Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: France: Muslim war graves attacked
Russian court refuses to ban Bhagvad Gita, followers cheer across the world
MOSCOW: Dec 28, 2011, A Russian court today rejected a petition, described by India as "patently absurd", which had sought a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita, bringing cheers to followers here as well as those across the world.
"We have won the case. The judge has rejected the petition," Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON, Moscow, who is also Chairman of newly formed Hindu Council of Russia, told PTI.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna welcomed the judgement and thanked the Russian government for its support.
Prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had argued that the Russian translation of "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" promotes "social discord" and hatred towards non-believers.
The text is a combination of the Bhagvad Gita, one of Hinduism's holiest scriptures, and commentary by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, that is commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON.
The prosecutors had asked the court to include the book on the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts including Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and books distributed by the Jehovah's Witness and Scientology movements.
Reacting to the judgement that came at about 4:30 pm IST, ISKCON spokesman Brajendra Nandan Das told PTI in New Delhi that, "We are very happy".
ISKCON members have alleged that the Russian Orthodox Church was behind the court case as it wanted to limit their activities.
The case had created a storm back in India and even the Parliamentary proceedings had been affected by it.
Speaking in Parliament, Krishna had said the lawsuit was the work of "ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals."
He also called the complaint "patently absurd".
Krishna had summoned the Russian Ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, yesterday and told him that Moscow should provide all possible help to resolve the issue that has been in the court for the last six months.
He had also conveyed to the top Russian diplomat the sensitivities involved with the issue.
Kadakin had assured Krishna that the Russian Government will do all it can within its power.
The trial began in June and was scheduled to conclude on December 19, just after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Russia.
However, officials in Tomsk agreed to hear further testimony from experts and the Russian ombudsman for human rights and postponed the court decision till today.
Russian lawyers Mikahil Fralov and Alexander Sakhav argued strongly against the petition.
The judge, after reviewing the petition from the state prosecutors and the responses against it, dismissed the plea.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had last week insisted that the Tomsk court is not taking issue with core Hindu scripture itself, but rather with the author's commentary and poor translation in "Bhagavad Gita As It Is."
"I would like to emphasise that this is not about 'Bhagavad Gita,' a religious philosophical poem, which forms part of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and is one of the most famous pieces of the ancient Hindu literature," ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich had said at a briefing last week here, adding that the book was first published in Russian in 1788.
Kashmiri separatist clergyman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq launches radical website to prevent conversions
M Saleem Pandit, TNN
SRINAGAR: Dec 28, 2011, To prevent religious "apostasy" and conversions among Kashmiri Muslims, the Valley's top clergyman and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has launched an orthodox Islamic website.
The site http://www.tahafuzeiman.org called as Council for Protection of Faith has been set by Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan (committee for protection of faith). The site states that the committee was formed in November 2011 "after numerous cases of apostasy came into light" and "to thwart nefarious designs of pervasive forces and the deep rooted conspiracy of making youth apostate and defectors by giving them concessions and benefits secretly."
Police arrested a pastor, MC Khanna on the charges of converting several Kashmiri youth to Christianity last month. Khanna was forced to leave the Valley after getting a bail from a local court. It is this incident that led to Kashmir's Muslim clergymen setting up a front against conversions.
Chairman of Hurriyat conference Mirwaiz said that the site was launched because there was a need to use technology and modern equipment for countering conversion attempts. Mirwaiz who is also president of Mutahida Majlis Amal, the conglomerate of several Islamic groups expressed serious concern over the activities of Christian missionaries in the valley and stressed the need for Baitul Maal (fund raising ) committees to help and support needy people.
The site, he said was aimed to protect and imbibe Islamic values besides checking the conversion of young boys and girls. As such, the site warns Kashmiri Muslims not to attend new year functions. "It is un-Islamic to celebrate New Year and the Muslims should in very way refrain from attending the functions related to this event," the site preaches.
The Mirwaiz also alleged that the state government was secretly issuing licenses for sale of liquor in Kashmir. He said vested interests in the government were hatching conspiracies to allure Kashmiri youth to social evils like liquor. The clergyman also stressed the need to strength the religious institutions and Islamic banking. He urged Reserve Bank of India to allow Islamic banking in Jammu and Kashmir owing to its Mulsim majority character.
Muslim War Graves Attacked and Defaced in France
27 Dec 2011
Thirty war graves of Muslim soldiers who fought in World War I have been attacked and defaced in the southern city of Carcassonne.
Racist insults and swastikas were painted on the graves, which are identified by the Islamic symbols of the star and crescent.
Slogans including “France for the French” and “Arabs out” were painted on some of the gravestones, reported daily newspaper Le Figaro.
The graves of Muslim soldiers in the same graveyard were attacked earlier this year in September.
Abdallah Zekri, president of a body that monitors Islamophobia, condemned the attacks on the graves of soldiers who “died for France.”
He pointed to a “significant and very worrying increase in Islamophobia in France.”
He said such attacks are up by 34 percent in 2011. In November alone, these included six fires at mosques in the country.
The graves were cleaned and a religious ceremony to honour the dead is planned for Tuesday morning.
Man hanged in public despite critical condition
18 December 2011
Freedom Messenger - The public execution for a prisoner was carried out on the dawn of Saturday December 11 in the Danesh Square in Shahre Kord even while the prisoner needed urgent medical attention.
According to state-run media, a prisoner identified as Kianoush Sh. who had cut his wrists a few minutes before his execution was hanged in public despite heavily bleeding.
He reportedly cut his vein with the sharp edge of his handcuffs.
Notably, in a handful of cases, the Iranian security system gives sedatives to prisoners before carrying out the death sentence to prevent such incidents. (Human Rights Activists in Iran – Dec. 16, 2011)
Female politician helps victims of violence in West Pakistan
28 Dec, 2011,
Pakistani Social Welfare Minister Sitara Ayaz wants to end women's suffering
Women in Pakistan are suffering from war, natural disasters, radical Islamists and violent husbands. In the first half of 2011 alone, 179 women were killed. Social Welfare Minister Sitara Ayaz fights for women's rights.
Social Welfare Minister Sitara Ayaz comes across as an open-minded person. As someone who is unpretentious and passionate. She wears her hair down and has a scarf resting on her shoulders. She has dedicated herself to fight in order to help the women in the Northwest province in Pakistan. Those women have suffered a lot. First, there was the earthquake six years ago, then the war between militant Islamists and the Pakistani military. Last year, they had to cope with floods in the Indus valley.
"Women and children are suffering the most," said Ayaz.
Ayaz makes use of development aid to build homes for homeless women, former prison inmates and people who are employed but live alone. According to official figures, only 19 percent of women in Pakistan are working. But many more women have to make money to support their families and work in almost all professions, according to Ayaz. They are teachers, doctors, peasant women or have their own small manufacture for carpet or furniture.
"Home workers are usually not considered employed persons," Ayaz said. That's why she said she wants to change the labor law to implement gender equality.
Violence troubles Pakistan
Ayaz was invited to come to Berlin by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a German development agency. She also visited a battered women's shelter and a sheltered apartment in Berlin.
Violence is a huge problem in her province. In the first half of 2011, 179 women were murdered, including at least 14 of the so-called honor killings. There were 81 cases of domestic violence reported as well as 28 kidnappings.
Many women would prefer to work from home out of fear because they don't feel safe on the streets, said Ayaz. Sexual harassment in public and at work is common, even though it's illegal and can be prosecuted. Women also have to deal with threats from extremist violent criminals.
A new law could put an end to the fear of domestic violence. It's still debated in Pakistan's parliament and it appear likely the draft legislation will be enacted. This law would make it possible to punish forced marriage, provide for the quickly sentencing perpetrators of domestic abuse and make money available to support women.
Many women don't feel safe on the streets, says Social Welfare Minister Ayaz
More women in Pakistan are also divorcing their husbands and shaking the core of Pakistani society, according to Fauzia Vigar from the women's organization Shirat Gah. Honor killings, assaults with acid as well as forced and early marriages are something very common. It's also tradition to hand over women to enemies in order to settle conflicts.
