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10501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 30, 2008, 06:32:57 PM

An Anatomy of Surrender
Motivated by fear and multiculturalism, too many Westerners are acquiescing to creeping sharia.

An example of Western self-censorship: Belgian officials prohibited Shark, by David Cerny, depicting Saddam Hussein as an aquatic predator.
Islam divides the world into two parts. The part governed by sharia, or Islamic law, is called the Dar al-Islam, or House of Submission. Everything else is the Dar al-Harb, or House of War, so called because it will take war—holy war, jihad—to bring it into the House of Submission. Over the centuries, this jihad has taken a variety of forms. Two centuries ago, for instance, Muslim pirates from North Africa captured ships and enslaved their crews, leading the U.S. to fight the Barbary Wars of 1801–05 and 1815. In recent decades, the jihadists’ weapon of choice has usually been the terrorist’s bomb; the use of planes as missiles on 9/11 was a variant of this method.

What has not been widely recognized is that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie introduced a new kind of jihad. Instead of assaulting Western ships or buildings, Kho meini took aim at a fundamental Western freedom: freedom of speech. In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies’ basic liberties and extend sharia within those societies.

The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success. Two events in particular—the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology—which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive—people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.

Call it a cultural surrender. The House of War is slowly—or not so slowly, in Europe’s case—being absorbed into the House of Submission.

The Western media are in the driver’s seat on this road to sharia. Often their approach is to argue that we’re the bad guys. After the late Dutch sociologist-turned-politician Pim Fortuyn sounded the alarm about the danger that Europe’s Islamization posed to democracy, elite journalists labeled him a threat. A New York Times headline described him as MARCHING THE DUTCH TO THE RIGHT. Dutch newspapers Het Parool and De Volkskrant compared him with Mussolini; Trouw likened him to Hitler. The man (a multiculturalist, not a Muslim) who murdered him in May 2002 seemed to echo such verdicts when explaining his motive: Fortuyn’s views on Islam, the killer insisted, were “dangerous.”

Perhaps no Western media outlet has exhibited this habit of moral inversion more regularly than the BBC. In 2006, to take a typical example, Manchester’s top imam told psychotherapist John Casson that he supported the death penalty for homosexuality. Casson expressed shock—and the BBC, in a dispatch headlined IMAM ACCUSED OF “GAY DEATH” SLUR, spun the controversy as an effort by Casson to discredit Islam. The BBC concluded its story with comments from an Islamic Human Rights Commission spokesman, who equated Muslim attitudes toward homosexuality with those of “other orthodox religions, such as Catholicism” and complained that focusing on the issue was “part of demonizing Muslims.”

In June 2005, the BBC aired the documentary Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic, which sought to portray concerns about Islamic radicalism as overblown. This “stunning whitewash of radical Islam,” as Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson put it, “helped keep the British public fast asleep, a few weeks before the bombs went off in London subways and buses” in July 2005. In December 2007, it emerged that five of the documentary’s subjects, served up on the show as examples of innocuous Muslims-next-door, had been charged in those terrorist attacks—and that BBC producers, though aware of their involvement after the attacks took place, had not reported important information about them to the police.

Press acquiescence to Muslim demands and threats is endemic. When the Mohammed cartoons—published in September 2005 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to defy rising self-censorship after van Gogh’s murder—were answered by worldwide violence, only one major American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, joined such European dailies as Die Welt and El País in reprinting them as a gesture of free-speech solidarity. Editors who refused to run the images claimed that their motive was multicultural respect for Islam. Critic Christopher Hitchens believed otherwise, writing that he “knew quite a number of the editors concerned and can say for a certainty that the chief motive for ‘restraint’ was simple fear.” Exemplifying the new dhimmitude, whatever its motivation, was Norway’s leading cartoonist, Finn Graff, who had often depicted Israelis as Nazis, but who now vowed not to draw anything that might provoke Muslim wrath. (On a positive note, this February, over a dozen Danish newspapers, joined by a number of other papers around the world, reprinted one of the original cartoons as a free-speech gesture after the arrest of three people accused of plotting to kill the artist.)

Last year brought another cartoon crisis—this time over Swedish artist Lars Vilks’s drawings of Mohammed as a dog, which ambassadors from Muslim countries used as an excuse to demand speech limits in Sweden. CNN reporter Paula Newton suggested that perhaps “Vilks should have known better” because of the Jyllands-Posten incident—as if people who make art should naturally take their marching orders from people who make death threats. Meanwhile, The Economist depicted Vilks as an eccentric who shouldn’t be taken “too seriously” and noted approvingly that Sweden’s prime minister, unlike Denmark’s, invited the ambassadors “in for a chat.”

The elite media regularly underreport fundamentalist Muslim misbehavior or obfuscate its true nature. After the knighting of Rushdie in 2007 unleashed yet another wave of international Islamist mayhem, Tim Rutten wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “If you’re wondering why you haven’t been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it’s because there haven’t been any.” Or consider the riots that gripped immigrant suburbs in France in the autumn of 2005. These uprisings were largely assertions of Muslim authority over Muslim neighborhoods, and thus clearly jihadist in character. Yet weeks passed before many American press outlets mentioned them—and when they did, they de-emphasized the rioters’ Muslim identity (few cited the cries of “Allahu akbar,” for instance). Instead, they described the violence as an outburst of frustration over economic injustice.

When polls and studies of Muslims appear, the media often spin the results absurdly or drop them down the memory hole after a single news cycle. Journalists celebrated the results of a 2007 Pew poll showing that 80 percent of American Muslims aged 18 to 29 said that they opposed suicide bombing—even though the flip side, and the real story, was that a double-digit percentage of young American Muslims admitted that they supported it. U.S. MUSLIMS ASSIMILATED, OPPOSED TO EXTREMISM, the Washington Post rejoiced, echoing USA Today’s AMERICAN MUSLIMS REJECT EXTREMES. A 2006 Daily Telegraph survey showed that 40 percent of British Muslims wanted sharia in Britain—yet British reporters often write as though only a minuscule minority embraced such views.

After each major terrorist act since 9/11, the press has dutifully published stories about Western Muslims fearing an “anti-Muslim backlash”—thus neatly shifting the focus from Islamists’ real acts of violence to non-Muslims’ imaginary ones. (These backlashes, of course, never materialize.) While books by Islam experts like Bat Ye’or and Robert Spencer, who tell difficult truths about jihad and sharia, go unreviewed in newspapers like the New York Times, the elite press legitimizes thinkers like Karen Armstrong and John Esposito, whose sugarcoated representations of Islam should have been discredited for all time by 9/11. The Times described Armstrong’s hagiography of Mohammed as “a good place to start” learning about Islam; in July 2007, the Washington Post headlined a piece by Esposito WANT TO UNDERSTAND ISLAM? START HERE.

Mainstream outlets have also served up anodyne portraits of fundamentalist Muslim life. Witness Andrea Elliott’s affectionate three-part profile of a Brooklyn imam, which appeared in the New York Times in March 2006. Elliott and the Times sought to portray Reda Shata as a heroic bridge builder between two cultures, leaving readers with the comforting belief that the growth of Islam in America was not only harmless but positive, even beautiful. Though it emerged in passing that Shata didn’t speak English, refused to shake women’s hands, wanted to forbid music, and supported Hamas and suicide bombing, Elliott did her best to downplay such unpleasant details; instead, she focused on sympathetic personal particulars. “Islam came to him softly, in the rhythms of his grandmother’s voice”; “Mr. Shata discovered love 15 years ago. . . . ‘She entered my heart,‘ said the imam.” Elliott’s saccharine piece won a Pulitzer Prize. When Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes pointed out that Shata was obviously an Islamist, a writer for the Columbia Journalism Review dismissed Pipes as “right-wing” and insisted that Shata was “very moderate.”

So it goes in this upside-down, not-so-brave new media world: those who, if given the power, would subjugate infidels, oppress women, and execute apostates and homosexuals are “moderate” (a moderate, these days, apparently being anybody who doesn’t have explosives strapped to his body), while those who dare to call a spade a spade are “Islamophobes.”

