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Islamic World News ( 17 Nov 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iran's first lady makes rare speech at Rome summit

Israel approves 900 settler homes

Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah 'flees Pakistan'

Afghanistan 'not war without end': David Miliband

Muslim women weigh Muslim Canadian Congress call to ban head scarf

British Islamists Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again

Taliban pursuing anti-Islam policy: Pak Minster

CIA giving millions of dollars to ISI under covert programme

 Obama’s Muslim-World Muddle

Muslim creationism is back in the news, this time in Egypt

Waziristan War: Tough Army Ride

12 Afghans killed in attack on meeting with French

'Religious leaders must play role in fighting terror'

Scottish Government to forge new Muslim links

Jeddah Radio sets out to educate about the Haj

US, Israel putting 'final touches' on anti-Iran plan

Missing Iranian general jailed in Israel: press

Six Muslims killed in Thailand, police says

Anti-Muslim Prof Shouldn’t Get Fired, But Not For the Reasons WSN Thinks

China Defends Internet Censorship after Obama Lauds Openness

Pakistan's "Shia Militants" are helping the Houthi rebels in Yemen

Muslim Yemenis' murder by Saudi is a danger to Islam: top army commander

Obama and Plummeting Military Morale

Guantanamo detainees getting day in court

Iran's Islamic regime is no model to follow

Germany's Muslims Wary After Headscarf Martyr Trial

Muslim advocacy group CAIR cites 'new era of hope' at Fremont event

India, Iran discuss energy, transit routes

Parties war over Jammu and Kashmir’s political future

Hurriyat holds secret meeting with Chidambaram

Headley fallout? High alert at N-facilities

Headley used visa firm job as cover

Hunt on for David Headley’s Mumbai-based mystery wife

Delhi hotels left vital details blank in Headley's forms

Headley probe: Links with Kasab & Co now NIA focus

LeT duo in Pak during 26/ 11

26/11: Pakistan court to frame charges afresh

Bhatt Film In Trouble

SC notice to Centre on pre-paid ban in J&K

Taliban show off US arms in abandoned base in Afghanistan

Pakistani ‘spy’ was in Delhi for over a year, say police

Gaddafi ‘disappoints’ 200 Italian women

Tehran seminar to discuss Iran-Spain cultural dialogue

Islamabad: Experts for universalisation of primary education

Islamic holiday falls on black Friday, Date gives Muslims more time with family

Rounding up radical Muslims not answer

Iraqi child nearing end of surgeries for facial scars

Wayne County news: U.S. asked to probe imam's death

Thousands of Hindus fascinated by Christ

Libyan Leader in Italy Seeks Tall, Leggy and Pious

Thai Security Forces Kill 6 Suspected Rebels

Uzbekistan: At least 30 Muslim women are arrested in the Kashkadaria Oblast

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

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Iran's first lady makes rare speech at Rome summit

ROME — Iran's first lady made rare public appearance and even more rare, a speech, at a Rome forum on the eve of a U.N. summit to fight hunger beginning Monday.

The wife of Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad almost never appears in public with her husband and is believed never to have previously addressed a public gathering.

First Lady Azam al-Sadat Farahi came to the forum of wives of heads of state on Sunday, before the start Monday of the three-day summit on strategy to fight world hunger at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO.

With a black chador wrapped tightly about her, Farahi did not take the podium but spoke from her seat among the rows of spouses of some of the 60 heads of state expected to attend the summit, FAO spokesman Christopher Matthews said.

Farahi had not been expected to speak, and no written text of her remarks was immediately available, FAO officials said. The Italian news agency ANSA said that she described Iran as an example in the fight against hunger, saying her country's system, following religious teachings, guarantees food security for all families.

Italy's Sky TG24 TV said Farahi also denounced the plight of hungry children in Gaza.

The forum was led by Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Formal ties were severed between Iran and Egypt in 1979, when Cairo signed a peace deal with Israel, which Tehran bitterly denounces as an enemy.


Israel approves 900 settler homes


The Israeli government considers Gilo an integral part of Jerusalem

The Israeli interior ministry has approved planning applications for 900 new housing units at a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

The planning and construction committee authorised the expansion of Gilo, which is built on land captured in 1967 and annexed to the Jerusalem municipality.

The project still faces review and the public will be able to make objections.

Settlements on occupied territory are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israeli media reported earlier that the government had rejected a request from Washington to freeze the construction work at Gilo.

US President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is said to have made the request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in London on Monday.

Netanyahu is showing again that he is spoiling any chance to start negotiations by continuing to create new provocations in Jerusalem 

Hagit Ofran

Peace Now

Mr Netanyahu replied that the project did not require government approval and that Gilo was "an integral part of Jerusalem", according to Israel Army Radio.

His spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the reports, but repeated Israel's refusal to include areas annexed to Jerusalem as part of any accommodation of Mr Obama's call for "restraint" in settlement construction.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu... is willing to adopt the policy of the greatest possible restraint concerning growth in the West Bank, but this applies to the West Bank," he told the Reuters news agency. "Jerusalem is Israel's capital and will remain as such."

The US has pressed for a resumption of peace talks, which were suspended last year, but the Palestinian Authority has demanded that all settlement construction is halted before it will again attend.

'Not ready for peace'

The BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says Tuesday's announcement represents by far the largest batch of planning approvals for building on occupied territory since Mr Netanyahu became prime minister.

The 900 housing units, which will be built in the form of 4-5 bedroom apartments, will account for a significant expansion of Gilo. The interior ministry said construction work would be unlikely to start for another three or four years once the plans gained final authorisation.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the planning approval was "yet another step that shows and proves Israel is not ready for peace".

"This step will ruin every single attempt - European or American - to preserve the peace process," Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

Israel's Peace Now movement, which opposes Jewish settlement activity, said Mr Netanyahu was "showing again that he is spoiling any chance to start negotiations by continuing to create new provocations in Jerusalem".

"This development is intended to torpedo progress that is taking place between US and Palestinians and Israelis on renewing the talks," said Peace Now's Hagit Ofran.

The UK Foreign Office also said it opposed the decision on Gilo.

"A credible [peace] deal involves Jerusalem as a shared capital. Expanding settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem makes that deal much harder," a statement said.

Nearly 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built on occupied territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah 'flees Pakistan'

By Hai Kakar

BBC Urdu, Peshawar

Maulana Fazlullah commands the loyalty of many militants in Swat

One of the most wanted Taliban leaders in Pakistan has escaped to Afghanistan and is planning new attacks on Pakistani forces, he has told the BBC.

Maulana Fazlullah founded the Swat Taliban to enforce a hardline version of Islamic law.

The government at first accepted his demands, but later accused the militants of reneging on a peace deal and sent troops into the valley.

Maulana Fazlullah was said by officials to have been wounded or killed in July.


"I have reached Afghanistan safely," Maulana Fazlullah told BBC Urdu.

"We are soon going to launch full-fledged punitive raids against the army in Swat."

The voice was recognisably Maulana Fazlullah's - he has a very distinct way of pronouncing words.

I have spoken to him on several occasions and met him twice.

Maulana Fazlullah was calling from an Afghan number and sounded in good spirits when he called on Monday.

He said that those claiming success for the Swat operation should try to prevent drone attacks and the US security firm Blackwater from operating in Pakistan.

He issued a warning to the North West Frontier Province's information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

"The authorities should beware, especially Mian Iftikhar Hussain, whose fate will be like that of Najibullah," he warned, referring to Dr Najibullah who was Afghan president before the Taliban hanged him in 1996 when they took Kabul.

Talking about US President Barack Obama's Afghan policy, Maulana Fazlullah said there was no need for the US to send in more troops.

"Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani soldiers are already involved in furthering the US agenda in the region," he said.

'Boost for militants'

Maulana Fazlullah has been incommunicado for several months.

During this time a number of reports had circulated about his death or capture by the military.

These had gained credence after Pakistani authorities said he was fatally wounded in the army operation.

The Taliban denied reports that he had been injured or was close to death.

His return is likely to be a morale booster for the increasingly beleaguered Taliban in Pakistan.

But it appears unlikely that his militants will be able to take the fight to the army, so soon after being soundly defeated in Swat.

The Taliban are also on the run in their main stronghold in South Waziristan, where the Pakistani military recently launched a major offensive.


Afghanistan 'not war without end': David Miliband

David Miliband: "We cannot leave a vacuum that the Taliban will quickly fill"

Afghanistan is "not a war without end" but Nato cannot leave a vacuum for the Taliban to fill, says David Miliband.

The foreign secretary also said in a Nato speech the UK was "ready, in the right conditions" to send more troops "on the basis of an agreed strategy".

He said military and civilian resources had to be aligned behind a "clear political strategy".

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has urged governments to send more troops to bolster efforts.

Mr Miliband's speech followed one by Gordon Brown on Monday night, in which he said he hoped Afghan districts could start being handed over to local control next year - although Downing Street played down any talk of an "exit strategy".

In his speech to the Nato parliamentary assembly, Mr Miliband recognised it had been the "bloodiest year" for the UK since the Falklands War.

Fear of retribution

He said: "I, as much as anyone else, wants to bring our troops back home to safety, but we cannot leave a vacuum which the Taliban will quickly fill."

When troops eventually leave, they have to do so "knowing we will not have to return", he said.

"This is not a war without end, but success must be based on aligning our military and civilian resources behind a clear political strategy," he said.

If we were to walk away and turn our backs on Afghanistan, al Qaeda would be back in a flash 

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Brown plans Afghan handover talks

Brown hopeful over Afghan boost

Key elements of the strategy would be to reassure ordinary Afghans and encourage them to resist the Taliban while also seeking to persuade members of the current insurgency to pursue their goals "peacefully within the constitutional framework".

Mr Miliband said there was a fear among ordinary Afghans that the international community would tire of the war and the Taliban would return "inflicting brutal retribution on those who 'collaborated' with the government", he said.

He said President Karzai - recently re-elected in a poll marred by fraud allegations - must offer a "new contract" with the Afghan people - including addressing corruption, Mr Miliband said.

'Strategy of strength'

Mr Miliband gave his speech after Nato's secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that "if we were to walk away and turn our backs on Afghanistan, al-Qaeda would be back in a flash".

"There's absolutely no reason to think otherwise and anyone who does so is not living in the real world," he said, urging other Nato countries to send more troops to bolster military efforts.

Mr Miliband said he endorsed the arguments for "burden sharing" and a "serious counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan".

He added: "And we are ready, in the right conditions, to raise our already high contribution on the basis of an agreed strategy."

There may need to be ... a different approach to the insurgency in rural areas - where sympathy for the Taliban is much stronger 

David Miliband

Foreign Secretary

US President Barack Obama is to announce soon whether he will send additional US troops to Afghanistan.

The UK has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan and is willing to send another 500 - if other Nato countries - excluding the US - providing a further 5,000 troops.

The foreign secretary also said military pressure must be combined with support for insurgents "to flip sides rather than fight or run away".

'Different approach'

And he said there must be more support for local leaders, specifically the "shuras" - bodies of local elders, to help govern and provide security.

There may need to be "a different approach to the insurgency in rural areas - where sympathy for the Taliban is much stronger and where security and governance have never been delivered by conventional military or police forces - to that in urban areas", he said.

It's only if we get these things right that we can have these kinds of withdrawals and handovers to Afghan security forces 

William Hague


Mr Miliband also called for closer work with Afghanistan's neighbours - specifically to help "squeeze the life out of the terrorist threat from both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border".

For the Conservatives, William Hague told the BBC the important question was how Britain could get to the point where control could be handed over to the Afghan security forces.

"That is where the world is waiting on President Obama in the next couple of weeks and that of course needs to be a strategy involving true counter-insurgency operations. Winning over the local population and the proper co-ordination of the civilian and economic effort behind the troops," he said.

"It's only if we get these things right that we can have these kinds of withdrawals and handovers to Afghan security forces."

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said the messages being sent by Gordon Brown and David Miliband were "extremely welcome" but added: "Of course it is the detail we need to see and that's really why I say we need to wait to see what President Obama says."

He said there had to be a "political surge" with pressure on President Karzai to "clean up" his government, pressure on Afghanistan's neighbours to play their part and more political reconciliation - persuading insurgents to defect.


Muslim women weigh Muslim Canadian Congress call to ban head scarf

November 17, 2009

By Liz Monteiro, Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — Minnat-Allah Aboul-Ella was shopping in Conestoga Mall when someone yelled at her, telling her to go back to her country.

Although Aboul-Ella was born in Canada — in London, Ont. — for some, the scarf covering her head and face, showing only her eyes, makes her a foreigner.

Aboul-Ella, a mother of three, donned the niqab when she was 17 years old.

“I read the interpretations (of the Qur’an) and I felt comfortable with the explanation,’’ said the Waterloo woman. “It still makes me feel comfortable. It makes me feel closer to God and my religion.”

But Aboul-Ella knows that others may not feel comfortable with her choice. The stares and glances tell her so.

“When someone says I’m an oppressed woman, it angers me,” said Idrisa Pandit of Waterloo, who wears a hijab, a scarf covering her head.

Last month, the Muslim Canadian Congress called upon the Canadian government to ban the niqab and the burqa. The secular group says the burqa and the niqab are “political symbols of Saudi-inspired Islamic extremism.”

The congress says the full-length head scarf is a “medieval misogynist” practice.

The burqa, a gownlike garment that covers the head and has mesh in front of the eyes, is worn by few women in Canada.

The niqab, a full-length scarf that covers the head and face with the eyes showing, is also uncommon, however many Muslim women wear the hijab.

To date, the federal government has not publicly ventured into the controversy.

For others, the debate isn’t religious but rather a matter of choice. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlines rights and freedoms, including the right to practice one’s religion as one sees fit.

Gehan Sabry, Egyptian-born and a Kitchener resident, doesn’t wear a hijab. She has never covered her head.

But if other Muslim women want to cover their heads, no one should ban them from it, she said.

“I don’t want the government telling me what to wear,’’ said Sabry, who’s been in Canada for about 22 years.

Sabry said she doesn’t defend the wearing of the burqa or the niqab because for her, it’s not about religion.

“It has nothing to do with Islam. It is not a religious requirement,’’ she said.

