of a storm

By Sharif Khoram (AFP)

KABUL — Marjah is an opium-growing paradise in the Helmand River valley, where a Taliban reign of fear has created one of southern Afghanistan's most notorious insurgent dens.

Planned and built partly by the US government in the 1950s as a model farm belt irrigated by canals, Marjah is the target of the biggest military assault since the 2001 invasion which ousted the Taliban regime.

Operation Mushtarak ("Together") launched Saturday by thousands of US-led troops is a major test of President Barack Obama's strategy to end the eight-year war against the Taliban, defeat Al-Qaeda and hand greater control to the Western-backed Afghan government.

Marjah town and the surrounding area of Helmand province is home to an estimated 125,000 and beyond government control since the 2001 invasion.

Situated about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gar, it is a collection of impoverished villages in Nad Ali district, fertile land for crops, vegetables, fruits, herbs and known for livestock farming.

But what should be the bread basket of Afghanistan is instead one of the world's richest sources of opium and heroin, earning billions of illicit dollars each year that help fund the insurgency.

US-funded canals criss-cross fields of opium poppies, which stand tall and green in February, not yet blooming red and not yet oozing the sap that will be processed into heroin and shipped across the world.

Full report at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i3AZiPH2RuezPxEn4wJ_bwsRRSrQ

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Qaeda-linked terrorist group vows attacks across India

13 Brigade chief Ilyas Kashmiri wants India to compensate for all ‘injustices’

LAHORE: Top terrorist commander Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is an operational arm of the al Qaeda, has vowed to continue attacks across India until the Indian Army leaves Indian-held Kashmir and gives the Kashmiris their right to self-determination.

In the message sent to Asia Times Online, early on Monday – shortly after the deadly weekend bombing of the German Bakery in the western Indian city of Pune – Kashmiri said, “We warn the international community to play its role in getting the Kashmiris their right to self-determination and preventing India from committing brutalities in IHK, especially in Badipuar, raping the women and behaving inhumanly with Muslim prisoners.”

“We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, the Indian Premier League and Commonwealth Games – to be held in New Delhi later this year. Nor should their people visit India – if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences.”

Compensation: “We assure the Muslims of the subcontinent that we will never forget the massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The entire Muslim community is one body and we will take revenge for all injustices and tyranny. We again warn the Indian government to compensate for all its injustices, otherwise it will see our next action.”

The bombing and Kashmiri’s warning come as Washington tries to bring India and Pakistan together to work as allies in fighting the “war on terror”.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\02\16\story_16-2-2010_pg7_5

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Top Taleban commander Mullah Baradar captured in Pakistan

Zahid Hussain, Islamabad

The Taleban's top military commander has been captured in Karachi in a secret raid by Pakistani and US intelligence forces.

Pakistan confirmed this morning that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, described as the most significant Taleban figure captured since the start of the Afghanistan war, was arrested in a slum predominantly populated by Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns last week.

Mullah Baradar, who is deputy to Mullah Omar, the Taleban's supreme commander, had regularly visited Karachi, which Pakistani and Western intelligence agencies believe has become a major haven for the Afghan Taleban leadership.

Citing US government officials, The New York Times said that Baradar had been in Pakistani custody for several days and was being interrogated by Pakistani and US intelligence officers. Pakistani officials would not say where he was being detained.

The newspaper reported that officials said the operation to capture Mr Baradar was conducted by Pakistan's military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, accompanied by CIA agents.

US officials believe that Baradar is second in influence in the Taleban only to Omar and was a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the attacks on the US in 2001, it added.

The newspaper said it was not clear if Baradar was talking to authorities, but it quoted officials as saying his capture could lead to other senior Taleban officials. The officials said he might even take them to Omar.

A spokesman for the Taleban in Afghanistan told the Associated Press that Baradar was still free, though he did not provide any evidence.

“We totally deny this rumour. He has not been arrested,” Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP by telephone. “The Taleban are having success with our jihad. It is to try to demoralise the Taleban who are on jihad in Marjah and all of Afghanistan.”

Full report at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7028598.ece

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Generation Jihad: Young people 'brainwashed with Al Qaeda propaganda on the internet'

By Liz Thomas

Aabid Hussain Khan

Religious extremists are increasingly turning to the internet to find, indoctrinate and radicalise young Muslims, according to a new documentary series.

Like sexual predators they prey on vulnerable young people, quickly brainwashing them with Al Qaeda propaganda and very quickly turning them into potential terrorists.

New BBC2 series Generation Jihad claims that growing numbers of bright young men dubbed ‘entrepreneurs of jihad’ are using the internet as a tool to foster extremism.

Many prey on younger men and women curious to learn more about Islam but instead bombard them with anti-Western and vengeful rhetoric – leading to a generation of online recruits for jihad.

As with paedophiles approaching children in chat rooms, many parents have no idea who their children are talking to in online forums and what is being discussed.

These extremist predators – many of whom are under 25 and highly computer literate – are setting up blogs, websites and forums in which to find and indoctrinate teens.

The documentary claims these men are at the vanguard of a new type of terrorism because of the ease at which the internet is enabling people to make contacts, plan and communicate plots and learn the art of guerrilla warfare.

Highlighting the case of 22-year-old Aabid Hussain Khan who was imprisoned for 12 years in 2008 on 23 counts of possessing articles for terrorism, the programme reveals that he built a website from his home in Bradford aimed at recruiting ‘jihadis from across the English speaking world’.

Full report at: www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1251287/Generation-Jihad-Young-people-brainwashed-Al-Qae

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Al-Qaida's Dirty Little Secret

Ilan Berman,

Bin Ladenism, it turns out, is bad for Muslims.

What do al-Qaida's leaders fear most? It's not the more stringent screening requirements imposed by the Transportation Security Administration in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing by Nigerian extremist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Nor is it the long-awaited deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration's AfPak plan. And it certainly isn't the prospect that al-Qaida foot soldiers might end up in U.S. federal court, whether in New York or anywhere else. Rather, what keeps Osama Bin Laden and his followers up at night is the prospect that the Muslim world might get wise to their dirty little secret: that supporting al-Qaida is hazardous to your health.

This is borne out by the results of a new study conducted by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. The December 2009 report, entitled Deadly Vanguards, reveals that, for all of Bin Laden's claims of a clash of civilizations with the West, Muslims have actually been the main casualty of his jihad. "Since the inception of al-Qa'ida, the organization has claimed to represent Muslim interests around the world declaring itself the vanguard of true Islam and the defender of Muslim people," the study says. Yet "the vast majority of al-Qa'ida's victims are Muslims: the analysis here shows that only 15% of the fatalities resulting from al-Qa'ida attacks between 2004 and 2008 were Westerners."

These findings are striking, and go a long way toward explaining the precipitous decline in al-Qaida's popularity throughout the Muslim world over the past half-decade. Between 2003 and 2007, backing for Bin Laden fell from 56% to 20% in Jordan, from 20% to just 1% in Lebanon, and from 59% to 41% in Indonesia, according to the Pew Center. Similar trends can been seen in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Bin Laden's exclusionary brand of radical Islam, with nearly two-thirds of respondents holding negative views of al-Qaida when surveyed in early 2008 by the polling group Terror Free Tomorrow. More recently, a mid-2009 Pew poll of Pakistani public opinion found 61% of those polled there see the Bin Laden network unfavorably.

Full report at: www.forbes.com/2010/02/15/iran-terrorism-al-qaida-islam-opinions-columnists-ilan-berman.html

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Massive human rights abuses in Iran highlighted at UN debate in Geneva

During a debate at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Iran has tried to brush aside allegations that it regularly resorts to torture, executions and mass detentions of opponents of the regime and claimed instead that it promos and defends human rights. Iran is “in full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights,” Mohammad Larijani, secretary-general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Council, which is conducting its first regular review of the human rights situation in Iran. “The situation of human rights has been consistently used as a tool to apply pressure against us,” Larijani said.

Western representatives painted a different picture. Michael H. Posner, US assistant secretary of state, told the council that since disputed presidential elections in June, Iran had suppressed the protests of millions of Iranians, “often resorting to violence,” resulting in detentions, injuries and deaths. Posner called for immediate action by Iran to end torture and said Iran’s statement was “strikingly at odds with the reality on the ground. The British UN ambassador Peter Gooderham called on Tehran to invite UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to investigate post-election violence and assess the state of human rights there, and to accept a visit by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay. Gooderham’s French counterpart, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, said Iran had launched “a bloody repression” of its own population.

Iran is believed to seek membership of the 47-member Human Rights Council at the upcoming elections in May.

Outside the UN compound in Geneva, the coalition Iran 2010: All Rights Reserved? - comprised of organizations such as Neda for a Free Iran, Stop Child Executions, the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, and others - joined Iranian dissidents and opponents of the regime at a rally. The demonstrations will continue until Wednesday, when the review is expected to be formally adopted by the Human Rights Council.

Meital Nir of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps presented the recommendations of the coalition, which urge the United Nations to demand that the Iranian government comply with its international obligations, that Iran abolish the death penalty for child offenders, and that it ensure the protection of any detainee from torture.

http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/main/showNews/id/8980

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Islam-related films look beyond stereotypes

Feb 15, 2010

BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) - Terrorism, honor killings, fundamentalism and female oppression. The themes of films in the Berlin festival lineup this year could read like a series of banner headlines from Fox News. But instead of sensationalism and stereotypes, what competition films such as "On the Path" and "Shahada," Panorama title "When We Leave" and Berlinale Special entry "My Name Is Khan" offer are new images of Islam.

"It has taken nearly 10 years after 9/11, but these issues are finally going from the headlines into the cinemas," "Shahada" director Burhan Qurbani said. "These are things we have to talk about."

In "Shahada" (or "Faith"), which premieres Wednesday at the Berlin International Film Festival, three very different Muslims living in Germany struggle with their religious and cultural identities. The film looks at Islam's treatment of homosexuality and women's rights and the difficulty of being Muslim in a majority-Christian culture.

"I learned the Lord's Prayer before I learned (Islam's central prayer) the Fatiha," said the German-raised Qurbani, whose family is Afghani. "Partly, the film is about the contradictions in both cultures, about living in a culture to which one does not really belong. The twisting of identity."

Qurbani has experienced this "twisting" firsthand.

