Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: New York mosque firebombed in hate crime spree
Pakistan: The Murder of Infants, By Poverty Stricken Parents on the Rise
LAHORE, 3 January 2012- The murder of infants, particularly girls, by poverty-stricken parents in Pakistan appears to be on the rise.
Late at night two months ago in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, the parents of a two-day-old infant girl smothered the child, and then buried her tiny body in a distant field, carefully patting down the soil to hide any signs of digging. The mother cries often and says she still has nightmares about the event.
“I cried myself; I had delivered the baby and she was perfectly healthy. But her parents had two daughters already, and felt they couldn’t afford another. The father, a labourer, earned only 4,000 rupees (US$46.50) a month, and I know those people ate just once a day,” Suriya Bibi, a `dai’ or traditional midwife from the village, told IRIN.
According to Anwar Kazmi, a spokesperson for the charitable Edhi Foundation, more and more bodies of infants are being collected from the streets. “I would say there has been a 100 percent increase over the past decade in the number of bodies of infants we find. Nine out of 10 are girls,” he told IRIN.
Girls are traditionally considered a `burden’ on families, with large sums frequently spent on their marriages. “People feel girls make no economic contribution to families,” Gulnar Tabassum, a women’s rights activist, told IRIN.
Kazmi said 1,210 bodies of dead infants were found last year - compared to 999 in 2009.
“The reasons are linked to mindset and to poverty,” he said. While the Edhi Foundation places cradles outside the orphanages it runs, and urges people to leave babies in them rather than kill them, only a few choose to do so.
According to the Foundation, about 200 babies are left each year in the 400 cradles it puts out nationwide with signs urging parents to use them.
Since children born out of wedlock in this conservative society are at greater risk of infanticide, the Foundation encourages the placing of such children with responsible surrogate parents.
“These children are innocent,” said Kazmi.
No accurate statistics
The Foundation also collects its data mainly from larger cities. It is unknown how many other deaths may be taking place in rural areas, or regions in the tribal areas and Balochistan and Sindh provinces where official figures show poverty is highest.
The mothers themselves wish to save the children but they also see the economic struggle of their families in a time of growing inflation“The number of tiny babies we bury is increasing. In some cases the neck or wrists have been slashed open,” said Muhammad Taufiq, a gravedigger in Lahore.
“I have had women who are pregnant come to me crying, because their husbands or in-laws say any baby born must be killed since they cannot raise it. I can do little to help, since abortion is illegal in the country, and for various cultural reasons the use of birth control is far too low, though many woman want to use it,” said gynaecologist Faiqa Siddiq who works at a charitable clinic for women.
“The mothers themselves wish to save the children but they also see the economic struggle of their families in a time of growing inflation,” she says.
According to data from the Federal Bureau of Statistics reported in the media, non-perishable food items saw price rises of 11.83 percent in the year to November 2011. Other percentage increases during the year were: tomatoes (42.02), spices (36.37), fresh fruit (29.62), betel leaves and nuts (24.56), condiments (23.50), milk (21.11), milk products (20.47), beverages (19.79), cooking oil (19.56), and meat (19.35).
“Times are becoming harder and harder. I have just given birth to my fourth child. We will do all we can to raise the children, and murder of course is an unforgivable sin, but sometimes I understand the despair of parents who do so,” said Safia Bibi, a washerwoman whose husband is an odd-job man.
The family earns a monthly income of Rs. 6,000 ($70). “The children go barefoot because just feeding them is next to impossible. We survive mainly on `roti’ [bread] and pickles,” she said.
New York mosque firebombed in 'hate crime' spree
New York, January 02, 2012, New York's mayor expressed outrage on Monday after a mosque was hit by a firebomb in an arson spree that police said they were investigating as a hate crime.
The Imam Al-Khoei Foundation building in the borough of Queens suffered damage to the front door from a Molotov cocktail
thrown late Sunday, police said. Two similar attacks occurred in the same neighborhood, including one in a convenience store run by Muslims.
The foundation, which describes itself as the biggest international Shia Muslim organisation, said on its website that two firebombs were "hurled at the main entrance" but that thankfully "no major damage no injury was caused by the blast."
The statement said the foundation "reiterates its resolve to continue to serve the community and to strive to bring love where there is hatred, light where there is darkness and enlightenment where there is ignorance."
In a statement today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the three Molotov cocktail attacks "stand in stark contrast to the New York City of today that we've built together."
"Personnel from the NYPD's Hate Crimes Unit and the 103rd Precinct's Detective Squad are moving at full steam to investigate and also determine if there are any connections to incidents outside New York City," Bloomberg said.
Shortly before the mosque incident and in the same part of New York, a general store known here as a bodega was struck with a similar device, consisting of a still-undetermined inflammable liquid in a glass Starbucks cafe bottle, a police spokesman said.
A source close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified, said that "the employees are Muslim." The firebomb struck the counter area.
A third incident, occurring just one hour after the mosque attack, saw the same Starbucks bottle and accelerant weapon thrown at a private home used by a Hindu priest for ceremonies, police said. Nothing outside the house indicates its dual use as a temple, police said.
A fourth, more destructive attack on the same evening caused a major fire at a nearby private home, although there was no proof of links between this and the other incidents.
"There were no injuries, but there was extensive damage," a police spokesman said.
The source with the investigation said that in this case arson was suspected, but there was no indication of the same firebombs being used. The inhabitants, who were lucky to escape unharmed, were Christian and had no connection to the mosque or to the bodega, the source said.
Bloomberg has been a staunch defender of the city's Muslim immigrant population, notably in the furor over plans to build an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from the former location of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks.
However, Muslim community leaders say their civil rights have been marginalized since 9/11, especially as a result of intrusive police surveillance.
Maldivian Religious scholar’s symposium concludes with consensus on contentious issues
By Ahmed Naish
January 2nd, 2012
A first-ever symposium for local religious scholars organised by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs concluded last night with participants reaching consensus on a number of longstanding religious disputes and points of contention in Maldivian society.
Among the contentious issues deliberated and agreed upon by the 80 scholars were reciting Qunooth (invocation) during dawn prayer, the exact time of Friday prayer (12.35pm), the number of rak’ah for Tharavees prayers during Ramadan and reciting Bismillah aloud during prayers.
The scholars also opposed authorising Israeli national airline El Al to operate in the Maldives and decided to ask the authorities to remove controversial SAARC monuments in Addu City as they are considered an offense to Islam.
The religious scholars also decided to back Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari’s request to parliament’s National Security Committee that the airline not be allowed into the Maldives.
On the issue of Qunooth - an invocation offered in times of adversity – a majority of scholars concurred that the practice was not a bid’ah (heretical innovation). Sheikh Ibrahim Fareed Ahmed of the Islamic Foundation of Maldives (IFM) and Sheikh Ilyas Jamal however insisted that the invocation was an innovation when the issue was put to a vote.
Moreover, a majority of scholars could not agree that praying in front of pillars in mosques was an innovation.
On the optional Tharavees prayers during Ramadan, the scholars agreed that the number of rak’ah could exceed 20 or end at a lower number.
