New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 19 Dec 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Biblical bedroom poster sparks row

The battle for booze in Iraq

 Ulema conference declares suicide attacks un-Islamic

Son of Poonch spiritual guru in jail for militant ‘nexus’

26/11 trial: Kasab denies taking part in terror attacks at CST

India: ‘Army needs special powers act to counter terrorism’

US air raids kill 63 civilians in SE Yemen

Is America Facing a Domestic Terrorist Threat?

India: Muslim leaders exhort youth to join civil services

Church demanded Rs 1 lakh from Stephen’s

What about sanctions on Iran?

Yemen strikes kill up to 30 militants, capture 17

Motivation for Jihad

Shia Muslims Decry Muharram March Ban In Kashmir

Osama in and out of Afghanistan

The twilight world of ethnic minorities

Pak rulers have no fear of militants

Intense rivalry over Turkmenistan gas

Commander among 17 militants die in Orakzai

Al-Qaida leader’s wife calls women to join jihad

India: 10 percent quota for Muslims recommended

Arabs are victims of abuse in US post 9/11

Soofiya Madhani: Interrogation to continue

Malaysian Muslims and Catholics argue over use of 'Allah'

South Thailand strife: Najib treads delicately

Islamic banking course to start in Salford

Former VCU Student Among Group Arrested in Pakistan

Iraqi Officials: Iranian Forces Seized Iraq Oil Well

Minorities should be given equal opportunities: Buddhadeb

Compiled By: New Age Islam News Bureau

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Biblical bedroom poster sparks row

18 December 2009,

WELLINGTON: A church billboard showing an apparently naked Virgin Mary and Joseph in bed together has sparked the ire of conservative Christians

in New Zealand.

On the poster a sad-looking Joseph lies next to Mary, whose face is turned heavenwards under the words: “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.”

The billboard was erected outside the St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church in Auckland on Thursday. St Matthews’ vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said the billboard was meant to challenge stereotypes about the way Jesus was conceived.

In the bible, the Virgin Mary becomes pregnant after an angel appears to her and tells her she will give birth to the son of God. Cardy said the billboard was meant to challenge literal interpretations of the Bible. “It is intended to challenge stereotypes about the way that Jesus was conceived and get people talking about the Christmas story,” he said.

Conservative Christians have criticised the billboard as offensive. Auckland Catholic Diocese spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said the poster was disrespectful to the church. “Our Christian tradition of 2,000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph,” Freer said. “Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful.”


The Battle For Boozein Iraq

Friday, Dec 18, 2009

Once, during prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” That old moan by W.C. Fields, the American funny man, echoes the more recent feelings of many a resident in Basra. Iraq’s biggest southern city was a byword for pleasure and vice during Saddam Hussein’s rule: booze flowed freely, lubricating casinos and brothels as well as restaurants. But after his fall Basra was gradually taken over by ferocious Islamist militias. Anyone caught with a bottle was liable to meet an untimely end-and scores of merchants did. A year-and-a-half ago, under orders from Baghdad, the Iraqi army retook the city. Hundreds of militiamen were killed. Many were chased across the border into Iran. Secular Basrawis gradually felt able to breathe again.

But only recently has alcohol become easily available. Licensed shops along puddle-filled Watan Street in the city centre have reopened for the first time since they were looted in the wake of the American-led invasion. Trade is brisk. Jordanian whisky with the labels Black Jack, Grand and Royal Home are selling particularly well, at around $2 a bottle. Another favourite with Basra’s newly liberated boozers, all of whom appear (at least in public) to be male, is a Turkish beer sold in squat bottles that have earned it the nickname “Uncle Jalal” after Iraq’s roly-poly president, Jalal Talabani.

The merchants themselves, mostly Christians from northern Iraq, prefer arak, an aniseed spirit. On December 3rd they toasted the local government after its recent rescinding of a law banning the sale of alcohol during religious holidays. “Freedom won this round in the battle for Iraq’s future,” says one.

But celebration may be premature. A shop called Zeitun was recently shot at from a passing car and a bomb thrown at it. The Iraqi army has started patrolling Watan Street and has already dismantled several other bombs. “I rely on God,” says Zeitun’s owner, Luqman Faeq. His booze-selling colleagues admit they are nervous.

They are still an easy target for Islamist extremists. Most locals agree that life in Basra is getting better. They hope foreign investors will return. But half the militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s fiercest Shia cleric, are thought to have quietly returned. They lie in wait.


Ulema conference declares suicide attacks un-Islamic

By Ahmad Hassan

Friday, 18 Dec, 2009

ISLAMABAD: A conference of Ulema and Mashaikh, convened by the government on Thursday, declared suicide attacks as ‘haram’ and un-Islamic and supported military operations against militants and extremists.

Leaders of Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F and JUI-S and Maulana Abdul Aziz, the former head of Lal Masjid, did not attend the conference because of differences with the government over its policy on war on terror.

Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, the host of the conference held at the auditorium of International Islamic University’s Faisal Masjid campus, told reporters that the government had presented its point of view on operations against militants and terrorists in tribal areas and Malakand.

Mr Kazmi said the conference had unanimously condemned suicide attacks and supported military operations. He said the government had no intention of asking the Ulema to issue a fatwa against suicide attacks, but they volunteered to discuss and raise their voice.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, general secretary of JUI-F who hosted a meeting of ‘likeminded’ Ulema and political leaders, said they wanted to attend the conference and take a unified stance, but could not do so because a number of them had fallen ill.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who attended the conference, welcomed Ulema’s declaration against suicide attacks.

Talking to reporters, he said the government did not ask Ulema to issue a decree, but they did so on the basis of Quranic verses and their knowledge.

‘We just briefed them (Ulema) on the security situation and the menace of terrorism, but their response was very encouraging. We have decided to hold similar conferences in future for inter-faith harmony.’

Mr Malik said that some Ulema did not attend the conference and ‘we understand their compulsions’. He said the government would try to persuade them to attend such conferences in future.

The minister said the participants had assured the government of their full cooperation in maintaining peace and harmony during Muharram.


Son of Poonch spiritual guru in jail for militant ‘nexus’

Shujaat Bukhari

The Peer has a strong following in Poonch district

ISI operative Akram Shah sent a suitcase to Munawar Shah

POONCH: Last year, Peer Habib Shah, a highly respected spiritual leader from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, returned home with lakhs of rupees as ‘nazrana’ (gift) given by his followers in Poonch. But this year, he was not so lucky; he was forced to leave behind his young son, who landed in jail for alleged nexus with militants.

The caretaker of the Panag Sharief shrine in Kotli on the other side of the Line of Control, the Peer has a tremendous following in Poonch district. He routinely visits Poonch, coming normally through Wagah on a proper visa. This year too, he came along with his wife and son Peer Munawar Shah alias Babu (35). But the visit this time proved distasteful for the whole family. His father’s shrine is located at Chagla in Mendhar tehsil here.

Munawar Shah married a woman, whose Pakistani militant husband is in jail. He was taken into custody on December 1, during a routine police search of the belongings of passengers crossing the Line of Control. Security men at Chakan da Bagh detected a satellite phone in a suitcase carried by one Tufail Hussain from Islamgarh Mirpur. He was arrested and interrogated, but he feigned ignorance about the phone.

According to Poonch SSP Manmohan Singh, the suitcase was given to him by Akram Shah, an ISI operative, for being handed over to Munawar Shah. “He told us that he was not aware of the phone as it was tucked inside the flap,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu.

Akram Shah, according to the interrogation report, told him that Munawar Shah would meet him at the Poonch bus Sstand. “And this was corroborated, as Munawar Shah was travelling to the destination when the passengers were disembarking,” Mr. Singh said. However, he got an inkling of what was happening and changed his route. But, Mr. Singh said, Tufail Hussain was just a courier, and prima facie it was established that he did not know that the phone was in the suitcase.