"The media cliches are so strong," he said. "I mean, I'm a Muslim and even I'm suspicious of Muslims. We are so lazy in just adapting the media's bits and bytes. So comfortable in our fear of this culture that we don't research and we don't ask questions. For me, my film is an attempt to engage with Islam and start a dialogue. To make people talk about Islam."

Full report at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61F0JF20100216

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Obama names Bihar-origin man as spl enoy to muslim world

February 16, 2010

WASHINGTOn — US president Barack Obama said on Saturday he was naming a special envoy to the Muslim world.

“Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a Hafiz (Quran) of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work,” Obama said after the appointment.

The OIC is the second largest world inter-governmental organization after the United Nations and serves as the collective voice of the Muslim world. Its membership currently includes 57 Muslim-majority nations.

Born in Wyoming, Hussain is the son of Indian-born US citizens, and was raised in Plano, Texas, where his parents still live. His father, Mohammad Hussain, is a retired mining engineer from Bihar, while his mother Ruqaya is a medical doctor.

He holds a Masters degree in Arabic & Islamic Studies from Harvard University, and his JD from Yale Law School. At Yale, he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

In January 2009, Hussain was named deputy associate counsel to President Barack Obama. Previously, he has served as a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice.

http://jaibihar.com/obama-names-bihar-origin-man-as-spl-enoy-to-muslim-world/201017215.html

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The Muslim World and Climate Change

Murad Qureshi

February 16, 2010

Speaking at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic States in Istanbul in November, Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference to take a lead in combating climate change and to support countries like Bangladesh that are fighting global warming even though they contribute little to its cause.

Up to now, the OIC’s record in responding to this call has been poor. A 2007 study concluded that “efforts by wealthier Muslim states are imbalanced, with many of them doing very little and not acknowledging the urgency of the issue. Saudi Arabia, who holds most of the purse strings of the OIC, has long been a skeptic of climate change.”

Indeed, the response of Saudi Arabia’s lead climate-change negotiator at Copenhagen to e-mails leaked by the University of East Anglia was to say that “It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change.”

Looking at annual carbon emissions per capita in the Persian Gulf states, it is immediately apparent that the figures are much worse than even for the United States, which is usually seen as the villain of the piece. For example, according to the International Energy Agency, Qatar’s annual emissions stand at 58 metric tons per capita, the United Arab Emirates’ at 29.9, Bahrain’s at 28.2 and Kuwait’s at 25.1, whereas the figure for the United States is 19.1. These emissions are even more astonishing when compared with the figure for Bangladesh, which stands at 0.25 of a metric ton per capita. It makes you wonder what is being done in these rich Arab Gulf states to produce such huge emissions.

As for discussions on climate change among the Arab states, here again the problem is the reluctance of the ruling elites in oil-rich countries to support any measures that might reduce demand for oil. This is despite the fact that the Middle East is particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures, with vast areas of agricultural land between Egypt and Iraq expected to lose fertility as a result of global warming.

Full report at: www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/the-muslim-world-and-climate-change/359010

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Iraq has top terror risk, Israel 17th

02.16.10

Global analysts Maplecroft rank countries most at risk from terrorist attacks. Thailand joins nine countries most in danger for first time; Israel ranked before Iran, Nigeria

Iraq is the country most at risk from terrorist attacks for the second straight year, according to a ranking by global analysts Maplecroft, while Thailand has joined the nine countries most in danger for the first time.

Terrorism has shot back up the global agenda since al-Qaeda claimed a December 25 bid to down a US airliner and insurgent violence remains a pressing concern as both Iraq and Afghanistan face milestones in 2010 in their search for stability.

The risk consultancy's Terrorism Risk Index shows that although security in Iraq has improved, the scale, human impact and frequency of attacks still makes it the riskiest country for political violence with nearly 4,500 civilians killed in 2009.

Violence in Thailand's restive Muslim south, such as October 6 2009 bomb attacks in Sungai Kolok that killed two and wounded 42, largely account for the country's rating of 9th, a rise from 11 the year earlier, the index of 196 countries shows.

The index based on 2009 data ranks Afghanistan second, with Pakistan and Somalia third and fourth respectively. They are rated at extreme risk along with Lebanon 5, India 6, Algeria 7, Colombia 8 and Thailand 9, a Maplecroft statement said.

The UK-based risk advisory group's index tracks the risks of an attack, the intensity of violence as measured by casualties per incident, a country's history of extremist violence and threats made against it by groups such as al-Qaeda.

"Media coverage can often skew public perceptions of terrorism risk in a country by publicizing mass casualty attacks," said Maplecroft political risk analyst Eva Molyneux.

Potential to disrupt business operations

"However, smaller terrorist incidents often go unreported, despite having potential to disrupt business operations and supply chains."

Full report at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3850074,00.html

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Martin Kramer: America and Afghani, the Historical Hero of Afghanistan

by Martin Kramer

February 16, 2010

[Prof. Kramer, the author of Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle East Studies in America, was a full-time tenured academic at Tel Aviv University. He is now a senior fellow at the Adelson Institution of Strategic studies and a Senior Fellow at the Olin Institute at Harvard.]

This photograph caught my eye the other day. It’s Ambassador Frank Ricciardone, number two at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, paying his respects last May at the mausoleum of Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani on the campus of Kabul University. Afghani (1838-1897) is revered in Afghanistan as a native son who inspired the modern revival of Islam, and who championed both internal reform and resistance to Western imperialism. Reformists and Islamists around the Muslim world equally claim him as their precursor. In the course of his peripatetic career, he preached in Iran, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, India, Russia, and Europe. His famous Paris-based newspaper, al-Urwa al-wuthqa, spread his ideas far and wide.

This was not the first time the United States had paid tribute to the memory of Afghani. In 2002, then-U.S. ambassador Robert Finn came to the dilapidated mausoleum and pledged $25,000 from his government to restore it. Finn said this about Afghani:

    This is, in a sense, a double tribute by my country. In doing so we honor the memory of an Afghan and Muslim intellectual giant of the 19th century: a scholar, journalist, political thinker, advisor to kings and a revolutionary who inspired Muslims from Egypt to India.

    This was a man steeped in the learning of the Qur’an who called for freedom, reason and scientific inquiry. He was a learned man, a skilled writer and debater, he had the moral courage of strong convictions, criticizing the West for its materialism but not shying away from criticizing the Muslim rulers of the day and what he saw as self-destructive tendencies in his own religion.

Finn concluded: “This donation is also a recognition that the day will come when Afghanistan will again produce great leaders and thinkers that will shake the world and inspire hope and reform.”

Full report at: http://hnn.us/roundup/comments/123382.html

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Anti-Islam book launch cancelled

16 February 2010

A conference centre in The Hague has cancelled the launch of a book criticising Islam. The book launch was scheduled for Thursday at The World Forum, but was cancelled because the director of the venue does not believe he can guarantee the safety of his guests.

The book in question is Islamofobie? (Islamophobia?), written by Islam critic and PVV supporter Frans Groenendijk. The PVV, or Freedom Party is an anti-Islamic opposition party led by Geert Wilders.

Green Left party member Tofik Dibi, who was to receive the first book at the launch, says he regrets that the conference centre acted out of fear. The venue says it has not received any threats.

http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/anti-islam-book-launch-cancelled

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Muslims discover quickie digital divorces

16 February 2010

Is it possible to end a marriage by text message? In strict Islamic countries, a man can divorce his wife by pronouncing talaq (I divorce you) verbally or in writing - either with pen and paper or now with electronic communication methods - and the marriage is dissolved. So far, two Islamic marriages in the Netherlands have been ended electronically.

The situation could go something like this: during a holiday abroad, a Saudi man keeps in touch with his wife via MSN Messenger. The couple argue via the internet and the husband decides to pronounce talaq. He rejects his wife according to Islam's sharia law. Because he has already pronounced talaq twice before, the couple are irrevocably divorced.

One word is sufficient

According to most interpretations of sharia, a man does not need witnesses or written declarations in order to pronounce talaq. However, the rejection does have to be confirmed by an imam in order to arrange legal and financial matters.

According to many Islamic religious authorities, primarily those in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States where civil law is based on sharia law, one word - spoken by a male - is sufficient to dissolve a marriage. He can say the word or write it down, either on paper or via a digital communication method.

Regulations in other Islamic countries vary widely depending on the dominant form of Islam practised and the degree of separation between religion and state. 

Vulnerable to fraud

Quickie digital divorces are not accepted by Shia Muslims, as two witnesses are necessary in order to dissolve a marriage. Critical Muslim clerics say digital communication methods are not reliable enough and are vulnerable to fraud.

Full report at: http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/muslims-discover-quickie-digital-divorces

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Shia & Sunni Muslims: The War Within Islam

By Gilbert Mercier

Today several bombing attacks occurred in Iraq and Pakistan. Also, the attacks were unlikely coordinated the events of today are closely related in expressing the deep conflict between the two main branches of Islam: The Shias and the Sunnis. The bombings are the expression of a 1,320 years old conflict fought between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims.

In Iraq, at least 31 people were killed and dozen wounded on Friday near the Shia holy city of Karbala. This follows another suicide-bomb attack on Wednesday which killed 23 people and injured 143, also near Karbara. The victims in both attacks were Shia-Muslims intending to celebrate Arbaeen, which marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Shia Islam’s most important martyrs; Imam Hussein by the armies of the Sunni Calif Yazid in 680 AD.

The killing of Imam Hussein was the event that led to the split of Islam into the two main sects: Sunnis & Shias. Shia-Muslims consider Hussein( the grand son of Prophet Mohammed) to be the 3 RD Imam, and the rightful successor of Islam’s founder. Imam Hussein’s martyrdom is widely interpreted by Shias as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression.

Iraqi officials, which are in majority Shia-Muslims, immediately blamed Al-Qaeda, whose members follow the Wahabi school, an ultra orthodox branch of Sunni Islam. Saudi Arabia’s ruling class belongs to the same strict Wahabi interpretation of the Muslim faith.

In Pakistan, the other bombing attacks took place in Karachi on Friday. More than 20 people were killed. Twelve people were killed and 40 wounded in the 1ST attack on a bus carrying Shia-Muslims to a religious procession marking the end of the holy month of Muharrah. A motor bike rigged with explosives was rammed into the bus. A 2ND blast occurred shortly after elsewhere in Karachi. The explosion took place in front of Jinnah hospital as the wounded from the motor bike attack were rushed to be admitted for treatment. The AFP reports that the second attack killed 10 people.