The decisions made during the symposium also included forming of an association of religious scholars to raise awareness among the public and assist the Islamic Ministry in “responding to those who deny or cast doubt on the Sunnah.”
Seven papers were presented by prominent scholars at the two-day symposium that took place at the Islamic Centre while participants were divided into three discussion groups. In addition to Islamic Minister Dr Bari, the papers were presented by MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Sheikh Mohamed Giyas, Sheikh Abubakur Ibrahim of IFM, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, Sheikh Nasrulla Musthafa and Sheikh Ahmed Saleem Hussein.
The papers focused on points of conflict and disagreement among scholars over issues of ambiguity.
Speaking to press at the conclusion of the symposium last night, Dr Bari said the event was a success and noted the absence of serious disputes among Maldivian scholars.
Dr Bari observed that disputes were more common in the public than among religious scholars.
As a measure to reduce misunderstanding among the public, said Dr Bari, participants at the symposium agreed to issue fatwas only after reaching consensus among all scholars.
Following the success of the symposium, Dr Bari added that the Islamic Ministry was considering making the gathering an annual event.
Northern Christians Seek Muslims’ Partnership Over Boko Haram
02/01/2012, Northern Christian leaders have reached out to their Muslim counterparts as part of national efforts to stop the violent activities of Boko Haram before it becomes late.
In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP and signed by the President of Christian Association (19 northern states), Archbishop Peter Yariyok Jatau, the group said it has resisted calls for retaliation especially following the December 25 bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State but cannot guarantee continued tolerance.
The statement reads: “We reach out to all Muslims in our country from the highest levels of leadership to the ordinary peace-loving citizens and call on them to work with us to fight against the evil sectarian violence of Boko Haram.
“We want to unite it (Nigeria) and we call on all concerned Nigerians, whatever their faith, to work with us before it is too late.”
However, the group said that its members will no doubt protect and defend their rights to live and worship if attacked.
There have been condemnations of the violent activities of Boko Haram by Muslim leaders, who said that Islam does not tolerate senseless attacks on non Muslims especially their places of worship. Muslim and Christian leaders believe these atacks are aimed at forcing a religious conflict between adherents of the two major religions, and called on the faithful to join forces to fight all forces of evil.
Islam terror group tells Christians: Leave north Nigeria or be attacked
By msnbc.com staff
Christians have been warned by a militant Islamist group to leave northern Nigeria or be attacked, according to media reports.
Abul Qaqa, a purported spokesman for Boko Haram, said the terror group was “giving a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away”, the English language Vanguard newspaper reported.
The group has been linked to many attacks on Christians, most notably the bombings on Christmas Day killed 49 people, most of them at a Catholic church as services were ending.
Nigeria’s 160 million people are divided between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Qaqa said Boko Garam wished "to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the north".
The BBC reported that Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency on Saturday in parts of four states hard hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram.
It said Mr Jonathan vowed to "crush" the group, which he said "started as a harmless group" but had "now grown cancerous".
Human rights activist Shehu Sani told CNN that the latest Boko Haram threat was credible, but many Christians born and raised in the north have nowhere else to go.
"The killings will continue," he told CNN, adding that the state of emergency and an enhanced presence of the security forces would not improve the situation, alleging that troops had already been involved in human rights abuses and had done little to reduce violence.
David Cook of Rice University, who has studied the rise of Boko Haram, told CNN that "if radical Muslim violence on a systematic level were to take hold in Nigeria ... it could eventually drive the country into a civil war."
Iran jails former President Rafsanjani's daughter
3 January 2012
The daughter of the former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been sentenced to six months in prison for "making propaganda against the ruling system".
Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani's trial took place behind closed doors last month.
According to the conservative website Mashregh News, she has been banned from taking part in political, cultural and media activities for five years.
She has 20 days to appeal against the sentence.
Correspondents say that her punishment may be turned into a suspended jail term on appeal, as often happens with opponents of the Iranian authorities.
Faezah Rafsanjani has given interviews in recent months in which she defended her father's position - and this appears to be her offence. Akbar Rafsanjani has refused to condemn Iran's two most prominent pro-reform leaders.
Faezah Rafsanjani is a former MP and the most politically active of Mr Rafsanjani's children. She was briefly detained in February 2011 after taking part in a banned protest march.
The former president's political influence has decreased in recent years, and his website was recently shut down.
In 2009, during the protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election, Mr Rafsanjani angered hard-liners by calling for the release of detained opposition members. In March 2011 he lost his position as head of Iran's highest clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.
He now retains only one political position, as head of the Expediency Council, but his term there ends in April and it is unclear whether he will keep that role.
Libya reserves 10% seats for women
MED LAMLOUM, TRIPOLI, JAN. 2, 12
Ten per cent of the seats in a proposed Libyan Constituent Assembly will be reserved for women, a draft electoral law published on Monday said, triggering harsh reaction from a human rights watchdog.
“The General National Congress (Constituent Assembly) is to be composed of 200 members elected freely and directly. Ten per cent of the seats will be reserved for women,” said the draft released on the website of the election preparatory committee.
The Constituent Assembly election is scheduled to be held in June.
The draft stipulates that candidates must be more than 25 years of age and should have held no position of responsibility under Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime nor ben
efited financially from his rule. The minimum age for voters has been kept at 18. A bloody uprising ended Col. Gaddafi’s four-decade rule and the ousted leader was later killed attempting to flee the fall of his hometown Sirte on October 20. The Libyan Human Rights Alliance strongly criticised the proposed bill.
“As it is now, Libyan women currently make up over 50% of the population in Libya, and the idea that they will be strictly limited to only 20 seats is extremely outrageous,” said the alliance in a statement released in English.
The Libyan Human Rights Alliance, a network of non-governmental organisations, said that Libyan women too had worked hard during the revolution which toppled Col. Gaddafi. — AFP
Taliban confirm Western plan to open Qatar office
3 January 2012
The Taliban say they have reached a preliminary agreement to set up a political office, possibly in Qatar, as part of Western plans to end the war.
A statement confirmed the move, which has been backed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Both the US and Germany have been pushing for such a representation in an effort to kick-start negotiations.
The office is seen by some as a key step towards ending the 10-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
But it still remains unclear if the insurgents, who claim to be winning the war, are prepared to engage in truly meaningful peace talks - and whether they could take place while international forces continue to kill Taliban fighters and commanders, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.
Importance of address
In their statement, the insurgents said Afghanistan's "current problem" began with the US-led invasion of 2001 and "the two main sides which were involved in this are the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [Taliban] and on the other side is the United States and their foreign allies".
It said the Taliban movement "always tries to solve the issue or the problem with the opposite side through talks" and warned the Western coalition that they would "never force the Afghans to obey them by force".
"For the sake of a better understanding with the internationals, we have an initial understanding to have a political office - including in the country of Qatar."
The statement added that they wanted prisoners released from the US-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, as part of a deal.
And it also rejected as false reports by "Western press and officials" about negotiations.
The agreement to set up the liaison office would give the group an address where negotiators could meet, says our Kabul correspondent, and some see this agreement as a critical step.
