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Islamic World News ( 30 Jan 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The International Union for Muslim Scholars looks East for religious dialogue

Shariah Targets ‘Common People’ Only, Activists Say

Zambia Taps into Islamic Finance

Oriental despotism and Islam

DISTANCE LEARNING programmes in ISLAMIC BANKING

Iranians celebrate ancient Persian fire fest

Recruits seek out al-Qaeda's deadly embrace across a growing arc of jihadist terror

Detroit Bomber: The Police Talk To London Students

Indonesia Ups Trade With Somalia

Snuff out militant Islam's lethal spark - kill bin Laden

Muslim's election to lead PACE important signal for Europe, Turkey’s FM

Turkish Speaker calls on Muslims to fight intentional Islamophobia

Gaddafi thwarted over African Union presidency

Saudi couple forced to divorce for unequal tribal background reunited by court

The alienation of Christians in Egypt

Pakistan: Heading to civil war?

Taliban leader...Crackdown in Jordan...9/11 trial venue

US invite to Taliban leaves out Pak proxies

Professor Serhat Erkmen: Al-Qaeda not a threat to Turkey

Ads, marketing for Muslims prove difficult

Etihad To Support Global Young Muslim Leaders Project

I don't have to worry about Muslims In India

Shah Rukh deserves Nishaan-e-Pakistan: Bal Thackeray

NATO air strike kills four Afghanistan soldiers in mix-up

Pak Taliban chief Mehsud dead, reports PTV; govt says can't confirm yet

KARACHI: ‘Repair work of village school stopped’

N Korea arms 'were bound for Iran'

One killed as Kashmir demo turns violent: police

Iran Warns Against Protests during Islamic Republic Anniversary

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/the-international-union-for-muslim-scholars-looks-east-for-religious-dialogue/d/2438

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The International Union for Muslim Scholars looks East for religious dialogue

January 31, 2010

The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) will hold an international seminar on dialogue between Islam and the major Oriental religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, on February 19 and 20, the renowned Islamic scholar Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi said.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Qaradawi, who is the chairman of the IUMS, said the seminar aimed to promote understanding between Muslims and the followers of the Oriental religions as well as to remove the barriers which, he said, could create misgivings between the two sides.

“Dialogue with the other is a basic principal of Islam that was called for by the Holy Qur’an and the seminar is one step ahead in this regard. According to Islam, all humans are one family that should peacefully co-exist and interact with one another,” he said.

Dr Qaradawi added that the seminar would be part of a process in which the IUMS would reach to followers of Oriental religions, which he said, constitute the majority of the world population.

“We have plans to launch similar dialogue with African religions,” he added.

When asked why he boycotted the recent interfaith dialogue meeting held in Doha between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the scholar said that the fact that Israel was still occupying Palestine and the current Vatican Pope Benedict’s critical remarks on Islam and Prophet were among the reasons behind the boycott.

The seminar will be held in New Delhi under the aegis of India’s Vice President Mohamed Hamid Ansari, who will open the event.

Basics of dialogue between Islam and Eastern religions, shared values, areas of co-operation between Muslims and followers of Eastern religions, the situation of India’s Muslim minority are among the topics due to be discussed by the participating delegates.

Some 160 delegates including religious leaders, politicians and academics would participate in the two-day event.

Dr Ali Mohyeiddin al-Qurradaghi, the head of the Minorities Committee at the IUMS, said the seminar also sought to tackle what he called “Islamophobia trends” in some Asian countries.

“It is something like a pre-emptive effort to tackle the potential spread of Islamophobia in these countries where some signs of this trend were recently noticed,” Dr al-Qurradaghi said.

Dr al-Qurradaghi, who is also a Qatar university Jurisprudence professor, accused “Western circles” of inciting the followers of the Eastern religions against Islam.

“We would like to deflect these attempts to distort the image of Islam there,” he added.

About the reasons behind choosing India to host the meeting, he said India was an emerging country that is expected to play a bigger role in the international arena in the near future.

“It also has the biggest Muslim minority in the world which estimated at 180mn people. We seek to bolster the friendly ties between the Muslim world and these Asian countries so that we can avoid the current face-off between the Muslim world and the West,” he added.

The New Delhi seminar is part of the recommendations made by a meeting held in Doha in June 2008 which was attended by leaders of the India’s Muslim minority.

http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=340160&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16

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Shariah Targets ‘Common People’ Only, Activists Say

Nurdin Hasan

January 31, 2010

Banda Aceh. Two human rights activists said on Sunday that the implementation of Shariah law in Aceh was unfair and discriminatory, as it only applied to the common people, while government officials and wealthy people were never sentenced to public lashings.

The comments follow the public caning of a farmer, Syahrul, 40, in Jantho, Aceh Besar, on Friday, after being found guilty of gambling.

Three of Syahrul’s more daring associates managed to escape from the Jantho Prosecution Office prison 15 minutes before execution of the sentence.

“This gave the impression that implementation of Shariah in Aceh is a laughable game. Especially as only the common people are sentenced to lashing,” said TAF Haikal, a civil rights activist.

“As an Acehnese, I will be ashamed if this situation continues, because Islamic Shariah is great, noble and universal. But in Aceh, it has been reduced to unethical misconduct,” he said.

Haikal, a former general secretary of the Aceh NGO Forum, said the perception of injustice comes from the fact that only the common people had been publicly lashed, while convicted officials had not.

“We know of officials that have been arrested for khalwat [unchaperoned romantic or sexual tryst between an unmarried couple], but none of them were caned,” he said.

“Even more curious, a Shariah policeman was arrested by the public for khalwat last year, but there has been no trial.”

He also questioned the caning of Syahrul whose betting bids were Rp 1,000 each, while, “covert gambling operations with millions of rupiah at stake remain untouched by Shariah police raids.”

Evi Narti Zain, executive director of the Aceh human rights NGO coalition, also questioned why the four men arrested for playing dominoes in Indrapuri subdistrict on Dec. 28, deserved to be lashed six times.

“The Rp 1,000 stake might have been just for fun. Afterwards, the money might have been used to buy themselves a meal. These things should be considered in the Shariah court,” she told the Globe.

Evi said that the case further illustrated the victimization of the lower classes and the absence of justice in the enforcement of Shariah, which was “ discriminatory, especially against women.”

“It’s not the Shariah law itself that’s at fault here, but the implementation of the law is wrong.”

Since the law was put into effect in Aceh in 2001, she said, it had focused on the same issues, “raids against women wearing tight clothing or not covering their head, arrest of people going on a date, common people playing games of chance.”

“Meanwhile, there are other aspects relating to public service that do not comply with Islamic law,” Evi said.

Teungku Faisal Ali, secretary general of the Aceh Ulema Association, admitted in a separate interview that Shariah had remained at a standstill due to a lack of seriousness on the part of the government to implement it as suggested by the Koran and the hadiths [the sayings of Prophet Muhammad].