Full report at: http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/02/05/shia-muslims-sunni-muslims-the-war-within-islam/

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US sees progress in winning Saudis over to Iran sanctions

Feb 16, 2010

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wraps up a Gulf tour on Tuesday satisfied that Saudi Arabia is tilting toward a US-led drive to impose tough new UN sanctions against Iran.

The chief US diplomat's tour of Qatar and Saudi Arabia appeared aimed at isolating Iran from its Gulf neighbors and piling pressure on China to drop its resistance to sanctions targeted in particular at Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

In strikingly forceful language, Clinton said Iran is turning into a "military dictatorship" bent on acquiring nuclear weapons as the Revolutionary Guard begins "supplanting" the clerical and political leadership in Tehran.

In a press conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Clinton urged the traditional leadership to take back the reins of authority from the Guard, which she says heads the Iranian nuclear and missile programmes.

Iran last week began enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which Washington and other capitals say adds to evidence Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying the goal is peaceful nuclear energy.

Seated next to Clinton on her first visit to the kingdom, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called the chief US diplomat a good "prognosticator," adding he was inclined to believe her warnings on the Revolutionary Guard.

"I hope that this doesn't lead to what it gives an indication of - which is a very extremist policy," the prince said.

He also said that "sanctions are a long-term solution. They may work. We can't judge."

However, Prince Saud added: "We see the issue in the shorter term because we are closer to the threat...We need an immediate resolution."

Full report at: news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/World/Story/A1Story20100216-198927.html

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Yemeni Shia rebels hand over Saudi soldier

 

SANAA: Yemeni Shia rebels freed a Saudi soldier on Monday, handing him to a ceasefire committee in a goodwill gesture, a Yemeni official said.

Talks were underway to free the remaining four Saudi soldiers believed held captive, Al Arabiya television said.

The move came days into a truce between Sanaa and the northern Shia rebels. The insurgents and the Yemeni and Saudi governments have sought in recent weeks to wind down fighting as pressure mounted on Sanaa to focus on a bigger threat: al Qaeda.

He is released,” the Yemeni official said of the soldier let go on Monday, adding the insurgents expected rebels held prisoner by Sanaa and Riyadh would also soon be freed. There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, was drawn into conflict with Yemeni rebels in November when the insurgents seized some Saudi territory, accusing Riyadh of letting Yemeni troops use Saudi land to launch attacks against them.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday gave the rebels, whose main foe is Yemen’s central government, 48 hours to free the prisoners.

Al Arabiya broadcast images of the freed soldier, Yehya Abdulla Al Kosaae, lying in a bed and engaged in a conversation.

Riyadh has said handing over the soldiers would help prove the rebels are serious about ending the fight with Saudi Arabia. The insurgents have been fighting Sanaa on and off since 2004 complaining of social, religious and economic discrimination.

Expected handover: Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted an unidentified Yemeni security official on Sunday as saying the handover of the soldiers, also part of a truce agreement with Sanaa, was expected to be completed in less than a week.

Last month, Yemen’s Shia rebels offered Saudi Arabia a truce and said they had left the kingdom’s territory. Riyadh later declared victory over the rebels.

Full report at: www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\02\16\story_16-2-2010_pg4_3

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Arab, Islamic Countries Praise Iran’s Human Rights Efforts

Feb 16 2010

Representatives of Arab and Muslim countries have praised Iran for its national efforts to promote and strengthen human rights.

Qatar told the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review on Iran’s national report here Monday it recommended that Iran continue in implementing its strategy and national policies aimed at strengthening the human rights infrastructure and to move towards more progress in promoting the culture of human rights.

Malaysia expressed its understanding as a developing country to the enormous and complex challenges faced by Iran in its efforts to achieve a balance on the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights on one hand and civil and political rights on the other.

http://news.brunei.fm/2010/02/16/arab-islamic-countries-praise-irans-human-rights-efforts/

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Mothers of captive hikers ask Iran's president for personal meeting

Feb 15 2010

NEW YORK-- The mothers of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, the three American hikers held in Iran, are asking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to personally meet with them on an upcoming visit to that country.

The women are in New York, and are planning to hand out fliers in downtown Manhattan Tuesday. 

Monday marks the 200th day that Bauer, Shourd and Fattal have been held in Evin prison and the mothers of the American hikers detained in Iran have issued an open letter to meet President Ahmadinejad in Tehran. Attached please find a copy of the letter. It should be noted that the lawyer the families retained in Iran in December has been unable to meet the hikers and the families have not received a single phone call from their children.

The mothers are in New York today and available for interview after 9am Eastern. Tomorrow Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd and Laura Fattal will gather at 43rd and 1st Avenue near the UN to distribute flyers and will be walking around New York City over the course of the day.

on Day 200 of their children's detention.

The letter they wrote is below in it's entirety.

Dear President Ahmadinejad,

On January 6, we applied for visas to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran in the hope of seeing our children in Evin Prison. We respectfully ask to meet with you when we visit Tehran and

appeal to you to intervene to expedite the approval of our visa request.

We would be honored to tell you in person who our children are and why they do not deserve to continue to be held in detention without any contact with the outside world.

Shane, Sarah and Josh have now been detained for 200 days. During that time, they have not been allowed to make a single telephone call to us or write us one letter. For more than

three months we have had no independent information about our children's physical health or their state of mind. Their most recent consular visit from Swiss diplomats was on October

29. We asked an Iranian lawyer, Mr. Masoud Shafii, to represent our children out of respect for the Iranian judicial process, but he has been refused access to them.

Full report at: http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=842055

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Afghan situation like Bosnia: Holbrooke

2/16/201

DOHA: A key US strategist on the Afghan war, Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan of the US State Department, has drawn parallels between the Bosnian war and the onslaught against Taliban in Afghanistan.

He was addressing the US-World Islamic Forum here yesterday; two days after US forces launched its Marjah offensive in Afghanistan killing at least 12 Afghan civilians.

“The US has led and won similar wars in Kosova and Bosnia with the support of the international community. And we are very optimistic about Afghanistan too, Holbrooke said, while participating in a panel discussion on “Fragile States: Shared Challenges to Ensuring Regional Stability”, on the concluding day of the US-Islamic World Forum yesterday. He criticised the media for terming the operations in Afghanistan as “Clash of Civiliations”. The overall objective of the Afghan initiative is to help the country rebuild after its 30 years of horrific conflicts,” the top US official said.

“Afghan initiative is a collective effort by the International community. We have the support of NATO forces and we enjoy the support of a large number of nations; and more and more nations are coming forward to support the international community’s efforts to bring in lasting peace in Afghanistan. There is no room for misunderstanding”, he stated.

Stanley McChrystal, the US General who leads the Marjah offensive has made it clear that protecting civilians is the centerpiece of his strategy. However, there were casualties yesterday, for which he offered an apology.

“Marjah is one of the biggest hotbeds of Taliban The operation is very critical. We cannot set a time frame for military operations in Afghanistan. But President Obama has made it clear that the withdrawal will begin from next July. The civilian programme will continue,” Holbrooke said.

Full report at: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=Local_News&subsection=Qatar+News&month=February2010&file=Local_News2010021652620.xml

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Conference on Muslims in the media too hot for some of its speakers

Joseph Brean

February 15, 2010

Stouffville, Ont. -- Western media have a "spiteful policy" toward Iran of inventing "fraudulent" news to "increase false national expectation" and "encourage disturbance," according to the cultural attaché in the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Hamid Mohammadi said media deception has caused hatred and fear of Muslims by presenting the "false belief that religion is incapable of running a country" and that Iran is therefore illegitimate. He said the result has been political "position changing" by Western countries against Muslims. He quoted an "American thinker," whose name did not come clearly through his strong accent, to the effect that "future wars are in the hands of the media, and their words are more effective than bullets."

Somehow, his brief remarks were among the least controversial at a conference about the "Media War on Islam" on Sunday at a Toronto-area Islamic centre, in which the Christmas Day underwear bomber was described as the tool of an Israeli plot; Barack Obama was referred to as "Mr. Black Man"; al-Qaeda was called "the figment of the imagination of the West"; and a video was shown that mocked 9/11 by putting the Muppet Show logo over slow-motion footage of the second plane's impact, with screams of terror for audio.

With a police presence and protesters outside, the atmosphere was too hot for some of the speakers advertised in promotional material.

Lawyer Khurrum Awan, who brought hate speech complaints against Maclean's magazine with the Canadian Islamic Congress, agreed to speak some time ago, and called it "an error on my part" that he only learned about the other speakers a couple of days before the event. He said he cancelled primarily for fear that his presence could seem to justify the actions of the government of Iran, including its hosting of a 2006 conference on Holocaust denial.

Two leaders of the Canadian Arab Federation, Khaled Mouammar and Ali Mallah, did not respond yesterday to requests for comment about why they did not speak as advertised. Neither did James Clark, a prominent anti-war protester.

Full report at: http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=2567900

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US woos Muslims with study initiatives

By Joyce C Abaño

2 16 2010

DOHA: The United States is doing its part to bridge the gap between the Islamic and Western worlds by investing in educational opportunities to encourage students from Muslim countries to study in the US, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday.

“We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in educational opportunities for Muslim students to come to the United States,” Clinton said during a visit to the Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar.

Clinton said it was Washington’s way of reversing the difficulties some students from Muslim communities faced after the September 11 attack in New York. “After 9/11, as some of you may know, the US became very focused on protecting our citizens and made it more difficult for people to come to study and work in the US… we are trying to reverse that.”

Clinton said she was impressed by Qatar’s commitment to education, highlighting the important work of Qatar Foundation as an example. “Education City is so important for Qatar and beyond… It sends a strong message, not just here in the region, but around the world.”

“We must look for ways to celebrate our differences while finding a common cause in the human objectives of peace and prosperity… What kind of future will we provide for students, including the ones here today?,” she said.

Speaking about women taking up educational opportunities, Clinton said her travels throughout the Arab world allowed her to meet many conservative families that understand the value of an education for their daughters, as well as their sons.

“Education provides an opportunity for women to fulfill their God-given potential,” she said.