However, Sabry questions the motive of the Muslim group who is asking for the ban. Instead, they should be educating Muslim men and empowering women, she said.

Sohail Raza, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said legislation banning the burqa and the niqab needs to be in place before education begins.

The burqa and the niqab are tribal customs that impede safety and security, he said. Raza said the ban does not include hijabs which do not cover the face.

“Women have all the rights to wear what they want,’’ he said.

But when it comes to the niqab and the burqa, these items are a threat and are “swept under the guise of religion,’’ Raza said.

Aboul-Ella, who has a teaching degree from the University of Cambridge in England, says no one, including her husband, is forcing her to wear the niqab. She is angered by the congress’s position.

“They don’t represent me as a Muslim,’’ said Aboul-Ella who has lived in Egypt, the United States, Germany, and Malaysia and moved to Waterloo in 2007.

Pandit has harsher words for the group, suggesting the congress is fear mongering.

Wearing a niqab is not dangerous to anyone, she said.

Aboul-Ella said in airports she is treated with respect and follows a custom officer into a room where she removes her niqab to identify herself.

Pandit recalls how her grandmother in Kashmir and other female elders wore the burqa which was decorative and it would often take weeks to sew the embroidery on it.

“The way it’s been interpreted by the Taliban has got nothing to do with Islam,’’ she said.

Pandit, who has a PhD in information library services, often speaks publicly on issues of Muslim culture and religion, and racism. In these public sessions, she’s been approached by a man who said he’s surprised a woman with a PhD covers her head.

“He cannot reconcile the two: being educated and wearing the hijab,’’ she said.

Reem Al-Halimi donned the hijab when she was a graduate student at the University of Waterloo. Her parents lived in Fredericton at the time and didn’t even know she was planning to cover her head.

“No one forced me to wear it,’’ said Al-Halimi, who now teaches computer science part-time at UW and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Al-Halimi said the Islamic religion does not tell women to wear a hijab, a niqab or a burqa.

The Qur’an asks women to be pious but how they do this is a personal choice and one often debated among scholars.

“For Muslims the hijab is not a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol of modesty,’’ said Pandit. “How it is expressed is impacted by the culture you live in.’’

Pandit said she’s chosen to wear a hijab and does not pass judgment on those who decide to wear a niqab.

“This is my expression of obedience to God. I believe this is a commitment to God,’’ she said. “Who am I to ban it?’’

Pandit’s 16-year-old daughter, Zainab Ramahi, started wearing a hijab when she was in Grade 7.

“It was absolutely her choice. She came home one day and said she was going to wear the hijab,’’ said Pandit, whose daughter is now in Grade 12 at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener.

At school, students were talking about the Toronto 18, a group of Muslims who were arrested as alleged terror suspects.

“She picked the worst time to identify with being Muslim. It was nerve-racking for me,’’ she said.


British Islamists Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again

16 November 2009

A generation of British Islamists have been trained in Afghanistan to fight a global jihad. But now some of those would-be extremists have had a change of heart. Johann Hari finds out what made them give up the fight

Ever since I started meeting jihadis, I have been struck by one thing – their Britishness. I am from the East End of London, and at some point in the past decade I became used to hearing a hoarse and angry whisper of jihadism on the streets where I live. Bearded young men stand outside the library calling for "The Rule of God" and "Death to Democracy".

In the mosques across the city, I hear a fringe of young men talk dreamily of flocking to Afghanistan to "resist". Yet this whisper never has an immigrant accent. It shares my pronunciations, my cultural references, and my national anthem. Beneath the beards and the burqas, there is an English voice.

The East End is a cramped grey maze of council estates, squashed between the glistening palaces of the City to one side and the glass towers of Docklands to the other. You can feel the financial elites staring across at each other, indifferent to this concrete lump of poverty dumped in-between by the forgotten tides of history. This place has always been the swirling first stop for immigrants to this country like my father – a place where new arrivals can huddle together as they adjust to the cold rain and lukewarm liberalism of Britain.


Taliban pursing anti-Islam policy: Rehman Malik

ISLAMABAD—Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Monday that Taliban have proved they were pursing an anti-Islam policy by targeting a mosque in Pesahwar. He said those who were targeting sacred religious places could not be pardoned, adding the nation had now seen a real cruel face of Taliban.

The minister said Taliban (Zaliman) who have been killing innocent civilians could not escape the wrath of Almighty Allah.

He said security fores would soon defeat terrorists in South Waziristan, adding writ of the government would be established at any cost.

Rehman Malik said now Taliban after realizing their defeat had stepped up terrorists activities just to terrorize innocent people.


CIA giving millions of dollars to ISI under covert programme

THE CIA has given millions of dollars to the ISI since the 9/ 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one- third of its annual budget. US officials have confirmed it amid suspicion that Pakistan’s intelligence agency continues to help the Taliban against US forces in Afghanistan.

“ The CIA payments are a hidden stream in a much broader financial flow. The US has given Pakistan more than Rs 69,000 crore in aid over the last eight years,” the Los Angeles Times said in its report.

“ The ISI also collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA programme that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the US state department,” officials said.

The payments have triggered an intense debate within the US government because of long- standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists, who undermine US efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to al- Qaeda members in Pakistan.

CIA officials were so worried that the fund would be wasted that the CIA’s former station chief Robert Grenier went to the head of the ISI to extract a promise that it would be put to good use.

But the US continues the funding as the ISI’s assistance in curbing terror is considered crucial. The payments to Pakistan are authorised under a covert programme now approved by US President Obama.


Obama’s Muslim-World Muddle

by Ralph Peters

Half a year ago in Cairo, President Obama addressed the Muslim world. Global leftists lauded the speech as heralding instant change in the Middle East.

The Obama-adoring pundits were right. Change came. But it’s all bad.

Instead of listening to the extravagant claims of our leftward-plunging media about how profoundly that speech affected Muslims, let’s look at what’s actually happened since Obama praised Islam and trashed America:

Iran: No nukes? Strategic cooperation? Rule-of-law democracy? Greater freedom for the Iranian people? Naw. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime plays Obama like a card sharp working a hick who just showed up with his life savings in his pocket.

Iran’s fanatical rulers make a promise, break a promise, hint at another promise . . . all as their nuclear-weapons program rolls along. Bewildered, the White House warns that if those Iranians aren’t careful, there just might be sanctions, sometime in the future, maybe, if China, Russia and other spoilers agree . . . Meanwhile, Obama still won’t stand up for the millions of Iranians struggling for freedom.

Iraq: Al Qaeda suffered a catastrophic defeat and nearly disappeared from the Iraqi landscape.

Now it’s resurgent — encouraged by Obama’s determination to look away. Terror bombings are up. But US troop levels are going down. That’s all that matters to the blinkered White House.

Al Qaeda senses a comeback opportunity. Obama’s running away as fast as he can.

Afghanistan: Encouraged by Obama’s evident weakness, the Taliban redoubled its efforts against the hated government of President Hamid Karzai. Obama dithers, Afghan leaders steal, our troops die protecting the thieves — and the Taliban advances with fresh recruits.

Our ambassador in Kabul, retired Gen. Karl Eikenberry, took a courageous stand to warn that sending more troops would only encourage Karzai’s cabal to continue to shirk responsibility. But don’t expect similar courage from this White House, which fears tough decisions the way medieval peasants feared the Black Death.

Pakistan: For all the fuss about how well-received Obama’s Cairo confession was among Muslims, anti-Americanism has increased in this conflict-torn state of 180 million. We pour in billions of dollars. The Pakistani government, media and citizenry pour out anti-American rhetoric — even blaming us for Taliban terror bombings. And Obama’s a deer in the headlights of history again.

Turkey: Advertised as a marvelous Muslim democracy and NATO member, Turkey has taken another lurch toward Islamic fundamentalism, embracing radical Arab states while slashing cooperation with Israel. Big win there, Mr. President.

Yemen: The Great Muslim Civil War between Sunni and Shia has a new theater, with Saudi Arabia and Iran fighting a proxy campaign in the poorer-than-dirt-poor Yemeni backcountry. A Shia tribal struggle for basic rights found a cynical backer in Tehran; the Sunni-hardline Yemeni government unleashed fundamentalist jihadis — terror, butchery and rape — against its Shia minority.

Nervous about its own oppressed Shia population, Saudi Arabia attacked Yemeni territory (with US-made weapons) to support its fellow Sunni fundamentalists. The impoverished Shia suffer grimly as pawns between greater powers. But a US president who bowed to a Saudi king won’t ask the Saudis to show restraint.

IsPal: By betraying Israel and glorifying the Palestinian cause in Cairo, Obama encouraged unrealistic expectations among Palestinians and empowered Arab hardliners — always willing to fight to the last Palestinian. Obama’s naive demand for a total freeze on Israeli settlements created a flashpoint while undercutting Palestinian and Israeli moderates. The situation’s far more explosive than it was when Obama took office.

Texas: A Muslim-extremist US Army major expected Obama to end our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Obama was too slow, and Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan responded. Shouting “God is great!” he gunned down 54 Americans.

The Middle East is here, too.

Obama’s Cairo sermon was promptly praised as the greatest speech of our time. Last week, we heard that, no, Obama’s no-mention-of-terror remarks at Fort Hood were the greatest speech of his presidency.

Obama, it seems, just strolls from greatness to greatness. Among world leaders, only North Korea’s Kim Jong-il commands such media adoration from his homies. Not one establishment media outlet will weigh the obvious damage our president’s ludicrous Cairo speech did to the Middle East and to our security. ExileStreet


Muslim creationism is back in the news, this time in Egypt

November 16th, 2009

Muslim creationism is back in the news. There’s been a spate of articles in the U.S. and British press recently about the spread of this scripture-based challenge to Darwinian evolution among Muslims, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe. The fact that some Muslims have embraced creationism, a trademark belief of some conservative American Protestants, is not new. Reuters first wrote about it in 2006 — “Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey” – and this blog has run several posts on the issue, including an interview with Islam’s most prominent creationist, Harun Yahya. What’s new is that these ideas seem to be spreading and academics who defend evolution are holding conferences to discuss the phenomenon.

There are too many recent articles about Islamic creationism out there now to discuss each one separately, so I’ll have to just link to them in the … New York Times … Washington Post … Boston Globe … Slate … Guardian … National … Beliefnet … … Many of these articles highlight the role of Harun Yahya, the once secretive Istanbul preacher and publisher who has gone on a PR offensive in recent years and turned very media-friendly (as Steve Paulson describes in that Slate article). But as Michael Reiss, a London education professor and Anglican priest told the Guardian, “what the Turks believe today is what the Germans and British believe tomorrow. It is because of the mass movement of people between countries. These things can no longer be thought of as occurring in other countries.”

Harun Yahya, 21 May 2008/Osman Orsal

Over the weekend, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt hosted a conference on “Darwin’s Living Legacy: An International Conference on Evolution and Society” with the British Council. The simple fact of holding a conference on Darwin in the heart of the Middle East, where his theory of evolution is widely rejected, is already noteworthy. According to the Guardian’s Riazat Butt, Nidhal Guessoum, professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah, told the conference that only three Muslim or Muslim-majority countries out of a possible 22 taught evolution. Another participant, astronomer Salman Hameed, who is professor of integrated science & humanities from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, wrote on his informative science-and-religion blog Irtiqa: “It is incredible that this conference is taking place in Egypt. I don’t know what will be the reaction here. Simply by its location, it may remove some of the stigma regarding evolution in the Muslim world, or it may end up generating a backlash. Frankly, I have no idea about the reaction.”

In an update on Sunday, Hameed wrote: “There have been some anti-evolutionary comments made in the sessions that dealt with religion and evolution - but overall, the reception seems to have been quite positive - both in Egyptian newspapers and among the local participants.”

As a example of what they’re up against, another participant was Zaghloul El-Naggar, a leading proponent of the theory that the Koran foresaw scientific theories and discoveries, including the Big Bang and a possible cure for AIDS. He was quoted prominently in a recent Al-Jazeera report on the discovery of the 4.4 million year old skeleton known as Ardipithicus or “Ardi.” The report claimed that the find disproved Darwinian evolution — the opposite of what scientists said about the spectacular discovery of the most complete early hominid specimen we have.  The report only appeared in Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language television channel, which is very popular in the Middle East, and not in its English-language broadcast. “The presence of El-Naggar totally polarized the debate and evoked an equally polarizing reaction from the audience,” wrote Hameed, who promised further posts from the conference ending today.

Last month, Hameed’s Hampshire College hosted a conference on Darwin and Evolution in the Muslim World. Webcasts of presentations there can be found on the conference website.

What do you think? Is the spread of creationism among Muslims a matter for concern? Is it the same as the battle between creationism and science in Christianity?

Here’s the video of the Al-Jazeera report, with subtitles in English added by critics of its presentation:


Waziristan War: Tough Army Ride

By Aamir Latif

"This will be a much more difficult task," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a security analyst, told IOL.

ISLAMABAD – Security experts agree that the offensive in restive Waziristan, home to well-trained militants and warrior tribesmen, will be much longer and bloodier for the army compared to its easy-ride operation in the Swat valley.

"Swat and Waziristan are two totally different areas," Major General Shafiq Ahmed, a former commanding officer of the region and a senior security analyst, told

"Their people, conditions and atmosphere. Everything is different. I am afraid it won’t be an easy task for the army."

The army has unleashed a much-anticipated offensive against Waziristan, the heartland of militants fighting under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of various local groups in the region.

It sent 30,000 troops to fight an estimated 10,000 Taliban fighters in Waziristan, a tribal region known for braving all military conquests, including the British Empire.

The army hopes to wind up the operation within eight weeks, though analysts believe the battle would take much longer.

"This will be a much more difficult task," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a security analyst and an expert on Afghan affairs, told IOL.

The military troops are already facing fierce resistance from Taliban's die-hard militants in the mountainous region which borders northeastern Afghanistan.

Armed with rockets and guns, Taliban fighters stormed a military check post in Bajaur in a surprise Sunday night-time assault, killing four soldiers.

The fatalities brought to 11 the number of troops killed in the deadliest 24 hours for the military since unleashing the offensive less than two weeks ago.

