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Islamic World News ( 13 Feb 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi pregnant gang-rape victim gets 100 lashes for adultery

New Age Islam News Bureau 

13 Feb 2009

A judge in the Saudi city of Jeddah, pictured, ruled that the woman was guilty of adultery and should be jailed for a year


 2. Yemen: New law moves to reduce child marriages

 gives women greater legal protection

 Starting at Home, Iran’s Women Fight for Rights by NAZILA FATHI

 Somali Woman Rejects Islam with a Vengeance by Nick Gier

 Al Qaeda & Taliban’s threat to India & Pakistan by Satbir Singh Bedi

 Twenty years on, Salman Rushdie still in shadow of fatwa

 The Saudi Connection to the Mumbai Massacres:

 Strategic Implications for Israel by Col. (res.) Jonathan Fighel

 Malaysia Again Stamps Mark In Islamic World by Yong Soo Heong

 Conservatism and politics of fatwa by M. Syafi'i Anwar

 Dutch anti-Islam filmmaker sent home by Stephanie Kennedy

 Anti-Islam Dutch MP held at UK airport Heathrow airport in London

 Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Saudi judge sentences pregnant gang-rape victim

to 100 lashes for committing adultery


By Liz Hazelton, 11th February 2009


A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night. 

The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man. 

He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night. 

She later discovered she was pregnant and made a desperate attempt to get an abortion at the King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces. 

According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually 'confessed' to having 'forced intercourse' with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah. 

He ruled she had committed adultery - despite not even being married - and handed down a year's prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city. 

She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child. 

The Saudi Arabian legal system practices a strict form of medieval law. Women have very few rights and are not even allowed to drive. 

They are also banned from going out in public in the company of men other than male relatives.


Yemen: New law moves to reduce child marriages

War in Yemen forces more girls into child marriage | Middle East ...


Sanaa, 12 Feb. (AKI) - A new law passed in Yemen gives women greater legal protection, in relation to marriage and motherhood. The law raises the minimum age for marriage to 17, and provides for the right to alimony and recognition of the mother as the sole guardian of her children.

Despite penalties for anyone who violates the law, it appears that it will allow some girls under the age of 17 to be married if a judge rules the marriage is "in the best interest of the child".

A Yemeni Islamist deputy said restrictions outlined under the new law were not consistent with Islamic Sharia law.

"It is not possible to clearly define the minimum age for marriage, because it all depends on the level of maturity of the spouse, from a physical and mental point of view," said Zayd al-Shami, quoted by pan-Arab daily al-Quds al Arabi.

"To define marriage age in such a specific manner is in clear contrast to Islamic Sharia law."

According to the English-language Yemen Times, the parliament also passed an amendment concerning women and children in two laws. 

The amendments include facilitating pre-marital medical checks to determine genetic faults, dangerous diseases or health risks, as well as restricting polygamy to the husband's ability to support more than one family.

 "Fairness is included in all aspects, such as time spent with each wife, housing and logistics," said the Yemen Times.

"The first wife also has to be legally notified of his intention of marrying another to allow them to make future decisions."

Other amendments included a women’s right to alimony for her children once a divorce has taken place and the custody of children to be exclusively granted to the mother for the first twelve years of the children’s life.

 The new amendments also recognise the mother as the sole guardian of orphaned children, providing that is approved by a judge.

Over half the women who marry in Yemen are less than 15 years of age, according to a report last year carried out by Yemen's Women and Development Study Centre.

According to the statistics 52 percent of young girls are married as children in Yemen, compared to less than seven percent of boys. In rural areas of Yemen, girls are usually married when they are 12 or 13 years old.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world.



Starting at Home, Iran’s Women Fight for Rights



TEHRAN - In a year of marriage, Razieh Qassemi, 19, says she was beaten repeatedly by her husband and his father. Her husband, she says, is addicted to methamphetamine and has threatened to marry another woman to “torture” her.

 Rather than endure the abuse, Ms. Qassemi took a step that might never have occurred to an earlier generation of Iranian women: she filed for divorce.

 Women’s rights advocates say Iranian women are displaying a growing determination to achieve equal status in this conservative Muslim theocracy, where male supremacy is still inscribed in the legal code. One in five marriages now end in divorce, according to government data, a fourfold increase in the past 15 years.

And it is not just women from the wealthy, Westernized elites. The family court building in Vanak Square here is filled with women, like Ms. Qassemi, who are not privileged. Women from lower classes and even the religious are among those marching up and down the stairs to fight for divorces and custody of their children.

 Increasing educational levels and the information revolution have contributed to creating a generation of women determined to gain more control over their lives, rights advocates say.

Confronted with new cultural and legal restrictions after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, some young women turned to higher education as a way to get away from home, postpone marriage and earn social respect, advocates say. Religious women, who had refused to sit in classes with men, returned to universities after they were resegregated.

 Today, more than 60 percent of university students are women, compared with just over 30 percent in 1982, even though classes are no longer segregated.

 Even for those women for whom college is not an option, the Internet and satellite television have opened windows into the lives of women in the West. “Satellite has shown an alternative way of being,” said Syma Sayah, a feminist involved in social work in Tehran. “Women see that it is possible to be treated equally with men.”

 Another sign of changing attitudes is the increasing popularity of books, movies and documentaries that explore sex discrimination, rights advocates say.

“Women do not have a proper status in society,” said Mahnaz Mohammadi, a filmmaker. “Films are supposed to be a mirror of reality, and we make films to change the status quo.”

 In a recent movie, “All Women Are Angels,” a comedy that was at the top of the box office for weeks, a judge rejects the divorce plea of a woman who walked out on her husband when she found him with another woman.

Even men are taking up women’s issues and are critical of traditional marriage arrangements. Mehrdad Oskouei, another filmmaker, has won more than a dozen international awards for “The Other Side of Burka,” a documentary about women on the impoverished and traditional southern island of Qeshm who are committing suicide in increasing numbers because they have no other way out of their marriages.

“How can divorce help a woman in southern parts of the country when she has to return after divorce to her father’s home who will make her even more miserable than her husband?” said Fatimeh Sadeghi, a former political science professor fired for her writing on women’s rights.

Janet Afary, a professor of Middle East and women’s studies at Purdue University and the author of “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” says the country is moving inexorably toward a “sexual revolution.”

 “The laws have denied women many basic rights in marriage and divorce,” she wrote in the book. “But they have also contributed to numerous state initiatives promoting literacy, health and infrastructural improvements that benefited the urban and rural poor.”

 To separate the sexes, the state built schools and universities expressly for women, and improved basic transportation, enabling poor women to travel more easily to big cities, where they were exposed to more modern ideas.

Ms. Afary says that mandatory premarital programs to teach about sex and birth control, instituted in 1993 to control population growth, helped women delay pregnancy and changed their views toward marriage. By the late 1990s, she says, young people were looking for psychological and social compatibility and mutual intimacy in marriage.

Despite the gains they have made, women still face extraordinary obstacles. Girls can legally be forced into marriage at the age of 13. Men have the right to divorce their wives whenever they wish, and are granted custody of any children over the age of 7. Men can ban their wives from working outside the home, and can engage in polygamy.

 By law, women may inherit from their parents only half the shares of their brothers. Their court testimony is worth half that of a man. Although the state has taken steps to discourage stoning, it remains in the penal code as the punishment for women who commit adultery. A woman who refuses to cover her hair faces jail and up to 80 lashes.

 Women also face fierce resistance when they organize to change the law. The Campaign for One Million Signatures was founded in 2005, inspired by a movement in Morocco that led to a loosening of misogynist laws. The idea was to collect one million signatures for a petition calling on authorities to give women more equal footing in the laws on marriage, divorce, adultery and polygamy.