According to Clinton, they want to remove misconceptions of what some of the people in the United Staste have about Muslim communities, and the misconceptions of the Muslim people about the US, hence their plans on investing in education and reaching out to young people.

“We are working hard on this and we hope that many of the Muslim communities around the world will reciprocate by inviting American students… inviting American professors, inviting American business leaders, media personalities, to their area… which, I think will help to move us beyond what is a very narrow focus that we are unfortunately seeing too much of in the past,” she said. The Peninsula

http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=Local_News&subsection=Qatar+News&month=February2010&file=Local_News2010021652919.xml

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Newswire: Haitian Contributions of The Islamic Medical Association of North America

Angelo Soto

02/15/2010

IMANA, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, is an organization of Muslim physicians that was founded in 1968. The physicians work collaboratively with countries around the world to spread the message of proper health care and to come to the aid of those in need during catastrophic events.

This organization achieves tremendous success because it engages with the communities where the physicians work, seeking to instill quality programs to support the needs of the people locally. IMANA works closely with governments both on the national and local levels, as well as with community leaders and health care workers.

On July 3, 2009 IMANA advocated for health care reform on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. for the first time. The topic of conversation was “Perspectives from the Front Line.” Dr. Khalique Zahi represented the organization and spoke about the vision of health care being the “shared responsibility grounded in common humanity.” Dr. Zahi advocated for each nation to band together to support world health.

The most recent relief effort has taken place in Haiti, which was devastated by a level 8 earthquake on January 12. Thousands in Port-au-Prince were left buried beneath buildings and homeless. Families were forever torn apart and neighbors were forced to bury the deceased in mass graves. Physicians from IMANA who are experienced in medical relief after disasters, headed to grief stricken Haiti to work in teams to provide care to those without. Doctors found themselves working in make shift tents where they combined their surgical skills in hopes to perform advanced surgeries. They would sometimes treat 300 patients daily. Dr. Mehr, a physician volunteering in Haiti stated, “It’s very clear in the Quran that to save one human life is as if you saved all of humanity.”

Full report at: http://www.newswire.net/newsroom/index.php/permalink/68790.html

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Qatar Rejects Appeals to Respect Human Rights

By Roy Brown

15 February 2010

The appalling lack of human rights in even the most liberal of Islamic States was highlighted this week when Qatar rejected the following recommendations made by member states of the Human Rights Council. Those not entitled to the full enjoyment of their human rights in Qatar include women, the children of mixed marriages, and–of course–homosexuals.

1. To continue to focus work on the rights of women and children, and to lift its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to guarantee fair and equal legislation (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland);

2. To consider withdrawing, as soon as possible, its reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to ensure that its national law and practice is in conformity with it (Norway);

3. To review its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women with a view to withdrawing them, especially the reservation to the right of a child to obtain Qatari nationality from a Qatari women married to a foreign man (Netherlands);

4. To end discrimination against women by amending its legislation to guarantee women equal rights, in accordance with its international obligations, including with regard to marriage and divorce (Sweden);

5. To take legislative measures to eliminate discrimination against women, particularly in the area of marriage and divorce (Chile);

6. To ensure that LGBT persons are not discriminated against and, as an immediate step, to amend the provisions of the penal code criminalizing consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex and to ensure that no one is punished for such activity under Sharia law (Sweden);

7. To consider establishing an official moratorium on the use of death penalty with a view to abolishing it, as provided by General Assembly resolutions 62/149and 63/168 (Slovenia);

8. To declare a moratorium on executions in line with the General Assembly resolutions 62/149 and 63/168 (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland);

9. To commute all death sentences and declare a moratorium on executions (Norway);

10. To consider abolishing the death penalty and corporal punishment, in particular against children (Brazil);

11. To establish a moratorium on capital punishment, commuting such crimes to sentences of deprivation of liberty; if not, to find a way to harmonize criminal and penal norms and laws with international human rights law (Spain);

12. To abolish stoning and flogging from its legislation, as mentioned by the Committee against Torture (Chile).

--Roy Brown, Head of IHEU Delegation to the United Nations, Geneva.

http://europenews.dk/en/node/29965

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Nakheel Troubles Not Tied to Islamic Banking, ADIB Chief Says

By Vivian Salama

February 15, 2010

Nakheel PJSC’s struggle to repay a $4.1 billion Islamic bond in December wasn’t a reflection of any special risks attached to Islamic banking, the chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank said.

“Was there an extraordinary weakness in the Islamic structure? No,” Tirad Mahmoud said in an interview late yesterday in Abu Dhabi. “Maybe people thought if it is Islamic, it is zero risk. But Islamic banks never promise guaranteed outcomes.”

Dubai World, the state-owned company that owns Nakheel, said Nov. 25 it would seek to freeze or delay debt payments until at least May 30. The company repaid $4.1 billion on an Islamic bond from Nakheel, which is building palm tree-shaped islands off the emirate’s coast after Dubai received a $10 billion loan from the Abu Dhabi government in December.

Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, are governed by Shariah laws, which ban the payment of interest and stipulates agreements be based on the transfer of goods or services.

“When you put a deposit with the bank, we don’t say, ‘This rate is what you are going to get.’ We say, ‘This is the expected profit rate,’” Mahmoud said. “If anyone says there is profit without risks, they are not telling you the truth.”

Sukuk sales rose to $20.15 billion last year from $14.13 billion in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the United Arab Emirates’ second- biggest lender complying with Muslim banking rules, has no plans to sell bonds this year because there is “no need,” Mahmoud said. The lender has an $800 million bond maturing at the end of 2011.

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-15/nakheel-troubles-not-tied-to-islamic-banking-adib-chief-says.html

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Cinemas Fight Islam Stereotypes

Feb. 16, 2010

BERLIN – The stereotypical media cliches about Islam, cultural identity, fundamentalism and honor killing are taking the central stage in this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

"It has taken nearly 10 years after 9/11, but these issues are finally going from the headlines into the cinemas," German director Burhan Qurbani told Reuters.

"These are things we have to talk about."

Qurbani’s film “Shahada” (Faith) highlights the difficulty of being Muslim in a majority-Christian culture.

The film, premiers Wednesday, tells the story of three different Muslims in Germany trying to cope between their religious backgrounds and cultural identity.

"Partly, the film is about the contradictions in both cultures, about living in a culture to which one does not really belong. The twisting of identity," said Qurbani, of Afghani origin.

The festival also sees the debut of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s new film “My Name Is Khan”.

The movie features the racial bias and profiling in the United States following the 9/11 attacks.

“On the Path” film, by director Jasmila Zbanic, explores fundamentalism, the cultural makeup and the violent history of her native Bosnia.

The festival also takes up the hot-button issue of “honor killing” in “When We Leave” by Austrian first-timer Feo Aladag.

The film shows that honor killing, portrayed in the Western media as exhorted by Islam, is a cultural act and has nothing to do with the faith.

Full report at: www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1265890402009&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

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Carnival celebrates Muslim integration

David Crossland

February 15. 2010

BONN, GERMANY // A Muslim immigrant has been appointed “carnival prince” in Bonn this year. It is a rare honour being hailed as a symbol for successful integration.

Amir Shafaghi, who moved to western Germany with his parents in 1980 after Iran’s Islamic revolution, when he was 10, was the city’s official master of ceremonies for the carnival celebrations that culminate today.

“Prince Amir I”, clad in a gold-embroidered costume with white tights and a feathered cap, held comic speeches at carnival balls and threw sweets to the crowds at festive processions, accompanied by his real-life partner, “Princess Uta”. For anyone passionate about celebrating carnival in Germany, being appointed “prince of fools” is the crowning achievement.

Carnival is an honoured folk tradition in the predominantly Catholic west and south of Germany, especially in the Rhineland towns of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn and Mainz, and Mr Shafaghi’s nomination by the local carnival societies proved he has been well and truly accepted by the natives. He was the first Muslim carnival prince of a major German city.

“We wanted to show that the Bonn carnival isn’t just for people born here, and to invite everyone who has moved here to get involved,” Wilhelm Wester, a spokesman for the city’s festival committee, said. “And that’s succeeded with Prince Amir’s help. He’s the embodiment of an open-minded person and we hope he will encourage other immigrants to embrace the tradition and celebrate with us.”

Mr Shafaghi, who runs a marketing company, said he was infected by the “carnival bug” as soon as he arrived in Bonn and saw sweets being hurled from procession floats. “I would never have dreamt that I would one day be the carnival prince parading through the streets, the kindergartens and schools, the hospitals, old folks’ homes and festival halls,” he said.

“I want to be remembered as the prince who did all he could to unite people of all colours and religions. Religion, profession and social status don’t matter in carnival.”

Jürgen Nimptsch, Bonn’s mayor, said: “At long last we’ve got a prince from the Orient, and boy does he know how to celebrate.”

Full report at: www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100216/FOREIGN/702159867/1002/foreign

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Obama appoints Quran expert with ties to Detroit

By Niraj Warikoo

Feb. 15, 2010

Rashad Hussain once clerked for Judge Damon Keith

President Barack Obama has appointed a hafiz -- a Muslim who has memorized Islam's holy book, the Quran -- to be the new U.S. envoy to an association of 56 Muslim countries.

Rashad Hussain, a White House attorney who once clerked for Detroit native Judge Damon Keith, was appointed over the weekend to be the special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group that promotes Muslim solidarity.

Hussain is the deputy associate counsel in Obama's White House staff.

He is the third Indian-American Muslim in the Obama administration to be given a prominent role in outreach to the Muslim world. Last year, the U.S. State Department appointed another Indian-American Muslim, Farah Pandith, to be special representative to the Muslim world. And Eboo Patel, an Indian-American Muslim from Chicago, was selected to be on Obama's advisory council for faith.

Obama announced the appointment in a speech he gave Saturday to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, praising the fact that Hussain is "a hafiz of the Quran"

"As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo," Obama said in a video announcement posted on the White House Web site. "And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work."

Hussain worked with the national security staff on outreach to the Muslim world following Obama's speech to Muslims in Cairo, Egypt, in June 2009, according to his White House biography. Hussain previously served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. He received a law degree from Yale Law School and a master's in public administration and in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University.