The entertainment industry has been nearly as appalling. During World War II, Hollywood churned out scores of films that served the war effort, but today’s movies and TV shows, with very few exceptions, either tiptoe around Islam or whitewash it. In the whitewash category were two sitcoms that debuted in 2007, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Little Mosque on the Prairie and CW’s Aliens in America. Both shows are about Muslims confronting anti-Muslim bigotry; both take it for granted that there’s no fundamentalist Islam problem in the West, but only an anti-Islam problem.

Muslim pressure groups have actively tried to keep movies and TV shows from portraying Islam as anything but a Religion of Peace. For example, the Council for American-Islamic Relations successfully lobbied Paramount Pictures to change the bad guys in The Sum of All Fears (2002) from Islamist terrorists to neo-Nazis, while Fox’s popular series 24, after Muslims complained about a story line depicting Islamic terrorists, ran cringe-worthy public-service announcements emphasizing how nonviolent Islam was. Earlier this year, Iranian-Danish actor Farshad Kholghi noted that, despite the cartoon controversy’s overwhelming impact on Denmark, “not a single movie has been made about the crisis, not a single play, not a single stand-up monologue.” Which, of course, is exactly what the cartoon jihadists wanted.

In April 2006, an episode of the animated series South Park admirably mocked the wave of self-censorship that followed the Jyllands-Posten crisis—but Comedy Central censored it, replacing an image of Mohammed with a black screen and an explanatory notice. According to series producer Anne Garefino, network executives frankly admitted that they were acting out of fear. “We were happy,” she told an interviewer, “that they didn’t try to claim that it was because of religious tolerance.”

Then there’s the art world. Postmodern artists who have always striven to shock and offend now maintain piously that Islam deserves “respect.” Museums and galleries have quietly taken down paintings that might upset Muslims and have put into storage manuscripts featuring images of Mohammed. London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery removed life-size nude dolls by surrealist artist Hans Bellmer from a 2006 exhibit just before its opening; the official excuse was “space constraints,” but the curator admitted that the real reason was fear that the nudity might offend the gallery’s Muslim neighbors. Last November, after the cancellation of a show in The Hague of artworks depicting gay men in Mohammed masks, the artist, Sooreh Hera, charged the museum with giving in to Muslim threats. Tim Marlow of London’s White Cube Gallery notes that such self-censorship by artists and museums is now common, though “very few people have explicitly admitted” it. British artist Grayson Perry, whose work has mercilessly mocked Christianity, is one who has—and his reluctance isn’t about multicultural sensitivity. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art,” he told the Times of London, “is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

Leading liberal intellectuals and academics have shown a striking willingness to betray liberal values when it comes to pacifying Muslims. Back in 2001, Unni Wikan, a distinguished Norwegian cultural anthropologist and Islam expert, responded to the high rate of Muslim-on-infidel rape in Oslo by exhorting women to “realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”

More recently, high-profile Europe experts Ian Buruma of Bard College and Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford, while furiously denying that they advocate cultural surrender, have embraced “accommodation,” which sounds like a distinction without a difference. In his book Murder in Amsterdam, Buruma approvingly quotes Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen’s call for “accommodation with the Muslims,” including those “who consciously discriminate against their women.” Sharia enshrines a Muslim man’s right to beat and rape his wife, to force marriages on his daughters, and to kill them if they resist. One wonders what female Muslims who immigrated to Europe to escape such barbarity think of this prescription.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and one of Britain’s best-known public intellectuals, suggested in February the institution of a parallel system of sharia law in Britain. Since the Islamic Sharia Council already adjudicates Muslim marriages and divorces in the U.K., what Williams was proposing was, as he put it, “a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resources.” Gratifyingly, his proposal, short on specifics and long on academic doublespeak (“I don’t think,” he told the BBC, “that we should instantly spring to the conclusion that the whole of that world of jurisprudence and practice is somehow monstrously incompatible with human rights, simply because it doesn’t immediately fit with how we understand it”) was greeted with public outrage.

10502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: September 30, 2008, 06:01:24 PM

Obama and ACORN.
10503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 30, 2008, 05:56:18 PM

I strongly suggest you read Bruce Bawer's book.
10504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 30, 2008, 05:41:48 PM
- Pajamas Media - -

Who’s Sleeping More Deeply — Europe or America?
September 30, 2008 - by Bruce Bawer

In my 2006 book [1] While Europe Slept, I expressed concern about the will of Europeans to defend their freedoms in the face of the continent’s Islamization. I contrasted them in this regard with Americans, for whom, I argued, freedom is a living reality for which they are willing to fight and to sacrifice.

My book came out in the midst of the Danish cartoon crisis. And during that crisis I saw things in Europe that — quite frankly — surprised and impressed me. I saw the editors of a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, stand up for freedom of expression in the face of worldwide rioting, vandalism, and murder by Muslims and contempt on the part of foolish Westerners. I saw a Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in defiance of the UN, the EU, and most of the “international community,” stand by that newspaper and refuse to meet with Muslim ambassadors who were out to intimidate his country and to force Sharia-like restrictions on Western liberties. I saw the people of Denmark, in overwhelming numbers, stand behind their prime minister in his refusal to yield to jihad. And I saw major newspapers across Europe reprinting the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in acts of free-speech solidarity.

I don’t mean to paint too rosy a picture. The Danish response wasn’t perfect. Not a single newspaper in Britain reprinted the cartoons. And both the Swedish and Norwegian governments provided textbook cases of cowering dhimmitude. But none of that was really a surprise. What did surprise, and disappoint, me was the American political and media establishment. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush condemned the Jyllands-Posten cartoons out of hand. The State Department denounced them too, and only reversed itself after getting an earful from the Danish government, one of its few allies in Iraq. In the entire United States of America, exactly one major newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, reprinted the cartoons. And while the major broadcast networks, as well as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, reported extensively on the cartoon riots, none of them ever showed the cartoons at all.

A big part of the reason for this dismaying American response to the cartoon affair is, of course, that Islamization hasn’t progressed as far in America as in Europe, and there’s consequently an incredible level of ignorance in America both about what’s really going on in Europe and about the very nature of Islam. In the current presidential campaign, only a small portion of the electorate seems to think that the war with jihadist Islam is a major issue. The one candidate who understood best what we’re up against, and who took it most seriously, Rudy Giuliani, was ridiculed across the political spectrum for being obsessed with 9/11 — as if the events of that day had been some kind of fluke or accident that has virtually no meaning for us today.

In depressing numbers, in short, Americans seem not to grasp the lessons of 9/11 — which should hardly be a surprise, considering how many journalists and politicians keep repeating that the terrorists are betraying a great and peaceful religion, that jihad means doing good works, and so on. A while back, in response to rumors that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued that it would be a matter of [2] utter indifference if the president of the United States were a Muslim. Of the hundreds of people who commented on this article on the Times website, the overwhelming majority applauded Kristof for his extraordinary courage in standing up to Islamophobia. Only a tiny handful of readers noted that there are, in fact, good reasons for free people to be concerned about the possibility of a U.S. president with a devout commitment to Islamic theology and law. The American media that do report honestly on the less attractive truths about Islam, moreover, tend to be media that people are encouraged to look down upon.

Make no mistake: if Europeans are, on average, more aware than Americans of the realities of Islam, it’s no thanks to their media but rather because they can see with their own eyes what’s going on around them. Yet many of them feel cowed — not only by Muslims but by politically correct politicians and media — into keeping their opinions to themselves, and feel powerless to prevent what now seems to many of them, in any event, inevitable. In other words, fatalism has taken hold.

In While Europe Slept I also contrasted European and American approaches to immigration. Ever since the Muslim influx began some decades ago, European countries have encouraged the newcomers to retain their cultural identity, to live apart from mainstream society, and to become clients of the welfare state. America, by contrast, has traditionally expected immigrants to learn English, to get a job, and to obey the law, and if they do so they’re every bit as American as anyone else. I didn’t argue in While Europe Slept that America was invulnerable to Islamization, but I did suggest that — thanks to this very dramatic difference both in the general public’s attitudes toward immigrants and in government immigration policy — America stood a far better chance than Europe did of seeing Muslim newcomers turn into loyal citizens rather than enemies within. I think I had a valid point there, though if I were writing the book today I’d probably be somewhat less sanguine about America’s ability to integrate absolutely everyone into its melting pot. I might also be less sanguine, I’m afraid, about the endurance of Americans’ love of freedom in an age of poisonous multicultural relativism.

