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Islamic World News ( 15 Jan 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Book on Islam triggers row in Bihar, India

Yusuf in Cat Stevens form with '70s reissues

Unprecedented Numbers of Americans Question Israel’s Actions in Gaza

Nukes make Pakistan a complex issue: Hillary Clinton

LeT behind Mumbai carnage: Britain

India plans to rally neighbours to pressure Pak

Pakistan's Jamaat 'ban' lie nailed

Militants attack NATO supply terminal

Fighting rages in Gaza as toll nears 1,000

Egypt pushes Hamas to accept truce

Gazans seek new places to bury the dead

Some 20,000 Indonesian Muslims urge end to Israeli strikes

A Muslim Country for Mr. Obama to Visit

Three killed, one wounded in Thai Muslim south

Spate of bomb attacks in Baghdad

Anti-Muslim Racism From Above and From Below

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau





Book on Islam triggers row in Bihar

Indo-Asian News Service

Patna, January 14, 2009

A bookseller in this Bihar capital was arrested and the publisher was detained after an Urdu book allegedly made objectionable references to Islam, officials said on Wednesday. They had received a complaint last week.

The chief cleric of Jama Masjid in Munger district, Maulana Kari Abdullah Bukhari, had informed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar about the book and demanded immediate action.


Kumar directed Home Secretary Afzal Amanullah, the state minority commission chairman Naushad Ahmad and Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Amit Kumar to look into the matter.


Based on a complaint filed by Bukhari, the police arrested the bookseller and detained and interrogated the publisher of the book Nilofer Yasin, who is the wife of the author of the book, Mohammed Yasin Ahmad.


"A bookseller Sarfaraz was arrested and sent to jail and Nilofer was interrogated. Police are likely to arrest her husband Ahmad soon," Patna Superintendent of Police Anwar Hussain said.


He said that all of them have been charged with hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community.


"The complainant told the police that there are objectionable references to Islam in the book," Hussain said.


Ahmad's book "Islami Surah Ya Beimani Ka Panchnama" raised eyebrows among a section of the Muslim community, particularly clerics.


The 154-page book questioned ten tenets of Islam and the functioning of the Khalifas as well.


The police are on the lookout for Ahmad.


Yusuf in Cat Stevens form with '70s reissues


By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

BEVERLY HILLS —Though separated at rebirth, Cat Stevens and Yusuf are hardly strangers.


The singer, who adopted his Muslim name after converting to Islam in 1977, returns under his early singer/songwriter guise with the deluxe-edition reissues of 1970's Tea for the Tillerman and 1971's Teaser and the Firecat.


Fans who were stunned when the British pop star abandoned music to study the Quran 30 years ago may be more surprised to learn that Yusuf remains emotionally and philosophically committed to the landmarks that yielded Moonshadow, Morning Has Broken and Father and Son.


"It was an exciting experience to dig back into the spirit of those albums," says Yusuf, 60, picking through a small salad during lunch at Spago with his manager and his son. "They capture quite definitely a golden era of inspired music and expression. There's a need for that kind of awakening now. That music represents the brave exploration of the time, going beyond borders and normal confines."


The remastered versions of his catalog's two most treasured albums, released in November, include original artwork, new liner notes and bonus discs of rarities hand-picked by Yusuf. For Tea, he chose demos of Wild World and Miles From Nowhere and several previously unreleased live cuts, including Longer Boats and Into White from his U.S. debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Among Teaser's extras are demos of If I Laugh and Rubylove, a previously unreleased mix of Peace Train and a live Tuesday's Dead from the Majikat tour.


Recorded in his early 20s, Tea and Teaser not only resonate with Yusuf ("They explain why I'm so engaged in music now"), but they've also retained cultural relevance, he says.


"Look at Where Do the Children Play?" he says. "It's like a theme for Al Gore's Live Earth. The fact that it's still appropriate is sad because the lessons are not being learned. Industry is still chugging away."


Yusuf says he wasn't always conscious of the preternatural insight that marked the folk-rock tunes of his youth.


"It's something artists pick up that can't be measured by scientific means," he says. "You've almost got to stop thinking to be able to reach that place. In a way, when I made my life's change, I was trying to live up to those values that I had been hinting at for so many years. I wasn't always listening to my own wisdom."


Though Yusuf's sense of wonderment remains intact, he's less naive, he says.


"The journey is continuing, but my God, I'm not going to forget the lessons I've learned," he says. "You have to direct yourself to something higher than yourself, beyond a material level. That's what the songs represent. They still connect back to me. I can't reach those high notes, quite. And I'm a little taller, spiritually."


Soft-spoken and slim, sporting a neat beard, white jacket and blue-tinted glasses, Yusuf projects a gentle, pensive demeanour, not unlike his younger persona. Yet public perception shifted dramatically with his showbiz retreat and religious conversion.


When he released 2006's An Other Cup, his first new pop album in 28 years, "people were blown away that it sounded like…me," he says with a laugh.


David Spero, Yusuf's manager, sees maturity, not a radical personality change. "Cat Stevens was the voice of a generation, and Yusuf is a voice of that same generation grown up," he says.


Yusuf's son Yoriyos, also a musician, chimes in: "The biggest misconception is that he's two people. I don't see the difference between his music today and in the past. It's just a continuation, an evolving. But people have their own vision of what they want him to be."


After nearly drowning off the coast of Malibu in 1976, the singer turned to Islam and found "a message to the human heart" in a copy of the Quran his brother gave him. "It didn't have any connection to politics or global issues or the continuing turbulence in the Middle East," he says. "That wasn't the issue."


Yusuf initially ducked public scrutiny when he became a Muslim.


"The life of a star is a combination of desires for recognition, money, fame, love. I stopped because I was worried music might divert me from a higher door."


Did he miss it?


"Not really," he says, adding with a chuckle, "That was the '80s! My timing was pretty good."


When controversies erupted, Yusuf often served as a Muslim ambassador to the West, sometimes unintentionally inflaming relations (his comments on the Salman Rushdie fatwa), but usually offering healing words, as he did after 9/11.


The terror attacks "were a turning point," he says. "The message was: We better get to know each other before we destroy each other. The people in the middle, who are the majority, woke up to that. Unfortunately, a few leaders at the time didn't represent that point of view."


While he struggles to explain Islam's tenets, he isn't an apologist for Muslims and says he's frustrated that "they can point fingers but very rarely say, 'Perhaps I can do something to bridge the gaps.' "


After allowing his musical contribution to stagnate during his extended religious retreat, Yusuf rediscovered the simple purity of lyrics and melody.


"We yearn for happiness, beauty, peace, love," he says. "So many things interfere with that, but music can take you straight there. That is a good reason I make music. You can argue with a philosopher. You can't argue with a good song."


Nukes make Pakistan a complex issue: Hillary Clinton

14 Jan 2009, 0856 hrs IST, PTI


WASHINGTON: Holding Pakistan as one of the main challenges being faced by the incoming Obama Administration, US Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton has said the South Asian nation is different because of the nuclear weapons it possess.