Establishing the authenticity of would-be negotiators from the Taliban has been a problem in the past.
Last month, President Karzai gave his first public support to the plan - having previously rejected the idea, angry that the US and Germany had discussed potential locations without him.
Kabul has repeatedly stressed that it will not accept any foreign intervention in negotiations with the Taliban.
Efforts to hold talks have been hit by a string of setbacks, including the assassination in September of Burhannudin Rabbani, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council which had been liaising with the militant group.
The Taliban denied being responsible, but the attack added to the sense of mistrust.
US and Afghan officials have also stressed that Pakistan - where the Taliban's leadership are believed to be based - must be involved in the process.
Jordan hosts Israelis, Palestinians in rare meeting
AMMAN, 3 January 2012 — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators gather in the Jordanian capital Amman on Tuesday for their first face-to-face meeting in 16 months but both sides insisted full-blown talks remained some way off.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who was to host the meeting between Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho and his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat, said it was a ‘serious’ bid to help relaunch moribund peace talks.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair was also to attend the session, along with other officials of the grouping, made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
‘It is a serious effort to find a common ground between the two sides and help restart direct peace talks,’ said Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed, whose country has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
‘All sides should invest in this opportunity and help create the right environment for the success of this effort through refraining from unilateral and provocative actions.’
Senior Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor, who holds the intelligence portfolio and is also deputy prime minister, told public radio that the meeting is ‘a positive development.’
He said the meeting did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks, but expressed hope it would be a springboard which would ‘allow the Palestinians to return to negotiations.
‘We were not asked to make declarations at the preliminary talks,’ he said, indicating that only in the context of actual negotiations would Israel lay out its positions.
Erakat made the same point in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
‘This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations,’ he said.
He told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah that Israel should not waste the rare opportunity of a face-to-face meeting.
‘This is a valuable opportunity for peace and Israel shouldn’t waste it and once again be the reason for the failure of efforts by the international community, by the Quartet and by Jordan, to resume the negotiations,’ he said.
Should Tuesday’s meeting end without progress, a committee of officials from the Palestinian leadership will look into the available options and ‘present its recommendations to president (Mahmud) Abbas within the next few days,’ he said.
Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank construction expired and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to renew it.
Abbas has said he will not hold talks without a freeze on settlement building and agreement on a clear framework for talks based on 1967 lines.
The Quartet has been trying to draw the two sides back to the negotiating table, asking each to submit comprehensive proposals on territory and security.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that the United States ‘welcomes and supports this positive development.’
‘We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet,’ she said in a statement.
‘The need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace.’
But the meeting sparked an angry reaction from the Islamist Hamas movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas’s forces in 2007 and had been inching towards a reconciliation deal with the Palestinian leadership.
‘We demand a boycott of this meeting,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP. ‘Going to such a meeting is only betting on failure.’
The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was also strongly critical of the meeting, calling it a ‘fatal error’ which would force the Palestinians back into another pointless waiting game.
Abu Dhabi: Abandoned kids’ issue to be raised in FNC today Nissar Hoath
ABU DHABI, 3 January 2012 - The Federal National Council (FNC) will discuss the critical issue pertaining to children of unknown parentage, asking both the community and the government to ensure full care for them.
The issue of children of unknown parents will be raised by member Mohammed Rashid Al Sharaiqi in a question addressed to Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, who is also the acting Minister of Health, in today’s session. The member asked the minister to enlighten the House on the federal draft law pertaining to the welfare of children of unknown parents. Today’s agenda includes five questions to Al Owais, the Finance Minister and the Minister of Labour on certain issues.
The House, according to the agenda, will discuss and ask the government to ensure full support and care for the abandoned children whose parents are unknown. The member in his question said these children have all the rights to live a dignified life with the full government and community support. “Please treat these children as your own blood. If children are found abandoned, give them full care and support according to Islamic teachings that call for humanitarian services without sectarian, religious and race barriers,” the member said in his question.
The member further asked the House and authorities concerned to further develop the draft law concerning such children.
He also advised the community to adopt such children. “We should accept them as part of our society. They cannot be left alone just because their parentage is unknown. We need to come up with an effective law that assures them of full security and care.”
Afghan father denies killing daughters for honor
By Charmaine Noronha -Associated Press
TORONTO, January 2, 2012 — On a summer morning in 2009, in canal locks east of Toronto, police made a grisly discovery: the bodies of three teenage sisters and a 52-year-old woman in a submerged Nissan car.
Mohammad Shafia, the 58-year-old father of the girls, reported the disappearance and claimed the accident was a joyride gone tragically wrong.
Prosecutors, however, allege it was an Islamic “honor killing.”
A murder trial is under way, heating up a national debate about how to better absorb immigrants into the Canadian cultural mainstream.
The prosecution accuses Afghan-born Mr. Shafia, his wife, Yahya, and their 20-year-old son of killing the daughters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using computers.
The older victim was Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, who was living with him and his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, in Montreal.
The parents and son, Hamed, have pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder.
The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Mr. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Yahya because his first wife could not have children. The second marriage produced seven children.
The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, according to court testimony. Zainab, the oldest at 19, was forbidden to attend school for a year because she had a young Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend. She fled to a shelter, terrified of her father.
Witnesses testified that Zainab’s sisters - Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 - were hounded and trailed by their brothers because the parents suspected them of dating boys.
Sahar repeatedly said her father would kill her if he found out she had a boyfriend; she had bruises on her arms; and Rona, the first wife who was helping to raise the children, also was brutally treated, according to testimony.
Zainab ran away from home for a couple of weeks and her sisters contacted authorities, saying they wanted to be removed from the home because of violence and their father’s strict parenting, the prosecution said.
Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle presented wiretaps and cell-phone records from the Shafia family in court. In one phone conversation, the father says his daughters “betrayed us immensely.”
Fazil Javad, Mr. Shafia’s brother-in-law, said Mr. Shafia tried to enlist him in a plan to drown Zainab.
” ‘Even if they hoist me up to the gallows, nothing is more dear to me than my honor. There is nothing more valuable than our honor,’ ” Ms. Lacelle quoted Mr. Shafia as saying in an intercept transcript.
Full Report at:
Militias clash in the centre of Libyan capital Tripoli
3 January 2012
Clashes have erupted in the centre of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Residents report hearing sustained gunfire and seeing casualties, but the scale of the violence is not clear.
It is also not clear who is involved in the fighting or why it broke out, but Tripoli is still dominated by militias of former rebels from outside the city.
The fighting broke out at a building used as intelligence headquarters by the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in October 2011.
AFP news agency reported that militiamen had blocked ambulances from reaching the area of the fighting.
23 insurgents killed in Khyber Agency
HANGU:Jan 3, 12 At least 20 terrorists were killed in Upper Orakzai Agency in two separate operations by the military on Sunday night and Monday morning.
Official sources said that security forces pounded terrorist hideouts with heavy weaponry, killing 10 terrorists in Upper Orakzai on Monday, where the operation was still underway. “Security forces had earlier killed at least 10 other extremists during an overnight operation against the terrorists in Upper Orakzai,” official sources added.