"Women are still considered the family's or the husband's property," said Vigar. And the situation for women has worsened with the peace agreement with the Islamists in 2009. Many women and girls hardly leave the house anymore out of fear of the how they will be treated by men on the street, Vigar said. And if they do, they only dare to leave with a burka or hijab.
"The provincial government did not defend the rights of women and girls by all means," said Vigar.
Building schools for girls
The aftermath of the war between Islamists and Pakistan's military in 2008 and 2009 was bad, especially for the civilian population in Swat valley. All hotels and almost 300 girls' schools were destroyed in the former recreation area. Even though the bombings took place mostly at night and in the early morning hours while the students were not in danger, the message was clear, said Ayaz.
"There are elements that are opposing the fact that girls are attending school," she said. "But the government cares for girl's education."
She said much of her work lies in convincing the mostly conservative population that education is important. "Most people want a good education for their daughters today," she said with some pride.
"Most people want a good education for their daughters today," said Ayaz
In order to protect women from domestic violence, Pakistani law requires the construction of battered women's shelters. But there are still obstacles to overcome, said Ayaz. Until now, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwar province, survivors of domestic violence can only find shelter in two homes.
Ayaz said she wants to implement the new ideas she got while she was in Berlin with funds from German development aid. She said she especially liked the idea of creating "sheltered apartments" instead of separated houses. She said it's important to provide shelter, but also to avoid stigmatization of the women and their children.
But according to Vigar, the women will still think twice before moving into a battered women's shelter - or apartment. "They will be disowned by their families", Vigar said.
"I'm proud of the little improvements we've achieved for the women," said Ayaz. "And this all has happened under the daily threat by militant groups."
Pakistan maintains top slot in Google search for 'sex'
By Web Desk, December 28, 2011
With over 20 million internet users and growing fast, Pakistan has managed to secure the number one slot for searching the term ‘sex’ globally for all years.
According to a 2010 Fox News report, Pakistan had outranked all countries in Google searches for pornographic terms last year. Narrowing the analytics for the search term to just 2011, Pakistan maintained the number one position, followed by India and Vietnam.
Islamabad featured in the top 10 cities worldwide to search the word ‘sex’ in September and December 2011.
Provincial capital Lahore also featured in the top 10 cities for the months of January, March, April, May, June, July, September, October, November and December 2011.
The months of February and August (Ramazan) were the only two months in 2011 that did not feature any cities from Pakistan in the global ranking.
How does Google Trends work?
Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time.
To rank the top regions, cities, or languages, Google Trends first looks at a sample of all Google searches to determine the areas or languages from which they received the most searches for the first term. Then, for those top cities, Google Trends calculates the ratio of searches for the term coming from each city divided by total Google searches coming from the same city.
The city ranking and the bar charts alongside each city name both represent this ratio.
Google Trends uses IP address information from server logs to make a best guess about where queries originated.
Maldives Islamic Ministry to hold conference on religious controversies
Fazeena Ahmed, Haveeru News Service
Dec 27, 2011
Islamic Ministry is to hold a conference of Islamic scholars in Maldives to discuss the religious controversies in the country.
Assistant Director General Ahmedulla Jameel said 64 scholars would attend the conference to be held on Saturday and Sunday.
"Six papers will be presented to the conference on different issues. The report to be compiled based on the discussions held at the conference will be publicised by the ministry," he said.
Jameel said religious scholars including Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, State Islamic Minister Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed and Ungoofaru MP Dr Afrasheem Ali would submit papers.
Papers are to be submitted on guidelines for dealing with controversial religious issues, prophetic traditions being the second basis of Sharia, alms, performing the prayer behind innovators and reciting Bismillah – a verse to be recited before every chapter of Quran.
The ministry has not yet decided on opening the conference, which will take place at the Islamic Centre's conference hall, for public.
The Islamic Ministry's decision comes amid heated debates over controversial religious issues.
The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstrated in support of "moderate Islam" on Friday while religious organisations, joined by opposition parties, rallied at the same time "in defence of Islam" condemning what they claimed were "anti-Islamic" activities carried out by the government.
Speaking at the MDP demonstration, President Mohamed Nasheed called on citizens to reject religious extremism and continue to support the "traditional form" of Islam that has been practiced in the Maldives for the past 800 years.
"Should we ban music? Should we mutilate girls' genitals? Should we allow nine year-olds to be married? Should we forbid art and drawing? Should we be allowed to take concubines? Is this nation building?" he asked his critics.
"This is an old country, people have lived here for thousands of years and we have practised Islam for more than 800 years. In 2011, we are faced with a question, how should we build our nation: what we will teach our children, how should we live our lives and what we will leave for future generations?"
Meanwhile, five demands were put forward at the protest organised by the civil society coalition and opposition parties.
The demands include removing the SAARC monuments in Addu, condemning UN human rights chief Navi Pillay's comments about Islamic Sharia, not allowing Israeli airlines to operate flights, closing down the brothels in Male and a reversed decision on declaring areas of inhabited islands uninhabited in order to permit alcohol sales.
France welcomes Iraqi decision to delay Ashraf refugee camp closure
PARIS, 12/22/2011 (KUNA) -- France on Thursday welcomed a decision by the Iraqi government to delay closure of the controversial Ashraf refugee camp in Iraq, which has been the scene of violent clashes during attempts by the Iraqi authorities to take control of the facility.
"We praise the efforts of the United Nations and the Iraqi government to find a peaceful end to this situation," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Ashraf refugee camp houses activists and their families that the government alleges are out of control and are a threat to security but the UN says there is still a humanitarian issue at stake.
"We call on all parties concerned to show restraint so that the closure of the camp can take place in the best possible conditions," the French statement said. The Iraqi government had plans to close the camp at the end of December 2011.
The camp is located in Iraq's Diyala province and headquarters of the exiled People's Mujahedin of Iran. It is situated northeast of the Iraqi town of Khalis, about 120 kilometers west of the Iranian border and 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.
On January 1, 2009 its control was formally transferred from the US military to the Iraqi government. The Camp has been attacked several times the last being on April 8, 2011 when Iraqi security forces stormed the camp and killed as many as 31 and wounded 320 residents. (end) jk.hb KUNA 221632 Dec 11NNNN
Pakistan Christian Man, Family Hiding After Blasphemy Charges
LAHORE,December 27, 2011 (BosNewsLife )-- A Christian man who spent more than three years in a Pakistani jail on "false charges of blasphemy against Islam" was hiding with his family in Pakistan's Punjab province Tuesday, December 27, after police briefly detained him again, a friend and human rights official told BosNewsLife.
Amanat Masih, 50, was arrested on Christmas Day while visiting his local church, explained Farrukh H. Saif, the executive director of the Lahore-based World Vision In Progress foundation (WVIP), a major advocacy group.
"After nine hours of efforts by WVIP lawyers we were able to get him out of the police station in [the city of]Sheikhupura," northwest of the provincial capital Lahore, he added.
"Lawyers have proven that the complainer is falsely accusing him again." Police released him via "a back door" because there were "hundreds of Muslims waiting outside of the police station," Saif told BosNewsLife in an interview.
He said Masih, an impoverished worker, was moved to a safe location along with his wife and seven children. However, "Now we have again to move him...We are also looking forward to relocate him to some safer country where he can start his new life" with his family, Saif said.
Masih's latest detention came a year after he was released from prison. He was previously behind bars from March 2007 till December 2010 on charges of blasphemy after he allegedly burned pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims.
Full Report at:
After Nigeria's Church Bombings: The Advent of Christian-Muslim Conflict?
By Monica Mark
Lagos Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, On the blood-splattered front walls of the blasted church, using wood burned into charcoal from the flames of the explosion, somebody scrawled two messages: "Revolution now" and "No more peace in the country." In the aftermath of the attack by Islamist militants against a Christian sanctuary in Abuja and four other churches in Nigeria, those are the symptoms of a sectarian backlash that Nigerian authorities are most alarmed about.