"Pakistan has a particular complexity because of its nuclear weapons capacity," Clinton said during the course of her nomination hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last night.


At the same time, Clinton said she was confident that the new democratically-elected government of Pakistan would cooperate fully with the Obama Administration in fighting the war against terror in the region.


"The democratically elected government has been saying a lot of the right things with respect to the threat posed by the extremists and terrorists, particularly along the border and in the FATA region in Pakistan," she said.


"So I'm hopeful that we will have a very active, positive relationship with the new Pakistan government. I know that there's a lot of work being done even by the outgoing administration to deepen ties between our country and various institutions in Pakistan," she said.


Clinton said apart from Pakistan, Iraq, Middle East and Afghanistan also remain on the forefront of the challenges faced by the incoming team.


She, however, acknowledge that the Pakistan was a complicated problem as "It has many dimensions to it, the relationship with India, the relationship with Afghanistan, the role that Iran and others are playing in that region."


The former First Lady said, "Pakistan has a particular complexity because of its nuclear weapons capacity. But the democratically elected government has been saying a lot of the right things with respect to the threat posed by the extremists and terrorists, particularly along the border and in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region in Pakistan.


"So I'm -- I'm hopeful that we will have a very active, positive relationship with the new Pakistan government. I know that there's a lot of work being done even by the outgoing administration to deepen ties between our country and various institutions in Pakistan."


"This is a very complicated problem. It has many dimensions to it... its relationship with India, with Afghanistan and the role that Iran and others are playing in that region," she said in response to a question.


Clinton said: "We have to approach this with the same level of attention and comprehensive understanding that our military is attempting to do as it ramps up our troop commitments in Afghanistan."


"We (have to) work more closely with the government of Pakistan to root out Al Qaida and other remnants of terrorist networks so that they don't find safe haven in Pakistan to plan attacks against us or any other country," she said.


Clinton said new administration would also separate military aid from non-military aid to Pakistan. "The tripling of the non-military aid is intended to provide resources that will both support the Pakistani people but also give some tools to the democratically-elected government to try to start producing results for the people of Pakistan," she said.


However she said the administration would look at whether it can "condition some of that on the commitment for counterterrorism missions also."


The new administration is inclined to support, when appropriate, a legislation in this regard, she added.


LeT behind Mumbai carnage: Britain

13 Jan 2009, 1440 hrs IST, IANS


NEW DELHI: Britain on Tuesday asked Pakistan to take on Laskhar-e-Taiba, the architects of the Mumbai terror attacks, “frontally and

politically” even as India again reminded Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of the terror attacks to justice and honour its anti-terror pledge.


“It's clear where the responsibility for the attack lies. Pakistan has a fundamental responsibility to tackle the roots of this problem,” Britain's foreign secretary David Milliband told reporters after talks with external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee.


“The responsibility of the Pakistan side is something we expect them to fulfill. Those who have been arrested must be brought to justice and, if found guilty, need to be punished,” Milliband replied at a joint press conference when asked about what action Pakistan needs to take in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage for which India has blamed Pakistan-based elements.


“They need to be taken on politically in a frontal and clear manner,” Milliband, who began his four-day visit to India on Tuesday, said when asked about media reports indicating that the banned outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a public front for LeT, has regrouped under a new banner.


Nearly a month ago, when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited India to express solidarity, he had named the LeT as the perpetrator of the coordinated assaults on Mumbai.


Milliband, however, ruled out the involvement of the Pakistani state in the Mumbai attacks. “I do not believe the attacks were directed by the Pakistani state,” Milliband replied when asked to comment on India's contention that official agencies of Pakistan were complicit in the Mumbai atrocity.


"It is important to say that. What is also important is the response of the Pakistani government to the LeT," he said while underlining that Pakistan needs to adopt "a multi-pronged approach" to tackle LeT and terrorism. "It is clear that the Pakistani apparatus have the fundamental responsibility to tackle the roots of this organization and to develop new strategies for doing so," Milliband stressed.


Asked about Pakistan's rejection of India's demand for handing over the Mumbai suspects to face Indian justice, Mukherjee replied: “Pakistan is obliged to implement all international commitments and resolutions against terrorism. Pakistan as a member of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is required to implement the SAARC convention on terrorism.”


“I do hope that they act on materials and evidence we have given to them and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mukherjee said.


"I do hope some of the fugitives will be handed over to India," he added.


India plans to rally neighbours to pressure Pak

14 Jan 2009, 0410 hrs IST, Indrani Bagchi, TNN


NEW DELHI: As India lines up the world community on its doorstep in solidarity after the Mumbai attacks, the pressure is building up on Islamabad even as Pakistani leaders split hairs about whether the Indian dossier is "information" or "evidence".


Despite the global turning of the screws, India is, in reality, giving Pakistan a breather.


Part of this comes from the fact that Pakistan has to be given some time to act on the dossier, so it isn't seen to be losing face and is seen to be acting on its own, not under Indian pressure.

This week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a signal with a new year greeting card to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yousuf Gilani with a picture of a dove. Part of it also comes from a general desire to give the civilian government in Pakistan room against the military.


While officially, the government will not admit to any slackening, India is keeping its powder dry until the SAARC foreign ministers' meeting in Colombo in a few weeks.

India is now working with neighbouring Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal et al to collectively pressure Pakistan to crack down on its terrorist infrastructure. Simultaneously, India is putting the message out that Pakistan should not be supplied arms and weapons, while globally, Pakistan's economy is not getting quite the attention it deserves.


Back home, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee has been working overtime to ensure that India is on the same page as its neighbours on a whole lot of issues. Therefore, India has made a strong distinction between the LTTE and the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil.

Domestically, Mukherjee has also worked on Tamil leaders like M Karunanidhi on the same issue. While the government has not officially complimented Sri Lankan army on its military successes in the Wanni jungles, there are no tears being shed for the LTTE anywhere in the government.


The new regime in Dhaka will be more willing to work on Pakistan because Bangladesh is a victim of Pakistan's terror export, said sources. So will Nepal, whose Maoist government may have serious problems with India but it recognises that it is becoming a big conduit for Pakistan-based terrorists and an important transit point for its fake currency racket.


Until then, India will have its rhetorical volleys with Pakistan, but will give Pakistan the chance to act on its own.


But if Pakistan continues to exhibit denial and belligerence, the hawks within the Indian system will be back asking for action. This was hinted at by home minister P Chidambaram when he told a British newspaper that India would cut off business, transport and tourist links with Pakistan. Minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma also asked countries like Ukraine, Germany and others not to sell arms to Pakistan.


For this reason, India is also telling its key international interlocutors that they need to tell Pakistan to act decisively. That's happening, in pieces. The US is shuttling people to and fro and UK has also dispatched its foreign secretary David Miliband on a cross-nation caper. The message is, India is willing to wait a while, but Pakistan has to act. Otherwise, the consequences would be enormous.


