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Islamic World News ( 6 Nov 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Paris: From Cross to Crescent: Islam triples in Europe

Washington: Obama Makes History

Pro-Obama Media?

European Muslims on Shari`ah & Anti-Terror Laws

Dubai: Malek Akkad associate plans film on Islam’s birth

Is Osama Bin laden recruiting Jihadis with talking baby dolls?

Ecumenical Church Body Accuses Radical Islam DVD of Misleading Viewers

For real interfaith dialogue, the Muslim world needs experts on Christianity

Muslim woman at the Vatican to promote Islamic-Christian dialogue

Australia: Attempt to foster understanding of Islam

My Hijab, My Right by Jameelah Medina

'Quiet Professionals' continue key role in terror war by Donna Miles

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau


1. Paris: From Cross to Crescent: Islam triples in Europe

Nov 4, 2008 by Don Graham


Photo caption: Droves of faithful Muslims -- including a few French converts -- partake in Friday prayers outside a Paris mosque, this one located just minutes from Notre Dame. Africans and Turks comprise the bulk of France's Islamic population.  Photo courtesy of the IMB. Photo Terms of Use


Paris (BP)--It's a sight that would shatter most Americans' romanticized image of Paris.

Just a 15-minute metro ride from the trendy shops and quaint cafés of the Champs-Elysees, a virtual sea of North and West African Muslims spills out the gates of a neighbourhood mosque. Like waves breaking on a beach, their bodies bend in unison as hundreds of men prostrate themselves before Allah. Their prayers are guided by an imam's Arabic incantations.

The crowd's prayer rugs cover a city block's worth of sidewalk. Tourists point and take pictures. Some French pedestrians are visibly uncomfortable as they negotiate their way around the assembly.

But the scene isn't an aberration. Instead, it's evidence of a trend that's changing the way Southern Baptists view the international mission field: Islam is expanding across Europe.



Fuelled by immigration and high birth-rates, the number of Muslims on the continent has tripled in the past 30 years, making Islam Europe's fastest growing religion. While European Muslims build mosques and win converts, European Christians (excluding evangelicals) are witnessing what's been called a near free-fall decline in church attendance.

Tourists make up the overwhelming majority of those crowding Notre Dame in Paris, snapping photos during Mass as if the cathedral was more museum than place of worship. Even more alarming are statistics that only 5 percent of the French own a Bible and 80 percent have never even touched one. The shift is so dramatic that many demographers now believe more people in Europe practice Islam than Christianity.

No one knows exactly how many Muslims call Europe home since most European nations don't track ethnicity or religious affiliation in census data. Guesses put the number around 20 million.

France accounts for the highest concentration of Muslims in the European Union -- 5 to 6 million, or about 8 percent of the population. Many entered the country as immigrants in guest-worker programs following World War II, but untold numbers have flooded France and other European nations illegally.



While the French government has made strides to help Muslim immigrants integrate into French society, things haven't always gone smoothly.

In 2004, a law banning Muslim girls from wearing head scarves in French public schools ignited uproar among immigrants. A year later, riots broke out in Muslim-majority areas of Paris after the deaths of two North African teenagers. The summer of 2007 saw peaceful but public protests by West African immigrants in a dispute with the French government over papers that would allow them to remain in France legally.

Such tension drives some immigrants away from their Muslim heritage while others gravitate toward it.

Osman* is among the men worshipping outside the Paris mosque. Handsome and energetic, the 20-something works as a technician for the city's water department. Born in Paris, Osman's parents are Christians who came to France nearly 30 years ago from Togo, West Africa. But after years of struggling to assimilate into French society, Osman finally found acceptance among other West African immigrants by converting to Islam.

Yet as Christianity's presence in Europe wanes, there is hope.



Evangelical churches have seen slow but steady growth. In France, evangelicals numbered just 60,000 in 1940 but have climbed to nearly 500,000 today. Now about 3,000 evangelical churches worship in France -- more than a third planted in the past 20 years. Immigrants are helping to swell the ranks of these churches, sometimes composing as much as 50 percent of the congregation.

Tony Lynn, a Southern Baptist missionary serving in Paris, said that most evangelical churches inside the city average 35 to 65 people on Sunday. Lynn and his wife Jamie -- both from Michigan -- have spent the past five years in Paris working to plant churches among the city's 100-plus unreached people groups.

Lynn said one of the biggest obstacles to the Gospel is a hallowed tradition of secular humanism that the French call "laicite." Rooted in the French Revolution by philosophers like Rousseau and Voltaire, it has evolved into a cultural mindset that tolerates any religion so long as it remains hidden behind the veil of an individual's private life.

This pluralistic dynamic negates the importance of religion while simultaneously making spirituality an open topic for debate. That, Lynn said, creates a carte blanche opportunity to talk about Christ.

"Conversation and intelligent dialogues are a type of art in Paris," he said. "Once a rapport is established, people will discuss most anything."

But laicite's influence also has created a kind of identity crisis among younger generations of Muslim immigrants because they are raised in Muslim homes yet are exposed to a secular humanist environment, said Gracie Couloir,* a Southern Baptist missionary from Virginia who has served in France for the past 17 years.



Lynn believes new, innovative approaches are needed to combat these kinds of cross-cultural disconnects and effectively share Christ among both immigrants and French nationals. He said Southern Baptist volunteers are key to making that happen.

Helping meet the need are churches like Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., which sent a volunteer team to Paris to share Christ's love with Muslim women through a ministry known as the Esther Project.

"We did manicures, facials and makeup on women in a predominantly Muslim area," Claire Hill, a member of Warren's volunteer team, said. "The women seemed to thoroughly enjoy the girly things we did as well as our company. Although we didn't know them ... they were women just like us and there was much we had in common."

Couloir said, "All we have to do as Southern Baptists is give them the Gospel in a way that they can understand it, and we can change the Muslim world.

"I think we really do have fields that are ready for the harvest here. We just don't have the harvesters."


Name changed. Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.



Obama Makes History


U.S. Decisively Elects First Black President; Democrats Expand Control of Congress

By Robert Barnes and Michael D. Shear: November 5, 2008


Senator Barack Hussein Obama of Illinois was elected the nation's 44th president yesterday, riding a reformist message of change and an inspirational exhortation of hope to become the first African American to ascend to the White House.