At least 32 people were killed as they poured out of the packed Christmas-morning Mass in St. Theresa Catholic Church near Abuja, the capital, Interior Minister Abba Moro told TIME. Four other bombs elsewhere in the country took at least three lives. Boko Haram, a group whose aim is to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Shari'a on Africa's most populous country, took credit for the attacks. One-third of Nigerian states already live under Shari'a.
Authorities are now battling to keep a lid on the bubbling threat of a sectarian civil conflict that would pitch one half of Nigeria's population of 155 million against the other. "The fact that Christian facilities were bombed was intended primarily to provoke Christians into attacking Muslims," Moro told TIME. "We have appealed to our Christian brothers for them not to do so." But two days after the bombing, the area around St. Theresa remained tense as angry young men loitered just beyond military cars patrolling the area. "If the government cannot protect us, we will take revenge by ourselves," said Josiah Agbo, 18, whose mother was killed in the blast. He left only after a priest from St. Theresa took to the streets urging Christians not to attack Muslims. In a country where religious leaders wield enormous power, Muslim counterparts in the powerful Sokoto and Kano caliphates — the country's historic Islamic communities — denounced the bombings.
Full Report at:
Egyptian court ends virginity tests in jails
Dec 28, 2011, AN EGYPTIAN court ordered on Tuesday that forced virginity tests be stopped on female detainees in military prisons.
The case was filed by Samira Ibrahim, a woman who said the Army forced her to undergo a virginity test in April after she was arrested during a protest at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Human rights organisations say that there have been many other such tests by the military. “The court orders that the execution of the procedure of virginity tests on girls inside military prisons be stopped,” said judge Aly Fekry, head of Cairo Administrative court. Mean-while, Egypt’s state prosecutor have charged two Israelis and a Ukrainian with smuggling weapons and trying to implicate Egyptian security, the first case of its kind.
Saudi Kingdom will continue to follow Salafist ideology: Prince Naif
By ARAB NEWS
RIYADH:Dec 28, 2011 Crown Prince Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, opened a symposium on “Salafism: A Shariah approach and a national demand,” organized by the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University here Tuesday and commended its objectives.
Prince Naif said Saudi Arabia would continue to follow the Salafist ideology and denounced those who create doubts about this moderate Islamic ideology and link it with terrorism and extremism.
"Salafism is rooted in the Qur'an and Sunnah and calls for peaceful coexistence with other faith communities and for respecting their rights," the crown prince said. "We have to stand united against those who launch smear campaigns on Salafism."
He also laid the cornerstone for a number of educational projects worth SR2.3 billion at the university.
Suleiman Abalkhail, president of the university, thanked Prince Naif for opening the event.
“The Kingdom is based on the moderate Salafi ideology,” he said, adding that the Saudi government has been following the teachings of Islam in all its affairs and relations.
He said more than 100 religious experts from around the world would take part in the symposium to discuss 120 research papers on seven core subjects.
This seminar aims to achieve several goals such as shedding light on the doctrinal teachings of the Salafist movement, clear misconceptions about Salafism, clarify the roots of Saudi government regulations and its rightful principles and lastly provide a clear idea about Islam’s approach toward non-Muslims.
The core subjects include Salafism, an approach pursued by the state since its foundation and its connection to Islam; misconceptions about the Salafi approach; the Salafi approach and its connection with the modern religious discourse, the relationship between the Saudi state and the Salafi approach in terms of originality and application; and the link between the Salafi approach and school curricula.
Pakistan offers to move artillery from LoC
ISLAMABAD: Dec 28, 2011, Pakistan has proposed moving heavy artillery away from the Line of Control (LoC), the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. “Pakistan has proposed to India to move 120-millimetre guns some 30 kilometres away from the LoC,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abdul Basit said.
The proposal was made during talks between Pakistani and Indian experts in Islamabad on confidence building measures (CBM) between the two countries. “The move would help reduce casualties on both sides,” Basit added.
Pakistan and India also agreed to extend the validity of the “Agreement on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons” for another five years and would recommended their respective foreign secretaries to move in this direction.
The significant agreement reached between the two countries during the sixth round of the expert level talks on nuclear CBMs held in Islamabad.
During the talks, the Pakistani side was led by Munwar Saeed Bhatti, an additional secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Indian delegation was headed by DB Venkatesh Varma, a joint secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs.
The sixth round of talks on nuclear CBMs was in pursuance to the agreement between the foreign ministers of both the countries, who met in New Dehli on July 27.
The talks also signified the first formal interaction between the two countries after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh met on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Maldives last month.
According to a joint statement released by the Foreign Ministry, the talks between the two sides were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.
Both sides reviewed the implementation and strengthening of existing CBMs in the framework of Lahore MoU and agreed to explore possibilities for mutually acceptable additional CBMs.
According to the joint statement, both sides will report the progress in talks to their respective foreign secretaries
No breakthrough in Indo-Pak talks
LAMABAD, Dec 28, 2011, The sixth round of the IndiaPakistan expert-level talks on nuclear confidence-building measures ended here on Tuesday without any major breakthrough, officials said.
`The talks were positive but there were no results.
The positive thing is that they have agreed to continue talks.'
The sixth round of IndiaPakistan expert-level talks on nuclear confidencebuilding measures (CBMs) ended on Tuesday without any major breakthrough, officials said.
“The talks were positive but there were no results.
The positive thing is that they have agreed to continue talks,“ an official at the foreign ministry told this newspaper.
“Pursuance to the agreement between the two foreign ministers in New Delhi on July 27, 2011, the sixth round of expert-level talks on nuclear confidence-building measures was held in Islamabad on December 27, 2011,“ said an official statement issued after the talks.
Joint secretary (DISA), ministry of external affairs, D.B. Venkatesh Varma led the Indian side and the Pakistani delegation was led by Munwar Saeed Bhatti, additional secretary (UN&EC), ministry of foreign affairs.
“Both sides reviewed the implementation and strengthening of existing CBMs in the framework of Lahore MoU and agreed to explore possibilities for mutually-acceptable additional CBMs,” said the statement.
“The two sides agreed to recommend to their foreign secretaries to extend the
validity of the “agreement on reducing the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons” for another five years,” it added.
“Both sides will report the progress in talks to their respective foreign secretaries,” the statement said.
The two-day negotiations were held after the countries’ foreign ministers decided in July to resume arms control negotiations, which were suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed more than 160 people and for which India blamed Pakistan-based militants.
Pakistan and India have fought three major wars since gaining Independence.
They formally established peaceful relations with the signing of the Lahore Understanding in 1999, following nuclear weapons tests by both the neighbours in the previous year.
Saudi beheads man for murder
RIYADH:Dec 28, 2011, A Saudi man was beheaded on Wednesday by the sword in Riyadh for murder, the interior ministry said.
Salman al-Ghamedi was found guilty of stabbing to death another Saudi, Ahmed al-Qahtani, following a dispute, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The beheading brings to 76 the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year, based on an AFP count.
In September, Amnesty International called on the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom where 140 people were on death row to establish an "immediate moratorium on executions."
The London-based rights watchdog said Saudi Arabia was one of a minority of states which voted against a UN General Assembly resolution last December calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
Amnesty says Saudi Arabia executed 27 convicts in 2010, compared to 67 executions announced the year before.