“In the last three years, the use of Shariah has taken a step backward because the legal structure is inadequate and the government is not serious in fully applying the law,” he said.

Faisal, who also chairs the Aceh branch of Nahdlatul Ulama, said that as a result, the public had come to think of the law as discriminatory and unfair.

“Shariah recognizes no discrimination, because Islam is a blessing for the universe and its occupants. Islam is fair and indiscriminate in the upholding of justice. Those who are guilty should be punished, though in Islam those who repent can also be forgiven,” he said. “Islam holds mankind in high esteem, especially women, because it is a great and noble religion.”

The use of Shariah was granted during Abdurrahman Wahid’s administration, more as an attempt to resolve the conflict between the Free Aceh Movement and the national security forces.

http://thejakartaglobe.com/news/shariah-targets-common-people-only-activists-say/355958

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Zambia Taps into Islamic Finance

By Danstan Asif Kaunda

January 31, 2010

LUSAKA – Zambia is tapping into the thriving Islamic finance industry by formulating guidelines for Shari`ah-compliant banking services for the first time, with bankers expecting the move to accommodate Muslim clients and help the economy of the Southern African country.

"The guidelines are intended to provide a broader framework for conducting Islamic banking services in the country," Bank of Zambia Governor Dr. Caleb Fundanga told IslamOnline.net.

BoZ has finalized regulatory and banking framework for banks that will be offering Islamic financial services in the country.

Dr. Fundanga says the new regulations will enable people to have access to credits for capital investment from the financial institutions according to Islamic principles and without paying interest.

"In Zambia, Muslims are excluded from the banking system on account that Shari`ah prohibits interest."

Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans.

Shari`ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships.

Investors have a right to know how their funds are being used, and the sector is overseen by dedicated supervisory boards as well as the usual national regulatory authorities.

Fundanga says one challenge that would face the industry in Zambia is the lack of adequate guidance from Islamic scholars.

"The availability of these Shari`ah scholars in Zambia may pose a challenge given the small proportion of Muslims in Zambia."

According to the Islamic Council of Zambia (ICZ), Muslims constitute over 12 percent of the country's 12.5 million people.

Benefits

Experts believe that Islamic finance concept would be very beneficial to the national economy.

Chama Mwanya, a member of Zambian think-tank the Economic Association of Zambia (EAZ), says Islamic finance would help on the issue of borrowing, one factor that the Zambian financial sector has been grappling with for a long-time now.

"Lending rate is still high in Zambia making borrowing for capital investments prohibitive."

Dr. Fundanga, the Bank of Zambia Governor, hopes by introducing Islamic finance to the market and encouraging Muslims to use the system, Zambia will get a crucial push for its development.

"Islamic banking should be viewed in light of its potential to inject liquidity in the financial markets and its ultimate impact on the cost of funds as well as its ability to capture those who would otherwise be excluded from the banking system on religious grounds."

This is the first time Zambia looks into developing its Islamic finance industry.

It is taking the cue from several African and would countries which begun developing Islamic finance services to attract wealth and create jobs.

The Islamic banking system is being practiced in 50 countries worldwide, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the global financial industry.

Starting almost three decades ago, the Islamic banking industry has made substantial growth and attracted the attention of investors and bankers across the world.

A long list of international institutions, including Citigroup, HSBC and Deutsche Bank, are going into the Islamic banking business.

Currently, there are nearly 300 Islamic banks and financial institutions worldwide whose assets are predicted to grow to $1 trillion by 2013.

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1264249902468&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

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Oriental despotism and Islam

January 30, 2010

Michael Curtis is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of political science at Rutgers University. He has also served as president of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East and as editor of the Middle East Review.

Professor Curtis is the author of approximately 30 books. His latest, a prodigious piece of scholarship, is Orientalism and Islam.

In this book, Curtis considers the writings of six sets of giant intellectual figures on the subject of the Orient. The six are Montesquieu, Burke, Tocqueville, James and John Stuart Mill, Marx and Engels, and Weber. The theme that unites the writings of each is their understanding of the despotic nature of Oriental regimes. Each also saw, to one degree or another, a connection between that despotism and religion, in most cases Islam.

Curtis' study of these authors has obvious relevance to contemporary issues. But his book also deserves to be read for its close analysis of the writers on whom he focuses. As I see it, Montesquieu, Marx and Engels, and Weber considered the Orient mostly as a pure object of study - Montesquieu from the point of view of government (he treated Oriental despotism as something of an object lesson) , Mark and Engels from the point of view of economics, and Weber from the point of view of the sociology of religion.

Of the three, Marx and Engels represent the most curious case. Their study of the Oreint led them to develop the concept of the Asiatic Method of Production (AMP). This construct is, at best, an outlier in Marx's materialist view of history because it includes no recognizable class struggle based on the relations of production. A lawyer might consider the AMP an "admission against interest." Indeed, some orthodox Marxists wish that Marx and Engels had steered clear of the Orient (though in the end they detected the AMP in many additional parts of the world).

Tocqueville wrote about the Orient (actually Algeria) from a less disinterested perspective; the great liberal democrat was also a committed colonialist eager to see France retain its place in the world in part through its role in Africa. Burke engaged the Orient mainly through his obsession (as it seems to me) with impeaching Warren Hastings, the able Governor-General of India.

John Stuart Mill spent most of his life as an employee of the East India Company. He received his appointment as a junior clerk at age 17 through the influence of his father James, who also worked for the company. The main task of both father and son seems to have been writing dispatches on India policy. In a sense, they were company men (John Stuart more so), but also close and keen observers of India.

Among the relevant questions for our time that Curtis identifies as flowing from his study are these: Are contemporary Muslim societies compatible with democratic political systems or with governments based on principles of human rights? Are those societies able or willing to follow the path of modernization? Can Muslim societies owe genuine allegiance to a territorial state not constructed on a religious basis or to a national civic society?

Curtis doesn't answer these questions or the broader one of whether our contemporary problems in dealing with the Muslim world are "illustrative of a clash of civilization." But he clearly considers them substantial, and it's difficult to take issue with that view.

It may be worth noting, however, that many of the writers covered by Curtis' study saw Oriental despotism as closely related to religions other than Islam, in particular the Hindu religion. Today, Hinduism does not seem incompatible with democratic political systems or with governments based on principles of human rights.

Islam is a different case, to be sure. At the religion's core, as Curtis points out, is a warrior-prophet who served as a "political and spiritual leader, founding the holy law of Islam and founding and ruling the first Muslim state." Much depends on the extent to which these differences render the Islamic Orient intractable, and Professor Curtis' book has much to tell us about this question.

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/01/025491.php

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DISTANCE LEARNING programmes in ISLAMIC BANKING

"UBS AG, the Swiss-based bank which is slashing staff to offset losses, sees growth opportunities in Islamic Finance and plans to expand in this market, its new head of Islamic finance, Armen Papazian said recently." - Reuters

Almost everyday, we hear or see some news item such as the above related to the success and growth of Islamic Finance industry through mass media.

