New Age Islam
Thu May 30 2024, 10:50 PM

Islamic World News ( 23 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim leader; find wives in Britain not in Pakistan and India

AI crash: Sharjah man loses 7 relatives

Saudi police arrest 10 ‘emo’ girls 

The call of Babylon: Why some travelers are braving Iraq

Fighting in Somali capital kills 20 

Massachusetts governor : ‘Yours is a peaceful faith’

US Drone Strikes, Pak Ops Kill 37 Militants

‘Pakistan, US determined to win terror war’

Abbas says ready to swap land with Israel

A Muslim response to 'Draw Muhammad Day'

‘Iran to Go Ahead With Turkey N-Swap Deal’

Eight major world religions meet up in a book

Promoting moderation everyone’s responsibility, says Prince Turki

The protests, the ban and the faithful!

Taliban funded plot, reveals Shahzad

Of Gods and Men: a meditative film on faith in the face of violence

Afzal Guru's hanging won't be expedited: Home secretary

Israel: Winds of war

'Walking in the path of fascism'

Pak blocks 800 URLs over Facebook cartoon row

U.S. facing ‘tough fight' from Al-Qaeda in Af-Pak

Cong seeks to renew its Jamiat links

Battling odds, Urdu schools score 88%

Uncertain future as Rehana waits to hear from Centre

Times Sq plot: Caterer, Major held

Facebook Page That Led To Pak Ban Removed

Google chief suspects ulterior motive in Pak

Babri Panel: Appeal Against Court Order

Pak Yet To Ask Interpol for Notice

3 Nato soldiers among 16 killed in Afghan violence

Death of 10 people in drone strikes protested

The way out for Afghanistan

Compiled by: New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo:  Site of crash of AI flight at Mangalore, India




Muslim leader: find wives in Britain not Pakistan and India

Jasper Hamill

23 May 2010

Muslim men have been told to marry women born in Scotland rather than import wives from Pakistan and India.

Shaykh Amer Jamil, a Glasgow-born Islamic scholar, warned that Asian women who have grown up in Scotland are being left on the shelf in favour of wives from outside the country.

Parents often prefer their sons to have arranged marriages with women who grew up in the Indian sub-continent, as they are seen as better partners. But this means there are increasing numbers of British women unable to find a husband.

Islamic dating events have been set up to try and address the situation, but the balance is so heavily weighted towards women that few marriages result from these events.

Shaykh Jamil, an Islamic scholar who set up a family counselling service called Unity Family Services, said: “I would say the situation is at a critical level. There are many well-educated women up and down the country who want to get married but are not finding the right match. There is an acute shortage of suitable male options and the ones who are available are getting married from back home.

“Consequently, this leads to many women reluctantly having to bring someone over from south Asia and that can lead to problems. The men coming over have a different mentality and are not used to seeing a female working or having a life outside of the home. It makes sense to marry from within the UK as both partners will speak English and will be familiar with British culture. This will also make raising children much easier.”

There are also community cohesion implications to the trend, as women come over from Pakistan who cannot speak English and are unused to the culture.

Arranged marriages are often facilitated by an informal matchmaking network of women called Aunty Gees. Shaaista Yousaf is one of these women and she has been arranging marriages for more than a decade. Currently, she knows 30 eligible males and 80 females.

She explained: “There are mothers who insist their daughters only marry within a specific caste. They don’t like them getting married outside of the biraderi [extended clan affiliation]. Such an issue automatically narrows their choice.

“There are also girls who are not prepared to stay with the in-laws. They want their own home, their own privacy. Girls brought over from Pakistan know how to live with the extended families and the family politics that come as a result of that. Girls from here are not used to that.”

Naseem Khan ran Muslim marriage events in Glasgow for five years. She said that attitudes are changing amongst the younger generation, who want different things from a relationship.

She said: “Our mothers came here and brought with them some cultural baggage that led them to get their daughters married within the family, within the same caste or someone who they had given their word to back in Pakistan. Such attitudes are not prevalent amongst me or my friends. We are more flexible.”

Figures from the Home Office show that 12,700 husbands or fiances were admitted in 2008, a 16% reduction from 2007. Almost twice the number of wives or fiancees were admitted, with 24,100 in 2008, although this still represents a 14% decrease from 2007. A high proportion of these partners were from Asia.


Amina is a 38-year-old single woman from Glasgow. She is currently unemployed, but worked in accounts before retraining with a degree in music. Amina (not her real name) then worked in London’s music industry for five years before returning to Glasgow.

“People ask questions if you don’t have a partner by my age,” she says. “They realise I’ve had a career and done other things, rather than brought up children.

“Parents want men to marry from back home – it is one of the biggest problems in the Asian community. Mothers think the girls [here] are not good enough; they don’t have the attributes of girls back home, who will be better wives. They think girls here are too independent.”


AI crash: Sharjah man loses 7 relatives


Dubai: The crash of the ill-fated Air India Express flight in Mangalore has left Sharjah-based Mohammed Farhan totally shattered as he lost as many as seven relatives, including young children and women, in the tragedy.

"There is virtually no one left in my family now. It is just fate that they all decided to take the same flight," said 23-year-old Farhan.

He said the victims from his family included young children, women and older men.

"They were travelling to Mangalore for various reasons," Farhan said.

His cousin Irshad Ahmed, Ahmed's wife Neha Parveen and their son were going on annual leave while his uncle and other distant relatives were going to attend a funeral.

"We were a big, happy family together. It's all over now," Farhan was quoted as saying by The National newspaper.

Last night, the remaining family members were frantically trying to take the next available flight to India.

"Most flights, including those arranged by Air India are full now. We are going through different flights and will somehow try to reach Mangalore," Farhan said.

According to Farhan, some of his other family members, who were also attending the funeral, took another flight instead of Air India Express.

"I thank God for that now," he added.


Saudi police arrest 10 ‘emo’ girls 

 23 May, 2010

RIYADH, May 22: Saudi Arabia’s religious police have arrested 10 “emo” women for allegedly causing a disturbance in a coffee shop, Al-Yaum newspaper reported on Saturday.

The coffee shop owner in the eastern city of Dammam called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to complain after the young women, dressed and made up in the “emo” fashion, apparently began disturbing other clients.The religious police then called their parents to come and collect the women, and to sign pledges that the girls would not repeat their ostensibly offensive un-Islamic behaviour and dress.

According to recent reports, growing numbers of urban young Saudi women are latching on to the emo fashion popular from Japan to Europe and the Americas. The trend is characterised by wearing skinny black jeans, tennis shoes, colourful T-shirts bearing the names of emo bands, heavy make up and sharply chopped and sometimes radically coloured hair-dos.



The call of Babylon: Why some travelers are braving Iraq

By Mark Tutton for CNN

London, England (CNN) -- International airlines are once again landing in Iraq, the conflict-wracked home to some of the ancient wonders of the world.

Ongoing conflict has overshadowed Iraq's place as the "Cradle of Civilization," housing extraordinary sites like Babylon, just outside Baghdad.

But, an improving, if fragile, security situation means that, after years of isolation intrepid travelers can now fly directly to Iraq from Austria, Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden and the UK as well as numerous cities in the Middle East.

Specialist tour operators are now stepping into the tourism void, catering to the smattering of tourists with an approach more Indiana Jones than package tour.

In June, French company "Terre Entiere" will lead its first tours of the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq, with plans to take tours every three weeks from September.

While these could be the first signs of an emerging industry, tourism in Iraq is very much in its infancy. Iraq's Ministry of Tourism told CNN that last year just 73 tourists visited Iraq's archaeological sites.

As long as Iraq remains dangerous, and lacking any kind of tourist infrastructure, it is unlikely to appeal to the package-holiday masses. But for some, that's the attraction.

Sean Tipton, of the Association of British Travel Agents, told CNN: "You do find with some countries that were recently war zones, certain segment of travelers see it as attractive. Some people see it as off the beaten track. They view it as an experience."

Known as the "Cradle of Civilization", Iraq is a trove of treasures from the ancient world. The country currently boasts three UNESCO World Heritage sites, with another nine locations on the "tentative" list.

UNESCO's Veronique Dauge told CNN: "Iraq is a gorgeous country. It is probably one of the most pristine and extraordinary places in terms of history and remains. And it has huge potential in terms of tourism."

Not tempted yet? Here are four historical sites that might entice the most intrepid of travelers to visit Iraq.

1. Babylon

This ancient city on the banks of the Euphrates River is more than four thousand years old and was once the home of Nebuchadnezzar, who built the Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

"Babylon is definitely impressive," Dauge told CNN. "It's known throughout the world.

"Even the casual tourist has some collective memory of a place like Babylon, when you talk about people like Nebuchadnezzar."

Located 88 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad, Babylon was extensively reconstructed by Saddam Hussein, meaning little of the original city is visible.

But travelers who make the journey can also stay in one of Saddam's old palaces that is now a hotel .