Yusufzai insists that any comparison with the army's recent successful offensive against local Taliban in Swat is ungrounded.

"Taliban had got control of some parts of Swat, which was not a big area, just a year ago. But here, Taliban have been settling her for a long time and the area they control is much bigger than they held in Swat."

The army was able to seize control and restore peace to the beautiful valley of Swat shortly after launching its offensive in May.


 "Waziristan is only a training ground. If it is dismantled, there will be another training facility because there is no shortage of trainees," Safi told IOL.

Experts believe the army will be facing a series of major challenges during its war in South Waziristan.

"The army has no proper intelligence and information about the area," asserts Yusufzai, the security analyst.

"No doubt, they have jets, bombs and tanks. They can bomb and kill the people, but it will cause a collateral damage because the army has no targets there due to lack of intelligence."

He noted that army chief general Ashfaq Pervez Kayani once dubbed Waziristan a black hole.

"Therefore, in my opinion, the army is entering an unknown territory."

Major General Ahmed says the army will not be able to settle in the region just like it did in Swat.

"This is not possible in Waziristan. There is no tribal system in Swat, while this is purely a tribal region," he explained.

"Tribesmen will become the army's enemies if it plans to stay there permanently."

Root Causes

Analysts contend that even if the military was able to crush Taliban in the Waziristan battle, the cancer of militancy will not die.

"The army believes that if it captures the militants’ hideouts and training centers in Waziristan, then they won’t be able to regroup and train would-be suicide bombers," notes Yusufzai.

"I disagree with that. The militants will be spread out and will be more difficult to locate like Al-Qaeda members."

Saleem Safi, an Islamabad-based analyst, agrees.

"No doubt, Waziristan is the headquarters of militants, not only the Taliban, but also Al-Qaeda. But even if this headquarters is destroyed, the problem will remain there."

He believes there is a need for a major change in the state policies with respect to Washington's so-called war on terror.

"Various operations have been carried out in the past and many can be launched in the future, but nothing will happen," Safi contends.

"We have to understand the root cause. It is true that people go to Waziristan for training, but we never think about why and where do they come from?"

He believes militants come from Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, and other small and big cities.

"Waziristan is only a training ground. If it is dismantled, there will be another training facility because there is no shortage of trainees."


12 Afghans killed in attack on meeting with French

November 17, 2009

In this photo released by the French Army, French soldiers evacuate a victim after an attack in the Tagab Valley, Afghanistan, Monday. Photo: AP AP, Tagab Valley

Rockets slammed into a market northeast of Kabul on Monday, killing 12 civilians but missing their presumed target: a meeting between France's top general in Afghanistan and dozens of tribal elders and senior local officials.

The attack also wounded 38 people, 20 of them critically. The market was crowded with shoppers because Monday is bazaar day in Tagab, a sprawling town of mud brick fortress-like compounds and small fields along a river surrounded by the barren slopes and snowcapped peaks of the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Brig Gen Marcel Druart told The Associated Press that the meeting, known as a shura, continued despite the attack to show that the Taliban cannot disrupt Nato's plans in a tense valley where both sides are competing for influence.

"The shura didn't stop, and it was in my opinion very important," Druart, who was unhurt, said at the Nato base in Nijrab, 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Tagab.

The general was sitting down with about 40 Afghan officials to discuss a major French offensive launched the previous day. The purpose of the operation is to secure the area for a planned road that would bypass the capital, Kabul, while moving in supplies from neighboring Pakistan.

The rockets struck about 90 minutes after the meeting convened in a building next to the main market of Tagab. They landed about 200 yards (meters) away, Druart said.

French forces immediately retaliated with artillery, shelling the rockets' launching site, said Druart, commander of the French Lafayette Task Force in Afghanistan.

Sporadic shelling could be heard throughout the afternoon, as attack helicopters hovered overhead. Other helicopters ferried away the wounded.

"The target was clearly the shura," said Lt Col Lionel, one of the officers who witnessed the attack.

Lionel, who gave the death toll, said these types of tribal council meetings are vulnerable because so many people are invited.

French army field rules allow Lionel and other officers to be identified only by their first names.

Maj Philippe, an army doctor who was flown to Tagab to treat the wounded, said 20 of the injured were evacuated to Kabul and Bagram.

"Most of the casualties were from multiple shrapnel wounds," Philippe said.

Druart said the attack "shows clearly that the insurgents don't care about the lives of the civilian Afghan population."

"My priority is the population, before the insurgents," Druart said. "But when the insurgents prevent me from having contacts with the population or, like in this case, attack the population, then I react. I repeat my priority is the population and improving their life. The insurgents are a problem we treat separately."


'Religious leaders must play role in fighting terror'

Viju B

17 November 2009

MUMBAI: "It's horrific. Even now I can still feel the ambience of a house that had so much love and warmth inside," says Rabbi Abraham Cooper,

tears welling his eyes as he passed through each bullet-ridden room, dusty and pocked marked, at Nariman House.

Six Jewish inmates died in the building also known as Chabad Housem, when terrorists held hostage the five-storey building at Colaba for around 45 hours last November. Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which hunts Nazi criminals, revisited 26/11 terror sites like Nariman House, CST and Cama Hospital on Monday and expressed solidarity with the victims.

As head of the largest Jewish human rights organisation in world with around half-million members in USA alone, Cooper has been studying in detail broad trends emerging from terror attacks, be it the London Underground blasts, Madrid terror strikes or serial car bombings in Bali. "The language of the terrorist is the same everywhere, that is to isolate people from each other. But the terrorists don't realise that nations who are hit by terror come closer like never before and today the West listens when India talks about terror attacks."

He says Indian intelligence agencies should look at new digital methods used by terrorists as it has become very tough to trace them in the vast worldwide web. "Our research studies that looked at terror strikes across the world show that terrorists are using the Internet in a big way to not only co-ordinate with their sympathisers and accomplices but to even learn to how to make a bomb," he says.

"The technology to make a bomb in your kitchen is given in detail in many of these sites," he adds. Cooper emphasises that religious leaders should come forward and play a role in fighting the menace."


Scottish Government to forge new Muslim links

17 November 2009

Scottish Government to work closely with Muslim Council of Scotland to break down barriers between communities.

The Scottish Government is to work closely with an independent body that represents Scotland's Muslim community in a bid to tackle Islamophobia.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the link-up with the Muslim Council of Scotland (MCS) would break down barriers between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

The MCS is an independent body working to promote cooperation and coordination on Muslim affairs in Scotland.

They will work with the Scottish Government to help assess and identify the needs and issues facing Muslims in Scotland. Information gathered will help inform our understanding of the issues those communities face on a day-to-day basis.

It will also help determine what can be done to ensure vulnerable communities are fully integrated into the fabric of Scottish society.

Nicola Sturgeon said: "Scotland's Muslim communities make a valuable contribution in shaping our nation. They have a vital role to play in a diverse, multi-cultural, modern Scotland.

"I am pleased that this Government has developed such constructive links with the Muslim Council of Scotland, working to promote consultation, co-operation and co-ordination on Muslim affairs in Scotland."

Salah Beltagui, Deputy Convener of the Muslim Council of Scotland, said: "The Muslim Council of Scotland welcomes the initiative by the Scottish Government.

"We look forward to working with the government towards its objectives for a better Scotland."


Jeddah Radio sets out to educate about the Haj

By Habib Shaikh

The “Haj Enlightenment” program - one of the oldest radio shows broadcast annually from the 15th of Dhul Qa’da for a month by Jeddah Radio - caters to listeners who are eager and interested to learn about the pilgrimage, remarked Farwan Salem Al-Ghamdi, head of the European department of the Jeddah Broadcasting Service (JBS), in Jeddah.

Al-Ghamdi, who has a master’s degree in French from Nice University in France, and 20 years of experience with JBS, told Saudi Gazette that the aim of the show is to raise awareness for pilgrims and explain how to perform Haj according to the instructions of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

“This is the principal goal of the program. Another aspect is to educate pilgrims coming from so many countries around the world how to deal with other fellow pilgrims and to inform them about the services provided to them by the Saudi government,” explained Al-Ghamdi. “The program also explains how to move inside the Holy Sites and conduct the pilgrimage in Makkah, Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifah, and Madinah.”

He added that the educational process involves the cooperation of a number of governmental departments including the Ministeries of Islamic Affairs, Health and Interior. “Each year, they send us a lot of information about the pilgrimage, including services provided for the pilgrims,” he said. “They send the text in Arabic, which is then translated and adapted for the radio.”

According to Al-Ghamdi, much of the impetus for this program comes from the Ministry of Islamic affairs which annually offers three audio programs in English, French, Urdu, Arabic, Bhasa Indonesia, Swahili, and Turkish. The first-ever program to be introduced was in Bhasa Indonesia, more than 20 years ago.

The program itself includes a variety of topics, derived from a number of sources. New entries this year are in Swahili and Turkish, though the programs in Urdu and Bhasa Indonesia remain the most popular due to the high influx of pilgrims from the Subcontinent and Indonesia. Religious scholars are also interviewed for the Haj Enlightenment program. “We offer many episodes with interviews of the ulema, well-known personalities as well as pilgrims,” explained Al-Ghamdi.

“There is also a fatwa program where pilgrims’ questions are answered, as well as a section devoted to the activities of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and their animal sacrifice program particularly.”

English services

The European section was set up almost 30 years ago with programs offered in English and French with 10 and a half hours and four hours devoted daily to them respectively. The English service of the department broadcasts directly from Jeddah from 1.30 P.M. to 3.30 P.M. daily, and produces programs to be broadcast in Riyadh. Al-Ghamdi’s colleague Hussain Hamzah Khalil, is the Head of the English section, and previously, the manager of the translation service at JBS.

“We have 40 programs spread over the week including the program “60 minutes”, broadcast on Sunday and Tuesday, which is produced and presented by Samar Fatany and Jamela Ashaer,” he said, adding that the program started four years ago and has proven to be popular with listeners.

Khalil holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and has also attended a training course in broadcasting journalism with Voice of America, in Washington DC in 1988. He remarked that apart from regular programs, the service also pays attention to special occasions such as National Day, as well as religious affairs.

A program called “Newborn Muslim” is presented every Friday and includes interviews with recent converts to Islam at the Islamic Foundation Center, as well as one called “Lessons from the Prophet’s Sayings.”

One relatively new program, introduced last year, is called “Select” and is presented by Bader Al-Shamri on Monday and Wednesday. It allows people to call in and request a song or give their opinion on a subject of public concern, such as traffic. A new show called “The Beginning of the Week”, presented by Soha Riri on Saturdays has just begun followed by “Window Around the Kingdom” on Sunday, where listeners can also call in. Other shows include “Current Challenges”, presented by Samar Fatany and “Arabica”, prepared by Khalil himself and presented by Hala Al-Omain.

The European department’s staff consists of around 50 people, and JBS plans to start broadcasting to Western countries, though Khalil concedes that he doesn’t know when that will come about. He added that “Newborn Muslim” could prove to be a hit in the United States where Islam is the fastest-growing religion, as well as in Europe. “Saudi Arabia is commanding a position of growing respect and leadership in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The inter-faith dialog is gaining international support and deserves wider coverage,” he said. “The program ‘60 minutes’ covers and discusses this important initiative of King Abdullah’s.” – SG

These programs are broadcast daily on medium waves AM at 594 kilohertz for listeners in Madinah and its vicinity; FM waves 104.4 megahertz covering Mina and surrounding areas, for three hours for each language.


US, Israel putting 'final touches' on anti-Iran plan

November 17, 2009

WASHINGTON: A team of CIA and US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials are meeting with the Israeli military and intelligence officials to discuss the "final touches" of a plan, which would involve both "diplomatic pressures" and "military options" against Iran.

The intelligence team arrived in Tel Aviv shortly after a meeting between the intelligence chiefs of the US, Israel, Egypt and Jordan in Amman, according to a report that appeared on the Israeli website DEBKA on Monday.

The meeting comes less than a week after the US and Israel held their largest-ever military exercise, code-named Juniper cobra 10.

According to DEBKA, which has close links to the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, the meeting put the "final touches" to the administration of the US President Barack Obama's strategy of "applying military heat to Iran as well as diplomatic pressure" to bring Tehran's nuclear program to a halt.

The two sides agreed to increase "direct interchanges" between the White House and the Israeli premier's office, and between high-ranking US and Israeli defense and intelligence officials, DEBKA said.

Reports of the US-Israel intelligence conferences come as Israel has stepped up its war rhetoric against Iran. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on November 7 that Tel Aviv's persistent threats to attack Iran were not just a bluff.

Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, continue to insist that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, while failing to provide any evidence to prove their claim.


Missing Iranian general jailed in Israel: press

17 Nov, 2009

TEHRAN, Nov 16: An Iranian general who disappeared in Turkey two years ago amid media claims of defection is being held inside a jail in Israel, several newspapers reported on Monday citing a conservative website.

Ali Reza Asgari, a deputy defence minister under the previous government of president Mohammad Khatami, disappeared after checking into a hotel in Turkey in February 2007.

“Two years of investigations by relevant institutions show that Ali Reza Asgari is kept in Zionist regime’s prison,” Alef website said.—AFP


Six Muslims killed in Thailand, police says

17 November 2009

Security forces killed six Muslims what they called "insurgents" on Tuesday in Muslim region, Thailand's police said.

Security forces killed six Muslims what they called "insurgents" on Tuesday in Muslim region, Thailand's police said.

The killings happened after dozens of police and soldiers surrounded a house in Pattani province's Kok Poh district, said Maj. Gen. Pichet Pitisetpan.

"They did not turn themselves in and instead opened fire from inside the house on the officers, so the security forces had to fire back," the official described the incident.

He also said that two soldiers were wounded.

Local Muslims oppose emergency rule Thai government extended and the presence of thousands of soldiers deployed including Thais armed by the state.

Three provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani were once an independent Muslim sultanate until occupied by predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

Thailand has blamed most of the attacks on Muslim armed groups.

Human rights groups have previously accused Thai authorities of major abuses in the south, including the use of unnecessary force in the 2004 siege of a mosque in which 32 suspected insurgents were killed.