Obama, 47, the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, led a tide of Democratic victories across the nation in defeating Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a 26-year veteran of Washington who could not overcome his connections to President Bush's increasingly unpopular administration.

Standing before a crowd of more than 125,000 people who had waited for hours at Chicago's Grant Park, Obama acknowledged the accomplishment and the dreams of his supporters.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," he said just before midnight Eastern Time.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there."

The historic Election Day brought millions of new and sometimes tearful voters, long lines at polling places nationwide, and celebrations on street corners and in front of the White House. It ushered in a new era of Democratic dominance in Congress, even though the party fell short of its goal of capturing the 60 Senate votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority. In the House, Democrats made major gains, adding to their already sizable advantage and returning them to a position of power that predates the 1994 Republican revolution.

Democrats will use their new legislative muscle to advance an economic and foreign policy agenda that Bush has largely blocked for eight years. Even when the party seized control of Congress two years ago, its razor-thin margin in the Senate had allowed Republicans to hinder its efforts.

McCain congratulated Obama in a phone call shortly after 11 p.m. and then delivered a gracious concession speech before his supporters in Phoenix. "We have had and argued our differences," he said of his rival, "and he has prevailed."

"This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight," McCain said.

Obama became the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote, and he made good on his pledge to transform the electoral map.

He overpowered McCain in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania -- four states that the campaign had spent months courting as the keys to victory. He passed the needed 270 electoral votes just after 11 p.m., with victories in California and Washington State.

The Democrat easily won most of the Northeast, the Rust Belt, the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic States that normally back Democrats. By midnight, he appeared to be running strong in North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Montana, each of which was too close to call. Obama ultimately won in Indiana, bringing his Electoral College total to 349, while McCain won Montana, bringing his total to 163 Electoral College votes. The outcome in North Carolina and Missouri remained uncertain.

Obama melded the pride and aspirations of African Americans with a coalition of younger and disaffected voters drawn to his rhetorical style, and a unified base of Democrats worried about the economy and frustrated with the war in Iraq.

He is the fifth-youngest man elected to a first presidential term, after Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant. He is the 16th senator to ascend to the office, and the first since Kennedy's election in 1960.

Bush called Obama at 11:12 p.m. to offer his congratulations, the White House said.

"Mr. President-elect, congratulations to you," Bush said, according to the White House. "What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters. Laura and I called to congratulate you and your good bride."

He added: "I promise to make this a smooth transition. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations, and go enjoy yourself."

The election was in many respects a referendum on the two-term president, whose popularity has plunged to the lowest levels since the 1930s, because of his administration's handling of the economy, Hurricane Katrina, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush has not been seen with McCain since May, and the president has made no public appearances since late last week.

McCain's top strategist acknowledged the team's difficulties as the candidate returned to Arizona from his final campaign stop in New Mexico.

"I think we did our absolute best in this campaign in really difficult circumstances. We had a -- we had some tough cards to play all the way through and we hung in there all the way," senior adviser Steve Schmidt told reporters.

He added: "I don't think there's another Republican the party could have nominated that could have made this a competitive race the way that John McCain did. . . . The president's approval numbers, you know, were not helpful in the race but the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people, and that was a big albatross."

During a sometimes chaotic race, McCain promised voters that he would reform a broken and corrupted Washington and bring change that he said the American people demand. But his economic and national security proposals largely echoed Bush's policies, a charge that Obama made repeatedly.

Republicans watched yesterday as the electoral map turned blue in places where they have laboured for a decade to cultivate a permanent, conservative voter base that would ensure presidential victories.

The party -- now clearly a minority one -- is left wondering whether the Democratic rout is the result of a coincidental marriage of a powerful personality and a terrible political and economic environment or if it signals a deeper change in voter patterns and beliefs that will make it difficult for them to recapture the White House for years.

"This election, particularly when combined with the '06 election, means the GOP is in serious trouble," said Peter Wehner, a former Bush White House aide. "To deny that would be to deny reality."

Wehner said the party can take some comfort in "the fact that I suspect the data will show that America remains, on the issues, a centre-right nation. . . . It means the core political philosophy that defines the GOP is not out of sync with the country."

In a sign that Obama's race did not hold him back, he won as large a share of the white vote as any Democrat in the past two decades, although he still fell short of a majority. Preliminary exit polls showed him winning among 43 percent of white voters, while Sen. John F. Kerry won 41 percent in 2004 and Vice President Al Gore won 42 percent in 2000.

McCain styled himself as a maverick but ran a largely traditional Republican campaign that eroded his brand among independents, the majority of whom voted for Obama yesterday. Obama won 60 percent of self-described moderates, who had once formed the core of McCain's support.

Obama appeared to have made huge gains among Hispanic voters, earning about two-thirds of their support, according to exit polls. He also captured 95 percent of black voters. Obama also won a majority of women and took the support of 49 percent of men.

McCain appeared to have performed more poorly than his GOP predecessors, especially among young people. He earned about 30 percent of voters aged 18 to 29; in 2004, Bush captured 45 percent of that group.

The Obamas, with their two daughters in tow, voted yesterday morning at Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School, in their Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago. (Controversial former radical William Ayers, whose relationship with Obama became a staple of McCain-Palin speeches, voted earlier at the same precinct, but ignored reporters' questions about his ballot.)

Daughter Malia, 10, was by Michelle Obama's side when she cast her ballot, while Sasha, 7, watched her father vote.

"The journey ends, but voting with my daughters, that was a big deal," Obama said later. "I noticed that Michelle took a long time, though. I had to check to see who she was voting for."

The simple act of voting was a prosaic close to the longest and most expensive presidential election in U.S. history, one that fundamentally changed national politics in communication strategy and voter outreach.

Obama's unilateral decision to forgo public financing for his campaign may signal the end of that Watergate-era reform, as McCain found himself massively outspent.

By mid-October, Obama had reported raising nearly $600 million, including a record-shattering $150 million in September. Combined with money the Democratic National Committee spent during the general election, he spent nearly $745 million on his primary and general-election campaigns.

The combined spending figure for McCain and the Republican Party was nearly $450 million by mid-October.

The general-election campaign began with simple themes: Obama said McCain's candidacy represented nothing more than a continuation of the Bush administration, while McCain portrayed Obama as too inexperienced to lead a country involved in two wars and under the threat of terrorism.

