New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 05:28 AM

Islamic World News ( 2 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Mogadishu: Raped girl, 13, stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants

Dr. Esam Alkhawaga feels more secure and free practicing Islam in Dayton, Ohio, USA, than in his native Egypt

Syrian wedding lingerie: veils of the unexpected

My wife wears the Hijab, I wish she didn't, says Robin Yassin-Kassab

Marginalisation of Muslims in US presidential election by Kazi Anwarul Masud

Peshawar: Governor says rebellious damaging cause of Islam by weakening Pakistan

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg: Islam in German schools

New York: National Council of Churches warns about distorted video on Islam

RABAT: Morocco bans French news magazine for insulting Islam

Tehran: Senior Commander Dismisses US Attack on Iran

Musharraf and Zardari: Two Sides of the Same Coin by ASIF HAROON RAJA

Compiled by Syed Asadullah

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 Raped girl, 13, stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants

Nov 01 2008

Mogadishu - A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human rights group said.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death on October 27 in a stadium packed with 1 000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses.

The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13.

Some of the Somali journalists who first reported the killing later told Amnesty International that they had reported she was 23 based upon her physical appearance.

'Horrendous death'

Calls to Somali government officials and the local administration in Kismayo rang unanswered on Saturday.

"This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo," David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia campaigner, said in a statement on Friday.

Somalia is among the world's most violent and impoverished countries. The nation of some 8 million people has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 then turned on each other.

A quarter of Somali children die before age 5; nearly every public institution has collapsed. Fighting is a daily occurrence, with violent deaths reported nearly every day.

Al-Qaeda ties

Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaeda have been battling the government and its Ethiopian allies since their combined forces pushed the Islamists from the capital in December 2006.

Within weeks of being driven out, the Islamists launched an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians.

In recent months, the militants appear to be gaining strength.

The group has taken over the port of Kismayo, Somalia's third-largest city, and dismantled pro-government roadblocks.

They also effectively closed the Mogadishu airport by threatening to attack any plane using it - AP

Source: http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2419716,00.html

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Dr. Esam Alkhawaga feels more secure and free practicing Islam in Dayton, Ohio, USA, than in his native Egypt

Nov 02, 2008

By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dr. Esam Alkhawaga says he feels more secure and free practicing Islam in Dayton, Ohio, than he did in his native Egypt. He immigrated in 1994, choosing what he called "the beauty of American culture."

Yet Muslims have taken an emotional beating in this country since Sept. 11, 2001, most recently in the bombardment of aspersions meant by an otherwise innocuous statement: "He's a Muslim."

At the first women's conference of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh yesterday, Dr. Alkhawaga, a psychiatrist, said the rhetoric is "very troubling." In fact, he proposed that the integration of pure Islam with American culture at its best would make "a perfect marriage."

When Muslims in every other national culture define differently how Islam looks and feels -- from Egypt to Jordan to India -- "What's wrong with American-Islam?" he asked.

At the daylong conference in Oakland, educators, health professionals, Islamic scholars and Westerners who have converted to Islam held forth in discussions and speeches on topics that ranged from the emotional and educational needs of new Muslims, to child-raising, to the impact of nutrition and exercise on the body's ability to perform worship.

The audience of mostly women sat on one side of the aisle from the men and the boys, all in stockinged feet, most of the women in headscarves.

Several speakers urged the education of Muslim women.

Education can develop an appreciation of what Dr. Alkhawaga called "the gray area" of life. Life is not black and white, he said, and either-or ideology causes problems, just as education "can fight extremism and terrorism."

Karen Traugh, a converted Muslim who married a Jordanian, is active in interfaith groups at the Islamic Center, on Bigelow Boulevard. She said Muslims in America can find their Islamic core when they are not bound by the conscriptive culture of their homeland.

"When you come to America, you can really examine why it is you wear what you wear," said Ms. Traugh. In Jordan, the almost-universal look of religious dress is robes buttoned up the front.

"It doesn't vary much," she said, and it's an example of how cultural customs can become as important as or override pure worship.

Dr. Alkhawaga said his choice was a culture he described as "disciplined, responsible, and polite, with equal opportunity."

Arabic cultures are not as emotionally expressive as cultures in America, he said, and repression of emotion takes its toll on children.

"The real orphan is the one who has a distant mother and a busy father," he told his audience. "It is not information but what touches us emotionally that we learn from."

Many Muslims who immigrate find a much more tolerant place than the one they left, said several of the speakers, but the challenges are heady, especially in raising children to be modest and non-materialistic.

On the importance of raising children to be good Muslims, Karim Abuzaid, Imam at the Prince George's Muslim Association in Lanham, Md., told the crowd of about 75, "Mothers, it's all about you. No one will feed the child what you want it to have but you. The baby sitter is a parking lot."

Throughout the big room, some women's expressions darted in alarmed unison; others nodded solemnly.

"I'm not living on the moon," he added quickly. "I understand most families need two paychecks.

"It's challenging to bring up children here, but also in Egypt and the rest of the world. But who does not want his child not to smoke, to drink, to have children out of wedlock? To not steal, to not cheat, to be kind? Islam can help you."

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626.

Source: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08307/924770-85.stm

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Syrian wedding lingerie: veils of the unexpected

Nov 02 2008

In Syria, wedding lingerie is a time-honoured ritual — even for devout Muslims. Beverley D’Silva reports from the Middle East’s Underwear Alley

Souk al-Hamidiyeh in Damascus is, on the face of it, a standard Middle-Eastern market. But along its lanes is “underwear alley”, a stretch of stores selling some of the most outrageous lingerie in the world. Here you can buy a thong trimmed with a Tweetie Pie on yellow feathers; bra-and-knickers sets with fake birds nestling on the nipple and crotch areas. Even a pair of panties that plays Old MacDonald Had a Farm at the push of a strategically placed button.

These are all examples of “wedding lingerie”, a Syrian phenomenon and a fast-growing industry there. It developed out of the economic boom after the Yom Kippur war in 1973, and has since become a crucial part of the wedding-night ritual for Muslims in Syria and nearby countries. Mothers of brides and husbands-to-be stock up on up to 30 outfits at a time, for a naughty-but-nice trousseau. Women buy it for themselves, to try to stop their men straying. Husbands buy it for their wives – or lovers.

The lingerie, which costs from $10 per set, symbolises a rite-of-passage for the women from virginity to respectable married womanhood. It is a working-class tradition – rich and executive Syrian women see it as being “Sha’abi”, or rather vulgar – and it’s mostly designed and sold by men, though it’s normal to see Syrian Muslim women in the hijab buying it. Not that they’d try it on in the shop. They look at displays or photos in catalogues, all modelled by eastern European women; their poses are meant to be sweet and demure rather than raunchy – as if a maiden aunt went a bit too far at a tarts-and-vicars party. While some items might seem tacky or comical to our eyes, others are beautiful, arty, and collectable.