Interestingly, one could see an expansion of Islamic Financial institutions in the western countries as well. Still, an acute shortage of qualified manpower seems to be hampering the progress of this industry to a greater extent.

First Global Knowledge Centre (FGKC), the pioneer in the country in the field of Islamic Banking & Finance education has always endeavoured to fill this vacuum by conducting recognized courses, conferences and seminars for the past three years. It has now tied up with Al Huda Centre for Islamic Banking & Economics, Pakistan (Al Huda CIBE) to offer internationally recognized distance learning programmes in Sri Lanka.

Al Huda-CIBE is a well established name in financial industry, working for Education, Training, Promotion and Awareness of Islamic Banking & Finance in Pakistan as well as abroad. Offering distance learning programmes is an effort of Al Huda to promote Islamic Banking & Finance at mass level. Al Huda is jointly working with 12 international institutions as a partner for the development of this emerging industry worldwide.

Even in Sri Lanka the numbers are significant of those who are keen on getting themselves acquainted with the technical and theoretical knowledge of this industry but are unable to follow a regular study programme due to certain constraints. Time is one such impediment in the journey of gaining knowledge to the busy person and for some others distance and transport issues also matter.

Distance learning programmes are ideal for this category of knowledge seekers, and the internationally recognized Al Huda programmes will help them in achieving their goals. The following are available on distance study mode:

Post Graduate Diploma in Islamic Banking & Finance,

Certified Takaful Professional,

Certified Islamic Funds Manager,

Certified Sukuk Professional, and

Certified Islamic Microfinance Manager

Another salient feature is the special introductory fee given for students from Sri Lanka.

A handsome discount is offered for all these programmes which are indeed very much affordable.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100131/Education/edu07.html

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Iranians celebrate ancient Persian fire fest

By Ali Akbar Dareini

January 31, 2010

CHAM, Iran -- Thousands of Iranians gathered at dusk against a snowy mountain backdrop to light giant bonfires in an ancient mid-winter festival dating back to Iran's pre-Islamic past that is drawing new interest from Muslims.

Saturday's celebration was the first in which the dwindling remnants of Iran's once plentiful Zoroastrian religious minority were joined by thousands of Muslims, reflecting a growing interest in the strict Islamic society for the country's ancient traditions.

The festival, known as Sadeh, celebrates the discovery of fire and its ability to banish the cold and dark, and it is held in the frigid depths of winter.

Sadeh was the national festival of ancient Persia when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion, before the conquest of Islam in the 7th century. Now it is mostly celebrated just in the homes and temples of Iran's 60,000 remaining Zoroastrians.

Recently, however, there has been an upsurge of interest among Iranian Muslims - 90 percent of the population - in their ancient heritage, when vast Persian empires held sway over much of central Asia and fought Greek warriors and Roman legions.

"I'm proud of Sadeh because it is part of Iran's cultural heritage," said Mohammed Saleh Khalili, a Muslim Iranian who traveled from Meibod, a town in central Iran, to join the celebrations. "Once it was a national festival and for centuries it has been restricted to Zoroastrians but there is no reason why Muslim Iranians shouldn't celebrate the event."

Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion predating Christianity and Islam and is believed to have influenced those faiths - and Judaism as well - being one of the first religions with a strong notion of good and evil.

Zoroastrians believe they must fight evil through good deeds, words and thoughts, including charity and service. Fire plays a central role in worship as a symbol of truth and the spirit of God. Prayer is often performed in front of a fire, and consecrated fires are kept perpetually burning in major temples.

Full report at: http://www.seattlepi.com/national/1107ap_ml_iran_zoroastrian_festival.html

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Recruits seek out al-Qaeda's deadly embrace across a growing arc of jihadist terror

31 Jan 2010

Just two years ago al-Qaeda was believed to be on the back foot. Now the jihadist group is attracting ever more recruits across a growing arc of terror.

Bored, depressed and stuck in a dead-end job, Khaled al-Bawardi. spent just a few hours watching jihadi videos to convince himself that he wanted to fight for militant Islam.

It took another six years in Guantanamo Bay, plus a year in religious rehab in Saudi Arabia, to realise there might be better career options.

“When I was young, I thought these people were angels and we had to follow them,” said Mr Bawardi, formerly Inmate 68 at Guantanamo and one of hundreds of Saudi al Qaeda suspects arrested after the US invasion of Afghanistan. “Now, though, I can see between right and wrong.”

Quietly-spoken, and dressed in a traditional Arab robe and keffiya, Mr Bawardi is an alumnus of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Counselling and Care outside Riyadh, where for the last two years, batches of former Guantanamo inmates have undergone religious “deprogramming” in exchange for their liberty.

With its swimming pool, games rooms and therapy courses such as “10 Steps Toward Positive Thinking”, it resembles a jihadist’s version of London’s Priory clinic. Yet like any rehab programme, it also has its recidivists - and Batch 10, to which Mr Bawardi belonged, is a case in point.

The tenth group of Saudis to be flown back from Guantanamo Bay, no less than five of the original 14 who passed through the programme absconded to neighbouring Yemen to re-embrace terrorism. To the embarrassment of their mentors, and the dismay of Washington, one Batch 10 member, Said al-Shihri, has since re-surfaced as no less than deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the movement’s new Yemen-based branch. The group opened up the latest frontier in the war on terror last month, when it claimed to have groomed the so-called Detroit “Underpants Bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Such “relapses” show how, more than eight years since 9-11, al-Qaeda has confounded its doomsayers with both its resilience and its ever-spreading presence.

When Batch 10 first arrived back at Riyadh airport two years ago, Western diplomats and intelligence officials were becoming increasingly confident that the movement was on its back foot.

Full report at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/7105454/Recruits-seek-out-al-Qaedas-deadly-embrace-across-a-growing-arc-of-jihadist-terror.html

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Detroit Bomber: The Police Talk To London Students

By James Murray

Jan 31,2010

Detroit plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

HUNDREDS of young Muslims who studied and prayed with Detroit plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab are being interviewed to discover if he had Al Qaeda associates in Britain.

Scotland Yard’s attempts to get contact details for Islamic Society members at University College London were stalled when its president, Mojeed Adams-Mogaji, refused to hand the information over. He cited data protection laws and asked for a court order.

However, the UCL Student Union agreed to pass on the email addresses and phone numbers after receiving a similar request from the Yard’s Counter Terrorist Command (SO15). They gave details of 800 young men and women.

Abdulmutallab, 23, who tried to down a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day after being sent on a mission by Osama Bin Laden, studied engineering at the university between 2005 and 2008. He was president of UCL’s Islamic Society for a year from 2006.

Information on the students will be kept on a database for seven years and could be passed to other intelligence services such as M15 and M16.