McCain offered his years of experience and his maverick record of often bucking the leadership of his party as evidence of the kind of president he would be, and characterized Obama as a man of eloquent speeches but empty rhetoric.

McCain criticized Obama's summer tours of Afghanistan and Iraq as too little too late, and he mocked the lavish reception the Democrat received in the Middle East and Europe. McCain even ran an ad of a rally Obama held before 200,000 people in Berlin, with an announcer saying: "He's the biggest celebrity in the world."

Obama shored up his perceived weaknesses with the choice of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), a long-time senator fluent in foreign affairs and national policy but prone to gaffes. But the decision was well-received, and Obama enjoyed a harmonious Democratic National Convention, where he was praised by his former rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

He ended the convention with an acceptance speech before 75,000 at a football stadium in Denver, something no nominee had attempted since Kennedy in 1960.

Just a day later, McCain stepped on the Democrats' celebration with his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom he described as a fellow outsider who would "shake up Washington." From the moment she was introduced, Palin made an appeal to women, but her chief asset seemed to be reenergizing the conservative GOP base of the party that for years had been sceptical of McCain.

The weeks after the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., were the only ones in the long history of the campaign in which the party had enjoyed an advantage. But that ended as the nation's economy worsened.

When the financial meltdown on Wall Street began in mid-September, McCain's advisers winced as their candidate told an audience in Jacksonville, Fla., that the "fundamentals of the economy are sound." Just hours later in Orlando, the candidate declared the economy in "crisis."

Such trepidation did not serve McCain well -- at one point, as Congress dealt with a $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street, he suspended his campaign to fly back to Washington -- and Obama seemed to find traction with voters by declaring his rival's actions "erratic."

Obama emerged as the Democratic nominee from the crucible of the longest-ever nomination fight.

But Obama stunned Sen. Clinton, and the nation, by repeatedly demolishing assumptions about his ability to raise money, his organizational strength and his ability to appeal to white voters. Those three factors came together in Iowa, as he won a convincing victory in the state's Democratic caucuses.

His one-time rival worked hard for his election and Clinton said last night: "We are celebrating an historic victory for the American people. This was a long and hard-fought campaign, but the result was well worth the wait."

Staff writers Michael Abramowitz and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.



Pro-Obama Media?

What talk about media favouritism really means?

Nov 04, 2008

Whether or not Barack Obama wins the election, there will be a substantial argument from conservatives--and even many centrist pundits and commentators--that the press was overwhelmingly biased in favour of the Democratic candidate and against John McCain (Extra!, 9-10/08). But the main evidence for this charge does not actually support the case.

Throughout the campaign, the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has released reports on the quantity of media coverage of the election--which candidates received more airtime, and so on. Several PEJ studies have also discussed the tone of the coverage, in an attempt to reveal which candidates are being covered more positively or negatively. This analysis is based on the overall impression given in a report, based on quotes from pundits, sources or the candidates themselves.

According to PEJ's October 22 study, the coverage of the campaign from the party conventions through the final debate has tilted in Obama's favour (36/29 percent positive/negative vs. 14/57 percent positive/negative for McCain). The finding is not a surprising one; the candidate who seems to have "momentum"--improving his fundraising or standing in the polls, for example--is graded as getting "positive" coverage. The candidate who is not performing up to expectations is said to be receiving "negative" coverage. Also, running a negative campaign tends to be frowned upon in the media, resulting in more negative coverage for the candidate running more negative ads.

The easiest way to mislead readers or viewers, then, is to take these positive/negative scores and imply that they prove corporate media are unfairly skewing the news against McCain or are painting Obama in an unusually flattering light. As the report noted:

One question likely to be posed is whether these findings provide evidence that the news media are pro-Obama. Is there some element in these numbers that reflects a rooting by journalists for Obama and against McCain, unconscious or otherwise? The data do not provide conclusive answers. They do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical manoeuvring to alter those positions. Obama's coverage was negative in tone when he was dropping in the polls, and became positive when he began to rise, and it was just so for McCain as well.

In other words, given that most election coverage is unfortunately focused on the horserace, the candidate doing better on that score will yield more "positive" media coverage. In general, studies that are based on assessing positive and negative coverage is subject to misinterpretation, because reality is not always 50 percent positive. But some of the chatter about the study took as a given that an unbiased press corps would have given equally favourable assessments to the Obama and McCain campaigns.

"It has been hard to deny for two years now that Barack Obama has gotten an easier ride in the media than any other presidential candidate," announced CNN's Howard Kurtz (11/2/08). "And a new report this week makes clear that John McCain is getting hosed in the coverage." Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly had made the same point days earlier (10/30/08), employing the same idiom: "It's now certain that the American media has given Barack Obama an enormous advantage. According to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, John McCain's getting hosed big time."

On Fox News Sunday (10/26/08), NPR reporter Mara Liasson acknowledged that the horserace bias of the corporate media accounted for some of the tilt in coverage, but added:

But I do think it's something more. I think Palin especially, because she burst on the scene as a celebrity and had no context for most people to judge her--for some reason; Joe Biden has been viewed against a context that has excused most of his inaccurate or false statements. The context is everything. "Oh, we know him for 29 years," whereas Palin, "We don't know her at all." So every little thing gets kind of distorted or exaggerated. You know, she goes to a church where they speak in tongues, and that gets blown up without any kind of context.

In fact, the study found that very little of the "negative" coverage of Palin had anything to do with her personal or family life, which the study found was only 5 percent of the coverage of her.

There are obviously problems in assessing media "tone" this way; studies like this are easily misconstrued as evidence of a press that is biased against McCain, rather than evidence of a media system that does voters the great disservice of treating elections like they are sporting events.

This is not to suggest that coverage of Obama has not verged on the hyperbolic. After Obama's closing speech at Democratic convention, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann declared (8/28/08): "Vote for him or do not, but take pride that this nation can produce men and speakers such as that. For 42 minutes, not a sour note and spellbinding throughout in a way usually reserved for the creations of fiction, an extraordinary political statement."