Edible underwear in fruit and coffee flavours are a big hit. Depending on demand from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, companies in Damascus produce an estimated 20,000 G-strings stuffed inside a chocolate heart each month.

It is extraordinary that this deeply religious and conservative society is producing such saucy and explicit underwear. But, according to Rana Salam, co-author with Malu Halasa of a new book on the lingerie, Islamic society in Syria is far from prudish, and men and women have open discussions about sex: “Syrians are known for being direct about sexual matters, and they love to laugh about it, too,” she says. Women in Syria are also by no means the most restricted in the Arab world: they have good jobs, go to university and can make their own decisions.

While researching the book, Salam, who was raised in Lebanon, found that the lingerie was considered a treat, for both sexes. “It’s all about fantasy,” she says. “For the woman, it can spell freedom: it says it’s okay to experiment with your husband, so the man benefits too.”

It’s doing what it says on the packet – aiming to seduce – while conveying a deeper social message. “It’s saying that these people have fun and joy in their lives,” she says, “and the Middle East isn’t all just about war and repression.”

The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie, by Malu Halasa and Rana Salam (Chronicle Books, £14.99), is available at the BooksFirst price of £13.49, including postage and packing. Telephone: 0870 165 8585

Source: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article5039741.ece

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My wife wears the hijab. I wish she didn't, says Robin Yassin-Kassab

Robin Yassin-Kassab thought his wife Rana shared his liberal outlook when it came to the politics of the hijab. When she announced she wanted to cover her head, they found themselves on opposite sides of a national debate

When I first saw my wife, she was seated in the middle of a crowded room, she had her eyes fixed on me, and she had a luxuriously unruly cascade of hair. We started talking, and from then on her hair's startling blackness seemed emblematic of the force of her character.

In a city where half the women covered their hair in public, and just because she had such beautiful hair, Rana's hair became for me her sign, the feature by which I'd pick her out at a distance, my symbol for understanding her and what she meant to me. So when, five years into our marriage, Rana decided to cover her hair, I was somewhat bothered. We'd moved from Syria via Morocco to Saudi Arabia, we'd had children, and Rana had worked as a teacher and TV presenter. She'd always been an elegantly modest dresser, but here, amid the compulsory dress codes of Saudi Arabia - which annoyed us both - she'd decided to introduce something new.

The hijab bothered me not just for the personal reasons above: I didn't agree that it was Islamically required. While most Muslims have interpreted Koranic guidance on women's dress to require head covering, the text itself is open to interpretation. 'And tell the believing women,' it says, 'to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms (in public) beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms.' In my favourite translation, Muhammad Asad notes that the directive is to cover bosoms, not heads, because in Muhammad's Arabia men as well as women wore head-coverings anyway. Beyond that, 'what may decently be apparent' is deliberately vague and flexible, to fit various times and social contexts.

I thought the principle of the hijab more important than the piece of cloth, and the principle - of modesty and respect - wasn't always practised in Arab Muslim society. It often seems that the Muslim woman plays the role of clotheshorse of honour. So long as she wears a hijab, all is good, even if Muslim men, who are also required to 'lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity', dress sexily and leer at women in the street. Why would Rana want to go along with that?

What really bothered me were people thinking Rana wore it because I forced her to. Like the nice, liberal Englishwoman who nodded empathetically at Rana's suffering before asking me how I would react if she ever dared to take it off.

The hijab or its absence is symbolic of many different things in the bigger world out there. The cloth has become a flag waved by Islamists and Islamophobes to define each other. A Western-dressed Muslim woman may be stereotyped as a heroically uncaged virgin, or as the key sign of Muslim cultural loss. A veiled woman may be seen as authentic, or, more usually in the West, as ignorant, backward, repressed and oppressed. To some, Muslim women in headscarves look like unity, power, and cultural pride. To others, they look like abused cattle. The hijab is compulsory in public in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and discriminated against by the regimes of Tunisia and Turkey. In some Middle Eastern countries, women's veils have been forcibly removed by soldiers in the street. Removing it, and putting it on, is loaded political acts.

But Rana thought she would feel comfortable wearing the hijab. She felt proud to be identified as a Muslim woman. So, rather than worrying about other people, I started to listen to her. Now I feel comfortable, too. And her hair is still there underneath, and free-flowing in the privacy of our home, as luxurious as it ever was.

Rana's opinion

Sometimes I feel sorry for my husband. He would prefer it if I didn't wear the hijab. But what can I do? It is my wish. I started thinking about wearing a headscarf after we were married and had my son, our first child. When Robin and I met I was not religious. I did not fast for Ramadan - in fact, whenever my father asked me if I had, I would lie just to please him. I drank alcohol. If I saw someone reading the Koran, I presumed they were superstitious, narrow-minded.

But when my son was born I felt a need to protect him, to believe in something stronger than me. I felt the need for a connection with God. I started reading the Koran and I began to pray regularly.

What amazed me was that I didn't suddenly change my personality. We have all sorts of friends - gay; atheist, Christian, Muslim - and I discovered that I could still be friends with all of them. I didn't become weak or anxious or afraid. In fact, it was a wonderful liberation. I felt I could live without fear in my life.

I don't believe my head is a sexual object, that a man who sees it will be sexually aroused. But I do think that when you believe in God you have to believe in a superior power that knows better than you do.

First I started to dress differently. I stopped wearing short sleeves; I wore more modest clothes. Then one day when Robin was in the UK and I was still in Saudi Arabia I decided. I thought: 'Believing what I do, it will be hypocritical if I go outside without my head covered.' My fear of being a hypocrite far outweighed any embarrassment I felt, or fear of what my husband or friends would think.

For a while my Arab friends changed towards me. They wouldn't tell a dirty joke in my presence - even though they knew I loved dirty jokes. I had to sit them down and say, 'I haven't changed just because I look different.'

Most of all Robin worried that I would suddenly become narrow-minded. To be honest, I feared that, too, deep inside. But when he said: 'I'm not going to allow our daughter to wear a headscarf until she is 18,' I replied: 'Neither will I! She won't be wearing one when she's 50 either, if she doesn't want to!' For me this wasn't about being made to do something I didn't want to do. Over time he's realised that this is what I want and he's given me the freedom to do it.

I usually wear the kind of hijab that women in the Gulf wear - one that covers my head and ties around the front. I have all colours and patterns to match what I'm wearing. Everyone makes a big deal about the head being covered but for me it's not about being covered up, it's about modesty, being humble.

It's been six years since I began wearing the headscarf and it has been liberating. I had not realised how much I had used the way I looked to get me places, be it in a job interview or at a party. The headscarf means I've had to develop my personality instead - my sense of humour, my ability to listen - in order to socialise. It's made me more confident.