Anti-Muslim Prof Shouldn’t Get Fired, But Not For the Reasons WSN Thinks

by Ned Resnikoff

November 17, 2009

Last week, Suri wrote about a recent column by Stern professor Tunku Varadajaran in which he used the term “going Muslim”–inspired by “going postal”–to describe the shooting at Fort Hood. And yesterday, Washington Square News runs what, if they’re lucky, will go down in history as the most baffling editorial they’ve ever run on any subject, ever. Their argument is that not only should Varadajaran keep his job, but the NYU administration should pretend that nothing happened, because, well, blockquoting is the only way for me to do this justice.

Having said that, we do support Cooley and Sexton’s decision not to penalize Varadarajan. We believe that every viewpoint from students, faculty and administration is just as valid as any other. We wrote as much two months ago in discussing prospective law professor Thio Li-ann, whose stance on gay rights drew considerable opposition among NYU students: “Intellectual discourse is rooted in conflicting opinions, and for this to happen, people of disagreeing perspectives and paradigms must come together to engage one another … No viewpoint will ever satisfy all sides, but each belief is as valid as any other.”

Way to quote yourself, guys; that argument was so awesome it needs to be heard twice!

Except I can’t get my head around the idea that anyone at WSN really believes that. Each belief is valid? Really? On one side, you’ve got, “Muslims should be banned from the military because it’s reasonable to assume that any given Muslim person is probably a cleverly disguised murderous psychopath,” and on the other side you’ve got, “No, that’s not true, and you’re a dick,” and Washington Square News thinks that both of those views are equally valid?

Time to grow up, guys. “Everyone’s opinion is equally valid” is something we tell to fourth graders to keep them from getting into fistfights over whether or not Batman is cooler than Superman (he is), but I figured by college everyone had abandoned that view. Sure something like your favorite flavor of ice cream is entirely subjective, but the statement “America would be safer if we banned all Muslims from the military” is not. There are good arguments and bad arguments, good views and bad views. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other, but here’s a hint: if your argument involves portraying over 1.5 billion people worldwide as unhinged lunatics because of the actions of a small band of radicals, it’s probably a bad argument. And WSN knows this! You can tell, because earlier in the editorial they wrote, in characteristically tortured language, that Vadajaran’s column “stereotypes an entire culture and paints negative connotations to its beliefs.”

That’s not to say that I think Vadajaran should get fired. Nor did I think Purdue’s librarian or Ward Churchill should have gotten sacked. Sure, in each of these situations, I think the views expressed were reprehensible (or as WSN would say: “paint negative connotations to something something”). But there are issues of academic freedom to consider. If there’s no preexisting policy of conduct, then randomly shitcanning a professor sets an ugly precedent. And if you want to create a preexisting policy that prevents professors from publicly discriminating, I don’t know what kind of rule you could come up with that wouldn’t be too broad and could possibly stifle legitimate debate elsewhere.

Which isn’t to say that the NYU administration should do nothing. NYU prides itself on being a multicultural school, and if they want to paint positive connotations on whatever the fuck it is connotations are painted on, then it’s important for Sexton to repudiate Varadarajan’s column. And despite what WSN says, he actually did do that. Perhaps the editorial board would have noticed that if they got they bothered to read their own newspaper.

In a statement, Sexton said that although he found Varadarajan’s column to be offensive and disagrees with it, he values civil discourse. Sexton said he will not impose a sanction against Varadarajan.

Here’s the exact wording from the statement:

So where do we find ourselves today? A journalist and NYU clinical faculty member has written a piece for Forbes that many Muslims find offensive. I understand how they feel — I found it offensive, too. I am teaching Muslim students now, and I have taught them in the past; the portrayal of Muslims in the Forbes piece bears no resemblance to my experience; I disagree with the Forbes piece and think it is wrong.

That certainly reads a lot like repudiation to me. But I’m not going to insist that WSN messed and should issue a correction, because, hey, their take on this is equally valid!


China Defends Internet Censorship After Obama Lauds Openness

Owen Fletcher

Nov 17, 2009

China on Tuesday defended its control of information on the Internet that it deems sensitive or harmful, one day after U.S. President Barack Obama told students in Shanghai that information should be free.

The remarks highlighted ongoing tensions between China and the U.S. over human rights, another ideal Obama extolled in China.

"For the Chinese government, we hope online communications can move smoothly, but at the same time we need to ensure that online communications do not affect our national security," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters at a question-and-answer session in Beijing. China also aims to prevent "adverse content" online from harming children in the country, he said.

China blocks Web sites including YouTube as part of its efforts to prevent sensitive political content from appearing online. It added Twitter and Facebook to its blocked list earlier this year after deadly ethnic riots in its western Muslim region, which also led China to cut off virtually all Internet access in Xinjiang province.

Obama, making his first visit to China as president, told local students at a question-and-answer session this week that freedom of information online can help people hold their government accountable and encourages them to think for themselves. Obama did not mention China's Internet policies, but his statements went beyond the views usually expressed by Chinese government officials or local media. Chinese Web site owners are expected by authorities to censor certain information about sensitive issues like corruption on their domains, including when it is posted by users, and can risk punishment for failing to do so.

"All men and women possess certain fundamental human rights," Obama said in a speech in Beijing on Tuesday that was broadcast on live national television. Chinese President Hu Jintao stood expressionless on the stage beside Obama as he spoke. "We do not believe these principles are unique to America, but rather they are universal rights, and they should be available to all peoples, and to all ethnic and religious minorities."


Pakistan's "Shia Militant" are helping the Houthi rebels in Yamen

Sana (UNN) Yemen's Houthi rebels have Pakistani fighters in their ranks, press reports revealed, as Saudi Arabia arrested a sorcerer on its border with Yemen attempting to plant magic spells in the conflict zone in support of the rebel group.

Pakistani fighters are helping the Houthi rebels with their conflict against Saudi Arabia, UNN informed quoting Yemen's Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi as saying, The way the Houthi militias operate and the amount of money they spend on the conflict make the involvement of foreign powers almost a certainty.

The Yemeni intelligence is investigating informed involvement of external parties "Shia militant" from Pakistan, in supporting the Houthi insurgency, Qirbi said.

Meanwhile "Observer Islamic Countries" (Egypt) already warned regarding "Extremist Shia" roll in Yamen and said,Supporters of Houthis could have grave consequences as far as the security of the Gulf region is concerned,This is a conspiracy against Saudi Arab and peacefull Atmosphere of Gulf region./UNN


Muslim Yemenis' murder by Saudi is a danger to Islam: top army commander


TEHRAN (ISNA)-The Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi warned murder of Yemenis Shiites by Saudi Arabia is the beginning of Wahhabi governmental terrorism and represents a danger to Islam and the region.

He added, "a decade ago, I warned Pakistani officials that strengthening Taliban will get Pakistan involved and now Pakistani nations are mourning because of mass murder of Muslim Pakistanis by Wahhabi terrorism."

The member of Iran's Expediency Council continued, "Arab countries' officials particularly those in Yemen and Saudi Arabia must be aware that giving freedom to Wahhabis to kill Shiites in Yemen will not be only limited to the country and what is taking place in Afghanistan and Pakistan will first happen to Wahhabi terrorism' sponsors and to the whole Muslims of the world later or sooner."

The US and British governments are endeavoring to create conflict among Muslims, he said adding Muslims and Islamic countries' leaders should not allow the devil will of enemies of Islam to turn into reality.

The member of Supreme National Security Council added, military measures now underway in Saada in Yemen have turned into a preliminary maneuver for more preparation to attack other Muslims.


Obama and Plummeting Military Morale

By Candace de Russy

November 16, 2009

New Army surveys, reports the Wall Street Journal, show that morale has fallen sharply among soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and confirm an unusually high suicide in their ranks.

Perhaps this has something to do with doubts about their commander-in-chief's commitment to win this war by standing staunchly with them in spirit and providing the necessary troop levels and other resources. With fatalities and injuries surging among them, the president's prolonged and frazzled indecision on how to wage this struggle must leave these soldiers with a sense of being cast adrift in limbo, if not hell itself. Having first, very belatedly, consulted directly on strategy with the man in charge of the war, General Stanley McChrystal, President Obama then proceeded for months to pore over, appear to accept, throw out, and then start all over examining, various options.

In an act of deep interpersonal significance, as Claudia Rosett observes, the president has not bothered to pay a visit to Afghanistan to bolster morale. Yet, to buck up his foreign policy credentials, he managed to make a campaign stop there while running for president. Once elected, he found time to extend a friendly hand to Muslims in Cairo, lobby for Chicago's Olympics bid, vacation in Martha's Vineyard, and have a "date night" in New York City with his wife. Soon he'll be off to Oslo to accept a Nobel Peace Prize, which he has done nothing yet to deserve, in Afghanistan, at home, or elsewhere in the world.

It could also have not done much to fortify our soldiers to learn of the president's obfuscations and omissions in his recent Fort Hood tribute to their slaughtered 13 comrades. He could not bring himself, as Michael Goodwin and others noted, to call the massacre what it clearly was: treason and terrorism, visited by an Army officer on his defenseless comrades. While failing to acknowledge that Nidal Malik Hasan had shouted, "Al lahu akbar" (God is great) as he fired his weapons, the president also commented, "No just and loving God looks upon them with favor." The president declared the nation to be "in a time of war," but then downgraded the killings to the level of a mere "tragedy." He alluded to 9/11, warning that "the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America," but neglected to say that the same militant Islamism led to the recent slaughter. He was silent about the shooter's contacts with al Qaeda, but stated, "No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts."

Rosett urges the president to betake himself without further delay to Afghanistan and deliver "a soaring speech" to our troops, such as to "display for their benefit and the world's, that as commander-in-chief of these men and women who are risking their lives under his command, he is not AWOL."

But one wonders just how soaring such a message could possibly be, coming from one who cannot muster the leadership to decide how, and indeed if at all, to proceed on their battleground. So geared to mollify his leftist political base has this president's every action seemed so far in his tenure that our courageous soldiers have every reason to fear themselves but chess pieces in his long game of political calculation.

Can the hearts of our troops yet be touched by a commander-in-chief who has for so long failed to show his face, and left them alone, on the battleground? By now they, like many among us, must acknowledge that this is the same commander-in-chief who, during his bid for the presidency cynically - then, too, for rank political reasons -- trumpeted the war in Afghanistan to be the most "necessary" one in the fight against terrorism.

But, above all, the drag that this president exerts on our soldiers comes from his unwillingness even forthrightly to name the enemy with whom they are locked in deadly combat.

If President Obama's lack of leadership and alienation from our troops continue, he may go down in history as America's great demoralizer-in-chief. But, vastly more momentous than his place in history, his failure to lead this nation, and the world, during these hazardous times may well precipitate a series of crises that will plague us for generations.


Guantanamo detainees getting day in court

November 16, 2009

In Washington courtrooms that are not open to the public, dozens of terrorism suspects are pleading for their freedom from the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Complying with a Supreme Court ruling last year, 15 federal judges are giving detainees their day in court after they have spent years behind bars far from their homelands.

In the cases of 30 detainees, the judges have found the government's evidence wanting and ordered their release. Dozens of additional challenges are on track to be heard.

Scooped up along with hard-core terror suspects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, those 30 inmates stand in contrast to the 10 prisoners whom the Obama administration has targeted for prosecution in connection with the Sept. 11 and other terrorism attacks. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of being the mastermind of 9/11, and four others are headed for a federal trial in New York; five others, including a top suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, will be tried by a military commission.

More detainees are expected to be added to the prosecution list. But there will be enough cases remaining among the 215 detainees at Guantánamo to keep the judges in Washington busy as they work to clear up a legal situation created by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Bush administration typically declared terrorism suspects to be unlawful enemy combatants subject to extrajudicial or military detention.

The Washington judges have rejected pleas for release from eight detainees, but they made the opposite determination in those 30 other cases.

"There is absolutely no reason for this court to presume that the facts contained in the government's exhibits are accurate," Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in ordering the release of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, who was repatriated to Yemen.

"Much of the factual material contained in those exhibits is hotly contested for a host of different reasons ranging from the fact that it contains second- and third-hand hearsay to allegations that it was obtained by torture," Kessler said. She ruled that the government had failed to prove the inmate was part of or substantially supported the Taliban or al Qaeda.

The evidentiary record "is surprisingly bare," U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in ordering the release of Fouad Mahmoud Al Rabiah, a 50-year-old from Kuwait who was an engineer for Kuwaiti Airways for 20 years.

Like many of the dozens of men who have won their court cases or who have been cleared for transfer, Rabiah is still among the 215 detainees at Guantánamo. Finding countries willing to take the detainees has proved difficult. Since President Barack Obama took office, only 25 detainees have actually left the prison.

The courthouse's Guantánamo cleanup started while the Bush administration was still in office, set in motion by the district judges days after the high court ruled that detainees could go to civilian courts to challenge their detentions.

One of the last bastions of judicial opposition to the detainees is the federal appeals court on the fifth floor of the courthouse. There, a three-judge panel ruled that the district judges lack the authority to order detainees released into the U.S. even if they have won their release and have nowhere else to go. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal.

Illinois debates proposal

Top Illinois Democrats on Sunday embraced the idea of bringing inmates from Guantánamo Bay to a maximum-security prison about 150 miles west of Chicago.

But while Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin endorsed housing the suspects at the Thomson Correctional Facility, other leaders were drumming

up opposition to the idea.

Federal officials are expected to visit the center today.

For the White House, which confirmed the administration's interest, the proposal is one way to cut through the legal and political knots that have kept it from closing the prison camp in Cuba. For supporters in Illinois, it is an attractive economic opportunity.

Critics of the idea, including GOP members of Congress, cite safety concerns.


Iran's Islamic regime is no model to follow

By Raja Kamal

November 17, 2009

In 1979, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic Republic basing much of its governance practices on its interpretation of Islam. Today, 30 years later, the answer to a basic question is overdue: Did the theocracy deliver a better life for the Iranian people? The answer is a resounding no. Iran is far worse off today – an argument supported by the continuing political unrest and economic contraction associated in many ways with the country’s ongoing brain drain.