Much of the media enthusiasm for Obama, though, has demonstrated less of a liberal bias than a centrist bias. Early in the campaign, pundits were enthralled by the idea of a "post-racial" America, with Obama embodying a literal transcendence of divisiveness and racism (Extra!, 3-4/07). While the campaigns were occasionally criticized in the press for various flip-flops, the press were often more forgiving if they believed Obama's were part of a move away from the left and towards the media-preferred "centre"--though on some issues, such as the Iraq War, the position the media favoured for Obama would put him well to the right of the public (FAIR Media Advisory, 7/15/08).

For many in the press, Obama's appeal is based on the notion that liberal "interest groups" will be sidelined; a New York Times editorial approvingly noted (8/29/08) that the Democratic convention saw "little display…of the placards of the teachers' and service workers' unions, of the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Sierra Club," a sign of the "Obama campaign's sound analysis that American voters mistrust interest groups." The Washington Post's endorsement of Obama (10/17/08) ran through several areas where the candidate is perceived to be a refreshing break from Democratic orthodoxy, saying that he "has surrounded himself with top-notch, experienced, centrist economic advisers," the paper noted--though they still would like him to move further to the right:

We also can only hope that the alarming anti-trade rhetoric we have heard from Mr. Obama during the campaign would give way to the understanding of the benefits of trade reflected in his writings. A silver lining of the financial crisis may be the flexibility it gives Mr. Obama to override some of the interest groups and members of Congress in his own party who oppose open trade, as well as to pursue the entitlement reform that he surely understands is needed.

At their core, corporate media are deeply suspicious of progressive movements, and when these look like they might gain enough power to threaten the interests of their owners, you begin to hear a lot of media talk about bipartisanship and centrism. An Obama election would provoke an abundance of this--and it's already started. "America remains a centre-right nation--a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril," Newsweek declared above an October 27 cover story by Editor Jon Meacham (FAIR Blog, 10/27/08). The New York Times' Matt Bai (11/2/08) called on Obama to install Republicans in a few more influential positions. He could also try to bridge the partisan divide by reaching past Washington to some of the Republican governors who backed McCain--working on environmental policy with Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, or on immigration with Florida's Charlie Crist. A lot of liberals would undoubtedly protest such overtures as unnecessarily conciliatory, given the likely dominance of Democrats in Washington. But Obama has promised nothing short of systemic change. Integrity demands he lead inclusively.

Note Bai equates "systemic change" with working with Republicans--the party in power for the last eight years. That's integrity, corporate media style.



Malek Akkad associate plans film on Islam’s birth

Anna Seaman, November 04. 2008

Dubai- A film about the birth of Islam is to be made by a producer who worked closely with the late Moustapha Akkad on his epic The Message.

Oscar Zoghbi, who hopes to shoot parts of his film, The Messenger of Peace, in the UAE, said it would address widespread misunderstandings about the Islamic faith.

“The world is in turmoil and there is a huge lack of knowledge about Islam,” he said. “In all the years since Moustapha Akkad made his film, nobody has tried to explain the religion or its value. We have decided now is the time to do something about that.”

Zoghbi and Ramsey Thomas, his screenplay writer, were in talks years ago with Akkad about a remake of his 1976 film. But after his death in the suicide bombing of a Jordanian hotel in 2005, they decided to embark on a new production.

“Our film is a continuation of Akkad’s work in terms of subject matter,” Thomas said. “But it’s a film in its own right. We continue the process of telling the story of the Prophet Mohammed but we do not follow the same plot or script.”

Akkad, a Syrian who had success in America with his series of Halloween horror movies, had founded his own production company, Trancas International Films.

This week the company said it had not endorsed Zoghbi’s film and retained all intellectual property rights regarding The Message.

Malek Akkad, the president of Trancas and Akkad’s son, said: “While the life of the Prophet is technically in the public domain, and anyone can produce a film based on his life, it is inaccurate for anyone to suggest they have any connection to the film made by my father.”

Nevertheless, Zoghbi and Thomas hope The Messenger of Peace will be as successful as Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of Christ.

“There is no reason it shouldn’t be as popular as Gibson’s movie. We just need the support,” he said.

Zoghbi and Thomas, who are based in London and California, are in the UAE to seek out investors. The Dubai-based Millennium Finance Corporation is already on board as financial adviser, and Dar Al Sharia Legal and Financial Consultancy, the Shariah consulting arm of Dubai Islamic Bank, will supervise spending on the project to make sure it complies with Shariah law.

“The investment we have put in ourselves is substantial, but we are here to gather further support, both financially and regarding our message,” Zoghbi said.

The film will be set in the times of the Prophet Mohammed and will tell of the emergence of the Islamic religion.

Zoghbi said it was designed to appeal to both Muslims and non-Muslims, but ultimately was aimed at showing viewers the truth about Islam.

“We do not have one specific audience in mind, we just want to show the value of Islam and that it is a peaceful religion. The title, The Messenger of Peace, is all we need to explain this.”

It will be the first major film about the birth of Islam since The Message was made.

As in Akkad’s film, the Prophet will not be depicted either in person or by a voice because that is forbidden in Islam.

Thomas said that while the film was about religion, it was also about human nature. “In Hollywood, the Arab is the bad guy of the week. He is portrayed all too often as a terrorist. We are challenging that by bringing in the human element to our film. Religion lives through people. The Byzantium and Persian tribes were humans, as we are. They cry when they are sad and smile when they are happy. It is with that we hope to connect with our audience.”

The Messenger of Peace begins preproduction in the new year. Currently the team is planning to make the film in English and have it dubbed into Arabic, although a final decision has not been made.

The production team will be back in the UAE before shooting begins. “We will return for location scouting, film festivals and opportunities to meet with those in the media industry out here,” said Zoghbi.

“The UAE is definitely a central focus point for us. Things are changing in this part of the world in terms of film, television and other media and we want to be part of that. The relationship between Hollywood and the UAE is growing and we are happy to be fostering links between the two places.”



European Muslims on Shari`ah and Anti-Terror Laws

By Amina Satour

European Muslims were chosen randomly, from the GPU's attendees, to express their opinions on Britain's anti-terror laws.

Women, Men and Children of different ages and from all walks of life headed for the Excel Centre in the heart of the East End, on Saturday October 25th, to attend the fourth annual Global Peace and Unity Event (GPU) organized by Islam Channel.

In attempting to appeal to every segment of the community, the GPU's organizers designed a diverse program offering everything including informative conferences, educational workshops, speeches by renowned scholars, prominent politicians, sensational anthem concerts, and stand-up comedies, etc. For many people, the day event was a day out for the entire family.