We live in Scotland now but it still feels comfortable to wear it. After the 7 July bombings in 2005 I was worried that, when I went to London, people would think I was a terrorist. But in fact it was fine. I realised any fear was more to do with my own paranoia.

• Robin Yassin-Kassab's novel, The Road from Damascus, is published by Hamish Hamilton, £16.99 Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/nov/02/8

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Marginalisation of Muslims in US presidential election

Kazi Anwarul Masud

LEPERS, untouchable, politically radioactive, is how Muslims in the US presently describe themselves before the presidential election to be held on November 4. The McCain camp reportedly tried to portray Barack Obama as a Muslim to scare away his supporters.

It is sad that in a multi-religious, multi-cultural nation of immigrants, about 6 million Muslims have to prove their loyalty to a country where many of whom were born and bred.

According to the American Muslim Council (AMC) there are three categories of Muslims: immigrants, American converts/reverts to Islam, and those born to the first two groups as Muslims. California has about 20% of the Muslim population while New York 16% of the total Muslim population.

Sensible Americans are furious because of the causal relationship that is being painted between the Muslims and the terrorists. Colin Powell, President George W. Bush's first term secretary of state expressed his fury on NBC's Meet the Press by asking: "Is there something wrong being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that's not America."

Powell said that he felt very strongly on this issue when he saw the picture of a mother of a Muslim soldier embracing her son's grave in the Arlington Cemetery. Powell's statement generated strong support among Muslims.

One Muslim said: "Muslims feel jaded by 2008 election precisely because they see the smearing of their identity. Muslim or Arab is seen as a scarlet letter, political leprosy, Kryptonite. There is that taint there. We are the lowest of the low."

The desolation resounding the words spoken reminds one of the riots that took place in Europe after the unsavoury characterisations of Prophet Mohammed (SM) in the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper and reproduced by several European newspapers.

It is generally accepted that freedom of expression is circumscribed by its adverse fallout on the dignity of the individual (libel) or the majesty of the divinity (blasphemy). Society by definition being a conglomeration of diverse individuals, societal responsibility demands that rights of the members of the society not be intruded upon.

The first amendment to the US constitution insisting that "Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion" was a declaration that was powerfully pursued by the US Supreme Court to ensure separation of church from state.

Sociologists and political scientists would have to delve into the intricacies to find out the reasons of this "conflict" between two great religions of the world -- Islam and Christianity.

Dethronement of atheism has, perhaps, resulted in people's greater devotion to established religions. Though it is believed that an inverse relationship exists between wealth and religiosity yet the description of the US, the largest economy in the world, as "a poster child for supernatural belief" is a puzzle.

Supernatural belief, according to anthropologist Edward Taylor, is the "minimum definition of religion." Just about any American, blessed with the material advantages of technological age, believe in God in the biblical sense along with miracles, angels, devils and the afterlife.

This belief in the supernatural is not confined to Christian conservatives, once described by the Washington Post as "largely poor, the uneducated," but, for example, embraces about half of the scientific community of the US.

It is often forgotten that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were carried out by a handful of renegades in the name of Islam and condemned by the whole Islamic world (along with the rest of the international community.) But nonetheless the prejudice of the majority community has reduced the Muslims, particularly the Muslim diaspora living in the West, to negotiating the parameters of minority citizenship.

The death by accidental electrocution of two Arab Muslim youths fleeing from the French police led to riots. But the core reason for the riots was basically caused by decade’s long socio-economic exclusion of Muslim immigrants brought into France from North Africa and into Germany from Turkey to shore up the post-war sagging Franco-German economies.

One must, however, acknowledge the "failure" of the immigrants to fully integrate themselves with the mainstream life that resulted in gaining political territory by anti-immigration political parties who play on the unfounded fear of the host country voters about the immigrants.

This fear of the "unknown" was furthered by academics of impeccable credentials like Bernard Lewis, among others, of Islam being an intolerant religion. "Islam was never prepared," writes Lewis "either in theory or in practice, to accord full equality to those who held other beliefs and practiced other forms of worship."

Besides, adds Bernard Lewis, there exists millennial rivalry between Islam and Christianity "a competing world religion, a distinctive civilization inspired by that religion … the struggle between these rival systems has now lasted for some fourteen centuries ... and has continued virtually to the present day."

The other school of thought less severe on Islam observes: "The West won the world not by supremacy of ideas or values or religion but rather by superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

The arrogant display of an "inerrant" interpretation of divinity was not accepted by all, particularly the Muslim immigrants. In defense, wrote Irish anthropologist Vincent Tucker: "For a society to claim universal desirability while turning its back on others from whom it is convinced it has nothing to learn is not only cultural elitism, but cultural racism."

Some political analysts are not unduly worried that America seems deeply divided over moral and political values. Party polarisation may have been caused by mainstream political parties having been taken over by polarised political activists. Though more than one-third of Americans live in the so-called "lop-sided counties" (defined as those counties which vote for one party or the other by a lop-sided margin) such voting pattern reflects the historical range for presidential elections since 1840.

During the last presidential election, many analysts found the loyalty of American voters almost perfectly divided between the Democrats and the Republicans -- Red America and Blue America -- Red America is godly, moralistic, patriotic, predominantly white, masculine, less educated, heavily rural and suburban; Blue America is secular, relativistic, internationalist, multi-cultural, feminine, college educated, heavily urban and cosmopolitan."

People like Professor James Hunter and political scientist John White see culture divide among Americans -- one culture being "orthodox" and the other being "progressive." But according to sociologist Alan Wolfe, Americans are moderate, reluctant to pass judgment, and "tolerant to a fault."

Equally, others find both conservative and progressive Americans sharing shocking level of agreement on many issues. Both red and blue state residents agree that religion is an important part of their life. Many agree that the problem lies not with the voters but with the political parties and politicians.

Yesterday's political parties, which used to be loose coalition of interests and regions, have now become ideological clubs. On top of this if Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" becomes an essential part of the American narrative and religious intolerance finds its way into the domestic and international interaction of the only superpower of the world, then the victor will be neither Barack Obama or John McCain but Osama bin Laden and his band of terrorists.

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and Ambassador.

Source: http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=61381

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Governor says rebellious damaging cause of Islam by weakening Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Nov 01 2008.

The NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani has said that the Pakistan was doing the best service to Islam and weakening the motherland would amount to damaging the cause of Islam and the elements fighting against the government were in fact ignorant of the ground realities and rather destabilizing their country.

“These elements must know that Pakistan is doing the best service to Islam and weakening the motherland are in-fact damaging the cause of Islam”, he said.