Kasab's fellow trainees were killed in J&K

13 Jan 2009, 0406 hrs IST, TNN


NEW DELHI: Six Lashkar jihadis who trained with Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab and other members of the gang behind 26/11 could well have been killed

by October last year, according to the jailed terrorist.


Sources said Kasab, quoting the official publication of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, said that all six had been liquidated by Indian security forces in J&K. The jailed terrorist said he read about the killing of Abu Al Qasim, Abu Abdullah, Abu Hamza, Abu Zubair, Abu Omar and Abu Darzana in `Dawa', the mouthpiece of JuD.


According to Kasab, in all, 32 jihadis underwent a special training Daura-e-Khas at Lashkar camps to carry out lethal strikes against India. Of these, 15 volunteered for fidayeen or high-risk assignments, though two chickened out immediately.


Of the remaining 13, three had to be benched because, according to Kasab, they could not complete the marine training due to sea sickness. They would suffer from nausea and vomit frequently when taken out to sea as part of the training.


The three, along with some others who had trained alongside Kasab, were deputed to J&K but were soon killed by security forces, the lone terrorist to have been captured said.


The interrogation of Kasab and Sabauddin Ahmad, another Lashkar jihadi in custody, has brought out the key role played by Zarar Shah alias Zar Bhai in the attacks aimed at India's vital economic installations. Sabauddin told his questioners that Shah had made a powerpoint presentation at the Lashkar headquarters in Muridke to emphasise that jihad against India could not succeed till the country was made to bleed economically.


In the presentation, he listed the strengths of India's economy as well as how to target them. Sabauddin was part of the cell which had planned to wreak mayhem in Bangalore -- home to IT giants who have generated billions of dollars in foreign exchange, besides enhancing the country's soft power.


Pakistan's Jamaat 'ban' lie nailed

12 Jan 2009, 1012 hrs IST, Times Now


NEW DELHI: TV channel Times Now has exposed yet another of Pakistan's lies -- Islamabad may want the world to believe that it has cracked down on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, but that is far from the truth.


There is concrete evidence now that the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s front organization has re-emerged in the form of Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal.


Times Now has got visuals from Lahore, where the Tehreek recently held a rally. Addressing that rally were some of the top Jamaat and Lashkar leaders. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa is clearly going about with business as usual, just under a different name.


The Tehreek seems to be operating quite openly.


The TV channel has got its hands on a press invite informing the media about the rally at Lahore. The activities of the group are out in the open, for all to see. This invitation is for a rally being held to protest the Israeli air-strikes.


The most obvious link to the Jamaat is the black and white flags being waved at the rally clearly showing that the Jamaat is very much undeterred. This reaffirms that the Jamaat is still to this date well and truly active in Pakistan.


One of those spotted in a grey vest is Hafiz Saif Ullah, known for being a main stream activist of Jamaat-ud-Dawa.


Maulana Munawar Hassan who belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is also seen in the video.


Also present at this protest was Allama Tahir Mehmood

Ashrafi, a mainstream Talibani, and also part of Lashkar-e-Taiba. He played a vital role in the returning of the Pakistani Taliban from Afghanistan's Shabarghan jail.


Militants attack NATO supply terminal

Bureau Report


PESHAWAR—The law enforcing agencies have enhanced the security around NATO terminals as 6 rockets landed on NATO Terminal in the midnight of Monday and Tuesday.

According to sources, six rockets were fired on NATO terminal and a truck was destroyed after catching fire while other three vehicles were also damaged. A foreign News Agency while quoting police sources told that after the attack, the officials of law enforcing agencies have decided the patrolling of police and FC while the security forces were also equipped with latest arms. According to police officials, the investigation of the incident has been started.

Senior Police Officer Fida Amjad while talking to a Foreign News Agency told that Police and Para Military Forces chased the attackers and engaged a fierce clash with them for half and hour. The attackers, however, managed to escape from the scene. No loss of life was reported, he added.

Taliban militants launched a rocket attack on a NATO supply depot in northwest Pakistan early Tuesday, torching one truck and damaging three others, police said. The attack on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar was the first since Pakistan launched a massive military operation late last month in the rugged Khyber tribal region bordering Afgahanistan to clear militants from the area.

That offensive was mounted after a series of spectacular attacks on depots in and around Peshawar in which hundreds of vehicles used to ferry supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan were torched. “The militants fired six rockets on a NATO terminal during the night. One truck was hit and it caught fire, while three other vehicles suffered minor damage,” senior police officer Fida Mohammad told AFP. Police and paramilitary soldiers tracked down the attackers and a brief gun battle ensued, he said. After about 30 minutes, the militants fled.


Israelis 'push on into Gaza City'


Air strikes on Gaza cause devastation


Israeli troops have entered the suburbs of Gaza City and are engaged in street fighting with militants, reports say.


Witnesses said Israeli special forces had advanced several hundred metres into several neighbourhoods and that intense gunfire could be heard.


Earlier, Israeli planes attacked more targets in Gaza as Israel's offensive against Hamas entered an 18th day.


A UN watchdog meanwhile accused Israel of showing a "manifest disrespect" for the protection of children in Gaza.


The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said more than 40% of those killed in Gaza were women or children, even though the Israeli government had signed a UN protocol condemning attacks on places where children were likely to be present.


The attacks would have a severe emotional and psychological effect on an entire generation of children in Gaza, it added.


A Palestinian human rights group earlier said more than 90,000 people had fled their homes during the conflict.


Click here to see a graph of mortar and rocket fire during the conflict


Palestinian medical officials say more than 40 people were killed on Tuesday, and that the emergency services have been unable to reach many of the areas targeted by the Israeli military.


They say that since the offensive began on 27 December, 971 people have been killed in Gaza - of whom 311 were children and 76 were women - and more than 4,400 people have been injured.


Thirteen Israelis have died, three of them civilians, Israel says.


Despite the Israeli offensive, militants in Gaza have kept up rocket attacks on southern Israel. The Israeli army said on Tuesday that 25 mortars and rockets had been fired out of Gaza and that Israeli war planes had carried out more than 50 air strikes since the morning.


Israel says it will not call off its offensive until it has stopped the rocket attacks and prevented arms being smuggled into Gaza.


Talat Jad, a resident of the Gaza City suburb of Tal al-Hawa, said he and 15 members of his family had gathered in one room of their house, too frightened to look out of the window.


"We even silenced our mobile phones because we were afraid the soldiers in the tanks could hear them," he said.


Analysts say Israel may be holding back from all-out urban warfare in Gaza City.


Intense street fighting could complicate truce efforts and cause heavy casualties on both sides, which they say would be a politically risky move less than a month before Israel's parliamentary election.


Diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire are continuing in Cairo, where Egyptian mediators are pressing Hamas - which controls the Gaza Strip - to accept a truce proposal.


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also made an unannounced visit on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia, where he discussed the situation with King Abdullah.


The BBC's Magdi Abdelhadi in Cairo says the meeting indicates that Egypt is seeking Saudi Arabia's help in persuading Hamas to accept a ceasefire.