 But Iran’s government has come down hard on the group, charging many of its founders with trying to overthrow it; 47 members have been jailed so far, including 3 who were arrested late last month. Many still face charges, and six members are forbidden to leave the country. One member, Alieh Eghdamdoust, began a three-year jail sentence last month for participating in a women’s demonstration in 2006. The group’s Web site,, has been blocked by the authorities 18 times.

 “We feel we achieved a great deal even though we are faced with security charges,” said Sussan Tahmasebi, one of the founding members of the campaign, who is now forbidden to leave Iran. “No one is accusing us of talking against Islam. No one is afraid to talk about more rights for women anymore. This is a big achievement.”

 Women’s advocates say that the differences between religious and secular women have narrowed and that both now chafe at the legal discrimination against women. Zahra Eshraghi, for example, the granddaughter of the revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, signed the One Million Signatures petition.

 “Many of these religious women changed throughout the years,” said Ms. Sayah, the feminist in Tehran. “They became educated, they travelled abroad and attended conferences on women’s rights, and they learned.”

 Because of the government’s campaign of suppression, the process of collecting signatures has slowed recently, and many women do not want to be seen in the presence of a campaigner, let alone sign a petition. Most feminist groups limit their canvassing now to the Internet.

 But while the million signatures campaign may have stalled, women have scored some notable successes. A group that calls itself Meydaan has earned international recognition for pressing the government to stop stoning.

The group’s reporting on executions by stoning in 2002 on its Web site, — including a video of the execution of a prostitute — embarrassed the government and led the head of the judiciary to issue a motion urging judges to refrain from ordering stonings. (The stonings have continued anyway, but at a lower rate, because only Parliament has the power to ban them.)



Somali Woman Rejects Islam with a Vengeance

By Nick Gier

 Ayann Hirsi Ali is on a crusade against her former religion, claiming that Islam is inherently violent and is particularly destructive of the lives of women.

 As a teenager living in exile in Kenya, Hirsi Ali came under the influence of Wahabi Islam, which is officially promoted by Saudi Arabia and which is embraced by jihadists around the world.

Hirsi Ali's father was a high profile Somali rebel leader. When he arranged a marriage to a prosperous Canadian Somali, Hirsi Ali reluctantly agreed. On her way to Canada in 1992, she had a lay over in Germany, and there she decided that she could go through with the marriage.

Slipping away from her relatives in Düsseldorf, Hirsi Ali boarded a train to the Netherlands. Once there she received political asylum, learned Dutch, became a Dutch citizen, received a master’s degree in political science, and, incredibly enough, was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003.

 The suicide attacks of September 11 were the turning point in Hirsi Ali’s life. Contrary to all the evidence and reasoning, she insisted that the attacks were not the result of Muslim extremists: "This was the core of Islam . . . [this was] not frustration, poverty, colonialism, or Israel: it was about religious belief.”

All the major American Muslim civic and professional organizations rejected the idea that Islam could justify such an abomination. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iran condemned the attacks.

 The King of Morocco arranged a mass for the victims in the Catholic cathedral in Casa Blanca. At a soccer match in Iran, 60,000 fans observed a moment of silence for those who lost their lives.

In 2002 Hirsi Ali denounced her Muslim faith and became an atheist. Writing with the passion of a new convert, Hirsi Ali is insistent in her belief that there are no such people as moderate Muslims. For her the only Islam is the Saudi Wahabi version, which is as absurd as saying that Pat Robertson is the essence of Christianity.

 As a militant atheist Hirsi Ali has not left behind one of the basic principles of her former fundamentalism. She insists on reading the Qur’an literally and completely ignores a history of scriptural interpretation older than and just as sophisticated as the Christian tradition.

Hirsi Ali was shocked to find that Osama bin Laden was reading the Qur'an "correctly," but I was equally shocked to hear the pastor of the second largest church in Moscow quote the Bible in support of slavery and to deny the right of women to vote.

Hirsi Ali’s most provocative act was to team up with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh to make a 10-minute film entitled "Submission." The film features an actress on whose half naked body verses from the Qur’an are projected. The woman tells of being beaten by her husband, and then raped and impregnated by her uncle. She told her father about the uncle’s first advances, but he told her to keep quiet so as to preserve his brother’s honor.

 Reaction to the film among European Muslims was understandably very negative. Two months after the film was shown on TV, Van Gogh was stabbed to death by a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent. Using the murder weapon, the man pinned a note on Van Gough’s chest calling for the death of Hirsi Ali. Since then she has been on the run and in hiding, constantly being watched by the Royal Dutch Protection Services.

 Hirsi Ali’s views do resonate with a growing number of Europeans who believe, sometimes with very good reasons, which many Muslims have not integrated very well into their culture. These serious problems, however, will not be solved by the extreme and misleading rhetoric of provocateurs such as Hirsi Ali.

 Nick Gier taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read his other columns on Islam at. Read about secular fundamentalism at.



Al Qaeda & Taliban’s threat to India & Pakistan

After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden returned to his native Saudi Arabia. He founded an organisation to help veterans of the Afghan war, many of whom went on to fight elsewhere and comprise the basis of Al-Qaeda...

By Satbir Singh Bedi

 AFTER THE terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda surpassed the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah as the world’s most infamous terrorist organization. Al-Qaeda— ‘the base’ in Arabic—is the network of extremists organized by Osama bin Laden.

 Al-Qaeda has its origins in the uprising against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Thousands of volunteers from around the Middle East came to Afghanistan as mujahideen, warriors fighting to defend fellow Muslims. In the mid-1980s, Osama bin Laden became the prime financier for an organisation that recruited Muslims from mosques around the world. These "Afghan Arab" mujahideen, numbered in the thousands, were crucial in defeating Soviet forces.

 After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, bin Laden returned to his native Saudi Arabia. He founded an organisation to help veterans of the Afghan war, many of whom went on to fight elsewhere (including Bosnia) and comprise the basis of Al-Qaeda.

 Osama bin Laden also studied with radical Islamic thinkers and may have already been organizing al-Qaeda when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Bin Laden was outraged when the government allowed US troops to be stationed in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. In 1991 he was expelled from Saudi Arabia for anti-government activities.

 After his expulsion from Saudi Arabia, bin Laden established headquarters for al-Qaeda in Khartoum, Sudan. The first actions of Al-Qaeda against American interests were attacks on U.S. servicemen in Somalia. A string of terrorist actions suspected to have been orchestrated by Al-Qaeda followed and in August 1996, bin Laden issued a ‘Declaration of War’ against the US

 Al-Qaeda also worked to forge alliances with other radical groups. In February 1998, bin Laden announced an alliance of terrorist organisations—the ‘International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders’ that included the Egyptian al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Harakat ul-Ansar and other groups.

 In 1994 Sudan, under pressure from Saudi Arabia and the US, expelled bin Laden, who moved his base of operations to Afghanistan. Laden was the ‘guest’ of the Taliban until the US drove them from power in Nov 2001. Al-Qaeda set up terrorist training camps in the war-torn nation, as it had in Sudan.

 Although Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have become virtually synonymous, bin Laden does not run the organization single-handedly. His top advisor is Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s theological leader and bin Laden’s probable successor. Al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian surgeon from an upper-class family. He joined the country’s Islamist movement in the late 1970s. He served three years in prison on charges connected to the assassination of Anwar Sadat, during which time he was tortured. After his release he went to Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden and became his personal physician and advisor. He was likely instrumental in bin Laden’s political evolution.