Addressing as chief guest at the passing out ceremony of a smart contingent of Frontier Constabulary in F.C. Training School, at the historic Shabqadar Fort in District Charsadda on Saturday, the Governor further pointed out, “those, who are fighting against us, are, in fact ignorant to the ground realities and rather weakening the motherland”.

“We are fighting the war for the sake of our own people and the country and jawans and officers of the forces, who had sacrificed their precious lives in this struggle, had, in fact embraced martyrdom and those who, received injuries, are ghazi.  “We offer salute to the sacrifices, they had offered”, he added.

Pakistan, the Governor said, enjoyed unique status amongst the Muslim World since very beginning.  Firstly, he added, it was created on the world map on the basis of Islamic Ideology and secondly now it has attained nuclear power.

Indeed, he remarked, we had achieved capabilities to a certain level in almost every field of modern technologies and our struggle is un-ended.

Similarly, he pointed out, our nation is fully imbibed with the spirit to offer every sacrifice for the cause of the country; it has practically demonstrated this reality in the past; still following the same spirit and it has the courage to prove this quality in future too.

“Our cause is supreme; our direction is correct and our destination is determined and there must never be any doubt in this respect”, he added.

In fact, the Governor said, we have been successfully facing challenges since our independence; we are still passing through a challenging situation and we will Insuallah embrace success this time too.

Appreciating the quality of the march past and the standard of skills, demonstrated by the cops on this occasion, the Governor said, this Force has a very rich history in its credit, which is full of sacrifices.

“Whenever, this force has been confronted with any challenge, it has returned with tremendous achievements and had always practically got recognition of its abilities and the services”, he said.

Keeping in view the quality of training and the spirit of its jawans and officers, he added, there is no doubt that it would not only maintain its status but also achieved more successes in future too.

Meanwhile, the Governor, accompanied by the Commandant of the Force also took salute of the march past and witnessed the drill and P.T.Show, which was skillfully demonstrated by the jawans. He also exchanged views with them and appreciated the quality of training.  Later the Governor inspected various sections of the historic Shabqadar Fort and took keen interest in its maintenance.

The Speaker, NWFP Assembly Karamatullah Khan and the senior serving and retired officers of Frontier Constabulary and Police were also present on this occasion while, the Commandant of the Force Zafarullah Khan welcomed the Governor and the guests.

Source:http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=57807&Itemid=2

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Islam in German schools

By Claudia Mende, Nov 01, 2008

Saphir, a textbook for Islamic religion classes, presents the fundamental issues of Islam in 15 chapters for fifth and sixth grade pupils. Themes include the concept of God, the Prophet Mohammed, and the structure of the Koran, as well as issues such as the rights of children and social responsibility.

Editions for grades seven to 10 are currently being prepared. The graphic layout of Saphir is excellent. The textbook is part of an initiative to better educate Muslim students at Germany's public schools about their Muslim faith.

Saphir stands at the forefront of contemporary religious education. For Islam in Germany, the new schoolbook is a step away from the fringes and into the mainstream of society.

The book "does not aim to educate pupils to believe, but rather to make responsible decisions concerning faith," stressed Harry Harun Behr from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Behr, a German convert to Islam, teaches aspiring religion teachers at the  nterdisciplinary Center for Islamic Religious Education.

He is one of the authors of the teaching plan for classes in Islam at the Bavarian model schools in Erlangen, Bayreuth, Fürth, and Nuremberg and, since the beginning of this school year, also in Munich. Behr maintains that classes in Islam at school should encourage a "critical distance to one's own religion." The university lecturer feels that a literal understanding of the Koran as an instruction manual is "not a sustainable model."

He regards the Koran as a literary text with a historical point of origin and development. Islam as a regular subject at German public schools has, until now, only taken place on a trial basis. According to Article 7, Paragraph 3 of the German constitution, Muslims have a right to religious education for their children under the supervision of the state, just as Christians do.

Yet for many decades, this right has not been implemented due to the lack of suitable partners on the Muslim side.

Since 1999, North Rhine-Westphalia has offered Islamic instruction in approximately 140 schools to some 10,000 Muslim pupils. However, the Islamic instruction does not correspond to religion courses as prescribed by the German constitution. Such a course curriculum is only now being prepared in collaboration with Islamic associations.

Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate have had trial programs in elementary and high schools. As of last year, the state of Schleswig-Holstein has been testing Islamic education with a large measure of confessional participation. Since 2003, Bremen has developed its own concept for courses on Islam in public schools.

The model pursued in Berlin remains controversial, as here religious instruction is taught at around 30 public schools under the sole supervision of the Islamic Federation. The state of Berlin has no control over what is taught.

The Islamic Federation reputedly maintains contacts with Milli Görüs, an organization under surveillance by the German security services. Critics claim that the religious instruction offered by the Islamic Federation does not comply with the educational goals of promoting responsibility and independent thinking among pupils.  In all of the other German states, the course curriculum is being developed by teams of experts and Muslim associations under the coordination of the education and cultural affairs authorities.

In March 2008, the German Conference on Islam under the chairmanship of Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called for a comprehensive introduction of the teaching of the Islamic religion in public schools in the German language. Educational experts have stressed that the teaching of Islam in German by teachers trained at German universities would serve to promote integration.

By contrast, no one really knows for certain what is being taught at the religious schools set up in various mosques. Typically, students there merely recite passages from the Koran without any critical commentary.  Teachers of Islam at public schools, on the other hand, should teach an enlightened form of Islam, tailored to conditions in Germany.

The response of Muslim parents to Islam classes at school has been generally positive. They see the new school subject as recognition of their cultural background by the majority culture.

Yet, what are lacking most of all are the religion teachers. Some estimates predict that it could take up to 10 years before a sufficient number of qualified teachers are available. At present, there are only approximately 150 teachers (80 of which are in North Rhine-Westphalia) in the whole of Germany for an estimated 750,000 Muslim pupils. At least 10 times as many teachers are required.

Only universities in Münster, Osnabrück, and Erlangen offer programs to train religion teachers in Islam. As a result, it will take quite some time before courses in Islam are part of the normal curriculum at public schools throughout the country.

Claudia Mende is a freelance writer. This article, translated from German, is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Qantara.de.

Source: http://www.yobserver.com/opinions/10015123.html

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National Council of Churches warns about distorted video on Islam

From Philip Jenks, pjenks@ncccusa.org

New York, October 30, 2008 --The Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches  expressed alarm and protest over the recent mass  distribution of 28 million copies of what it termed a "distorted and misleading" DVD entitled:  "Obsession:  Radical Islam's War Against the West."

 The Commission charged that the DVD, distributed primarily in closely contested states in the last weeks of the presidential election campaign, has the effect of "fanning the sparks of mistrust, bigotry and hatred that undermine the very foundations of a multi-religious democracy."