2. Hatra

About 112 kilometers (70 miles) south-west of Mosul in northern Iraq, the ruined city of Hatra is a picture postcard of sand-colored pillars and arches that recall ancient Greece and Rome.

The capital of the first Arab Kingdom, it became a major religious center of the Parthian Empire and withstood attacks from the Romans in the second century A.D.

3. Ashur

Also known as Assur, this is a truly ancient city, dating back to the third millennium BC, making it more than four thousand years old. It's located about 97 kilometers (60 miles) south of Mosul and was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire and a center of international trade.

There's not much left of Ashur -- hardly surprising given its age -- but the mud-brick foundations of temples and palaces offer a tantalizing glimpse of the dawning of the Assyrian Empire.

The ruins lie in a beautiful landscape by the side of the Tigris River.

4. Samarra Archaeological City

Samarra was capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, which once ruled an empire stretching from Tunisia to Central Asia.

Situated 129 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, the site spans 40 kilometers (25 miles) in all. Highlights include the largest palaces in the Islamic world and the ninth-century Great Mosque, with its famous spiral Malwiya minaret.

The site has suffered since the 2003 invasion, while an explosion damaged the winding ramps of the Malwiya minaret in 2005, Dauge said.

But remember the risks ...

Especially as the region between Mosul and Samarra is still one of the more dangerous parts of the country.

That serves to remind us why so few tourists travel to Iraq: The ancient land may have a wealth of archaeological attractions, but there's no denying it's a dangerous place.

The U.S. Department of State warns that "numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq" and "recommends against all but essential travel within the country."

And some of Iraq's biggest attractions are in dangerous regions. Babylon, Samara and Ashur are all located in areas where the British Foreign Office advises against travel.

Tipton told CNN: "If you travel to parts of the country where the Foreign Office advises against travel, quite apart from putting yourself at risk, your insurance would not cover you if you were to have some kind of incident."

Until security improves, Iraq will remain a fringe destination. But where the trailblazers dare to travel, the camera-toting hordes often follow.

But Dauge said Iraq's development as a tourist destination could help rebuild the country's economy.

"It has to be very carefully controlled," she said. "It can create disasters, but it can also be very good in terms of economic development and improving the living conditions of the communities."



Fighting in Somali capital kills 20 

By Abdi Sheikh And Mohamed Ahmed

MAY 23, 2010 

MOGADISHU — Fighting between Islamist al Shabaab rebels and Somali troops in the capital Mogadishu has killed at least 20 people and wounded 30 this weekend, a human rights group and medical officers said on Sunday.

Residents said al Shabaab insurgents have sought to advance towards the presidential palace for the past four days but government troops and African Union peacekeepers have been trying to repel them.

"More than 20 people died and scores of others were injured on Saturday and Sunday," Ali Yasin Gedi, the vice chairman of Mogadishu-based Elman rights group, told Reuters.

"The government and Islamists are engaged in heavy shelling and mortars have landed in residential areas in the city."

The fragile Western-backed transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed only controls a small pocket of Mogadishu, with the help of African Union troops, and faces near daily attacks from Islamist rebels.

Residents in the north of Mogadishu said government troops and rebels fought fiercely in Shibis neighbourhood and that both sides suffered several defeats in back and forth shelling.

Ali Muse, an ambulance service co-ordinator, told Reuters at least 30 people had been wounded in the past two days of clashes. "Most of the people were wounded in and around Bakara market," he said.


A spokesman for the AU AMISOM force in Mogadishu said they would attack if al Shabaab, which Washington says is al-Qaida's proxy in the region, came too close.

"If the rebels cross the red line we'll act and they should know that," Major Barigye Ba-hoku told Reuters.

"The red line means any situation that can bring insecurity to the government institutions or our troops, and that is our mandate. We shall chase them if they come close," he said.

Sheikh Ahmed is currently at an international UN-backed conference in Turkey at which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said international support for the government was the only chance to stabilize the chaotic country.

The fighting has killed at least 21,000 people in the failed Horn of Africa nation since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies.



Massachusettes governor to Muslims: ‘Yours is a peaceful faith’

By Jonathan Saltzman and Travis Andersen

                                                May 23, 2010

Governor Deval Patrick told more than 1,100 Muslims at a Roxbury mosque yesterday that he knew many have encountered discrimination and racial profiling since Sept. 11 and that he would do everything in his power to combat those problems.

Speaking at what Muslim activists described as the first such forum with a Massachusetts governor, the 53-year-old Democrat pledged to take seven steps to help Muslims in the state.

The measures ranged from urging businesses and governments to allow Muslims to take time off to attend Friday afternoon prayers to publicly denouncing discrimination and racial profiling against believers of Islam.

Although he responded “yes’’ when asked pointedly whether he was committed to each measure requested, Patrick sometimes broadened his pledges to recognize that other religious and ethnic groups deserved the same protections and accommodations.

“Yours is a peaceful faith, and I know that, and I know you are worried [about whether] others know that,’’ Patrick said after several Muslims joined him on the platform at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center to recount stories of epithets hurled at them on Boston streets and FBI agents visiting their houses.

“I know that people have been afraid and angry, and sometimes that fear and anger is randomly directed at you,’’ he said.

The audience, which comprised Muslims from across the state, including many women who wore hijab head coverings and men who wore kufi caps, frequently interrupted Patrick with cheers and chants of “Allahu Akbar!’’ which means “God is great!’’

Patrick, who noted that he has lived in Sudan and northern Nigeria and spent considerable time with Muslims, greeted the gathering upon his arrival with “Assalamu alaikum,’’ meaning “peace be upon you.’’ He drew loud cheers when he spoke a bit of Arabic.

The governor, who could not personally attend the official opening of the $15.6 million Roxbury mosque last year and was fulfilling a promise to visit, has appointed a liaison to the Muslim community. Patrick introduced the liaison, Ron Bell, one of his advisers for community affairs.

Patrick also promised to try to visit two more Muslim institutions by the end of the year, encourage public schools to be more sensitive to the needs of Muslim students, foster sensitivity training for law enforcement officials, and regulate banks that ignore the state’s usury cap law.

Attorney General Martha Coakley sent a representative who promised to use a $50,000 grant to increase sensitivity training for law enforcement officials.

Organizers of the forum said it was designed to get Muslims more involved in politics, repudiate extremism, and educate other Massachusetts residents, too many of whom hold negative stereotypes about Muslims.

“In general, we’re only recognized as terrorists,’’ said Dr. Syed Asif Razvi, a surgeon who is president of the Islamic Council of New England, in an interview before the event began.

He said recent news stories about the arrests of three New England men on immigration charges as part of the investigation of an attempted car bombing in Times Square has made many law-abiding Muslims feel “here we go again.’’

“We work very hard to build bridges, and it kind of wipes out all we’ve done for a period of time,’’ he said.

While some Muslims at the event said they have been harassed since 9/11, others said the problems they face are subtler, such as hiring discrimination.

“When [employers see] Muslim names, we don’t think we’re getting an equal chance to compete for jobs,’’ said Sameer Abu-Alsaoud of Cambridge. Abu- Alsaoud, 49, said he has been jobless for at least a year, even though he holds a master’s degree in management from Cambridge College.

Bilal Kaleem, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Boston and one of the organizers of the gathering, said beforehand that Patrick generally has been viewed as sensitive to the concerns of Muslims in Massachusetts.

Kaleem attributed that in part to the governor’s experience as an assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration. “He comes from a civil rights background, so he understands the issues at a deeper level,’’ Kaleem said.

Patrick met with organizers of the event several weeks ago at the mosque and appeared to be well-prepared for the commitments sought by the community.

Patrick, who is running for reelection this year, has attended similar forums with people of different faiths, including Christian and Jewish residents, his spokesman Kyle Sullivan said Friday. A number of attendees yesterday belonged to other faiths, including Christianity and Judaism.

The 1,100 Muslims at the event represented at least 25 Muslim institutions across the state, including 15 mosques. Many also came from a wide range of backgrounds, including Somali, Moroccan, Sudanese, African-American, Indian, Pakistani, Syrian, Palestinian, and West African.

The event came at the end of a three-month campaign during which activists held more than 15 community meetings that solicited the opinions of at least 500 Muslims.

The activists found that the community’s biggest concerns included the treatment of Muslims by law enforcement officials and a lack of awareness of Muslim customs and culture in public schools.

There are conflicting numbers about the size of the state’s Muslim population, but various national religious-interest groups put the figure at about 70,000.



US Drone Strikes, Pak Ops Kill 37 Militants

Shafqat Ali

  23 May, 2010

At least 36 militants were killed on Saturday in Pakistan forces’ operation and US drone strikes.

“Twenty-seven militants were killed while two security personnel injured during an armed clashes in upper Orakzai agency,” a security official said. “The security forces were attacked during the patrolling in upper Orakzai agency in which two security personnel were injured. In countermove, security forces killed 27 militants,” he added.