Moreover, the GPU provided a platform for organizations to promote their campaigns and launch new initiatives. Muslim Public Affair Committee (MPAC) held a stand to raise awareness amongst Muslims of the need to get actively involved in media and politics.

While Inayat Bunglawala, Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)'s spokesman, was campaigning for "Engage", a brand new independent initiative to equip Muslims with the skill of getting involved in the local media and politicians was launched in order to challenge the misrepresentation of Muslims in Britain.

While some of the GPU's attendees found the event a good opportunity to network with other Muslims and get the feeling of unity," Rahat, 27, a project manager, (IOL)'s European Muslims Page found it a unique opportunity that must be seized to explore the opinions of the European Muslim attendees on the row over both, Shari`ah law in UK and the anti-terror British measures.

Shari`ah: A Must-Option

For many Muslims, the debate about such an important subject is welcomed. However, people should not react quickly. Many believe that the statements of the archbishop have been blown out of proportion by the British media.

Some Muslims expressed their objection to Shari`ah law being written as an English Law.

"I do not agree with the way Shari`ah law has been portrayed in the British media," Afsha, 50, representative of the Read Foundation,a charity which implements educational and welfare projects in Pakistan & Kashmir, told IOL.

She added, "the concept is totally different from what Shari`ah law is all about. There is a big need to educate non-Muslims about what Shari`ah law is about before thinking about implementing it."

Faisal agrees that "the topic has been hugely overblown. All what professor Rowan Williams mentioned was in regards to arbitration. So there is nothing really controversial." He also called for Muslims to adopt a realistic approach and consider more important issues first. "Our scholars should be realistic and pragmatic; we should focus on bettering ourselves and strengthening our community, so Shari`ah law is not an immediate priority."

Liaqit Latif, 31, a business analyst based in the Netherlands, believes that the views of the archbishop have been deliberately taken out of context.

Latif explained that, "Nowadays, every bit of news is sensationalized. What he said was to use Shari`ah in domestic areas and what he did not say was it should be incorporated into British law,"

Some Muslims expressed their objection to Shari`ah law being written as an English Law. However, they want to have the option to be able to choose between resolving disputes in English courts or Islamic councils. "If people are comfortable with applying Shari`ah law then they should, at least, have the option to," added Latif.

"If you go to an English court, it would take years and will be very expensive but in Islamic court it will only take a few months and cost pennies, so we are helping the wider society. It would be nice if they help us by giving us the option to choose which courts to go to resolve our disputes," Sara told IOL.

Bunglawala echoes these views, "The archbishop said nothing controversial. In fact, people are free in this country. If they want to resolve disputes amongst themselves at a Shari`ah council they are free to do so because British law allows it. As long as these laws do not contradict with British law then there is no problem."

Anti-Terror Laws vs. Personal Liberties

According to the European Muslims who were chosen randomly, from the GPU's attendees, to express their opinions on Britain's anti-terror laws, most of the British Muslims believe that a direct link does exist between terrorism and the British foreign policy.

"All of us agree that there should be anti terror laws, none of us want to blown up in the tube or one of our families." Sara told IOL.

Afsha sees that, "The British foreign policy has taken terrorism to the extreme and the government should alter its foreign policy."

Rahat categorically disagrees with anti-terror laws and he states that, "These laws have the opposite effect. The only way forward is to listen and work on integrating the Muslim community."

While Faisal believes that, "politicians are using anti-terror laws to play politics. A lot of these laws are just posturing to make the point that the government is tough on terrorism."

"It is important to make the point that we are losing our sense of values if bringing in laws such as these laws."  

"All of us agree that there should be anti terror laws, none of us want to blown up in the tube or one of our families. That's something Muslims need to be clear on. A lot of people are scared to practice openly as they are worried that is going to be interpreted as pro-terror. There has to be a balance between security and personal liberties." Sara told

On the other hand, Raza Nadim, the spokesman of the Public Affair Committee (MPAC), Nadim declares that anti-terror laws are not the solution to combating radicalization of young Muslims. "The alternatives are to look at the root causes of terrorism."

"The first and most important thing the British government should do is to hold a public enquiry into 7/7 bombing and hold a proper investigation into how it was that four British Muslims became so radicalized that they committed mass murder. What was it that turned them into terrorists?

"Now we know that the biggest one in radicalizing many young Muslims is the perception that British foreign policy is hostile towards Muslims. It has to be that British government needs to look at some of its policies overseas. This should be an important first step," expressed Banglawala.

"We believe that the police should be given the power to combat terrorism, however, we believe the laws are suppressive. We faced twenty year campaign by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to terrorize Britain yet we never had laws as repressive as we have now."

"And the government's recent attempt to increase the detention period to 42 days, I believe, is a big mistake, because this would only contribute to the feeling of being deliberately targeted," commented Banglawala on the debate over detention period in UK. 

"Alternatively, 28 days is sufficient period and It was doubled already; as it used to be 14 days since December 2005 so we believe that the police have sufficient powers to tackle the problem of extremism." 

"Naturally, the police need to detain people while they investigate the crime however we hold that they need to use intelligent policing so that can minimize period of detention before people are charged."

"There are alternatives to anti-terror laws but nowadays, they sensationalized everything to do with Muslims. They tend to mix up things about Muslims and immigration in general and each subject needs to be judged in its own merit." Liaqit Latif figured.

Amina Stour is a British Muslim freelance writer. Email Id:



Is Osama Bin laden recruiting Jihadis with talking baby dolls?

Mattel's 'Cuddle 'N Coo' preaches Islam, local minister claims

November 03, 2008 at 4:34pm

Osama Bin Laden has hijacked Mattel's Cuddle 'n Coo doll and is using it to indoctrinate American children!

That seems to be the gist of the conspiracy theory offered by Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries in Maple Grove last week.

"It does seem to be saying, 'Islam is the light.' I don't think too many people would argue with that," Markell told OneNewsNow. "And this is not a healthy thing to be putting out in the marketplace when we're in a war on terror, and little children are so susceptible to the messages they hear."

Mattel spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni maintains that the only word the doll is programmed to say is "Mama." Other than that it just coos, giggles, and babbles incoherently, just like a real American baby.