Pointing out that the National Council of Churches "condemns extremism, terrorism, and religiously motivated violence, as do our Muslim dialogue partners here in the United States and globally," the Commission lamented that t he "Obsession" film suggests only two responses to "radical Islam" -- war o r appeasement.

"Such a false choice serves only to incite the fear of Islam and aggression against Muslims," the Commission said.

The statement noted that the National Council of Churches and its member communions are participating in an "unprecedented worldwide exchange" between Christian and Muslim scholars, and is actively seeking other ways of combating “the de-humanizing effects of stereotyping and bigotry."

The National Council of the Churches of Christ is the nation's leading ecumenical association, encompassing 35 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, African -American, and historic Peace churches, with 45 million members in 100,000  local congregations throughout the U.S.A.

The full statement follows:

NCC Interfaith Relations Commission Statement on the DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War against the West"

In recent weeks many Americans have found in their mailboxes and morning papers a DVD called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West."  As the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of the Churches o f Christ in the USA, we are alarmed by the massive distribution of some 28  million copies of this DVD through paid advertisement by the Clarion Fund i n more than seventy newspapers. While this film purports to educate and off ers, at the outset, a disclaimer that it is not about the majority of peace ful Muslims, we see its content as serving only the aims of distorting trut h and misleading viewers, fanning the sparks of mistrust, bigotry, and hatr ed that undermine the very foundations of a multi-religious democracy.

The National Council of Churches, bringing together thirty-five national Protestant and Orthodox churches, is concerned not only with relations among Christian churches, but also with our relations with neighbours of other Faiths.  Toward that end, we participate in a national dialogue between Christians and Muslims. We believe that deep relationship as neighbours calls us t o common moral engagement and leadership in a world plagued by violence, poverty, atrocities, and environmental degradation. We are deeply troubled by the apparent intent of a film that presents a bar rage of violent images, pieced together with the voices of commentators who  move from speaking of "radical Islam" to impugning Islam and Muslims more  generally and presenting fear-mongering parallels between today's extremist  terrorists and the Nazis.  The National Council of Churches and its member churches consistently and adamantly denounce anti-Semitism in all its form s and condemn all forms of ethnic, racial, and religious hatred, including the Islamophobia typified in this film.

The stated aim of this film is to alert and educate the public about the dangers of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam.  We recognize that in all our traditions, extremists and radicals have forged the weaponry of violence. The National Council of Churches condemns extremism, terrorism, and religiously motivated violence, as do our Muslim dialogue partners here in the United States and globally.  We stand firmly against terrorism in all i ts manifestations. However, the content of this film has no useful analysis of terrorism beyond a shallow, monolithic, clash-of-civilizations theme th at suggests that the only two responses to "radical Islam" are war or appeasement.  Such a false choice serves only to incite the fear of Islam and aggression against Muslims.

As an alternative to the message of this DVD, we lift up the current and unprecedented worldwide exchange between Christians and Muslims. The Muslim initiative, "A Common Word between Us and You," has gained wide response fro m the churches, including the National Council of Churches, and has generated an ongoing process of dialogue. Building constructively on the foundations that unite us in fractured world provides a far more hopeful way ahead for Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike.

In the National Council of Churches, we stand with our Muslim colleagues and fellow citizens who have experienced the de-humanizing effects of stereotyping and bigotry.  As Christians, we are mandated to uphold the values of the Gospel. As Americans, we stand with all who are determined to create just and fair democracy.

Contact: Dr. Diana Eck, Harvard University, Chair of the NCC Interfaith Relations Commission, (617) 493-1600.

 Dr. Peter Makari, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)/United Church of Christ, Vice Chair, NCC Interfaith Relations Commission, (216) 736-3227.

 Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, Senior Program Director for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations, National Council of Churches, (212) 870-3422

 Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Episcopal Church, Co-Convener of the National Muslim- Christian Initiative, (323) 309-4061.

Philip E. Jenks, Media Relations Specialist

National Council of Churches USA

475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115 212-870-2228www.ncccusa.org

Source: www.wfn.org/2008/10/msg00188.html

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Morocco bans French news magazine for insulting Islam

Nov 01 2008

RABAT - The French weekly news magazine L’Express International has been banned from sale in Morocco for “insulting Islam”, the country’s ministry of information said yesterday.

The Moroccan government alleges that the October 30 - November 5 issue had breached Article 29 of the country’s press code, the information ministry said in a statement, without giving precise details on the offending article.

Article 29 of Morocco’s press code gives the government the right to shut down or ban any publication “prejudicial to Islam, the monarchy, territorial integrity, or public order.”

Reporters without Borders, a group which campaigns against press restrictions worldwide, said in its 2008 report on Morocco that since King Mohammed VI came to power in 1999, 34 media outlets have been censored and 20 journalists have been given prison sentences. Source:http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&subsection=Gulf%2C+Middle+East+%26+Africa&month=November2008&file=World_News2008110115946.xml

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South America's Tri-Border Area - a hotbed of Islamic terrorism?

 Ron Chepesiuk, TNC Contributing Writer

To confirm that the War on Terrorism is global struggle, one has only to look at the South America's Tri-Border Area (TBA), a part of the world that the US intelligence officials have been monitoring for more than a decade out of concern that it has become a hotbed of Islamic terrorism. The TBA is a place of dense tropical forests that attracts tourists from all over, who come to see the cataracts of the Iguaza River, the world's greatest waterfall. A few miles away is the magnificent Parana River, the symbol of local prosperity and the source that provides millions of kilowatts of energy, thanks to the world's most powerful hydroelectric plant.

After the governments of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay successfully harnessed the Parana River's potential in the 1970s; they founded three border cities in the TBA: Foz do Iguaca in Brazil; Iguazu Port, Argentina; and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. To promote regional trade, Brazil and Paraguay established a free trade zone in the rapidly growing boomtown of Cuidad Del Este, and it became a popular destination for Argentineans and Brazilians who came to purchase cheap electronic products. In no time, it seemed, the TBA had half a million inhabitants and was a thriving corner of South America.

After the end of World War II, colonies of Middle Eastern Muslims from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine migrated to the Tri-Border Area. After the civil war in Lebanon broke out in 1975, many Lebanese began looking for a safe place to escape the turmoil. Thousands flocked to the TBA, eventually making the area one of the most important Arab communities in South America. Today an estimated ninety percent of the Arab population in Ciudad del Este and Foz do Iguaca is of Lebanese descent.

The immigrants who came to the TBA, however, could not escape the raging civil war back home. In the 1980s, Hezbollah clerics and members of radical Islamic groups such as Hamas began sending agents to the TBA and recruiting sympathizers from the local population. By mid-2000, US intelligence officials estimated that at least 460 Hezbollah operatives were living and working there.