 Al-Zawahiri is suspected of helping organize the 1997 massacre of 67 foreign tourists in the Egyptian town of Luxor and was indicted in connection with the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In 1998, he was one of five Islamic leaders to sign on to bin Laden’s declaration calling for attacks against US citizens. He is wanted by the FBI and has been sentenced to death by Egypt in absentia. In March 2004 the Pakistani military began an assault on al-Qaeda troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These troops were believed to be defending al-Zawahiri, who managed to escape.

 Al-Qaeda’s leadership oversees a loosely organized network of cells. It can recruit members from thousands of ‘Arab Afghan’ veterans and radicals around the world. Its infrastructure is small, mobile and decentralised; each cell operates independently with its members not knowing the identity of other cells. Local operatives rarely know anyone higher up in the organisation’s hierarchy.

 Al-Qaeda differs significantly from more traditional terrorist organisations. It does not depend on the sponsorship of a political state, and, unlike the PLO or the IRA, it is not defined by a particular conflict. Instead, al-Qaeda operates as a franchise. It provides financial and logistical support, as well as name recognition, to terrorist groups operating in such diverse places as the Philippines, Algeria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Kashmir. Furthermore, local groups may act in the name of Al-Qaeda in order to bolster their own reputation—even if they are not receiving support from the organisation.

 The principal stated aims of Al-Qaeda are to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia; destroy Israel; and topple pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle East. Bin Laden has also said that he wishes to unite all Muslims and establish, by force if necessary, an Islamic nation adhering to the rule of the first Caliphs.

 According to bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa (religious decree), it is the duty of Muslims around the world to wage holy war on the US, American citizens and Jews. Muslims who do not heed this call are declared apostates (people who have forsaken their faith).

Al-Qaeda’s ideology, often referred to as "jihadism," is marked by a willingness to kill ‘apostate’ —and Shiite—Muslims and an emphasis on jihad. Although ‘jihadism’ is at odds with nearly all Islamic religious thought, it has its roots in the work of two modern Sunni Islamic thinkers: Mohammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb.

 Al-Wahhab was an 18th-century reformer who claimed that Islam had been corrupted a generation or so after the death of Mohammed. He denounced any theology or customs developed after that as non-Islamic, including more than 1,000 years of religious scholarship. He and his supporters took over what is now Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism remains the dominant school of religious thought.

 Sayyid Qutb, a radical Egyptian scholar of the mid-20th century, declared Western civilization the enemy of Islam, denounced leaders of Muslim nations for not following Islam closely enough, and taught that jihad should be undertaken not just to defend Islam, but to purify it.

 In response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to dismantle al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in the country was destroyed and their military commander, Muhammed Atef, was killed. Abu Zubaydah, another top operative, was captured in Pakistan. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, however, escaped and are presumed alive. They release audio and video messages to the Arab media from time to time.

 In March 2003, the US widened the war on terrorism by invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein and his Baath party (see Iraq profile). The decision to encompass Iraq in ‘the war on terror’ has been highly controversial. Although President Bush asserted that there was a working relationship between Hussein and al-Qaeda, no solid proof of collaboration between them, specifically on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or on any other terrorist activities, has emerged.

 As the Iraqi insurgency has continued, however, suspected al-Qaeda terrorists have moved into the country and are likely responsible for kidnappings and a string of suicide-bomb attacks. In February 2004, US forces intercepted a letter believed to have been written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian radical. The letter outlined plans to destabilize Iraq by igniting sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Al-Zarqawi is thought to have been the mastermind behind the 1,000 to 3,000 foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq. For a time, al-Zarqawi appeared to position himself as a rival to bin Laden, but in Oct. 2004 he officially declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, changing the name of his organization from Unification and Jihad to al-Qaeda in Iraq. In an audiotape a few months later bin Laden declared that "the dear mujahed brother Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq," and announced that "we, in al-Qaeda organization, welcome him joining forces with us."

 Despite the US ‘war on terror’, Al-Qaeda continues to be a threat worldwide. There have been more than a dozen major attacks by Al-Qaeda terrorists since September 11, 2001. Both Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, although in hiding, still play an important role in shaping the group’s mission. In April, 2004, bin Laden offered a truce to Europe, saying that al-Qaeda would not attack any country, with the exception of the US, that withdrew its troops from the Islamic world within three months. European leaders quickly rejected the offer.

 In December 2007, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, reported that Al-Qaeda in Iraq remains the greatest threat to Iraq’s security. Indeed, in January 2008, the US military reported that in 2007, Al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for some 4,500 attacks against civilians that killed 3,870 people and wounded almost 18,000. By September 2008, however, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been sharply weakened, if not diminished entirely. The success in routing out the terrorist group has been attributed to Sunni Awakening Councils, former tribal leaders and insurgents who turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq as it became increasingly sectarian, and sided with the U.S.

 While the war on terror has cost the United States some $1 trillion, Al-Qeada remains a global threat. In fact, in August 2008, Ted Gistaro, the U.S. government’s senior terrorism analyst, said in a report that by forging closer ties to Pakistani militants, al-Qaeda is more capable of launching an attack in the United States than it was in 2007. The Pakistani militants have given al-Qaeda leaders safe haven in remote areas to train recruits.


 The Taliban (Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement) ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001. They came to power during Afghanistan’s long civil war. Although they managed to hold 90 per cent of the country’s territory, their policies, including their treatment of women and support of terrorists—ostracized them from the world community. The Taliban was ousted from power in December 2001 by the US military and Afghani opposition forces in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the US.

 The Taliban are one of the mujahideen ("holy warriors" or "freedom fighters") groups that formed during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89). After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet-backed government lost ground to the mujahideen. In 1992, Kabul was captured and an alliance of mujahideen set up a new government with Burhanuddin Rabbani as interim president. However, the various factions were unable to cooperate and fell to fighting each other. Afghanistan was reduced to a collection of territories held by competing warlords.

 Groups of Taliban (religious students) were loosely organised on a regional basis during the occupation and civil war. Although they represented a potentially huge force, they didn’t emerge as a united entity until the Taliban of Kandahar made their move in 1994. In late 1994, a group of well-trained Taliban was chosen by Pakistan to protect a convoy trying to open a trade route from Pakistan to Central Asia. They proved an able force, fighting off rival mujahideen and warlords. The Taliban then went on to take the city of Kandahar, beginning a surprising advance that ended with their capture of Kabul in September 1996.

 The Taliban’s popularity with the Afghan people surprised the country’s other warring factions. Many Afghans, weary of conflict and anarchy, were relieved to see corrupt and often brutal warlords replaced by the devout Taliban, who had some success in eliminating corruption, restoring peace, and allowing commerce to resume.

 The Taliban, under the direction of Mullah Muhammad Omar, brought about this order through the institution of a very strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. Public executions and punishments (such as floggings) became regular events at Afghan soccer stadiums. Frivolous activities, like kite-flying, were outlawed. In order to root out ‘non-Islamic’ influence, television, music, and the Internet were banned. Men were required to wear beards, and subjected to beatings if they didn’t.

 Most shocking to the West was the Taliban’s treatment of women. When the Taliban took Kabul, they immediately forbade girls to go to school. Moreover, women were barred from working outside the home, precipitating a crisis in healthcare and education. Women were also prohibited from leaving their home without a male relative, those that did so risked being beaten, even shot, by officers of the "ministry for the protection of virtue and prevention of vice." A woman caught wearing fingernail polish may have had her fingertips chopped off. All this, according to the Taliban, was to safeguard women and their honour.

 In contrast to their strict beliefs, the Taliban profited from smuggling operations (primarily electronics) and opium cultivation. Eventually they bowed to international pressure and cracked down on cultivation and by July 2000 were able to claim that they had cut world opium production by two-thirds. Unfortunately, the crackdown on opium also abruptly deprived thousands of Afghans of their only source of income.