Three more terrorists were killed in a clash with the Qaumi Lashkar in Landikotal Tehsil of Khyber Agency. According to details, three terrorists and a volunteer were killed during the clash.
Security forces have stepped up operations against terrorists in Orakzai Agency to wipe out the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda affiliated groups in the area. Officials said that despite repeated operations, terrorists in the tribal region could not be eliminated. inp
Top Pakistan Taliban Commanders 'at each's throats'
ISLAMABAD: Jan 3, 2012, Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militants have held a series of meetings aimed at containing what could soon be open warfare between the two most powerful Pakistani Taliban leaders, militant sources have said.
Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP), and his deputy, Waliur Rehman, were at each other’s throats, the sources said.
“You will soon hear that one of them has eliminated the other, though hectic efforts are going on by other commanders and common friends to resolve differences between the two,” one TTP commander said.
Any division within the TTP could hinder the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda’s struggle in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies, making it more difficult to recruit young fighters and disrupting safe havens in Pakistan used by the Afghan militants.
Despite multiple reports of the Rehman-Mehsud split, Rehman told Reuters on Tuesday there was no problem between the two.
“There are no differences between us,” Rehman said.
The TTP, formed in 2007, is an umbrella group of various Pakistani militant factions operating in Pakistan’s unruly northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.
It has long struggled with its choice of targets. Some factions are at war with the Pakistani state while others concentrate on the fight against the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.
There has been a noticeable decrease in militant attacks in Pakistan, but there continue to be random acts of violence across the country.
Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban commanders are asking the TTP to provide more men for the fight in Afghanistan and are looking to smooth over the dispute between Mehsud and Rehman.
Taliban sources said Rehman had ordered his fighters to kill Mehsud because of his increasing closeness with al Qaeda and its Arab contingent.
Mehsud’s former deputy has also alleged the TTP chief received money from Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, to kill a former Pakistan spy agency official acting as a mediator between the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan insurgents and the Pakistani government.
The reported enmity between Mehsud and Rehman is not the only conflict within the TTP ranks.
Mehsud has a long-standing feud with militant commanders Maulvi Nazeer in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan, both of whom have non-aggression agreements with the Pakistani military.
Mehsud’s men have also fought with the militia under the control of Fazal Saeed Haqqani, the former TTP head in the Kurram tribal region. He has accused Mehsud of killing his commanders and innocent people and kidnapping for ransom.
Haqqani, who is close to the militant Afghan Haqqani network, broke away from the TTP last year.
A pamphlet distributed by militants in North Waziristan this week announced the formation of a council to try to resolve the conflicts.
“All jihadi forces have jointly, on the recommendation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, formed a five-member commission which will be known as the Shura Muraqba,” the pamphlet said, using the term by which the Afghan Taliban describe themselves.
“The Shura Muraqba will be working to resolve differences and problems between mujahideen.”
It said that any “mujahideen” found to have committed an “unlawful” killing or kidnapping would be punished under Islamic law. It is likely any attack on a fellow “mujahideen” commander would be considered “unlawful”.
“All mujahideen should respect the decisions of the council that has been set up,” a senior commander of the Haqqani faction in Kurram said.
“If people continue to do as they like, the situation will not improve. Things will instead get much worse.”
Jakarta Conference on World Muslim Media
The need for greater media participation by Muslim Ummah is being deeply felt all over the Islamic world. The recently held Second International Conference on Islamic Media in Jakarta (13-15 Dec. 2011) jointly sponsored by Makkah-based World Muslim League and the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia has given a timely call to Ummah to awake and do the needful to have its rightful place in the world media. In Jakarta Declaration the conference called upon the Muslim countries to assertively strengthen media participation. It further called for strengthening media departments of universities in Muslim countries. It also called for utilising the positive advantages of new techniques in the field of media.
The art of human communication has made new strides in recent times. Spurred by increased availability of modern technology, media has registered amazing expansion. There are about 800 million people who use social network Facebook. It is being termed as a borderless country, rather the third largest country after China and India. Twitter also is getting wider acceptance and its present 17 million subscriber base is expanding with great speed. Arab countries have around 1000 TV channels with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia being most popular and influential.
There was a time when things moved slowly and changes came leisurely but now time moves fast and changes take place overnight or even in twinkling of an eye. New inventions like internet, Facebook and Ipod are achieving in years and months what newspapers gained in decades and centuries. A research in 2010-2011 revealed that radio took 38 years to get 50 million listeners while TV took 13 years, internet 4 years and Ipod 3 years to get the same number of subscribers. And Facebook has been the fastest, getting 200 million subscribers in just one year. The greater and faster accessibility to modern media techniques has increased the power of media hundreds of times. But when we examine the media access of Muslim world which accounts for one-fourth of human population, its reach and influence is abysmally low.
The keen interest of the Indonesian government in the conference was evident from the fact that it was inaugurated by the Vice President of Indonesia. The World Muslim League did its best as its Secretary General Abdullah Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki personally participated and guided the proceedings. The conference has recommended that a permanent secretariat should be established for appropriate follow-up action. If the recommendations of this conference are carried out in word and spirit, it will go a long way in strengthening media in the Muslim world. If the Ummah utilises the full potential of Islamic media, it may achieve the long-sought-after objective of becoming the leading force to change the world and usher in a better future for humanity.
Islamists Risk Backlash With Shariah 'Solution' in Egypt
By Tawfik Hamid
02 Jan 2012 , Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority — more than 60 percent — of the votes in the first and second rounds of Egypt's recent parliamentary elections.
This victory of the Egyptian Islamists, while seeming to be the end of the tribulations within Egypt, actually can result in another revolution. This time, though, the revolution is more likely to be against the Islamists themselves. The reason for this is that, throughout the past few decades, many Islamic groups have given the people of Egypt the impression that implementing Islamic Shariah will solve all the problems in the country.
The Muslim brotherhood has made that clear in its slogan that “Islam is the Solution.” Although these promises helped the Islamists win these elections, they are considered to be risky to them as well. If the Islamists failed to deliver prompt and fast solutions to the deeply rooted problems in Egypt, the Egyptians are likely to revolt against them.
Many Egyptians have been suffering for years and have become impatient and ultimately unable to wait to see significant improvements in their standards of living. Linking the word “Islam” to the “solution” of the problems in the country will make the Egyptians expect an “almighty” solution for all their problems in a very short period of time.
Failure of the Islamist groups to deliver such an Islamic solution will backlash against them. It is likely that the pro-Shariah policies of the Islamist groups, such as banning bikinis and alcohol, will make things worse in the country as they will ruin the tourism industry and thus cause a huge blow to the Egyptian economy. This damage to the economy is likely to ruin the life of millions of Egyptians.
It is easy to claim that Islam is the solution and dream about miraculous solutions to the multitude of problems within the country; however, facing the reality of famine and the loss of millions of jobs is more difficult to decipher.
The disappointment with the new leaders of the country, the Islamists (if they came to power), for not bringing fast solutions to economic problems will direct the anger of the millions against the Islamists and is likely to reinitiate another revolution, this time against the Islamic parties.