Brazilian intelligence officials also believed that Al Qaeda has been active in the TBA since the mid-1990s. Citing an anonymous high-ranking official of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, Veja, a leading Brazilian newsweekly, reported that Osama Bin Laden had visited Foz do Iguaca in 1995. The source told the publication that his agency had obtained a 28-minute video of Bin Laden participating in meetings at a mosque during his visit. Al Qaeda's Khalid Sheik Mohammed is also believed to have visited the TBA in December 1995 and in 1998. In late December 2001, after the US-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power, a CNN reporter found a large tourist poster from the TBA at an Al Qaeda safe house in Kabul. Experts, however, say that the Al Qaeda-TBA connection has weekend since 9-11.

Still, even before 9-11 the violence and hatred from the volatile Middle East spread to South America. Buenos Aires, Argentina, became the scene of two major terrorist acts in the early 1990s -- one against the Israeli embassy on March 17, 1992, and the other against a Jewish Community Center on July 18, 1994. More than 120 people were killed in the two attacks. Hezbollah terrorists, using the TBA as a base, were believed responsible. In the 1992 incident, a Ford F-100 truck loaded with the high explosive Semtex was bought in Ciudad del Este with hundred dollar bills traced to a currency exchange house belonging to Morizer al-Kassar, a well-known arms dealer.

Al-Kassar is suspected of participating in several terrorist acts, including the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, and he remained a fugitive. He has resided in Spain since 1984 and is currently detained by the Spanish government on, among other charges, aiding terrorism and money laundering. No one has ever been convicted for the crimes in the Buenos Aires atrocities, but Argentine authorities did indict Hezbollah security Chief Imad Mughniyeh, believing him to be the mastermind behind both atrocities.

Since the late 1990s, the terrorists in the TBA have largely confined their activities to criminal fund raising and to plotting strategy for future terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere. As a lawless zone with few governmental regulations, terrorist groups in the TBA have thrived and grown. According to experts, with the help of organized crime and corrupt local officials, they are able to raise significant revenue to finance their plans for the destruction of the US and Israeli targets in the Western Hemisphere.

Even before 9/11 the US government expressed concern about the activities in the TBA. At a seminar in Asuncion, Paraguay on combating terrorism and organized crime in the TBA, Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, Coordinator for Counter Terrorism, US Department of State, complimented the TBA as a "busy, culturally diverse business center." He then talked about the Dr. Jekyll-like aspect of the TBA's development. "We are worried, however, not by the things we can see, but by the things we can't see -- the darker side of the commercial trade, clandestine networks of persons and money -- money that may act to support terrorist organizations in the Middle East."

In late 2006 the U.S. Treasury Department published a report that included a list of individuals living in the TBA it charged had funded Islamic extremism. Paraguay, however, rejected the report, claiming that of the nine individuals listed in the report, two are now in prison and the others have served jail sentences. At about the same time, the Brazilian government also insisted that there is no evidence terrorist activity or its financing going on in the TBA. But in May 2007, Telemundo and NBC News reported that they had conducted an investigation of an extensive Hezbollah run smuggling network that funnels large sources of money to militant leaders in the Middle East and finances training camps and propaganda operations in South America.

Experts monitoring the Tri-Border Area since 9-11 wonder when the US government and its allies are going to talk less and act more to clean up the local corruption and the terrorism haven to diminish its potential threat. "For me, the Tri-Border Area is the Hilton of Islamic Extremism," Magnus Ranstporp, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrew in Fife, Scotland, told Vanity Fair magazine in December 2002. "It's one of the most lucrative safe havens in the world. It's been on our radar screen since the early 90s, but no one has done anything about it."

There is evidence that a terrorism-organized crime-drug trafficking connection is taking shape in the TBA, a development that could make narco-terrorism a formidable global threat, according to intelligence analysts who monitor the area. Chechen gangs have been using Argentina as a transit country for shipments of Andean cocaine to Europe, and in return, they sell arms to crime syndicates in Brazil and Colombia. According to Bruce Bagley, a political scientist at the University of Miami and a leading expert on Latin American drug trafficking, "Argentine intelligence sources have detected contacts between Chechen rebels and Islamic terrorists in the TBA, and they suspect the Chechens are using these contacts to help smuggle arms."

Meanwhile, the Argentine intelligence service has reached a serious and disturbing conclusion. The service believes that because the US and its allies have had had some success in the War on Terrorism, terrorists from Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East are now looking towards the Western hemisphere as a base of operation. Getting into the TBA is easy and from there terrorists will have no problem moving about the region and conducting terrorism. According to Argentine intelligence service, terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are joining forces with local drug lords to develop a smuggling trail all the way to Mexico. The ultimate objective - sneak across the border to get at Uncle Sam.

If this analysis is accurate, then it's likely that weapons of mass destruction -- a dirty bomb or perhaps a suitcase bomb, for instance -- could make their way along this drug smuggling trail. This is no hyperbole. US law enforcement officials have readily acknowledged that they stop only about ten percent of the illegal drugs entering the US. An explosion of one dirty bomb would be all it would take to throw the US economic and political system into chaos. It's conceivable that smuggling into the US of a weapon of mass destruction may already have happened. The security alert in the US for several weeks during December 2002 and early January 2003 was Code Orange, the second highest it can be. The reason? Authorities reportedly feared a terrorist act potentially bigger than 9/11.

As these developments are showing, the potential of a strong terrorism-drug trafficking connection in TBA could complicate the efforts of the US-led anti-terrorist coalition in the War on Terrorism. Not only would the US have to confront terrorism at the source in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and other places around the world, but it would also have to guard against the narco-terrorist threat in its own backyard. It has not helped the war effort either that terrorists and their criminal allies are using the billions of dollars generated by narco-terrorism to corrupt the governments that are supposed to investigate and break the connection. The scourge of illegal drugs had created a kind of Axis of Evil -- terrorists, drug runners, and corrupt government officials -- that has brought a narcotic plague upon the global community and greatly complicates the War on Terrorism.

The U.S.’s declining influence in Latin America, no doubt, has weakened its response to the challenge the TBA poses. In the January-February 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Peter Hakim, President of the InterAmerican Dialogue, wrote that ‘Relations between the U.S. and Latin America today at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.” Nothing has changed in the past two years. Much of Latin America has swung left and other countries, such as China, Russia, France and Sweden are moving confidently into Latin America. It will be up to the winner of this year’s 2008 election to reverse this trend and make Latin America, once again, an important part of its foreign policy agenda.

Contributing writer Ron Chepesiuk is and award winning freelance journalist, a Fulbright Scholar to Bangladesh and a consultant to the History Channel’s “Gangland” documentary series.  He is the author of Drug Lords (www.ronchepesiuk.com) and Black Gangsters of Chicago (www.blackgangstersofchicago.com), and Gangsters of Harlem (www.gangstersofharlem.com/, among other books.