Earlier, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any agreement would have to entail a halt to Israeli attacks, a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and the opening of border crossings to end the blockade of Gaza.


However, the Israeli foreign ministry said there was no guarantee that Hamas would respect any ceasefire agreement.


Hospital visit


Earlier, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, visited Gaza to see the humanitarian situation for himself.


Speaking on a tour of Gaza's main hospital, Mr Kellenberger said he had been saddened by what he had witnessed.


"I wanted to see this hospital and I can only say this is really very sad and it hurts a lot when you see what I've just seen," he said.


Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the military operation would continue in order to stop Hamas rockets being fired into Israel and to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.


"We are working towards those two goals while at the same time keeping an eye on the diplomatic initiatives," he said during a tour of an Israeli air force base.


Jakob Kellenberge, International Red Cross: 'The medical mission has to be protected'


Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of trying to "wipe out" his people.


"This is the 18th day of the Israeli aggression against our people, which has become more ferocious each day as the number of victims rises," he said.


"Israel is keeping up this aggression to wipe out our people over there."


US Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton said in her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the Obama administration would make "every effort" to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace.


"The president-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel's desire to defend itself under the current conditions, and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets," she said.


"However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians."


The Al-Mizan Centre for Human Rights, a Palestinian group, said that more than 90,000 people had abandoned their homes to escape the Israeli bombardment.


About 31,000 of them were staying at UN-run schools in Gaza City, which were full, and in the Jabaliya and Shati refugee camps, the group said. The other 60,000 are staying with neighbours and relatives.


UN mission


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due in the region on Wednesday for talks to try to end the fighting.


Fighting rages in Gaza as toll nears 1,000


14 January 2009


GAZA CITY - Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip's main city early Wednesday and bombed the enclave's southern border with Egypt as the death toll from the war on Hamas neared 1,000.


As the war entered its 19th day, witnesses said the number of air strikes on Gaza City and other parts of the north was well down on the previous night, but that heavy fighting continued there.


'Tanks are shelling Palestinian fighters, who are responding with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). There is heavy machine-gun fire on both sides.'


There were no immediate reports of casualties.


Speaking on Tuesday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Israel's offensive was 'becoming more ferocious each day as the number of victims rises.


'Israel is keeping up this aggression to wipe out our people over there,' he added from his base in the occupied West Bank.


Israeli special forces backed by tanks and air strikes had thrust ever deeper into Gaza's City, advancing hundreds of metres (yards) into several neighbourhoods in the south, witnesses said.


The crump of tank shells and the crackle of gunfire echoed through much of the day.


Palestinian medical sources said around 70 people were killed on Tuesday, taking the overall toll to around 975 Palestinians, with another 4,400 wounded.


Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or by rocket attacks since December 27, when the Jewish state began its deadliest ever offensive on Gaza, ruled by the Hamas movement since mid-2007.


Israel also carried out a wave of bombing raids on the border town of Rafah, sending hundreds of people fleeing onto the streets, and those strikes continued into the night.


The military said its warplanes had attacked more than 100 targets since early on Monday morning, including 55 weapons-smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza.


Eighteen rockets and mortar rounds were fired into Israel, an army spokesman said -- barely a quarter of the number recorded at the start of the offensive. No casualties were reported.


Israel's military chief said Operation Cast Lead was making progress but warned that troops faced 'complicated' conditions in Gaza City, home to more than half a million people and where Israel has little combat experience.


'We have already achieved a lot against both Hamas's infrastructure and its military wing but we still have work to be done,' the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, told lawmakers.


A senior official told the Ynet Internet news site that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had 'defined two objectives -- an end to Hamas fire and terror, and an end to the organisation's military build-up. As long as these objectives are not secured, we will not be under any pressure (to end the operation).'


Saying 'nobody should stand there with a stop watch or try to put a gun to our head' to end the offensive, he added: 'We are not seeking an exit, but rather, success. As Olmert defined it, what we need here is a strategy of success, regardless of how much time it takes.'


A Hamas delegation is currently in Cairo for talks on a Western-backed proposal drawn up by President Hosni Mubarak to end the fighting.


A senior source in Cairo indicated Egypt was getting increasingly frustrated at Hamas's response so far to its initiative, saying 'they need to say 'yes', now, to our plan.'


A top Hamas leader, Mussa Abu Marzuk, acknowledged the movement had 'substantial observations' about the initiative but said there was 'still a chance' they would accept it.


Hillary Clinton, due to become US secretary of state in a week's time, said Barack Obama's administration would make 'every effort'  to forge peace but ruled out talks with Hamas until it recognised Israel's right to exist.


'You cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognises Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements,' she told a Senate confirmation hearing. 'That is just for me an absolute.'


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and with Mubarak, pressing them 'for the specific measures necessary to deliver a full and sustainable ceasefire' in line with last week's UN Security Council Resolution.


Brown's office said he was 'deeply troubled' by the suffering in Gaza, urged Israel to respect its humanitarian commitments and called on Arab leaders to 'say more clearly that Hamas must disarm.'


Aid agencies have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the territory where the vast majority of the 1.5 million population depends on foreign aid and is already reeling from 18 months of punishing Israeli blockade.


'Israeli bombardment is causing extensive destruction to homes and to public infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip and is jeopardizing water, sanitation and medical services,' said a UN field report.


'As of this morning (Tuesday), 60 percent of Gazans are not receiving any power. The rest receive electricity intermittently,'  the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.


Egypt pushes Hamas to accept truce

14 January 2009


CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian mediators pushed the militant Palestinian group Hamas to accept a truce proposal for the embattled Gaza Strip in talks on Tuesday, while the U.N. secretary-general headed to the region to join diplomatic efforts for a cease-fire.


U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has backed the Egyptian truce proposal to halt the fighting, now in its third week. Before leaving New York for the Egyptian capital on Tuesday, he urged Israel and Hamas to accept a U.N. cease-fire resolution and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.


"To both sides, I say: Just stop, now," Ban told a news conference Monday. "Too many people have died." He said Hamas militants who have been firing rockets into southern Israel "must stop, they must look to the future of the Palestinian people."


The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously supported Ban's efforts after he briefed the council behind closed doors.


Tuesday's talks between Hamas and Egyptian officials in Cairo were the latest in intensive diplomatic efforts. In Damascus, the Turkish prime minister's top foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoglu, met for the third time in two days with Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Mashaal.


But so far, the push has yielded little public progress.


Hamas' deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told Al-Jazeera TV that the Egyptian proposal is not acceptable as it stands. Hamas has "amendments" for it and if "taken into consideration, it will be a framework for moving toward a solution," he said.


A Palestinian official close to Hamas said the previous round of Egypt-Hamas talks on Sunday were "stormy." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed-door talks.


Israel's point man to the cease-fire talks, Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, is slated to come to Cairo Thursday, Israeli Defense Ministry officials said Tuesday. Gilad had put off the trip for days, saying the time was not yet ripe.