"There may be something in there that resembles the word night, or light, or right, but that is all it is," Bongiovanni says, adding that the sound could be distorted because of the toy's small speaker. Mattel is reconfiguring the recording to prevent any future misunderstandings.

Meanwhile, Markell is a little uneasy about leading the charge against "Cuddle 'n Coo." Despite calling us back and talking for 10 minutes, she later said she didn't want to be quoted.

"The Islamic community could turn on me," she feared.

They might even deploy their army of evil toys! —Beth Walton

Paper Tigers

Writers at the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper at the U of M, bravely stood up to the administration last week with an editorial lambasting the school's decision to keep dirty money pledged to its Carlson School of Management by Tom Petters, the man accused of a massive investment fraud.

"The University's decision to keep the funds...contradicts the philosophy Carlson students should learn," the editorial read. "[K]eeping the money...indicates the University's willingness to partake in the same greed that has recently beset the American public."

There was just one problem: It turns out that the university never took the money. In fact, the paper had reported as much in an article two days before.

"Unfortunately, their editorial writers don't feel the need to check facts before engaging in published commentary," Daniel Wolter, director of the University News Service, railed in an email. "The University certainly appreciates the Minnesota Daily's argument on this issue—which is essentially the same conclusion we reached weeks ago."

The editorial required a "prominent correction and clarification" and has caused the paper to review its editorial policies to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, says student editor-in-chief Vadim Lavrusik. "To make a long story short, the basis of his whole argument is false." —Beth Walton



Ecumenical Church Body Accuses Radical Islam DVD of Misleading Viewers

By Eric Young, Nov. 04 2008

The most prominent ecumenical church association in the United States has accused the filmmakers behind a controversial DVD on radical Islam of “distorting truth and misleading viewers.”

The National Council of Churches (NCC)’s Interfaith Relations Commission says the DVD, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West,” has the effect of “fanning the sparks of mistrust, bigotry and hatred that undermine the very foundations of a multi-religious democracy.”

“We are deeply troubled by the apparent intent of a film that presents a barrage of violent images, pieced together with the voices of commentators who move from speaking of ‘radical Islam’ to impugning Islam and Muslims more generally and presenting fear-mongering parallels between today's extremist terrorists and the Nazis,” the commission expressed in a statement released late last week.

“[T]he content of this film has no useful analysis of terrorism beyond a shallow, monolithic, clash-of-civilizations theme that suggests that the only two responses to ‘radical Islam’ are war or appeasement,” it added.

Since its re-release one week after the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in America, “Obsession” has drawn intense national attention, particularly for the distribution of 28 million copies several weeks ago through more than 70 mainstream newspapers, including The New York Times.

The DVD features an hour of actual footage from Arabic TV rarely seen in the West, interviews with former terrorists, as well as undercover footage showing suicide bomber initiations, the indoctrination of young children into hate and violence, secret jihad meetings and public celebrations of 9/11.

While some have touted the documentary as a “must-see” for revealing what many in the West are unaware of, critics say “Obsession” does not clearly distinguish between radical Islam and mainstream Islam.

Critics are also wary of the timing of the documentary’s Sept. 18 re-release, which took place less than two months before the nation’s presidential election.

Gregory Ross, director of communications for the group behind the DVD’s mass distribution in recent months, however, said the timing of the movie’s re-release was meant to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary and that the intention was not to sway voters to either candidate.

Regardless of what the intent may have been, the NCC’s Interfaith Relations Commission has called for attention to be drawn away from the message of the DVD and toward the current and “unprecedented worldwide exchange” between Christians and Muslims.

“Building constructively on the foundations that unite us in fractured world provides a far more hopeful way ahead for Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike,” the commission stated.

The NCC’s statement was released two weeks after the conclusion of a Muslim-Christian conference hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury that brought together 17 prominent Muslims and 19 Christian leaders.

The statement’s release also came just days before a delegation of 24 Muslim scholars was to meet in Rome with a delegation of Catholic leaders for a series of talks aimed at defusing tensions between Islam and Christianity.

The three-day meeting, which opened Tuesday, is being held under the banner "Love of God and love of neighbour."



Plugging the knowledge gap: The Vatican meeting is a first step, but for real interfaith dialogue, the Muslim world needs experts on Christianity

This week, 48 Muslim and Catholic theologians meet in Rome, to find common ground between their two great faiths. The approach of the Common Word initiative is to find areas of shared belief – a love of God, love of one's neighbour – in order to generate the goodwill and mutual respect that might allow a practical working together to uphold human dignity.

Common Word is the first large-scale Muslim interfaith initiative in modern times. In the past, interfaith dialogue has been largely brokered by the Christian churches. It is an attempt, backed by hundreds of notable Muslim scholars from over 40 different countries, to provide a framework for a positive engagement between Islam and Christianity after Pope Benedict's Regensburg address in 2006.

Out of the number of high-level Muslim-Christian meetings planned, this week's at the Vatican, as Tariq Ramadan sketched out, is perhaps the most crucial. Whilst Protestant theologians at meetings in Harvard and Cambridge have welcomed the whole process, even if they had theological reservations about the Muslim approach to dialogue, the Vatican under Pope Benedict has been more circumspect about entering into a Muslim-initiated dialogue.

It matters that religious leaders set a good example of religious tolerance, dialogue, and understanding. Even if fundamental differences remain between Islam and Christianity, does it not matter that our accounts of each other, critical or appreciative, are recognised as truthful rather than as misleading or unbalanced? Does it not matter that what these two Abrahamic traditions – along with Judaism – share in common is understood and articulated by their respective religious leaderships? Only through greater mutual understanding and friendship will religious leaders be able to use their authority to tackle difficult issues head on. At present, the learned theologians – even with goodwill and intent – are still largely speaking past one another and are yet to develop a mature intellectual language of dialogue with which to explore their respective commonalities and differences.

The network of Muslim scholars behind the Common Word was also instrumental in backing the earlier Amman Message of 2005 to restate broad principles of tolerance and expertise in the self-definition and self-regulation of Islamic orthodoxy. We should therefore recognise that there is a double battle going on – a jihad for tolerance both within and outside the House of Islam, and one that is in its early stages.