Another factor that is likely to contribute to the anger against the Islamists is the nature of the Egyptian people, who cannot tolerate interferences in their personal freedoms. Ordinary Egyptians — even those who choose the Islamists — will not tolerate the intrusive nature of the religious police that may try to implement Shariah rules.
For example, Egyptian men are likely to use violence against anyone who either looks disapprovingly at their women or comments on how they dress. These expected confrontations, with commoners upon the streets, will be added to the former detrimental economical factors in setting the stage for a major revolt against the Islamists.
Also encouraging a revolt against the Islamists is the behavioral and historical characteristics of the Egyptian people. These characteristics are the reasoning behind the creation of hundreds of jokes each year against their rulers. Additionally, by breaking the walls of oppression and fear in the Jan. 25, 2011, revolutions, the Egyptian people have the momentum to arouse a second revolt.
The current theological debates in Egypt and the differing views of Islamic implementation justifies why many Egyptians will not consider revolting against the Islamists to be revolting against Islam. This is a crucial factor because ordinary Egyptians will have difficulty in revolting against the Islamists if they feel as though they are the only ones who represent Islam.
The only way the Islamists can avoid this disastrous outcome is if they do not implement Shariah rules in the country. In this situation, it is probable that they will lose their appeal of being “Islamic” and are likely to confront the more radical Islamic groups who will accuse them of being “infidels” for not implementing Islam.
Some may argue that the majority of Egyptians chose the Islamists. This
could be true if we counted only the Egyptians who went to the elections. In reality, only 50 percent of those eligible to vote went to vote. This group is largely made up of Egyptians who aren't extremely religious; otherwise their religious motivation would have driven them to go to the election. If we added this group to the liberals in the country and to those who choose the Islamists merely for economic reasons, the percentage of Egyptians who will most likely revolt against the Islamists will constitute the majority of the Egyptians.
Failure of the Islamic experiment in Egypt can be the biggest setback to the Islamism phenomenon throughout the world as the Egyptian Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are the orchestrators of the so-called “Islamic revival” all over the world.
In brief, the overwhelming victory of the Islamists in the recent elections in Egypt may not be the ultimate finale for Egypt. It is likely that, if the Islamists apply Shariah rules, this will set the stage for a powerful revolt or a revolution against them.
Maldive's Tourism Ministry may revise spa ban
By Eleanor Johnstone
January 1st, 2012, The government is looking to revise the circular issued late last week requesting that resorts, hotels and guesthouses close down their spas over public allegations that they double as brothels.
“As specifying a certain distance from Male’ would not be a wise decision [in closing down spas] and that other resorts, which also cater for locals, are located close to inhabited islands, the government has decided to close down the spas in all the resorts on a fair basis and by giving a higher priority to the allegations made,” the circular read.
The decision to reconsider the circular was made after several resort owners and the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) expressed “serious concern”.
A statement signed by MATI Secretary General ‘Sim’ Ibrahim Mohamed released last week expressed concern with financial losses as a result of the decision as well as effects on holiday-makers currently in the Maldives.
MATI urged the government and opposition parties to “find a peaceful solution” to the dispute.
“The tourism industry wishes for all actors in the political sphere to prioritise the domestic economy, development and security over differences and disagreements among political parties and not involve the economy’s main industries in these disputes,” reads MATI’s appeal.
MATI’s Chairperson M U Manik and Vice Chair ‘Champa’ Hassan Afeef have made statements in the media urging the government to reverse its decision to shut down resort spas after considering the consequences for the economy.
Meanwhile the government has also announced that it is considering banning pork and alcohol across the country, in response to the large number of Maldivians who protested against the government’s current purported “anti-Islamic” policies.
Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa told Haveeru yesterday that the circular was issued in response to demands made by the coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties during the protest to defend Islam on December 23. These demands included the closure of places which support prostitution, namely spas and massage parlors.
Zulfa noted that a policy shift towards strict Islam would have a profound economic impact on the Maldives.
“We can only sustain our economy by following the moderate form [of Islam] which has been in the Maldives until now,” she told Haveeru. “We [ministers] are labelled anti-Islamic because we support the tolerant form [of Islam]. But that label is a disgrace to our parents as well.”
According to Zulfa, several resorts had raised concern over the circular, and while they “are aware of the reasons that led us to take the decision,” the ministry is investigating a compromise.
The Minister was unavailable for comment at time of press.
Minivan News understands that several tour operators have also been calling resorts to inquire if indeed their spas and massage services have been closed down. Hulhule Island Hotel, near Male’, has closed its spa indefinitely.
Maldives Association of Travel and Tour Operators (MATATO) earlier issued a statement condemning the government’s decision to close five Villa Hotels’ resort spas over allegations of prostitution. MATATO noted that local and foreign resorts, tour operators and travel associations had expressed concern over the decision and that the damage to the industry would be grievous.
“The spa and wellness concept is very popular among tourists,” read the statement. “We urge the government to keep politics away from Tourism and also advise various
Tourism stakeholders as well to do same, as majority of Maldivians depends on Tourism for their livelihood and is something to be dealt with extreme caution and care.”
Today, MATATO did not respond to phone calls.
Speaking at a press conference held the day before the circular was issued, President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair justified the strong measure by saying that given the difficulty of distinguishing spas which endorse prostitution from those which do not, and that many high-profile Maldivians visit resort spas, it was important that strict measures be taken to protect those Maldivians’ good names.
Meanwhile, members of the coalition which made the demands have accused the government of “making a mockery of the demands” and “making excuses.”
Alleging that the government is targeting protesters, coalition spokesperson Abdullah Mohamed announced a sixth demand–that the government “stop causing harm to anyone who participates in the religious movement”.
The coalition has given the government until January 5 to fulfill the demands made on December 23, and has warned of further mass protests or direct action in the event that the deadline is not met.
Pakistan, India to start power, petro trade
South Asian News Agency (SANA) ⋅ ⋅
Islamabad, January 3, 2012 , India and Pakistan are strengthening business links, with the stage set to start trading in electricity and petroleum products. Pakistan is expected to end allowing trade in only around 2,000 products and replace the positive list with a negative list.
Officials from the two countries have decided to trade in electricity through a specially-built high voltage direct current link between Amritsar and Lahore. The plan is to transfer 500MW through the Punjab border with the tariff linked to the market rate.
The proposal is awaiting a clearance from the Indian defence ministry before an agreement is signed.
In addition, talks will start in the second week of January on a 200-km pipeline originating from the Bathinda refinery to move surplus diesel from India to Pakistan. Sources said discussions at the commerce secretary level have taken place, and now specialists from the two countries would thrash out the details, when a delegation from across the border visits the country.
The Guru Gobind Singh Refinery Project – being jointly built by Hindustan Petroleum and LN Mittal’s Mittal Energy Investment Pvt Ltd Singapore – is expected to go on stream shortly and add to the country’s surplus refining capacity. In contrast, Pakistan faces scarcity and will have quicker access to fuel.