I do feel, however, that there’s one very important difference between America and Europe when it comes to resisting cultural jihad, and that is this: that in America, a large proportion of the people who recognize the threat of Islam and who are determined to resist it are consciously fighting for freedom — for, that is, the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. In many parts of Western Europe, this kind of certainty and unanimity about freedom — simple freedom — as a first principle can be discouragingly hard to come by. The blogger Frank Martin has written about a teenage tour guide at a World War II battlefield in the Netherlands who told him that the Allied soldiers who fell there had been “fighting for bridges, how silly that they would all fight for something like that.” Somebody like that boy, who didn’t grasp that those soldiers had died for the very freedom that he had taken for granted his whole life, is incapable of standing up for freedom against Islamofascism. Yes, there are Europeans who realize that the opposite of Islam is indeed human freedom. But in Europe, with its checkered history of fascism and socialism, there are also all too many people on the right who are mounting the barricades in the name not of freedom but of ethnic identity, cultural tradition, or religion, and all too many on the left whose cri de coeur is not individual liberty but the welfare state.

Meanwhile Europe’s cultural elites are dominated by people who seem likely to continue to smile upon Islamization right up till the moment they’re stoned to death. At a recent Norwegian conference on integration, the Swedish government representative was asked: “Is Swedish culture worth preserving?” “Well,” she replied dismissively, “what is Swedish culture?” To people like that, European culture is a void waiting to be filled with something, and that something might as well be Islam. Granted, things aren’t quite that bad in the U.S. — not even at the New York Times. Yet to an extraordinary extent, the political and cultural elites on both sides of the Atlantic are in sync in their denial of the reality we’re up against.

This was driven home to me a few months ago when I took part in a day-long conference in Washington, D.C., about the America/Europe relationship. Nearly all the participants and audience members, I gathered, were Americans or Europeans who worked in the diplomatic corps. The day was crammed with panel discussions, and from early morning until late in the afternoon we talked about nothing but America and Europe. Yet aside from me, only one other person even mentioned Islam. And he did so in the most indirect way, as if he were bringing up something indelicate. Everybody present seemed to share an unspoken understanding that this subject was off limits. Indeed, pretty much everybody seemed to agree that Europe is doing great — that it’s moving from strength to strength — and that America should be more like it in every way.

How I even got invited to such a conference I have no idea. In any case, everything I said was dismissed out of hand. One genial fellow who seemed desperate to correct my folly and bring me into the tent came up to me after my talk and said, almost pleadingly, “But don’t you think that the real problem is not Islam but Islamophobia?” And on the panel that followed my talk, a retired diplomat with decades of experience (and a masterly command of the art of condescension) mentioned in a tone of both wonder and whimsy that I wasn’t alone in my peculiar affliction; even Walter Laqueur — the distinguished octogenarian historian of Europe whom the retired diplomat, as his tone made clear, had once, but no longer, held in high esteem — had written a book making the same bizarre arguments I was making! But neither this retired diplomat nor anyone else was willing to entertain the possibility that if both Laqueur and I, and many others, had made certain arguments, there might actually be something in them; no, it was as if, in their eyes, we had all simply been bitten by some exotic bug or contracted some mysterious new infection or had giant alien pods placed under our beds while we were sleeping.

Among those who are considered experts on Europe, or on transatlantic relations, that patrician diplomat’s attitude is ubiquitous. Tony Judt, in [3] Postwar, his acclaimed 2005 book on Europe since 1945, pronounced the continent in magnificent health and all but ignored Islam. Timothy Garton Ash, in his 2004 book [4] Free World, did the same, only pausing briefly on pages 197 and 198 to admit parenthetically that addressing Europe’s Islamization is “the single most urgent task of European domestic politics in the next decade” — after which he amazingly returned to pretending, as he had on the preceding 196 pages, that Europe’s most urgent tasks lie elsewhere. Meanwhile one book after another on the America-Europe relationship has contended that it’s America that’s the problem — that America is out of step with the world and needs to get back into line, pronto. In the title of Clyde Prestowitz’s 2005 book, America is a “[5] rogue nation” because it refuses to go along and get along with the rest of the planet under the wise auspices of the UN. I don’t know exactly how to characterize or understand this mass self-deception, this determination to cling to an illusion of the West in which the ongoing Islamization of Europe simply is not a factor; it would appear to be rooted partly in confusion, partly in cowardice, partly in careerism — and partly, I think, in a perhaps not entirely conscious conviction that some truths are just too sensational to speak without sounding hysterical, too repulsive to be honest about without sounding (to some ears) vulgar and bigoted, and too challenging to face without being utterly overwhelmed by the scale and the horror of it all.

What happens to the West will depend, in large part, on what happens to this pervasive self-denial and to those men and women of power and influence who cling to it as if to a life raft in a raging sea. Will Europeans who have faced the facts manage to gain power and turn things around before Europe passes the point of no return in its gradual surrender to Sharia? Will the European elites collaborate to realize Nicolas Sarkozy’s dark dream of a Mediterranean Union and develop it in the same ominous way in which the EU itself was developed, steadily compromising individual freedom and representative democracy — and leaving America increasingly out in the cold? Or will the next president of the U.S. be someone who is every bit as eager to appease Islam as the archbishop of Canterbury, resulting in a strong transatlantic alliance devoted not to the joint preservation of freedom but to the joint pursuit of dhimmitude? I’m sorry to say that a year or so ago, when it looked as if the major-party presidential candidates would be Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton — the former of whom obviously gets it, and the latter of whom, I suspect, does so as well — I was considerably more hopeful on this score than I am now.

Article printed from Pajamas Media:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] While Europe Slept:

[2] utter indifference:

[3] Postwar:

[4] Free World:

[5] rogue nation:

10505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 03:04:06 PM
New York City establishment accepts polygamy: A space heater set off a fire that climbed quickly through a three-story Bronx row house, killing ten immigrants from Mali, including nine children of two fathers and three wives. As the city's deadliest fire in nearly 20 years, the tragedy attracted enormous attention, with the mayor and many dignitaries attending the funeral and consoling the two men, Mamadou Soumare and Moussa Magassa. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner volunteered to pay for the funerals. No one said a word about the polygamy. An Associated Press report refers casually to this fact:

The woman who leaped out the window, Assia Magassa - Moussa's 23-year-old second wife – was at Lincoln Medical Center on Saturday with broken legs. … According to Mali's Muslim traditions, a man may have more than one wife.

(March 10, 2007) Mar. 23, 2007 update: The New York Times directly takes on polygamy in its home city. Nina Bernstein writes in "In Secret, Polygamy Follows Africans to N.Y." that

Polygamy in America, outlawed in every state but rarely prosecuted, has long been associated with Mormon splinter groups out West, not immigrants in New York. But a fatal fire in a row house in the Bronx on March 7 revealed its presence here, in a world very different from the suburban Utah setting of "Big Love," the HBO series about polygamists next door.

The city's mourning for the dead  a woman and nine children in two families from Mali  has been followed by a hushed double take at the domestic arrangements described by relatives: Moussa Magassa, the Mali-born American citizen who owned the house and was the father of five children who perished, had two wives in the home, on different floors. Both survived.

No one knows how prevalent polygamy is in New York. Those who practice it have cause to keep it secret: under immigration law, polygamy is grounds for exclusion from the United States. Under state law, bigamy can be punished by up to four years in prison. No agency is known to collect data on polygamous unions, which typically take shape over time and under the radar, often with religious ceremonies overseas and a visitor's visa for the wife, arranged by other relatives. Some men have one wife in the United States and others abroad.

But the Magassas clearly are not an isolated case. Immigration to New York and other American cities has soared from places where polygamy is lawful and widespread, especially from West African countries like Mali, where demographic surveys show that 43 percent of women are in polygamous marriages.

And the picture that emerges from dozens of interviews with African immigrants, officials and scholars of polygamy is of a clandestine practice that probably involves thousands of New Yorkers. …

Don't-ask-don't-know policies prevail in many agencies that deal with immigrant families in New York, perhaps because there is no framework for addressing polygamy in a city that prides itself on tolerance of religious, cultural and sexual differences  and on support for human rights and equality.