Medical student Zubair Idris said: “The vast majority of Muslim students who come to UCL join up [to the Islamic Society] for socio-cultural reasons. It’s not a crime to become actively involved in the ISoc. This guy was clearly recruited by Al Qaeda in Yemen.”

Police have also gathered information on members of the Medical Islamic Society connected to the university. The huge effort by the Yard suggests they suspect that Abdulmutallab was radicalised in this country and mixed with others brainwashed to support terrorism.

However, one of the terrorist’s friends at UCL, Qasim Rafiq, said: “There was never any suggestion whatsoever that he would go on to do what he did.

“We are still trying to decipher what went on. We’re really concerned therefore about what happened when he left, and that resonates with his family.

“They only raised concerns because they noticed a change in his behaviour so I think that demonstrates that it wasn’t his time in London, and the key questions need to be about what happened after.” Asked where Abdulmutallab was at the time of the London Tube and bus bombings on July 7, 2005, Mr Rafiq said: ‘‘When 7/7 happened in the summer, he wasn’t at uni.

Full report at: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/155221/Detroit-bomber-the-police-talk-to-London-students

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Indonesia Ups Trade With Somalia

31-01-2010

While Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa leads a delegation to the London talks on Afghanistan, Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu has just signed an agreement to increase Indonesian trade with Somalia. Both moves reflect the policy of the new five-year Government led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. That Indonesia must go global, and take a lead in the Muslim world.

The Indonesian delegation in London just held a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. President Barack Obama as well as  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, are pushing for Indonesia to play a bigger role in Afghanistan and on the global stage, and Obama once lived in Jakarta !

But for the US and UK, soon to have 100,000 and 10,000 troops respectively in Afghanistan, it is painfully obvious to US Central Command General David Petraeus, and Pentagon Chief Robert Gates that negotiations with the Taliban and the need for soft-power solutions, backed by hard-power, are the order of the day.

In the global Muslim hot-spots of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the battle for development is the only battle that can be, and has to be winnable, and there are no military solutions.

Indonesia-Somalia trade slumped from $8 millions in 2008 to $1.5 millions in 2009. Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said “This year, we can rebound back to $8 million as the direct trading will contribute to this.”

Somali Ambassador Mohamud Olow Barrow said, “Even though Somalia´s population is only 9.8 million the total number of Indonesian sarongs being exported to Somalia via Dubai is 20 million pieces per year”.

Indonesia has now decided to boost textile exports to Somalia through direct trade, instead of via Dubai, and to push its increasingly global construction companies into the reconstruction of war-torn Somalia.

Indonesian state-backed construction companies like Adhi Karya, Waskita Karya and Wijaya Karya, are increasingly active in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco and Algeria.

Somali Trade Minister Abdirashid Mohamed Abdi said, “With many of our construction experts working abroad due to the instabilities that our country has been experiencing, we will require support from Indonesia, which is why construction materials that Indonesia exports will be given a 0 percent tariff rate.” (The Jakarta Globe, 19.01.10).

Juniman, an economist at PT Bank Internasional Indonesia praised the Yudhoyono government for its efforts to penetrate new markets in East Africa but warned about security issues, especially maritime piracy.

Full report at: http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/Cyprus/260234

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Snuff out militant Islam's lethal spark - kill bin Laden

Joel Brinkley

Sunday, January 31, 2010

When the World Food Program suspended operations in south Somalia earlier this month because Islamic extremists were hassling and murdering aid workers, 1 million people were threatened with imminent starvation.

"The situation for these people may become dramatic," Giorgio Bertin, an African Catholic bishop, warned a few days ago.

Who holds the lion's share of blame for this? The easy answer is Somalia's al-Shabab militia, the Islamic extremist group. But look deeper, and a large share of blame falls on Osama bin Laden and President George W. Bush.

How's that? Think back to the days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Osama bin Laden was brewing trouble. Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. guided missile destroyer Cole, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, among other sites. Bin Laden was the face of Islamic terrorism. There were few imitators; al Qaeda had the field largely to itself. In 1998, the United States offered $5 million for bin Laden's capture - the highest bounty Washington had ever offered.

Then came Sept 11, 2001, and bin Laden became the world's most prominent villain. "I want justice," Bush declared on Sept. 18. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.' "

The rest of the history is well known. Bin Laden had ordered the most serious attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. The United States attacked Afghanistan, bin Laden slipped over the border to Pakistan, and two years later Bush more or less dropped his interest, transferring his attention and troops to Iraq. Today, bin Laden still resides in western Pakistan - and serves as an inspirational symbol for Islamic militants worldwide.

In Vietnam, the United States could not defeat a determined enemy that had tens of thousands of troops and regional allies that supplied it with sanctuaries and unlimited weaponry. This time, one miscreant attacked the world's only superpower, permanently altered the nation's domestic and foreign policies - and got away with it. Is it any wonder that Islamic terrorists inspired by him have sprouted like mushrooms in the forest after a summer shower?

The al-Shabab militia in Somalia is one of the vilest of these new sects. Its fighters are kidnapping and killing aid workers whose only mission is to care for the nation's poor. It is imposing the most virulent form of Islamic law. The prototypical example of that last year: Al-Shabab adherents stoned a 13-year-old girl to death as penalty for telling police that she had been raped.

Full report at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/30/INDE1BNOP7.DTL

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Muslim's election to lead PACE important signal for Europe, Turkey’s FM

Fulya Özerkan

January 31, 2010

Turkey's FM Davutoğlu stops over in Strasbourg to visit new PACE Chairman Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the Council of Europe and extends the Turkish government’s support and congratulations. 'The election of a Muslim is an important development for European culture,' Davutoğlu says

For the first time in the history of the Council of Europe, a Muslim has been elected president of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, or PACE. The vote is a positive development and meaningful signal for Europe amid rising racism and Islamophobia, according to Turkey’s foreign minister.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is the chairman of the PACE Turkey delegation and a deputy of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, from the southern province of Antalya, has replaced Spanish parliamentarian Luis Maria de Puig as the president of the PACE for two years.

“Mr. Çavuşoğlu is the first parliamentarian elected not only from Turkey but from east of Vienna. All PACE chairmen have thus far been elected from west of Vienna. This is a source of pride for us but also for Eastern Europe and the Balkans,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told a joint press conference with Çavuşoğlu.

Davutoğlu made a stopover in Strasbourg late Friday, after attending an international conference in London, and visited Çavuşoğlu at the Council of Europe, extending the Turkish government’s support and congratulations for his new mission.

“The election of a Muslim is an important development for European culture,” said Davutoğlu in response to a question.

“This is nothing new for us. We, in fact, do not see any contradiction between our own identity and that of Europe, but today when we take a look at the latest developments in Europe, from the minaret ban to rising racism and Islamophobia, the vote should actually be interpreted as a significant development for Europe,” Davutoğlu said.