 Although the Taliban managed to re-unite most of Afghanistan, they were unable to end the civil war. Nor did they improve the conditions in cities, where access to food, clean water, and employment actually declined during their rule. A continuing drought and a very harsh winter (2000–2001) brought famine and increased the flow of refugees to Pakistan.

 In the context of Afghan history, the rise of the Taliban—though not their extremism—is unsurprising. Afghanistan is a devoutly Muslim nation—90 per cent of its population is Sunni Muslims (other Afghan Muslims are Sufis or Shiites). Religious schools were established in Afghanistan after Islam arrived in the seventh century and Taliban became an important part of the social fabric: running schools, mosques, shrines, and various religious and social services, and serving as mujahideen when necessary.

 Most of the Taliban’s leaders were educated in Pakistan, in refugee camps where they had fled with millions of other Afghans after the Soviet invasion. Pakistan’s Jami’at-e ’Ulema-e Islam (JUI) political party provided welfare services, education, and military training for refugees in many of these camps. They also established religious schools in the Deobandi tradition.

 The Deobandi tradition originated as a reform movement in British India with the aim of rejuvenating Islamic society in a colonial state, and remained prevalent in Pakistan after the partition from India. The Deobandi schools in Afghan refugee camps, however, are often run by inexperienced and semi-literate mullahs. In addition, funds and scholarships provided by Saudi Arabia during the occupation brought the schools’ curricula closer to the conservative Wahhabi tradition. Ties between the Taliban and these schools remain strong: when the Taliban were defeated in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif one of Pakistan’s largest religious schools shut down for a month and sent thousands of students to Afghanistan as reinforcements.

 While the Taliban present themselves as a reform movement, they have been criticized by Islamic scholars as being poorly educated in Islamic law and history—even in Islamic radicalism, which has a long history of scholarly writing and debate. Their implementation of Islamic law seems to be a combination of Wahhabi orthodoxy (i.e., banning of musical instruments) and tribal custom (the all-covering birka made mandatory for all Afghan women).

Afghanistan’s civil war continued until the end of 2001. The Taliban’s strongest opposition came from the Northern Alliance, which held the Northeast corner of the country (about 10 per cent of Afghanistan). The Northern Alliance comprises numerous anti-Taliban factions and is nominally led by exiled president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

 Generally, the factions break down according to religion and ethnicity. While the Taliban is made up mostly Sunni Muslim Pashtuns (also referred to as Pathans), the Northern Alliance includes Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbeks, and Turkmen. The Hazara, and some other smaller ethnic groups, are Shiites. The Ismaili community, which suffered in Taliban-occupied areas, also supports the Northern Alliance.

 Although the Taliban called for a negotiated end to the civil war, they continued to mount new offensives. In September 2001, the leader of the Northern Alliance, Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, died from wounds suffered in a suicide bombing, allegedly carried out by al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization with close ties to the Taliban.

 The Taliban regime faced international scrutiny and condemnation for its policies. Only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cut diplomatic ties with the Taliban.

 The Taliban allowed terrorist organisations to run training camps in their territory and, from 1994 to at least 2001, provided refuge for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization. The relationship between the Taliban and bin Laden is close, even familial—bin Laden fought with the mujahideen, has financed the Taliban, and has reportedly married one of his daughters to Mullah Muhammad Omar. The United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions demanding that the Taliban cease their support for terrorism and hand over bin Laden for trial.

 The Taliban recognised the need for international ties but wavered between cooperation—they claimed to have drastically cut opium production in July 2000—and defiance—they pointedly ignored international pleas not to destroy the 2000-year-old Buddhist statues of Bamian. However, they made no effort to curb terrorist activity within Afghanistan, a policy that ultimately led to their undoing.

 Even after their ouster, the Taliban’s brand of Islamist radicalism threatens to destabilize other countries in the region including Iran, China, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. The Taliban’s relationship with Pakistan is especially problematic. A high percentage of the Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns; Pashtuns are a sizable minority in Pakistan and dominate the Pakistani military. Public support for the Taliban runs very high in the Pashtun North-West Frontier province where pro-Taliban groups have held uprisings and sought to emulate Taliban practices by performing public executions and oppressing women.

 In September, 2001, the US placed significant pressure on the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and al-Qaeda in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On October 7, after the Taliban refused to give up bin Laden, the U.S. began bombing Taliban military sites and aiding the Northern Alliance. By November 21, the Taliban had lost Kabul and by December 9 had been completely routed.

 An interim government was agreed upon by representatives of Afghanistan’s various factions during talks held in Bonn, Germany. On December 22, 2001, Hamid Karzai, an Afghan tribal leader, was sworn in as interim chairman of the government. Karzai initially supported the Taliban and is respected by many former Taliban leaders. In January 2002, the Taliban recognized the interim government.

 While many of the Taliban’s most radical leaders and supporters were killed, taken prisoner, or fled the country, many former Taliban returned to their homes and continue to work for the Taliban’s goals. The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, has continued to elude capture.

In 2003, after the United States shifted its military efforts to fighting the war in Iraq, attacks on American-led forces intensified as the Taliban and al-Qaeda began to regroup. President Hamid Karzai’s hold on power remained tenuous, as entrenched warlords continued to exert regional control. Remarkably, however, Afghanistan’s first democratic presidential elections in Oct. 2004 were a success. Ten million Afghans, more than a third of the country, registered to vote, including more than 40 per cent of eligible women. Despite the Taliban’s threats to kill anyone who participated, the polls were reasonably peaceful and the elections deemed fair by international observers.

 In 2005 and 2006, the Taliban continued its resurgence, and 2006 became the deadliest year of fighting since the 2001 war. Throughout the spring, Taliban militants infiltrated southern Afghanistan, terrorizing villagers and attacking Afghan and U.S. troops. In May and June, Operation Mount Thrust was launched, deploying more than 10,000 Afghan and coalition forces to the south. In Aug. 2006, NATO troops took over military operations in southern Afghanistan from the U.S.-led coalition, which put a total of 21,000 American troops and 19,000 NATO troops on the ground. In September NATO launched the largest attack in its 57-year history. About 2,000—the vast majority Taliban fighters—were killed in military operations during the year.

 In September 2006, Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf signed a controversial peace agreement with seven militant groups, who call themselves the "Pakistan Taliban." Pakistan’s army agreed to withdraw from the area and allow the Taliban to govern, as long as they promise no incursions into Afghanistan or against Pakistani troops. Critics say the deal handed terrorists a secure base of operations; supporters counter that a military solution against the Taliban is futile and will only spawn more militants, contending that containment is the only practical policy.

 The Taliban rescinded the cease-fire in July 2007 after clashes between government troops and radical Islamist clerics and students at Islamabad’s Red Mosque. After the initial violence, the military laid seize to the mosque, which held nearly 2,000 students. Several students escaped or surrendered to officials. The mosque’s senior cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz was caught by officials when attempting to escape. After negotiations between government officials and mosque leaders failed, troops stormed the compound and killed Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who took over as chief of the mosque after the capture of Aziz, his brother. More than 80 people died in the violence. Fighting in remote tribal areas intensified after the raid.

 In 2008, after more than five years as Afghanistan’s leader, President Hamid Karzai still has only marginal control over large swaths of his country, which is rife with warlords, militants, and drug smugglers. The Taliban now funds its insurgency through the drug trade. An August 2007 report by the United Nations found that Afghanistan’s opium production doubled in two years and that the country supplies 93% of the world’s heroin.

 In February 2008, the US Secretary of State Robert Gates warned NATO members that the threat of an al-Qaeda attack on their soil is real and that they must commit more troops to stabilize Afghanistan and counter the growing power of both al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

In August 2008, the Pakistani military launched a three-week-long cross-border air assault into Afghanistan’s Bajaur region, which resulted in more than 400 Taliban casualties. The continuous air strikes forced many al-Qaeda and Taliban militants to retreat from towns formally under their control. However, the Pakistani government declared a cease-fire in the Bajaur region for the month of September in observance of Ramadan, raising fears that the Taliban will use the opportunity to regroup.