Officials said that HPCL-Mittal Energy will gain as the cost of transporting fuel through a pipeline will work out be much less than shipping it.
The contours of the deal are expected to be finalized over the next few weeks, and may be announced when commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma visits Pakistan in mid-February with a business delegation. Apart from minister-level and business-to-business talks, the government has also lined up an India Show to strengthen the recent bonhomie on the trade front.
In February, Pakistan is expected to end allowing trade in only around 2,000 products and replace the positive list with a negative list. India is pushing for a small negative list of around 200 items where trade will be restricted.
By October even this list is going to be phased out, and Pakistan will move to a World Trade Organization-compliant mechanism and grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) to India, almost 16 years after New Delhi granted the benefit to Islamabad.
No to ethnic divisions of Sindh: Nawaz
By Masroor Afzal Pasha
KARACHI: Jan 03, 2012, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif has indicated that those talking about craving out new provinces will ultimately demand a separate province in Sindh.
He was talking to reporters on his arrival at the Karachi airport on Monday to attend the meeting of party’s provincial council. “We will not be in favour of more provinces in Sindh on an ethnic basis,” he made it clear.
Nawaz said it was high time for the government to pick up the gauntlet and take bold initiatives.
Nawaz also denied holding any meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, who also happens to be in the provincial metropolis.
He also denied having any knowledge about Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani’s statement regarding his meeting with President Zardari.
“I came to know about his (Zardari’s) presence in the metropolis through the media,” Nawaz said.
NATO wants relations with Pakistan back on track
KABUL: Jan 03, 01 12, NATO wants to get relations with Pakistan back on track “as quickly as possible” to reopen its key supply route for foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan, a coalition spokesman said on Monday.
Pakistan closed its main trading route to Afghanistan in November, choking a major supply line for the 130,000-strong US-led force, following a deadly airstrike by the alliance force that killed 24 soldiers in Mohmand Agency.
Islamabad rejects the coalition’s report that blamed the incident on mistakes by both sides and has not said when it will reopen the route.
“We ... have an interest for the international community and for Afghanistan that relations with Pakistan are normalising as quickly as possible,” said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen.
Full Report at:
Nine militants killed as clashes continue in Orakzai
KARACHI:Jan 03, 12, Nine militants were killed and four insurgent hideouts were destroyed in shelling by security forces in the Orakzai tribal region, DawnNews reported on Tuesday.
Clashes between security forces and militants are ongoing in upper and central Orakzai.
In upper Orakzai’s Mamozai area, four militants were killed and two insurgent hideouts were destroyed during heavy shelling by security forces.
Moreover, in central Orakzai’s Ali Sherzai area, five militants were killed and two insurgent hideouts were destroyed by security forces’ shelling.
Pakistan bomb attacks kill five
January 03, 2012
TWO separate bomb blasts in Pakistan's troubled northwest on Tuesday killed five people and wounded 26 others.
The first bomb was planted in a motorbike and detonated at a busy plaza in the regional capital Peshawar, killing two people and injuring 19 others, senior police official Tahir Ayub told AFP.
Another senior police official, Saeed Khan, confirmed the casualties.
A second bomb hit a busy market in Landi Kotal town of Khyber tribal district, close to Peshawar, killing three people and wounding seven others, a government official told AFP. One tribal policeman was among the dead and two others were injured.
"The bomb also destroyed two vehicles," Said Ahmad Jan, the official, said.
Islamist militants opposed to the government, particularly the nebulous Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) network, have carried out bomb and gun attacks killing more than 4700 people across Pakistan since July 2007.
Khyber is a part of Pakistan's seven tribal districts, rife with homegrown insurgents and strongholds of Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.
Pakistan has for years battled insurgents in the tribal belt. More than 3000 soldiers have died but Islamabad has resisted US pressure to do more to eliminate militant havens.
Goldman Sachs advisor defends $2 bn Islamic bond scheme
DUBAI:3 JAN, 2012,, An advisor to Goldman Sachs has defended the U.S. bank's $2 billion Islamic bond programme against criticism it may contravene religious principles, in a controversy that could affect Western banks' ability to enter the Islamic debt market.
In October, Goldman registered the sukuk programme with the Irish Stock Exchange. It set up a Cayman Islands-registered special purpose vehicle, Global Sukuk Co Ltd, to issue a sukuk based on murabaha, a cost-plus-profit arrangement which complies with Islamic law.
Some analysts however have suggested Goldman might use the proceeds of the issue to lend money to clients for interest, which would be against Islamic law, and that the issue might not trade at par value on the Irish exchange, which would also contravene sharia law.
Asim Khan, managing director at Islamic finance advisory firm Dar Al Istithmar, said such speculation was groundless.
"Bulge-bracket banks such as Goldman Sachs can bring to Islamic finance their sophistication and depth of experience in liquidity management and equity/quasi-equity investment, which can take Islamic finance closer to its true ideals, so long as they adhere to the generally accepted sharia principles," Khan said.
"So far there is no basis to speculate otherwise," Khan, whose London- and Dubai-based company advised Goldman on the sukuk, wrote in a column contributed to Reuters. (For the full column, click on ).
As the euro zone debt crisis poisoned conventional debt markets last year, several big Western banks considered raising money through Islamic finance, which is based on religious principles and bans the payment of interest and pure monetary speculation. The Arab Gulf, home to billions of dollars of Islamic investment funds, has been relatively untouched by the financial crisis.
HSBC's Middle East unit became the first Western bank to issue a sukuk last May with a $500 million Islamic bond carrying a maturity of five years. French bank Credit Agricole
has said it is considering issuing an Islamic bond or creating a wider sukuk programme that could lead to several issues.
Unlike HSBC with its HSBC Amanah brand, however, Goldman does not have an established presence in the Islamic banking sector, and its entry into the market has caused controversy.
Mohammed Khnifer, an Islamic finance analyst in Saudi Arabia, wrote that Goldman might use the proceeds of the sukuk to fund conventional banking activities. He suggested the sukuk might trade on the Irish exchange at levels other than par value, which would be impermissible under sharia law, and that the underlying structure of the sukuk might not be murabaha but reverse tawarruq, which has been ruled unacceptable by some Islamic scholars as an effort to hide the use of interest.
In his column, Khan wrote that the prospectus clearly showed the proceeds of the sukuk would not be used to lend money to Goldman clients for interest.
"Goldman Sachs, as an investment bank and as a proprietary commodity trader, has invested billions of dollars in commodities and will use the murabaha commodities in its commodity trading business, which will partly replace the conventional funding with Islamic finance," he wrote.
Khan said the prospectus had informed investors that the sukuk should only be traded at par value, and had warned investors there was not expected to be a secondary market in the instrument.
Hamas leader gets hero’s welcome in Turkey
By Ben Birnbaum-The Washington Times
ISTANBUL, January 2, 2012, The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip received a hero’s welcome here Monday as he visited the ship where nine Turks were killed during an attempt to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010.
“On behalf of the martyrs of our Palestinian people and on behalf of the families of the martyrs, I salute the martyrs and the families of the liberty ship, the [Mavi] Marmara,” Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in front of the Turkish ship.