Separately, an overnight US missile strike killed two foreign militant suspects and eight Pakistanis near the Afghan border, two intelligence officials said on Saturday. The attack late on Friday targeted the house of a local resident in Boya village near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

US drones often hit suspected hide-outs of militants in troubled Pakistani tribal region, which Washington considers a centre for the remnants of Taliban, Al Qaeda and Pakistani insurgents. The intelligence officials said a Filipino suspect was believed to be among the slain men. They said their agents were still trying to get details about the second foreigner killed in the attack.

The Asian Age



‘Pakistan, US determined to win terror war’

 23 May, 2010

Commander of international security assistance forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley A. McChrystal, on Saturday said that Pakistan and the US are destined to win the war on terror.

During a meeting with Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, he said the Pakistani forces have been successful in defeating the Taliban in the tribal areas.

Gen. McChrystal said that the purpose of his visit is to consult Pakistan on matters of professional interests, adding that the Nato and US will continue to extend their cooperation to Pakistan in defeating the extremist elements.

The Asian Age



Abbas says ready to swap land with Israel

                                                May 23, 2010

RAMALLAH: The Palestinians are ready to swap some land with Israel, although differences remain over the amount of territory to be traded, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, after two rounds of indirect, US-led peace talks.

The negotiations began earlier this month, with US envoy George Mitchell shuttling between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas' comments marked the first time a participant has provided details about the talks.

Abbas said the first round dealt with borders and security arrangements between Israel and the state the Palestinians hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel wants to annex major Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In previous negotiations, the two sides agreed that Israel would swap some of its territory to compensate the Palestinians, but gaps remained on the amount of land to be traded.

Abbas dismissed recent media reports that the Palestinians are willing to trade more land than in the past, saying: "We did not agree about the land area, but we agreed on the principle of swapping land (equal) in quality and value."

In 2008, the Palestinians offered to cede 1.9 percent of the West Bank to Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

Olmert sought a 6.5 percent swap.

It is not clear whether Netanyahu accepts the idea of a land swap, and if so, how much of the West Bank he wants to keep. Israel has moved nearly half a million of its citizens into dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Mideast War.

A land swap would be crucial to any final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Talks resumed in early May after a 17-month breakdown.



A Muslim response to 'Draw Muhammad Day'

                                                23 May, 2010

I will be the first to defend anyone's right to express their opinion, no matter how offensive it may be to me. Our nation has prospered because Americans value and respect diversity.

But freedom of expression does not create an obligation to offend or to show disrespect to the religious beliefs or revered figures of others.

In reaction to the recent controversy over a depiction of Islam's Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in an episode of Comedy Central's "South Park," a Seattle cartoonist apparently declared May 20 to be "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day."

I say "apparently" because cartoonist Molly Norris — the creator of the cartoon showing many objects claiming to be a likeness of the prophet — now says she never intended to launch "Draw Muhammad Day."

On her website, she has since posted a statement that reads in part: "I did not 'declare' May 20 to be 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.'...The cartoon-poster, with a fake 'group' behind it, went viral and was taken seriously...The vitriol this 'day' has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to the Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place...I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off."

Norris even visited a mosque at the invitation of the local Muslim community.

The creator of a Facebook page dedicated to the day also repudiated the "inflammatory posts" it inspired. He said, "I am aghast that so many people are posting deeply offensive pictures of the Prophet...Y'all go ahead if that's your bag, but count me out."

Despite the cartoonist's and the Facebook page creator's seemingly sincere attempts to distance themselves from the fake event, Muslim-bashers and Islamophobes made sure the call to "Draw Muhammad" went viral on the Internet. They are hoping to offend Muslims, who are generally sensitive to created images of the Prophet Muhammad or any prophet.

[The majority of Muslims believe visual representations of all prophets are inappropriate in that they distract from God's message and could lead to a kind of idol worship, something forbidden in Islam.]

So how should Muslims and other Americans react to this latest attempt by hate-mongers to exploit the precious right of free speech and turn May 20 into a celebration of degradation and xenophobia?

Before I answer that question, it must first be made clear that American Muslims value freedom of speech and have no desire to inhibit the creative instincts of cartoonists, comedians or anyone else.

The mainstream American Muslim community, including my own organization, has also strongly repudiated the few members of an extremist fringe group who appeared to threaten the creators of "South Park." That group, the origins and makeup of which has been questioned by many Muslims, has absolutely no credibility within the American Muslim community.

I, like many Muslims, was astonished to see media outlets broadcasting the views of a few marginal individuals, while ignoring the hundreds of mosques and Muslim institutions that have representatives who could have offered a mainstream perspective.

Next, one must examine how the Prophet Muhammad himself reacted to personal insults.

Islamic traditions include a number of instances in which the Prophet had the opportunity to retaliate against those who abused him, but refrained from doing so. He said, "You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness."

Even when the prophet was in a position of power, he chose the path of kindness and mercy. When he returned to Makkah after years of exile and personal attacks, he did not take revenge on the people who had reviled him and abused and tortured his followers, but instead offered a general amnesty.

In the Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, God states: "Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance." (16:125)

Another verse tells the prophet to "show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant." (7:199)

This is the guidance Muslims should follow as they express concern about an insulting depiction of the prophet, or of any other prophet of God.

Instead of reacting negatively to the bigoted call to support "Draw Muhammad Day," American Muslims — and Muslims worldwide — should use that and every other day as an opportunity to reach out to people of other faiths and beliefs to build bridges of understanding and respect.

The best and most productive response to bigoted campaigns like "Draw Muhammad Day" is more communication, not less communication — including not restricting the free flow of ideas with measure like banning Facebook.

Research has shown that anti-Islam prejudice goes down when people interact with ordinary Muslims and have greater knowledge of Islam.

Therefore, the best reaction to those who would mock the Prophet Muhammad (or the religious symbols of any faith) might be a mosque open house for the local interfaith community, a community service activity organized by Muslims and involving people of other faiths, or a newspaper commentary describing the life, legacy and personal character of the prophet, which is the opposite of the calumny some people fabricate about him. This should be of concern to all decent and objective people.


‘Iran To Go Ahead With Turkey N-Swap Deal’

May 23rd, 2010

Iran intends to go ahead with a deal reached with Turkey and Brazil for a nuclear fuel swap despite a new sanctions resolution against Tehran pending at the UN, an Iranian parliamentarian said on Saturday.

“Iran is committed to the vows that it made and wants to make them operational and will submit its letter to International Atomic Energy Agency,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee, was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency ISNA. “The Americans’ propaganda will not have any effect on Iran’s decision ... We advise those countries who want to issue this resolution against Iran not to be manipulated by America.”

Iran’s official news agency IRNA said on Friday Iran will hand an official letter to the IAEA’s chief on Monday with details of the fuel swap agreement with Brazil and Turkey.

The IAEA brokered the basis of the deal in October 2009 in talks involving Iran, France, Russia and the United States, but it soon unravelled amid Iranian demands for amendments. Turkish and Brazilian representatives at the IAEA will accompany Iran’s envoy during the meeting with the IAEA chief on Monday, a communiqué from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council published on Saturday in the daily Hambastegi said. Leaders of the three countries announced the agreement on last Monday under which Iran will send 1,200 kg of its enriched uranium stocks, reducing its supply of potential atomic bomb material, to Turkey in exchange for fuel rods for a Tehran medical research reactor. But the five permanent members of the UNSC, after months of negotiations, brushed off the deal with a draft resolution on a new set of sanctions against Iran that Washington handed to the Security Council. A prominent Iranian legislator, Mohammed Reza Bahonar, had suggested Iran could scuttle the deal if the sanctions resolution is approved.

The Asian Age


Eight major world religions meet up in a book

May 23, 2010

When Akasha Lonsdale was a child in London, her agnostic family prohibited her from participating in religious services at the Church of England school she attended. Required to sit at the back of a Hebrew class for the school's Jewish students, she befriended a girl whose family invited her to the Friday night Sabbath meal.

"I found it an enriching experience," says Lonsdale, who years later became a therapist and then an interfaith minister. "Even from age 4, I was aware there was something more than this earthly life. I was on a spiritual quest from that age."

Now Lonsdale, 57, has published "Do I Kneel or Do I Bow?," a concise guide to the ceremonies of eight major world religions. The 336-page soft-cover book is divided into sections on the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.

"There are many gateways to God and truth," she said. "Spirituality can exist independently of religion, but the core of all religions is spiritual."

Lonsdale describes her book as a labor of love, and says it is aimed at those moments when we find ourselves outside our comfort zones, wanting to do the right thing and not offend, while venturing into religious settings we know little about.

In our multicultural society, a Sikh may invite a Muslim colleague to a family wedding. A Jew may invite a Catholic neighbor to a bar mitzvah. Or a Protestant raised in America may visit an Eastern Orthodox Church while traveling.