Taliban threat to Pakistan


The noted journalist, Hamid Mir of Pakistan who had interviewed Osama Bin Laden reports that the Taliban have become a threat for the Pakistan army like the Mukti Bahini in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1971.

 A furious Taliban leadership has decided to send their fighters to Islamabad as a reaction to the army operations in the Swat valley on the troubled border with Afghanistan. The Taliban have already started painting walls in Islamabad with its threats, compelling the administration in the capital to erase these messages quickly.

Many religious scholars in Islamabad have received messages from the Taliban that they have only two options: They must support the Taliban or leave the capital else they will be considered collaborators of the ’pro-American Zardari government’ which they consider not different from the previous Pervez Musharraf regime.

 It is also astonishing that the Taliban in Swat and Bajour have included the names of some religious and jihadi leaders in their hit-lists only because they are not ready to fight against their countrymen.

The Taliban have accused some militant leaders in the tribal areas and some leaders of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Harkat-ul Mujahideen and the Hizbul Mujahideen of trying to stop youngsters from fight against Pakistani forces. The Taliban have declared all these pro-Pakistan militants as their enemies.

 It is learnt that the names of Maulvi Nazir from South Wazirastan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Wazirastan, Lashkar founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri and Syed Salahudin of the Hizbul Mujahideen have been included on the Taliban hit-list. The Taliban have threatened some Hizbul Mujahideen leaders in Swat and Dir to leave the area soon.

 Another Taliban leader in the Mehmand agency, Maulvi Omar Khalid, has threatened Lashkar militants to leave the tribal agency, because they were only interested in fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan or against India. According to Khalid, this meant they do not want an Islamic government in Pakistan.

 This complicated situation has forced the Pakistan government to take some extreme steps against the Taliban in Darra Adamkhel and Swat. The Taliban killed Polish engineer Piotr Stannczak as a reaction to a big operation in the area. Some diplomatic sources have revealed that Pakistan was ready to release some arrested Taliban fighters in exchange for the Polish engineer and another kidnapped Chinese engineer, but the US raised some objections and the deal was not finalised.

 The Pakistani authorities successfully negotiated the release of kidnapped Pakistani diplomat Tariq Azizudin in 2008 and the release of kidnapped army personnel in 2007 by releasing some Taliban fighters. This time, US pressure complicated the situation.

 Though it confronts an East Pakistan-like situation from Darra Ademkhel to the mountains of Swat, the Pakistan army is not ready to surrender despite the fact that India is once again trying to exploit the situation by using threatening language against Islamabad. The Pakistan foreign office is under diplomatic pressure after the Polish engineer’s brutal killing to ’do more’ for the release of the kidnapped Chinese engineer, an Afghan diplomat, an Iranian diplomat and a UN diplomat kidnapped in Quetta, but the civilian and army leadership have decided not to bow down.

 Reliable sources have revealed that kidnapped Chinese engineer Long Xiao is seriously ill in the Taliban’s custody in Swat. He was kidnapped last August along with another colleague, Zhang Guo. Both men tried to escape. Long was injured and recaptured by the Taliban, but Zhang escaped. The Taliban want two dozen arrested fighters in exchange for Long, but the Pakistani authorities are not ready to accept this.

 Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Khaliq Farahi was kidnapped last year and has still not been found. Some sources allege he was kidnapped over a personal issue at the behest of his in-laws. The Pakistani authorities are conducting a big search operation not only for him, but also for Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh who was kidnapped from Peshawar last year.

After the army intensified its operations in Swat, half a million people out of the estimated 1.5 million have left the area in the last month.

 A top army officer linked with the operation in Swat said the "situation in Swat is much more complicated than East Bengal in 1971 where we were fighting against Indian-sponsored secular insurgents. The local population in East Bengal was fully supporting the insurgents, but the ground reality of Swat is very different. We are fighting the Taliban and they are demanding the enforcement of Islamic law in Swat and all the local political leaders are supporting this demand under public pressure."

 North West Frontier Province chief minister Ameer Haider Hoti of the Awami National Party, Governor Awais Ghani and the army high command have strongly recommended that the federal government enforce long pending Sharia regulation, which will be called Nafaz-e-Adal regulation. Swat district police officer Dilawar Khan Bangash said the Taliban will have no justification to fight the state after the enforcement of Islamic law in Swat.

 Swat was a princely state till July 28, 1969. The Islamic state of Swat was established in 1849 by Sayyed Akbar Shah. The state of Swat was kept in abeyance from 1863 to 1926, but Sharia law prevailed through Qazi courts during this period. The courts were restored by the British in 1926. Qazi courts operated till 1969 when Swat finally became part of Pakistan.

Residents of Swat think it was easy to get justice before 1969 through the Qazi courts, but after the imposition of Pakistani law, the poor do not get justice. The Taliban have exploited the delay in justice and instigated the poor to rise against big landlords.

 The ANP swept the 2008 election with the slogan of peace and justice and now rules the NWFP in collaboration with the Pakistan People’s Party. Reliable sources say the ANP leadership has convinced President Asif Ali Zardari to promulgate the Sharia regulation in Swat and the promulgation will be announced in a few days.

 It is learnt that prominent rebel leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad of the Tehrik-e-Nafaze Shariat Muhammadi has assured the ANP leadership that he will start a long march from Dir to the Swat valley after the imposition of Sharia law. He will appeal to his son-in-law Maulana Fazalullah and other Taliban leaders to lay down their arms. He told ANP leaders that if the Taliban does not surrender its arms, then he will support army operations against them.

 Al Qaeda and Taliban’s threat to India:

 Al Qaeda has already threatened India that they would carry out more Mumbai style attacks against India if India attacks Pakistan. In fact, Al Qaeda and Taliban are just as far away from the Indo-Pak border as Lucknow is from Delhi. Moreover, these

Taliban killed 20 people in Kabul in Mumbai-style attack.

Other Articles by Satbir Singh Bedi

  The Times of India says in its report that in an assault reminiscent of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, Taliban militants unleashed a wave of terror in Kabul, storming government buildings and leaving 20 people dead. The deadly attack came a day before special US envoy Richard Holbrooke’s visit to the country. Separate groups attempted to storm three government buildings at around 10 a.m. All had assault rifles and wore suicide bomb vests. Their aim appeared to be to shoot dead as many people as possible before blowing themselves up.

 In view of the difficult terrain of Afghanistan and NWFP of Pakistan, it is very difficult to contain these Al Qaeda and Taliban. The only people who have been successful against the Afghans were Sikh people under the general-ship of Hari Singh Nalva during the regime of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. Hence, USA should make a request to India to send its Sikh Army to Afghanistan to fight the Afghans. May be the Sikh Army would be really successful against Arab-Afghan terrorists who go by the name of Al Qaeda and Taliban.



Twenty years on, Salman Rushdie still in shadow of fatwa


LONDON (AFP) — Salman Rushdie marks the 20th anniversary of his Islamic death sentence this week having long escaped hiding and garlanded with awards and honours, but the fatwa still casts a long shadow.

 While the Indian-born author has become almost a part of the British establishment as Sir Salman, the threat imposed for "The Satanic Verses" has arguably influenced not only his life but that of many other artists.

The religious decree -- which Iran said this week remains in force -- was issued on February 14, 1989 by Iran's then revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini over the controversial novel, claiming it insulted Islam.