Akram Shah is a clerk in the SDM office at Kotli, but is in close association with Amjad Hussain, a Subedar Major of the Inter-Services Intelligence. Interestingly, Akram Shah visited Poonch last year through this LoC point and stayed here for a month. The police and Intelligence agencies are now trying find out who sponsored his trip and whom he met in Poonch. Most probably, officials say, he set up a network and wanted to further it through the influential Munawar Shah.

Munawar Shah came along with his father from Wagah on August 6, and their visa was extended thrice. It was to expire on December 17, but given the turmoil his son’s involvement created, Peer Habib Shah was forced to leave with his wife.

Last year, he took Rs.55 lakh with him, but this year he left sobbing. He was seen off by hundreds of his followers.

Soon after Munawar Shah’s arrest, protests erupted in Poonch. All mainstream political parties joined the agitation, as the arrest was seen as a setback to peace initiatives. But Mr. Singh believes he had some strong connection here, so the satellite phone with two SIM cards was meant for him.


26/11 trial: Kasab denies taking part in terror attacks at CST


Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab on Friday went back on the confession he made before the magistrate, saying that he had not participated in the terror attacks at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on November 26 last year.

Kasab, in a statement to the court, also denied that he had planted a bomb in a taxi.

Kasab told judge ML Tahiliyani that he had confessed before magistrate but it has been recorded wrongly.

Kasab denied that he had told the Magistrate that he and Abu Ismail had hired a taxi to CST.

He also said that he had not told the Magistrate that Ismail was in the driver's seat and he himself was sitting behind and that he planted a bomb underneath the driver's seat while Ismail was talking to the driver.

"I did not tell the Magistrate that on reaching CST that they saw a lesser crowd than what was shown to them in a training camp in Pakistan," Kasab said.

"I did not contact Abu Hamza (absconding accused). My mobile Sony Ericsson was lost and I was not in a position to talk to anybody," he said.

To a question that witness Natwarlal, father of a 11-year-old girl, who was injured in the attack, had seen him and another terrorist at CST, Kasab replied that he was not present there.

"Maybe Natwarlal had said that there was firing on people but I was not there -- I don't know," Kasab said.

To another question that Natwarlal had recognised him in Court, he said that anybody could recognise him "by having seen my photograph in newspapers."

About Abu Ismail, Kasab said that "I don't know who he is. Ismail may have been involved in the attack but I don't know him."

Dressed in a white kurta, Kasab entered the court at 1130 hours and was not placed in the dock but was asked to sit in the witness box on a stool.

Kasab's medical report was perused by the Court and the Judge noted that he did not have any mental illness.

"There is nothing of adverse concern. He does not have any complaint (and) as such he is fit to give a statement," the Judge said.

A medical examination of Kasab was conducted because his lawyer, KB Pawar, had earlier told the Court that Kasab was not fit to give a statement.

When asked what his age was, Kasab said that he was about 20-years.

Enquiries were made about his age and it was found that he was not a juvenile at the time of the offence and, therefore, he was tried by the Court, the Judge said.

The Judge also noted that Kasab was not a juvenile when the crime was committed.


India: ‘Army needs special powers act to counter terrorism’

IANS | New Delhi

India's armed forces cannot counter terrorism and insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast states without the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Defence Minister A.K. Antony stated categorically Friday.

"As long as their (armed forces) presence is necessary, they need special provisions. They cannot function without special powers (conferred on them under the act)," Antony told reporters.

"It has been because of the presence of the armed forces that the situation has improved in Jammu and Kashmir.... If police think they can do without the army, we will withdraw the troops. But if they want them to be deployed they need special provisions."

The minister was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) on Internal Security: Duties and obligations in upholding Human Rights.

"Whenever we have felt that the situation has improved in Jammu and Kashmir, we have withdrawn troops. Last year, we have withdrawn two divisions and if we see the situation has improved in Jammu and Kashmir we will further reduce the visibility and presence of the armed forces," he added.

There have been demands from several quarters, including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on grounds that it was leading to violation of human rights.

Abdullah has also met the defence minister to raise his concerns over what he termed as the misuse of the provisions of the AFSPA in the hands of the armed forces.

"Terror in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast and left wing extremism in certain pockets require continuance of dedicating time, resource and efforts. The situation is further complicated due to external support to perpetrators.

"One of the major challenges of the security forces is to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. In the process of combating terrorism, they may run the risk of being dubbed as authoritarian," Antony added.

According to the minister, the AFSPA empowers forces to act in "difficult situations". "We will not hesitate to take action if somebody is found guilty," he said, addressing concerns about the misuse of the act.


US air raids kill 63 civilians in SE Yemen

Fri, 18 Dec 2009

Yemen's Houthi fighters say scores of civilians, including many children, have been killed in US air-raids in the southeast of the war-stricken Arab country.

The Shia fighters on Friday reported the deaths of 63 people, including some 28 children, in the southeastern province of Abyan.

Almost 90 people were also injured in the attacks by US warplanes in the village of Bakazam, they added.

Yemen's southern provinces have recently been the scene of US airstrikes which Washington claims to be aimed at uprooting an al-Qaeda cell operative in the Persian Gulf state.

But the residents of the area dismiss the claims that al-Qaeda members are being targeted in the US attacks, while a Yemeni lawmaker has also called for an investigation into the raids.

The US operation in southern Yemen comes on top of a joint Saudi-Yemeni military campaign in the country's war-weary north where Sana'a and Riyadh forces are engaged in a fierce fighting against the Houthi fighters.

The Houthis, who accuse the Sunni-dominated Sana'a government of discrimination and repression against Yemen's Shia minority, were the target of the army's off and on attacks before the central government launched an all-out fighting against them in early August.

Saudi Arabia joined the operation later following alleged clashes between its border guards and the Houthis, carrying out regular airstrikes and ground incursions against the fighters.

On Friday, the Houthis said over 160 missiles hit regions along the border with the neighboring kingdom, which they accuse of pounding civilians in villages within the Yemeni territory.

The Saudis have conducted more than 70 air raids in less than 24 hours.


Is America Facing a Domestic Terrorist Threat?

John L. Esposito


After Jews, Muslims are the most educated religious community in the US. Muslim women (unlike their Jewish counterparts) are as likely as their male counterparts to have a college degree or higher. 40% of women have a college degree as compared to 29% of Americans overall, notes John L. Esposito.

The recent arrest of five young men from Northern Virginia arrested in Pakistan, suspected of terrorist activities, precipitated new, dire warnings. Some charge that there is an emerging pattern which challenges long-held assumptions that European Muslims are more susceptible to radicalization than better-assimilated Muslims in the United States. This charge clearly leads us in the wrong direction. While there must be zero tolerance for terrorists, it is important to remember that the American Muslim community is a valued and much needed partner in countering extremism.

Just as Muslim countries differ significantly from each other and in their relations with America so too do Muslims in Europe and America differ markedly. The majority of European Muslims have been laborers and blue collar workers, educationally and economically disadvantaged, often socially marginalized. In contrast, the vast majority of American Muslims came to the US with education and skills or came to acquire the degrees and abilities they needed to become more integrated. While some pockets of poverty exist in America, unlike Europe, there are no "Muslim ghettos" in America. A Pew Research Center 2007 study found that most Muslim Americans are "decidedly American" in income, education and attitudes, rejecting extremism by larger margins than Muslim minorities in Europe. Similarly, a 2009 Gallup report found that 70% of American Muslims have a job compared with 64% of the US population. Muslim men have one of the highest employment rates of religious groups; Muslim women are as likely as Catholic women to say that they work. After Jews, Muslims are the most educated religious community in the US. Muslim women (unlike their Jewish counterparts) are as likely as their male counterparts to have a college degree or higher. 40% of women have a college degree as compared to 29% of Americans overall.