He said Islam was Europe’s second-largest religion. “Çavuşoğlu’s election as a Muslim is an important and meaningful signal for Europe. We carry our two identities as Muslim and European very easily without feeling any complex,” said Davutoğlu.

Çavuşoğlu has been a member of PACE for the past two terms and is known for his active contributions to various committees. Turkey will assume the term presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for six months as of November 2010. Davutoğlu, who will chair the committee, said this is a result of Turkey’s rising importance on the European continent.

Turkey’s growing role in the Middle East and outside is resulting with more Turkish representation at international platforms. Turkey is at present holding a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and Turkey’s Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is leading one of the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Also, a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Üzümcü, is chairing the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

For his part, Çavuşoğlu said he believes the Turkish government will carry on with reforms when a Turk is chairing PACE and stressed that Turkey is urgently in need of a new civilian constitution.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=muslims-election-for-pace-important-signal-for-europe-fm-2010-01-31

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Turkish Speaker calls on Muslims to fight intentional Islamophobia

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Turkish parliament speaker defined on Saturday Islamophobia as intentional.

Turkey's Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin said that Islamophobia was being fed by unconscious and prejudiced campaigns.

"Islamophobia is considered an unjust, wrong and intentional discourse," Sahin said during the Fourth Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Kampala, Uganda.

Sahin said the decision of Switzerland to ban minarets indicated that decisions and practices against Islam would continue.

The Islam world was facing many problems, Sahin said, and enumerated them as the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian dispute; situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen; concerns over Iraq's future; and injustice Muslims were facing in Cyprus, Western Thrace, Caucasus and other parts of the world.

Sahin said parliaments should assume significant roles to counter prejudice against the Muslim world, and Turkey was showing its reaction in all platforms.

"This fight we will give against this mentality fed by prejudices will be a challenging one," he said.

Sahin referred to Israeli-Palestinian dispute during his speech, and said that all channels of peace process had to be revived.

"Jewish settlement initiatives, which constitute the biggest obstacle before the peace process, should be ended, restrictions on movement of the Palestinians in West Bank should be lifted, and construction of the wall should be stopped," he said.

Sahin said Turkey had not remained indifferent to developments in Gaza, and would continue to react.

The parliament speaker said humanitarian assistance to the region should be sent to the region without interruption and the human tragedy should be ended.

"It is our duty to humanity not only to our Palestinian brothers not to be indifferent to this tragedy," he said.

Full report at: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=53440

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Gaddafi thwarted over African Union presidency

31 January 2010

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi has failed in his bid to stay on as president of the African Union for another year.

At the annual AU summit in Ethiopia, leaders from 53 African countries chose the president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, to take his place.

A BBC correspondent at the summit says Col Gaddafi was very reluctant to stand down, causing considerable resentment.

He used his farewell speech to call for political unity in Africa.

Earlier UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders to work for national unity in Sudan to prevent the south seceding from the north.

Mr Ban said both the UN and AU had a big responsibility "to maintain peace in Sudan and make unity attractive".

A referendum is due next year on whether the oil-rich south should become independent.

Renewed efforts

Libya has chaired the AU for the past year, and under the system of rotating regional blocs, the job was due to go to a southern African leader.

However, Mr Gaddafi wanted to extend the term. He had the support of Tunisia, and is said to have won over some smaller countries by paying their AU membership dues.

Malawi was apparently backed solidly for the role by southern and eastern African countries.

The BBC's Uduak Amimo says the organisation needed a country chair with strong financial muscle, like Libya, but also needed to be seen to be respecting its own rules and processes.

After conceding the presidency, Mr Gaddafi said he would continue to promote his vision of a "United States of Africa", adding that he did not need to keep the title of AU head.

"My brother president of the Republic of Malawi will replace me and take over," he said.

"There is no need for any title, I'll remain in the front struggling."

Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8489724.stm

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Saudi couple forced to divorce for unequal tribal background reunited by court

Sun, Jan 31, 2010

RIYADH - A Saudi couple forced to divorce on grounds they were not from equal tribal backgrounds has been reunited by a new court created as part of judicial reforms.

The marriage of Mansour al-Timani and his wife Fatima Azzaz was annulled after Azzaz's half brothers persuaded judges at a first instance court in 2006 that Timani's tribal background was not prestigious enough for his wife's family.

The case drew international criticism from human rights groups, but a new cassation court, created under reforms instituted by King Abdullah, has said the couple may be reunited.

"Our lawyer told us that the Supreme Court overturned the previous ruling on Wednesday," Timani told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

"We still can't believe this happened. May God give King Abdullah a long life since it was he who set up this court."

The couple is waiting for the ruling to be enacted, Timani said. Their lawyer, Ahmad al-Sudairi, said it would take two days for it to be implemented.

Officials at the court could not be reached for comment.

"I hope that with this ruling, our authorities will close once and for all this issue of inequal tribal backgrounds. Islam does not allow it," Timani added.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and home to Islam's holiest sites, imposes a strict version of mainstream Sunni Islam. The ruling Al Saud family accords the religious establishment wide powers in the justice system and education.

http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/World/Story/A1Story20100131-195659.html

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Pakistan: Heading to civil war?

Riz Khan

January 31, 2010

How much of a threat is the growing influence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and is it pushing the country toward civil war?

The Pakistani military is fighting a major offensive against the Taliban in the volatile northwest.

A weak central government is helpless in the face of repeated suicide bombings that have killed hundreds across the country.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for many of those attacks, claiming it is retaliation against the army operation.

Islamabad is now battling against a group whose government it once supported in Afghanistan.

The seeds of the Pakistani Taliban are believed to have been sown in 2001 when tens of thousands of Afghan fighters sought sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal areas during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Critics say Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president, turned a blind eye to the Taliban because Islamabad saw the group as a potential counter force against India.

On Tuesday’s Riz Khan we ask: Is the Taliban pushing Pakistan into a permanent state of anarchy and could that destabilise the rest of South Asia?

We will talk to Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid. He has written several books on the influence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in South and Central Asia. His latest book is Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/01/201011273052813948.html

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Taliban leader...Crackdown in Jordan...9/11 trial venue

January 31, 2010

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A tribal elder in northwest Pakistan tells The Associated Press he attended the funeral of the Pakistani Taliban leader three days ago. The Pakistani army says it's investigating reports that Hakimullah Mehsud died from injuries sustained in a U.S. drone missile strike in mid-January. Mehsud is blamed for the deadly suicide bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan.