Religious cleric shot dead outside mosque, Gulbahar, Pak
KARACHI: December 28, 2011, A Pesh Imam of Lal Masjid, Gulbahar, and caretaker of seminary was gunned down in an act of target killing within the remit of Gulbahar police station Tuesday evening. Prayer leader Maulana Abdus Samad Soomro, 42, son of Sohbat Soomro was gunned down when he disembarked his car outside the mosque. His body was taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for medico-legal formalities. Police officials said that the cleric was shot and killed shortly after he disembarked his white Toyota Corolla outside Lal Masjid, adding that apparently he was killed over sectarian grounds. Deceased was also the caretaker of Lal Masjid’s seminary besides being a teacher at the Jamia Binnoria, SITE Town. He was also associated with Tehreek Ghalba-e-Islam and Ittehad Bainul Muslimeen. Deceased was a father of eight children and hailed from Shikarpur. Mufti Naeem of the Jamia Binnoria strongly condemned the incident saying that the victim had no link with any banned outfit while Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s spokesman Maulana Taj Hanfi said that the deceased was his party’s sympathiser. Spokesman of Jamia Binnoria Maulana Ghulam Rasool said victim had also submitted an application for his security to Sindh Home Department but no measures were taken. He condemned the killing of Maulana Samad and demanded the government to arrest those involved in the incident. Some sources said that victim was also associated with banned Jesh-e-Mohammad however police officials denied the reports saying that they had no information about his affiliation with any outlawed organisation. Case could not be registered till filing of this report. staff report
Gunmen kill intelligence official in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Dec 28 2011 — Unknown gunmen on motorbikes killed a Pakistani intelligence official in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, police said.
The gunmen opened fire at the assistant director of the Intelligence Bureau when he was standing near his car, which was parked on the roadside.
"Two gunmen came on motorcycles and opened fire at Sirajuddin, the assistant director of the Intelligence Bureau," Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf told AFP.
"The incident occurred on the Kohat road. We don't know who is exactly involved in this attack but we have ordered the inquiry to find out the culprits," another senior police official Tahir Ayub said.
Qaeda behind Baghdad blasts that killed 59
Dec 28, 2011, AN AL QAEDA front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that ripped through markets, cafes and government buildings in Baghdad on a single day last week, killing 69 people and raising new worries about the country’s path.
The coordinated attacks struck a dozen mostly Shia neighbourhoods on Thursday in the first major bloodshed since US troops completed a full withdrawal in December after nearly nine years of war. They also coincided with a government crisis that has again strained ties between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias to the breaking point, tearing at the same fault line that nearly pushed Iraq into all-out civil war several years ago. The claim of responsibility made no mention of the US withdrawal.
Four terrorists held in Chakwal, Pak
CHAKWAL:December 28, 2011, Four terrorists alleged to be the killers of same number of security personnel have been nabbed in Chakwal. In November 2011 unidentified gunmen had killed four military personnel and a civilian in the Pir Chanbal’s rocky mountains. A joint task force was formed to bring those killers to justice.
According to a private TV channel Dr Arsahd, a senior activist of a banned outfit, was among the detainees. Arshad along with four of his accomplices has been remanded to police for further investigation. inp
Iran, Indonesia Underline Expansion of All-Out Ties
TEHRAN (FNA), 28. 12 11- Senior Iranian and Indonesian officials in a meeting here in Tehran on Wednesday laid emphasis on the further expansion of the relations between the two countries in all the economic, political and social grounds.
Expansion of ties and cooperation between the two countries was discussed in a meeting here today between Iranian Minister of Cooperative, Labor and Social Welfare Abdolreza Sheikholeslam and Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs Salim Segaf Al-Jufrie.
The Iranian minister described Indonesia as a developing country with the largest Muslim population in the world "which has granted it a very good capacity for playing an important role at the international level".
He reminded Iran's enthusiasm for expanding economic ties with the friendly and Muslim countries, and noted that Tehran plays an outstanding role on the international scene due to its special position in global relations.
"I believe now that the world is moving on the steep slope of major and determining developments under the present conditions, cooperation and interaction between the two countries can play an effective role in improving developmental trends and mechanisms among countries," Sheikholeslam mentioned.
He said the very good welcome extended by the Indonesian people and government to Iran's senior officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shows the deep interest that the Indonesian community and officials have in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its international causes and ideals.
The Indonesian minister, for his part, noted the long record of the two countries' relations, and said the two nations' interests required expansion of these ties, specially in social welfare.
He said he intends to endorse a joint statement with Sheikholeslam in a bid to expand the two sides' relations in social welfare and affairs.
The agreement, he said, would serve as a legal basis for the two countries' future cooperation and relations.
Israelis protest ultra-Orthodox treatment of women
The Associated Press
Dec 27, 2011
Thousands of people in Israel rallied against religious extremism on Tuesday, protesting against the way some ultra-Orthodox Jews treat girls and women.
Protesters held signs reading, "Free Israel from religious coercion," and "Stop Israel from becoming Iran."
Ultra-Orthodox extremists want to impose a number of restrictions, which include not allowing women to be interviewed on radio stations, not accepting pictures of women in newspapers or billboards, and demanding women sit at the back of the bus.
Some also want women to walk separately on the opposite side of the road.
Last week, a young Israeli woman caused a nationwide uproar when she refused a religious man's order to move to the back of a bus.
The protests were also spurred on, in part, by another incident last week, in which some ultra-Orthodox men in the town of Beit Shemesh harassed an eight-year old girl on her way to her religious Jewish girls school — spitting on her, calling her a "whore" and claiming she was dressed immodestly.
Naama Margolese, a second-grader, is now afraid to walk to school, even if she is accompanied by her mother.
"When I walk to school in the morning I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared ... that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting," Naama said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. "They were scary. They don't want us to go to the school."
The girls' school that Naama attends in the city of Beit Shemesh, to the west of Jerusalem, is on the border between an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of them American immigrants.
Naama dresses with long sleeves and a skirt but extremists consider even that outfit, standard in mainstream Jewish religious schools, to be immodest.
"They want to push us out of Beit Shemesh. They want to take over the city," Hadassa Margolese, Naama's mother, said at the protest.
"Many people have asked me if I intend to leave and my answer is absolutely not,"
But condemnation from politicians has been widespread. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the segregation of women is unacceptable.
"This is a phenomenon that contradicts Jewish tradition and the spirit of the Bible," Netanyahu said Tuesday evening, "with one of the most central and important among them being: Love your neighbour as yourself."
Israeli President Shimon Peres said the nation is now fighting for its soul.
"If they so respect their women they should be the ones to cross to the other side of the street," he said. "No man has the right to threaten a child, or a woman. They are not the lords of the earth."
City spokesman Matityahu Rosenzweig condemned the violence but said it is the work of a small minority and has been taken out of proportion. "Every society has its fringes, and the police should take action on this," he said.
Israeli Girl, 8, at Center of Tension Over Religious Extremism
BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — The latest battleground in Israel’s struggle over religious extremism covers little more than a square mile of this Jewish city situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it has the unexpected public face of a blond, bespectacled second-grade girl.
She is Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of American immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. An Israeli weekend television program told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her elementary school here after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.
The country was outraged. Naama’s picture has appeared on the front pages of all the major Israeli newspapers. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that “Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state” and pledged that “the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all,” there have been days of confrontation at focal points of friction here.
Ultra-Orthodox men and boys from the most stringent sects have hurled rocks and eggs at the police and journalists, shouting “Nazis” at the security forces and assailing female reporters with epithets like “shikse,” a derogatory Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman or girl, and “whore.” Jews of varying degrees of orthodoxy and secularity headed to Beit Shemesh on Tuesday evening to join local residents in a protest numbering in the thousands against religious violence and fanaticism.
Full Report at:
Obama: Entangled by Islam
By The Washington Times , December 27, 2011
Is liberalism or Muslim outreach more important to the president?
It’s no longer news that President Obama’s vaunted outreach to Islam has been a bust. Numerous polls over the past three years have shown that after a brief flurry of enthusiasm, regard for the United States among the world’s Muslims has declined precipitously. In some key countries, dislike for America is even lower than it was at the end of the administration of George W. Bush, whom liberal critics deemed culturally illiterate.