American Muslims are as concerned about extremism and terrorism as other citizens. Their families and friends in "the old country" have been the primary victims of terrorist attacks. Like other Americans, Muslims also were victims; they too lost loved ones and friends in the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, they have seen their religion, not just the terrorists, vilified and as a result those in the mainstream majority have been victims of profiling, discrimination and hate crimes. Major civil liberties organizations have identified a host of serious abuses including racial profiling; overzealous and illegal arrests and detentions, surveillance, and wiretapping of Muslims, undercover infiltration of Muslim civic and religious organizations and trials using "secret evidence". Yet, despite these extreme measures, as the FBI and Homeland Security have stressed, the majority of Muslims remain an integrated part of the American mosaic; many of their religious and community leaders and organizations work to fight extremism by cooperating and continuing to work with government agencies. In addition, the families of the five men accused in Virginia were the ones who reported them to the authorities.

What about the four other cases in the last year?

In addition to the Northern Virginia case, four previous arrests last year are cited: -- Najibullah Zazi, the Denver airport shuttle driver charged with testing explosives for an attack; Bryant N. Vinas, an Hispanic American convert, who pleaded guilty to receiving training from al-Qaeda in Pakistan; David C. Headley, a suspect in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai; and the Minnesota American Somali youths accused of joining an Islamist insurgency in Somalia. Each of these cases is not connected to another case; each involves a very small number of radicalized individuals with no apparent connection to domestic al-Qaeda networks. It is useful to remember that a leaked February 2005 FBI internal memo admitted that the FBI had not identified a single al-Qaeda sleeper cell in the entire United States. Almost nine years since 9/11, no al-Qaeda related terrorist networks have been discovered in America. Moreover, in a population estimated at 4-6 million Muslims, the number of arrests and convictions for terrorism has been very small. Of course, this does not detract from the ongoing need to remain vigilant and guard against potential domestic terrorist attacks.

What about the future?

Of course there is an ongoing need to remain vigilant and to guard against potential domestic terrorist attacks. Home grown extremism must be aggressively contained by law enforcement agencies, but done without brush-stroking local Muslim communities that notify and cooperate with them. In addition, the conditions that contribute to radicalization and recruitment must also be addressed. Like other American ethnic and religious groups, many Muslims do identify with unjust or oppressive conditions in their ancestral land or with the plight of other Muslims globally in Bosnia, Kosova, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Chechnya and China (Uighurs).

A critical distinction has to be made between those that are nationalist struggles and those that are terrorist, between those that constitute a direct threat to the U.S. and those that do not. In recent years, Irish and Jewish Americans have supported and some even fought in wars in Northern Ireland and Israel. Few if any have been prosecuted.

We must also distinguish between what are seen as struggles against injustice versus acts of terrorism. Most American Muslims, like their fellow citizens, express opposition non-violently. A very small minority, like the Somali American youths, may be attracted to fight against what they perceive as illegitimate, oppressive governments and their supporters: whether they are Ethiopian, American, British, Russian or NATO forces. The primary target of the accused in all of these cases has not been the U.S.; their focus has been international; their goal has been fighting what they see as unjust, oppressive wars, not specifically to target Americans. Not surprisingly, foreign struggles and US extended presence (now and possible permanent bases in the future) are exploited by jihadist ideology and jihadist internet sites. But as we have seen thus far, the end product is not a well trained and equipped warrior with broad support at home but naïve and misguided wanna-be jihadists.

John L. Esposito is University Professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is co-author of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.


India: Muslim leaders exhort youth to join civil services

Mohammed Wajihuddin,

18 December 2009,

MUMBAI: Muslim community leaders are trying to inspire the youth to aim for the civil services. Three days after the Haj Committee of India

launched its coaching centre for civil services exams at Haj House near CST, another initiative kicked off on Wednesday. The community leaders presented some IPS officers as role models.

The officers, who lauded the efforts of civil society in motivating youth, asked students to shed their defeatist mentality and try to crack the civil services exams.

Organised by NGO Milli Council, in association with the vocational and career guidance cell of the Central Mumbai-based Maharashtra College, the meet saw Ahmed Javed, additional DGP, Qaiser Khalid, DCP (railways), and K Moeen Jeelani, superintendent of customs, enthuse the students, a majority of whom comprised burqa-clad girls from middle and lower middle class families.

Besides reiterating the need for hard work, Javed dwelt on the importance of Marathi for those students who want to succeed in the exams conducted by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC). "I have put in 30 years of service in the police and I know how knowledge of Marathi can make the task of policing easier,'' said Javed who hails from Lucknow but learnt Marathi after he joined the Maharashtra cadre.

Khalid, a 1998 batch IPS officer, quoting poets, philosophers and paragons of peace like Mahatma Gandhi, underlined the importance of civil servants and said that planned studies was the key to crack the civil services exams. "Despite the importance of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, civil services command importance and respect because it is these officers who help plan and execute the the government's policies,'' said Khalid.

Referring to a popular instance in Hindu mythology, he said: "Like Arjuna, who aimed his arrow at the eyes of the moving fish, you should focus on your goal. Cracking civil services is tough, but not impossible,'' he said.

Jeelani, a former national champion in yachting before he joined the customs department, recalled the background in which he grew up: "My locality was a breeding ground for criminals. But sheer determination helped me excel in my chosen field, which also helped me land me a job in the customs department.''

M A Khalid, general secretary of Milli Council, exhorted Muslim youth to give up their negative attitude and appear in the civil services exams in large numbers.


Church demanded Rs 1 lakh from Stephen’s

Staff Reporter | New Delhi

Teachers up in arms against predatory Bishop

Teachers of St Stephen’s College have alleged that the Bishop of the Church of North India (CNI) had demanded a donation of Rs 1 lakh from the college fund. According to the teachers, who came out in public to decry the highly authoritarian style of functioning of the CNI Delhi Bishop Sunil K Singh on Thursday, the donation was sought from college principal Rev Valson Thampu last year for organising Ekta Utsav - the annual Diocesan get-together.

“The Bishop demanded Rs 1 lakh as donation from the college principal in November 2008. And when he declined, they put him on probation,” alleged Nandita Narain, who teaches mathematics at the college. Addressing a Press conference at the Press Club of India, she said rather than donating funds for the college, the Church was demanding money. The teachers alleged that the Church as the managing trustee of the college was required to fund five per cent of the college expenditure which it never did.

According to Narain, the Bishop recently appointed a bursar without taking the principal into confidence in his bid to strengthen the stranglehold over the college funds. “The appointment has put the college in conflict with the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission (UGC) which could endanger grants to the college. Since the college gets 95 per cent of its funding from the UGC, any withdrawal of funding by the commission would threaten the very existence of the college,” said Narain. She also claimed that the CNI head was seeking hefty donations up to Rs 50 lakh from all Church institutions run by it for the annual programme.

More than 15 faculty members and several alumni of the college present in the Press conference also questioned the motive behind setting up of an inquiry to look into ‘college affairs’ by its Governing Body. The teachers said they may approach the high court seeking solution to their grievances. “We are asking the Bishop to withdraw the motivated inquiry, safeguard the dignity of teachers besides safeguarding the financial, academic and administrative autonomy of the college,” said KM Mathew, a teacher in the college. He said that on December 3, for the first time in the college history, the meeting of the Governing Body was held at Bishop’s residence instead of the college.

“Not only this, a senior teacher of the college was recently issued showcase notice by the Bishop for showing disloyalty by joining the peaceful protest of the teachers of the college,” he added.


What about sanctions on Iran?

Perhaps it is time to get tougher with Tehran

I roun T should be clear by now that Iran is on a collision course with the United States and other Western nations over its quest for nuclear weapons. Years of diplomatic engagement, proposed deals and three rounds of sanctions by the United Nations have failed to deter Iran from getting closer to acquiring the capacity to produce nukes. Indeed, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has grown more defiant. In the last few weeks, it has dropped all pretence of wanting to work with UN inspectors and Western nations, angrily refusing to comply with a UN demand to cease work on a nuclear-fuel enrichment plant and vowing to construct 10 more plants as soon as it can. The latest bad news involves reports that Iran is getting closer to solving the most difficult aspects of making nuclear weapons. The Times of London reported that Iran appears to be working on a "neutron initiator", a device that could trigger an explosion in a nuclear warhead. This means Iran is becoming self-sufficient in nuclear weapons technology and has no intention of putting an end to its clandestine weapons programme.