After graduation, he was a law clerk for Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In a statement posted on a White House site, Hussain said:

"As part of his commitment to continue to seek a new beginning with Muslim communities around the world, and to expand upon the partnerships he outlined in Cairo, I am honored and humbled that the president has asked me to serve ... President Obama has emphasized that progress will be judged not by our words, but our actions, and I am committed to deepening the partnerships that he outlined in his visionary address last summer."

http://www.freep.com/article/20100215/NEWS05/100215023/1322/Obama-appoints-Quran-expert-with-ties-to-Detroit

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Indian American Muslims demand fair probe of Adv Shahid Azmi’s murder

(Additional reporting by Sonya Angraini; Editing by Ed Davies and Rupert Winchester)

16 February 2010

Washington: The murder of Adv Shahid Azmi is not a murder of an individual only, but rather a brazen effort to intimidate and ultimately obliterate the idea of justice and silence the voice of the Indian conscience, said Indian Muslim Council-USA and urged the central government of India to conduct an independent and transparent investigation and bring the murderers of Mr. Azmi to justice.

Dr. Hyder Khan, National Vice President and spokesperson for IMC-USA said, “All injustice, particularly murders are injurious to the functioning of a civil society. The democratic system is weakened when government fails to protect the life and liberties of its citizens.”

IMC-USA, an advocacy group dedicated towards safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos was extremely shocked and disheartened to hear that well-known Mumbai based advocate Shahid Azmi was gunned down in broad daylight on February 11 in his office in Taximen's Colony, Mumbai. Mr. Azmi was defense counsel to numerous Muslim youth who were arrested and detained in cases such as the 2006 Malegaon case in Maharashtra. Reportedly the assailants pretended to be his clients. It is also reported that Mr. Azmi had approached the police about threats to his life; however he was not given security by the government. In his very young but impactful career, Mr. Azmi became the outspoken voice for downtrodden and defenseless youth, Dr. Hyder Khan said.

He further added, "Indians owe a great debt of gratitude to brave citizens like Shahid Azmi who are the conscience keepers of the Indian democracy. They risk their safety to take up such cases, to uphold the constitution of India that promises and guarantees justice to the most vulnerable"

“IMC strongly feels that the murder of Shahid Azmi is not a murder of an individual only, but rather a brazen effort to intimidate and ultimately obliterate the idea of justice and silence the voice of the Indian conscience. IMC strongly urges the central government of India to conduct an independent and transparent investigation and bring the murderers of Mr. Azmi to justice. The Indian Judicial system and legal experts are the ultimate defense of the Indian Constitution for which many have sacrificed their lives and serve as the core of a civil and secular Indian state,” Dr Khan said.

http://twocircles.net/2010feb15/indian_american_muslims_demand_fair_probe_adv_shahid_azmi_s_murder.html

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Stone-pelting kids in J&K arrested for ‘waging war’

By Naseer Ganai in Srinagar

SIXTEEN boys, some of them barely 13, were picked up for allegedly waging war against the state and paraded on Monday to a sub- judge’s court in Srinagar.

The police told the court that by “ pelting” stones at paramilitary forces and policemen in Srinagar, the teenagers waged war against the government and insulted national honour.

The defence lawyer alleged that the police did not follow basic procedures of invoking such serious penal provisions of the law. He argued that though the boys were sent to seven days’ judicial custody, many of them were not even 18 and hence should have been sent to juvenile homes.

The Jammu and Kashmir government booked the teenagers suspected of pelting stones in Srinagar under the 121 Ranbir Penal Code ( waging war against the state) and the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act.

Anyone found guilty of violating the Code can be sentenced to life imprisonment, while flouting the Act can attract a term of two years.

The 16 teenagers, mostly from downtown Srinagar and aged between 13 and 18, were arrested from Nawakadal, Bohri Kadal, Nowhatta and neighbouring areas by men from Nowhatta police station on Sunday.

Inside the courtroom, the boys in shackles broke down while denying that they had attacked the security forces. “ The police picked us up from different localities,” one of them told the court. “‘ I was riding a scooter when some policemen stopped me and arrested me,” he said.

Relatives, accompanying the distraught boys, consoled them.

Their counsel Rafique Ahmad Joo refuted the police allegations.

He argued in the court that the police could book people under the 121 RPC only after following proper procedures.

“ The police should first verify and present a report to a district magistrate about the activities of the accused if they have to be booked under the Code. If the district magistrate feels that the police report should be acted upon, he has to file an FIR in the court against the accused under the 121 RPC. Only after then can the police arrest them,” the lawyer said.

Opposing the teenagers’ remand saying that the men in uniform did not follow legal procedures, Joo pleaded with the court that they should not be kept in a police lockup.

In a related development, the family of a teenager who was killed by a police shell on January 31, approached a court for registering an FIR against the police. Farooq Ahmad, father of deceased Wamik, reasoned that because the state government identified the BSF trooper involved in the recent killing of another teenager Zahid Farooq, the police should disclose the name of policeman who killed Wamik.

Accordingly, the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar directed the senior superintendent of police Srinagar, Javid Riyaz Bedar, to submit a report within five days about the Wamik killing.

naseer. ganai@ mailtoday. in

Mail Today, New Delhi.

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Move on Muslim quota questioned

DESPERATE to regain its hold among Muslims, the CPI( M) in West Bengal has decided to be the first among all states to implement Justice Ranganath Misra Commission’s recommendations.

Socially, economically and educationally backward Muslims will now be included in the OBC category and jobs will be reserved for them, the CPI( M) central committee decided in its meeting in Kolkata.

But the party is facing resistance from within. To “ eliminate the creamy layer”, the CPI( M) decided to reserve seats for the dependents of those earning up to Rs 4.5 lakh per annum. Why should a person earning Rs 37,500 per month be considered economically backward, some leaders ask. Isn’t the party compromising on its principle that it would not support reservation on the basis of religion? Others feel that the identification of backward Muslim communities is a daunting task. If even one deserving community is left out, the move may backfire.

Also, how to deal with undeserving communities, which might demand their inclusion in the OBC list? For the present, the government has no intention to reserve seats in educational institutions.

Non- Muslim minorities too are to be left out for the moment. These steps reveal the CPI( M)’ s real intentions. The actual concern is not for the Muslims but for their votes. This might not be liked by the people, feel many in the party.

Mail Today, New Delhi.

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India signals change of tack by agreeing to talk despite Pune

Indrani Bagchi

16 February 2010

NEW DELHI: Amidst growing conviction about LeT's link to the Pune blast, BJP's criticism as well as misgivings in the Congress, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Monday decided to go ahead with talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, indicating a significant shift in India's attitude towards bilateral talks.

Naturally, such a big shift wouldn't happen without a debate within the government. As it happens, the decision comes in the face of divisions within the government, and marks a victory for the approach of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his new NSA, Shivshankar Menon. It would appear the government has now come round to the view that pulling out of talks because of Pune would be counter-productive.

New Delhi had suspended all talks with Pakistan since 26/11, and after a gap of 15 months - during which it has insisted that it will talk only if Islamabad was seen to be acting against those in Pakistan mounting attacks on India - has agreed to scheduled secretary-level talks in New Delhi on February 25.

Nothing tangible may emerge from this round of talks, but they will nonetheless have symbolic significance. By clarifying that India will talk, New Delhi has conveyed a maturity of approach and a reasonableness that is bound to be appreciated by its western friends and allies.

At another level, the willingness to talk could be seen as New Delhi's acceptance of Islamabad's argument that to call off talks now would be playing into the hands of the terror-mongers who are determined to sour Indo-Pak ties. However, implicit in this acceptance is also a new official admission of ``non-state players'' in Pakistan who are independent of the government, or even if they form some parts of the official machinery, are outside the government's control.

Full report at: /timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-signals-change-of-tack-by-agreeing-to-talk-despite-Pune/articleshow/5578083.cms

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Pune blast: CCTV footage shows 2 persons walking into bakery with bag

Vishwas Kothari, Mateen Hafeez & Asseem Shaikh

16 February 2010

PUNE: The focus of the probe into the German Bakery blast centered on Monday around the footage recorded by the closed circuit television installed at the entrance of a five-star hotel located in front of the bakery.

While investigators, including city police chief Satya Pal Singh and the anti-terrorist squad (ATS) officials, remained tightlipped about the contents of the footage, sources suggested there were images of two unidentified men moving suspiciously outside the bakery, moments before the blast.

ATS sources said the footage was being analysed. ``The footage shows two persons walking inside German Bakery with a bag,'' said one source. However, they maintained that jumping to any conclusion would be premature at this stage of the probe as the footage details needed to be corroborated. The images, however, were of the backs of people, and it wasn't clear if faces could be seen clearly enough for identification, said a home department official.

Anil Malik, resident manager of The O Hotel, told TOI, ``We have handed over the entire CCTV footage recorded around the time of the incident to the investigators. The harddisk containing the footage has been given to the police. I have nothing more to speak about.''

Malik said he was under orders from the cops not to speak to the media.

Investigating agencies meanwhile got one of the surest indications till date that the Pune blast plan was finalized at least a fortnight before it was executed. These agencies have now come to know that the internet chatter among Indian Mujahideen operatives ceased totally about a fortnight before last Saturday, when a bomb ripped through the heart of Pune landmark German Bakery.

The IM operatives are known to relay coded messages via internet chat sites as an established tool of communication. This chatter stopped totally, leading investigating agencies to believe that the blast was planned well in advance. ``The sudden stop of chatter had led us to suspect that they might be on to something big,'' a senior security agency official told TOI. ``Unfortunately, we were proved right by the blast at German Bakery,'' he added.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pune-blast-CCTV-footage-shows-2-persons-walking-into-bakery-with-bag-/articleshow/5578084.cms

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Troubled Waters: Jamat-Ud-Dawa Used River Dispute To Raise Heat

16 February 2010

NEW DELHI: The dispute over water sharing between Pakistan and India is no different from the inter-state riparian disputes that countries all over the world constantly engage in, but the Pakistan-based militant jihadi group Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) on February 5 raised high passion at a gathering in Islamabad, alleging that India was determined to starve Pakistan of water.

The waters of Indus system flowing through the lands of the two countries are critical to both, but JuD’s attempt to use the debate to foment hatred against India doesn’t — and create an emotional justification for attacks on it — hides the simple fact that similar disputes have been settled with civility, sometimes after prolonged arbitration, but certainly without violence.