According to the International Monetary Fund, of 91 countries tracked according to the displacement of their elite citizens (those with advanced education and technical know-how), Iran ranks first. It is estimated that 250,000 Iranian engineers and physicians currently reside in the United States. The American government estimates that 70 percent of Iranian immigrants in the US have a college degree. In fact, the value of Iranian assets transferred to the US and Europe in the form of specialized human resources is estimated at well over $10 billion. It is believed that the number of Iranians scattered around the world to be between two and seven million people. IMF estimates the wealth of Iranians living abroad at some $400 billion. Nor is there any indication that the brain drain is slowing down.

The regime in Tehran is showing signs of both political and economic fatigue.

According to Iranian government sources, the unemployment rate in the Islamic Republic is 12.5 percent. However, international economists believe the real rate of unemployment to be twice as large. Politically, the recent June presidential election brought to light the deep dissatisfaction of the Iranian population, which was expressed in the streets of Tehran. Even if the current regime survives, it is wounded and appears to be significantly weaker. If the Islamic Republic is a product introduced in 1979, its shelf-life is expiring. Iran’s revolution has depleted the human and natural resources of the nation.

What transpired in Iran in the last three decades must be viewed as a warning to Arabs tempted to see Islam as the political solution to their problems of governance.

Many in the Arab world, moved by the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power in 1979, came to regard Islam as the answer, and solution, to their state of decline. Since Arab secular nationalist regimes were unable to bring political stability and economic prosperity to a region falling behind – proponents of this view believed – some sort of Islamic governance might achieve both. Politically and militarily, secular Arab leaders failed to defeat Israel. Economically they failed to invigorate and launch an economic renaissance that would employ their increasingly younger populations.

Political Islam, which Iran’s revolution helped push forward and empower regionally, has gained both in the Middle East and beyond. On most Arab streets, the veil has become the custom rather than the exception. Bearded men – a signal of Islamic observance – are increasingly frequent. Islamic political parties have gained influence throughout the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood has become more vocal in Egypt; Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria, among others, have also seen an increase in Islamic organizations and political movements. In Lebanon, Hizbullah has become a powerful political movement. In Gaza, Hamas has forcibly taken over control of the territory – in a Palestinian society hitherto known for the strength of its secular impulses.

The failure of the Iranian regime to provide improvements to its own people should be an eye-opener to those Arabs hoping to emulate the Iranian model. The establishment of Islamic regimes in other nations may well prove as devastating as Iran’s experience. Substantial brain drains will provoke further economic contractions. There is a danger that Christians – who make up an important sector of the population in many Arab countries – would be among the first to leave. Vital and educated human resources would have little problem emigrating and integrating into the global economy.

Islamist-dominated regimes would drive the brightest, educated and most productive to relocate elsewhere. For example, about 3-4 million Iraqis have relocated as a result of the Iraqi conflict. A rise of Islamic parties to power in Baghdad would very probably further deplete Iraq’s human resources.

The Arab world is a very complex neighborhood, with different sets of challenges that each country must face individually. Yet, all countries share the need to reform their markets and educational systems. Three valuable decades have been wasted since the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran; the region cannot afford another such period. Political Islam is not the answer. Skeptics should look at Iran and take note. It is not a pretty picture.


Germany's Muslims Wary After Headscarf Martyr Trial

By Tristana Moore

Nov. 16, 2009

photo: Egyptian protesters shout during a demonstration in Alexandria, Egypt in support of Marwa el-Sherbini, a 32-year-old pregnant Egyptian woman who was stabbed by a German in a courtroom in eastern Germany.

Dozens of reporters from Germany, Egypt and other Muslim countries packed into a Dresden courtroom last week to hear the verdict against the Russian émigré accused of stabbing to death a pregnant Egyptian woman who's since been dubbed the "headscarf martyr" by much of the Arab world. It was a far cry from the attention the killing itself received in July — the crime was scarcely reported by the German media, leading to massive protests in Egypt and the Middle East.

That Alex Wiens was convicted of murdering Marwa el-Sherbini and sentenced to life in prison was not surprising — el-Sherbini was stabbed in front of numerous eyewitnesses in a dramatic attack just after she finished giving testimony in the same Dresden courthouse where Wiens was tried. His trial seemed a mere formality. It was nonetheless closely watched by Germany's 4 million Muslims, as well as the wider Muslim world, as a way of gauging how serious Germany was about confronting what Muslims see as a rising tide of Islamophobia and racism in the country.

The crime was shocking as much for Wiens' brutality as for his brazenness. During the trial, prosecutors said el-Sherbini, 31, was attacked after giving testimony against Wiens in a defamation case — el-Sherbini had accused Wiens of calling her an "Islamist" and a "terrorist" on a playground after she asked him to make way so her son could play on the swings. As she finished testifying, Wiens suddenly lunged at her with a kitchen knife he had smuggled into court and stabbed her 16 times. Her husband, Elwy Okaz, 32, was also repeatedly stabbed before being shot by a police officer who mistook him for el-Sherbini's attacker. El-Sherbini, who was three months pregnant at the time, bled to death in front of the couple's 3-year-old son.

Not only was the crime barely reported by the German media, but German politicians were accused of deflecting questions about it in order to avoid having to discuss the problem of the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany organization, says the verdict no longer makes that possible. "Islamophobia exists in Germany and we have to get to grips with it before it's too late," Kolat warns. "Politicians shouldn't stigmatize Muslims."

Other Muslims were also pleased by the verdict. "I think getting the maximum possible sentence says a lot. ... It means the family can feel justice has been done," said Egypt's ambassador to Germany, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy. The Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, meanwhile, quoted an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossam Zaki, as saying that the sentence could deter other racially motivated attacks in Germany and would strengthen Egyptian-German relations.

But not everyone is as positive about the impact of the conviction. The victim's brother, Tarek el-Sherbini, said that because of German laws, Wiens could in theory be released after 15 years. "In Egypt, a life-long sentence means life," he told the daily Bild paper. (Due to the brutal nature of the crime, the judge said that Wiens had little chance of early release.) And Kolat disagrees with the assumption that the verdict will help deter future attacks on Muslims. Some believe the trial may have actually made them more vulnerable. "Muslim women who wear a headscarf in Germany still run the risk of being attacked," Kolat tells TIME.

German newspaper commentators, meanwhile, said more work needs to be done integrating Muslims into German society and exposing racism. An editorial in the daily Die Tageszeitung said Thursday that Germany's image took a hit because of the lack of sympathy for el-Sherbini from the public and the absence of reaction from politicians after the killing. "When thinking of Muslims, many Germans think first of forced marriage, honor killings and Islamist terror," the editorial read. "An entire faith is placed under general suspicion. It is important that we as a society combat this suspicion. The murder of Marwa al-Sherbini placed the problem of Islamophobia in the public spotlight. The public must now attend to the problem."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has placed a greater priority on reaching out to the Muslim community over the past four years, trying to facilitate better integration by hosting special conferences aimed at tackling the issue. But many Muslims believe the German media have a role to play, too. They claim that many TV networks perpetuate the idea that all Muslim women wear headscarves and tend to link Muslim men with terrorists. "German TV channels should cooperate with Arab broadcasters and swap entertainment shows or develop joint formats to break down the barriers between Germans and the Muslim world," says Michael Mangold, an integration expert from the Centre for Arts and Media Technology in Karlsruhe.

"There's been progress in integrating Muslims, but there's still a lot more to do," he says. "The government needs to improve educational opportunities for Muslims, but also teach [them] basic values of tolerance and democracy." Whether this will prevent an attack similar to the one that ended el-Sherbini's life remains to be seen. If anything, though, it may at least help bridge the gap between two distinct worlds.,8599,1939737,00.html?iid=tsmodule


Muslim advocacy group CAIR cites 'new era of hope' at Fremont event

By Matt O'Brien


FREMONT — Despite concerns that the Fort Hood shooting rampage would lead to a new backlash against American Muslims, optimism pervaded a Sunday gathering of hundreds of Bay Area members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"There is hope for Americans who happen to be Muslim," said host and Fremont dentist Mohammad Rajabally, who said attitudes toward Muslims have improved but could fall back into misjudgment and hatred without persistent advocacy.

The fundraising banquet for the Bay Area chapter of the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group carried a cheerful name — "A New Era of Hope" — but came on the heels of a litany of bad news locally and nationwide.

"I know that Muslims have said after Fort Hood, some of them have said they felt the same way they felt after 9/11," said Zahra Billo, a Bay Area outreach director for the council.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in connection with the Nov. 5 tragedy on the Texas military base. He had been trying to leave the military and had complained of anti-Muslim discrimination, according to media reports. Some feared the attack and questions about Hasan's religious motivations would fuel misguided anger at the minority group.

For the most part, however, Billo said initial fears have not been met with examples of backlash. That is an improvement, she said, over the time following the terrorist

attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Billo was a college student and remembers feeling a deep-seated concern about how she and other Muslims would be perceived.

"I didn't feel that same way," she said of her reaction to the shooting. "Yes, we got hate calls, but we also got supportive calls."

The Bay Area chapter says it responded to about 200 civil rights calls in the past year, a little over half of them from Muslims facing some kind of difficulty with a government agency, usually about immigration or citizenship questions.

Three of those dozens of government-related calls were from Muslims facing questioning from the FBI, the group said. Most of the other cases were about discrimination in workplaces, schools and elsewhere.

Some of those cases have had a high profile, such as the August beating of a cabdriver in Pleasanton. Police said the Sikh driver's assailants mistook him for a Muslim, labeling him a "Taliban" before they beat him, breaking a tooth and causing other injuries that required stitches. The group called for the attack to be treated as a hate crime.

Though vilified by its fiercest opponents as a group sympathetic to terrorists, the council has a mainstream reputation in the Bay Area, as evidenced by the dozen or so East Bay and Silicon Valley mayors and city council members who took part in the banquet at the Fremont Marriott.

Local members said the organization faces more difficult challenges nationwide. Four Republican Congress members demanded an investigation of the group's Capitol Hill interns last month, citing their ability to infiltrate high-security committees.

The group also has been busy responding to last week's news that federal agents intend to seize a Sacramento County mosque that is owned and leased out by a foundation tied to the Iranian government. Confusion about the inquiry has led to racism against the mosque's members, the council's directors said.

Many of those examples were of concern to banquet attendee Sajid Khan, but the San Jose attorney said he was also convinced that years of advocacy and education have made a difference. Born and raised in the Bay Area by parents who moved from India in the 1960s, he said he has never faced discrimination because he is Muslim.

"I tend to look at the positive side of this country," Khan said. "The negative does take place but I think it's on the fringes, it's not the norm."


India, Iran discuss energy, transit routes

Sandeep Dikshit

Manmohan, Krishna hold talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki

FOR CLOSER TIES: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (left) in discussion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. Mr. Mottaki is on a two-day official visit.

NEW DELHI: India and Iran on Monday held talks on closer cooperation in energy, transit routes to central Asia and sharing of information on militant activity in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt.

In the first high-level talks after elections in both countries, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, in talks with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, flagged New Delhi’s interest in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.Trilateral dialogue

They also discussed prospects of trilateral dialogue between India, Iran and Afghanistan on transit routes to central Asia, with the Iranian port of Chabar to be the staging point for goods.

In four hours of talks with Mr. Krishna, including a luncheon in his honour, Mr. Mottaki discussed issues relating to security, pricing and guaranteed supply, and resolved to convene a meeting of the Joint Working Group to discuss the finer details of this and other energy related projects.

“Our interest in having a trilateral agreement was underlined,” said informed sources about the transit route beginning from the Chabar port.

It was planned to construct a railway line from Chabar to Bam. From there, goods would be taken from the Afghan border town of Zaranj to Delaram on an Indian-built road to the Afghan garland highways, which provide access to several central Asian republics.

The need to add greater economic content was also recognised during delegation-level talks between the two Foreign Ministers. Both sides touched upon increasing contacts in the banking sector, civil aviation cooperation, double taxation avoidance agreement, bilateral investment protection agreement and civil aviation cooperation.

Mr. Mottaki renewed an invitation to Dr. Singh to visit Tehran, and it was agreed to work out the details through diplomatic channels.

LNG deal

India also raised the issue of the implementation of the Liquefied Natural Gas deal signed in 2005 for the supply of five million tonnes per annum of gas.

New Delhi maintained that as far as it was concerned, the agreement was signed and reopening it to accommodate Tehran’s desire for higher rates was unacceptable.


Parties war over Jammu and Kashmir’s political future

Praveen Swami

New Delhi’s secret search for peace sparks off intense political competition

NEW DELHI: Even as New Delhi has accelerated its covert engagement with the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led All Parties Hurriyat Conference, major political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have intensified efforts to give legitimacy to their own, competing visions of the State’s future.

Leaders of the National Conference have made the recommendations of a State Autonomy Commission Report, which was endorsed by the Assembly in 1998, the centrepiece of their political position.

The controversial report calls for the revocation of all Central legislation made applicable to the State since 1953. Among other things, the implementation of the SAC recommendations would mean Jammu and Kashmir residents would no longer enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, and the protections of the Election Commission of India and the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

National Conference leaders say all these institutions should be replaced with similar bodies and legislative instruments created by the State.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also demanded that the government push the retired Supreme Court judge Saghir Ahmad — who heads a working group set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make recommendations on the State’s constitutional future — to finish his work.

The Prime Minister had set up five working groups during a March 2006 all-party Round-Table Conference on Jammu and Kashmir called in Srinagar. Four of those groups submitted their reports in April 2007, when the RTC was last convened. Justice Ahmad’s group, though, has not even met after a two-day session held in New Delhi on September 2 and 3, 2007.

PDP concerns

But it is the People’s Democratic Party — which draws much of its support from voters sympathetic to the Hurriyat and Islamist groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami — that has the greatest concern about the course of the dialogue.

A New Delhi-Hurriyat deal could lead to some secessionist factions contesting elections, and thus dividing the social alliance which has driven the PDP’s dramatic rise as a critical actor in Jammu and Kashmir politics.

PDP leaders have responded by launching an energetic campaign to build mass support for their self-rule proposals. During rallies and meetings across the State, PDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Beig has been explaining threadbare the party’s complex Self-Rule Document released last year. The document calls for the State to be demilitarised, the Line of Control to be opened for free movement of peoples and goods, and the creation of cross-border elected bodies.“No closed-door deal”

But PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also says her party wants a public dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir, not a deal hammered out behind closed doors with key secessionists.