Since the West can clearly not do business with this regime, it is time to get serious about sanctions. Earlier this week, the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin (412-12) approved a measure that dramatically increases the economic pressure on Iran by curtailing its ability to import refined products, such as gasoline.

Its key provision requires the president to impose sanctions on anycompanyhereorabroadthathelpstosupplyIranwithrefined petroleum. Because Iran relies on imports for 40 per cent of its refined petroleum, this would oblige the regime to consider the consequences of its continued defiance of the international community...



Yemen strikes kill up to 30 militants, capture 17

Mohammed al Qadhi, Foreign Correspondent

A Yemeni army helicopter flies over Arhab in Sana’a province after security forces carried out operations against al Qa’eda suspects. Khaled Fazaa / AFP

SANA’A // Yemen’s government said yesterday that military operations targeting al Qa’eda hideouts and a training camp in separate parts of the country had killed up to 30 suspected militants and led to the arrest of 17 others.

The operation was carried out in the early morning and targeted an al Qa’eda training camp in the Abyan village of Al Maajala, some 480km south-east of the capital Sana’a, officials said.

“Between 24 and 30 al Qa’eda militants, including foreigners, were killed while training,” the ministry of defence said in a statement yesterday. The statement described the attack as a joint operation involving air force jets and army troops.

Local media, however, said most of those killed were civilians, including women and children. “The operation killed 53 including wanted leading figures of al Qa’eda … but most of the casualties are women and children,” reported Sahwa, an online newspaper belonging to the opposition Islah party.

The newspaper said among those killed were six senior al Qa’eda militants, including Mohammed al Ambori, Munir al Ambori and Mohammed Saleh al Awlaki, the leader of al Qa’eda in Abyan province, a stronghold of the Salafist jihadis.

The website also said four other al Qa’eda militants were injured in the Abyan raid.

An eyewitness said the air strike against al Qa’eda suspects in Arhab killed six militants who were hiding in a small tower used for guarding khat farms.

“Two people here used to announce they are with al Qa’eda; they used to stay alone and some outsiders used to come and visit them. The security forces came here in the early morning to collect the dead bodies of six people and found one still alive. They [police] clashed with other people who came from a different village and killed four of them,” the eyewitness said, requesting anonymity.

According to a government statement, a second operation in Arhab district, 60km to the north-east of Sana’a, killed four would-be suicide bombers who had planned to attack domestic and foreign interests in the country, including foreign schools. While the raids in the capital Sana’a led to the arrest of 13 al Qa’eda militants.

Al Sahwa reported that Aref Mujali, a leading al Qa’eda militant, surrendered to the police in Arhab and his brother Hizam Mujali managed to escape.

The government statement pledged that they would continue to hunt down al Qa’eda militants and that the security forces are staying vigilant to thwart possible attacks against innocent civilians, vital state institutions and foreign interests.

Al Qa’eda carried out suicide attacks that killed four South Korean tourists in March this year. It also claimed responsibility for killing a Yemeni criminal investigation officer last month in the tribal province of Mareb, which is believed to be the main base for al Qa’eda in Yemen.

Saeed Obaid al Jamhi, a researcher who studies al Qa’eda, said the group is gaining strength in Yemen.

“The government is exhausted by the insurgency in the north and the growing secessionist movement in the south; this gives room for al Qa’eda,” Mr al Jamhi said. “This operation, which had been expected, is a necessary response to al Qa’eda, which is expanding in Yemen as some militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan have reportedly escaped to Yemen.”

Mr al Jamhi said he expects al Qa’eda to retaliate after the latest operations.

The government is also facing an armed insurgency in the north where fierce fighting between the army and al Houthi insurgents in the northern province of Sa’ada and the Harf Sufian district of neighbouring Arman province continue.

The government launched a massive offensive on August 11 against the rebels who belong to the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. The rebels have been fighting a sporadic war against Yemen’s government since 2004 and have repeatedly accused the Saudi army of backing Yemeni troops. Saudi Arabia joined the battle last month after the Houthis attacked Jebel al Dukhan inside the Saudi border.

In addition to the insurgency in the north, the government is also facing a growing secessionist movement in the south.

Southerners complain any partnership after unification in 1990 was destroyed by the 1994 civil war. For the past three years, the southern part of Yemen has seen protests over economic and political marginalisation.


Motivation for Jihad

by Charles V. Peña,

December 18, 2009

Last week, five Americans – Ahmed Abdullah Minni, Umar Farooq, Aman Hassan Yemer, Waqar Hussain Khan, and Ramy Zamzam (all from the Northern Virginia area just outside of Washington, DC) – were arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks.  The five were allegedly in touch with a Taliban recruiter for several months and went to Pakistan just after Thanksgiving to try and join up with al-Qaeda.  According to Mustafa Abu Maryam, youth coordinator of the mosque they attended in Alexandria, VA, "I have always known these kids as fun-loving, career-focused children that had a bright future for themselves.  As far as I know they were wholesome kids.  Very goofy.  You know, talked about girls.  Very wholesome."  Farooq was an accounting student at George Mason University.  Zamzam (thought to be the leader of the group) was a dental student at Howard Univeristy.  By all accounts they all seemed pretty normal – or at least they didn’t exhibit any outward signs of being would-be terrorists.  So there is understandably much hand-wringing over how and why these five young men could – if proven to be true – have been converted to the cause of al-Qaeda and radical Islam.

During the Bush administration we were constantly told that they, i.e., the terrorists, attacked us on 9/11 because they hate us for who we are.  In other words, because they hate freedom and democracy, our way of life, our culture, our values.  There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that Minni, Farooq, Yemer, Khan, and Zamzam hated America.  If they really hated America, why would they go to Pakistan to wage jihad rather than trying to blow something up here?

In a speech at Cairo University in Egypt in June, President Obama talked about seven sources of tension between Islam and America:

Again, there isn’t much evidence that any or all of the above were motivating factors for the five young men now being held in Pakistan.

The answer – which is a microcosm for larger U.S. foreign policy – is staring us straight in the face.  And, like we do with foreign policy, we want to ignore it.

Reportedly, the group made what is described as a farewell video (but not necessarily a martyrdom suicide terrorism video) with reference the ongoing conflicts in the world (presumably Iraq and Afghanistan) and that young Muslims had to do something to defend Muslims.  According to Pakistani authorities, the young men men "were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world."

In other words, Minni, Farooq, Yemer, Khan, and Zamzam appear to have been motivated by what we do.  In simple terms, because our policies result in actions that kill Muslims.  Harvard professor Steven Walt did a back-of-the-envelope (and conservative, i.e., low end) calculation and came up with the number 288,000 for how many Muslims the United States has killed in the last 30 years (in contrast, Walt calculates that Muslims have killed about 10,000 Americans over the same time period – 2,800 of which were the result of the 9/11 attacks). He provides plenty of caveats:

Even with the caveats, the numbers can’t be ignored.  So why is it so hard for us to understand that Muslims – perhaps including the five young men from Northern Virginia – would be motivated to become terrorists?

Because it’s hard to acknowledge to ourselves that terrorism is a consequence of U.S. policy choices and actions.  No one wants to be accused of hating America, claiming that America is at fault, or saying that America deserves to be attacked – all of which are not true.  But confusing fault and blame with cause and effect only results in continuing to come up with the wrong answers.

For example, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman claims that the problem is what he calls "the Narrative" of anti-American jihad. According to Friedman:

The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda, and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11.  Propagated by jihadist Web sites, mosque preachers, Arab intellectuals, satellite news stations and books – and tacitly endorsed by some Arab regimes – this narrative posits that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand "American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy" to keep Muslims down.

In other words, in Friedman’s view the problem is Muslims.  So the solution would have to lie with changing Muslims and the Muslim world (no surprise coming from someone who was a cheerleader for invading Iraq).