According to the book, which was vetted by clerics of all eight faiths, it would be offensive for a man to take his hat off in a Sikh temple or a synagogue, but the opposite could be true in some churches. One should not bring flowers to a Jewish or Muslim funeral, whereas they would be welcomed by Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Each section of the book contains a summary of the religion's tenets. Then there are descriptions of holidays and rituals, and user-friendly boxes titled "What Happens?" and "What Should I Do?"

In Britain, an Anglican bishop might kneel and wash the feet of parishioners on Maundy Thursday before Easter. But it would be deeply offensive to direct the soles of one's feet toward the religious leader in a mandir, a Hindu place of worship.

"This means you won't be able to stretch your legs out if you are uncomfortable sitting cross-legged," writes Lonsdale. "If you feel unable to hold this position for about an hour, you can sit on a chair at the back."

Those seeking the reasons behind all the rituals and practices will have to consult more comprehensive tomes.

"I had to really discipline myself and rein it in. It was very easy to go off on a tangent," Lonsdale said. "The book could have been twice the size. But my focus was to have it be about ceremonies, from the perspective of the guest."

She also knows that there are many different streams of thought within the religions and it would be impossible "to get the pitch right" for everyone.

"There are going to be people who don't agree. There will be many different interpretations," she said. Still, she believes a baseline understanding of the major religions is a matter of daily life these days, not just something for those taking world religion classes.

For Lonsdale, the guidebook is the culmination of a lifelong search for spiritual meaning, which ultimately led her to an interfaith ministry. She began in adolescence to read about the various spiritual traditions but never felt comfortable with dogma or choosing the "right" version.

"Each time I came to a door of a particular faith, I hesitated because it was presented as the one way," she recalls.

At the same time, Lonsdale developed a great respect for religious traditions. She did not feel the need to reject religion, as do many people who become disaffected with mainstream, institutional forms of worship.

Eventually, she discovered that Hinduism takes one of the more liberal approaches to spiritual life and so she incorporates chanting and meditation into her own spiritual practice.

Two decades ago, Lonsdale took the spiritual name Akasha, Sanskrit for "eternal wisdom," but kept it largely private as she built her therapy practice and wrote a self-help book with pointers for living powerfully.

It wasn't until 2004 that Lonsdale became aware of London's Interfaith Foundation and entered its two-year seminary program to become an ordained interfaith minister. By 2005, Akasha had become her legal first name, replacing her given name Perry.

Now, in addition to her spiritually oriented therapy practice, Lonsdale creates personalized ceremonies for those who seek sacred services for birth, marriage and death, but do not feel comfortable with the mainstream approach. Her clients incorporate as little or as much traditional faith ritual as they like.

"Last year, I did a Hindu-Christian marriage that honored both backgrounds," she said. "Particularly the younger generation, those in their mid-30s and younger, have grown up in a multicultural society and have friends of all faiths."

Hence the guidebook, which she hopes will be viewed much like a dictionary that each home should possess.

As for kneeling, Jews don't do it, but Catholics do, and Muslims kneel and prostrate themselves. When it comes to bowing, Hindus put their palms together for the namaste bow of reverence and thanks, whereas Buddhists bow with hands cupped — just fingertips and palms touching -- to emulate the shape of the lotus bud.,0,4133336.story





Promoting moderation everyone’s responsibility, says Prince Turki


 May 23, 2010

JEDDAH: Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former ambassador to the US, said Saturday in a speech at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University that extremism should be fought by the entire society working to promote moderation.

“It is a joint responsibility with society and individuals,” he said.

Prince Turki, who is chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, explained how King Abdul Aziz contained extremism during the formation of Saudi Arabia. He said the founder of the Kingdom had asked extremists in power to step down and select someone else from their families or tribes to replace them.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has been negligent in realizing the importance of presenting its true face to others in the world.

“The Kingdom has been facing this problem since its formation,” he said. “There are some reasons for that. Firstly, we don’t boast before others about our achievements.”

He emphasized the need to master the art of presenting “ourselves to others.”

Prince Turki expressed his happiness over the emergence of several private media organizations in the Kingdom. “The media can play a vital role in promoting moderation inside and outside Saudi Arabia.”

He underscored the media’s courageous role in highlighting many social issues, which was hitherto considered taboo. “Our handling of those issues has given us self-confidence,” he added.

Prince Turki said the Ministry of Information used to be jokingly called the Ministry of Denial. “The main reason for this nickname is that whenever news about Saudi Arabia was reported, the ministry would deny it the following day,” he said, adding that there is good progress now in the Kingdom’s handling of news and issues.

The prince commended the initiatives taken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to deepen the policy of moderation and openness. “The establishment of King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center is one of his major initiatives,” he pointed out. He also commended the king’s educational, economic and judicial reforms.

Prince Turki noted the king’s endeavors to silence takfiris who brand their opponents as infidels. “The moderate policies adopted by the government were instrumental in destroying those saboteurs.”

He commended the king’s call for interfaith and cultural dialogue, adding that it contributed to moderation. “King Abdullah believed that moderation begins from within and he urged Muslim brethren to agree on our message before addressing others … I also believe in the saying that people are in the religion of their kings. Here we follow the king in our daily practices, inspired by his kindness, maturity and good morals.”

Regarding educating Saudis abroad, Prince Turki urged the Higher Education Ministry to provide Saudi students with proper orientation before sending them to Western countries for higher studies.

“Our students who are sent abroad on foreign scholarship are the real ambassadors of their country as they interact directly with people,” Prince Turki added.




The protests, the ban and the faithful! –Junaid Zuberi

 23 May, 2010

We have left no stone unturned to prove that we are indeed a community that believes in violence and that does not have an iota of tolerance and forgiveness

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered a temporary ban on Facebook and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) went several steps ahead by first announcing complete blockage of the popular networking site for an indefinite period followed by a ban on YouTube.

The nation is swimming in the ocean of ignorance characterised by unchecked emotions. In our quest to prove our righteousness and moral superiority, we are prepared to go to any length. And we have shown this many times. If a western country publishes objectionable material, zealots here burn their own buildings, vehicles and property. Perhaps the decision to ban the website altogether was taken to pre-empt a replay of these horrific examples from the past. The PTA had already blocked the link to the group accused of holding the highly objectionable contest on Facebook. But the petitioner lawyers brimming with hate in the name of religion were not ready to settle for anything less than a complete ban. And while the matter was sub judice, the religio-political parties and their militant student wings had started raising their voice and instigating fear of violence in case immediate action acceptable to them was not taken.

We have become slaves of this wave of intolerance that is increasing by each passing day. We are deeply entangled in this web that has overpowered our sense of reasoning and rationality. What do we achieve out of these bans and protests and whom do we actually serve? Certainly not the perpetrators and the targets of our anger and anguish.

We ascribe our violent reaction and protest to the love of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but do our actions really display love and affection? I assume the righteous and the pious who take on streets have all read the various accounts of the Prophet’s (PBUH) life. The exalted man they claim to love set a very different example of dealing with criticism. Reading various accounts of Seerat, one comes across incidents where the Prophet (PBUH) was criticised, threatened and jeered at. One even finds an incident where a woman would throw garbage at him as a mark of extreme hate. However, the reaction of the Prophet (PBUH) to such mockery was that of forgiveness. If he wanted to convey that a prophet cannot be criticised and questioned, he would have taken the critics head on and asked his companions to silence all the opponents. However, he wanted to convey to the people that he believes in tolerance and forgiveness and his message is the message of love and humanity. If I am wrong, the staunch believers and self-proclaimed custodians of faith may correct me please. If indeed the example we have is of violence, intolerance, vindictiveness, malice and retribution, then I will take back my words.

The Muslim community today has a very negative image the world over. If we do not look within and continue to point fingers at others, we would never be able to change our image. The world looks at us suspiciously. And we never fail to disappoint them. Do we realise how much damage we ourselves are causing to our community? We have left no stone unturned to prove that we are indeed a community that believes in violence and that does not have an iota of tolerance and forgiveness. Our own conduct defies all that we claim.

I am not building an argument to justify anti-Islam acts. I only want the angry protestors and critics, many of whom can be found online on various blogs and forums, to analyse the reasons behind the West’s antipathy towards us with an open mind and instead of pushing the gap further, use their energies, talent and examples from history to narrow it. We have totally forgotten the message of love that many revered Sufis spread on our soil. They were epitomes of love who drew people towards our religion while we are epitomes of hate repelling people away from our religion.

In the complex and shrinking world that we live in today, ban on means of information and technology will neither function nor be appreciated. People will always find alternate routes to information. There are millions of websites promoting hate and anti-religion material targeting all faiths. Likewise, porn and other similar type of undesirable stuff is spread all over the cyberspace. Does that mean we ban the internet altogether? What about e-mail then? People may start sending undesirable and ‘immoral’ e-mails, so let us ban that also. What if the people switch to cell phones and text messaging? Put a ban on that too. Is there an end to it?