“Whatever you are discussing, you need to discuss it out in the open,” she says. “People in Jammu and Kashmir are suspicious about New Delhi’s intentions, and any deal agreed without a popular consensus will lack legitimacy. It will appear as if the interests of Kashmiris have been bought and sold.”

Some Hurriyat leaders, notably Abdul Gani Bhat, believe that the way forward lies in building consensus within Jammu and Kashmir, cutting across regional and party lines.

During a recent conference organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, Mr. Bhat, for the first time, shared a platform with representatives of the National Conference, the PDP and the Bharatiya Janata Party — and even invited them to join in a cross-party dialogue.

But Mr. Bhat’s position does not have the support of most of his coalition partners, most of which see the PDP and the National Conference as competitors — rather than partners — in the process of resolving the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. Mirwaiz Farooq, for example, says he sees no role for the PDP and the National Conference in negotiations until “they decide to stay away from power politics and focus solely on the resolution of the conflict. Questions of administration must precede, not follow, resolution.”

Put simply, the Mirwaiz appears to see no reason to sit at a table with parties that enjoy access to power — and could profit further if they market themselves as brokers of a final deal. One key obstacle to building consensus is the coalition of rejectionists flat-out opposed to talks with New Delhi — a coalition led by Kashmir’s Islamist patriarch, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but one which includes some figures from within the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat, notably Democratic Freedom Party’s Shabbir Shah.

Fearful that New Delhi could do a deal with the Hurriyat, the PDP has given not-so-tacit backing to the rejectionists. PDP leaders have been demanding that Mr. Geelani be included in the dialogue process — no small ask, given the Islamist leader’s flat rejection of talks with New Delhi.

“I understand the difficulties,” says Ms. Mufti, “but the fact is that whether we like it or not, the people have a lot of faith in Mr. Geelani. We need to ensure any agreement we arrive at has his endorsement, otherwise it will not stand scrutiny.”


Hurriyat holds secret meeting with Chidambaram

Praveen Swami

Effort to push forward the stalled peace process in J&K

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir secessionist leaders have held a second round of secret dialogue with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in an effort to push forward the stalled peace process in the State, highly-placed government sources told TheHindu.

Hurriyat chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, along with his coalition colleagues Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone, the sources said, met with Mr. Chidambaram for two hours on Saturday. The Mirwaiz, Mr. Bhat and Mr. Lone, the sources said, were met at Khan Market here at just after 12:30 p.m., and driven in an unmarked official car to a government facility in the nearby Lodhi Estate area.

Jammu and Kashmir Police and Delhi Police intelligence personnel, who maintain surveillance on the Hurriyat leadership during their visits to the capital, were instructed to withdraw their watch units before the meeting took place, the sources said.

The Mirwaiz, however, denied he met with Mr. Chidambaram. “No meeting took place while I was in New Delhi,” insisted the Srinagar cleric, who returned home from New Delhi on Monday.

However, he admitted that there had been “some back-channel contacts between the Hurriyat and the government.” He argued that these contacts amounted to “communication, rather than a dialogue.”

Mr. Chidambaram’s office did not reply to queries from TheHindu. The Minister had announced the initiation of a process of “quiet diplomacy” on Jammu and Kashmir, and made clear he would not make its details public.

Earlier this month, TheHindu broke the news that the Mirwaiz and Mr. Chidambaram met in secret in September, before the cleric’s departure for a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in New York.

In recent weeks, the Mirwaiz has appeared in his public pronouncements to rule out direct dialogue with New Delhi, which is bitterly opposed by his hardline opponents, notably Tehreek-i-Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Instead, he called for a “triangular engagement” between representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and India, representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, and the governments of India and Pakistan. These talks, he said, “should culminate into tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.” The Government of India has for long rejected the notion of a tripartite dialogue, which would erode its sovereignty over the State.


Headley fallout? High alert at N-facilities

17 November 2009

NEW DELHI: Even as investigating agencies are trailing the arrested US-based Lashkar terror duo's footprints in India, the Centre has on the

basis of fresh intelligence input put nuclear installations across the country on high alert.

Though the input is specifically meant for Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay (Mumbai), the alerts have been sent to all the states having nuclear plants. They have been asked to step up patrolling and vigil around the facilities as a precautionary measure.

Besides putting BARC on highest alert, the government has also directed the Navy, Coast Guard and all other security agencies to take precautionary measures to protect such installations as most of them are located on the coast.

"The step is precautionary in nature. The states have been asked to increase the vigil and patrolling to thwart any sabotage attempt aimed at these vital facilities," a senior home ministry official said.

"The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) had conducted a security audit about a month ago and suggested a number of additional measures, which are being taken care of," the official said.

The government had earlier placed anti-aircraft guns in some of the atomic facilities, including BARC, besides a multi-layered security in and around the premises.

There are six major nuclear plants operational in the country -- Narora in Uttar Pardesh, Kaiga in Karnataka, Tarapur in Maharashtra, Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, Kakrapar in Gujarat and Kota in Rajasthan -- besides several other research and development centres like BARC.

The government, however, said the atomic facilities were absolutely secure. "All nuclear installations are very secure. They are absolutely secure, no question about it. There are multiple layers of security," minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan told a news agency.


Headley used visa firm job as cover

Vishwa Mohan

17 November 2009

NEW DELHI: There is striking similarity between the terror plots that Lashkar terrorists David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana hatched

for India and Denmark. Headley posed as an employee of Rana's immigration firm to do a recce of the premises of the Danish newspaper he planned to attack. He and Rana played the same part to the hilt while trying to set up a Lashkar base in India.

Rana, a Chicago-based Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin, pretended to be a `head-hunter' and `facilitator' of immigration/visa service and even put out advertisements for the same in four newspapers in Kochi and Mumbai in November last year -- days before the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. He offered to help plumbers and electricians -- preferably ex-serviceman -- with job opportunities in the US and Canada.

Rana, who was running a company -- First World Immigration Service having offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto -- had used his business as the cover for Lashkar's plan to attack the Danish newspaper, `Jyllands-Posten', which had published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

That their operation was just a cover is established by the fact that for the Immigrant Law Centre that Headley ran from Tardeo in Mumbai did not send anybody overseas for work. Even Rana during his one-day Kochi stay had interviewed a few people but did not send anyone abroad.

The similarity with the Danish plot -- which Headley and Rana referred to as Mickey Mouse Project -- again stands out. In the Danish conspiracy, Headley had visited the office of the newspaper pretending that they planned to give advertisements for opening offices of the First World Immigtration Service. The FBI in its affidavit emphasized that they had no business from that region. Again, he had nothing in his possession to suggest that he was on a serious business trip when he came back to the US.

The choice of the immigration service as a cover made good sense because it could allow Headley to meet a whole range of people without attracting any suspicion.

Vaibhav Shah of the Matunga-based (Mumbai) Prachar Agency through which the terror duo placed advertisements in newspapers told TOI that Headley himself visited his office and paid Rs 20,000 in cash for placing the ads in different Mumbai-based newspapers

He said that his office had already provided all the details to the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police.

Meanwhile, India has approached Canada to get more information about Rana who was not only a bigger partner in the terror network comprising David Coleman Headley and other Pakistan-based Lashkar terrorists but was also considered as a "money bag" for them.

Referring to the terror duo's cover, the FBI has also told the US court in Chicago that Rana was trying to get people into the US using fake credentials by exploiting a loophole in the immigration procedure. The affidavit clearly indicated that he was trying to bring Lashkar operatives into the US through immigration documentation.

Though the NIA has been trying to find out the exact details of Rana like his place of stay in different cities and his possible contacts, the Kerala Police has, meanwhile, confirmed his visit to Kochi where he stayed at the Taj Residency (since renamed Gateway) Hotel using his name as Tahawwur Hussain. He was there with his wife, Samraz Akhtar, from the evening of November 16 till 2 pm on November 17.

Investigators have also found that Rana's visit to Kerala was facilitated by an emigration agent Shameer who is now operating from a Middle East country. He had provided Rana with the SIM card that the latter used during his stay in Kochi.


Hunt on for David Headley’s Mumbai-based mystery wife

Stavan Desai/Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times

November 17, 2009

The National Investigation Agency is on the lookout for a Mumbai-based woman, who used to accompany US citizen and suspected Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operative David Headley to Rahul Bhatt’s gym.

Last week, the NIA registered a case against Headley (49) and his aide Tahawwar Rana (48) for attempting to wage war against India.

Sources said the woman hails from Mumbai and used to be with Headley during his visits to Bhatt’s gym at Breach Candy.

“She was also with Headley when he visited other spots in the city seven months before 26/11,” an official said. “Headley used to introduce her as his wife.”

NIA officers have information that she used to work with a five-star hotel in the city.

Sources said Bhatt, his fitness trainer friend Vilas Pandurang Varak, and an estate agent who Headley approached for leasing a flat had spoken about her.

In Delhi, investigators have identified two cyber cafes in Paharganj that Headley frequen-ted during his March visit.


Delhi hotels left vital details blank in Headley's forms

Dwaipayan Ghosh

17 November 2009

NEW DELHI: Investigations into the three-day Delhi visit by David Coleman Headley in March this year have hit a roadblock after sleuths found

that the two hotels where the Pakistan-born US citizen had been staying did not even fill in Headley's C-form properly before sending it to the foreigners regional registration office (FRRO).

However, investigators have established that Headley had visitors at his room during his stay in the city. "It is a fact that he had visitors at the hotel. Again, for obvious reasons, the hotels have no records — we are in touch with the American consulate about his contacts, if any, in Delhi. We are checking the registers of some hotels, cybercafes and tourist offices to determine his movements," said a senior investigating officer.

Police said a few basic formalities were complied with, in a perfunctory manner, while registering Headley's arrival at these hotels, but several vital details were left out. "The blasts in 2008 has put us on our toes. It is therefore unacceptable that not all the guidelines were followed," added the officer.

Traditionally, foreigners — especially from American and European continents — have enjoyed immunity but after the Headley case, Delhi police has decided to tighten norms.

"We have been aware that he was a frequent visitor to a Gymnasium at Mumbai and there are other evidences from Kochi and Agra, which point to others actively helping Headley during his stay in these cities. We are checking out if he used some local help here too," added the officer.

A team from the special cell of Delhi Police had visited the two hotels — De Holiday Inn and Anand — in Paharganj on Friday after it emerged that Headley alias Daood Gilani had stayed there while in Delhi, from March 7 to March 10.

Sources in Delhi Police said the team would share its findings with the National Investigation Agency, which registered a case against Headley and his Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana to probe their role in various terror strikes in the country, including the 26/11 Mumbai attack.


Headley probe: Links with Kasab & Co now NIA focus

Vijay V Singh

17 November 2009

MUMBAI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is scrutinising the documents and other details collected

by the Mumbai Crime Branch during its

local probe in US terror suspect David Headley's Mumbai links.

But officials say, whatever be the NIA's findings, one thing has become crystal-clear; Headley moved around the length and breadth of the city without arousing any suspicion as he was a US citizen and the discovery of his terror links means that even citizens of the West will have to be withstand greater monitoring.

NIA officials, investigating Headley's connection with the 26/11 terror plot, have visited the places where Headley stayed to get a first-hand experience of the facts. Headley had spent much of his time in India between 2006 and 2009 and, in Mumbai, stayed at a rented flat at Breach Candy and ran an immigration business from the Tardeo AC Market. He came here on a business visa.

The training programme that Kasab and the nine other Pakistani terrorists went through before coming to Mumbai involved showing them video footage of the places they struck at; officials now believe that Headley could have done that "extremely important task".

Officials also believe he provided the information to top Lashkar-e-Taiba operational commander Zarar Shah, which helped the 26/11 attackers.

The FBI document identifies a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative as 'A' and states he is known to the government and has substantial influence and responsibility within LeT. He was arrested by the Pakistani government but was released afterwards.

Officials, who are trying to piece together the puzzle, say that person could be Shah. Shah was arrested after the Indian government provided a dossier to Pakistan, detailing his role in the Mumbai attack but was released soon after.


LeT duo in Pak during 26/ 11

By Aman Sharma

‘Headley &Rana among terror handlers’

DAVID Coleman Headley conducted a recce of 26/ 11 targets, including the Taj and Trident hotels and Nariman House, till May 2008.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana then came to India and was here till November 21 last year, giving final touches to the Mumbai attack conspiracy. The government now says the duo assembled in Pakistan with the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba ( LeT) brass even as the 26/ 11 carnage unfolded.

The National Investigation Agency ( NIA) has also stumbled upon the revelation that Rana and Headley were recruiting youths and smuggling them to USA by executing an elaborate immigration fraud.

This is revealed in a recent application the FBI filed in a Chicago court, which exposes how Rana and a top Lashkar commander in Pakistan discussed bringing persons to the US on business visits.

The FBI application, shared with the Indian investigating team that went to the US earlier this month, mentions an email intercept of conversations where Rana and the LeT commander are discussing how to bring recruits into the US using a “ loophole” in the system.

This loophole, as the FBI application points out, was that after 9/ 11, the US had become extremely strict on screening student visa applications but business visas could still be managed with forged papers.

All this is crucial information for NIA sleuths as Rana was in India for almost a fortnight till November 21, 2008 and placed eight advertisements saying he would be present in Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi and Ahmedabad to offer immigration services to USA and Canada.

The presence of Rana and Headley in Pakistan during the 26/ 11 carnage adds a new dimension to the Mumbai attack. The government now believes that the duo could have been among the Lashkar handlers directing the 10 terrorists.

That Rana and Headley had a free run of India till the FBI nabbed them this October appears to have shaken the government.

Last week, the MHA put on alert the cities that Headley visited. On Monday, the Centre issued alerts to all states with atomic and nuclear installations.

The FBI application indicates that India slept over the immigration racket that Headley and Rana ran. NIA officials fear the duo could have smuggled out several wanted terrorists like the SIMI’s Riyaz Bhaktal and Tauqeer.

In his advertisements in India last November, Rana asked for temporary workers, including chefs and technicians, and promised quick immigration to the US. Rana, in fact, is emerging as a bigger player than Headley. He controlled Headley and financed his operations, officials said.