The State Department recently illustrated why reaching out has been such a failure. In mid-December, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in a three-day international conference called the Istanbul Process regarding the implementation of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution 16/18, adopted in March. The resolution ostensibly seeks to combat religious intolerance and was a U.S.-sponsored alternative to language pushed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that would have imposed global blasphemy laws against critics of Islam. Resolution 16/18 calls on states to “foster religious freedom and pluralism” and - in typical Obama administration apologetic style - stop religious profiling, which purportedly is a widespread American vice.
In her keynote speech at the conference, Mrs. Clinton noted a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that found “70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with a high number of restrictions on religious freedom.” What she left out was that the 2009 Pew report “Global Restrictions on Religion” found that most states that had “high” or “very high” religious restrictions were countries with Muslim majorities. The research also revealed, “On average, restrictions are highest in the Middle East-North Africa, where the median score for the 20 countries (4.9) is considerably higher than for the 35 countries in the Americas (1.0), the region with the lowest median score.” In other words, whatever problems of religious intolerance UNHRC Resolution 16/18 seeks to address, they are endemic among Muslims, not in the pluralistic West.
Mrs. Clinton also bemoaned the prevalence of religious- and culturally based discrimination against women, which is characteristic of many Muslim countries. Likewise, homosexual conduct is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan and is subject to harsh punishment in most of the Middle East, which runs counter to Mr. Obama’s Dec. 6 order for the U.S. government to fight for homosexual “rights” abroad.
Despite all this, White House pandering to Islam is nonstop. Last week, the Defense Department approved a policy allowing those in JROTC to wear Islamic headscarves (hijabs) during training and formations. This policy is harmful for unit cohesion because introducing special privileges disrupts the spirit of shared sacrifice and responsibility that should be inculcated in cadets. It also raises important First Amendment establishment clause issues because government is acting to benefit a single group solely on the basis of religion. It’s not clear which will budge when Mr. Obama’s commitments to liberalism and groveling to Islam are at odds.
Honoring All Who Saved Jews
By EVA WEISEL
December 27, 2011
IN December 1942, when I was 13 years old, German troops occupied my hometown. Within days, our house was commandeered as an officers’ mess hall. I soon had a yellow star on my dress, setting me apart from many of my childhood friends. The men of our family were ordered into forced labor. My happy life had vanished.
Luckily, an influential local man knew of our difficult straits and generously offered his protection. One night, he ferried the women, children and old men in our family to a farm he owned about 20 miles outside of town. There, he said, we would be safe. Though the stables he provided us for lodging were modest, with just a drape across the door to protect against the elements, we were relieved to be behind the thick, high walls of his property. We were deeply grateful.
As luck would have it, however, a German unit arrived in the area not long after we did. Our host told us to get rid of our yellow stars, stay inside the farm walls and keep far away from the main house. He had his own strategy for dealing with the Germans. A bon vivant and world traveler, he invited German officers for evenings filled with food and drink. While nearly two dozen of us were hiding in one part of the farm, he protected himself from the prying eyes of the Germans by entertaining them on the other side of the farm.
Our host’s strategy worked well, until the night a couple of drunken German officers wandered away from the main house.
In the courtyard outside the stables, they started banging on the courtyard door and shouting, “We know you are Jews and we’re coming to get you!”
My grandmother started screaming “Cachez les filles!” — “Hide the girls!” I remember being shoved under the bed, trembling and sobbing as I tried to hide under a blanket.
At that moment of unspeakable fear, as our hearts pounded and tears poured from our eyes, a guardian angel came to the rescue. Out of nowhere, our host appeared. A strong, powerful man who projected authority and commanded respect, he stopped the Germans and managed to lead them away.
Full Report at:
First session of CIA agent’s trial held in Tehran
TEHRAN, 28 December 2011 – The first session of the trial of Amir Mirza-Hekmati, who was recently arrested by Iranian intelligence agents on a charge of spying for the CIA, was held on Tuesday.
The Intelligence Ministry announced his arrest on December 7.
The indictment issued for Mirza-Hekmati was read out at the court session.
The indictment read that the CIA operative had entered Iran with the aim of penetrating the Iranian intelligence apparatus, and after closer investigation, it became clear that his objective was to take measures to implicate Iran in terrorist actions.
It was also stated in the indictment that Mirza-Hekmati had been recruited by the CIA since 2009 and had been assigned to carry out a number of espionage missions in Iran.
According to the confessions that the defendant had made, he had links with the CIA and had intended to act against Iran’s national security, the indictment said.
The taped confessions of the defendant were broadcast on Iranian television on December 18.
The indictment added that Mirza-Hekmati had been dispatched to Bagram base in Afghanistan to collect classified intelligence and then travelled to Iran to establish close relationship with officials at the Intelligence Ministry with the aim of carrying out his mission.
Mirza-Hekmati defended himself after the indictment was read out.
“I first thought that no blow would be dealt to Iran in this regard, and I did not intend to deal a blow (to the Islamic Republic). I was deceived,” Mirza-Hekmati stated.
He also said that he was offered $500,000 in return for carrying out the mission.
‘Pakistan military caused disaster called Kargil’
Islamabad: Decemeber 28, 2011, The last thing that Pakistan needs at this critical juncture is institutional infighting, said a Pakistani daily as it reminded the military that "its definition of national security led to the loss of half the country in 1971 (and) led to a disaster called Kargil".
An editorial in the News International said that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's remarks about a "state within a state" caused quite a sensation in political circles.
"It looked as if the premier's indirect reference to the military and the ISI was a challenge to the establishment," it said.
Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's statement the very next day about the Army being cognizant of its constitutional obligations and responsibilities was welcomed by the Prime Minister.
Gilani later also made it clear that there is no clash between the government and the military.
"Some analysts have called it a 'retreat' by the federal government even though it was only logical that the Prime Minister would accept and welcome the Army Chief's positive statement at face value.
"But it is important to read between the lines... Tensions may have been defused but there are some questions that were left unanswered."
The editorial went on to say that General Kayani's statement the other day referred to national security and how no compromise would be made on this issue.
"In Pakistan, 'national security' has always been defined by the military even though in any modern democratic state, it is defined by the government in consultation with its subservient military.
"The military in Pakistan considers itself a state within a state and uses the jihadist networks to defend its national security paradigm," it said.
The editorial added that it would not be wrong to "remind the military that its definition of national security led to the loss of half the country in 1971, it led to a disaster called Kargil, and the same 'national security' is now responsible for the kill and dump policy being pursued by our military in Balochistan".
The Kargil conflict between Pakistan and India took place in 1999.
"It is time to allow the democratic government to define what constitutes national security instead of making one blunder after another... The last thing this country needs at this critical juncture is institutional infighting," the editorial said.
No NATO supply ‘free of cost’: defence minister
LARKANA: Dec 28, 2011, A month after Pakistan had suspended NATO supplies in the wake of alliance attack on Pakistani outposts in Mohmand Agency, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar on Tuesday said that NATO supplies will not be restored free of cost. He said that the Pakistani roads were destroyed due to movement of heavy vehicles, carrying NATO supplies. “We will build our roads and infrastructure with the money we take from NATO,” he said, adding that if US was Pakistan’s friend, it would have to take care of Islamabad’s interests. online
Nawaz says will expose BB's killers after coming to power
AMJAD ALI SHAH
PESHAWAR: December 28, 2011, President, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, on Tuesday reiterated his resolve to expose the killers of Benazir Bhutto after coming into power.
Regarding memogate scandal, Nawaz said that the issue was sub judice and let the court decide it. However, he demanded that the faces involved in the scandal be brought before the nation after thorough investigation.
Talking to reporters here at the residence of Sir Anjam Khan he said that the government was responsible for prevailing messy situation in the country.
He said that the rulers had failed to deliver on every front.
He said that the prime minister had been changing his position for the last couple of days.
To a query, he said that President Asif Zardari should also respect national institutions and strengthen rather destabilising them.
Nawaz Sharif said the government was not properly discussing the closure of NATO supply line.