If we simply ignore these sites and exercise self-control, we would save ourselves from a lot of unnecessary trouble and backlash. The believers who take the Prophet’s (PBUH) name should go back to take lessons from his life. While he was most forgiving, we are most vindictive and bigoted. Our chequered history carries many such examples of hate crimes and violence where the followers of majority faith have targeted minority faith communities. When the zealots killed many Christians and targeted their sacred sites in Gojra last year, the western world dominated by the Christian faith did not take to the streets demanding a ban on Pakistan, Pakistani products and so on. They registered protests with dignity, using the available diplomatic channels. If everyone resorts to violence, the world will become an even more stifling place to live in. And that would be a much bigger disservice to our children. But is anyone listening?\05\23\story_23-5-2010_pg3_4





Taliban funded plot, reveals Shahzad

 May 23, 2010

NEW YORK: The Times Square bomb suspect claimed during his lengthy interrogation that he received financial support from the Pakistani Taliban for his failed one-man operation, two US law enforcement officials close to the probe said.

Investigators believe funding for Faisal Shahzad in the United States was channeled through an underground money transfer network known as "hawala", the officials said. But, one official said, "there's a belief that no one in the US who got him the funds was aware of what they were for."

The investigation's main asset has been Shahzad. After he waived his right to an initial court appearance and agreed to cooperate after his May 3 arrest, a special interrogation team of FBI, CIA and Defense Department investigators was brought in to grill him in a Brooklyn hotel room, an official said.

The team of investigators was there to "build his trust", the official said. "But he was never really worried about talking. It was clear from the start, he wanted to."

Shahzad told the investigators he was "supported" by the Pakistani Taliban, which initially claimed responsibility for the bombing in three separate videos, then later denied any role.

For Shahzad, the underground series of cash transfers in the United States "was like his Western Union," an official said.



Of Gods and Men: a meditative film on faith in the face of violence

May 22, 2010

Directed by Xavier Beauvois, Des Hommes et de Dieux “Of Gods and Men” – a meditative film based on actual gruesome events – won a prize at the Cannes film festival for works fostering inter-religious understanding. Judged by an ecumenical jury, the pic recounts the lives and deaths of a group of French monks who were massacred and beheaded in a Cistercian monastery Algeria in events that remain mysterious and controversial.

The film’s plot centers on the Catholic monks as they wrestle with whether to flee during a bloody conflict between Algeria’s army and Muslim jihadi insurgents, or to remain in their monastery from which they had ministered to their Muslim neighbors. The statement of the jury declared that "The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbors make the reason for our choice." Moreover, wrote the jury, “This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy." The jury also commended two other films in competition for Cannes’ main prize, "Poetry" by South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong and "Another Year" by Britain's Mike Leigh.

A fratricidal war ensued in Algeria in 1992 when it became clear that a national election would usher in an Islamist government. The army intervened and cancelled the election; the ensuing war claimed the lives of over 200,000 people in a country of 27 million people. Whole villages and families were wiped out by the army and the Islamist insurgents, with each side blaming the other for excesses. In the case of the monks, the insurgents first claimed responsibility for the massacre of the six priests, but a later claim by a former French military attaché that the Algerian army may have been responsible has since made the tragedy much more mysterious.

The film focuses on the daily lives of the monks as they face the possibility of deadly violence. Featuring prominent French actors Lambert Wilson (The Matrix) and Michael Lambert, directed Beauvois said of the film "What interested me was the story of these men, who they were, and the rest, well, we don’t really know," at a news conference. Beauvois, who also co-wrote the script with Etienne Comar, theorized that the monks’ deaths were the result of a blunder by the Algerian military. "The monks insisted on being extremely neutral, on not taking sides," Comar averred, "They called the terrorists ‘the brothers from the mountain’ and called the people from the army ‘the brothers from the plain.’ … It seems totally coherent for the movie to adopt their point of view."

Beauvois’ chief concern according to reviewers is on the monks’ own inner struggles, rather than the politics surrounding their deaths. Of the film Toronto Star reviewer Peter Howell Of Gods & Men "a beautifully acted and directed work of uplift and inspiration." However, Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "ponderous."

The movie does not shy away from the violence of the conflict. Indeed, the opening scenes depict Islamist terrorists slitting the throats of Croatian construction workers - friends of the monks. The precariousness of the monks' lives is obvious and lends poignancy to their struggles over their faith as they remain at their monastery to help local villages keep both the Algerian military and Islamist terrorists at bay.

The men debate and pray, and cry out to God to help them keep their faith to accept their eventual decision to stay in Algeria even as their fate becomes clear. Finally, the camera zooms in on their eyes, those windows of the soul where their moral dilemma plays out.

The film was shot in neighboring Morocco, and the director rebuilt a monastery near a town called Meknes to resemble the one that witnessed the murders of the monks in 1996. In Algeria, the security situation remains tense as Islamist terrorists linked to Al Qaeda remain active in the hills. "Some news stories have said that I filmed in Morocco because of security reasons, but in fact, I did not at all. I never had any intention of shooting anywhere else," Beauvois said. Even so, just this week a roadside bomb killed two Algerian soldiers and seriously wounded 18 in an attack blamed upon the Al Qaeda terrorists.

The film conjures up the austerity and peace of the Cistercian monastery where the French monks prayed and contemplated a world that finally consumed them. So closely did Beauvois conjure the life and spirituality of the monks that went on a monastic-like retreat himself in order to get closer to "the beauty of their faith." The actors, led by Lambert Wilson and Michel Lonsdale, also went on retreats to prepare for their roles. Said Wilson, "We sang the liturgical chants, we even became united in this aspiration toward something higher; we felt together as brothers. We even had a monastic consultant." He continued, saying that the film attempts to mirror the monastic life. "Monks live at this rhythm. It's exhausting, and they work, too." Wilson also plays another religious role, a 16th century Huguenot, in a second French film in competition, Bertrand Tavernier's "La Princesse de Montpensier."

Beauvois and Comar said they conducted extensive research into the slayings but intentionally avoided going into too much detail in the movie."We wanted the story to be as universal as possible," Comar said. "References to Algeria are clearly there, but we tried to open the film the most we could." Said Comar, "I had decapitated bodies, models made, but then I knew that was ridiculous. Then unexpectedly, it snowed." The snow provides a metaphor in the final scenes, that moved Comar to say “It happened just at the right moment. It was a state of grace."

In 1996, following the tragedy, Pope John Paul II spoke to the Cistercians (also known as Trappists) while reflecting on the words from the Gospel – “He who loves his life will lose it, while he who hates his life in this world, will keep it for eternal life. If someone wishes to serve me let him follow me, and where I am there also will my servant be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." (John 12:24-26). Said the pontiff at Tre Fontane in Rome, "At the end of the second millennium, the Church has become once again a Church of martyrs." (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 37) The witness of the Trappists of Our Lady of Atlas takes its place alongside that of the Bishop of Oran, His Excellency Pierre Lucien Caverie, and of not a few other sons and daughters on the African continent who, during this period, have given their lives for the Lord and for their brothers and sisters, beginning with those who persecuted and killed them. Their witness is the victory of the Cross, the victory of the merciful love of God, who saves the world.”




Afzal Guru's hanging won't be expedited: Home secretary

May 23, 2010

NEW DELHI: The government has no plans to jump the queue on the clemency petition of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru or fast track the decision on his execution, says home secretary G.K. Pillai.

"Afzal Guru is in the queue (of mercy petitions in the president's office). Nobody will be expedited," Pillai said, denying reports that the government may consider a fast-track decision on Guru's fate.

Asked about the hectic activity on Guru's clemency petition that has been moving back and forth between the home ministry and the Delhi government, Pillai said: "We have sent 20 reminders, but these are general reminders we keep sending to the state governments. This is all a media hype."

The case of the 40-year-old convicted Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist and one of the key plotters of the 2001 attack that killed 13 people in the high-security Indian parliament hit the spotlight after the death punishment awarded to Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught alive after the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

Guru, a medicine and surgical instrument dealer in Kashmir, was sent to the death row in 2002. His sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court a year later. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on Oct 20, 2006, but his execution was stayed after his wife sought clemency from the President of India. The petition is 28th in the list of mercy applications before President Pratibha Patil. As per procedure, the president has sought the views of the home ministry, which in turn has asked the Delhi government to give its views.

The issue is once again spiralling into a major political controversy.

Demanding that Guru's execution be not delayed any further, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) put up hoardings in several parts of the city seeking an explanation from the Delhi government on why it was withholding the mercy petition. Congress leader Digvijay Singh said the Supreme Court's order should be followed. "There should be no problem in hanging him."

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit has said the final decision on the execution or mercy rested with the lieutenant governor of Delhi and the home ministry.

"The Supreme Court's order to hang him will prevail. On the mercy petition filed by the wife of Afzal Guru, the final decision rests with the home ministry and the LG," Dikshit said Friday.

The Delhi government had earlier this week cautioned that there was a need to examine law and order implications while sending Guru to the gallows. The Jammu and Kashmir government has also warned about possible law and order turmoil in the state in case Guru was hanged.