… stories of polygamy, New York style, are typically shared by women only in whispered conversations in laundries and at hair-braiding salons. With no legal immigration status and no right to asylum from polygamy, many are afraid to expose their husbands to arrest or deportation, which could dishonor and impoverish their families here and in Africa.

In sum, this report suggests, polygamy is in New York by the thousands, it causes much suffering, but no one has the will to take it on. Mar. 7, 2008 update: In a one-year update on the surviving family members, the New York Times again blithely accepts polygamy, reporting that Moussa Magassa, 46, the father of five children who died in the fire, said in an interview that "his family has grown since the fire: Two wives recently gave birth, one to twins." The reporter, Timothy Williams, notes delicately only that Magassa "is from Mali, where polygamy is legal and widespread." The New York Post causally provides the eye-popping information (in the caption to a picture) that Magassa has taken a third wife: "Moussa Magassa now has nine children with his wives, Aisse, Manthia and Niekale."

Comment: I wonder if Magassa trekked back to Mali to marry Niekale or whether he "married" her in the United States. If the latter, he is as liable to charges of polygamy as any Mormon fundamentalist, but something tells me, much less likely to have the law after him.

Taxpayer subsidies for UK harems: According to a sensationalist story by Nigel Nelson in The People, "Have a Harem: Geta Handout," it's not just Inland Revenue but other government agencies that recognize polygamous marriages. He finds that the British taxpayer spends £5m a year on polygamous immigrants who bring harems into the country for such benefits as jobseekers' allowances, housing benefits, and council tax relief. Their children can claim child benefits and family tax credits. For example, as Nelson colorfully puts it, "The exhausted husband also gets a Jobseeker's Allowance of £90.10 a week for himself and his first wife. Extra wives get £32.65 each." The Welfare Minister, Philip Hunt, is quoted acknowledging that "British law recognises those marriages. Income-related benefits can be paid for more than one wife." (November 12, 2006) May 28, 2007 update: The Times (London) follows up with more information: The Department for Work and Pensions estimates there are "fewer than 1,000 valid polygamous marriages in the UK, few of whom are claiming a state benefit." Here's how it works:

Britain does recognise polygamous marriages that have taken place in countries where the custom is legal, such as Pakistan, Nigeria and India. The Home Office said that multiple wives in polygamous marriages may be allowed into the country as students or tourists. Officials are advised to let extra wives into Britain even if they suspect that a husband is trying to cheat the system by getting bogus divorces. "Entry clearance may not be withheld from a second wife where the husband has divorced his previous wife and the divorce is thought to be one of convenience," an immigration rulebook advises. "This is so, even if the husband is still living with the previous wife and to issue the entry clearance would lead to the formation of a polygamous household." …

A husband may claim housing benefit for each wife even if she is abroad, for up to 52 weeks, as long as the absence is temporary and for pressing reasons. In a draft Commons reply released under the Freedom of Information Act, officials explained another way in which the system made it easy to receive handouts. "A polygamous marriage is the only circumstance in which an adult dependency increase is payable in income-related benefits," it stated. "In any other circumstances an adult ‘dependent' would have to make a separate claim."

To calculate the amount of income support that is payable to an extra wife, officials subtract the rate paid to an individual from that paid to a couple. This produces the amount that a cohabiting spouse is deemed to need in social security benefits. If a man lives with two valid wives, his household is paid the rate for a couple, plus an amount for the extra spouse, the documents show.

Tax credits for UK harems: The paymaster general of the Treasury, Dawn Primarolo, gave this reply at a parliamentary inquiry:

Where a man and a woman are married under a law which permits polygamy, and either of them has an additional spouse, the Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003 allow them to claim tax credits as a polygamous unit. It is only those in legal polygamous unions who are covered by these regulations and there is no provision for those in less formal arrangements to claim as a polygamous unit.

Azouz Begag, French minister for promoting the equalty of opportunity.
(December 2, 2005)

Accepting polygamy in France: Azouz Begag, French minister for promoting the equalty of opportunity (yes, such a position exists) laconically addressed the issue of polygamy by saying that the country "could find a way to live with it." (September 9, 2005)

Polygamous UK wives inherit tax-free from husbands: Nicholas Hellen, "Muslim second wives may get a tax break" provides rich details, which I feel compelled to quote at length so as not to lose their texture:

The Inland Revenue is considering recognising polygamy for some religious groups for tax purposes. Officials have agreed to examine "family friendly" representations from Muslims who take up to four wives under sharia, the laws derived from the Koran. Existing rules allow only one wife for inheritance tax purposes. The Revenue has been asked to relax this so that a husband's estate can be divided tax-free between several wives.

The move is bound to create controversy if it leads to a change in the rules. It is seen as a breakthrough by Muslim leaders who have been campaigning to incorporate sharia into British domestic law. Ahmad Thomson, of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said: "Wives and immediate children should be exempt from inheritance tax. If the government is family friendly they should change a tax which is unfairly hitting minority religious values."

Any concession by the Revenue could open a wider debate about the legality of plural marriages. At present a person married to more than one people can be charged with bigamy. Muslim marriages to second, third and fourth wives are not valid in civil law, with the women effectively regarded as mistresses with no legal or tax rights.

However, some official bodies have already pointed out that tax laws are unfavourable to religious groups that recognise more than one spouse. The National Audit Office (NAO) recently concluded that the tax system inadvertently penalised devout Muslims. An NAO inquiry into inheritance laws found that devout Muslims were not able to take full advantage of British tax law, which allows spouses to inherit an entire estate from their husband or wife tax free. …

Sadiq Khan, a leading Muslim politician, said: "I am pleased to see the Inland Revenue applying common sense to the application of Islamic law on uncontroversial matters such as inheritance. There are some other uncontroversial areas of Islam law which could easily be applied to the legal system we have in the UK." …

Gordon Brown, the chancellor, has already made one significant concession to adapt to the dictates of sharia. In the 2003 Finance Act he spared Muslims from paying stamp duty twice on their properties when they took out "Islamic mortgages" that complied with the sharia ban on paying interest. The Islamic mortgages involve the lender buying the house — ownership is transferred to the purchaser only at the end of the repayment period.

In a totally startling development, perhaps what most stands out is the idea that polygamy is already deemed "uncontroversial." (December 26, 2004)
10506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 03:02:04 PM
"Yes, I'm married," he said, quashing all her dreams of their future together. He told her he was married in a small ceremony 20 days earlier, officiated by Aly Hindy, a well-known Toronto imam, at his Scarborough mosque.

"I cried for six days straight. Lost my appetite, ignored the kids, even had to start taking antidepressants," said Rigby, 35. "What I couldn't understand was how such a thing could happen in Toronto, my hometown, where polygamy is supposed to be illegal."

It was easy. He simply found an imam willing to break a Canadian law, in exchange for upholding an Islamic one. "Polygamy is happening in Toronto; it's not common, but it's happening," said Hindy, imam at Salahuddin Islamic Centre.

Aly Hindy, a pro-polygamy imam at the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Scarborough, Canada.
Hindy says he has "blessed" more than 30 polygynous marriages, most recently just two months ago. "This is in our religion and nobody can force us to do anything against our religion. If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that."
The laws of the country do indeed conflict with the Shari‘a when it comes to polygamy, outlawed in Canada in 1892, punishable with up to five years in prison. That said, the last time the Canadian authorities prosecuted polygamy was over 60 years ago.

Despite this record, Hindy is not an enthusiast for the practice. "I don't encourage people to do it, unless they have reason for it. Life ends up being very complicated. You have to jump from one house to another all the time." (May 24, 2008) June 1, 2008 update: Publication of the above story in the Toronto Star inspired Fouad Boutaya, the man who made that telephone call to Safa Rigby, to go public with his side of the story. Particularly dramatic was how he found out about his wife suddenly being married to Rigby's husband, Hossny Ismail.

Boutaya remembers every detail of the moment of revelation he has relived in his mind many times since. The former civil servant came home early from a job-hunting trip to Ottawa to surprise his wife and two children, picking up a cake on his way. When he arrived, he found Ismail sitting at the dinner table, eating comfortably, as if he was in his own home.

"I asked him, ‘What are you doing here, my friend? You should not be here alone with my wife when I am not here,'" said Boutaya. "What's the problem?" Boutaya said Ismail replied. "She is my wife."