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A Jordanian security official says authorities have arrested dozens of Muslim militants in connection with a failed bomb attack on Israeli diplomats. And the official says a crackdown is continuing across Jordan against Salafists — militants who seek to revive strict Muslim doctrine dating back to the era of the 6th Century Prophet Muhammad.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top White House aide says there's no decision yet on where professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (HAH'-leed shayk moh-HAH'-med) and his alleged co-conspirators will be tried. The Obama administration had said it would be in New York City. But David Axelrod tells NBC the administration is rethinking after city officials expressed concerns over costs and security.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — With fear of possible child trafficking growing in Haiti, authorities are holding 10 American arrested at the border with Dominican Republican. The Baptist church members were driving 33 children out of the country. They say they're setting up an orphanage there. Police say didn't have the proper documents.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The music industry's top awards will be handed out in Los Angeles tonight. Beyonce is nominated for 10 Grammys, including record of the year for "Halo" and song of the year for "Single Ladies." Twenty-year-old Taylor Swift is up for eight Grammys

http://www.kvue.com/news/national/83196712.html

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The alienation of Christians in Egypt

30/01/2010

Christians have been alienated from Egyptian society ever since the country witnessed an outward Islamicization, which people sought out to compensate for their political and social frustrations. Unfortunately, this outward religiosity has not contributed a single positive thing to Egyptian society.

When society fails to achieve any significant economic or political progress, it either decides to continue pushing for this progress, or it gives in to a preoccupation with discussing the unseen and other superficial thoughts, thus compounding an already difficult economic or political situation.

Sectarian tension is increasing worldwide and the Arab world is no exception. In the past, Egypt has served as a model of coexistence to the world, one on par with the advanced democratic countries.

We have created this “new sectarianism” ourselves, which the government, for almost three decades, has allowed to flourish by allowing an Islamic discourse that makes anything permissible so long as it avoids organized political action.

The state has been interfering when it should have remained neutral and it has intervened when ideally, it would have remained on the sidelines. This intervention ignited a new form of sectarianism, where Muslims cling to superficial ideas and outward manifestations of religiosity and Christians respond with extremism and insularity.

Meanwhile, conspiracy theories abound, with some Muslims believing that Christians are supported by external powers, which they use to blackmail the state. In fact, many Muslims believe the church and expatriate Christians blackmail the state. Paradoxically, Christians view this very same state as prejudiced and blatantly discriminatory. These Christians even believe the state intentionally leaves them at the mercy of extremists to send the message to Christians that the state alone can protect them from extremists.

Christians need to rid themselves of this “religious-turned-political” authority, represented in the church and instead view the problems of Christians in a sectarian light. These problems should be viewed as national problems that need to be addressed within a comprehensive framework of reform undertaken by the state.

Full report at: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/opinion/alienation-christians

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US invite to Taliban leaves out Pak proxies

Chidanand Rajghatta

TNN, 31 January 2010

WASHINGTON: The Hamid Karzai-led and US-blessed peace initiative in Afghanistan does not involve talks with the "really bad guys" including the Pakistani proxy, Taliban chief Mullah Omar, clarified US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

In remarks that brought some perspective and clarity to the fluid but evolving situation in Afghanistan, Hillary on Friday drew the line in the sand about engaging the Taliban, saying in a radio interview, "We're not going to talk to the really bad guys because the really bad guys are not ever going to renounce al-Qaida and renounce violence and agree to re-enter society."

Hillary made it clear that Washington does not regard the Pakistan-based and –backed Mullah Omar and his Quetta shura to be in that category. "That (talks) is not going to happen with Mullah Omar and the like," she said, without naming his Pakistani hosts. "But there are so many fighters in the Taliban that are there, frankly, because it's a way to make a living in a country where the Taliban pay them more than they can make as a farmer or in some other line of work out in the countryside."

Hillary left little doubt that Washington was aiming to split the Taliban, telling the National Public Radio in London that "everyone has realized, as we did in Iraq, that you have to begin to go right at the insurgents and peel those off who are willing to renounce violence, renounce al-Qaida, agree to live by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan and re-enter society".

While Mullah Omar too has dismissed prospects of talks with the US or President Karzai pending his own laundry list of demands particularly exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan, his Pakistani handlers, including ISI frontman Col Imam, have presented the one-eyed illiterate mullah as the man to engage, as Islamabad fights to stay relevant in Afghanistan.

"If a sincere message comes from the Americans, these people (the Taliban) are very big-hearted. They will listen. But if you try to divide the Taliban, you'll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive," Imam, whose real name is Brigadier ("retd") Sultan Amir Tarar, said recently, batting for the Pakistani military's proxies.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-invite-to-Taliban-leaves-out-Pak-proxies/articleshow/5518937.cms

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Professor Serhat Erkmen: Al-Qaeda not a threat to Turkey

31 January 2010, Sunday

Ercan Yavuz  Ankara

Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) international relations department lecturer Assistant Professor Serhat Erkmen, who has been conducting research on al-Qaeda since 1999, said the organization is not a threat to Turkey.

Noting that Turkey’s understanding of Islam provides a “natural immunization” against al-Qaeda, Erkmen underlined that Turkey would never be a base for the organization

Erkmen has determined that more than 30 operations have been carried out against al-Qaeda in İstanbul, İzmir, Gaziantep, Erzurum, Bursa, Van, Ankara, Konya and Adana in the past five years and that close to 500 people have been arrested. He explained that al-Qaeda members in Turkey come from two sources. Noting that the first group consists of members who trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan after playing a role in the wars in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia, Erkmen said the second group has its roots in Germany.

Erkmen, who is also an expert with the Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM), is known for his work on Iraq and the Middle East. Noting that Turkish intelligence units closely follow the organization’s activities and carry out coordinated operations as soon as they sense danger, Erkmen said he thinks that radical Islamists, who have always existed in Turkey, are starting to believe that this organization defends their rights. “There have always been a very small minority of groups in Turkey that come from the tradition of jihadism. During one period, some of these people went to both Chechnya and Bosnia. Now perhaps they are going to go to Yemen. But Turkey will not allow itself to become an al-Qaeda base. As is known, the organization is not predominantly Arab. But Turks comprise the smallest group within al-Qaeda. Their biggest problem is language. Al-Qaeda gets its brain power from the Egyptians, its financial power from the Saudi Arabians and muscle power from the Yemenis,” he said.

Full report at: www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-200163-100-professor-serhat-erkmen-al-qaeda-not-a-threat-to-turkey.html

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Ads, marketing for Muslims prove difficult

By Raja Abdulrahim

January 31, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- Leafing through a Best Buy flier during the holiday season, Celena Khatib spotted a small greeting near the bottom of the page: "Happy Eid al-Adha."

The good wishes for the important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims seemed a milestone in U.S. marketing. "I finally felt that they are recognizing Muslims like we are a part of this community," said Khatib, 31, a suburban Detroit mother of two. "We live here, we spend our money here."

dvertisement

But on Best Buy's Web site, people posted contrasting views. "You insult all of the heroes and innocent who died 9-11 by celebrating a holiday of the religion that said to destroy them!" wrote one. Many others said they would no longer shop at Best Buy.

The controversy underscores the continuing obstacles that retailers and other companies face in marketing to a U.S. Muslim population estimated at more than 2.3 million by the Pew Research Center.