Isrel: Winds of war

May 23, 2010

What is the meaning of Israel’s withdrawal of its special forces from its border patrols in the south of the country, and transferring them to “more heated fronts,” as an Israeli military spokesperson described it?

One can view the matter as a logical redeployment of the Jewish state’s army. However, one could also see the winds of war blowing in the Israeli army's movement. Replacing specially trained forces with reserve forces along the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, with the stated justification that there are more pressing borders to be defended (Syria and Lebanon), could be a sign that Israel is preparing for war.

Add this to the Israel and America’s escalating rhetoric against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah and you can see an attempt to create a climate suitable for a war the scope of which we cannot predict. What is certain, however, is that a direct confrontation with Iran is one of the scenarios the Israeli and American militaries expect.

Look how the United States has handled the supposed transfer of Scud missiles from Syria to Hizbullah. Consider that alongside its ongoing escalation with Tehran and its insistence on imposing a new round of sanctions. Look at how Washington has succeeded in convincing Iran’s principal allies, most notably Russia and China, to support sanctions. This all points to one thing: The Israeli army’s troop movements are a prelude to war.

Also note that Egypt’s surprising defense of Syria and Hizbullah during the Scud missile affair reveals the depth of the apprehension among typically conservative Egyptian diplomatic circles over Israeli and American preparations to ignite the region with a new conflict. This fear reached so deep that Egypt’s Foreign Ministry had no choice but to act to contain the danger and show its clear opposition.

Iran realized this, along with numerous regional and international powers, leading it to accept the offer from Turkey and Brazil to exchange nuclear fuel following exhaustive negotiations in an effort to delay an Israeli strike. Doing so also gives Russia and China the opportunity to reject sanctions, and allows Iran to present itself to the world as the more flexible party, giving the West hope that additional negotiations will be fruitful.

Perhaps you, like myself, believed that Barack Obama’s presence in the White House was a guarantee that the specter of war would be kept far from the region, particularly due to his rigid position toward Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. However, it is clear that he has failed to translate his conciliatory speech into action and place pressure on Israel. Such failure leads one to doubt Obama’s ability to contain the hawks, whether in his own administration or in Congress, or restrain Israel as it watches Iran edge closer to achieving its nuclear dream. War looms. Can you not see which way the wind blows?



'Walking in the path of fascism'

Khaled Amayreh

May 23, 2010

Israel's denial of entry to Noam Chomsky is but the latest in a long list of attempts to silence critics of Zionist oppression and violence.

Fearing that he would further expose Israel's anti-peace stance and its oppression of the Palestinian people, the Israeli government this week barred Noam Chomsky from entering Israel-Palestine.

Chomsky, a world-renowned intellectual and linguist, was detained briefly at the Palestinian side of the Allenby Bridge on Sunday 16 May. There he was told by Israeli authorities that the Israeli government didn't like his writings and that he was viewed as persona non grata.

Chomsky, 81, had been scheduled to lecture at the Birzeit University in the West Bank. Following his deportation, the non-conformist American Jewish intellectual told reporters that he concluded from the questions of the Israeli official at the border terminal that the fact that he came to lecture at a Palestinian and not an Israeli university led to the decision to deny him entry.

"I find it hard to think of a similar case in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in the Stalinist regime."

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor of linguistics and philosophy is a well-known critic of the Israeli occupation of Arab lands. On many occasions, Chomsky compared Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank with those of the defunct white minority apartheid regime in South Africa.

Chomsky also castigated the genocidal Israeli onslaught on Gaza last year along with the ongoing blockade of the coastal enclave's 1.7 million people initiated by Israel more than three years ago for the purpose of pushing Gazans to rise up against Hamas. Hamas won a landslide victory in the 2006 general elections, which infuriated Israel and its guardian-ally, the United States, prompting them to impose draconian sanctions on Gaza.

"The young man [the Israeli border official] asked me whether I had ever been denied entry into other countries. I told him once, to Czechoslovakia, after the Soviet invasion in 1968," Chomsky said, adding that he had gone to visit ousted Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek, whose reforms the Soviets crushed.

According to Haaretz newspaper, Chomsky, who was accompanied by his daughter and several other friends, was questioned on the nature of his lectures, whether he was going to criticise Israeli policies and whether he had spoken with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He was further asked why he didn't have an Israeli passport since he was Jewish. He reportedly answered, "I am an American citizen".

Chomsky supports the two-state solution but he rejects the Israeli concept of the two-state solution strategy: namely, ceding the Palestinians some isolated cantons cut off from each other and that could never be a "viable and territorially contiguous state".

In recent years, especially with the rise to power in Israel of religious and rightwing anti- democratic parties, the Israeli political establishment became more sensitive to criticisms of Israeli policies abroad, especially from such Jewish intellectuals such as Chomsky.

In 2008, Israel refused entry to Richard Falk, an American Jewish academic, for comparing the Israeli occupation with Nazi crimes against Jews. In 2007, Falk, a Princeton University professor of international law, was quoted as saying that Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip was "a Holocaust in the making". Falk was later appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel defended its decision to deport Falk, arguing that he indulged in "shameful comparisons to the Holocaust".

Similarly, nearly, two years ago, Israeli security services deported Norman Finkelstein, another American Jewish intellectual and critic of the Israeli occupation. The Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, said that Finkelstein was not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicious involvement with hostile elements in Lebanon, and because "he didn't give a full account to interrogators with regards to these suspicions".

Finkelstein remarked on that episode, saying: "I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself -- no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organisations."

Finkelstein, 57, had accused Israel of exploiting the holocaust for political ends and in order to justify its crimes against the Palestinian people. In 2000, Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry on the exploitation of Jewish suffering.

Mounting international criticism of the repressive Israeli treatment of Palestinians, as well as the extensive havoc and destruction wreaked on civilians in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, generated strong reactions by intellectuals and human rights activists around the world. Such criticisms seemed to push the political class in Israel towards stonewalling with the Israeli government resorting to deportation as a method to silence vocal critics of Israeli practices.

In 2008, Israel refused Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu entry while on a UN fact-finding mission in the Gaza Strip. Israel apparently feared that Tutu would file a damning report, indicting Israel for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, as did Judge Richard Goldstone a year and a half later, following the Israeli blitzkrieg against Gaza that killed and maimed thousands of Palestinian civilians and inflicted widespread destruction.

Subsequently, Israel and its supporters repeatedly accused Goldstone of being biased against, and hostile to, Israel. Some "Israel-Firsters", especially in North America, have gone as far as calling Goldstone an "anti- Semite" and "self-hating Jew".

The abovementioned intellectuals are mere examples of how Israel, which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, is drifting towards Jewish fascism. On 18 May, one Israeli journalist wrote, commenting on the deportation of Chomsky: "Denying Noam Chomsky entry to Israel puts an end to the myth that Israel is a democracy. It is a state where the police arrest demonstrators protesting the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and expel a pregnant non-Jewish woman so that she won't give birth to her child in Israel. I will not argue whether Israel is fascist or not. But in reality, Israel is walking in the path of fascism."



Pak blocks 800 URLs over Facebook cartoon row

                                                23 May, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities have blocked 800 URLs that feature "blasphemous" and "sacrilegious" content in the wake of the ban on Facebook and YouTube, a representative of the country's association of internet service providers said on Saturday.

Acting on an order of the Lahore High Court, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority initially banned popular social networking website Facebook over a page featuring a contest for "blasphemous" cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

The ban was later extended YouTube and other links. The move also affected access to Wikipedia and Twitter, internet users said.

"So far, two sites and about 800 URLs have been blocked to prevent access to blasphemous and sacrilegious content," Wahaj-us-Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan said.

URL or Uniform Resource Locator is the global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web.

Siraj said that since the author of the page on Facebook featuring the blasphemous cartoons had been removed, the PTA "probably needs to go back to the Lahore High Court, and then the court could lift the ban".

The final decision in such matters would have to be made by the PTA, he said. PTA spokesman Khurram Mehran said the authority would lift the ban only after receiving instructions from the government.

The competition for the caricatures triggered angry protests in Pakistan though internet users in bigger cities expressed disappointment at the blanket ban on popular websites.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and Muslims all over the world staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.

Pakistan briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 over blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.




U.S. facing ‘tough fight' from Al-Qaeda in Af-Pak

Narayan Lakshman

 23 May, 2010

Washington: In a speech that unmistakably underscored the roots of numerous terror acts and networks in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, President Barack Obama on Saturday said “We need intelligence agencies that work seamlessly with their counterparts to unravel plots that run from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of our cities; law enforcement that can strengthen judicial systems abroad, and protect us at home.”

Speaking to cadets at the United States military academy at West Point, New York, Mr. Obama said that even as the war in Iraq came to an end, he had announced “a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which recognised that the U.S. faced “a tough fight,” in the region.

Noting that militants fighting the U.S. there were turning to new tactics he said that the Taliban had exemplified this through its use of “assassination, indiscriminate killing, and intimidation”.