In shock, Boutaya stormed out with his two children – a daughter, 7, and son, 11 – and drove to the local police station in Hamilton. "It was my first reaction. I just needed someone to listen to me and protect me," said Boutaya. Instead, he was told that he didn't have much of a case.

So Boutaya sought proof. He spent the next month talking to imams while taking care of his children and trying to adjust to life at the Good Shepherd Centre, a local shelter, where they lived for four months. His wife continued to live in their home. "It's been so hard for my kids. They were in shock for weeks afterwards," said Boutaya, who now lives in subsidized housing.

Dutch will not prosecute polygamy: Dutch justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told parliament that polygamous Muslim marriages should be dealt with via dialogue, not the legal system. Hirsch Ballin gave this response in answer to questions from two Labor Party members, Khadija Arib and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who suggested the government should actively persecute polygamists. They noted some of the problems of such marriages, for example that children produced from them cannot be registered and thus are not eligible for official papers. To this, the minister replied that if the father recognizes the child, there should be no problem. (April 21, 2008)

Mohammed Anwar, restaurant owner, polygamist, speed driver.
Scottish court accepts polygyny as reason for speeding while driving: Mohammed Anwar, owner of "Sanam," a restaurant in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, was caught driving at 64 mph in a 30 mph zone in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 21, 2007, driving so much above the speed limit that he ordinarily would have automatically lost his driving license. Except that he offered an excuse that tugged on the heart strings of Sheriff John C. Morris in Airdrie Sheriff Court who allowed Anwar to keep his license in the course of a five-minute court appearance. The excuse? Let Anwar's lawyer, Paul Nicolson, explain the argument he made in court:

He realises his licence is at risk, but this is an unusual case and is very anxious to keep his driving licence. He has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow and sleeps with one night and stays with the other the next on an alternate basis. Without his driving licence he would be unable to do this on a regular basis. He is also a restaurant owner and has a restaurant in Falkirk, which he has had for the past 30 years. He has had a clean driving licence until now, and on this particular evening was on his way home after a busy evening at his restaurant.

When caught speeding, by the way, Anwar was on his way from the restaurant to the Glasgow wife. Given these special circumstances, Morris merely fined him £200 and gave him six penalty points.

Commenting afterwards, Anwar told Alex Dowdalls of the Daily Mail: "It is true I have two wives. Muslim men are allowed up to four. But I am not a religious leader and it is not my place to comment. As a matter of respect to my wives I would not comment on my home life. The sheriff did not ban me because I need my licence to run my business, although my wives were also part of the decision." (April 5, 2008)

Italian harems "on the rise": Muslim scholars estimates the number of polygynous marriages in Italy at 15,000-20,000, La Repubblica reports, with the phenomenon increasing along with Muslim immigration as well as conversions. Unlike Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Ontario, however, the Italian state does not offer welfare benefits to more than one wife per husband. The paper tells the story of Baba Kar, who reached Italy wifeless in 1999 from Senegal. He began by bringing Fadu, along with their three-year-old son. On getting a work permit, Kar brought Nkeir. The four of them lived in a two-room apartment in Brescia. "The Koran says I can have up to four wives. I observe my religion, and I have never had any problems with the Italian state," Kar reflected.

Indeed, the Italian state, while only recognizing Fadu as Kar's wife, has indicated that polygamous marriages legally contracted abroad are acceptable. Recently a court in Bologna allowed a Muslim immigrant to bring the mothers of his two children to Italy on the grounds that the dual marriages had been legally contracted. (April 2, 2008)

Polygamous Canadian wives recognized and eligible for benefits: The Ontario Family Law Act accepts polygamy. It defines "Polygamous marriage" as "a marriage that is actually or potentially polygamous, if it was celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid." In other words, the act recognizes polygamous marriages legally contracted in other countries.

Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims.
According to Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, "several hundred" Muslim men in the Greater Toronto Area engage in polygamous marriages, for "Polygamy is a regular part of life for many Muslims." They do this by the man and one wife and children first entering Canada as landed immigrants, then they sponsor the other spouses and children, or these arrive as visitors.
Ali also says some of them receive welfare and social benefits for their additional wives. "There are many people in the community who are taking advantage of this," Ali said. "This is a law and there's nothing wrong with it." He is proud of Canada's record: "Canada is a very liberal-minded country. Canada is way ahead of Britain in this respect." That said, the families receiving benefits keep their identities hidden, fearing too many questions and a cut off of benefits, Ali added.

In contrast, city and provincial officials say that welfare applicants can claim only a single spouse; other adults living in the same household must apply on their own for welfare. According to Brenda Nesbitt, Toronto's director of social services, "There may be polygamous cases we are not aware off. They can apply as single people and we won't know." Erike Botond, spokesman for the Ontario Community and Social Services, notes that social assistance may only include a single spouse. "Other adults residing in the same dwelling place as a recipient and their spouse may apply as individuals."

The immigration authority seems not to realize that the rules have changed. "I can assure you," says its spokesman, Karen Shadd-Evelyn, "that polygamy is not recognized under immigration legislation. A conjugal relationship, whether involving marriage or a common-law partnership, must be exclusive." (February 8, 2008)

Polygamous UK wives recognized and eligible for benefits: British law recognizes only a single spouse and bigamy is punished by up to seven years in jail. But if a husband should arrive in Britain from a country that permits polygamy is legal, then the law recognizes multiple wives. More than recognizes; the UK benefits system formally accepts multiple wives as dependents and pays for them. The Department of Work and Pensions guidelines on housing and council tax benefits read:

If you were legally married to more than one partner under the laws of a country that permits this, then your relationship is called a polygamous marriage. In this case your household consists of you and any partners who live with you and to whom you are married.

The DWP pays couples up to £92.80 a week (in jobseeker's allowance, housing and council tax benefits) and each "additional spouse" receives another £33.65. Now that this policy has become public, however, and raised a small furor, the DWP is reviewing its policy. (April 18, 2007) Feb. 3, 2008 update: A year-long government review has confirmed this policy, The Sunday Telegraph reveals today in "Multiple wives will mean multiple benefits" by Jonathan Wynne-Jones. In addition to the DWP, three other departments were involved in the review: Treasury, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Home Office. They reached their conclusions in December 2007 but did not publicize the results. Despite the fact that bigamy is punishable in Britain by up to seven years in prison, the departments concluded that recognizing multiple marriages entered into in foreign countries was "the best possible" option. Wynne-Jones explains the implications:

Even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, the decision by ministers means that polygamous marriages can now be recognised formally by the state, so long as the weddings took place in countries where the arrangement is legal. The outcome will chiefly benefit Muslim men with more than one wife, as is permitted under Islamic law. Ministers estimate that up to a thousand polygamous partnerships exist in Britain, although they admit there is no exact record. …

New guidelines on income support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) state: "Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate ... The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently £33.65." Income support for all of the wives may be paid directly into the husband's bank account, if the family so choose. Under the deal agreed by ministers, a husband with multiple wives may also be eligible for additional housing benefit and council tax benefit to reflect the larger property needed for his family.
10507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 02:52:26 PM
Harems Accepted in the West
by Daniel Pipes
Fri, 24 Dec 2004
updated Sun, 17 Aug 2008
As the definition of marriage loosens from its once-strict notion of a man and a woman, all sorts of novel arrangements are turning up – notably homosexual "marriages" and polygamy. This development has come at just the right moment for the growing, demanding Muslim populations in the West, which are asserting their right to one husband and multiple wives. This weblog entry looks, in reverse chronological order, at some of the more interesting signs of polygamy's advance in the West.


Moroccan immigrant fights polygamy in Italy: Souad Sbai, 47, a Moroccan immigrant living in Italy since 1981, is fighting an uphill battle against harems in Italy, Tracy Wilkinson reports for the Los Angeles Times. She estimates the existence of 14,000 polygamous families in Italy and argues that polygamist husbands practice a particularly abusive household: feeling threatened by Western culture, they often imprison their wives, leaving the wives "in a kind of ghetto," according to Sbai. She created a hotline for Muslim immigrant women and heard from about 1,000 of them in the first three months. She realized she had found a hitherto hidden community, many isolated in polygamous households, most of them Moroccan and illiterate. (July 15, 2008)

Keysar Trad and his wife Hanifeh pictured at their Sydney, Australia, home.
Australia recognizes polygamous marriages contracted elsewhere: Natalie O'Brien, a senior writer with the Australian, tells the story of Keysar Trad, 44, drops and in the course of it, drops a bombshell. She reports that "In Australia it is illegal to enter into a polygamous marriage. But the federal government, like Britain, recognises relationships that have been legally recognised overseas, including polygamous marriages. This allows second wives and children to claim welfare and benefits."