But what Friedman conveniently ignores are two undeniable facts (not half-truths, propaganda, and outright lies) about the Narrative:

Throw in the undeniable fact that U.S. military action has resulted (and continues to result) in killing Muslims (even if sometimes justified) and you have a pretty potent cocktail for recruiting terrorists.

There is one thing Friedman gets right: "Many Arab Muslims know that what ails their societies is more than the West, and that The Narrative is just an escape from looking honestly at themselves."  But if Friedman truly understood The Narrative, he would understand that the only way for Muslims to look honestly at themselves (and not give their ruling governments an easy way to, in his words, "deflect onto America all of their people’s grievances") is to remove the United States from the equation.  In other words, we need to stop trying to be part of the solution and understand that we are part of the problem.



SRINAGAR, Dec 18, (NNN-IRNA): Shia groups staged a march in Srinagar against the government ban on the major mourning processions in the city center, and appealed to the High Court not to allow the administration to ?murder? freedom of religion guaranteed by international law.

Citing the massive arrangements for the Hindu Amarnath Yatra as an example of the government?s double standards on religious freedom, the marchers called upon the Shia Muslims of Kashmir to defy the ban and take out united processions in the city center on the traditional occasions.

The ban on the mid-city processions of 8th and 10th Muharram (Ashoora), in force since militancy broke out in Kashmir nearly 20 years ago, has been challenged in the High Court by the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen led by prominent Shia cleric and Hurriyat Conference leader Maulana Abbas Ansari, and Friday?s Shia marchers, under the banner of the Kashmir Shia Youth Forum, fully backed the petition, asking the High Court how long the community would be deprived of its right to observe religious obligations in the twenty-first century.

Chanting slogans against what it described as the unwarranted interference of the government and the bureaucracy, and demanding the right to religious freedom, the Forum said that the ?anti-Muslim? ban on the city?s major Muharram processions was communally motivated and aimed at systematically eroding the significance of Muharram commemoration.

?The government presses every conceivable resource into action to facilitate the Amarnath pilgrimage, and spends massive amounts on the security of the lakhs of yatris on a route of hundreds of miles, but has banned the traditional Muharram processions in Srinagar under an anti-Muslim policy sometimes under the pretext of the situation, and sometimes under the excuse of threats to law and order and fear of communal riots,? the Forum said.



Osama in and out of Afghanistan

Washington, December 08, 2009

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may periodically slip back into Afghanistan from his remote hideout in neighbouring Pakistan, a senior White House official says, adding a new twist to the mystery of the elusive terrorist’s whereabouts.

President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said bin Laden, believed hiding mainly in a rugged area of western Pakistan, may be spending some time in Afghanistan, where he was based while plotting the September 11 attacks on the United States.

But Obama’s Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, said the U.S. has lacked good intelligence on Laden for a long time — “I think it has been years” — and did not confirm that he’d slipped into Afghanistan.

Jones and Gates spoke on separate TV interview shows on Sunday as part of an administration effort to explain and defend Obama’s new Afghan war strategy, which Gates said includes a focus on preventing Al Qaeda from again gaining a foothold inside Afghanistan.

A concern is that the Taliban, if permitted to regain power in Kabul, could facilitate a return of Al Qaeda’s leadership.

The failed hunt for bin Laden has been one of the signature frustrations of the global war on terrorism that former President George W. Bush launched after the September 11 attacks.

When U.S. forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001, bin Laden fled into Pakistan from his mountain redoubt. Despite being isolated, bin Laden has managed to periodically issue audio messages.

The main explanation given by both the Bush and Obama administrations for not getting bin Laden is that they simply don’t know where he is.

“If we did, we’d go get him,” Gates said on Sunday. Jones, a retired Marine general, stressed the urgency of targeting bin Laden and spoke of a renewed campaign to capture or kill him.

Asked on CNN’s State of the Union whether the administration has reliable intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts, Jones replied, “The best estimate is that he is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.”


The twilight world of ethnic minorities

The institutions of the European Union are belatedly accepting that official statistics on racial discrimination and racist crime in the EU are only the “tip of the iceberg.” Its Agency for Fundamental Rights has recently published the first detailed survey of the ethnic minorities, covering 23,500 respondents in all 27 member states and examining their experience of employment and recruitment, accommodation, health and social services, education, financial services, and even shopping. The findings are bleak. For example, 82 per cent of respondents do not report racial discrimination to the police, mainly because they feel nothing would be done. Even the police account for much racial oppression in the form of disproportionate questioning of ethnic minorities. Under-reporting of racism is found in most public bodies, including those created to investigate racism. The groups that encounter racism least are of Russian or Eastern European origin; as an earlier EU study on illegal employment notes, they are primarily white. In contrast, Somalis, of whom 40 per cent experienced at least one racist episode in the previous 12 months, and various North African groups are the most common victims, as are Brazilians in Portugal.

The findings reveal several cruel ironies. In the last two centuries, millions of Europeans have fled famine, poverty, and oppression to make new lives in the United States, Australasia, Southern Africa, and elsewhere. Yet the recent study finds that those now treated worst are Roma, who are European-born. The worst countries in this regard are the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece. In Greece, respondents revealed 174 incidents for every 100 Roma in the population. Furthermore, the EU’s ethnic minorities are more likely to be victims of certain kinds of crime than the white majority, contrary to the widespread racist stereotyping of ethnic minorities as criminals. The report recommends improvements in rights-awareness and notes the weaknesses in official attitudes and resources. It is, however, clear that EU ethnic minorities live, or rather exist, in some kind of a twilight zone largely unknown to the white majority. They form 20 per cent of the Union’s 500-million population, and for them everyday life carries a constant risk of racism, from violence and public abuse through official hostility and neglect to the subtle ways white employers evade anti-discrimination law in every walk of life. Sensitive people on the continent wonder how European society can confront others with principles it does not even uphold.


Pak rulers have no fear of militants

Indranil Banerjie

Dec,18 : Senior officials of the American government have argued that the Pakistani military establishment needs to take on the militants in their country because it threatens their very existence. This view of a shared threat that needs to be tackled together by Islamabad and Washington, however, is a bit of a mirage.

If Islamist militancy was indeed a common threat, then the US government would not have to expend so much time and effort to coerce the Pakistani establishment to act more forcefully against the threat. That is not happening, and a recent report in the New York Times confirmed that the Pakistani military had in fact rebuffed the US demand to crack down on the Taliban. The report spelt out how the US demand that Pakistan act against prominent Taliban groups had been met with "public silence and private anger, according to Pakistani officials and diplomats familiar with the conversations, illustrating the widening gulf between the allies over the Afghan war."

While it is true that some sections of Islamists fostered by the Pakistani military have turned against their mentors, it is because the Pakistani military establishment and elements of the civilian polity are seen as acting in subservience to American regional goals, which are perceived to be entirely anti-Muslim and against the long-term interests of Pakistan. Everything suggests that the Pakistani establishment does not view Islamist militants as being anti-Pakistan per se. This is why the Pakistani military and its covert operations directorate continue to use Islamist militants or terrorists to further their aims.

Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, a former Pakistan Army chief and a well-known Islamist supporter, recently wrote in a newspaper article: "America and their allies are fighting Afghan freedom-fighters, who are not our enemies, whereas the Pakistan Army is fighting our own angry tribals, who are not our enemies and have fallen out with us because of the wrong policies of our previous government. We will be able to settle the issue with them, through dialogue and discussion."

Writing a few days earlier in another newspaper, Gen. Beg maintained: "The USA is following a similar policy as in the 1990s: ‘[Their] goal is to prevent the return of Taliban,’ because they think that ‘if Taliban come to power, they will overrun Pakistan and destabilise the region.’ It’s totally fallacious because the Taliban ruled over most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Did they create any problem for anyone beyond their borders? In fact, they are the only ones who can bring peace in Afghanistan."