The FBI filed the application to contest Rana’s offer of $ 1 million as surety to get bail. The FBI said it found al- Qaeda videos featuring Osama bin Laden and Mustafa Abu al- Yazid from Rana’s house.

“ Rana is a rich businessman owning many businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices on Devon Avenue in Chicago, New York and Toronto and also owns a farm in Kinsman and a grocery store in Chicago. Rana is not a US citizen and maintains a residence in Canada. He maintains a number of foreign bank accounts and is not a typical criminal who lacks the knowledge and means to travel internationally.

He is fluent in documents necessary for immigration and border crossing... he does not shy away from using the knowledge, ability and willingness to assist others in immigration fraud,” the FBI application says.


26/11: Pakistan court to frame charges afresh

Nirupama Subramanian

Seven men had been arrested and charges framed. Next hearing is on November 23

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court hearing the Mumbai 2008 attacks case will frame charges afresh against the seven men arrested for their suspected involvement in the attacks at the next hearing on November 23.

Charges were earlier framed by another anti-terror court hearing the case, but got mired in objections by the accused over the manner in which the judge sought to indict them in the absence of their lawyers.

As the judge and the defence lawyers fell out, the case was shifted from the court at the request of the judge.

It came up for hearing on Monday at the Anti-Terror Court 1, presided over by Judge Malik Mohammed Akram Awan, in the tightly guarded Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

In the dock are Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, operations commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba; Zarar Shah, another Lashkar operative who is described as a “communications expert,” Hamad Amin Sadiq, accused of “facilitating funds and hideouts” for the Mumbai attackers; Abu al Qama, described as a “handler;” and, Shahid Jamil Riaz, who is described both as a facilitator for funds and a crew member of a boat used by the attackers. The two others in custody are Jamil Ahmed and Younus.

Proceedings are held in camera, and lawyers have been asked not to reveal anything that happens in the court to the media.

But a source with knowledge of the proceedings said that at the latest hearing on Monday, the accused were given copies of the documents for which their lawyers had applied in the last hearing on November 7.

The judge then announced November 23 as the next date for the case, and said charges would be framed at this hearing.

A team of three lawyers retained by the accused had earlier put forth the argument that the charges framed by the previous court did not count as the accused did not record the required “guilty” or “not guilty” statement after the charges were read out to them, neither did they affix their signatures on the document.

“You can call that document a draft of the charges. It becomes legally effective only after it has been read out, and the statement of the accused to the charges against them is recorded, and the accused sign the document. This was not done the last time because the accused refused to go through the process when their lawyers were not present,” said the source. “Now this court has to frame fresh charges.”

A lawyer for the accused said if there was any attempt to resurrect the charges framed by the previous court, the defence would raise objections. “It means this judge has not applied his own mind to the facts in the FIR and to the evidence relied upon by the prosecution, and we will object to it,” he said.


Bhatt Film In Trouble

THE MAHESH Bhatt- directed film Tum Mile has drawn the ire of the Maha Gujarat Janata Party ( MJP) in Gujarat. Formed by BJP rebel Gordhan Zadaphiya, the party has threatened theatre and multiplex owners with dire consequences if they screen the movie. The threat comes after Bhatt’s son Rahul was linked to LeT terrorist David Headley. MJP workers ransacked a theatre in Rajkot on Monday. Party youth- wing general secretary, Amit Bhavsar, said: “ We have asked theatre and multiplex owners not to screen this movie and on Tuesday we will start visiting the halls.

The theatre owners will face the music if they don’t listen to us.”

Tehran seminar to discuss Iran-Spain cultural dialogue

November 17, 2009

TEHRAN -- Tehran will host the international seminar of Iranian-Spanish cultural dialogue with the central theme “Religion in Spain” on Tuesday, November 17.

The University of Tehran will be hosting the first day of the seminar and the program will be held at the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO) on the second day.

Dr. Andreu Rocha and Francesc Grané from the University of Abat Oliba in Barcelona, Mr. Karimian (first name not given) from ICRO, and Ali-Mohammad Tarafdari from the Encyclopedia Islamica Foundation are due to make speeches on the second day of the seminar.

The seminar is cosponsored by ICRO and the University of Tehran.


SC notice to Centre on pre-paid ban in J&K

17 November 2009

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday wanted to know from the Centre the rationale behind its decision to ban pre-paid mobile services in

militancy-affected Jammu and Kashmir but refused a plea to stay the decision.

On a petition by Panthers Party, a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam issued notice to the ministry of home affairs and also to the state government seeking their response within two weeks.

Party chief Bhim Singh argued that the decision to ban pre-paid mobile service in the state from November 1 has rendered thousands jobless and feared that it could affect the ongoing operation against militancy as those fighting the menace were mainly dependent on mobile phones in far flung areas.

"About 25,000 SPOs and village defence committee members who are operating in forests stand cut off from their operational headquarters plunging the militancy affected areas and security of the civilians into catastrophe," the petitioner apprehended


Taliban show off US arms in abandoned base in Afghanistan

Nov 17, 2009

Bearded fighters gleefully picked through the ruins of an abandoned American base in Kamdesh, in the mountains of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan. The fortified ramparts were deserted. The Taliban showed off arms left by the Americans, including ammunition belts for grenade launchers and Claymore mines. One leader declared: “We have defeated the US forces, with the help of God.” These scenes were part of a Taliban video released this week to the al-Jazeera television network. If plans being considered by NATO to withdraw from other remote outposts go ahead, there will be more propaganda triumphs for the Taliban to brag about.

Eight American soldiers and several members of the Afghan security forces were killed in Kamdesh last month as they fought a desperate battle to prevent hundreds of Taliban fighters from overrunning two outposts. But within days of repelling the attack, the Americans left the exposed positions anyway. Commanders said they had always intended to withdraw under new plans to leave remote districts and concentrate on major population centres. Yet the retreat is evidence of the pressure that Western forces are feeling. And in a war of perceptions, it undeniably handed the Taliban a propaganda victory.

Leaving captured territory is controversial because, in addition to the fillip it gives the Taliban, it can also mean abandoning friendly local Afghans. But commanders say such redeployments are likely to continue, almost regardless of whether President Barack Obama decides to send the 40,000 extra troops requested by General Stanley McChrystal, the NATO commander in Afghanistan (last week, America’s ambassador to the country wrote to the president opposing the request). Outposts under scrutiny include positions held at heavy cost by the British in northern Helmand and areas captured by America’s marines deep in the south of the province this year. The idea would be to consolidate around two populous regions, central Helmand and Kandahar, and the main road between them.

The notion of protecting the main cities and roads is not new. The Russians fell back on such a strategy in their ill-fated war in Afghanistan of 1979-89. For the Americans, it is the logic of counter-insurgency doctrine, which dictates that Western forces must “protect the population” to isolate the insurgents. Yet the doctrine also insists that areas cleared of insurgents should be held firmly, so that those who co-operate with Western forces and the Afghan government do not face retribution.

That has been hard to do with overstretched forces. And there is still the problem of the border and of stopping the flow of fighters and arms from havens in Pakistan. “Before, the insurgents had to climb over the mountain to come to Nuristan. But now they are just driving in, using the main road,” says Colonel Ashirzad, a high-ranking police officer in Nuristan.

Places like Musa Qala, in northern Helmand, are totemic. British forces secured it when they arrived in 2006 but, after tough battles, withdrew in a deal with local elders that infuriated the Americans at the time. The town was seized by the Taliban, and was retaken by British and American forces in 2007, helped by a Taliban commander who changed sides and later became the district’s governor. The perimeter around the town may be reduced, says one senior British source. But abandoning Musa Qala again would be “a defeat”.

© The Economist Newspaper Limited 2009


Pakistani ‘spy’ was in Delhi for over a year, say police

Mohit Sharma

Nov 17, 2009

New Delhi : House owner says Ali’s employer at mobile repair shop recommended him as tenant

Alleged Pakistani spy Mohammed Sayeed Ali has lived in the Capital for the last one and a half years, the Delhi Police have found.

Ali was arrested at the airport last Thursday for possessing a fake passport and other suspicious documents — including photographs of Delhi and Meerut cantonment areas. He was about to board a flight to Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Ali lived at A 24/1, Street 1, Jyoti Colony in Shahdara. A day after his arrest, on November 13, sleuths of the police’s Special Cell took Ali to his one-room accomodation and combed it in search of anything incriminating. Landlord Akram Saifi told Newsline: “The cops also cleaned out the room and took away everything.”

The alleged spy had assumed the name of Sayeed Amir Ali and told Saifi that he came to the Capital from Lucknow. Ali had also confided in Saifi about his failed marriage.

The police suspect Ali is from Karachi and got the fake passport made in Lucknow. This document carried the name Mohammed Sayeed Ali. A team of the police’s Special Cell is camping in Lucknow at the moment to ferret out further details about the man and his contacts.

Saifi said Ali came recommended by a friend who had employed him in his mobile repair shop. He paid Rs 1,000 as rent and largely kept to himself, the landlord said. “We didn’t see anything suspicious. He had one friend who visited him often, Imran,” Saifi said.

Saifi’s friend Abdul Sattar, who knew Ali, said the man was

“very friendly”.

“We were shocked to see him come escorted by policemen. When I asked him what was wrong, he quietly told me there was some problem with the passport,” Saifi said. Saifi was aware that Ali was to leave for Saudi Arabia soon as Imran had helped him get a job there.

Abdul Sattar mentioned Ali had changed jobs during his stay. He worked as a driver before taking up the job at the mobile shop. He also did not come home for two months after Ramzan, Sattar said.

Ali was arrested on November 12 after the police were alerted by a lookout notice. He has been booked under the Officials Secret Act once the airport’s Immigration officials handed him to the Special Cell. He is in police custody for 10 days.

‘Ali sent documents through contact in Samjhauta Express’

Mohammad Sayeed Ali, the alleged Pakistani spy, has confessed having sent classified documents to Pakistan through a contact travelling on Samjhauta Express on at least three occasions, according to a top source in Special Cell involved in his interrogation.

The police are now looking for this contact, who arrived in India on the train running across the border, the source said.

“A phone number given by Ali has been put under surveillance and records of Samjhauta Express passengers are being checked, particularly during the time he (Ali) has mentioned,” the source said.

Revealing that Ali has told his interrogators that he extensively photographed cantonment areas in the Capital and Meerut, the source did not disclose details.

He is being interrogated jointly by the Special Cell and intelligence agencies to know more about Pakistan’s ISI’s plans, senior officials said. — NEERAJ CHAUHAN

Ali taken to Lucknow to investigate local links

LUCKNOW: A team of Delhi Police Special Cell brought alleged Pakistani spy Mohammad Sayeed Ali to Lucknow on Monday evening. The Delhi Police is collaborating with UP Anti-Terrorism Squad to investigate Ali’s links, who allegedly helped him procure documents on a fake address from Lucknow.

Ali was taken to the house at Vijay Khand in Gomti Nagar, where he lived during his stay here. The police confirmed from the house owner that Ali had stayed there between 2005 and 2006.

The police will also take Ali to the house at Jamboor Khana, Qaiserbagh — the address is mentioned in Ali’s passport as his residence. — ENS


Gaddafi ‘disappoints’ 200 Italian women

Nov 17, 2009

Rome : Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in Rome for a UN food summit, spent several hours in the company of 200 Italian women recruited by an agency and tried to convert them to Islam, Italian media reported on Monday.

“Seeking 500 attractive girls between 18 and 35 years old, at least 5 feet, 7 inches tall, well-dressed but not in mini-skirts or low cut dresses,” read the ad by the Hostessweb agency and quoted in Italy’s Corriere dell Sera newspaper in its story.

Some 200 women showed up at a Rome villa, having been told they would receive 60 Euros and “some Libyan gifts”. Among them was an undercover reporter for Italian news agency ANSA, who took photos and described the evening’s proceedings.

Most had expected to attend a party, said ANSA, but instead were invited to wait in a large hall until the arrival of Gaddafi, who gave them a lesson on Libya and the role of women in Islam. The lesson concluded with an exhortation by Gaddafi to “convert to Islam” and each woman got a copy of the Quran and a book of sayings by Gaddafi.

“It was anything but a VIP party, they didn’t even give us a glass of water,” a woman told ANSA. Others said they were offended by “anti-Christian aspects” of his lesson, including a claim that Jesus was not crucified but that “someone who looked like him” was put to death in his place.


Islamabad: Experts for universalisation of primary education

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Universalisation of primary education is the only way to improve the country’s literacy ratio that portrays a gloomy picture, as Pakistan ranks 44th among 55 Islamic countries and sixth among the Saarc member states.

Experts made these comments while addressing a national conference on ‘Issues of Development & Civil Society’, organised by the Behbood Association of Pakistan and sponsored by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Germany at a local hotel here Monday.

TV compare and educationist Professor Laeeq Ahmed said the Literary Act was submitted to the National Assembly in 1985 and approved by the Senate in 1987, adding, “The Act is still awaiting implementation.”

Dr Muhammad Zia Ul Haq, Chairman Department of Shariah & Law, International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), said the country’s youth is hard working, capable and committed, who have the potential to become leaders of the Muslim world if they acquire appropriate guidance.

“The youth can make the country a model for Islamic society,” he hoped and urged for strengthening the process of democracy and also emphasised upon the policymakers to pay heed to the voice of masses to turn the nascent democracy into a real government of the people.

Vice Chancellor Fatima Jinnah Women University Dr Saeeda Asadullah Khan said one of the challenges of democracy in a third world country is an uniformed civil society.

She urged for creating awareness amongst the ordinary citizens, especially the women, as to how much they matter in the process of a self-sustaining democratic government and to learn about the levels of interaction between the civilians and the state.


Islamic holiday falls on black Friday, Date gives Muslims more time with family

By Aysha Jamali

November 17, 2009

This Thanksgiving weekend is extra special for Muslims around the world. It marks the celebration of Islam’s second major holiday, Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice.The Islamic Society of North America expects this year’s Eid al-Adha to be on Friday, Nov. 27. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar, which is why ISNA determines the holiday’s date by astronomical calculations.