Source: http://www.newcriminologist.com/article.asp?nid=2103

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Senior Commander Dismisses US Attack on Iran

TEHRAN (FNA) - A Senior Iranian commander here on Friday rejected the possibility for a US invasion of Iran, stressing that Washington would not dare to use its warships against the Islamic Republic.

"The American forces dare not to attack Iran," Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) troops Hojjatolesalm Hossein Taeb said.

He pointed to the presence of the US forces in the Persian Gulf waters and stressed, "The US has deployed its warships to the Persian Gulf as a psychological operation campaign but would never dare use them (against Iran)."

"The US is still engaged in wars that it launched several years ago and it has not been able to put an end to them," Taeb added according to an MNA report.

A US attack on the Syrian village of Sukkariyah on Monday, has raised speculation about the likelihood of a unilateral strike on the Islamic Republic.

Speculation that Israel could also bomb Iran mounted after a big Israeli air drill in June. In the first week of June, 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters reportedly took part in an exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece, which was interpreted as a dress rehearsal for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear installations.

Israel and its close ally the United States accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.

Iran vehemently denies the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.

The United States has also always stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran's progress in the field of nuclear technology.

Iran has warned it could close the strategic Strait of Hormoz if it became the target of a military attack over its nuclear program.

Strait of Hormoz, the entrance to the strategic Persian Gulf waterway, is a major oil shipping route.

In a Sep. 11 report, the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy says that in the two decades since the Iran-Iraq War, the Islamic Republic has excelled in naval capabilities and is able to wage unique asymmetric warfare against larger naval forces.

According to the report, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) has been transformed into a highly motivated, well-equipped, and well-financed force and is effectively in control of the world's oil lifeline, the Strait of Hormuz.

The study says that if Washington takes military action against the Islamic Republic, the scale of Iran's response would likely be proportional to the scale of the damage inflicted on Iranian assets.

Intensified threats by Tel Aviv and Washington of military action against Iran contradict a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies which endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's nuclear plans and activities.

Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head - one in November and the other one in February - which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions or launch military attack on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran's nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West's allegations.

Following the said reports by the US and international bodies, many world states have called the UN Security Council pressure against Tehran unjustified, demanding that Iran's case be normalized and returned from the UNSC to the IAEA.

Meantime, a recent study by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a prestigious American think tank, has found that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities "is unlikely" to delay the country's program.

Source: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8708111385

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Musharraf and Zardari: Two Sides of the Same Coin

ASIF HAROON RAJA, Nov 01, 2008

SOON after Partition, apart from irascible hostility of India, Pakistan had to contend with unfriendly Afghanistan. Besides being the only Muslim country to oppose Pakistan’s membership to the UN, it had demanded certain parts of Baluchistan and NWFP. It had repudiated all treaties signed between Afghanistan and the British Government before the birth of Pakistan and rejected Durand Line as an international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It maintained a consistent hostile policy towards Pakistan and subjected it to vile propaganda and urged the tribes residing on Pakistani side of the Divide to create independent Pakhtunistan. It always provided refuge to dissident and anti-Pakistan elements and supported 1973 insurgency in Baluchistan. Conversely, it always maintained friendly ties with India. It was only during the brief spell of Taliban rule that Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations and its western border became safe and Indian influence waned. The old animosity re-appeared no sooner Taliban regime was replaced with Karzai led regime in Kabul in 2002 and the Indian influence re-emerged in a big way. The Afghan leadership has allowed its soil to be used by foreign agencies for destabilisation of Pakistan.

From 1947 till as late as 2004, Pakistan’s north-western tribal belt known as FATA inhabited by highly patriotic tribesmen remained peaceful. The entire length of over 1400 miles long porous and treacherous border was guarded by them and no regular soldier ever entered into this territory. Notwithstanding the unchecked trans-border movement of the ethnically linked tribes living both sides of the border, they never made any compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty. Their courageous role in the three wars with India and during the ten-year Afghan war needs no amplification. Unlike the ANP and certain regional political parties in Baluchistan who had maintained close ties with India and former Soviet Union, the FATA people never cultivated secret links with foreign powers and were ever ready to fight for the cause of Pakistan. They however consider it their moral obligation to come to the rescue of Afghan brethren whenever in distress. They had fought the Soviet forces alongside the Afghan Mujahideen and had given refuge to the displaced Afghans, Chechens, Arabs and other Muslim fighters who had participated in the Afghan war. They had also fought the invading forces at the side of the Taliban in October-November 2001. They had felt equally anguished on the reckless destruction of Afghanistan and had vowed to help the Taliban in pushing out the foreign forces.

When the US and its allies occupied Afghanistan in November 2001 after causing immense destruction and installed non-Pashtun regime led by American stooge Karzai, the Taliban and their leaders sought shelter in Pashtun dominated provinces of Afghanistan while some trickled into the Pashtun belt of Pakistan. They vowed to free their country from the clutches of USA and started to regroup. Once they began to strike back in 2002 it became obligatory for the Jihadis residing in FATA who had always fought side by side with the Afghans against the aggressors to support them. Once the balance of power started to shift in favour of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and became difficult for the US-UK troops to contain them, NATO troops were inducted to beef their strength in 2003.   

When the army was inducted into FATA in 2003 at the behest of USA to flush out foreigners from South Waziristan inhabited by Wazirs, the locals extended their support. It was when the army expanded its operations towards Mahsud dominated areas and then to North Waziristan and reneged on peace agreements and started to use gunship helicopters and jetfighters resulting in death of innocent civilians that the tribals began to confront the army. Handing over their guests and kinsfolk to USA and tales of torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and in Bagram Base further antagonised them. They became convinced that the army was fighting its own people at the behest of non-Muslim America to promote its interests. The flames of insurgency have now spread throughout the length and breadth of FATA and have engulfed settled areas of NWFP including its major cities. At present, warlike situation is prevalent in Swat and Bajaur, while Kurram Agency is in the grip of sectarian fire. Khyber Agency is restive where several militant groups have cropped up creating serious law and order problems in the suburbs of Peshawar. Cases of kidnapping for ransom from the capital city are mounting. Kohat tunnel remained closed for over a month and operations in Darra are still continuing to subdue the militants. Mohmand Agency is turning into yet another battleground while Hangu and Aurakzai Agency are also simmering. Militaryʼs hands are full quelling disturbances in several trouble spots but because of foreign interference the fire of militancy is not getting controlled.