Regarding his visit to Peshawar, he said that he had come here to attend PML's provincial council's meeting, saying that the party was united and strong in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He maintained that it would remain so and come up to the expectation of the nation.
He said those who had harmed the party during Musharraf era had no place in the party.
Sources privy to the meeting held in Sir Anjam Khan's residence said that PML-N Chief might name former chief minister Pir Sabir Shah as party's provincial president and Rahmat Salam as provincial secretary general to end the ongoing tussle within the party.
During his visit, Nawaz Sharif attended a dinner at the residence of Sir Anjam Khan and wedding ceremony of the grand son of former Jamaat-e-Islam chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmad.
He was accompanied by his wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz and son Hasan Nawaz. PML-N leaders say Nawaz has family terms with the former JI chief.
The dissidents leaguers, who were protesting against the central leadership for nominating, what they termed, new comers on import party positions and preferring them over the old guards, have reportedly end their differences.
Zardari reaches out to Ahsan, sees him as mentor to Bilawal
Press Trust Of India
Islamabad, December 28, 2011, Pakistan's embattled President Asif Ali Zardari has asked former minister Aitzaz Ahsan to act as a mentor to his son Bilawal if "anything were to happen to him," sources said, amid reports that the outspoken PPP leader is being tipped as a likely replacement for Premier Yousuf RazaGilani.
Zardari had reached out to Ahsan, one of Pakistan's leading lawyers and former Interior Minister, after he became embroiled in the controversy over a secret memo that sought US help to stave off a possible coup in Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden.
During a long phone conversation with Ahsan while he was in Dubai to seek treatment for a heart condition, Zardari had asked the Cambridge-educated lawyer to act as a mentor to his 23-year-old son Bilawal if "anything were to happen to him," senior PPP officials and other sources told PTI.
Zardari's decision to ask Ahsan to speak after him at a massive rally yesterday too has triggered speculation that Ahsan may be given a key position in the government.
The President was expected to be the main speaker at a public meeting organised by the PPP at Garhi Khuda Baksh in Sindh to mark the death anniversary of his wife, former Premier Benazir Bhutto.
Zardari took everyone by surprise by effusively praising Ahsan and asking him to deliver the final speech.
Reports in a section of the media said that Ahsan was being tipped as a likely replacement for Premier Gilani.
Full Report at:
US briefs Pakistani army chief on investigation
December 28, 2011, THE American military has briefed Pakistan's army chief on its investigation into US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border last month, US officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby told reporters that a report by military investigators was delivered to General Ashfaq Kayani on Sunday by a US officer based in Islamabad, who explained the findings to the general.
The full report from the joint US-NATO investigative team was not released publicly until Monday to allow time for the Pakistani leadership to read the findings first, Kirby said.
"We wanted General Kayani to be able to see the entire thing," he said, calling the approach "an appropriate professional courtesy" to Kayani.
But a Pakistani security official told AFP "no such briefing took place and the report was not handed over in person to the army chief".
"The report was delivered to the concerned department (of army headquarters) but not to the chief," the official said.
Pakistan has yet to give a detailed public response to the report, but officials have expressed irritation that elements were initially leaked to American newspapers last week.
The air strikes further damaged the precarious US-Pakistani partnership and provoked outrage in Islamabad, which retaliated by cutting off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
The New York Times has reported the counter-terrorism partnership can only survive in limited form.
The United States and Pakistan disagree about the precise sequence of events in the deadliest single cross-border attack of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies shooting first, and has accused the Americans of an intentional attack on its troops.
Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who led the US inquiry, said the November 25-26 air strikes were the result of mistakes and botched communications on both sides - reflecting an underlying mistrust between the two countries.
It took the NATO-led force 84 minutes to halt air strikes after a Pakistani liaison officer first alerted US and coalition counterparts that Pakistani troops were coming under fire from American aircraft, the report said.
The probe also said the US military failed to notify the Pakistanis about the night raid near the border and that a coalition officer mistakenly gave the wrong location of the US troops to his Pakistani counterpart.
The probe found Pakistani soldiers fired first at American and Afghan forces and kept firing even after a US F-15 fighter jet flew overhead. The Pakistanis also failed to tell the Americans about new border posts in the area.
Reset Pakistan policy to check terror syndicate: Former CIA analyst
Washington, 28 December 2011 : Describing the 2008 Mumbai attacks as President Barack Obama's first major international crisis, a former CIA analyst has called for a reset of American policy toward Pakistan to contain the syndicate of terror it sponsors.
"The president has delivered on his promises to 'disrupt, dismantle and defeat' Al Qaeda al Umm," Bruce Riedel, now Foreign Policy fellow at Brookings, a Washington think tank, wrote saying "He showed great courage and leadership in sending the SEALs to Abbottabad" to eliminate Osama bin Laden.
"In 2012 he will need to reset American policy toward Pakistan to contain the worst excesses and ambitions of the Pakistani army, the (Inter-Services Intelligence) ISI and the syndicate of terror they sponsor while at the same time engaging and supporting those Pakistanis who want a democratic, progressive Pakistan like (former Prime Minister) Benazir (Bhutto)."
"That is a tough balance to get right. It may be the toughest challenge of his presidency," Riedel wrote in a commentary in "The Daily Beast" noting that Bhutto had warned before her death that the alliance of jihadist terror
and the army was the greatest threat to world peace today.
"Al Qaeda is on the defensive in Pakistan, but its many allies and affiliates are on the march," he said recalling three years ago "in Mumbai, the syndicate demonstrated its terror capabilities. It held the financial capital of India in its deadly grip for days, killing and wounding hundreds including Indians, Americans and Jews."
"The court testimony of an (Pakistani) American, David Headley, who was the master spy for the attack and prepared the way with five visits to the city before hand, shows it was a joint Lashkar-ISI plot. That attack was the first major international crisis after Obama's electoral victory."
The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that attacked Mumbai in 2008, Hafiz Saeed, who now heads Lashkar's official successor Jamat ud Dawa, at a rally in Lahore this month called for jihad against India in Kashmir and NATO in Afghanistan, Riedel noted.
The LeT leader had rejected President Ali Asif Zardari's proposal for most-favoured trade agreement with India and said "instead, India must be punished for stealing Kashmir in 1947 and for helping Bangladesh secede from Pakistan in 1971. Jihad is the only answer to America, Israel and India."
U S Pakistan, Now divorced by reality
December 27, 2011, The close if cantankerous relationship between the United States and Pakistan seems set for another period of mutually agreed separation. The US's Abbottabad raid, the continuing drone attacks on Pakistani soil and the growing domestic outcry among Pakistanis about its role in the war against
terrorism have been reasons for the present demands for divorce. It also reflects a broad US belief that al-Qaeda is no longer the threat it used to be and a Pakistani view that the monetary and military benefits of the US relationship no longer outweigh the problems it is causing at home.
This present period of US-Pakistan partnership, running roughly from the 9/11 terror attacks to the death of Osama bin Laden, will be the third time the countries have taken vows together in the past 60 years. Traditionally, Washington's interest in this bonding is the role it sees Pakistan playing in its broader global security agenda. Pakistan's have only been about how to leverage the relationship to strengthen itself against India. The question is whether this divorce will be different, whether the fundamentals of the US-Pakistan relationship are different today? There are reasons to say yes. One, Pakistan is no longer a tool in a broader US global strategy. It is important because its own dysfunctionality is seen as a threat to the US and the international system. Two, Pakistan's security problems are no longer limited only to India. The Afghanistan situation, homegrown insurgencies and the militant Frankenstein it has created are as much if not more a concern than India.