Eid al-Adha celebrates the Muslim belief of Prophet Abraham’s submission and obedience when God told him to sacrifice his beloved son Ishmael, according to statements from Al-Huda International Welfare Foundation. It also celebrates God’s mercy in saving Ishmael from being sacrificed.

According to Al-Huda International, Muslims who can afford it sacrifice an animal on Eid al-Adha to commemorate the love and submission they have for God through the feelings of sacrifice. They then distribute the food among family, friends and the poor.

All Muslims attend a prayer and sermon on Eid. But Islam has followers from all backgrounds and cultures who celebrate the rest of the day in different ways.

Aishah Gulam, second year political science major at Wayne State, celebrates the holiday by holding an open house with her family.

“Since our neighborhood has many Muslim families, people go house-hopping,” she said.

The Gulams have been having Eid open houses for 12 years. It’s given them plenty of time to develop family traditions.

“My mom always makes sawaiyan,” Gulam said. “It’s a sweet Indian dish of vermicelli boiled with milk and sugar.”

Eid day makes for an inviting atmosphere at the Gulam’s. They have an open invitation, which keeps them busy until the late hours of the night.

“People we don’t even know will come over,” Gulam said.

Mansoor Siddiqui, third year bio-chemistry major, also likes to take Eid day off to celebrate with his family. He also celebrates Eid by helping to plan Eid events held by WSU’s Muslim Students’ Association.

Siddiqui is currently vice president of the MSA and previously served as Brothers’ Events Committee member and treasurer.

“Right now, we’re planning brothers’ and sisters’ events for Eid,” Siddiqui said.

Since this Eid coincides with Thanksgiving break, Muslim families will have more time to spend together and a chance to plan more elaborate festivities.


Rounding up radical Muslims not answer

Naseer Chowdhrey


In response to Roy Wells' letter printed Sunday in the Daily News, unfortunately there is no litmus test to determine who is a radical Muslim and who is mainstream.

There are more than one billion Muslims in the world and you may see some who are mentally disturbed, like the one we saw at Fort Hood, Texas, in each religion and each community.

The majority of Muslims are good human beings and want to do the right thing for their families and community, wherever they live.

Every Muslim in America and around the world is affected by these insane acts committed by an individual from the Muslim community. It should not be reflected on all Muslims and Islam. Every Muslim is sharing the pain, suffering and loss of life at Fort Hood of hard-working heroes of our nation.

If rounding up radical Muslims in camps would solve the problem, I would vote with you on that. But history has not shown any success with that approach. Anger and hatred is no solution.

We all are good human beings, regardless of our religion, race and colour. Some people among us are mentally disturbed and are found in each race and religion, and should not be associated with any group or religion. Insanity and violence has no religion and it equally affects everyone.


Iraqi child nearing end of surgeries for facial scars

By Brittany Shammas

A 12-year-old Iraqi boy is looking forward to taking off the hats he always wears after a series of reconstructive surgeries provided free of charge by an MSU surgeon, which are progressing on schedule and slated for completion by the end of January.

Known only as Mohammed, the boy was brought to East Lansing by a Michigan Army National Guard physician’s assistant, Maj. David Howell, who was inspired by his story. Mohammed has been pleased by his surgeries, which are aimed at repairing disfiguring burn scars he received as a baby, said Edward Lanigan, the boy’s surgeon.

“There’s just been so much improvement,” he said. “And God, he’s just such a wonderful kid. He’s fun and he’s funny and he’s got such a great personality.”

Since arriving in East Lansing in April, Mohammed has undergone four surgeries, Lanigan said. About two-thirds of his scalp now is covered and his left ear, which was stuck in a forward position, has been pulled back into place.

His next surgery, which will touch up his left ear, finish removing scars from his scalp and cover it with hair and restore movement to his damaged left index finger, is slated for mid-to-late January, Lanigan said.

The surgeries will allow Mohammed to lead a normal life when he returns to Iraq, where he previously would not have been able to marry or have children, Howell said. The surgeries have lifted Mohammed’s spirits in the face of the many challenges he has endured.

Mohammed’s father, who was a translator for American troops, was killed by insurgents and his family lived in poverty.

“(The surgeries) are going to make all the difference in the world,” Howell said. “He’s been through an awful lot and I think this time here in the U.S. has really rejuvenated


Mohammed quickly has adapted to life in the U.S., where he attends an Islamic school and has discovered a love for baseball, football and Xbox, said his host mother, Ziena Saeed. He celebrated Halloween for the first time and went trick or treating dressed as Batman, she said.

“He kept asking, ‘Why do we have to go out at night, why can’t we go during the day?’ ‘How come they’re only giving me one candy bar?’” she said.

Mohammed called Halloween “great” and America “cool” and said he has learned a new favorite sport: baseball.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said.

Saeed said she has been amazed to see how well Mohammed handles the surgeries and is happy to see his excitement as they proceed.

“He tells us, ‘How different am I going to look?’ and ‘How’s my hair going to look? or ‘Who am I going to look like?’” Saeed said. “He’s

excited about that and I tell him, ‘You know, when we’re done, we’re going to buy you some gel or something to style

your hair.’”


Wayne County news: U.S. asked to probe imam's death

Nov. 17, 2009

DETROIT: U.S. asked to probe imam's death

Some civil rights and advocacy groups in Michigan sent a letter Monday to the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation into the shooting death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah, a Muslim leader who died Oct. 28 in Dearborn after a shootout with FBI agents.

"We are aware of the incident, but we do not discuss whether or not we will be launching an investigation as a matter of department policy," Alejandro Miyar, a department spokesman, said Monday.

Detroit FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold said Monday that investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he and members of six other groups signed the letter, including the Michigan chapter of the ACLU and the Dearborn-based Congress of Arab-American Organizations.

NORTHVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Court allows do-not-resuscitate orders

A lawsuit challenging the right of parents to ask that their severely disabled children carry a do-not-resuscitate order in school was dismissed by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis on Nov. 10, the school district announced Monday.

The district's do-not-resuscitate policy, approved in February 2008, was challenged by the Northville Education Association. The union argued its members shouldn't be required to honor the orders, nor be disciplined for failing to do so.

The district asked that the lawsuit be dismissed because parents have a constitutional right to request such orders. The judge ruled the district's policy was valid.

The district said "less than a handful" of students currently have such orders.

HIGHLAND PARK: Father arrested in teen's shooting death

Police have arrested a Detroit man they say fatally shot his 15-year-old son during an argument Monday in Highland Park.

The man, whose name wasn't released, was quarreling with the teen in a field near North and Rosa Parks around 1 p.m., when the father pulled out a gun and opened fire, Detective Sgt. Herb Fluker said Monday.

The teenager was taken to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where he was pronounced dead, Fluker said.


Thousands of Hindus fascinated by Christ

Nov. 17, 2009

Three days of prayer and reflection in Varanasi. Christian, Hindus, Buddhist, Sikh and Muslim leaders participate.

Varanasi (AsiaNews) - They came in 15 thousand and more to Varanasi to attend the annual meeting of the movement Khrist Bhakta, the devotees of Christ. They are Christians, Hindus and Muslims of different social castes, all united by devotion to Jesus (see AsiaNews, 20/10/2009, "Khrist Bhakta: tens of thousands of Hindus fascinated by Christ") 

The annual Satsang, the three days of prayer which is now in its tenth year,  gathers people from the Indian states of Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh to the Ashram of Matridham. Leading the meeting were the priests of the Indian Missionary Society (IMS) who have lived and worked in the holy city of Hinduism for over 15 years.

The meeting, which runs until 15 November, was opened yesterday by  Msgr. Patrick D'Souza, Bishop Emeritus of Varanasi. This years Satsang is characterized by two particular facts: the witness of some laymen who follow the movement for some years and an interfaith prayer service with the participation of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Muslim leaders. 

Among the laity of Khrist Bhakta called to animate the moments of prayer and tell their story there are people from different regions and religious cultures. 

Ashok Bhai is a young worker from a Hindu family of Uttaranchal in northern India. Five years ago, the encounter with Jesus saved him from despair that led him to the brink of suicide. In 2005 he met the Khrist Bhakta and since then is a regular visitor to the ashram in Varanasi.

Sadhu Nityanand, is a young man born into a wealthy Brahmin family of Madhya Pradesh. Raised in the Hindu tradition he encountered Christianity during higher education at Ramjas College Delhi Nitesh. On joining the Evangelical Church he was driven from his home by his family and since then has become an itinerant preacher. 

Fr. Anil Dev, IMS, and the priest responsible for the movement, tells AsiaNews that "the intent of the annual Satsang is to reaffirm faith for Khrist Bhaktas" and that the meeting this year, "provides theological reflections on the theme 'Christ , family and ecology '". 

The inter-religious meeting, also promoted in previous editions of the Satsang, is scheduled for this morning. It will have as its main theme the integrity of creation and provides for prayers for the protection of people from many natural disasters that befall India every year killing people and aggravating the conditions of poverty in which hundreds of thousands of people are already living.


Libyan Leader in Italy Seeks Tall, Leggy and Pious


November 17, 2009

ROME — The 200 women who answered a Rome modeling agency’s advertisement for tall, attractive party guests thought they would be attending an elegant soirée on Sunday. They were — only the host turned out to be the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and instead of hors d’oeuvres he offered them copies of the Koran and urged them to convert to Islam, the Italian news media reported Monday.

The women, all between the ages of 18 and 35, assembled in a Rome hotel before being screened by both metal detectors and the fashion police, who turned away anyone in a miniskirt or provocative clothing, according to Paola Lo Mele, a journalist for the ANSA news agency, who answered the modeling agency’s request and went undercover to the event. The women were each paid $75 to attend.

Colonel Qaddafi and other world leaders are in Rome for the World Summit on Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The women who made the cut were bused to a villa in Rome, ANSA reported, where they waited an hour, unsure of what was to follow, before the famously late Libyan leader arrived.

“All the girls expected a party with a gala dinner,” Ms. Lo Mele reported. Instead, Colonel Qaddafi “made a 45-minute speech on Islam and women’s role in Islam.” He gave the women a copy of the Koran and said that he would pay for them to visit Mecca, the duty of every Muslim, if they converted.

“It was a bit of an indoctrination session,” Ms. Lo Mele added.

Colonel Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969, also gave the women a copy of his Green Book, which outlines his political philosophy.

Last year, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed an agreement to give Libya $5 billion over 20 years to compensate for Italy’s colonial occupation of the country in the early 20th century. In exchange, Libya will give Italy the chance to secure oil contracts and will crack down on illegal immigrants, who often go through Libya on their way to Europe from Africa.

In June, at Colonel Qaddafi’s request, the equal opportunities minister of Italy assembled hundreds of Italian women from different fields to have an audience with the Libyan leader when he visited Rome, one of his first visits to the West since economic sanctions against Libya were lifted in 2003.

This week, Colonel Qaddafi is expected to hold similar events with other groups of women, ANSA reported.


Thai Security Forces Kill 6 Suspected Rebels

November 17, 2009

PATTANI, Thailand (Reuters) - Security forces in Thailand's restive south killed six suspected Muslim insurgents on Tuesday in a gunbattle, police said.

The clash came after dozens of police and soldiers surrounded a house in Pattani province's Kok Poh district on a tip-off about the whereabouts of suspected militants, said Maj. Gen. Pichet Pitisetpan.

"They did not turn themselves in and instead opened fire from inside the house on the officers, so the security forces had to fire back," he said, adding that two soldiers were wounded.

The insurgency in Thailand's three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat has killed more than 3,600 people, both Buddhists and Muslims, since early 2004.

The troubled region bordering Malaysia, only a few hours by car from some of Thailand's best-known tourist beaches, has seen an upsurge in violence as ethnic Malay Muslims fight for autonomy from Thailand's Buddhist majority.

A massive counter-insurgency effort occasionally slows the pace of attacks but has shown little sign of ending the violence.

The daily attacks, which include drive-by shootings and bombings, are believed intended to frighten Buddhist residents into leaving the only predominantly Muslim areas of Thailand.

Authorities say the insurgents also target Muslims seen as collaborating with the government, including Muslim soldiers, police, informants and civilians.

But some Muslims believe the rogue security forces or Buddhist vigilantes might have a hand in the attacks on Muslims.


Uzbekistan: At least 30 Muslim women are arrested in the Kashkadaria Oblast

17.11.2009 12:22 msk

Since the beginning of November at least 30 Muslim women have been arrested in the city of Karshi in the Kashkadaria Oblast of Uzbekistan. The Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan (IGIHRAU) reports that the reason of detention is not shared even with close relatives.

According to Latofat Orzikulova, the dozen of policemen and National Security officers entered the house of her mother on November 5 and conducted a search. Finding nothing suspicious, they took two DVDs and book, presented by clerical administration of Uzbekistan. Besides, the officers detained the mother on suspicion of "organization of jamoat (communities), attraction of youth and increase the number of jamoat members".

IGIHRAU says that Mehriniso Hamdamova graduated from religious school, named after Khodja Bukhoriy in the city of Kitab in 2006 while in 2007 she took special courses on Islamic studies. Later on she was appointed to Kuk Gumbaz Karshi mosque to work with women and youth thanks to the recommendations from the Chairman of Islamic administration of Uzbekistan, mufti Usmokhan Alimov and Ms. Karomova, responsible worker for the work with women in the Kashkadaria Oblast. Moreover, Mehriniso Hamdamova solved the problems in mahallah (local communities). Ms. Hamdamova is characterized as responsible worker and it is unclear what the local authorities suspected in her activity.

The human rights activists note that the houses of Hamdamova’s parents and relatives also went through unsanctioned search. On November 5 sister Zulhumor, nieces Nigora Nosirova, Nodira Burieva, Rahima Burieva, daughter-in-law Hikoyat Imomova, Bahtishod Huzhaeva and Yulduz Tuhtaeva and others were arrested. Thus, at least 30 women were placed to detention center in Karshi. They are exposed to physiological torture and threats. National security officers want them to write statements against Mehriniso Hamdamova.

Close relatives of detained women already wrote appropriate letters to Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Prosecutor General, Head of National Security Committee, Chairman of Clerical Administration, Head of Women’s committee and subordinate structures in the Kashkadaria Oblast. No response has followed yet.

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