Even an ad industry study three years ago that urged firms to cash in on what was then the community's estimated $170 billion purchasing power got little traction.

Best Buy is believed to be the first major retailer to market to Muslims nationwide, and only a few are even dipping their toes into direct ethnic local advertising.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the word "Muslim" is synonymous for some Americans with terrorism. And that's an image that corporations don't want attached to their brands.

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 35 percent of Americans have a negative view of Muslims, and 45 percent believe Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

Even those championing marketing to Muslim consumers advise Western companies not to do what Best Buy did. Instead, in a move that seems both practical and defeatist, they recommend directing advertising in ethnic and religious media and away from the mainstream.

Full report at: www.indystar.com/article/20100131/BUSINESS/1310339/1003/BUSINESS/Ads-marketing-for-Muslims-prove-difficult

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Etihad To Support Global Young Muslim Leaders Project

31-01-2010

Etihad Airways is to partner the UK-based Mosaic International Summit which draws together young Muslim leaders from across the world in a forum to support them in their careers and communities.

The 80 Summit delegates will fly with Etihad from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to the UK in July where they will spend two weeks exchanging views and learning about social and economic issues.

Founded by HRH, The Prince of Wales, the Mosaic International Summit is the first of its kind in the world and consists of a multiple set of initiatives designed to support young Muslims and their peers.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Etihad Airways is delighted to assist the Mosaic International Summit which provides such an important platform in the personal and professional development for these young men and women.”

John O’Brien, Mosaic managing director, said: “We are very grateful for Etihad’s support with the Mosaic International Summit and the part the airline plays in bringing together these young Muslim men and women from around the world.”

The first week of the Summit will take place at the University of Cambridge. The second week will see delegates disperse on regional tours of the UK, reconvening in London for the final 3 days.  Here they will participate in a reception at  the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; meet HRH Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan, the Chair of Mosaic.

http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/UAE/260241

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I don't have to worry about Muslims In India: Saudi Ambassador

Aditi Phadnis

January 31, 2010

Q&A: Faisal-al-Trad, Saudi Ambassador to India

Many security-related agreements will be signed between India and Saudi Arabia during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the country, Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad tells Aditi Phadnis

You’ve come to India only recently. How do you find living here?

My last posting was in Japan. I am edging towards the end of my professional life and would like to retire from India. There is much in common between our two countries. People who made the new Saudi Arabia came to Mumbai years ago to study. We’ve had cultural and historical relations for a long time, but diplomatic relations were established only in the 1950s. After Indira Gandhi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1983, we had King Abdullah come to India in 2006 as the chief guest for the Republic Day. This began a new chapter, a very important chapter in the relationship between the two countries. Now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to visit Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of this year, so that will be another big event.

The fastest growth in trade between our two countries has been seen in the period between 2000 and 2010. Between 2000 and 2008, trade went up from $1.5 billion to $27 billion. Indian imports went up sharply , the main reason was India’s energy needs. This was underscored by the Delhi Declaration, the first time a joint declaration was signed between Saudi Arabia and any other country — we don’t really sign declarations. Because King Abdullah was the King, he signed. As the document was signed by the King and the prime minister, it needed no other endorsement. Since then, many committees and commissions have been set up in the economic, political, security and trade area. In February, New Delhi will host a conclave of all Arab countries and ministers of nine Arab nations will be here to discuss trade and commerce with India.

Full report at: www.business-standard.com/india/news/i-don%5Ct-have-to-worry-about-muslims-in-india/384134/

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Shah Rukh deserves Nishaan-e-Pakistan: Bal Thackeray

IANS, 30 January 2010

MUMBAI: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Saturday said Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan deserves Pakistan's highest civilian award, the Nishaan-E-Pakistan, for supporting the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the IPL.

In a scathing editorial in Saturday's party mouthpiece Saamna, Thackeray said that the "Khan" inside Shah Rukh Khan must be crushed by the "Har Har Mahadev" war cry of the "Shivaji" inside the Hindus.

This was an oblique reference to Chhatrapati Shivaji's killing of Bijapur general Afzal Khan, sent by Sultan Adil Shah II of Bijapur in 1659, at Pratapgad in Satara district of western Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena hit out at Shah Rukh Khan, also the Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner, after he said he would have picked a Pakistani player for the Indian Premier League matches if his team had a slot.

IPL franchise owners did not bid for Pakistani players during the auction for the IPL III, which has snowballed into a major spat between the two countries.

The editorial said that if "Shah Rukh wants to give a red carpet treatment to Pakistani cricketers on the blood of innocent Indians slain by Pakistani terrorists from Kashmir to Mumbai", then, Thackeray warned, the Shiv Sena will never permit it.

It pointed out that by supporting the cause of Pakistani players, Shah Rukh has insulted the memory of the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks - for which Pakistan may confer the Nishaan-E-Pakistan - but Indians will spit on him.

The editorial further noted that nobody from the Congress has raised a voice against Shah Rukh since he is considered close to Sonia Gandhi.

Full report at: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Shah-Rukh-deserves-Nishaan-e-Pakistan-Bal-Thackeray/articleshow/5518020.cms

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NATO air strike kills four Afghanistan soldiers in mix-up

AP, 31 January 2010

KABUL: A joint US-Afghan force clashed with Afghan troops manning a snow-covered outpost and called in an air strike early on Saturday, killing four Afghan soldiers, US and Afghan officials said. Both sides called the clash a case of mistaken identity.

Afghanistan's defence ministry condemned the killings in the eastern Wardak province and demanded punishment for those responsible. NATO called the deaths "regrettable" and announced an investigation.

The deaths are likely to strain relations between NATO and Afghan forces at a time both are calling for a closer partnership in the fight against the Taliban.

Underscoring those tensions, an Afghan interpreter killed two US service members Friday at a combat outpost elsewhere in Wardak province, a NATO official said.

A US soldier then killed the interpreter, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to release the information. It wasn't clear why the interpreter had opened fire on the Americans.

Both attacks occurred in the Sayed Abad district, but the official said they did not appear to be linked. First reports indicated three Americans were killed but NATO officials said one of the dead was an Afghan.

Saturday's fighting began about 3 am local time, when a joint US-Afghan force traded fire with another Afghan unit manning the outpost, which the army said had been established 18 months ago to guard the highway. International troops then called in an air strike, killing the four Afghans, NATO and the Afghan ministry said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/NATO-air-strike-kills-four-Afghanistan-soldiers-in-mix-up/articleshow/5518864.cms

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Pak Taliban chief Mehsud dead, reports PTV; govt says can't confirm yet

Omer Farooq Khan

TNN, 31 January 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan state television has reported that the dreaded militant leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack two weeks ago, a claim which was quickly denied by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group that Mehsud heads.

The report said that Hakimullah Mehsud, a target of CIA-directed drone strikes over the past month, has already been buried. The source of the information was not clear. At least 10 other Taliban fighters reportedly died in the January 14 attack that is said to have killed Mehsud.