“And we would like to tell you that your blood is our blood, and your martyrs are our martyrs.”
Addressing Israel, Mr. Haniyeh said: “You stopped the Marmara from reaching Gaza, but Gaza reached the world.”
The Mavi Marmara was the largest vessel in a six-ship flotilla that tried to run Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Israeli forces boarded the ship in international waters and were attacked by passengers; nine Turkish nationals died in the melee.
The incident ruptured the once-close relations between Israel and Turkey. Israel has rejected Turkey’s demand for an apology, arguing that its commandos acted in self-defense.
On Monday, Mr. Haniyeh’s speech was interrupted several times by chants of anti-Israel slogans. At one point, the Hamas leader stopped his remarks to join the crowd.
His visit to the Mavi Marmara came a day after he met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose public embrace of the Islamist group has enraged Israel and raised concerns in the West.
Mr. Haniyeh is on his first tour of the region since Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007. He also will visit Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
His visit comes as Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian faction controlling the West Bank, seek to implement a long-stalled unity agreement. Hamas has stated its intention to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which has represented Palestinians in peace talks with Israel for two decades.
Mr. Haniyeh was joined in Istanbul by Gaza’s ministers of finance, education and health.
In an interview, Health Minister Basam Naim expressed optimism about Palestinian reconciliation despite continued wrangling over who would be prime minister of a unity government.
“I think if there are good intentions, names will not be the biggest problem, as long as there are acceptable programs from both sides,” Mr. Naim said.
He also said it is suitable for Hamas to join the PLO, though he declined to specify how Hamas, which does not recognize Israel, could join a body that does.
“At this stage, we are not discussing the program, the content,” he said. “We are discussing the framework, the shape of PLO, how should it be representative for all Palestinians inside and outside Palestine after the big changes inside Palestine after more than 45 years since the establishment of the PLO.”
Arab League mission in Syria needs to be clarified: France
3 January 2012, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday the Arab observer mission in Syria needed to be ‘clarified’ and complained that Russia was blocking any UN condemnation of the Damascus regime.
‘The conditions under which this observer mission is operating should be clarified,’ Juppe told French television I-Tele, adding that he was ‘sceptical’ about its progress.
The Arab League sent in observers as part of a peace plan to try to end months of bloodshed that has left more than 5,000 dead since March, according to the United Nations.
But the mission has been mired in controversy since a first team of 50 observers arrived on December 26, with activists and commentators saying Syrian authorities were keeping the monitors on a short leash and critical of the choice of a former top Sudanese military commander to head the operation.
Juppe questioned whether the observers really had free access to information, but said he would await their report, expected in the coming days, adding: ‘But I do not consider the battle is already lost.’
He also insisted again that the UN Security Council ‘cannot stay silent’ on the situation in Syria, and said he regretted that permanent Council member Russia ‘continues to block’ any condemnation of the regime by the UN.
‘It is clear that there is an absolutely savage repression going on, that the regime has no real future and therefore it is for the international community to decide,’ he said.
‘The time is coming when the regime will be totally isolated,’ Juppe added.
Syrian activists’ heap criticism on Arab monitors
Damascus, Jan. 2, 2012, Activists piled pressure on Monday on Arab monitors to do more to prevent Syrian forces pursuing their brutal crackdown against prodemocracy protesters, amid fresh criticism of the observer mission.
The Arab League insisted, however, it would not back down from the operation, which Damascus accepted after weeks of stalling, and said that a new batch of monitors would head to Syria on Thursday to join 66 already there.
On the ground, security forces killed five people on Sunday, marking a brutal start to the New Year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog reported.
Among the dead was a seven-year-old boy.
Protesters on Sunday greeted 2012 with fireworks and fresh protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, while accusing the Arab League observers of not doing enough to end his regime’s brutal crackdown.
On Sunday, an Arab League advisory body called for the immediate withdrawal of the monitors saying their presence in Syria was having no effect on the government’s deadly crackdown on dissent.
Arab Parliament Speaker Salem al-Diqbassi urged
Arab League chief Nabil alArabi to “immediately pull out the Arab observers, considering the continued killing of innocent civilians by the Syrian regime.” The Arab Parliament is an 88-member advisory committee.
Damascus’s actions are “a clear violation of the Arab League protocol which is to protect the Syrian people,” Mr Diqbassi said in a statement.
Assad has `few weeks' left in control: Israel
Jerusalem, Jan. 2, 2012: The family of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has only “a few weeks” left in control of the strife-torn country, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak told MPs on Monday. “The Assad family has no more than a few weeks to remain in control in Syria,” Mr Barak told Parliament’s prestigious foreign affairs and defence committee in remarks quoted by the committee spokesman.
“There is no possibility in the current situation of evaluating what will happen the day after Bashar’s fall,” he said.
Campaign against Zionists is main priority of Muslim world: Iran
TEHRAN, 03 January 2012 – The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council says the issue of Palestine is still the main concern of the Muslim World.
Saeed Jalili made the remarks during a meeting with the head of Turkey-Palestine parliamentary friendship group, Murat Yildirim, in Tehran on Monday.
He also attached high significance to the campaign against the Zionist regime and said that it is the first priority of the Muslim world.
Commenting on the regional developments and the wave of Islamic awakening rolling across the Middle East and North Africa region, Jalili said that this awakening movement has tilted the balance of power in favor of the Muslim world.
Jalili went on to say that the first fruits of the Islamic awakening should be the strengthening of the resistance against the Zionist regime.
He also warned Muslim nations around the world about the conspiracies of Islam’s enemies and said they are seeking to overshadow the opportunities of the Muslim people.
All opportunities provided by the Islamic awakening should be utilized in the campaign against the Israeli regime and the arrogant policies of the United States.
In the meeting, Murat Yildirim called for the expansion of ties between Tehran and Ankara and said, “We will not let the foreigners utilize Turkey’s potential against the Islamic republic.”
During an earlier meeting with Murat Yildirim on Monday, Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi said that the prospects of cooperation between the Islamic Republic and Turkey in all spheres are promising.
Boroujerdi, who is the chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that the Islamic republic and Turkey together can play a major role in the region and help resolve the current problems though using their broad capabilities.
Murat Yildirim also met with Iranian Majlis speaker Ali Larijani late on Monday and discussed various issues including Tehran-Ankara parliamentary relations.
Nigeria-Boko Haram: Main opposition says government should move beyond emergency rule
January 2, 2012
In response to the threat faced by Islamic Sect, Boko Haram, Nigeria’s main opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Sunday urged the federal government to look beyond the imposition of a State of Emergency rule in resolving the security situation facing the nation.
Reacting to President Goodluck Jonathan’s imposition of emergency rule on certain areas worst hit by violence, perpetrated by the rampaging Boko Haram Islamic sect, the party said in a statement that while it welcomes whatever reasonable measures the President takes to put an end to the needless loss of lives, ‘a State of Emergency can only address the symptoms rather than the root causes of the current security crisis facing the nation’.
Its said a fundamental solution must be found to the crisis to ensure lasting peace.