 As a result, though "The Satanic Verses" was neither his first novel -- "Grimus" received little literary acclaim when it was published in 1975 -- nor his finest -- "Midnight's Children" was named last year as the best winner ever of the prestigious Booker Prize -- it has had the greatest impact on his life.

 The fatwa forced the 61-year-old Rushdie to live largely in hiding under 24-hour police guard for almost a decade, though recent years have seen him become a fixture on the socialite circuit and appear in public more and more.

 Married four times and with two sons, the Cambridge-educated author has over the years carved out a life for himself despite having to move house repeatedly and, at times, not even being able to tell his own family of his whereabouts.

 He was forced to scale back his public appearances, though, when Britain awarded him a knighthood in 2007, sparking fury across the Islamic world.

 Despite his return to normal life, academics and indeed Rushdie himself have argued that the wider implications of the decree have impacted on authors the world over and the public at large as well.

For his part, Rushdie has said Western countries should have likened the fatwa to a "prologue" in a novel.

"There was a tendency from everybody to believe that it was an isolated incident rather than an indicator or something wider, to believe that it was all my fault," he told The Times in January.

 Referring to attacks on his home city of Mumbai in November, he added: "We just saw in Mumbai a demonstration of the extraordinary barbarism that people are prepared to unleash on the world.

 "How many of these attacks do we need before we understand what?s going on?"

 "The Satanic Verses", Rushdie's fourth novel which was published in 1988, was in part inspired by the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

Many Muslims took offence principally with the title of the book, deemed blasphemous for referring to several verses which were allegedly interpolated into an early version of Islam's holy book the Koran and later removed.

Several academics have noted that Rushdie would struggle to convince a major publisher to release the book today, with writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik drawing parallels between Rushdie's work and "The Jewel of Medina", a fictional account of the Prophet Mohammed and his child bride.

Random House announced in August that it had cancelled publication of the book by American author Sherry Jones, saying it had been informed by credible sources that the book could incite violence.

 "Twenty years ago, even a death threat against Rushie, (despite) the fact that he was forced to go into hiding... the fact that translators and publishers were killed openly, still (publishing firm) Penguin continued to publish the book," Malik told the BBC this week.

In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator for the book was stabbed to death in Tokyo.

"Now all it takes is an e-mail from an outraged academic to make publishers run for cover."

Coupled with that unwillingness to publish potentially controversial material has been a rise in self-censorship, which Rushdie himself has decried, arguing that individuals were now "much more afraid".

"There has been a chilling effect," he said at a conference in New York, according to Rediff News.

"Now people think twice before they make... almost any remark about Islam. They think twice in case somebody decides to be offended."

Through it all, though, Rushdie has insisted that, knowing what he knows now, he does not regret writing the book, telling The Times: "Of course I don’t, why would I?"

 "I’m pleased that finally it’s being read like a book. It used to be taught on politics and religion courses; now it’s getting taught on fiction courses."

 He has even mentioned the idea of turning his life story into a book of its own -- one, perhaps, that would shed light on the life of a man whose life has had to be kept mostly secret for two decades.

Whatever he does, Tehran is still watching. "It is natural that as long as a fatwa has not been annulled, it is still valid," said a foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Ghashghavi, on the eve of the edict's anniversary.



The Saudi Connection to the Mumbai Massacres: Strategic Implications for Israel

By Col. (res.) Jonathan Fighel


     The Mumbai attacks have been linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and radical Islamic groups in Kashmir generally. Yet it would be a mistake to see Lashkar only as a local organization with only a local agenda.

    Saudi Arabia has contributed very much to what Lashkar-e-Taiba looks like, how it thinks, its motivation, ideology, and funding. Saudi Arabia presents itself as the protector and the spearhead of the defence of Muslims around the world against what they define as the Western cultural attack.

     The Saudis are very committed to recruiting, funding, and funnelling ideology to embattled Muslim minorities, and use Muslim charities as their tool to implement this policy. The Saudi methodology is to take advantage of a humanitarian crisis to get a foot in the door. Who could be against assisting widows and orphans and setting up schools and clinics? Some of the money is indeed funnelled to support terrorism - families of suicide bombers.

     The notion of global Islam has also penetrated to Gaza and exists under the umbrella of Hamas, which is enabling a revival of global jihadi organizations there such as Jaish al-Islam and others. This phenomenon is radicalizing the already radicalized society in Gaza.

     Hamas could agree to a hudna (calm) for fifty years, but there will be no recognition of Israel or a cessation of the struggle against it. If Hamas was ready to act pragmatically, it would no longer be Hamas. And then the frustrated factions within Hamas would break off and join up with the radical global jihadi organizations in Gaza.

  The similarity of the November 2008 attack in Mumbai to the attack on the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv in 1975 was striking. At that time, a Palestinian organization based outside the borders of Israel, in a safe haven in Lebanon, had undergone months of specialized training. With a high level of prior intelligence, several very dedicated assault groups attacked a high-value target.

 The Mumbai attacks were not a conventional suicide attack. Since 1998, al-Qaeda's hallmark has been suicide attacks, based upon the whole rationale of jihad, sacrifice and martyrdom. But the attacks in Mumbai did not resemble 7/7 in London or the attacks in Madrid or any other al-Qaeda-style attacks.


What Is Lashkar-e-Taiba?

The Mumbai attacks have been linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and radical Islamic groups in Kashmir generally. Yet it would be a mistake to see Lashkar only as a local organization with only a local agenda.

 The creation and flourishing of Lashkar-e-Taiba would not have been possible unless they were supported by three major elements. The first is the ideology of global jihad. The second is funding and support from external sources. And the third is a territorial base which enables them to conduct activities and maintain training camps.

 What is Lashkar-e-Taiba and why is it relevant to the Middle East? Lashkar collects funds from Pakistanis and Kashmiris, as well as the Pakistani community in the Persian Gulf, in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. Its website appears under the name of Jamaat ud Dawa and the group maintains ties to religious and militant groups around the world. The Jamaat ud Dawa website links directly to the Hamas website.


The Saudi Connection

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Saudi Arabia has contributed very much to what Lashkar-e-Taiba looks like, how it thinks, its motivation, ideology, and funding. Saudi newspapers at the time published calls for jihad to support all Muslim struggles around the world. Kashmir was seen as a place where jihad was taking place, so donations were solicited for the Muslims living there. Allah was said to bless the warriors of this financial jihad.

 In August 1999, the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera reported on a press conference conducted by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi-based charity supervised by the government. The group's secretary-general, Maneh al-Johani, praised the role played by Saudi Arabia in providing assistance to Muslims around the world, especially in Kashmir. Johani equated the Kashmir issue with the situation in Kosovo and Palestine, and called on Muslims to help the Kashmiri people.

 Radical Wahhabi, Salafi, Saudi Islam sees the world in confrontation, with zones of jihad where Muslim minorities are struggling politically and religiously against other forces. The struggle can be with Israel, Serbia, India, or the Philippines. Saudi Arabia presents itself as the protector and the spearhead of the defence of Muslims around the world against what the former Supreme Religious Authority of Saudi Arabia, the late Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz (Ben Baz), defined as the Western cultural attack.

 This is the ideology behind Saudi politics. The Saudis are very committed to recruiting, funding, and funnelling ideology to those Muslim minorities, and use Muslim charities as their tool to implement this policy. In September 2000, the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera reported on an additional press conference by WAMY Secretary-General Johani, who discussed Saudi Arabia's role in providing aid to Kashmir and asked the Islamic countries to play an effective part in saving Kashmir's Muslims. Johani described the Kashmiri people's jihad and noted that they had suffered thousands of casualties. "The Kashmiri people want to protect their Islamic entity and we must help them," he concluded.