O'Brien presents Trad's polygamous urges with great sympathy, telling how his wife Hanifeh returned with their six children to the couple's native Lebanon for several months, leaving him lonely in Sydney's western suburbs. Taking a second wife "seemed the natural thing to do for Trad," writes O'Brien, for he

had already lived through the experience of being the son of his father's second wife, who became part of the family after the first wife became too ill to look after their children. A childhood spent living with a mother and a stepmother was completely normal. "There was nothing out of the ordinary," Trad tells The Australian. "My mother and my stepmother were always best friends. They never argued. She looked at my mum like she was her sister."

Their extended family took shape in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in the 1960s. "That society was very open-minded," Trad recalls. "Even though it was not the norm. I was not aware of any other family with that sort of relationship. But generally, I found people didn't care as long as the relationship was a peaceful one." But Trad's mother warned him not to talk about the family arrangements, saying people really were not that open-minded.

Back to Sydney in 2008, however:

Whether a second wife would work in the Trad household remains another issue. The Trads say they have discussed the idea only in principle. Trad's wife, Hanifeh, is not against the idea of having another woman in her husband's life. She says she has enough confidence in herself not to let it affect her ego. However, she's concerned of the effect it might have on her children and how they would be affected by the stigma. "We don't know whether it would work for us. We have only intellectualised, we have never practised it," Trad says.

Although Trad in the end did not marry a second wife, he supports Khalil Chami's call (see below) for Australia to recognize polygamous marriages on the grounds that doing so helps protect the rights of women in such relationships. Now, Trad says women are left in a vulnerable financial position if the man dies.

O'Brien also quotes Silma Ihram, described as an Anglo-Australian convert to Islam and a pioneer of Muslim education in Australia, urging a public discussion of polygamy, and not just for Muslims. "Take away the Islamic tag because that is irrelevant. There are many people whose marriages are not registered and there are a large number of people having affairs. … Where are we going with the family structure? Where are we going on relationships? We need to ask the questions: How important is it to have a one-on-one relationship and is it acceptable to have more than partner?" (June 26, 2008)

More privileges to polygamous marriages in Belgium: The Belgium Constitutional Court annulled a stipulation in the alien law of 2006 that denied the right of family reunification to children born of a polygamous marriage and who were descended of an alien established in Belgium or from an alien who was already permitted or authorized to an unlimited stay and from one of the spouses not living in Belgium. (June 26, 2008) July 15, 2008 update: In another ruling, the Belgian Constitutional Court has forbidden discrimination against the children of polygamous marriages, for example in the handling of visa applications to enter the country. The ruling does not clearly apply to spouses in polygamous marriages, though Freddy Rosemont, head of the Alien Affairs Department (DVZ), says that the court also annulled the article of the law that bans spouses in polygamous marriages.

Australian sheikh calls for polygamy to be legalized: Khalil Chami of the Islamic Welfare Centre in Sydney has called for polygamous marriages, which already exist in the country, to be recognized and regularized in Australia. Chami told a radio program that he is asked almost weekly to conduct polygamous ceremonies; although he declines, other sheikhs accede. "There are a lot of sheikhs here without any qualifications, without any place. They'll conduct that marriage no problem at all."

To this, Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia added his agreement (for the rights of women to be protected, of course), revealing that he

once proposed to another woman with the consent of his wife, Hanefa, but the second marriage did not proceed. "I certainly would not have entertained the thought of having a relationship without a religious marriage and I thought the relationship with that person was developing to the stage where we had become too friendly with each other," he told the program. "Rather than entertain any thoughts of an affair I thought the only decent thing to do was to consider a proper commitment to that person. This idea of plural sexual relationships, it is not so much frowned upon by society as long as these people don't say we want a polygamous relationship."

Trad also told about his own mother being the third wife in a polygamous relationship and praised the family setup in which the women admired, respected, and supported each other.

In a sense, it's a compliment to the original partner that if he didn't find marriage to be so good why would he go into it again," he said. "In a sense, he's saying that his first wife has made life like heaven for him so he's willing to provide the same service, love and support to a second woman." He said women were choosing to enter into such marriages.

Trad's mother also got on the radio and praised polygamy. Then, asked if it is about men wanting sex with several women, she replied: "Yeah it can be, but having it in the right way instead of having it in like go to prostitute or just date."

To this talk, Attorney-General Robert McClelland responded severely: "Everyone should be on notice that the law in Australia is that marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. That's based on a long tradition. It's based on the culture of our community and polygamous relationships are entirely inconsistent with that culture and indeed with the law. Polygamous relationships are and will remain unlawful." (June 25, 2008) June 26, 2008 update: This exchange appears to have inspired Ismail Yusanto, the head of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Indonesia (and husband to two wives), to advise Australia to legalize polygamy immediately. "Do you allow prostitution [in Australia]?" he asked. "Why? Even though it enables women to become chattels, to be traded, and given a price?" Polygamy, he argues "should be accepted. If you believe in what you call human rights and freedom of expression, then it must be allowed. If someone wants to marry and take responsibility for a woman, why wouldn't you let them?"

More pro-polygamy propaganda from National Public Radio: Barbara Bradley Hagerty focuses on Philadelphia's African-American Muslims and recounts the story of Zaki and Mecca, who are in their late 20s, have been married to each other for nearly 12 years, live in the Philadelphia suburbs, work in the real estate business, have a 5-year-old son – and also a second wife. How this jolly development came to pass:

Two years ago, Mecca told her husband she wanted to study Arabic in the Middle East, which would mean a lot of time away from home. (NPR is not using any full names in this story because some of those we interviewed could be prosecuted for bigamy.) "We were talking about it," Mecca recalls, "and the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I'm going to have to find you another wife!'"

Zaki was game. After all, he had been raised in a polygamous home in Philadelphia. Like many black Muslims, his father subscribed to an orthodox view of Islam that allows a man to marry several women. Zaki says he loved having seven siblings and four mothers, especially at dinnertime. "I would find out who's making what that particular night. I know that this mom makes barbequed chicken better than my other mom makes fried chicken, so I'm going with the barbequed chicken tonight. Things of that nature," he says with a laugh. …

When it came to finding a second wife, Zaki said he had no one in mind, and he asked Mecca to conduct the search. "You know, he gave me the baton, and I took it and ran with it," Mecca says. Mecca launched a nationwide search. She found candidates by word of mouth. She scoured the Internet. Eventually, she interviewed about a dozen women. "I had to make sure that she'd be the right fit — not just for my husband, but for our whole family," Mecca says.

But the ultimate match was right under their noses: 20-year-old Aminah, who was a friend of Zaki's younger sister. Aminah knew Mecca was looking for a second wife but thought she was too young. That is, until one night after a dinner party when Mecca pulled her aside. Mecca asked Aminah if she would consider marrying Zaki. "And I said, ‘That's funny, because I was thinking the same thing,'" Aminah says.

Zaki was the last to know the identity of the final candidate to be his bride. He could have vetoed the choice, of course, but he was delighted. In October 2007, he and Aminah married in a religious, not civil, ceremony. Many polygamous marriages are conducted in secret and are not legally binding because state laws prohibit them.

Aminah recalls that Mecca helped prepare the wedding feast. Aminah, who's finishing college, lives in an apartment a few miles away from Mecca's house. Zaki moves between homes on alternating nights. But every week after Friday prayers, they get together as a family. "It can be a variety of things," Zaki says. "Going to a nice restaurant, catching a movie, going bowling, maybe seeing a concert. All kind of things." "I always call it family date night, because it's one big date," Mecca says. "We just chill. I always look forward to it. We always have a ball, laughing, goofing around."