Defense officials say that depending on what happens in Cairo, Israel will decide whether to move closer to a cease-fire or launch a new, even tougher stage of its offensive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing sensitive policy matters.


The U.N. Secretary-General won't meet Hamas officials or go to Gaza during his trip, which also includes Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.


During the Sunday negotiating session, Egypt's top mediator, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, told Hamas to accept Egypt's truce proposal without amendments or Hamas will be considered responsible for Israel's continuing offensive in Gaza, the Palestinian official said.


On Tuesday, the Hamas delegation held a new round of talks with Suleiman and Egyptian officials. Later, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left on a previously unannounced trip to Riyadh to meet with his ally, Saudi King Abdullah, to discuss the cease-fire efforts, Egyptian officials said.


The talks come as Israeli ground troops pushed deeper into Gaza City in their 18-day offensive, in which more than 900 Palestinians have been killed, half of them civilians. Israel says its assault aims to stop Hamas rocket attacks, saying it will stop only when there are guarantees the rocket fire and smuggling of weapons into Gaza will stop.


Hamas demands an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, a halt to the offensive and the opening of border crossings into the tiny Mediterranean coastal territory, which Israel and Egypt have mostly kept sealed since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007.


How those crossings are to be opened, however, is a major sticking point. Egypt has called for international monitors at the borders to prevent smuggling, although not on the Egyptian side of the border, and there is also talk of such monitors being tasked with ensuring the cease-fire. Hamas has so far rejected any international monitors and demands a role in controlling the border crossings, which Egypt and Israel refuse.


Qatar has called for an emergency summit of Arab League heads of state on Friday in Doha to discuss the Gaza crisis.


Arab League head Amr Moussa said 13 members have agreed to attend. However, at least 14 members must agree for a summit to be called.


Egypt and Saudi Arabia have rejected the idea, suggesting Arab leaders hold talks in Kuwait on Sunday ahead of a previously planned economic summit.


Gazans seek new places to bury the dead


14 January 2009

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – One family buried a slain son over his grandfather. Another bundled up the tiny bodies of three young cousins and lowered them into the grave of a long-dead aunt. A man was laid to rest with his brother.


More than two weeks into the Israeli offensive that has killed more than 940 Palestinians, Gazans are struggling to find places to bury their dead. Cemeteries throughout Gaza City that were closed for new burials have now reopened.


"Gaza is all a graveyard," gravedigger Salman Omar said Tuesday as he shoveled earth in Gaza City's crammed Sheik Radwan cemetery, a cigarette dangling from his lips.


Just six miles wide and 25 miles long, Gaza has always suffered from a shortage of burial space. But Gazans say Israel's shelling and ground offensive have made it impossible for residents to reach Martyrs Cemetery — the only graveyard in the area with space to dig fresh graves.


The offensive is aimed at crushing the militant group Hamas and ending its rocket attacks on southern Israel. But Palestinian medical officials say roughly half the dead are civilians.


Among them are the Samouni cousins, 5-month-old Mohammed, 1-year-old Mutasim and 2-year-old Ahmed, whose family hurriedly dug up the grave of an aunt to lay them to rest last week.


"We buried them quickly," said Iyad Samouni, 26, speaking from al-Awda hospital in Gaza City, where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds. "We were afraid we'd be shelled. My relatives were trying to open other graves to prepare for the other dead, but we didn't get time."


He said the family fled the graveyard after they came under fire from a warplane.


The three boys were killed Jan. 5 in what the family and the United Nations said was an Israeli shelling attack on a house in eastern Gaza where they had evacuated on soldiers' orders to avoid nearby fighting.


Many members of the clan were wiped out. The exact number is unknown — figures vary from 14 to 30 people. Medics believe there are still bodies buried under the rubble that cannot be reached because of fighting in the area.


Israel's military denies the account, but says the house may have come under attack in crossfire with Hamas militants.


At Sheik Radwan on Tuesday, mourners pulled away the slabs of concrete covering the graves of long-deceased relatives, pushed the bones aside and lowered in the newly dead.


"You have a martyr: you need an immediate solution," Omar, 24, said, using the term many Gazans use for Palestinians killed by Israeli fire and referring to Islamic law, which requires the dead be buried as soon as possible.


"You look for where your grandmother, uncle or mother was buried, and bury them there. If there's three or four, bury them in the same grave," he said, drawing on a cigarette as he dug.


Nearby, relatives hammered away at the concrete tomb of Moyhideen Sarhi, killed last May in an Israeli strike against Hamas militants. His brother Kamel, 22, also a Hamas militant, was killed Tuesday.


The family feared approaching Martyrs Cemetery and decided to lay Kamel next to his brother.


"As they were in life they are in death," said their cousin, Salim, 28, as other relatives pushed aside the slab protecting Mohyideen's remains and kissed his shroud before lowering his brother's body on top.


Even the pathways in the hilly cemetery were filled with graves. The older ones had marble slabs, a reminder of more affluent times. Relatives of the newly buried make do with a small tile or a name etched in concrete. For others, there was no name at all, just the tombstone of the relative buried there first.


One family arrived with their 14-year-old son, who they said was killed in an Israeli strike.


A gravedigger approached, asking if the family had a deceased relative whose grave they could reopen. Street children hoping for small change scrambled to look for graves the family could use.


Nearby, men in jeans dug up their grandfather's grave. The loud crashing sound of an airstrike nearby made some of them look up. Their relative, Mohammed Abu Leila, was a militant killed in the fighting.


"I've buried a policeman in his mother's grave," said Omar, the gravedigger. "I buried three brothers in one hole. I buried children with their mothers. You don't ask questions: it's just important to find a place and bury them."


Some 20,000 Indonesian Muslims urge end to Israeli strikes


JAKARTA (AFP) — At least 20,000 Indonesian Muslims have staged a peaceful rally in the capital to call for an end to Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.


Protesters from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) gathered at the national monument in Jakarta and marched through the streets.


The demonstrators, accompanied by their families and children, waved Palestinian flags and carried banners reading "Save Palestine," "Israel, back off from Palestine territories!" and "Boycott Israel's products and Free Palestine."


At the national monument, parliamentary chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid, who is a senior PKS member, urged the United Nations Security Council to press Israel to end its strikes.


"This is a serious human tragedy. We urge the UN Security Council to put more pressure on Israel for an immediate halt of its strikes on the Gaza Strip," Nur Wahid said in a speech during the rally.


Protesters stepped on a large Israeli flag before burning it.


As a show of support, protest organisers also collected money to help the Palestinian people.


Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation of 234 million people, is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and does not recognise Israel.


Israel pressed ahead with its air and ground assault in Gaza on Sunday as the death toll in the 16-day-old war passed 850 and Hamas vowed it would never negotiate a ceasefire while "under fire."


UK communities divided over violence


As the violence continues in Gaza and Israel, two BBC correspondents talk to members of the UK's Jewish and Muslim communities about how the fighting is affecting them.




The Jewish community in Manchester is more than 20,000 strong, and there is no single Jewish voice here.