 Since the end of the war in Afghanistan in 1989, the Saudi contribution to entrenching the phenomenon of global jihad around the world has mushroomed, whether in Chechnya, the Philippines, Kosovo, or the Palestinian territories. Yet for all this, Saudi Arabia is not held accountable.

 The Saudi methodology is to take advantage of a humanitarian crisis to get a foot in the door. Who could be against assisting widows and orphans and setting up schools and clinics? It is a methodology that has been duplicated all around the world. Since direct assistance to armed groups is problematic for Saudi Arabia, they use "charities," which are actually organizations that use the social network called the dawa to propagate their ideology through mosques, health clinics, and madrassas, to influence minds and recruit supporters to Wahhabi-style ideology and commitment. Some of the money is indeed funnelled to support terrorism - families of suicide bombers.

 It is now evident that the so-called Saudi non-governmental charities are closely monitored by the Saudi government. The Saudis have understood that they were under pressure from the West and so they were very willing to sacrifice the Al-Haramain charity. It was banned and dismantled, but other charities were not, like the Islamic Relief Organization (IRO). The Saudi charities just change names and, unfortunately, nothing concrete is being done. There is no all-out campaign to dismantle all those charities.


 Training Camps in Pakistan

Lashkar-e-Taiba has created an infrastructure inside Pakistan which is relevant to struggles beyond the boundaries of Kashmir or India. It has created an operational capability in its training camps through the use of highly skilled instructors, veterans of the Afghan war. Some well-known terrorists have passed through those training camps before launching their attacks. The shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was trained in a Lashkar training camp, as was Dhiren Barot, a British subject and a Hindu who converted to Islam, who was the mastermind of a failed gas cylinder bombing plot in London and who also prepared detailed blueprints for al-Qaeda of the buildings in New York's financial district.

 Lashkar-e-Taiba is headed by Muhammad Saeed, who plays a key role in the group's operational activities, terrorist training camps, ideology, and in its worldwide activities. Saeed was reportedly arrested in Pakistan in February 2009. Saeed determines where the graduates of the Lashkar camps in Pakistan are sent to fight and in 2005 he personally organized the infiltration of Lashkar militants into Iraq. He was in Saudi Arabia at the time, with the knowledge of the Saudi government (you cannot enter Saudi Arabia without permission). He also arranged for Lashkar operatives to be sent to Europe as fundraising coordinators. So Saudi Arabia again was a launching pad for sending highly-trained mujahidin to the war against the Americans in Iraq. This shows the global nature of Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is not just a provincial organization but one that has a global reach.

 Haji Mohammad Ashraf has been Lashkar's chief financier since 2003, expanding the organization and increasing its fundraising activities. Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmad Ba'aziq, a Saudi national, served as the Lashkar leader in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s and 1990s, before Ashraf, and coordinated fundraising activity with non-governmental charities and businessmen in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is aware of the money going to Lashkar in Saudi Arabia for its activities around the world.

 Lashkar operations Chief Zakir Rehman Lakvi was also reportedly arrested in a Pakistani raid on a Lashkar training camp. He was one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attack and was in constant cellular phone contact with the attackers. Lakvi has been very much involved in military operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Iraq.

 Lashkar-e-Taiba would not have evolved to the scale they have reached without Saudi assistance. One key Saudi who helped build Lashkar into such an efficient and highly-trained organization is Abdul Aziz Barbaros. Barbaros, whose real name is Abdul Ahman el-Dosfari, fought with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He was one of the founding members of Lashkar in Kashmir after the end of the Afghan war. He also travelled to Bosnia to assist the al-Qaeda-oriented mujahidin brigades there. During the 1980s and 1990s Barbaros served as a critical link between Lashkar, wealthy and pious Saudi financiers, and Pakistani and Muslim fanatics around the world.

 Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin in Gaza routinely delivered speeches addressed to Lashkar-e-Taiba militant rallies in Kashmir and Pakistan. This is an example of the general mindset of radical Islamic solidarity. The Hamas leader in Gaza showed that he cared about what was happening with other Muslim minorities around the world, as they should care about what is happening in Gaza or the West Bank. This is not necessarily directly connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Iraq, this is seen as a struggle against the American "Crusade occupation." This reflects Bin Laden's 1998 declaration of jihad, when he spoke of the Islamic front against the Crusaders and the Jews. So everything is linked and what happened in Mumbai has a wider perspective.

 Global Islam Penetrates Gaza

The notion of global Islam has also penetrated to Gaza and to some extent in the West Bank. This phenomenon exists under the umbrella of Hamas, which enables a revival of global jihadi organizations in Gaza such as Jaish al-Islam and others. The emergence of these groups is worrying because they are very much inspired by the global jihadi, Saudi Wahhabi ideology - a strict interpretation of Islam which is being interpreted into political and terrorist activity. What is important in this phenomenon is the radicalization of the already radicalized society in Gaza.

The bottom line is that we are seeing the same pattern of global jihad-oriented groups starting to be active in Gaza. They have carried out some attacks, mostly directed against foreign, Western institutions like the YMCA and the American School. Yet they have played only a marginal role in attacks against Israeli targets.

  Hamas in Gaza

I think the situation of Hamas control in Gaza is irreversible. From my reading of Hamas publications in Arabic, it is clear that there is no way back, only ahead, to take control in the West Bank if they become strong enough. Hamas could agree to a hudna (calm) for fifty years, but there will be no recognition of Israel or a cessation of the struggle against it.

If Hamas was ready to act pragmatically, it would no longer be Hamas. It would be something else. And then the frustrated factions within Hamas would break off and join up with the radical global jihadi organizations in Gaza. Those organizations hope to provide a refuge for Hamas radicals who believe that any normalization or pragmatism would be harmful to the Hamas cause.

This is not just my hypothesis. The declarations of Hamas leaders Zahar and Siam have hinted that if Hamas were to lose its real identity, people would shift their loyalties and activities to a more genuine Islamic organization, not a pragmatic, opportunistic, hudna-style one.

 Should we talk with Hamas? Is the international community ready to sit down with al-Qaeda? There is no difference. It is a total misrepresentation to say Hamas is like the IRA. There is no political wing of Hamas disconnected from the operational wing. There are no pragmatists to speak to. At the end of the day, those who believe that trying to talk to Hamas is the right way to conduct business here in the Middle East will be in for a big disappointment.

 Col. (res.) Jonathan Fighel is a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT). He is also a member of the International Academic Counter Terrorism Community (ICTAC) and serves as a consultant and expert witness for the U.S. Department of Justice on Hamas trials, as well as to private U.S.-based law firms in cases of prosecuting al-Qaeda terrorism. His expertise also includes the Palestinian Authority, Islamist terror groups (Hamas, PIJ, and al-Qaeda), funding, Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian suicide terrorism phenomenon. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on December 9, 2008.



Malaysia Again Stamps Mark In Islamic World

By Yong Soo Heong


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 (Bernama) -- When the 8th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM) under the auspices of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) ended in Rabat, Morocco, late last month, Malaysia again stamped its mark in the Islamic world as far as providing concrete solutions was concerned.

Led by Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Malaysian delegation managed to move two important proposals into further action.


The first was to hold a film festival among OIC countries and the second was to train and equip Palestinians in the New Media.

 Malaysia has been entrusted by OIC Secretary-General Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to get the film festival proposal moving.

A working group comprising Syria, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco and Malaysia will look into the hosting of the festival, aimed at creating a market place for creative industries in the OIC.

 Shabery explained that a film festival would fire the imagination of film producers and directors as well as other people in the creative industries to produce works for international audiences and get better returns on their investments and efforts.

He said it was not good enough to only produce works just for local audiences.

In addition, Shabery said, the proliferation of good quality films, documentaries and other local content would also help fill the additional available airtime slots when RTM would have more channels under its on-going digitalisation programme.