Well-known US-based strategic analyst Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur, writing in the Washington Quarterly [January 2010], have rightly pointed out that Pakistan’s strategy of using militants has not been disastrous as many in America assume: "Pakistan’s asymmetric warfare strategy has in fact achieved notable successes. Its support of mujahideen forces in Afghanistan played a crucial role in the Soviets’ defeat. In Kashmir, the Pakistanis have inflicted serious economic, military, and diplomatic costs on India. They have also led New Delhi to adopt draconian anti-terrorism policies that have badly tarnished its international image. In neither case was Pakistan forced to engage in direct combat against a stronger adversary. Rather, the use of non-state actors enabled the Pakistanis to damage the Soviets and the Indians while avoiding direct conflict and the concomitant risk of catastrophic defeat."

Many Western analysts seem to believe that the Pakistani establishment’s mindset will change once the Kashmir issue is resolved according to Pakistan’s wishes. Such a resolution would ostensibly leave the Pakistani establishment without any reason to damage India or maintain a high level of military forces along its eastern border with India. The United States, in particular, is championing this approach because it seems the only way to get the Pakistani military to focus on fighting the Taliban in its western frontiers.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had recently warned that terrorists would try to provoke a conflict between the two countries if issues like Kashmir were not resolved. "We’ve encouraged both Pakistan and India to resume dialogue and to talk about everything, including Kashmir, because now the security of both countries is threatened by the forces of extremism," she is reported to have told a TV channel. Dozens of columnists and analysts in the United States and Britain wrote that Kashmir was the key to solving the Afghan problem.

This view betrays a flawed understanding of the dynamics of the subcontinent. The conflict between India and Pakistan is larger than the Kashmir issue. The conflict is at a fundamental ideological level.

Indian nationhood is defined by secularism and democracy; its founders adopted these principles to create an overarching framework to hold together the country’s immensely diverse ethnic, religious and social entities as one uniquely defined republic. Pakistan, on the other hand, was created on the basis of the two-nation theory, which holds that Hindus and Muslims constitute two different polities that cannot coexist. Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority, must therefore belong to Pakistan, according to this theory.

It is this imperative that pitches the two countries against each other — not Kashmir alone or terrorism per se. A prosperous, progressive and secular India will always be seen as a threat by the Pakistani establishment.

Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based

in New Delhi


Intense rivalry over Turkmenistan gas

While Moscow has been eyeing Turkmenistan’s gas fields, Beijing has forged ahead by inaugurating a natural gas pipeline. As usual, China has not spared any expenses, writes Dmitry Babich

The inauguration of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China was held on Monday.

The leaders of China and most of the influential Central Asian countries attended the ceremony, except Iran; Russia, which is not a Central Asian nation, was not invited.

A contentious atmosphere for the resources of the former Soviet republics, especially Turkmenistan, is brewing, with China seemingly on the inside track. Russia and Iran — given that they still wish to consolidate or at least preserve their positions — will have to pursue more flexible policies with regard to these newly independent states and by no means look down their noses at them.

The new 7,000-km gas pipeline will carry mainly Turkmen gas to China across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Its planned capacity is 40 billion cubic metres a year. Until recently, Gazprom accounted for a similar amount of Turkmen gas supplies (44 bcm), nearly monopolising the purchase of Turkmen gas exports.

Iran was the second largest customer for Turkmen gas, annually consuming a mere 5 billion cubic metres. It is easy to calculate that, in a worst-case scenario, China could take Russia’s place as the largest exporter of Turkmenistan’s gas. Yet, Russia still has time to try to reverse this possibility: The pipeline to China will not reach its target capacity of 40 bcm until 2012, while Iran’s inflexible legislation and strained relations between Iran and the West (the United States and the EU) make Turkmen gas exports to Iran unattractive for Western companies. Therefore, this business is unlikely to grow fast.

Turkmenistan began focussing on China as a trade partner in April, after an accident at the Central Asia-Center pipeline. Gas supplies to Russia were cut off by an explosion in a Turkmen section of the pipeline and never resumed.

Turkmen authorities blamed Russia for what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described as a “purely technological” incident, saying that Gazprom unilaterally cut the amount of gas withdrawn from the pipeline, which led to the accident. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry said Gazprom broke its contract obligations. Even though Turkmenistan admitted that Gazprom had notified it before cutting imports, they claimed the notification was not in accordance with the contractually-established procedure.

At this point, what really caused the explosion in the Dovletobad-Deryalyk gas link, is only of secondary importance. What is important is that the incident caused an outburst of popular Turkmen rhetoric calling for a “reduction of dependence on the Russian monopoly.”

Plans to divert exports to China instead of Russia, which were not forgotten during the Turkmenbashi (President Saparmurat Niyazov, 1991-2006) regime, or later as a more concerted effort was pursued in the spring and summer of 2009. China saw an opportunity and responded by issuing Turkmenistan a $ 4 billion loan with perfect timing in June 2009, when Turkmenistan was in the direst straits due to tensions with Gazprom.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived to inaugurate the pipeline, emphasised that the loan had to be primarily channelled into the development of the country’s largest gas field, South Eleten.

It should be noted that at the beginning of this year Gazprom bought Turkmen gas at the exorbitant price of $ 375 per 1,000 cubic metres. Russia was selling gas to Europe at $ 280 at the time, which meant that Gazprom was operating at a loss.

Mr Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner in Moscow’s RusEnergy Consulting, said the reason for the friction was rivalry between South Stream and Nabucco, which Turkmenistan’s Western partners actively promoted and proposed to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey as an alternative to the Russia-backed project.

“Gazprom offered Turkmenistan a high price in a desperate attempt to divert its gas from Nabucco. Later, however, Gazprom was compelled to stop the unprofitable acquisitions,” Mr Krutikhin said in an interview with the RIA Novosti commentator. “Turkmenistan interpreted that as a breach of a business contract and justifiably took offence. China immediately grasped at the opportunity, as that country had been long pursuing a very measured and determined policy in the region. China is taking its time, waiting for Central Asian gas suppliers to come of their own accord.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev must certainly have something to offer Turkmenistan, as he is now dealing with the problem directly. He has recently received Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in his Zavidovo residence and will visit Turkmenistan later this month.


Commander among 17 militants die in Orakzai

Friday, 18 Dec, 2009

KOHAT, Dec 17: Seventeen militants, a local ‘commander’ among them, were killed and four compounds and three tunnels were destroyed as helicopter gunships pounded terrorists’ hideouts in Dabori area of Orakzai Agency on Thursday.

The ‘commander’ was identified as Ajmer, officials said, adding that 21 militants were also injured in attacks.

Two militants were also killed and an ammunition depot was put on fire by a tribal lashkar in separate incidents.

Two tribesmen, including a malik, were injured in an exchange of fire with militants in the Stori Khel area.


Al-Qaida leader’s wife calls women to join jihad

By Robert Windrem

Dec. 17, 2009

Wife of high-ranking militant sends message to Muslim ‘sisters’

The wife of al-Qaida’s No. 2 official purportedly is urging Muslim women to help militants, even to the point of carrying out suicide missions.

A statement released Wednesday, said to be from the wife of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's Egyptian deputy and second-in-command, encouraged Muslim women to join jihad as an "obligation."

It's believed to be the first time the wife of an al-Qaida official has issued a statement in support of militant operations. In the past, women have been asked to assist their male relatives, donate money and raise their male children as jihadis. But in each case, the women were encouraged by males.

Al-Zawahiri is known to release video messages through the Internet, but the recent message is reportedly the first posting from his wife.

"Fighting is not easy for women, because she needs a male guardian at her side," Umaima Hassan reportedly said in her message.

Authorities have not been able to authenticate the message's validity.

"For some reason they have decided to tap a resource that heretofore they have tiptoed around ... participation by women in combat operations and suicide bombings," said Evan Kohlmann, NBC News counterterrorism analyst.


India: 10 percent quota for Muslims recommended

18 Dec 2009

NEW DELHI: After a delay of 20 months since it was presented, the government on Friday tabled in the Lok Sabha a report on the status of

minorities in India that has recommended 10 percent quota for Muslims - the largest minority in the country - in government jobs, educational institutions and social welfare schemes.