Not all Jews are uncritical of the Israeli government's actions normally. But at times of conflict, like now, any misgivings tend to be put aside and people express solidarity.


Simon Lader, 34, says Jews here feel very close to what's happening in Israel despite the distance. "It's just a sovereign nation protecting defenceless civilians," he says.

"If there was a resurgence of the IRA and they started bombing London, you could be sure the British army would do what it takes."


He is worried about the effect on community relations here.


"British Jews may be unfairly targeted because of the actions of Israel in the way some British Muslims were unfairly attacked after 9/11."


Hadassah Fidler, who has just had her third child, says watching the news is painful.


"You feel awful. Lots of innocent Palestinians are caught up."


But she believes Israel felt it had to act. "The rocket attacks have been going on for years."


As to the proportionality of Israel's military response, she says: "Proportionality is an issue, but Hamas only needs to take one small step to end this."


The difference in numbers of casualties has led to much criticism of Israel's tactics. But according to businessman Joshua Rowe, who is involved in Israeli charities here, that is a red herring.


"It so happens that Hamas' rockets are not precise," he says. "But their aim is still to kill civilians. Had they been more successful they'd have killed thousands."




When you walk around the Bordesley centre in Birmingham, you can see Muslim students working hard at their computers or making notes in the library. They are studying for their GCSEs, but for some of them exams are the last thing on their minds.


They have relatives in Gaza City, and one student's grandmother died there just 24 hours ago.


Another woman who came to the centre on Friday was Nily Abuarqab. She moved to Solihull from Ramallah and still has a sister in Gaza who she has not been able to contact for about a week.


Chris Khamis of West Midlands Solidarity Campaign says the UN resolution is 'too little too late'


Nily's four-year-old nephew is so traumatised by what is happening around him that he has stopped talking.


"When I last spoke to my sister on the phone, I could hear air strikes in the background," she told us. "She was crying and could hardly speak. The whole family is traumatised."


For Nily and some of the students here, the UN resolution is too little, too late.


They believe a ceasefire is a long way off and one Palestinian has described it as "a fight between two children - if you're trying to break it up, you don't pick on the small one who's being bullied". But that is what is happening to the Palestinians, he says.


On Thursday night a special service was held at the Singer's Hills synagogue about four miles away in Birmingham city centre.


It was an opportunity for people from all different faiths to come together and pray for those caught up in the conflict.


On Friday evening a rally is due to be held in the city's Victoria Square to call for an immediate end to the violence.


Three killed, one wounded in Thai Muslim south

Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:26am EST


YALA, Thailand, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed three people and wounded one in Thailand's south, police said on Sunday, the latest violence in a five-year separatist rebellion.


Those killed, two of them Muslim, were shot dead while riding motorcycles to work in a rubber plantation in Bannang Sata district of Yala province, one of three southernmost provinces roiled by violence that has killed 3,200 people since 2004.


The rubber-producing provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, abutting predominantly Muslim Malaysia to the south, were an independent Muslim sultanate until their annexation by Buddhist Thailand a century ago.


No group has claimed responsibility for any of the almost daily shooting, bombings arson attacks, which have driven out many in the 20 percent Buddhist minority. (Reporting by Surapan Boonthanom; Writing by Ploy Chitsomboon; Editing David Fox)


A Muslim Country for Mr. Obama to Visit


As Saad Eddin Ibrahim noted in his Dec. 20 op-ed, "An Outreach to Muslims," President-elect Barack Obama's plan to visit a Muslim country in his first 100 days in office will draw attention worldwide, and for his message of reconciliation he should choose a country that has a tradition of uninterrupted democracy and proper treatment of its citizens.


The place best fitting these criteria is the world's most progressive Muslim nation: Malaysia.


After defeating a communist insurgency, Malaysia has had authentic democracy since independence in 1957. Like America, Malaysia is multiethnic, multicultural and multi-religious; its citizens have rights and freedoms and are politically active, with women highly visible in politics and business. Opposition parties have won local and state elections, political blogs are popular and the media is relatively open.


A top U.S. trading partner, Malaysia has substantial U.S. investment, and more than 100,000 Malaysians have gotten their education in the United States. Its Independence Monument was modelled on the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, and even its flag looks much like ours.


Malaysia proves that democracy can be Muslim and moderate, and that Islamic states can have healthy ties with America -- even if we don't always agree on policies.



Sunday, January 11, 2009; Page B06


Lehigh Valley Muslim groups protest Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza

Sunday, January 11, 2009


The Express-Times


ALLENTOWN | As snow fell on the protesters Saturday at Ninth and Hamilton streets, many said they wished the children of Gaza could look up to the sky and see the snowflakes instead of rockets.


Despite the weather, the rally, organized by several Lehigh Valley Muslim groups, drew several hundred people to protest Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip, calling it a massacre of Palestinian civilians.


Many of the protesters, holding signs declaring "War leaves every child behind" and "Stop the killing now," still have family members in the Gaza Strip.


One protester, a 42-year-old Palestinian refugee who refused to give his name, said he fled the "oppressive occupation" in 1984 but his elderly parents and extended family are still "trapped" in Gaza. It's an unusual war zone when civilians cannot even escape the violence, he said.


"My children have been having nightmares," he said. "They have cousins there. They are so afraid for them."


Organizers held the rally to bring attention to the fighting, said organizer and Moravian College professor Mohamed Bugaighis.


Israel's attacks are mostly killing and injuring civilians while reducing schools, mosques and homes to piles of rubble, he said.


"It's just a tremendous destruction of life," Bugaighis said.


Carolyn Katwan, assistant executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, said it is easy to blame Israel for the fighting but Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Since then Hamas has taken control, mounting a continuous rocket-launching campaign against Israel, she said.


"War is terrible. It is not the option any of us chooses but that is the result when you have to defend yourself," Katwan said. "I think the Palestinians are suffering but Hamas has led them to this."


Protesters called for an end to violence and for Palestinian freedom. They said they hoped calling attention to the fighting could help educate the public and lead to pressure on political leaders.


"We hope our voices are heard so we can save the lives of the women and children in Gaza," Bugaighis said.


Allentown resident Eurad Darawsheh, 44, is the son of Palestinian refugees but much of his family still lives in Nazareth, Israel.


The latest conflict amounts to genocide, he said.


"It's really almost like adding to my collective memory of Israel's brutality, and this is just an addition to their criminal record," Darawsheh said. "The Israelis must come to terms with themselves. Palestinians deserve freedom and an independent state."


Reporter Sara K. Satullo can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Unprecedented Numbers of Americans Question Israel’s Actions in Gaza

By Max Blumenthal, Huffington Post. Posted January 6, 2009.


Could it be the rise of online progressive media telling the truth about Israel, or that the public rejects the same pundits who sold us Iraq?


Almost as soon as the first Israeli missile struck the Gaza Strip, a veteran cheering squad suited up to support the home team. “Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life,” Charles Krauthammer claimed in the Washington Post. Echoing Krauthammer, Alan Dershowitz called the Israeli attack on Gaza, “Perfectly ‘Proportionate.’” And in the New York Times, Israeli historian Benny Morris described his country’s airstrikes as “highly efficient.”