At the heart of the debate is the Indus Waters Treaty that the two countries signed in 1960. Under it, eastern rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi were allocated to India and entitlements over Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan. India is allowed to interfere in the flow of western rivers for non-consumptive uses such as flood control, fishing, navigation and generation of power.

The World Bank is signatory to the treaty but has very limited role to play and is not empowered to act as an arbitrator. Most of the arguments between the two countries arise out of the power or navigation projects that India has launched on the western flowing rivers in Kashmir before they enter Pakistan.

In essence, the dispute is not very different from the one between TN and Karnataka over Cauvery river water or between Delhi and Haryana over Yamuna water. But as India and Pakistan are at loggerheads over security issues the water dispute tends to be overtaken by emotive issues as “India’s conspiracy to deny Pakistan a drop of water (and hence, life)” rather spark a debate over technical issues. The biggest flashpoint in recent years has been Baglihar hydroelectric project on Chenab that would provide 450MW of power to Kashmir. Pakistan claims the project violates terms of 1960 treaty. Finally, in 2007, World Bank appointed adjudicator cleared the project asking for minor changes.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Troubled-waters-JuD-used-river-dispute-to-raise-heat-/articleshow/5578133.cms

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Maoists kill 21 jawans in West Bengal

Sukumar Mahato & Caesar Mandal

16 February 2010

BELPAHARI (WEST MIDNAPORE): Scores of Maoists ambushed security forces in Silda (just 30km from Midnapore town) on Monday, killing 21 Eastern Frontier Rifle (EFR) jawans and abducting many injured soldiers, in the most devastating and daring Naxal attack in Bengal so far. The camp, located in the middle of a busy market place, was completely gutted.

Clad in tracksuits and preparing dinner, around 50 EFR men were caught completely off guard when 60 to 70 Maoists began firing from automatic rifles. The jawans were boxed in by the five-foot walls and barbed wire fence of their camp as the guerrillas opened fire from all sides.

Maoist leader Kishanji claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately after it took place. ``This is our Operation Peace Hunt against their Operation Green Hunt,'' Kishanji told TOI. ``This is our reply to Chidambaram and Buddhadeb. Steer clear of the jungles of Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand.''

According to sources, scores of members of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the most dreaded of Maoist forces in Jharkhand, had slipped into Bengal two days prior to the attack.

Incidentally, it hasn't even been a week since Union home minister P Chidambaram, in Kolkata, announced a four-state crackdown on Maoists during a meeting with chief ministers of Naxal-hit states.

The EFR camp is inside a public health centre near the crowded Silda bazaar. It's possible that EFR authorities did not apprehend a Maoist attack in an area bustling with civilians. But the crowd cover worked for the Maoists, who went unnoticed as they started gathering in the market in threes and fives in the afternoon.

Cut off by the boundary wall, the jawans had no inkling of what was happening outside. By 5pm, the guerrillas had completely surrounded the camp and taken the high ground. The jawans were sitting ducks. They were lounging around or rolling out dough for chapatis when the Maoists began firing from their Insas and AK-47 rifles.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Maoists-kill-21-jawans-in-West-Bengal/articleshow/5578082.cms

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Blast shouldn’t block Indo-Pak talks: Kerry

16 February 2010

NEW DELHI: US Senator John Kerry, who met PM Manmohan Singh on Monday, has said that the Pune blast should not be allowed to block the India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for February 25.

Kerry, chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, had a 20-minute meeting with Manmohan Singh. They are said to have discussed bilateral relations as well as the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The right thing is to talk; you lose nothing by talking. I hope India will have that conversation with Pakistan and, if they have evidence (of Pakistani link to the Pune blast)..., that should be the first thing on the table and Pakistan has to deal with it," he was quoted as saying by the `Wall Street Journal'.

Kerry arrived in Delhi Sunday and will leave later Monday for Islamabad.

His visit has significance as it comes before India and Pakistan are to have their first significant official-level contact after the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in New Delhi on February 25. The Indian government has already indicated that the talks will be held despite Saturday's bomb blast in Pune that killed nine people, including two foreigners.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Blast-shouldnt-block-Indo-Pak-talks-Kerry/articleshow/5577499.cms

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Exercise caution: US, UK, Oz advisory to tourists

16 February 2010

NEW DELHI: In a re-run of post-Mumbai terror attacks, foreign countries like US, UK and Australia issued fresh travel advisories on Monday alerting their citizens to exercise caution but stopping short of asking tourists to avoid travelling to India.

The advisories come close on the heels of the blast at Pune's German Bakery that was frequented by foreign visitors.

The advisories have asked citizens to maintain "heightened situational awareness and a low profile".

"American citizens are advised to be alert to the continued possibility of terrorist attacks in India. The February 13 terrorist bombing in a bakery frequented by westerners in Pune, Maharashtra, serves as a reminder that terrorists and their sympathisers are capable of attacking targets where US citizens or westerners are known to congregate or visit," the US travel alert said.

In its advisory, updated after the blast, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of UK government said that "on 13 February, a bomb exploded in a bakery/coffee shop in Pune killing nine and injuring up to 53 people. Foreigners were among the casualties. British nationals are reminded to remain vigilant in public places".

It added, "There is a high general threat from terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those frequented by westerners and expatriates."

Australia, in its alert said, "We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in India at this time because of the high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups... We continue to receive reporting of possible threats against prominent business and tourist locations, including in Mumbai and New Delhi."

The advisory emphasised that the government continued to receive credible reports suggesting that terrorists may be planning attacks in India directed at "hotels frequented by foreigners, including perceived western-owned hotels. Terrorists may also be planning attacks against Indian political and security interests".

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Exercise-caution-US-UK-Oz-advisory-to-tourists/articleshow/5577366.cms

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Musharraf hints at return to Pakistan politics

16 February 2010

LONDON: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, settled here on self-exile, has hinted at a return to Pakistan politics if the voters of his country decided.

Stating that he loved his country, the former President said "I would do anything to Pakistan."

The retired general who was replaced last year in elections after nine years as president was speaking at a meeting at the Chatham House, a think-tank, here.

Musharraf, who ousted the elected government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, said "For Pakistan one would be prepared to do anything. However, it is for the people of Pakistan who need to decide."

"I'm a civilian now, I'm not a military man, I cannot take over anything," a reference to his seizure of power while army chief from Sharif, the former military ruler said in a lighter vein.

"I have to come through the political process, through the process of elections.

But I think it's very good - it's very good because I think I will have that legitimacy which I never had," he said.

Musharraf did not say if he has decided to return to Pakistan to face trial over his 2007 detention of judges as he clung to power.

Musharraf had imposed a state of emergency and sacked 60 judges on November 3, 2007 when the Supreme Court appeared poised to declare him ineligible to contest a presidential election while in military uniform.

Musharraf now leaves in a three-bedroom flat behind the 'shisha bars' and 'kebab joints' of London's Arabic quarter. But security remains tight.

The general is guarded by a small team of retired Pakistani commandos and pays for his security himself. Scotland Yard also extends protection to the former Pakistani ruler.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Musharraf-hints-at-return-to-Pakistan-politics-/articleshow/5578509.cms

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US, Pakistan capture Taliban's top commander: Report

16 February 2010

NEW YORK: The United States and Pakistani intelligence forces captured the Taliban's top military commander in a secret joint operation in Karachi, Pakistan, the online edition of The New York Times said late Monday.

Billed as the most significant Taliban figure since the start of the US-led war in Afghanistan eight years ago and second only to Taliban founder Mohammad Omar, Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured several days ago and is currently in Pakistani custody with US officials taking part in his interrogation.

Baradar, an Afghani, was a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

US officials believe he is in charge of the Taliban's military operations and the Taliban's leadership council.

The unnamed US officials told the daily they hoped his capture will lead to other senior Taliban officials.

The Times said it learned of Baradar's capture on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the White House's request for fear it would hamper a successful intelligence gathering effort.

The newspaper published the story after US officials acknowledged Baradar's capture was becoming widely known in the region.

The details of Baradar's capture were not clear, but it was carried out by Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, the daily said.

The joint operation suggests a new level of cooperation from Pakistan's leaders, who have been reluctant to give full support to US anti-Taliban efforts.

Baradar's capture comes in the middle of a major US, NATO and Afghan troop offensive on a Taliban stronghold in opium-rich Marjah, Afghanistan, one of the biggest since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-Pakistan-capture-Talibans-top-commander-Report-/articleshow/5578512.cms

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US joins France, Russia in denying new Iran nuclear offer

16 February 2010

WASHINGTON: The United States joined France and Russia on Monday in denying an assertion by Iran that it had been offered a new nuclear proposal from the three major powers.

"There is no new proposal on the table," White House spokesman Mike Hammer said, responding to claims from the head of Iran's atomic energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.

Salehi told news agencies that France, Russia and the United States had made the offer in response to Tehran's announcement last week that it had begun enriching uranium to a higher 20 percent level.

But Hammer, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, dismissed the claim and urged Iran to work with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on an existing proposal aimed at defusing the crisis.

Under the proposal drafted by the UN watchdog and backed by the major powers, Iran would ship out most of its stocks of low enriched uranium in return for receiving fuel for the Tehran reactor from France and Russia.

"The door remains open for Iran to accept the practical, fair, and responsible proposal put forth by the IAEA last fall that would enable Iran to meet its medical humanitarian needs as well as build international confidence in Iranian intentions," said Hammer.

"Iran should engage directly with the IAEA."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/US-joins-France-Russia-in-denying-new-Iran-nuclear-offer-/articleshow/5578080.cms

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Palestine prez sacks aide for sex scandal

16 February 2010

JERUSALEM: Facing a corruption scandal that has rocked the highest echelons of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Palestinian president suspended his chief of staff on Sunday while a committee investigates accusations that the aide sought to trade influence for sex.

A videotape broadcast by an Israeli television station last week shows the chief of staff, Rafiq Husseini, waiting naked in bed for a Palestinian woman who was said to have come to the president’s office seeking government help.