The report by the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra, former chief justice of India, has defined religious and linguistic minorities as backward classes and recommended 15 percent reservation for all minorities in jobs, education and welfare schemes. The panel was constituted in October 2004.

Stressing that education was the "most important requirement for improving the socio-economic status of backward sections among religious minorities", the report says that literacy levels of Muslims and Buddhists were low and next to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

"Educational levels of religious minorities vary considerably from one community to the other. While educational level of Jains, Christians and Parsis is higher, that of Muslims and Buddhists is low and is next to SC/ST," according to the 449-page document in two volumes.

Of India's 1.2 billion population, Muslims are the largest minority at 14 percent followed by Christians at 2.3 percent, Sikhs at 1.9 percent, Buddhists at 0.8 percent, Jains at 0.4 percent and others including Parsis at 0.6 percent.

Pointing out that the minority intake in minority educational institutions has been restricted to about 50 percent only, the commission "strongly" recommends that "at least 15 percent seats in all non-minority educational institutions should be earmarked by law for the minorities".

"Within the recommended 15 percent earmarked seats in institutions shall be 10 percent for the Muslims and the remaining 5 percent for the other minorities," it says.

The report falls short of recommending minority status to the Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, but suggests such institutes should be "legally given a special responsibility to promote education at all levels to Muslim students by taking all possible steps for this purpose".

The report says Idnian minorities - "especially the Muslims - are very much under-represented, and sometimes wholly unrepresented", in government jobs.

"They should be regarded as 'socially and educationally' backward in this respect within the meaning of that term as used in the constitution," said the report.

It mentions that the commission was "guided by the constitutional provisions and the goals that the constitution has set for the country" in reviewing the status of socially and economically backward" communities.

Among other majors it recommends 15 percent of posts in all cadres and grades under the central and state governments should be earmarked for minorities and 10 percent of that should be reserved for Muslims, which form the largest -- 73 percent -- share of the minority population in India.

"The remaining five percent (should be reserved) for the other minorities," it says.

"In no case shall any seat within the recommended 15 percent go to the majority community," it emphasizes.

Recommending delinking of Scheduled Caste status from religion and abrogation of the 1950 Scheduled Caste Order which "excludes Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis from the SC net," the report favours Scheduled Caste status for Dalits in all religions.

The delay in tabling the report had figured figured prominently in parliament since it was presented in May 2007.

It was, before being tabled in the Lok Sabha by Minority Affairs Minster Salman Khurshid, leaked to the media.

Many parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, were demanding that the report be tabled and its recommendations implemented. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accusing the government of appeasing minorities for "vote bank politics".



Arabs are victims of abuse in US post 9/11

18 Dec 2009

WASHINGTON: A quarter of Arab Americans have experienced personal or familial abuse because of race, ethnicity or religion since 9/11, says a new


This is the first representative, population-based investigation of the health and psychological impact of Sep 11 on Arabs and Muslims living in the US, the researchers say.

Muslim Arabs also reported higher rates of abuse than Christians, said Aasim I. Padela, clinical instructor in emergency medicine at the University of Michigan (U-M), who led the study.

Padela says these victims showed a higher probability of psychological distress, lower levels of happiness and poorer perceptions of health status.

What's disturbing about the findings is that residents in Greater Detroit live in a large, well-established Arab community, where they might be expected to be protected from abuse, Padela says. Most of the respondents also had access to health insurance.

"Negative associations of perceived post-9/11 abuse or discrimination might be much worse in less concentrated Arab populations within the US," Padela says.

Nearly half a million Arabs reside in Michigan, and more than 80 percent of those live in Detroit's Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Arabs are the third largest ethnic population in Michigan, with a history dating back multiple generations. This community is the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East.

Padela and co-author Michele Heisler, U-M associate professor of internal medicine and health behaviour, used data from a face-to-face survey of Arab Americans administered in 2003.

Racial and ethnic abuse and discrimination can have lasting effects, and many of those afflicted may not be seeking adequate care, Padela says. Some may fear racial or ethnic discrimination from health care providers, he says.

"We know that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes are still higher than they were pre-9/11," Padela says.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health.


Soofiya Madhani: Interrogation to continue

18 Dec 2009

KOCHI: Amidst dramatic scenes, the Kochi City Police on Thursday arrested Soofiya Madhani, wife of PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madhani, from her residence at Karukapilly in the city.

Soofiya, the tenth accused in the Kalamassery bus-burning case, was arrested by a police team led by Assistant Commissioner Sunil Jacob after the Kerala High Court dismissed her anticipatory bail application.

She had moved the High Court fearing arrest in the wake of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) taking up a re-investigation of the case and filing a report before the Aluva judicial first class magistrate court including her as the tenth accused.

Soofiya was later taken to the office of Thrikakkara Assistant Commissioner P M Varghese for interrogation.

Police sources said that she was taken for a medical check up at Cooperative Medical College.

It has been learnt that a police team led by Varghese questioned her till late in the night.

Police sources added that she would be presented before the Aluva judicial first class magistrate court on Friday and her custody sought for further interrogation.

Soofiya was included in the charge sheet after the SIT unearthed clinching digital evidence in the case.

The arrest of LeT operative Thadiyantavide Nazeer and his subsequent interrogation helped the SIT to link her to the incident.



Malaysian Muslims and Catholics argue over use of 'Allah'

December 18, 2009

A pitched battle is taking place in Malaysia's highest court over whether the word "Allah" can be used to describe God in Christian texts.

The presiding judge says he will rule on the case at the end of the month. But the court's decision is unlikely to put an end to an issue at the centre of a fiery debate between Christians and Malaysia's majority Muslims.

Presenter: Stephanie March

Speakers: Father Lawrence Andrew, Catholic Herald Editor; PAS Islamic Party member Zulkifli Ahmad; University of Technology MARA law professor Shad Faruqi



South Thailand strife: Najib treads delicately


 When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited strife-torn southern Thailand last week, he chose an unusual — and lyrical — means of conveying a hard message.

“Di mana bumi dipijak di situ langit dijunjung,” was his reply to the vexing question of how his government will deal with ethnic separatists who look to Malaysia for support against the Thai government.

It is a Malay proverb, meaning: “The soil on which you stand is also the place you uphold the skies.”

The sentiment it conveys is one of loyalty to one's home, and along with it, respect for its culture and laws.

He was quoted by the New Straits Times as telling the people of South Thailand that while Malaysia could offer them assistance, they remain the citizens of a different country.

As for the potential conflict between swearing allegiance to the Thai monarch and their Islamic faith, Najib's advice was: “In the hereafter, it does not matter which country or state you belong to, but we are answerable by our deeds and behaviour. If we are good Muslims, heaven awaits us.”

It was a delicate way of addressing two audiences: fellow Muslims in Thailand, many of whom have kin in Malaysia, and the Thai government.

The insurgency in southern Thailand has been a source of tension between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Given the ethnic, cultural, religious and familial ties between the peoples on both sides of the border, there is naturally suspicion among the Thai authorities about Kuala Lumpur's attitude towards the separatist rebels.

Violence has grown since 2004 when the current insurgency flared up. More than 3,500 people have died since then, some as the result of grisly beheadings and massacres.

Just a day before Najib visited Narathiwat province with his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva, a bomb went off in a market there, killing two persons and injuring nine.

Some observers may see Najib's words as an oblique Malaysian way of agreeing to take a hands-off approach, but others say they merely reaffirmed Malaysia's consistent policy.

“That has always been the official stand. Malaysia has consistently stuck to a policy of non-interference,” says academic Farish Noor, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

The Malaysian attitude to the southern Thai troubles is a complex one. Despite the shared ties of ethnicity and religion, Malaysia is not keen to be dragged into the conflict.

There are pragmatic reasons for this. One is that Malaysia does not want to set a precedence for Asean states to be interfering in the internal affairs of other Asean states, nor does it want to set a precedence for calling into question fixed territorial boundaries.