He also said to the cadets that in the war against Al-Qaeda there would be “no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey's end — no armistice or banner headline.

Rather, he argued, Al-Qaeda “will continue to recruit, plot, and exploit our open society. We see that in bombs that go off in Kabul and Karachi. We see it in attempts to blow up an airliner over Detroit or a SUV in Times Square, even as these failed attacks show that pressure on networks like Al-Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train.”

He said that while the Al-Qaeda threat would not go away soon, the terror group and its affiliates were “small men on the wrong side of history,” leading no nation or religion.



Cong seeks to renew its Jamiat links   

Zia Haq

 23 May, 2010

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday met influential Muslim leaders, led by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind's Mahmood Madni, sending out signs of granting minorities reservation nationally, a key demand.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too, met the delegation, saying the party would “certainly“ fulfill its promise of granting Muslims and other minorities some share in jobs and educa- tion, a political hot potato.

The two meetings signal growing proximity between the Congress and the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, the country's largest Muslim organisation.

Singh told the leaders that the government would soon kick-start the process of arriving at a consensus in his cabinet for granting reservation to minorities. He also assured of having “loopholes“in an upcoming legislation -- the communal violence Bill -- reworked.

The Congress, in its manifesto, had promised to extend the quota available to minorities in some Congress-ruled states to the national level.

“I feel there is sincerity in the prime minister's approach, “Madni told Hindustan Times.

The Congress is clearly seek- ing to revive its historical, insti- tutional ties with the Jamiat for the first time since infighting broke out within the Jamiat in 2007. The succession battle in the Jamiat began with the demise in 2006 of Maulana Asad Madni, a veteran Congress MP. A large section wanted his son, Mahmood, a Rajya Sabha MP, to succeed him. However, there was some significant opposition.

The Congress then steered clear of a two-way relationship with the Jamiat. With the reins of the influential Jamiat slipping back into Madmood's hands, the Congress is being seen reviving its Jamiat connection.

Two weeks ago, Congress leader Digvijay Singh was at the Jamiat's headquarters in Delhi.

If Madni, who has a mass following, throws his lot behind the Congress, it will help the party regain its foothold among Muslims -- particularly in Uttar Pradesh where party scion Rahul Gandhi is seeking an expansion programme. The party, a major force in the state till the 1980s, saw its Muslim base erode after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

Hindustan Times



Battling odds, Urdu schools score 88%

23 May, 2010

New Delhi: Braving all odds, students of Urdu medium schools in the city are doing well in academics. The CBSE class XII results declared on Friday are a pointer towards that. Even as the number of students has been dwindling across half-a-dozen Urdu medium schools in the city and the schools themselves are struggling to stay afloat, the likes of Atiya Zabeen offer a ray of hope.

According to officials from the directorate of education, the overall pass percentage for the Urdu medium schools is over 88%,while schools like Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Pataudi House, scored yet another 100% pass percentage, the sixth in a row.

This despite students of Urdu medium fighting for basic amenities such as sample papers, textbooks and teachers. That is why, although the pass percentage is improving every year, the overall quality is being questioned. According to principal of the Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Pataudi House, Jameel-ur-Rehman, the students are weak in subjects like English and this is due to teachers coming from rural backgrounds. His school has been running without an English teacher for over a year.

But factors like this did not deter Atiya Zabeen, a student of SKV Jama Masjid Urdu Medium No 2,who scored 89% with distinctions in all five subjects. She is one of the toppers among Urdu medium students of the city.

I studied a lot, but there are no sample papers in Urdu.In fact,I studied Hindi sample papers for the political science subject. Of the 57 students in my schools,54 passed,while three managed a compartment. Had our schools and Urdu medium received due importance and had been given facilities, it would have been easily 100%, said Atiya.

Atiyas father, Jamil Ahmed, is a tailor and dreams of sending his daughter to college. His elder daughter, Subiya, is a final year student of BA (honours) political science in Zakir Hussain College. But for Atiya, the family is now looking for financial help. Do you know anyone who can help my sister financially for her DIET (District Institute for Education Training ) admission. I managed my education through scholarship. Now I hope we get some help for Atiya, said Subiya.

I want to apply for DIET and be a school teacher. To be a college teacher, I will have to wait for a long time till I complete my PhD. And my father may not be able to finance my higher studies in future, said Atiya.

Times of India



Uncertain future as Rehana waits to hear from Centre

Shreya Roy Chowdhury

 23 May, 2010

Muzaffarnagar: Rehana Perveens deportation has been put off,at least for a few days. Her peculiar predicament she is Pakistani, married to an Indian and mother to four children,all Indians has moved district authorities at Muzaffarnagar to make a plea to the government for permission for her to stay.Till they hear from the Centre, Perveen stays put.

Perveen,29,married Kairana-based construction worker, Mohammad Saeed in 1999.In the following 11 years, not only the three-month visa on which shed come to India but even her Pakistani passport expired.Ignorant of the regulations involved, she stayed at Kairana without applying for long-term visa till May 17 this year.

Not that applying would’ve helped a great deal. Neighbours assuring her that she’ll get it soon state in the same breath that someone they know waited 12 years. On Thursday, she was ordered to leave the country by May 23.

The question mark doesn’t hang over just her future. The futures of her four children, aged between two and eight, must also be factored in. The older ones have been out of school since the turmoil started and Perveen is waiting for a decision before trying for their admission again.

Times of India



Times Sq plot: Caterer, Major held

Omer Farooq Khan

 23 May, 2010

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities have arrested an army officer and the co-owner of a catering company that often served meals at the US embassy in Islamabad, in connection with the failed Times Square bomb plot, the New York Times reported.

The arrests were made as a crackdown on Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzads contacts in Pakistan, where he spent several months starting last year and received training from local militants in North Waziristan.

The army officer of the rank of Major whose name has not been disclosed, was arrested from his house in Rawalpindi. His father had filed a petition in a court that his son was missing. Military spokesman confirmed that the major was sacked from the army on disciplinary grounds last month and has been detained for questioning. But the spokesman denied that it had any link with the Times Square investigation. He appeared to have been disaffected, and his involvement with Shahzad did not signal the involvement of the Pakistani army in the attack, according to intelligence official.

The co-owner of the Hanif Rajput Catering Service, Salman Ashraf Khan, was recruited because two other suspects wanted him to help bomb a big gathering of foreigners whose event his company was catering, the Pakistani intelligence officer said. Rana Ashraf Khan, founder of the catering company and father of Salman, denied any links to terrorist groups.

The US embassy in Islamabad warned Americans on Friday that terrorist groups might have established links with the catering company and instructed its personnel to avoid using its food.

The other suspects arrested by Pakistan included an employee of the local unit of Norwegian telephone company Telenor Group and a man who owned a computer shop in Islamabad.

Times of India



Facebook Page That Led To Pak Ban Removed


 May 23rd, 2010

A Facebook page that was considered offensive to Islam and led to a Pakistani ban on the site has been removed, possibly by its creator.

Facebook said on Friday it has not taken any action on the page, which had attracted more than 1,00,000 users and encouraged users to post images of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, purportedly in support of freedom of speech.

Most Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

Mr Najibullah Malik, the secretary at Pakistan’s information technology ministry, said earlier on Friday that the government had no option but to shut down Facebook on Wednesday after a court order to do so.

“We know some people are suffering because of this blockade, but we have to obey the court order in letter and spirit,” Mr Malik said.

Pakistan said it would consider restoring Facebook and other sites with related content only if they took down pages considered offensive to Islam.

There was no immediate word on whether the government was lifting the ban.

The Facebook page, called “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!,” had declared on Thursday as the day to draw Mohammed, so it was possible the creator took it down on Friday because the page had served its purpose.

The Facebook page encouraged users to post images of the prophet to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators of the American TV series “South Park” for depicting Mohammed in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

The Asian Age



Google chief suspects ulterior motive in Pak

                                                May 23rd, 2010

San Francisco, May 22: Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has said he suspects suppressing political criticism is a factor behind the move to block YouTube and Facebook in Pakistan in the name of Islam.

“I’m always suspicious of these broad bans,” Mr Schmidt told a gathering at non-profit public policy institute New America Foundation. “In every case we looked at, there is an official reason then another reason. There is an awful lot of political criticism they are blocking at the same time.”

The Asian Age




Babri Panel: Appeal Against Court Order

Amita Verma

 23 May, 2010

In an expected turn of events, the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to approach the Supreme Court against the high court decision of granting reprieve to the senior BJP leaders accused in the Babri demolition case.

“If the CBI wants to take the case to its logical conclusion, it must appeal against the high court order and this will also prove whether the Congress-led UPA government is genuinely interested in punishing the demolition accused or not,” said BMAC convenor Zafaryab Jilani.

Mr Jilani said that after getting reprieve in the criminal conspiracy case, BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani, Dr M.M. Joshi and Vinay Katiyar had virtually been let off the hook. “The charges pending against them are comparatively mild in nature and will not entail suitable punishment. This implies that those responsible for inciting the mob to demolish the Babri mosque have been allowed to go scot free,” he explained.