The accusations against Husseini, brought to light by a former Palestinian intelligence officer, have stoked a crisis of confidence in Palestinian leadership and led to accusations that the case an Israeli plot to discredit the Palestinian government.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Palestine-prez-sacks-aide-for-sex-scandal-/articleshow/5577972.cms

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7 killed in mine blast in Yemen

Sana’a (Yemen)

At least seven people, including two soldiers, were killed and several others injured in a landmine blast in the north-western province of Saada, witnesses said.

Witnesses said that an anti-armour mine went off as an army unit was clearing a mine field in al-Oqab district west of the provincial capital of Saada.

Two soldiers and three tribesmen were killed instantly, they said.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/236261/7-killed-in-mine-blast-in-Yemen.html

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Pak looking up to US to match India’s military might: Envoy

M Zulqernain | Lahore

Pakistan is looking up to the US to help it match India’s plans to spend US$ 100 billion on weapons systems in the coming years to modernise its military, the country’s Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani has said.

He said Pakistan has also started negotiating with the US for an agreement on nuclear technology on the lines of the deal Washington had signed with India and others.

“India is our main concern as it is buying weapons worth USD 100 billion from five countries and to balance this, we will have to depend on the US. India has 5,500 tanks and there is a question against whom they will be used,” Haqqani told a group of journalists at the Governor's House here late last night.

“We cannot be assured by statements from the other side of the border that India will not wage a war against us,” the diplomat said.

Pakistan will get another batch of 16 F-16 fighter aircraft in June, Haqqani said.

On nuclear technology, he said: “The talks between Pakistan and the US for cooperation on the atomic programmes are underway.

“And we want the US to have an agreement with us like the one it had with India on civil nuclear technology,” he added.

Full report at: /www.dailypioneer.com/236255/Pak-looking-up-to-US-to-match-India%E2%80%99s-military-might-Envoy.html

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Hillary: Iran becoming military dictatorship

Robert Burns | Doha

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that Iran was becoming a military dictatorship, a new US accusation in the midst of rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions and crack down on anti-Government protesters.

Speaking to Arab students at Carnegie Mellon’s Doha campus, Clinton said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps appears to have gained so much power that it effectively is supplanting the government. “Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship,” she said. “That is our view.”

Last week the US Treasury Department announced that it was freezing the assets in US jurisdictions of a Revolutionary Guard general and four subsidiaries of a previously penalised construction firm he runs because of their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The Revolutionary Guard has long been a pillar of Iran's regime as a force separate from the ordinary armed forces. The Guard now has a hand in every critical area including missile development, oil resources, dam building, road construction, telecommunications and nuclear technology.

It also has absorbed the paramilitary Basij as a full-fledged part of its command structure, giving the militia greater funding and a stronger presence in Iran's internal politics. In her Doha appearance, Clinton also said she foresees a possible breakthrough soon in stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.       AP

"I'm hopeful that this year will see the commencement of serious negotiations that will cover every issue that is outstanding," she said, adding that "everyone is anticipating" progress after more than a year of impasse between the negotiating parties. The peace talks broke down in late 2008 with Israel's incursion into Gaza, which had launched rocket attacks on Israeli targets. Clinton spoke in an interview with the Al-Jazeera TV network before a live audience of mostly Arab students at Carnegie Mellon's Doha campus.

In remarks in the Qatari capital on Sunday, Clinton said she and the president are disappointed that the administration's efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks had failed thus far. A Carnegie Mellon audience member who identified himself as an Iranian expatriate asked Clinton if the U.S. would be present in Iraq if Iraq had no oil resources. She said the U.S. wants a normal relationship with the Iraqi government, regardless of its natural resources.

Full report at: www.dailypioneer.com/236254/Hillary-Iran-becoming-military-dictatorship.html

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Iran moving toward military dictatorship, says Clinton

Feb 16, 2010

Riyadh : The United States believes Iran's Revolutionary Guards are driving the country toward military dictatorship and should be targeted in any new UN sanctions, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Speaking in Qatar before flying to Riyadh, Clinton denied the United States planned to attack Iran and said Washington wanted dialogue with Tehran but could not "stand idly by" while Iran pursued a suspected nuclear weapons program.

Clinton said Washington hoped to pressure Iran through a U.N. Security Council resolution targeting the Revolutionary Guards, who she accused of usurping the government.

"We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship," she told students in a televised session. "That is our view."

Clinton later told reporters in Riyadh she hoped Iran's religious and political leaders would "take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people."

The United States is leading a push for the UN Security Council to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, which says its nuclear program is solely to generate electricity so it can export more of its oil and gas.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said it was unclear if sanctions would work and suggested that Iran's Gulf neighbors hoped for a quick UN resolution.

In Moscow on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to back "sanctions with teeth" targeting Iran's energy sector.

Full report at: www.indianexpress.com/news/iran-moving-toward-military-dictatorship-says-clinton/580387/

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Not hesitant on solving terror-related issues with India: Pak

Feb 15, 2010

Islamabad : Pakistan on Tuesday said it is "not hesitant" about solving terror-related issues with India though the Kashmir dispute will have to be settled to ensure absolute peace in the region.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit made the remarks while talking to a TV news channel about the Foreign Secretary-level talks scheduled to be held in New Delhi on February 25.

A number of issues, including terrorism, the Kashmir dispute, differences over sharing of river waters and bilateral trade, would come up for discussion during the upcoming meeting, he said.

Pakistan will also bring up India's alleged involvement in fomenting unrest in the tribal areas and Balochistan province, Basit said.

No conditions had been set for the dialogue, he added.

Basit described New Delhi's proposal for the Foreign Secretary-level talks as "appreciable in the current situation" but said India had wasted a year by discontinuing talks with Pakistan in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

He claimed it "was still not clear what India wanted" from the talks.

There are also "no chances" of a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India in the near future, Basit said.

In response to a question, Basit described External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's recent statements as a "positive step for the composite dialogue" and said terrorism is a global and regional phenomenon and a big challenge for the world.

Pakistan needs the cooperation of all regional countries for the resolution of this issue, Basit said.

Replying to another question, Basit said a "major change" had been observed in the US policy for Pakistan and the American people too "wanted an end to drone strikes" in the country's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/not-hesitant-on-solving-terrorrelated-issues-with-india-pak/579986/

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Militant: Plot by Pak ex-Armymen

 

Feb. 15: Saturday’s blast at Pune’s German Bakery was planned four to five months ago by former officers of the Pakistan Army who are now key members of banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in Karachi, according to a captured

alleged Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) member, sources said.

Mohammed Amjad, alias Khwaja, an alleged member of terror group HuJI who was arrested by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Colombo last month for involvement in terrorist cases in Andhra Pradesh, told investigators during interrogation that a retired senior Pakistan Army officer and senior LeT members had in a meeting in Karachi last year showed him and three top Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists photographs of the German Bakery and the Osho Ashram in Pune.

Khwaja, 27, of Malakpet in Hyderabad, said the retired Pakistani officer asked him and IM terrorists Abdul Aziz, Ameen Raza Khan and his brother Asif if they could plan attacks on the targets in Pune. "Kuch kar paogey? Kaafi foreigners hain yahan (Will you be able to do something? There are a lot of foreigners here)," Khwaja quoted the ex-Pakistan Army officer as saying.

Their LeT handlers also asked Khwaja and the IM ultras to plan attacks on synagogues, Chabad House and the National Defence Academy in Pune.

Intelligence sources said the information from Khwaja was shared with the Central intelligence agencies and the Maharashtra government well before the terrorists carried out the Pune attack.

Full report at: www.asianage.com/home/top-story/2559-militant-plot-by-pak-ex-armymen.html

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2 militants killed in Kashmir

Khursheed Wani | Srinagar

Security forces shot dead two Lashkar-e-Tayyeba militants in a fierce encounter at Kaimoh village in south Kashmir's Kulgam district. The south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam have the maximum concentration of militants in Kashmir valley, officials said.

Sources said that a joint party of Rashtriya Rifles, police and CRPF cordoned off Kaimoh village following a tip-off about presence of militants. The security forces zeroed in on a residential house where militants were hiding. The encircling of the house triggered an encounter that continued for several hours. Bodies of two militants were found in the house when the exchange of fire stopped.

The slain militants were identified as Muhammad Ashraf alias Molvi and Rauf Ahmad Bhat both local cadres. Police said that Molvi was "district commander" of banned Lashkar-e-Tayyeba outfit.

Superintendent of Police Kulgam Kashav Churasia said that Molvi was a staunch Lashkar militant who had served three jail terms for his links with the militants. "He was involved in a number of killings and incidents of violence", he said.

Meanwhile, a senior army officer said that more than 100 militants were active in south Kashmir region. Most of these militants owe allegiance to Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, he said.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/236284/2-militants-killed-in-Kashmir.html

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Hundreds protest at funeral of ‘tortured’ Darfur student

 

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of protesters gathered at the funeral of a Darfuri student who colleagues said was abducted, tortured and killed by Sudanese authorities in a case that has sparked tensions ahead of elections.

Sudanese security services have denied any involvement in the death of Mohamed Musa, 23, who fellow students said was abducted in Khartoum on Wednesday and later found dead and disfigured.

Around 600 Darfuris, students and other protesters gathered outside Musa’s family house in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman on Monday morning chanting “justice” and “revolution till victory,” said a witness.

Scores of armed riot police and security officers surrounded the home while mourning relatives sat inside with the student’s body.

“I have lost my son ... I want justice from the government, justice for my son. I want to know who killed him,” Musa’s father Musa Abdullah Bahar Al Din said, breaking down in tears.

The funeral comes days after the start of campaigning in Sudan’s first multiparty elections in almost a quarter of a century, due in April.

Sudan’s seven-year Darfur conflict, and the powers of Sudan’s extensive security services, have become central issues in the election campaign that sets Sudan’s sitting president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir against 11 other candidates.

Presidential candidate Yasir Arman was greeted with chants of “Yasir for change” as he arrived at the house with other candidates from his party, the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Full report at: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article17411.ece

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Only 1 in 5 blacklisted Iraqi candidates to run

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA & LARA JAKES

BAGHDAD: Only one in five candidates accused of being loyalists to Saddam Hussein's regime successfully fought an order banning them from running in Iraq's national elections next month, officials said Sunday.

The Shiite official in charge of the vetting panel that is widely seen as targeting Sunnis also called on Parliament to declare the already-outlawed Baath party a terrorist organization.