 "Having more channels means providing more opportunities for local creative people to produce content locally," he said. "But they also have to produce good quality content so that their works can be sold overseas as well."

 In terms of training and equipping Palestinians in the New Media, Malaysia will contact the Palestinian embassy in Kuala Lumpur to establish the lines of communications so that this effort could be undertaken.

 The move is to enable Palestinians, who may be hampered by the Israeli regime, to tell about the real situation and hardship in their homeland to the outside world through the New Media.

At the ICIM meeting, Malaysia was also named as part of a ministerial supervisory sub-committee comprising Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Senegal, Syria and Morocco to evaluate a development action plan to deal with the external media with the aim of correcting possible distortions of Islam and the ummah.

This sub-committee will study the use of the services of a team of specialised experts to address the non-Islamic world in a language that is easily understood.

 Meanwhile, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Morocco have pledged to work closer with Malaysia in the field of media and information. The pledge was made during Shabery's bilateral meetings with Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Hosein Safar Harandi, Saudi Arabia's Culture and Information Minister Dr Iyad Ameen Madani and Morocco's Minister of Communication Khalid Naciri.

 At their meetings, they stressed on the need for Bernama and RTM to step up cooperation with counterparts in their respective countries.

During Shabery's meeting with Harandi, the latter also expressed the hope that Malaysia would be able to provide a suitable candidate to head the Jeddah-based Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU).



Conservatism and politics of fatwa

By M. Syafi'i Anwar


The Indonesian Ulema Council's (MUI) edicts on smoking, yoga and vote abstention have been challenged by many Muslim scholars and leaders, human rights activists and even some local ulema.

As The Jakarta Post reported, most of them pointed out the edicts are out of date, pointless and counterproductive for the interests of the nation. Moreover, MUI's edict (fatwa) on vote abstention is seen as enforcing people's political behaviour by using religious justification. This is considered to be against the spirit of human rights and democracy.

 Endy M. Bayuni rightly argued that no one, not even the MUI, has the right to force or intimidate people into voting for fear that they will earn God's wrath (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 1, 2009). Therefore, it is understandable that even Vice President Jusuf Kalla recently also criticized the edict on vote abstention as "extreme" and "not proper" for Indonesian Muslims.

 In general, those edicts also demonstrate the MUI's involvement in practical politics, which is definitely in contradiction with its mission as a religious body. It is important to note that Islam does not recognize the concept of priesthood. Unlike church hierarchy (especially in the Catholic Church), there is no authority, however eminent, that can claim sole right to enunciate any binding opinion for all Muslims. In Islam, a fatwa is a legal opinion issued by an individual or group of ulema who are recognized for their expertise in Islamic law. Muslims are allowed to accept or reject a fatwa depending on their religious thought and rational choice.

 Regarding the above-mentioned MUI edicts, some crucial factors need to be taken into consideration.

First, the edicts show the failure of the MUI in bridging religious teaching and modernity. Issuing a fatwa is not a simple task.

 Khaled Abu Fadl, professor of Islamic Law at UCLA, California, pointed out that in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh al Islam), anyone or group of ulema who issue edicts must be bound by a heightened level of scrutiny and by the obligation of utmost diligence.

 Second, it is crucial to note that there are many requirements to issuing fatwa’s in the contemporary world. It requires the ulema to have the ability to bridge Islamic legal tradition with modernity. Consequently, it needs more than just knowledge of Islamic law.

Issuing edicts needs not only a highly qualified understanding of Islamic law, but also an accommodation with the spirit of modernity combined with a modern scientific approach and profound research methodology. The MUI should consider this advice in issuing edicts to improve its image and credibility.

 Furthermore, the edicts basically represent the growing influence of religious conservatism in this country, particularly of those who are riding "the politics of fatwa".

 The edict on yoga, for instance, is not simply based on suspicion toward the Hindu ritual in this healthy physical and spiritual exercise. This is not only related to religious conservatism per se, but also to the exclusive and intolerant attitudes toward other religions.

We are reminded that the MUI had issued an edict to ban pluralism, secularism, and liberalism in July 2005. In terms of pluralism, it is believed that the spirit behind this edict was based on books, articles and reports provided by conservative ulema and certain militant activists who had joined the MUI board in the last four years.

 Indeed, the MUI is currently chaired by moderate and highly respected ulema such as Sahal Mahfudz. However, he is too old and has limited ability to control the political maneuvers of those conservative ulema and militant activists, who often politicize fatwa for the sake of their own religio-political interests.

 In so doing, they engage and build networks with many Islamic organizations, particularly for mobilizing mass support, carrying out street demonstrations and demanding the government accept their political agenda. The Ahmadiyah case has shown how the MUI was able to pressure the government to accommodate its fatwa and then issue a joint ministerial decree to freeze Ahmadiyah activities.

 In fact, MUI itself recognizes the growing influence of its political power. A study by the International Crisis Group last year shows that the growing political influence of MUI was particularly due to the support of militant groups.

 Politics of fatwa might benefit political actors, including the government, conservative ulema and political parties. It's compulsory for civil society movements, rights activists, moderate Muslims and the media to keep a serious eye on MUI's "fatwa" in years ahead.

The writer is the executive director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP). He obtained his PhD in history and political sociology from the University of Melbourne, Australia in 2005



Dutch anti-Islam filmmaker sent home

By Stephanie Kennedy, 13 Feb, 2009


A Dutch MP who made a film that called the Koran a fascist book has been sent back to the Netherlands after trying to enter the UK.

Geert Wilders had been invited to show his controversial film, which links the Islamic holy book to terrorism, in the UK's House of Lords.

 But at Heathrow airport Wilders, who faces trial in his own country for inciting hatred, was denied entry by Immigration officials.

 The British Government banned the Dutch MP, accusing him of inciting racial and religious hatred.

Mr Wilders says it is a very sad day for democracy and he says the Government's actions prove that the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is the "biggest coward in Europe."

Mr Wilders was deported and he is now returned to the Netherlands.



Anti-Islam Dutch MP held at UK airport



A Dutch politician facing trial for inciting racial hatred says he has been detained at Heathrow airport in London, after defying a ban by British authorities to enter the country.

Geert Wilders had been invited by a member of the House of Lords to screen his controversial film Fitna, which urges Muslims to tear out "hate-filled" passages from the Quran.

On Tuesday the British Home Office told Wilders he would not be allowed into the country, because he posed a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society".

 Despite the warning, the politician, who leads the right-wing Dutch Freedom Party, went ahead with plans to travel to London on Thursday.

But he was held upon arriving at Heathrow, and said he would be sent home within a few hours.

"I am in a detention centre at Heathrow ... I am detained," he told the Reuters news agency.

"They took my passport. I will not be allowed to enter the country. They will send me back within a few hours."

'Cowardly decision'

British authorities said Wilders would not be allowed entry into the UK, but gave no other details about what had happened at Heathrow.

"Any European Union ... national refused admission to the UK under immigration regulations will be detained until arrangements have been made for their removal from the UK," a Home Office spokesman said.

 Wilders previously called Britain's decision "cowardly".

"This is something you expect in Saudi Arabia but not in Britain. I think this cowardly position of Britain is very bad," he said.

Lord Pearson, a peer at the House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, had invited Wilders to show the film.

Fitna is an Arabic word which has numerous meanings including "sedition" and "temptation", and appears in the Quran. The film juxtaposes shots of the 9/11 attacks on the US with quotations from the Quran,

Its screening prompted protests in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Afghanistan, while Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, described the film as "offensively anti-Islamic".

Wilders also sparked outrage over other anti-Islamic comments, including calling for a ban on the Quran and comparing Islam to Nazism.

Last month a court in Amsterdam ruled that he must stand trial for hate speech.