The people of FATA are caught up in a nut cracker situation wherein they are suffering at the hands of the army, the militants and US drones. At one time 700,000 people had been rendered homeless and even now over 300,000 residents are living in pathetic conditions in makeshift relief camps. They are pleading for peace but peace is nowhere in sight. Ongoing anarchic conditions have ruptured the already fragile economy of FATA. The administrative structure that worked under political agent together with the Jirga system that used to preserve law and order and deliver verdicts on all sorts of disputes has since been trampled after the army stepped in and assumed control. Over 600 pro-government Maliks who would help in maintaining semblance of order have mostly been wiped out. The elected FATA MNAs and MPAs do not pick up courage to visit their home towns.

The militants fighting the army are not prepared to ceasefire and surrender arms as demanded by the government. They are killing pro-government tribals and US spies and the army is not in a position to provide security to them. The cross fire between the militants and the military is resulting in killing and injuring of peaceful residents as well. Collateral damage has increased manifold ever since the army has begun to use jetfighters, choppers, artillery guns and heavy mortars more liberally. To top it all, missiles fired by US Predators are mostly killing innocent men, women and children. So far about 8000 militants have been killed. Another menace that has surfaced is the mushroom growth of criminal gangs over which the law enforcing agencies have no control. Besides, large numbers of militant groups have emerged in the tribal belt and these are sponsored by foreign agencies to serve their vested interests.

Heavy displacement of the people causing countless hardships together with the loss of lives of the innocent at the hands of security forces and US drones has resulted in the intensification of hatred against the army and USA. They have now realised that the Musharraf regime and the present one under Zardari are two sides of the same coin and that the latter is going one step ahead of the former to please the Americans. Feeling left out and isolated, more and more volunteers are joining the militants to seek revenge from the ones who have caused them distress. Since the Taliban have made inroads in Punjab as well where most of the banned Jihadi outfits are based, there is a regular flow of volunteers from Punjab particularly from southern Punjab. Some are joining the Taliban from Sindh as well.

Major reasons for the common people gravitating towards the Taliban and growth of terrorism are: One. The rulers are seen as the lackeys of USA, who instead of caring for the people are pleasing USA to safeguard their interests. Two. The Indo-US-Israeli nexus has made up its mind to destroy Islam and replace it with secularism and the secular leaders are helping them in attaining their objective. Three. The trio is the real axis of evil that has destroyed peace of the world. Four. The West minister system of democracy and governance is inept and Anglo-Saxon system of judiciary corrupt and both are pro-rich. Four. Pak army is on the payroll of USA. Five. The Taliban are simple and God fearing soldiers of Islam and they do not demand material benefits but imposition of Sharia. Six. Justice based on Islam offered by the Taliban is cheap and speedy. Seven. The rulers and the elite class are leading life of opulence and immorality and are insensitive towards the poor. Eight. Osama bin Laden is not a terrorist but a hero since he had sacrificed everything to defend the cause of Islam. Nine. The root cause of terrorism within the Muslim world is unsolved problem of Palestine and Kashmir, America’s anti-Islamic and unjust polices and illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

These perceptions injected into the minds of the have-nots have helped the Taliban in earning their goodwill and in swelling their strength. Their motivational nodes based on ideological indoctrination and spirit of Jihad turn each member into a diehard Islamist ready to sacrifice his life for the cause of Islam. Devoid of worldly comforts and living under adverse conditions they become hardy, well trained and enthused. It is quite apparent that outside forces are replenishing the militants with arms and ammunition as well as cryptic means of communication enabling them to keep the 150,000 strong military force at bay for the last five years.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombers are the main weapons in the armoury of militants to cause maximum damage to military targets. Security troops operating in FATA and Swat have suffered maximum casualties because of IEDs. Greater the loss incurred greater will be the impact made. They have succeeded in motivating and training sizeable number of suicide bombers to attack the chosen targets within high security zones. Reportedly, women have also been trained as in the case of Iraq. Factors of poverty, religion, honour and revenge have enabled the masterminds to enrol suicide bombers. Lal Masjid massacre propelled the suicide attackers to launch series of attacks against the perpetrators of crime. Some of the important targets hit by them were Tarbela SSG Mess, ISI Hamza Camp, ISI bus, CJCSC House and AMC Lt Gen in Rawalpindi, FIA and Naval College Lahore buildings, air force buses in Sargodha and Badhaber, two attacks on Benazir Bhutto on 18 October and 27 December, and recently POF Wah and Marriott Hotel Islamabad located within Red Zone. Besides, attempts were made on former President Musharraf, PM Shaukat, interior minister Sherpao and present PM. Having put top PPP legislators on the hit list, ANP elected members have also been added in the list and some have already been slain. Hujra of ANP leader Asfandyar in Charsadda was hit on 3 October in which he had a narrow escape. These attacks are other than routine attacks on military convoys, check posts and police stations. Kidnapping of security persons, foreigners and diplomats are other means employed to get their demands met and prisoners released or to compel the security forces to wrap up certain check posts causing hindrance to their movement.

While the foreign hands are definitely involved in destabilising Pakistan, however, they are not the sole cause of prevailing chaos. This can be seen from the fact that after the election campaign picked up momentum in January 2008, cycle of suicide attacks ceased. The cycle recommenced once the PPP and ANP betrayed the trust of the people and showed their true colours. Had the new civilian government lived up to its commitment of restoring deposed judges, made the corrupt and criminals accountable, revised the faulty policy of war on terror and abided by the agreements signed with the militants in Swat, Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan Agencies in May 2008, and taken meaningful steps to redress their grievances by introducing the promised Shariah in Malakand Division and undertaken development works, the menace of militancy could have got controlled to quite an extent.

Now that militancy is almost getting out of control, it is becoming that much easier for foreign agents to get submerged in the melee and add fuel to fire. Instead of taking corrective measures to cleanse the muck left behind by Musharraf led regime, our myopic leaders are following old policies in letter and spirit. They are reinforcing failures by stating that it is our war and more force will be applied. Rehman Malik instead of resigning after the Marriott intelligence failure has gone bonkers and is roaring like a wounded tiger that he will not rest till each and every militant is put to sword. Daily killings of militants in Bajaur, Swat and Darra are being triumphantly announced with a measure of exultation and achievement, hoping against hope that killing of few thousands would curb militancy. In Iraq, massacre of over one million has increased and not lessened militancy. Unless our rulers change their lifestyle, ensure good governance, impose effective system of accountability, deliver cheap justice to all, promote people friendly policies and win their hearts and minds, whatever force applied to eliminate extremism and militancy would prove counter productive.     

The writer is a defence and political analyst based in Rawalpindi and author of several books. Email: ah.raja@yahoo.com    

Source:http://www.dailymuslims.com/ISSUES/Pakistan/Musharraf_and_Zardari.html


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/mogadishu--raped-girl,-13,-stoned-to-death-in-somalia-after-being-accused-of-adultery-by-islamic-militants--/d/950


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