(May 28, 2008)

50,000-100,000 American Muslims live polygamously: So reports National Public Radio in the first of a two-part series. It quotes Daisy Khan, head of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, to the effect that polygamy is more common among Muslim immigrants from Africa and Asia and rarer among those from the Middle East. Being NPR, it stresses the cheery aspects of polygamy, as in this story about Mona, a Palestinian woman with six children from her first marriage, who is happy to have had the chance to become a second wife.

When Mona got divorced in 1990, she became a pariah in her conservative Muslim community in Patterson, N.J. "When ladies divorce," she says, "the people look down on her — looking to her like [she's] second class." Then 14 years ago, a man approached her to be his second wife. She resisted at first but then grew to admire him and agreed to become his wife. She says her problems evaporated.

"When I married the second husband, everybody's OK," she says, smiling. "If I go anywhere, I'm free, nobody talks, because I have a husband." He provides for both of his families, and he divides time between the two homes. Mona says the first wife was initially angry, but she got used to it. "What is the problem? If he is not happy with the first marriage, why he stay all the life like this? You know, my religion is good because it gives man and woman another chance to be happy."

(May 27, 2008)

Toronto imam officiated at over 30 polygamous marriages: Noor Javed of the Toronto Star tells the story of Aly Hindy and his polygynous marriage-making:

Safa Rigby holds the youngest of her five children.
There were no pleasantries, there was no small talk. Safa Rigby had expected to hear her husband's voice when the phone rang one morning. Instead, the caller didn't even bother to say hello. "You think you know your husband. You don't know him at all," said the man, a friend of her husband's. "His car is parked outside my house right now. He is with my ex-wife. They just got married last week," the man said.
It took a minute for the news to sink in. Then she called her husband of 14 years, demanding to know if what she had just been told was true – that while she spent a year in Egypt raising their four children in a more Islamic environment, he had used it as an opportunity to marry not just one, but two other women in Toronto.

10508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACORN on: September 30, 2008, 02:00:13 PM
**SanFranNan provides cover for the guilty**

Democrat Leaders Played to Lose
By The Prowler
Published 9/30/2008 12:50:21 AM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered her Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, to essentially not do his job in the runup to the vote on Monday for the negotiated Wall Street bailout plan, according to House Democrat leadership aides.

"Clyburn was not whipping the votes you would have expected him to, in part because he was uncomfortable doing it, in part because we didn't want the push for votes to be successful," says one leadership aide. "All we needed was enough to potentially get us over the finish line, but we wanted the Republicans to be the ones to do it. This was not going to be a Democrat-passed bill if the Speaker had anything to say about it."

During the floor vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Democrat Conference chair Rahm Emanuel could be seen monitoring the vote on the floor, and gauging whether or not more Democrat votes were needed. Clyburn had expressed concerns, says the leadership aide, of being asked to press members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses on a bill he was certain those constituencies would not want passed.

"It worked out, because we didn't have a dog in this fight. We negotiated. We gave the White House a bill. It was up to the Republicans to get the 100 plus votes they needed and they couldn't do it," said another Democrat leadership aide.

Emanuel, who served as a board member for Freddie Mac, one of the agencies that precipitated the economic crisis the nation now finds itself in, had no misgivings about taking a leadership role in tanking the bill. "He was cheerleading us along, mothering the votes," says the aide. "We wanted enough to put the pressure on the Republicans and Congressman Emanuel was charged with making it close enough. He did a great job."

Pelosi and her aides have made it clear they were not going to "whip" or twist the arms of members who did not want to vote, but they also made no effort to rally any support for a bill they attempted to hijack over the weekend.

Further, according to House Oversight Committee staff, Emanuel has received assurances from Pelosi that she will not allow what he termed a "witch hunt" to take place during the next Congressional session over the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the economic crisis.

Emanuel apparently is concerned the roles former Clinton Administration members may have played in the mortgage industry collapse could be politically -- or worse, if the Department of Justice had its way, legally -- treacherous for many.
10509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 12:41:49 PM
Saudi Arabia=Not poor, not in AFRICA
10510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 12:34:05 PM
The Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice (CPVPV) is a semiautonomous agency with the authority to monitor social behavior and enforce morality consistent with the Government's interpretation of Islam, primarily, but not exclusively, within the public realm. Founded by King Abdul Aziz in 1926, the CPVPV reports to the King through the Council of Ministers. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) coordinates with, but does not have authority over the CPVPV, and its full-time or volunteer field officers are known as mutawwa'in. The mutawwa'in do not wear uniforms, but they are now required to wear identification badges and can only act in their official capacity when accompanied by a regular policeman. The 1980 law that formally established the CPVPV defines the body's mission as "guiding and advising people to observe the religious duties prescribed by Islamic Shari'a, and . . . to preclude committing [acts] proscribed and prohibited [by Shari'a], or adopting bad habits and traditions or taboo [sic] heresies."
While the 1980 law does not clearly define the CPVPV's jurisdiction, that law's Executive Regulations state that the mutawwa'in are authorized to monitor various practices including: mixing of the two sexes; men's advances toward women; practicing or displaying non-Muslim faiths or disrespecting Islam; displaying or selling media contrary to Islam, including pornography; producing, distributing, or consuming alcohol; venerating places or celebrating events inconsistent with Islamic practices; practicing magic for profit; and committing or facilitating of lewdness, including adultery, homosexuality, and gambling.
In 2006 the Government declared that religious police could no longer detain or interrogate suspects or violate the sanctity of private homes. However, on July 1, 2007, Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abulaziz Al Saud rolled back the previous year's prohibition on entering private homes but reaffirmed the need for mutawwa'in to hand over any suspects to the regular police for detention. Additionally, the mutawwa'in can only act in their official capacity when accompanied by a police officer, and they are not allowed to administer any kind of punishment. Nevertheless, the Government conducted investigations into several incidents that occurred during the reporting period where the mutawwa'in were accused of violating these restrictions. In addition, the government-controlled press frequently criticized mutawwa'in activity.
The Government's stated policy is to permit private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious practice, and to address violations of this policy by government officials. However, the mutawwa'in sometimes did not respect this policy. Individuals whose ability to worship privately had been infringed could address their grievances through the MOI, the official government Human Rights Commission (HRC), the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR-- a quasi-autonomous nongovernmental organization (NGO)), and when appropriate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The HRC and NSHR reported that they received and acted on complaints against the mutawwa'in. No information was made available on the number of complaints filed during the reporting period or the Government's response to these complaints.
The Government-stated policy is that religious materials for private personal use are allowed in the country, and customs officials and the mutawwa'in do not have the authority to confiscate personal religious materials. However, the mutawwa'in did not always respect this policy. It is also the Government's stated policy to inform foreign workers at its missions abroad that they have the right to worship privately and possess personal religious materials, and to provide the name of the appropriate offices where grievances can be filed. However, during the reporting period there was no evidence the Government carried out this policy, either orally or in writing, and there were no reports of any grievances filed by such workers.
In a February 16, 2008, interview with the English language daily Saudi Gazette, the CPVPV President stated that the CPVPV had 5,000 staff members, including 3,227 mutawwa'in spread throughout all 13 provinces. He added that all new staff members had a one-year probationary period before they were allowed to work in the field. A study reported in the November 3, 2007, Saudi Gazette stated that 44 percent of CPVPV members were college graduates and 79 percent were high school graduates. Reportedly 4 percent had traveled abroad, 15 percent were unable to speak any language but Arabic, and 23 percent were considering a career change. The pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported on April 9, 2008, on a CPVPV-commissioned independent study that showed that the CPVPV conducted 406,000 arrests in 2007. According to the study, during this period, CPVPV members committed 37 violations and 25 members were victims of assault. There were reports that the mutawwa'in claimed they referred very few arrests to the "relevant authorities," supposedly to protect the privacy of those involved and reduce the caseload of the overstretched police force.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call, Guidance, and Endowments (MOIA) was established in 1993 as a bridge between the Government and religious leadership. The MOIA supervises and finances the construction and maintenance of most Sunni mosques; however, approximately 30 percent of Sunni mosques were built and endowed by private persons, either as acts of charity or at private residences. Shi'a mosques do not receive MOIA support and instead rely on private contributions, which can vary widely, depending on the number and generosity of the congregants they serve. The process for obtaining a Government-required license for a Shi'a mosque is reportedly unclear and arbitrary.
The MOIA employs approximately 78,000 persons, including 50,000 Sunni imams, who are chosen by their communities and approved by the Government. Based on the size of their communities, the imams receive monthly MOIA stipends ranging between $500 and $800 (1875 and 3000 riyals), which is considered low, compared to other full-time civil servant salaries. Preachers who deliver the Friday prayers receive an additional monthly stipend of $425. The majority of Sunni imams are full-time MOIA employees, with some private mosques employing non-Saudi imams. However, the government salaries paid to imams is supplemental, rather than their primary source of personal income, as most imams have separate businesses. As with Shi'a mosques, Shi'a imams are not funded by the MOIA and instead rely on community contributions, which can vary widely, depending on the number of congregants they serve.
An MOIA committee defines the qualifications of Sunni imams, and the MOI is responsible for investigating complaints against imams for promoting intolerance, violence, or hatred. While not always followed, the Government's policy is to counsel imams who issue intolerant fatwas or who make religious statements that promote intolerance, violence, or hatred, especially of non-Sunnis, though this policy is not always followed. In 2003 the MOIA created a program to monitor imams. Provincial committees of senior religious scholars supervise mutawwa'in who monitor all mosques and imams within their respective provinces. Based on the mutawwa'in reports, the committees summon the imams accused of preaching intolerance to meet with them. If they are not able to dissuade the imams of their thinking, then the committees refer the imams to a central committee in Riyadh. The first phase of this program ran from 2003 to 2006. MOIA officials claim that 1,300 imams were dismissed during this first phase. The second 3-year phase will end in 2009.