While the cheerleaders testified to the superior moral fibre of their team, the Palestinian civilian death toll mounted. Israeli missiles tore at least fifteen Palestinian police cadets to shreds at a graduation ceremony, blew twelve worshipers to pieces (including six children) while they left evening prayers at a mosque, flattened the elite American International School, killed five sisters while they slept in their beds, and liquidated 9 women and children in order to kill a single Hamas leader. So far, Israeli forces have killed at least 500 Gazans and wounded some two thousand, including hundreds of children. Yesterday, the IDF blanketed parts of Gaza with white phosphorus, a chemical weapon Saddam Hussein once deployed against Kurdish rebels.


“It was Israel at its best,” Yossi Klein Halevi declared in the New Republic.


By New Year’s Day, Israel’s cheering squad had turned the opinion pages of major American newspapers into their own personal romper room. Of all the editorial contributions published by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times since the Israel’s war on Gaza began, to my knowledge only one offered a skeptical view of the assault. But that editorial, by Israeli novelist David Grossman, contained not a single word about the Palestinian casualties of IDF attacks. Even while calling for a cease fire, Grossman promised, “We can always start shooting again.”


Israeli public relations agents fanned out to broadcast studios from the US to Europe, fulfilling an aggressive strategy conceived after the country’s catastrophic 2006 attack on Lebanon. An analysis by Israel’s foreign ministry of eight hours of coverage across international broadcast media concluded that Israeli representatives received a whopping 58 minutes of airtime compared to only 19 minutes for Palestinians. “Quite a few outlets are very favorable to Israel, namely by showing [its] suffering. I am sure it is a result of the new co-ordination,” said Major Avital Leibovich, an IDF spokesperson who has become a fixture on cable news in the past weeks.


But while Israel’s PR machine cranked its Mighty Wurlitzer to full blast, drowning out all opposing voices with its droning sound, a surprisingly substantial portion of the American public decided to dance to its own tune. According to a December 31 Rasmussen poll (so far the only measure of US opinion on the Gaza assault), while Americans remained overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, they were split almost evenly on the question of whether Israel should attack Gaza — 44% in favour of the assault and 41% against it. The internals are even more remarkable.


While Republicans supported the assault on Gaza by a large margin, a predictable finding, only 31% of Democrats did. Members of the Democratic base thus stood in sharp contrast to most of their elected representatives (freshman Rep. Donna Edwards is a notable exception), who backed the latest Israeli assault in lockstep, and seem to support Israel no matter what it does. The rift between the progressive base and the party played out on Barack Obama’s site, which was deluged in recent days with demands for a statement condemning Israel’s assault on Gaza.


So what accounts for the surprising trend in American opinion on Gaza? The proliferation of progressive online media and social networking sites could be a factor, but I have another theory: The same pundits who are cheerleading Israel’s assault on Gaza once sold the occupation of Iraq to America, and with a nearly identical set of arguments. In their voices and those of the grim Israeli PR agents carted out for cable news, many Americans hear echoes of the Bush administration’s most fantastical lies. When they see images of Gazans under withering bombardment, they flash back to Fallujah and the assorted horrors of Iraq. When they look at Israel, they see themselves during the darkest days of the Bush era.


Now, an increasing share of Americans know what Israel is doing to Gaza. And they reject it, even when Israel is “at its best.”


See more stories tagged with: israel, gaza, white phosphorous


Max Blumenthal is a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute based in Washington, DC. Read his blog at


Spate of bomb attacks in Baghdad


At least eight people have been killed and more than a dozen injured after a series of bomb blasts ripped through Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.


At least three including a policeman died in two blasts in New Baghdad district in the east of the city.


In the west of the city, three Iraqi soldiers died when a roadside bomb hit their military convoy.


Two civilians were killed in explosions in the central commercial district of Karrada, and near a police checkpoint.


The blasts occurred during the morning rush hour. Police said the explosions had mainly targeted Iraqi security forces.


'Pools of blood'


The US military said Iraqi police were hit when explosives planted on a truck detonated as they responded to the first blast in New Baghdad.


"I rushed out with others to see three bodies on the ground in pools of blood, " a witness, Mohammed Nasir, told AP news agency.


"This place has witnessed several bombings before and we fear that violence will come back after a period of quiet."


The explosions occurred on a road running through the commercial district, which local residents said was frequently used by police and army convoys.


Iraq has become less violent since the US military surge was launched 18 months ago.


More recently, however, Iraqi security forces have been targeted as they increasingly take the lead in military operations.


Anti-Muslim Racism From Above and From Below

On the Culturalization of Social Antagonisms in Neoliberalism

by Gruppe Soziale Kämpfe

11. January 2009

The successful prevention of the “Anti-Islamification” Congress in Cologne last September was the result of one of the largest anti-fascist and anti-racist mobilizations of the last few years. The abortive congress can be regarded as an attempt by the European right to consolidate its forces by means of the theme of the “Islamification of Europe” and the promotion of a pan-European right-wing party. The counter-mobilization also raised questions concerning anti-racist positions and strategies against rising anti-Muslim racism in Europe, and brought these questions to the attention of a broader public.


Broad coalitions – such as that in Cologne – are important and necessary components of a struggle for hegemony. It is just as important to bring an anti-racist critique into these struggles, a critique that does not appeal to tolerance, cultural difference, or freedom of religion. These “values” do not break with the logic of culturalization, but rather strengthen it from the “left”. Strategies must be developed concerning how to push back against (local and everyday) mobilizations against immigrants as “Muslims” without falling into the trap of culturalization. Thus, the following two questions are of foremost importance for us:


The National Competitive State and Security Policies


1) Why is “Islam” such an attractive bogeyman for so many people? The right’s capacity for mobilization has to be considered within the context of capitalism’s upheavals and neo-liberal and authoritarian strategies of the ruling block. 2) To what extent can we actually speak of an anti-Muslim racism (AMR for short) without therefore falling into the trap of overlooking right-wing elements within Islamic movements? Reactionary political-religious movements within Islam must be criticized along with the social conditions in which they emerge, taking into account the racism of the majority society and the economic, cultural, and political contradictions of globalized capitalism.


Our thesis is: AMR is one aspect of processes of the culturalization of the social question. Within these conflicts (at least since the 1980s), the question of cultural identity and difference becomes central, and the capitalist conditions for racism and the hierarchical subjugation of immigrants are pushed into the background. The neo-liberal block in power, by mobilizing through the bogeyman “Islam”, can organize consent for security policies while rolling back social security. This is an authoritarian way of processing social antagonisms that rests upon the organization of racist compromises. One challenge for an anti-racist critique consists in understanding how growing sections of the population are integrated into this racist compromise, in order to develop counter-strategies.