In his first press conference since the Baathist ballot purge, Ahmed Chalabi said the Accountability and Justice Committee that he heads “managed to reach results supporting (the) constitution.” The ban, which aims to bar candidates with links to the Baath party, is threatening to disrupt the March 7 parliamentary elections, and could throw the vote results in dispute if there is a broad perception that Sunnis have been politically sidelined.

Chalabi is the Shiite politician who aided US efforts to drum up support for the 2003-US-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein. The legality of his panel also is under debate. He also accused Washington of meddling in Iraqi politics.

US officials worry that escalating tensions over the ban could spill over into Iraq's streets, undermining hard-won security gains ahead of the planned withdrawal of American combat troops by the end of August.

A spate of attacks targeting security forces, political figures and civilians has struck Baghdad in recent days, despite an overall decline in violence in Iraq.

Sunday, a bomb hidden in a plastic bag detonated inside a popular cafe in Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City, killing at least two people and wounding six, an Iraqi police official said.

A medical official confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden said the Iraq war hasn't been worth its “horrible price,” saying it was mishandled from the start. Still, Biden predicted in comments aired Sunday on NBC that next month's elections would be a success, with “full participation by the Sunni, Shia, Kurds and other minorities.”

Full report at: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article17123.ece

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Nobel laureate Ebadi says Iran opposition strong

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik speak to the media during a news conference in Oslo, Norway on Sunday. (EPA)

By IAN MACDOUGALL

OSLO: Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi dismissed concerns Sunday that Iran's opposition movement is faltering after a government clampdown foiled plans to hold mass demonstrations last week on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Thursday's crackdown in Tehran “was a demonstration of the weakness of the government,” and not a sign that the opposition was weakening, she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Ebadi praised the opposition for its resilience, despite the threat of government violence.

“The 11th of February was a great victory for the (opposition) Green Movement in Iran,” she said. Despite the danger, “people took to the streets. That itself is very important.” The opposition was left reeling after government militia flooded Tehran's streets and broke up incipient protests called to coincide with government-run celebrations of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which established clerical rule in Iran.

Riot police, undercover security agents and hard-line militiamen — some on motorcycles — fanned out across the capital in one of the largest deployments since Iran's political turmoil began following June's disputed presidential elections.

Ebadi said the Iranian authorities had shown their own weakness in deploying “all their financial and military resources to take over the streets and stop demonstrations.” She said this style of full-on repression suggests the Islamic regime is nearing the end of its rope.

“Under the current circumstances, how can you possibly say that the movement is becoming weaker and the government is becoming stronger?” she said through an interpreter.

Full report at: http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article17141.ece

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Baby Girl Abandoned at RAK Mosque

Sebugwaawo Ismail

RAS AL KHAIMAH - Police are trying to locate the parents of a baby girl found abandoned at the door of a mosque in Jazeera Al Hamra area on Sunday evening.

The baby, thought to be about seven days old, was found by a police officer of the Jazeera Al Hamra Police Station in a box as he was about to enter the mosque for Isha’a prayers.

He took the baby to the police station. Lt. Col. Faisal Salmeen, chief of ?the station, said the baby was crying in the cold.

He said she was later taken to hospital and that no one has yet come forward to claim the baby. He urged the public to provide information to the RAK Police to help them with the probe.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2010/February/theuae_February

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People want to rewrite Arab history to serve vested interests: Al-Zuwailaei

HISTORY UNRAVELING: A golden mask found at the ancient city of Thaj, 250 km from Dammam, recently.

By ARAB NEWS

JEDDAH: Those who wish to rewrite the history of Arabia are motivated by their ideologies and do so to promote partisan views, said Saudi historian and archaeologist professor Ahmad Al-Zuwailaei.

“Some people want to rewrite our history to serve the interests of a particular ideology as happened in the 1960s and the 1970s when the leftist ideology gained prominence in the Arab world,” Al-Zuwailaei told Al-Madinah newspaper.

“These people consider the Prophet (peace be upon him) a revolutionary fighting the aristocracy of the Quraish and consider his companions as socialist leaders. They apply Marxist ideology to our history to suit their interests. This is in fact a mockery of history,” said Al-Zuwailaei, who won the 2008-2009 Prince Salman Prize for Historical Studies on the Arabian Peninsula.

Born in Al-Hubail, Qunfuda, in 1942, Al-Zuwailaei studied in the UK and the Kingdom, and has authored over 50 books. He has also taught at universities across the Kingdom, undertaken numerous archaeological excavations and served in various positions related to archaeological studies and tourism.

Al-Zuwailaei said there was a system of reporting of events during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions, and that with the help of accredited tools of studying history researchers can determine the veracity of reports from that period.

He added that historians should not approve or reject historical evidence due to personal interests.

Full report at: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article17610.ece

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Economic issues Pakistan’s top problem

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two thirds of all Pakistanis see economic issues as their foremost problem, specifically inflation and unemployment.

But terrorism or law and order issues have erupted as a key issue as well, as 32 per cent mention it as the number one problem faced by Pakistan today.

According to a nationally representative sample of men and women from across the country by Gilani Research Foundation, 43 per cent believe ‘inflation’ is the biggest problem of Pakistan, 32 per cent think it is ‘terrorism’, which tops the list of possible problems, and 20 per cent feel ‘unemployment’ is the biggest issue of today’s Pakistan.

Four per cent of the respondents cited ‘external threats’ as the most crucial issue, while the remaining one per cent cited Kashmir or other problems.

The findings of the survey reveal no significant differences in the opinion of the people across various demographics except that a significantly higher percentage of ANP voters think of terrorism to be the most critical problem of Pakistan these days.

http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=224420

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Adabiyat dedicated to Amrita Pritam

By Jonaid Iqbal

Tuesday, 16 Feb, 2010

ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: The Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) has devoted its latest issue of bi-annual Urdu magazine Adabiyat to the first Punjabi woman poet, Amrita Pritam (1919-2005).

The tri-lingual magazine (Urdu, Punjabi and English) with 1,000 pages has come out with a claim that it is well researched volume which brings out many facts.

A number of prominent writers of Pakistan and India have contributed their articles to the issue, said Fakhar Zaman, chairman of the Pakistan Academy of Letters and the chief editor of the magazine.

Mr Zaman said the issue had an amalgam of Amrita’s poems, stories, novels, articles, autobiographical accounts, in translation and culled from Urdu, Punjabi and English.

He also remarked that Amrita gave words to the feelings of suffering and pain of thousands of people in Punjab at that time and that her works were translated in a number of languages, including English, Hindi, German, and Russian.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/adabiyat-dedicated-to-amrita-pritam-620

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No Basant festival in Gujranwala

Tuesday, 16 Feb, 2010

The kite-flying association in Gujranwala has announced that it will not celebrate the ‘Basant festival’ in compliance with the orders of the Lahore High Court.

Reports said association office bearers, led by its president Muhammad Yaseen Khwaja, met DCO Shahid Niaz on Monday and assured him that they would not celebrate the event.

Lauding their decision, the DCO asked them to help the district administration and police in a crackdown on kite and string sellers. Meanwhile, DIG Zulfiqar Cheema appealed to citizens to keep their children away from Basant festival.

DEMO: Gujranwala Development Authority employees staged a rally in protest against the killing of their colleague and demanded immediate arrest of the killers.

The employees observed a complete strike and gathered outside their office where they demonstrated and chanted slogans against the police.

They later brought out a rally led by labour leaders Naseeruddin, Tariq Mehmood and Amjad Bashir which started from the GDA Plaza and terminated at the press club. Rana Adil Maqsood was shot dead by unidentified motorcyclists about 10 days back in the limits of the Baghbanpura police station.

Full report at: www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/no-basant-festival-in-gujranwala-620

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Bahrain Ideal Base For Deloitte’s Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre”, EDB Chief Operating Officer

Economic Development BoardNews that consulting giant Deloitte has opted to site its new Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre (IFKC) in Bahrain reflects the Kingdom’s track record as the most established financial centre in the Gulf and a global hub for Islamic Finance, according to Kamal Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

 “As the first country in the region to establish a finance industry over 40 years ago and a pioneer of Islamic finance, Bahrain is the ideal location for Deloitte to base its new Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre.  We are delighted that Deloitte is among the growing number of global companies that are recognising the Kingdom as the location of choice from which to access the trillion dollarGulf market and the wider Middle East.”

Deloitte, which has been in Bahrain since 1955, has identified the Middle East as a priority market that represents superior growth opportunities for its own business and its clients alike.  The company reports impressive revenue growth in the region of more than 25 percent annually for the past three consecutive years.  The IFKC will help the firm’s clients tap into the growing opportunities and potential of the Islamic Finance sector, which is predicted to maintain growth that, over the past five years, has averaged 15-20 percent.   IFKC experts will support the firm’s Middle East based audit, tax, consulting, risk and financial advisory professionals.

Commenting on the announcement last week, Dr Hatim Tahir, a director in the IFKC, said: “As a key financial services hub in the region, Bahrain is a natural base from which to launch Deloitte’s IFKC.”

 http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/Bahrain/261160

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Jihadi links have been known for long

 

Pune as a centre of Islamic terror came to notice way back in 2002 when Osama’s aide was arrested, writes B Raman

At least nine persons have been killed and 40 others injured in Saturday evening’s bomb blast in the well-known German Bakery of Pune, which is often frequented by foreigners. The city also has a Chabad House, a Jewish cultural-cum-religious centre. Further details as to what kind of explosive was used are awaited.

Pune as a possible centre for jihadi activities came to notice in March, 2002, when Abu Zubaidah, the then No 3 to Osama bin Laden, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities acting at the instance of the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the house of an activist of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba at Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab and handed over to the FBI. He is now in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre in Cuba. Sections of the Pakistani media had reported at that time that Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian, had studied computer science in Pune before crossing over into Pakistan and joining Al Qaeda.

In September-October,2008, the Mumbai Police had arrested four IT-savvy members of the Indian Mujahideen, who had played a role in sending e-mail messages in the name of the IM before and after the Ahmedabad bombings of July, 2008, and before the New Delhi blasts of September, 2008, by hacking into wi-fi networks in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Three of them were from Pune. The four persons were:

Full report at: www.dailypioneer.com/236064/Jihadi-links-have-been-known-for-long.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/australia-eyes-islamic-finance-growth/d/2470


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