One of the long-term outcomes of this process should be to address the Muslim world's considerable deficit in academic expertise on Christianity and other religions, particularly with respect to the impact upon them of modernity and critical thinking. At the recent Common Word public launch in Cambridge that I attended, this gap was noticeable when the Archbishop of Canterbury made the point that identifying common principles such as love or neighbourliness did not address the very different historical narratives and theological traditions out of which they sprang; this remark was not addressed by any of his eminent Muslim counterparts. The proposals that came out of the Cambridge meeting to widen academic exchange, to develop jointly school curriculum and the training of religious scholars, and to broaden theological exchange all work towards fostering that common language.

After 9/11, a few Muslim institutions have been established to deal with Islam and pluralism, of which interfaith is one element, such as the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan under Aref Nayed, the Tabah Foundation in United Arab Emirates under Ali al-Jifri, the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia under Hashim Kamali, or the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism in Indonesia under Syafi'i Anwar, but they are working at a moment when political and religious intolerance and violence is widespread in the Muslim world, both between Muslims and for non-Muslim minorities.

Similarly there are not many higher education institutions in the Muslim world that have followed the lead of the University of Ankara in studying Judaism and Christianity in their original biblical languages. More generally an UN-sponsored report in 2004 found that more foreign-language books were translated into Spanish in a year than had been translated into Arabic in a thousand years, which the Kalima translation project in Abu Dhabi now seeks to remedy. In short, many linguistic and intellectual barriers have to be overcome.

By contrast, the western countries that lead the research on Islam and the Muslim world like the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and Australia have seen great expansion in the last decade, especially after 9/11. New centres have been recently established in all of them – excepting the UK – to bring together interdisciplinary expertise in Islam and the Muslim world from across the humanities. A similar project, Casa Árabe, has also been launched in Spain. The debate, sometimes contentious, about how to accommodate Islamic theology and imam training at university level to serve the needs of diaspora Muslim communities, or how far Islamic studies in the west has successfully extricated itself from an imperial heritage, has moved forward.

In contrast, there is a fundamental institutional incapacity in Muslim world. It cannot remotely match the 5000 graduates and postgraduates in Arabic, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies that come of out of western universities every year with equivalent experts in Christianity or other religions. If the Common Word initiative addresses this disparity directly, then Muslim-Christian dialogue will, in the longer-term, gain the depth and breadth to be more than an exercise in crisis management.



Muslim woman at the Vatican to promote Islamic-Christian dialogue

By Santosh Digal


Amina Rasul set up an NGO that operates in favour of the population of Mindanao, long suffering from war and violence. Peace, progress and democracy are the values on which coexistence between religions can be built.

Manila (AsiaNews) – A few women are taking part in the Catholic Muslim Forum currently underway at the Vatican; one of them comes from the Philippines and is a Muslim. Amina Rasul (pictured), a former professor and now a journalist, has been able to set up an NGO that is involved in humanitarian work in Mindanao.

At the Forum she has been tasked with describing the activities in favour of inter-faith dialogue that are underway in this southern Filipino island, scene for decades of a war between the Filipino army and Islamic rebels.

“I thought this would be another venue to ask for help for the humanitarian crisis in the Mindanao,” she said.

Her NGO, Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID), is involved in projects that promote peace in the province and provide help to the population, which has suffered a lot from the ongoing violence.

Thanks to her lead the PCID is actively involved in building a “peaceful, progressive and democratic Muslim Mindanao.”

Before leaving for Rome she renewed her commitment to solve the island’s “humanitarian crisis”.

In the past she taught peace and conflict studies at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila, thus favouring the integration of Muslim and Christian cultures.

Ingrid Mary Mattson, a professor of Islamic studies at the Hartford (Connecticut) Seminary in the United States, is among the other women present at the Christian-Muslim Forum which ends next Thursday.



Attempt to foster understanding of Islam, screening of the film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet

BY ALICIA BOWIE, Nov 05, 2008

A FREE screening of the film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet will be held in Camden to try to bring the community together.

Former Camden resident Nazareena Ibrahim will be at the screening and is hoping people will go along to learn about Islam and the Muslim people.

``I'd like to see our community coming together and starting to know each other,'' she said.

``Hopefully people will see that we probably have more in common than we have in terms of differences.

``I guess part of the reason for deciding to screen it in Camden is many Muslims have a good idea of the Christian and Judaic faiths because Muslims believe that Islam, Christianity and Judaism trace their origins back to the prophet


``But from the Christian and Judaic perspectives, I don't think the knowledge of Islam is quite as much as the other way round.''

Dr Ibrahim said the film screening was about people coming to a better understanding of each other.

``We all live in Australia and understanding each other is one step to being able to live together peacefully in the future,'' she said.

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet will screen at Camden Civic Centre on Friday, November 14, at 7.30pm. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session. Numbers are limited so bookings are suggested. Details: 0405288770 or



My Hijab, My Right

By Jameelah Medina

I know it is difficult for some to understand why a piece of cloth on someone’s head can have so much importance. But the hijab is more than a piece of cloth for those of us who wear it. For me it is a privilege to be able to wear the hijab, and it is a daily reminder of my faith. It is a way for me to be in charge of my own femininity and to make an active decision about what I choose to cover and what I choose to let people see. For a Muslim woman to be forced to remove her hijab in public where men are present is a humiliating and possibly traumatizing experience that she will not soon forget. This humiliation and indignation is the same that a non-Muslim woman would feel if she were forced to take off her shirt and bra and walk around topless in public where men are present. Just as most women feel that their breasts are a private area that is to be covered in public, many Muslim women feel the same way about their hair. The forcible removal of a woman’s hijab should be just as unacceptable as the compulsory removal of a woman’s shirt and bra.

In December 2005, when I was arrested for having an invalid train pass, I was forced to remove my hijab in front of male deputies at the West Valley Detention Centre. I felt completely naked. I honestly cannot imagine feeling more humiliated even if they had forced me to remove all of my clothing. What I mean to say is that, for me, wearing clothes without my hijab is just as meaningless as wearing a hijab without any clothes on — either way, I feel exposed. When the officers compelled me to remove my hijab, it was as if they forced me to remove all of my clothing because of the level of indignation I experienced. No woman should have to experience this even if she has been arrested.