New Delhi has no reason to complain. It seems likely that Pakistan will reduce the US intelligence and military footprint in its country while Washington will rollback a lot of its aid payments. A ramshackle Pakistan has long ceased to be a serious rival or balance to India within South Asia. India's worry about Pakistan are the demons that afflict its neighbour internally. In New Delhi's view, the core problem is the dominant and ultimately destructive role played by Pakistan's generals. Washington saw the men in khaki as their best partners in fighting al-Qaeda. The resulting largesse that went to the army only exacerbated Pakistan's inability to become a normal State. That it may pave the way for a less erratic political evolution, not how many F-16s or US cheques Pakistan is getting, is why the separation should be welcomed. It would be even better if US policy on Pakistan came to reflect India's view that the threat is the nature of Pakistani nationhood. Then the two larger countries could work together on saving the third from itself.
Middle East Diplomacy: From Cowboy Hat to Headscarf
Colleen Gillard and Georgia Wells
28 Dec, 2011
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton often wears a headscarf when visiting Muslim countries. It’s a sign of respect. Respect is also what she has shown the overwhelming Islamist domination of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. She has praised these elections as fair and legitimate and pledged her willingness to work with its Islamist winners.
For this, she has been criticized by Republicans in Congress, who aren’t on board with plans to engage politically and courteously with Islamists, even moderates.
The Islamist win in Egypt, (and elsewhere in the Arab world), presents a challenge for U.S. policy makers who now have to craft an embarrassing about-face. How to gracefully shake hands with those you once paid dictators (such as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak) to oppress? And how to reassure a Middle East more familiar with the Bush/Cheney doctrine: a foreign policy full of cowboy swagger that promised preventative war to any regime perceived as a threat, even if not immediate, to the U.S.?
As a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Dr. Essam El Erian, told us months before the elections when asked about how he would implement “the will of the people” (represented by a conservative Islamist Parliament) if it violated the rights of minorities:
“What, is the U.S. the policeman of the world?” he said, stating that we insulted him with questions about civil rights, especially when our record at home was not all that good. “I know that Americans and Europeans are frightened about democracy in the Arab world,” he said. But “you are just wanting to continue the Colonial period by another name—now that Arabs and Muslims are struggling for real independence and real democracy.”
Arab nationalism has risen in response to U.S. intervention in the Middle East. The number of women wearing the hijab headscarf soared in the last years of Mubarak’s presidency—to some degree, believe many political scientists, as an act of protest against Mubarak’s secular and brutal kleptocracy.
Today, the vast majority of Egyptian women wear a scarf that covers their hair and neck, while more and more are wearing the enveloping black nikab—a remarkable contrast to their mother’s generation in the 1960s when few women covered up and even mini-skirts were acceptable.
Full Report at:
SYRIA Forces teargas 70,000 as Arab observers deploy
Damascus, Dec 28, 2011, The Syrian police used teargas to disperse some 70,000 people who took to the streets of Homs on Tuesday as Arab observers visited there a day after dozens of people died in the crackdown on dissent.
“More than 70,000 demonstrators tried to enter Al-Saa square in the centre of the city of Homs, then security agents used teargas to disperse them,” said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On its Facebook page, the Observatory said separate demonstrations were held elsewhere in the city, aimed at “exposing the ill practices and crimes of the regime.” The protest comes as Arab League
observers visited the flashpoint central city to monitor a deal to end a nine-month crackdown on anti-regime protests.
Following the killings of a reported 34 civilians in Homs’ Baba Amro district on Monday, residents held a funeral in nearby Kefer Ayia for some of those who died, and were fired on by security services, the Observatory said.
Activists said the military pulled its tanks back from one district ahead of the Arab team’s arrival, only to hide them inside government zones from which they could be redeployed within minutes.
Meanwhile, SANA state news agency reported that saboteurs blew up a gas pipeline in Homs province, where Syria’s regime has been trying for months to crush dissent and mutinous soldiers.
Protesters appeared to have been emboldened by the presence of the observers, headed by veteran Sudanese military intelligence General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. “Till now, they have been very cooperative,” General Dabi said, speaking of the authorities by telephone before holding talks with governor Ghassan Abdel Al. A video posted by the Observatory on YouTube showed residents of Baba Amr pleading with General Dabi to go in and see the devastation.
Pro-West Arabs preventing Iraq from mediating in Syria
Mohammad Ali Mohtadi
26 December 2011, The special committee formed by the Arab League to deal with the Syria conflict has been assigned the responsibility to get in touch with Damascus and pave the way for the implementation of the organization’s initiative to resolve the crisis in the country.
Syria has accepted the initiative, although with some reservations.
Due to its good relations with both sides, Iraq would be the best mediator between the Arab League and Syrian officials. However, some members of the Arab League have accused the Iraqi government of partiality toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The critical members are the same countries that have made the utmost efforts over the past few months to topple the Syrian government.
Many political analysts believe the move to prevent Iraq from playing the role of a mediator in the Syria crisis is being orchestrated by countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ensure that the crisis is not resolved in order to pave the way for the referral of the Syria case to the United Nations Security Council. The plot is also being backed by Israel and the United States, which are both seeking to topple the Syrian government in order to weaken the resistance front in the region.
Iraq is seriously committed to finding a diplomatic solution for the crisis in Syria. This diplomatic stance is in harmony with the mediation role defined by the Arab League. However, Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not want to provide Iraq the support and encouragement necessary for it to assume the mission.
If the Arab League refers the case to the United Nations Security Council, there will be serious repercussions for Syria and the entire region. The intensification of sanctions and the possibility of a military operation, like what happened to Libya, could have a devastating effect on the Middle East.
So now Syria must make every effort to thwart all the malicious plots against the country.
Iran Majlis evades its responsibility in fighting corruption: MP
TEHRAN, 28 December, 2011 - MP Ahmad Tavakkoli says the 2.6 billion dollar financial corruption constitutes examples of “fraud and forgery”.
In a meeting held late on Monday at Imam Sadegh University to investigate the recent financial violations, Tavakkoli also said central bank deputy governor Hamid Pourmohammadi had said that banks’ CEOs met presidential office chairman Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaii regularly every 15 days.
“Why were these meetings held?” asked Ahmad Tavakkoli, director of the Majlis Research Center.
Pourmohammadi was arrested in connection to the 2.6 billion dollar financial scandal. He is now free on bail.
The Bank Saderat managing director was dismissed and the Bank Melli managing director fled the country over the corruption case.
Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Shamseddin Hosseini survived impeachment motion on November 1 over the fraud case.
Tavakkoli said Majlis evaded its responsibility in impeaching Hosseini.
The impeachment should have received votes “but it did not happen,” he lamented.
Tavakkoli went on to say that the Judiciary should respond more affectively to the economic corruptions, otherwise “we’ll encounter a catastrophe.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, he criticized President Ahmadinejad for appointing his son-in-law as the Standard Organization chief.
“Mahdi Khorshidi has been appointed as the chief of Standard Organization, a post for which I believe he is not qualified,” Tavakkoli said.
Afghan refugee strategy a ‘big mistake’: UNHCR
KABUL: Dec 28, 2011, In a rather startling revelation, the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan on Tuesday, described its strategy in the war-wracked country since 2002 as the “biggest mistake UNHCR ever made”. Almost a quarter of the population of Afghanistan is made up of refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran. Many find themselves homeless, or living in slums under tarpaulin.
But Peter Nicolaus, UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, said the international community had failed to help returnees find a means of earning, a living and therefore reintegrating into society. “We made a big mistake, the biggest mistake UNHCR ever made,” he said of the strategy which was implemented in 2002. “We thought if we gave humanitarian assistance then macro development would kick in.”
Nicolaus was speaking at a distribution centre for vulnerable returnees, who were gathered on the outskirts of Kabul to receive a package of blankets, clothing, tarpaulins, wheat and coal.
Full Report at:
Afghan local security force not yet disbanded: NATO
KABUL: December 28, 2011, NATO said on Tuesday that an irregular security force set up in northern Afghanistan is continuing to operate, despite calls from the Afghan government for their activities to stop. But it added that the Critical Infrastructure Protection Programme (CIP), which involves more than 1,500 men, is being reviewed.