A map showing states (in green) currently under Sharia Law in Nigeria. Islamic sect, Boko Haram would like to see the implantation of Sharia Law across Nigeria
‘All stakeholders, including religious, political and traditional leaders as well as civil society organisations must come together to help fashion out a lasting solution. Our party, on its part, is ever ready to contribute its quota in this regard, if and when called upon.
‘We also believe that our elder statesmen, the past heads of state, have a great role to play. Though they may have acted individually on this, it is imperative that they work in unison to help end the crisis, which is threatening our democracy and indeed the very survival of our nation. If we all fail to act now, no one will be spared of the consequences, irrespective of their party affiliation or religious leaning,’ ACN said.
The party said while the imposition of a State of Emergency may seem to be a natural cause of action to take at this time, it must be followed by a robust engagement, wider consultations, dialogue and measures to address the grievances of those perpetrating the violence.
‘As we have said in our earlier statements, this process can start with the convening of a national stakeholders security summit that will involve the major stakeholders. The summit will help fashion out a road-map for ending the crisis, which we don’t have to live with anyway, no matter the thinking at the highest echelon of government,’ it said.
ACN warned that the State of Emergency has its limitations, in that it will simply result in more militarization of the affected areas, more road blocks and the constriction of the civil liberties of the people, adding that unless more far-reaching measures are adopted, the perpetrators of the crisis will simply leave the affected areas and move to other areas to continue their dastardly act.
Federal Foreign Office welcomes agreement between United Nations and Iraq on Camp Ashraf
By signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations on 25 December, the Iraqi government has agreed to a gradual relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf. Originally, the Iraqi government had announced that the camp would be cleared by 31 December.
A Federal Foreign Office spokeswoman made the following statement on the matter:
"The deadline for clearing the camp has been lifted by the Memorandum of Understanding that has been signed and the danger of renewed violent clashes over Camp Ashraf has, for the time being, been averted.
During the negotiations with the United Nations the Iraqi government demonstrated its willingness to cooperate. On the United Nations’ side Martin Kobler, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), put great effort into reaching this negotiated solution.
The Iraqi government bears responsibility for the security of Camp Ashraf’s residents. Their relocation must be conducted in a peaceful, orderly and non-violent manner. The residents of Camp Ashraf must, for their part, respect the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding and cooperate with the United Nations.”
At present there are around 3,300 Iranian People’s Mojahedeen living in Camp Ashraf. The Memorandum of Understanding provides for their transfer from Camp Ashraf (just over 80 kilometres north-east of Baghdad) to Camp Liberty, a former US military base near the Baghdad airport.
In April 2011, dozens of people were killed or injured during violent clashes between residents of the camp and Iraqi security forces.
Iran: Islamic World should resist against changing Quds identity
Tehran, 01-03-2012, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the U.S. tries to bring an end to Zionist regime's isolation.
Larijani in a meeting with the Head of Turkey-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group in Tehran on Monday referred to Iran's friendly relation and commonalities with Turkey and added Palestine's destiny is a vital issue for the Islamic World.
He referred to Zionist regime’s recent action on changing the cultural and Islamic identity of the Holy Quds and creating Jewish identity following the 6-decade lasting crimes.
Larijani warned the Islamic World cannot ignore the approach, adding Islamic Ummah should resist strongly against the recent Zionist policy.
The hostile colonial policy aims to bring an end to Zionist regime's isolation, he added.
The Parliament Speaker continued two key countries in the world of Islam, Iran and Turkey have a fundamental role to enlighten on the historic grave crime which goes against the history and identity of Islam.
He also warned of the U.S. recent plots in the region on sowing discord within regional countries and its attempts to weaken resistance against Zionist regime.
The Head of Turkey-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group stressed the aims of his visit is to draw the attention of different groups and pro-Palestine organizations to help Palestinians, adding Iran and Turkey have always supported the Palestinian nation. He also expressed hope Ankara and Tehran make their best efforts to save Palestinians living under suppression.
Iran military warns US aircraft carrier away from Gulf
TEHRAN: Jan 03, 2012, A US aircraft carrier currently deployed in the Middle East should “not return” to its base in the Gulf, the head of Iran’s armed forces declared Tuesday, adding there would be no repeat warning.
“We advise and insist that this warship not return to its former base in the Persian Gulf,” Brigadier General Ataollah Salehi told reporters, according to the armed forces website.
“We don’t have the intention of repeating our warning, and we warn only once,” he was quoted as saying.
The warning came just one day after Iran’s navy completed 10 days of manoeuvres at the entrance to the Gulf with the test-firing of three missiles designed to sink warships.
The aircraft carrier Salehi was referring to was the USS John C. Stennis, one of the US navy’s biggest vessels.
The US vessel last week passed through the Strait heading east across the Gulf of Oman and through a zone where the Iranian navy was holding its manoeuvres.
The US Defence Department said the passage was “routine”.
The United States keeps at least one aircraft carrier in or near the Gulf at all times, on rotations of weeks or months. It maintains the base of its Fifth Fleet in the Gulf state of Bahrain.
Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation
BY MATTHEW KAMINSKI
January 3, 2012, Egypt left a couple of enduring images to finish the year of Arab tumult. There were the long lines of patient faces, each waiting to cast the first meaningful ballot of a lifetime. There was also the young woman at a Cairo protest, beaten to the ground, her black abaya pulled back over her head to reveal a blue bra. A conscript's boot stomps down on her exposed torso.
Arab brute or Arab voter? It's an easy choice, no matter what the Middle East's experiment with democracy brings. And in Egypt, peaceful elections are throwing up distressing results. In the ...
Sufi singer Kavita Seth to enthrall Pakistani audience
January 3, 2012,
Noted Sufi singer Kavita Seth, who recently released an album titled 'Khuda Wohi Hai', has been invited to perform in Pakistan. Being an ICCR (Indian Council of Cultural Relations) empanelled artist, Seth has already performed across the globe, including cities like London, Birmingham, Berlin, Oslo and Stockholm.
During her performance to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, Kavita Seth revealed about her performance in Pakistan. "The artistes from Pakistan have invited me and I have been getting calls from Pakistan inviting me to perform there soon," PTI quotes the songstress as saying.
Sufi music is everlasting and Kavita wants to popularise it. Talking about her future plans, Kavita Seth said, "I want to popularise Sufi music which is everlasting. Instant popularity of a song does not last long and item songs are a case in point.”
Apart from the Sufi rock album 'Khuda Wohi Hai', she has also composed song 'Intezaar' for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's My Friend Pinto. "It has been my dream to follow my passion for music in several forms. After singing so many songs, composing a song for film (My Friend Pinto) came as an achievement," she said.
Kavita Seth, who has so far recorded seven live Sufi fusions with three famous brands for 'Music Ka Tadka', a musical programme for UTV- Star channel and also two live compositions for Coke Studio @ MTV. About the USP of Sufi music, the vocalist, who has formed a group of Sufi musicians called Karwan, said, "Sufi style of singing strikes a chord with audience and takes them to a new level of experience.”