In this country, we are supposedly free to practice our religion, and we do not check our federally protected rights at the jailhouse door. Or better said, we should not be forced to relinquish those rights, especially when that right can be so easily protected by having certain policies in place. When I told the deputy that I could not take off my hijab , there should have been a policy that would allow her to check my hair in private. At the airport, I am always taken into a private room or behind a curtain, where 2 or 3 female TSA agents have me unpin my hijab, they check my hair, and I put my hijab back on. But because there was no such policy in place at the jail, I was forced to remain uncovered for approximately 12 hours and to be seen uncovered by male deputies. During this time I was also hyper-aware of the presence of male voices in my proximity, and felt utterly vulnerable.

Once I became aware that my rights had been violated, I did not have any other choice but to seek justice for the wrong that was done; I had to do it for myself and for every other woman who has ever and will ever be put in that unnecessary situation. I am just so thankful that the ACLU was able to take the case and fight to safeguard the religious rights of women. As a result, San Bernardino County will implement new policies that protect women’s rights, and I hope that all jurisdictions will follow this example.

Learn more about my case and the settlement at:



'Quiet Professionals' continue key role in terror war

Nov 04, 2008, BY Donna Miles

FORT BRAGG, N.C - They're called "the quiet professionals" - the elite force that navigated the Afghan mountains on horseback in the opening days of the terror war, and which Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates expects to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan long after conventional forces draw down.

Master Sgt. Christopher Spence, Sgt. 1st Class Buddy Lockwood and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Turner are the faces of U.S. Army Special Forces. They're seasoned Soldiers, collectively sharing 52 years of service and multiple combat deployments.

And regardless of what they may hear about plans to draw down combat forces and increase "dwell time" between deployments, all recognize that's probably not in the cards for them any time soon.

Army Lt. Gen. Robert W. Wagner, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, briefed Gates during his visit here last month about the contributions his Soldiers are making to the war on terror, and the operational tempo they're enduring.

Army special operations forces are deployed to 45 countries around the globe, he noted, with about 80 percent of those troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're heavily deployed ... [and have been] continuously engaged since the beginning of the war," Wagner said.

Most of his troops have been deployed 30 to 70 percent of the time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks - more than even the most heavily taxed conventional forces.

Gates made clear during the second Special Operations Forces International Conference in Tampa in May that he sees little change ahead.

"The war on terror has relied on and will continue to rely on the skill of our nation's special operators for years to come, as well as the elite forces of many friends and partners," he said. "This is, after all, a war that more often than not will be fought within nations with which we are not at war."

Yet there's a surprising lack of complaining among the Soldiers involved about the pace of operations and the demand it puts on them and their families.

"When I volunteered to do this job, I knew what it entailed," shrugged Turner, who spent 11 years in the regular Army before joining the 3rd Special Forces Group here seven years ago. Since then, he participated in the invasion into Iraq and deployed three times to Afghanistan and several times to Africa.

Spence was among the first Special Forces soldiers to participate in the war on terror, riding horseback alongside anti-Taliban fighters in the Afghan mountains during the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom. He took an iconic photo of that mission that demonstrated the tenacity special operators bring to the fight.

Since then, Spence has deployed three additional times, to Iraq.

With 22 years of service, 13 in Special Forces, Spence said he's seen operational demands steadily climb. It's driven some of his fellow Green Berets to leave the Army, but Spence said he's seen many quickly change their minds and return.

"They lose the camaraderie, they lose that group of guys they hang around with each day who they know will take care of them through thick and thin, like a little band of brothers," he said. "And they end up coming back in," some returning to the same "A teams" they left just months earlier.

That's despite the top-dollar enticements the private sector is willing to pay for Special Forces experience and expertise.

Lockwood, at 30, the youngest of the group, said he knows he could make more money elsewhere. He called the special incentive pays and re-enlistment bonuses the Army offers Special Forces Soldiers "ample to sustain our families," but said money isn't what ultimately makes him stay.

"I do what I do because I enjoy what I do," he said. "I don't think you could replicate the feeling of the camaraderie of the units we are in and the men we work with in the civilian sector."

Lockwood, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the initial invasion of Iraq before joining Special Forces, said he joined Special Forces to become part of an elite, highly skilled team. He said he was drawn by the specialized training, and the maturity of the force. The typical Special Forces non-commissioned officer is 33, and the typical warrant officer is 39.

Going into combat "with Soldiers as good as you or better than you" gives an additional sense of confidence, Lockwood said. "It makes the deployment seem easier when you're around guys older and more mature who have a better understanding of what is going on, it helps you grow."

Pressed to sum up that quality that makes Special Forces "special," Spence delivered it in one word: adaptability.

"Adaptability is probably one of our greatest strengths that we ... bring to the battlefield," he said. It's "our ability to change with every given situation [and] the maturity level we bring."

Spence said he's proud to serve in the group known as "the quiet professionals." "We are the guys who go in, we are quiet, we do our job, and then we leave."

Gates called special operators like Spence the best answer to a shadowy terrorist threat. "This kind of foe has dramatically changed the [Special Operations Command] world, thrusting special operators into a new role as the lead component in the fight," he said at the Tampa special operations conference.

"Special operations had for many years been training precisely for the kind of conflicts in which we now find ourselves: prolonged, messy engagements where tactical success does not necessarily yield strategic success," Gates said.

In these conflicts, he said, "cultural knowledge and language skills often mean a great deal more than raw firepower." And victory ultimately will be measured, "not by how well we do the job, but by how well we can train and empower other nations to protect them."

Gates recalled back to the 1990s when special operators continually honed their skills even when it wasn't always clear how or when they'd be used. He recalled former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker comparing special operators to a brand new Ferrari in the garage that nobody wanted to use for fear its fender might get dented.

In the war on terror, that's all changed. "The Ferrari is out of the garage," Gates declared, and continues leading the pack.



More Islamic World News and Views with Source:

1. EGYPT: Sisters want voice in Muslim Brotherhood


3. New Delhi: Government protecting Islamic terrorists: Togadia


4. Jaipur: Terror not linked with religion": Javedkar


5. Addis Ababa: Ethiopia warns of 'imminent' terror attack


6. Bin Laden Aide Sentenced to Life in Jail by Guantanamo Tribunal: By Ed Johnson

7. Lighter shade of political terrorism drama: By Michael Bodey


8. British anti-terror police arrest 19-year-old man