Also, as Farish notes, many Malaysians do not see the insurgency in Thailand as a Malay or Muslim issue. Indeed, there is usually very little local media coverage of the problems in southern Thailand, compared to say, the Palestine issue.

The situation is slightly different in Kelantan because of its closer ties with southern Thailand, compared to the rest of Malaysia. That explains why the opposition PAS, which administers Kelantan, tends to be the most vocal on this issue.

Even so, despite the even-handed way in which Kuala Lumpur has dealt with the insurgency, there have been occasions when Malaysia's actions have been seen by the Thais as veering too close to interference.

For example, while Malaysia's reaction to the Tak Bai incident in 2004 was couched in muted diplomatic language, the events that followed annoyed the Thais.

In the Tak Bai incident, some 78 protesters who had been arrested in Narathiwat, suffocated in overcrowded police trucks. Seven were also killed when police fired into the protesting crowd.

Ten months later, 131 Thai Muslims fled to Kelantan, sparking a diplomatic row when Malaysia refused to repatriate them. The matter has since been settled, and all 131 are back in Thailand.

Bilateral ties became even more strained after the former premier, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, suggested that Thailand grant autonomy to the three Muslim-majority provinces. Najib himself also suggested to Abhisit last October that “some form of autonomy” be conferred on the provinces, and repeated this in interviews with Thai newspapers.

But this elicited much objection from Bangkok and Najib dropped the proposal on his last visit. He focused instead on offering assistance, in particular, in the area of education. Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek Hussein followed up with an offer to send Malaysian experts to set up an Islamic bank in the south.

Najib and Abhisit symbolically named a “Friendship Bridge” spanning the border. That was fitting, for it was a conciliatory visit — and very much in keeping with Najib's foreign policy.

As senior New Straits Times editor Kamrul Idris wrote yesterday: “Najib is looking for opportunity in diplomacy — to make change, to ring in the new — and Thailand has beckoned.” Najib wanted to upgrade Malaysia-Thai relations into a “model” for Asean, he said.

Other Malaysian experts think the approach is sound. Professor Sidek Baba, an education specialist at the International Islamic University Malaysia, said it was wise for Malaysia to offer assistance to Thai Islamic schools.

“If the people there are only educated in the traditional orientation of Islamic schooling, that could create a problem. The education will be overly focused on rituals and the spiritual side,” he said.

Eventually, the problems in southern Thailand can be solved only by the Thai government winning the confidence of the southerners. Malaysia's role here can but be a small one.

“The people there still see themselves as having been colonised, and as long as that is not dealt with in a sensitive manner, (the problems) won't go away,” said Farish, who travelled to the region last year. — The Straits Times


Islamic banking course to start in Salford

December 18, 2009

The University of Salford is to offer a master's degree course in the skills and principles behind Islamic banking.

The MSc in Islamic Banking and Finance from Salford Business School will start in September 2010 and the university believes there will be strong demand as the sector, which controls $500bn of assets, is expected to see demand treble.

In the Islamic tradition, charging interest to borrowers is viewed as immoral, so loans have to be structured in a completely different way to that practised in the West, with banks charging introduction fees, leasing assets or taking equity stakes in businesses to share in the upside of a borrower’s success.

Major UK banks now offer Islamic products the sector’s annual growth rate is estimated at 10 to 15 per cent,

Salford lecturer Hussein Abdou said: "It's predicted demand for Islamic services will treble in the next few years. The course is not just for Muslim students. It is open to all people who want to have a unique position in the jobs market."


Former VCU Student Among Group Arrested in Pakistan

December 17, 2009

One Of Five Accused Of Trying To Join Al Qaeda

Virgina Commonwealth University - Virginia Commonwealth University confirms one of the five students arrested in Pakistan was a former student.

Ahmed Minni was a business major from the fall of 2008 through the spring of 2009.

His arrest with four others comes after the FBI learned the young men were trying to link up with an Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

While most of the students at VCU have left for the long holiday break, some say they are shocked by a former student leaving for Pakistan to team up with Al Qaeda.

One student of Muslim faith says it puts all Muslim students in a very bad spot, adding that's now what their faith is all about.

Munid Mahr is a VCU senior who also went to high school with Minni. He says he was stunned to hear Minni's name on television and shocked when he learned why.

Mahr describes Minni as a very humble and caring young man. He adds growing up, he never saw Minni ever get into a confrontation with anyone.

He adds his family is well educated and respected and that he never heard them talk about violence towards anyone.

Minni is still being held and the Pakistani courts have granted police 10 days to continue their interviews with the five students.


Iraqi Officials: Iranian Forces Seized Iraq Oil Well

By Hassan Hafidh


Iranian forces have occupied a southern Iraqi oil well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers, an official from state-run Missan Oil Co. told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Two weeks ago around 10 to 11 Iranian troops occupied well 4 in al-Fukka oil field after Iraqi oil workers started work in the well near the border," the official who is familiar with the story said.

The official said Iranian troops opened fire against the workers who fled the worksite immediately. The fire caused no casualties, he said. Then the troops occupied the well and raised Iranian flag above the well, he added.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh confirmed Iranian troops had occupied Well No. 4 in al-Fukka oil field. He said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chaired a meeting of the National Security Council late Friday to discuss the Iranian penetration inside Iraq.

"The council views the Iranian move as a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and urges Iran to withdraw its troops from the well and bring down the Iranian flag they raised above the well," Dabbagh said in a statement in the cabinet's website.

The Iraqi government has summoned the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad and submitted a letter of protest, Dabbagh said.

Local authorities of Missan governorate told the oil workers to suspend their work until the problem resolved through diplomatic channels with Iran, he added.

"We called upon the Iraqi government in Baghdad to protect our wealth resources from Iranian continuous incursions," the official said.

Earlier, the AFP quoted a U.S. military spokesman as saying that the issue would be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the government of Iraq and Iran.

"The oil field is in disputed territory in between Iranian and Iraqi border forts," the U.S. official said, adding that such incidents occur quite frequently.

Well 4 lies in the Fukka field, part of a cluster of fields Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels.

The incident came only few weeks after officials from the oil ministries of both countries met in Baghdad and discussed oil and gas fields near the two countries' shared border.

Iraq had accused Iran of siphoning crude oil from fields near its border with Iran, namely Abu Gharb and al-Fukka, both located in Missan province. Iraq also accused Iran last year of preventing Iraqi oil technicians from developing the Abu Gharb field.

After the 2003, U.S.-led invasion, Iran seized six wells in the Abu Gharb oil field, saying they were on disputed territory and should be sealed until the border dispute was settled, Iraqi oil officials said.

Last year, Iraq's integrity commission, an independent official body that checks government corruption, accused Iran of seizing more than 15 wells in the al-Teeb border in southern Iraq.

Iran had denied these accusations.


Minorities should be given equal opportunities: Buddhadeb

December 18th, 2009

Kolkata, Dec18 (IANS) Reservation is not the only way for uplift of the minorities in India, there is need to provide them with equal opportunities to better their social and economic conditions, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said Friday.

“Reservation is not the only way for the uplift of minorities. Equal opportunities should be provided to the minorities and the majority,” Bhattacharjee said while speaking at a function celebrating World Minorities Day.

Bhattacharjee slammed the opposition for spreading rumours that the Left Front government would take away land from minorities for industrialisation.

“Before the election, the opposition spread rumours that the state government will take away land from only the minorities for industrialisation. It is not just untrue but absurd,” he said.

He criticised the Rajinder Sachar Committee report on the Social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India for commenting that the condition of the minority community in West Bengal was worse than in other states.

“The Sachar Committee report stated that condition of Muslims in this state is worse compared to other states, both socially and economically. But this is not true. The committee made its report without taking into account the amount of land distributed among the landless Muslim farmers as part of the state’s land reforms,” said Bhattacharjee.

“The committee also did not consider the percentage of minority employees in healthcare, education, municipal and police services. The report was made only on the representation of minorities in government offices,” he added.


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