On Sunday the Afghan interior ministry issued a statement saying ISAF commander General John Allen had been asked to dissolve the programme, set up to bolster security in the troubled north, after locals complained of abuses. “The CIP are one of the kinds of groups that President Hamid Karzai has always opposed,” Presidential Spokesman Aimal Faizi said. “They are created unilaterally by NATO forces without coordination with the Afghan government.”
Full Report at:
Iran navy starts 10-day wargame in Strait of Hormuz
Tehran, December 24, 2011, Iran began 10 days of naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, raising concern about a possible closure of the world's most strategic oil transit channel in the event of any outbreak of military conflict between Tehran and the West.
The military drill, dubbed "Velayat-e
90", comes as the tension between the West and Iran is escalating over the Islamic state's nuclear programme.
Some analysts and diplomats believe the Islamic Republic could try to block the strait in the event of any war with the West over suspicions it is seeking atom bombs. Iran's arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran's nuclear work.
Iran says it wants nuclear energy only for peaceful ends.
"The enforcement of the decision to close of the Strait of Hormuz is certainly within Iran's armed forces' capability, but such a decision should be made by the country's top authorities," Iranian Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA labour news agency.
Iran has said in the past that it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the strait, the only access channel for eight U.S.-aligned, Gulf Arab states to foreign markets.
Iranian authorities have given no indication the strait will be closed during the exercise, and it has not been shut during previous drills.
"Displaying Iran's defensive and deterrent power as well as relaying a message of peace and friendship in the Strait of Hormuz and the free waters are the main objectives of the drill," Sayyari said.
"It will also display the country's power to control the region as well as testing new missiles, torpedoes and weapons."
"Velayat" is a Persian word for "supremacy" and it is currently used as a title of deference for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran's energy and financial sectors last month and the European Union is considering a ban - already in place in the United States - on imports of Iranian oil.
Iran Navy chief says closing Gulf ‘really easy’
Tehran:December 28, 2011, Closing off the Gulf to oil tankers will be "easier than drinking a glass of water" for Iran if the Islamic state deems it necessary, state television reported on Wednesday, ratcheting up fears over the world's most important oil chokepoint.
"Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told Iran's English language Press TV.
"But right now, we don't need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control and we can control the transit," said Sayyari, who is leading 10 days of exercises in the Strait.
Tension has increased between Iran and the West after EU foreign ministers decided three weeks ago to tighten sanctions on the world's No. 5 crude exporter over what the UN nuclear watchdog says is an attempt to design an atomic bomb, but left open the idea of an embargo on Iranian oil.
Iran, which says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, warned on Tuesday it would stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports.
The announcement over the possible closure of the only access channel for eight U.S-aligned, Gulf Arab states to foreign markets, pushed up international oil prices on Tuesday although they slipped back on Wednesday in thin trade and as the market dismissed it as rhetoric.
"The threat by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz supported the oil market yesterday, but the effect is fading today as it will probably be empty threats as they cannot stop the flow for a longer period due to the amount of US hardware in the area," said Thorbjoern bak Jensen, an oil analyst with Global Risk Management.
"Will not yield"
Full Report at:
Shia cleric calls for interfaith dialogue
Dec 28, 2011
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Hujjat-ol-Islam Abolfazl Sajedi, associate professor in Imam Khomeini (RA) Research Institute called for solving the misunderstandings on Shia stressing that interfaith dialogue as a way towards the goal.
He said," In the modern world of media, there is not a balance between anti Islamic information given to the people around the world and information provided for the Muslim world while awakening of the people is through the media."
He expressed regret that world people have the least information on Shia while misrepresentation of Muslims exceeds the truth saying that one of the best ways to create empathy and international interaction is giving a correct picture of Muslims and solving the misunderstandings.
"Therefore the best way for solving the present problems is interfaith dialogue," said the cleric and added that, "such dialogues would gradually change the view of the elites and the people on Islam."
He referred to the wrong images of Islam given to the world and said, "In such a world, it is our duty to prevent ideological and political isolation through cultural and particularly religious relations and send the true message of Islam to the people around the world."
Author of "Religion and the Modern World" referred to the background of interfaith dialogue in Islam and said," In the time of our Imams (AS), there has been such an open atmosphere for interfaith dialogue that Christians travelled to Muslim countries for scientific developments."
He said, "Once interfaith dialogue is spread to the media or particularly universities are allowed to hold meetings for the aim, animosities would be reduced," proposing Wahhabi-Shia dialogue so that people would not accept Wahhabi anti-Shia propaganda anymore.
This member of the educational board at Imam Khomeini (AS) Research Institute called unveiling the true nature of Islam for the elites of the world is a necessity of the modern world.
Appealing to Evangelicals, Hopefuls Pack Religion Into Ads
By JEREMY W. PETERS
DES MOINES, December 27, 2011 — There is Rick Perry, a stained-glass window and a large illuminated cross over his right shoulder, looking more preacher than politician. An aerial shot of a soaring church steeple zooms into focus a few seconds later. Then — blink and you’ll miss it — a picture of Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, with his arm around Mike Huckabee flashes on the screen.
In more overt ways than ever, Republican candidates vying for support from Iowa caucusgoers are turning to religious language and imagery in their advertisements, seeking to appeal to the Christian conservative base that will play a pivotal role in determining the victor here.
Gone are the suggestive and supposedly subliminal images of campaigns past, as when Mr. Huckabee caused a stir in 2007 after releasing a commercial that appeared to show a cross floating in the background.
The new, more pointed religious references reflect how campaigns are scrambling for support among evangelicals who are still divided over whom to support as the caucuses near.
“At this point in the game, the candidates in the G.O.P. primary don’t have the time or the money for subtlety,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican media strategist. “They will light a fire and stand by a burning bush in order to send a signal to evangelicals, ‘I’m one of you, vote for me.’ ”
Mr. Perry has released four commercials in which Christianity is a theme. “We grew up in small towns, raised with Christian values,” his wife, Anita Perry, says in one spot running in Iowa now. “And we know Washington, D.C., could use some of that.”
A former patient of Ron Paul, who practiced as an obstetrician before going into politics, says in one commercial, “It’s not hard for someone who is a Christian and who truly believes to stay on the right path, and I think that’s the kind of person Ron Paul is.”
And an ad in which Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, offer their Christmas greetings pivots first to a sketch of a nativity scene and then to a church.
Politicians have long employed coded language in their messaging to religious conservatives, a practice often derided as dog-whistle politics for its ability to stir emotions among those who are in-the-know while passing undetected over others. Sarah Palin has often referred to her support from “prayer warriors,” a term known among evangelicals as those who engage in battle with Satan.
Full Report at:
Muslim Feminists Speak
By Asma Marwan
December 27, 2011
Here is the voice of a Muslim woman:
Islam is a pure faith, with the Holy text guiding us to live a good life. But that text is now lost under the thinly-veiled abuse of men who have interpreted it to what they want it to mean. Islam no longer exists in its pure form. It has been bastardised in order to wage war on others, and specifically women.
Basically, Islam does not exist anymore, except in the hearts of very few people. The ruling majority in Islamic states are not true Muslims. They are corrupt dictators who use and abuse the Holy text to get what they want, including multiple wives, sex and an excuse to abuse the women in their family.
Islamic law is on the side of men. That is a fact.
Here is a web page portal to most of the major Muslim feminist organizations. Many sites no longer exist, but there are many that are functioning and represent an activist presence in their communities.
Here is Equality Now, a great organization fighting the oppression of women that is not afraid to address injustice under Islam.
Here are my heartfelt questions.
Why don’t we hear more about this organization and why is it not more high profile in the news? Why are the feminist organizations not more vocal about the oppression of women in Islamic countries? Where are the liberals, the left, the sanctimonious women’s libbers, the political activists who scorn the religious bourgeoisie? Why are they not standing up for their counterparts in the Islamic World? Do they cower in a corner, afraid of the bullying CAIR reps and scorn from their fellow travelers who might shun them for speaking out?