Within hours of the report Taliban denied that Mehsud had been killed and challenged reporters to provide proof of it.

“Hakimullah is alive and safe. The purpose of stories regarding his death is to create differences among Taliban ranks, but such people will never succeed," TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told media.

In his early 30s, Mehsud rose to prominence as mastermind of attacks on NATO convoys in Peshawar and Khyber tribal region, near the Afghan border. After the death of Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009 in US missile strike, Hakimullah became the head of Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud has a reputation of being ruthless, aggressive and daring.

Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas said the army was trying to verify the state TV report. "We don't have any confirmation of Mehsud’s death. The report aired on PTV did not come from any state agency”, he added.

A tribal elder told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday that he had attended Mehsud's funeral in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai on Thursday.

There have been reports of Mehsud's death for two weeks now. After the drone strike on January 14, an audiotape came in which Mehsud denied reports that he had been killed. But he gave no indication when the message was recorded. On January 17, Taliban released another tape, hoping no doubt to quell the rumours.

In the tape, Mehsud said: "Today is the 16th of January. I want to confirm to all my mujahidin brothers that I am Hakimullah and I am alive and in good health.” But he was apparently targeted a second time in a drone strike on two vehicles in North Waziristan on Full report at: /timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pak-Taliban-chief-Mehsud-dead-reports-PTV-govt-says-cant-confirm-yet/articleshow/5520185.cms

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KARACHI: ‘Repair work of village school stopped’

Sunday, 31 Jan, 2010

The repair work of a secondary school building in Mubarak Village in Keamari Town has been stopped half way for unexplained reasons, residents of the village told Dawn on Saturday.

They said that the repair work had been initiated about two years back but the contractor concerned stopped the work leaving it half done. While the students enroled at the schools were suffering, their parents were anxious about the loss of their wards’ studies, they said.

The repair work had been ordered by City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal during a visit to the village.

He had also issued necessary directives to the officials concerned for the completion of the work within the stipulated time. However, the residents said, no progress had been made since long in this regard.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/local/karachi-repair-work-of-village-school-stopped-110

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N Korea arms 'were bound for Iran'

January 31, 2010

A shipment of weapons from North Korea seized by Thai authorities last month was headed for Iran, according to a confidential report the Thai government sent to a UN Security Council committee.

The report to the North Korea sanctions committee was released on Saturday.

Thai authorities seized more than 35 tonnes of arms including rockets, fuses, rocket aunchers and rocket-propelled grenades, the report said.

The arms came from a cargo aircraft they said had come from North Korea, and arrested its five crew members after it made an emergency landing at a Bangkok airport in December.

The aircraft departed from Pyongyang and was en route to Mehrabad airport in Tehran, the report said. The shipping firm was listed as Korea Mechanical Industry Co.

The movement of North Korean arms to Iran appears to have been an effort to violate UN sanctions against North Korea that was foiled by the Thai government, diplomats said.

Although Iran is subject to separate UN sanctions because of its nuclear programme, it is not forbidden to import arms.

Inquiries expected

Council diplomats said on condition of anonymity that the sanctions committee was expected to discuss the Thai report next month when it considers its latest quarterly report, due on February 11.

The committee will probably send letters to Pyongyang and Tehran for details on the shipment, the Western diplomats said.

North Korea was hit with fresh UN sanctions last year to punish it for a nuclear test in May 2009, its second atomic detonation. The expanded measures are aimed at cutting off its arms sales, a vital export estimated to earn the destitute state more than $1bn a year.

North Korea's biggest arm sales come from ballistic missiles, with Iran and other Middle Eastern states as customers, according to US government officials.

The UN sanctions and the cut-off of handouts from South Korea have dealt a heavy blow to the North, which has an estimated GDP of $17bn, and may force it back into nuclear disarmament talks in the hopes of winning aid, analysts said.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/01/201013143537927365.html

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One killed as Kashmir demo turns violent: police

Sunday, 31 Jan, 2010

SRINAGAR: A Muslim youth was killed and eight others injured when police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse scores of anti-India protesters in Kashmir on Sunday, police and witnesses said.

The violence broke out when protesters pelted police positions with stones and bricks in downtown Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir and urban hub of anti-India separatists.

The youth was critically injured when a tear gas shell hit his head, a police officer said, insisting on anonymity.

“He later died in hospital,” the officer said, adding that police were still trying to establish the dead person's identity.

The death sparked more protests in Srinagar, with demonstrators burning tyres and blocking roads, residents said.

Kashmir is in the grip of a 20-year insurgency against Indian rule that has left more than 47,000 people dead according to official figures.

Anti-India feeling runs deep in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, the centre of the insurgency.

Kashmir had been relatively stable in recent months but militant violence has increased in the past few weeks.

Earlier in January, Indian commandos stormed a hotel in Srinagar and killed two militants who had been holed up in the guesthouse for nearly 24 hours. A civilian and a policeman also died in the siege and attacks and clashes have continued since. -AFP

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/06-one-killed-as-kashmir-demo-turns-violent-police-rs-03

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Iran Warns Against Protests During Islamic Republic Anniversary

By Ladane Nasseri

January 31, 2010

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which helped quell demonstrations against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that protesters during the Islamic Republic’s anniversary will be considered foreign agents.

“If there is any voice or color other than those of the Islamic Revolution it will be pushed aside and if a minority makes this attempt, it will be firmly confronted,” Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, head of the guards in Tehran, said on SepahNews, the organization’s Web site. Anyone who protests “is not Iranian and will be considered an agent of foreigners.”

The guards led a crackdown against protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed June re-election, which led to the deaths of 44 people, according to official figures. The government has banned protests and the opposition recently has taken to the streets during national or religious events. The anniversary of the Islamic Republic is Feb. 11.

“Our nation overcame one of the biggest sedition plots,” Hamedani said. “The world oppressor was after harming Iran but it did not succeed.” Iranian authorities, who sometimes refer to the U.S. as the world oppressor, accuse western powers and their related media of having fuelled the protests in an effort to undermine the Islamic establishment.

Authorities said some 1,000 people were detained and at least eight people were killed in Dec. 27 clashes.

Iran yesterday started the trial of 14 male and 2 female protesters accused of involvement in last month’s demonstrations, which coincided with the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura.

‘Enmity Toward God’

Five of the defendants are facing charges of “enmity toward God” and the others are being tried for taking part in “illegal protests, threatening national security, and spreading propaganda against the establishment,” state-run Press TV news channel said.

All the suspects were working in line with the interests of the U.S. and other foreign states “seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the report said.

Those convicted of being enemies of God face the death penalty.

Iran on Jan. 28 hanged two of 11 people sentenced to death over their role in anti-government protests.

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-01-31/iran-warns-against-protests-during-islamic-republic-anniversary.html

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