Discussions concerning the social position of Muslim religious practices have become a central field of social conflict. Extreme right-wing and right-conservative forces (including parts of the Christian Democratic Union/CDU, the major conservative political party in the Federal Republic of Germany) place emphasis upon the mobilization of social alliances against immigrants as “Muslims” (understood in a homogeneous sense) or practitioners of “Islam” (understood in a singular sense). In doing so, they can organize broad acceptance and a racist consensus with regard to “foreigners” and “their culture”, alleged to have no place in the national community.


Common to all of these mobilizations is that they depict “Islam” as a homogeneous, static culture of the other (that is to say, cultural non-Germans/Europeans) and ascribe to immigrants an essential cultural identity as Muslims. This culture is alleged to be incompatible with the majority society, leading as it does to social problems (Islam as the supposed cause for the inability or unwillingness to integrate) and posing a threat to “society”. According to the respective ideological position, German society is either understood as being Christian-occidental and held together by means of the German language, or as being Western-secular. In both currents, “Islam” is regarded as an anti-modern, backwards culture.


AMR must therefore be analyzed between the conflicting poles of culturalist and orientalist constructions on the one hand, and their modification and “renewal” within debates concerning “the society in which we live”, a process that takes place within a constellation of social force relations (economic, political, and ideological-cultural).


In the imagery concerning immigrants within the Federal Republic of Germany, religion or culture did not initially play a dominant role. Immigrants were regarded as “guest workers”, their (structural) racist subjugation within the Fordist Wirtschaftswunder society of post-war Germany was fixed by their socio-economic status, their position as low-level workers, as well as along lines of nationality. In the 1980s, cultural-religious moments emerged in the construction of “the other”, focused upon immigrants from Turkey. With the second Persian Gulf War, “Islam” was made a theme, initially as a supposedly politicized religion, and then as a bellicose religion with the connotation of “Arab terrorism” since September 11th 2001.


The Processing of Social Antagonisms from “Below”


To this extent we speak of a metamorphosis of the discourse concerning the “other”: it constructs immigrants in a religious-cultural way as Muslims and “Islam” as bellicose-terrorist. This discourse is racist because it cements relations of power that aim at the exclusion or subjugation of “immigrants” as “cultural others”. Social “problems” and antagonisms within capitalist society are therefore associated with an “identifiable” group – an “ethnification of the social question”. This points to a far-reaching shift in the social balance of forces – in political discourse, within the state, and within civil society.


The ethnification of the social question was consummated in the 1980s within the context of Helmut Kohl’s “spiritual-moral turn” (“geistig-moralischer Wende”). This shift was initiated by political conservatives, but was then accepted and strengthened by the left, with the plus and negative signs inverted. The left thus allowed itself to get sucked into the cultural field of discourse. The orientation towards tolerance for other cultures because of their “difference” characterizes multiculturalism as an ideology of the liberal-bourgeois spectrum. It excludes the “social question” and consolidates the picture of other cultures.


Now many former advocates of multiculturalism proclaim its failure and formulate the demand for the cultural integration of immigrants. The previous SPD-Green government made an attempt of at least reforming German citizenship laws in order to promote political equality, but otherwise continued with the ethnification of the social question. Class antagonisms and social relations of power vanished in the project of the “Third Way” (known in German as the “Neue Mitte”), whereas neo-liberal social and economy policies intensified social antagonisms. Immigrants are particularly affected to a high degree by precarization, while their social situation is simultaneously declared to be the result of (failed) integration, for which the handling of cultural difference is responsible. Social contradictions are associated with an ethnicized underclass of (mostly young) immigrants, whose lifestyle is supposedly responsible for the fact that they have no chances on the labour and educational markets.


At the very latest with the grand coalition between the CDU and SPD, the theme of Islam as a “security problem” has been pushed to the foreground. This is being implemented through new relationships between state integration policies and initiatives and associations within civil society: Muslim organizations are invited to “integration summits” as representatives of “immigrant interests”. These groups do in fact advocate conservative and in part questionable positions concerning basic rights – but they also only represent around 20% of the Muslims in Germany.


The capacity for mobilization of anti-mosque movements is a part of the wide-reaching shifts in the cultural-ideological field. But the conjuncture of anti-Muslim, racist discourses in various social spheres and groups is tightly bound up with social upheavals within capitalism and the hegemony of neo-liberal policies at the national and European level. In the competitive state, social security is hollowed out. At the same time, security apparatuses are revved up and security policies intensified. Foreign and security policy is directed against new enemies: political Islam and terrorism.


Alliances for Transnational Social Security


Anti-Islamic discourses have a double effect: On the one hand, they mobilize consent for the extension of security policies and the defence of “western”, European interests, with military means amongst others. On the other hand, the interpretative frameworks contained within these discourses – social conflicts and the contradictions of capitalist globalization become conflicts between religions, conflicts between cultures, and are made into “security problems” – are taken up from below in order to conduct struggles over the distribution of social wealth and for social security in an exclusionary manner, and in order to form alliances on the basis of racist cultural constructs or national identities.


Whereas in Fordism the integration of subalterns was consummated via material concessions, the welfare state, and the promise of a calculable/desirable future, the present, neo-liberal phase of capitalism has nothing to offer other than fear, control, and security. Noticeable is how campaigns “from above” are picked up, elaborated, and answered from below. Through the security discourse and the culturalistic and anti-Muslim constructions contained within it, neo-liberal strategies gain acceptance from below and find a resonance in the experiences of insecurity by precarized workers or groups threatened by social decline. The security discourse, racism, and the spread of insecurity are intertwined with one another (in a contradictory manner).


Some everyday distributive or competitive struggles are construed in a racist manner. Those still employed in relatively secure wage labour and who have an affirmative position with regard to neo-liberal reorganization accept intensified working conditions as a challenge. The more the pressure increases and the more these workers struggle in order to keep up, the more vehemently they demand the same of others. Those who cannot or refuse to hold their own are qualified as excludable. This is the manner in which the neo-liberal answer to the increasing precariousness of the middle class and the extension of authoritarian and disciplinary policies against the so-called underclass is accepted and lived.


But a critique of AMR that breaks with the logic of the culturalization of social antagonisms is only possible when Islamic religious and cultural movements are taken seriously as a component of these conflicts. The diverse (!) movements in religious and political Islam must be criticized, while at the same time not disregarding the hierarchical and racist social relations in which they are embedded. An interventionist anti-racist politics must create alliances for social security and confront culturalistic interpretations of social antagonisms within them.


How can perspectives be developed in which the interests of many groups can be combined in solidarity? Cross-cultural, counter-hegemonic orientations and identities can only emerge in the long-term in common discussions that cross the barriers of different social groups without disregarding their differences within capitalist and racist relations of power. Some approaches might be the efforts towards a transnational network for a “social Europe” and global justice “from below” (such as campaigns for global social rights) and the extension of anti-racist counter-mobilizations towards (long-term) social alliances against anti-Muslim racism and precarization, security policies and economic nationalism.


This text originally appeared in German in issue Nr. 533 / 21.11.2008 of ak - analyse & kritik - zeitung für linke Debatte und Praxis