The BMAC has also revived its demand for a fresh notification to be issued by the state government in the Babri case. It may be recalled that in 2001, the court had set aside a petition for clubbing of two FIRs in the Babri case on “technical grounds” and the court had observed that if the state government wanted, it could issue a fresh notification in the matter.

The Congress, which does not wish to be seen having an anti-minority posture, has also asked the Mayawati government to issue a fresh notification in the matter.

According to Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tiwari, “The Mayawati government still has the option to issue a fresh notification and pave the way for trial of the accused. The state government must examine the legal issue and remove the technical flaw. The state government enjoys majority on its own and cannot be said to be under pressure from allies this time,” he said.

UP chief minister Mayawati is said to be weighing the political ramifications of the issue. “If she sits over the issue, she will find favour with the BJP which still remains her potential ally at the Centre and in the state. If she decides to issue a fresh notification, she will succeed in finding favour with the minorities,” said an analyst.

The Asian Age



Pak Yet To Ask Interpol for Notice

May 23rd, 2010

Pakistani authorities were on Saturday caught on the wrong foot as an anti-terror court hearing the 26/11 case was told that Interpol was yet to be approached for a Red Corner notice for Ajmal Kasab, weeks after they claimed the matter had been taken up with the Paris-based agency.

The Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of LeT’s operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects in the Mumbai attacks adjourned the case till June 5.

Judge Malik Mohammed Akram Awan adjourned the trial after hearing arguments by the prosecution and defence on whether Kasab and Fahim Ansari could be made part of the trial. Kasab was given death penalty by a Mumbai court earlier this month while Ansari, who was also an accused, was acquitted for want of evidence. Defence lawyers argued in the Rawalpindi court that persons like Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari, who had been convicted or acquitted, could not be tried again for the same offence.

They said that section 403 of the Indian and Pakistani Penal Codes did not permit the fresh trial of persons who have been convicted or acquitted.

The Asian Age



3 Nato soldiers among 16 killed in Afghan violence

 May 23, 2010

KABUL: Three foreign soldiers and one civilian working with Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed in two separate incidents in southern Afghanistan Saturday, the alliance said, while at least a dozen of people were killed Saturday south of the Afghan capital after US troops spotted two militants trying to plant bombs, an Afghan official said.

“Two ISAF service members and a civilian working with ISAF died following an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan today,” ISAF said, without disclosing the soldiers’ nationality, in keeping with Nato policy.

“In a separate incident, also in southern Afghanistan, another ISAF service member died following an IED attack,” the statement said. — AFP

Reuters adds: Two foreign soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, the French government said Saturday.

A French and Dutch

soldier died along with the Afghan and four other Dutch soldiers were wounded, a statement said, without specifying where or when the attack took place.

Taliban militants fired rockets and mortars at Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, wounding Nato troops, officials said.

Meanwhile, Afghan police unearthed a cache of hundreds of rockets on the outskirts of the capital, officials said Saturday, weapons they believed were earmarked for use against a traditional peace meeting, or jirga, next week.

AP adds: At least a dozen of people were killed Saturday south of the Afghan capital after US troops spotted

two militants trying to

plant bombs, an Afghan official said.

The two were shot dead in Paktia province, district chief Gulab Shah said. Troops saw comrades drag the two bodies away and called in a gunship helicopter, which killed 10 more people, whom US officials said were all militants, Shah said.



Death of 10 people in drone strikes protested

Mushtaq Yusufzai & Malik Mumtaz Khan

                                                23 May, 2010

PESHAWAR/MIRAMSHAH: The killing of 10 people, mostly women and children, in US missile strikes on Saidabad village of North Waziristan late Friday night triggered strong protests in the volatile tribal region Saturday.

The CIA-operated spy aircraft had fired five missiles that struck house of an elderly cleric, Maulvi Tor Khan, and two other adjoining houses at Saidabad in Dattakhel tehsil — 35 kilometres west of Miramshah — the principal town of militancy-stricken North Waziristan.

“Besides elderly Maulvi Tor Khan, his nine family members were also killed in the strikes,” stated a government official based in Boya town close to Saidabad.

Besides Maulvi Tor Khan, those killed included his two sons, five grandchildren, including three girls and two boys, and two women.

Officials and tribesmen said that 10 other people, who suffered multiple burn injuries in the missile attack, were all local people including women and children.

The neighbours were injured after their houses caught fire in the missile strikes, said the villagers.

Doctors at the ill-equipped Agency Headquarters Hospital in Miramshah said 10 injured, including five children and as many women, were brought to the hospital early Saturday.

“Most of them had suffered burn injuries and are in critical condition as we don’t have medicines for them in the hospital,” said a doctor at the Miramshah Hospital.

Pleading anonymity, the doctor said there was no fund for purchase of medicines. He said owners of private drugstores were then requested to open their facilities that enabled relatives and attendants of the victims to purchase medicines for the injured.

“The annual health budget for North Waziristan was already very meagre but that too has been reduced now from Rs3.6 million to Rs2.2 million due to reasons best known to those sitting at the heavily-guarded Fata Secretariat in Peshawar,” explained a seemingly upset physician at the Miramshah Hospital.

The angry doctor also said that the health budget for North Waziristan was less than the price of a vehicle being purchased for an officer of Fata Secretariat.

“There is an army of officers and employees in Fata Secretariat consuming millions of US aid meant to be spent on welfare of the people of underdeveloped tribal areas. They have no concern with sufferings of the poor people living in the tribal areas,” complained the protesting doctor.

Thanks to military authorities deployed in the region and local political administration for their timely cooperation in lifting night-time curfew from the Miramshah-Dattakhel Road that helped the villagers shift the injured women and children to Miramshah hospital for treatment.

“On request to the political administration, the military officials immediately lifted curfew and informed the soldiers manning various checkpoints on Miramshah-Dattakhel Road to let the villagers shift their injured to Miramshah and extend them all possible help,” said an official of the political administration in Miramshah.

He said the injured would have died of burn injuries, had they not been shifted to the hospital on time.

The authorities declared emergency at Miramshah hospital and called the doctors and other staff at night to attend the drone victims.

Several villagers also came along with the injured people from Saidabad and Boya villages to Miramshah for donating blood to the victims.

Meanwhile, tribal elders and religious scholars in North Waziristan condemned the killing of innocent women and children in the drone attacks and demanded of the United Nations to send a team to the area to probe the killing of tribesmen in continuous missile strikes by the CIA-operated planes.



The way out for Afghanistan

23 May 2010

 Governing Afghanistan is getting difficult with each passing day. The Kabul-confined government of President Hamid Karzai is in a fix as insurgents go on a rampage countrywide. The series of attacks that took place in the last few days from the capital to one of the largest and most-heavily fortified US bases in Bagram are any indication, the country is slipping into the hands of Taleban and their like.

This new wave of suicide attacks has badly impacted the coalition’s plans to launch military offensives in Helmand, Kandahar and Paktika provinces. Top US and ISAF military commanders seem to be groping in the dark in finding a way out of the mess. Resultantly, their focus has turned towards Pakistan asking Islamabad to do more in the controversial war against terrorism, and to ensure that infiltration of insurgents across the Durand Line is checked, come what may.

This is a serious moment for the region. Warfare and repression strategies are not working any more. The Taleban and the like who form more than sixty per cent of Afghan population are at odds when it comes to issues of war and peace. Analysts worldwide are openly questioning military doctrines of Brussels and Washington. With an overwhelming population out of the scheme of things, be it nation-building or rapprochement, peace remains a distant cry in the region. President Karzai, who widely plays to the gallery while lambasting the Coalition of the Willing, seems to have consolidated his presence in office after his recent visit to the United States. Thus his earlier calls for reaching out to the Taleban and convening a grand jirga of tribal elders are up in the air. What is incomprehensible to believe is the insistence of foreign forces in Afghanistan to attain a military solution! The war-weary country is inevitably posing severe dangers to the entire region. Its ramifications are bound to spread as long as it is denied a lasting political solution.

The insurgents spring offensive against foreign troops and the Afghan government, codenamed Al-Fatah (conquest), speaks high of their comeback with renewed enthusiasm. Karzai and US President Barack Obama may have reasons to be skeptical in dealing with the Pakhtoon militants, but at the end of day they will have to take such a course. After all, the silent majority of the dispensation at work in Kabul comprises of warlords and drug-barons, but politics of exigency blesses them with recognition. This myopic strategy at work is in need of a change. What is instantly needed is a consensus among the ruling allies and the Taleban on how to achieve the goal of nation building and restore peace. The proposed grand jirga can be a big success if the coalition forces take a back seat, and let the affairs be managed by locals. Karzai’s stroll at Arlington cemetery can keep him in power, but couldn’t help gain legitimacy. The only way is to reach out to the living-dead in Paktika and Urgun districts.