The official government HRC was created to address human rights abuses and promote human rights within the country. The 24-member HRC board, which does not include women, was established in December 2006. Two HRC board members appointed in 2007 are Shi'a and Sulaimaniya Isma'ili Shi'a, respectively. The HRC reported that it received a variety of human rights complaints, including infractions by mutawwa'in. The HRC was also given the mandate to improve human rights awareness in the country, including the promotion of tolerance. In this endeavor, the HRC worked with the Ministry of Education and provided materials and training to the police, security forces, and mutawwa'in on protecting human rights. The King also issued a decree that ministries had 3 weeks to respond to complaints filed by the HRC.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for primary and secondary public education, while the Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for tertiary public education. Both ministries also monitor private education. In 2006 the Government formed the High Commission for Education (HCE) to oversee the ongoing reform of the primary and secondary educational system. The HCE reports to the King and is chaired by the Crown Prince. Its members include the Ministers of Justice, Islamic Affairs, Education, Higher Education, and Labor; two members of the Shura Council; the Secretary General of the Islamic League; and a representative of the Council of Senior Ulema. The HCE's mandate is to oversee the effort to improve textbooks (including the removal of intolerant language), educational curricula (including the promotion of human rights), and teacher training. The Minister of Education is in charge of the joint MOE-MOIA anti-extremism campaign.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
Public religious practice is generally limited to that which conforms to the officially approved version of Islam. Practices contrary to this interpretation, such as the celebration of Maulid al-Nabi (birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) and visits to the tombs of renowned Muslims are forbidden, although in some places enforcement was more relaxed than in others. Similarly, the Government also prohibits the public propagation of Islamic teachings that differ from the officially accepted interpretation of Islam.
Although there was an increasing degree of public discussion questioning the official interpretation of religious traditions and criticism of their enforcement during the reporting period, including in the media, discussion of many sensitive religious issues, including sectarian differences, remained limited, and criticism of Islam was forbidden. Individuals who publicly criticized the official interpretation of Islam risked harassment, intimidation, detention, and if a foreigner, deportation. Journalists and activists who wrote critically about the religious leadership or who questioned theological dogma risked detention, travel bans, and government shutdowns of their publications.
The Government restricted the establishment of places of worship and public training of non-Sunni clergy. The Government officially did not permit non-Sunni clergy to enter the country to conduct religious services, although some did so under other auspices, and the Government generally allowed them to perform discreet religious functions. Such restrictions made it difficult for most non-Muslims to maintain contact with clergy, particularly Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, whose faiths require a priest on a regular basis to receive sacraments. However, many non-Muslims continued to gather for private worship.
The Government required noncitizens to carry a legal resident identity card, which contained a religious designation for "Muslim" or "non-Muslim." There were unconfirmed reports that some mutawwa'in pressured sponsors and employers not to renew the residency card of non-Muslims they had sponsored for employment if it was discovered or suspected that those individuals had led, sponsored, or participated in private non-Muslim worship services. Similarly, there were reports that mutawwa'in pressured employers and sponsors to reach verbal agreements with non-Muslim employees that they would not participate in private non-Muslim worship services.

During the reporting period Shi'a continued to face systemic discrimination and intolerance tied to a variety of factors, including historical perceptions and ongoing suspicions of foreign influences on their actions. Nevertheless, most Shi'a are loyal to the Government and actively try to contribute to Saudi society. While they coexist with their Sunni neighbors in relative peace, most Shi'a share general concerns of discrimination in education, employment, political representation, the judiciary, religious practice, and media.
In higher education, the Government discriminated against Shi'a in the selection process for students, professors, and administrators at public universities. For example, it was estimated that Shi'a constituted 2 percent of professors at a leading university in al-Ahsa, an area that is at least 50 percent Shi'a. At the primary and secondary levels of education in al-Ahsa, there continued to be severe underrepresentation of Shi'a among principals, with approximately 1 percent of area principals being Shi'a. There were no Shi'a principals in female schools. Shi'a were also underrepresented among principals in Qatif, where they comprise approximately 90 percent of the population. In addition, Shi'a teachers were not permitted to teach certain courses, including religious studies at the intermediate and secondary levels, even in predominantly Shi'a areas.
There were reports that some Shi'a students experienced discrimination within the primary and secondary school systems. Some religious education teachers told their students that Shi'a practices were un-Islamic and that Shi'a students must follow Sunni traditions to be true Muslims. Some teachers told their students that Shi'a were not Muslims, but rather kufaar (unbelievers), rafidah (rejectionists), infidels, or polytheists. In January 2008 a Qatif student was reportedly accused of witchcraft, when a turbah (small piece of soil or clay used for Shi'a prayer) was found among her personal belongings. That same month, the story of a former Qatif-area school teacher who was recorded making harsh anti-Shi'a comments to a private gathering and claiming to have converted nine students to Sunni Islam during a trip to Mecca was widely reported. Despite stated government policy to the contrary, these teachers went without reprimand, although in some cases they were transferred to other schools. In addition, there were reports that many public schools routinely punished Shi'a students academically for their absence during holidays unrecognized by the Government and there continued to be reports of prejudicial questions on exams.
Regardless of their personal religious traditions, public school students at all levels receive mandatory religious instruction based on the Government's interpretation of Sunni Islam. Non-Muslim students in private international schools, which citizens can attend only with special permission, were not required to study Islam. Private religious schools not based on the official interpretation of Islam were not permitted. Despite governmental claims that elementary and secondary education textbooks had been revised, they still retained language that was intolerant of other religious traditions, especially Jewish, Christian, and Shi'a beliefs.

10511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 12:31:32 PM

Saudi Arabia

International Religious Freedom Report 2008
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
There is no legal recognition of, or protection under the law for, freedom of religion, and it is severely restricted in practice. The country is a monarchy and the King is both head of state and government. The legal system is based on the government's official interpretation of Shari'a (Islamic law). Sunni Islam is the official religion.

The Government confirmed that, as a matter of public policy, it guarantees and protects the right to private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious services. However, this right was not always respected in practice and is not defined in law. Moreover, the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited, and mutawwa'in (religious police) continued to conduct raids of private non-Muslim religious gatherings. Although the Government also confirmed its policy to protect the right to possess and use personal religious materials, it did not provide for this right in law, and the mutawwa'in sometimes confiscated the personal religious material of non-Muslims.
While overall government policies continued to place severe restrictions on religious freedom, there were incremental improvements in specific areas during the period covered by this report, such as better protection of the right to possess and use personal religious materials; sporadic efforts to curb and investigate harassment by the mutawwa'in; increased media reporting on, and criticism of, the mutawwa'in; somewhat greater authority and capacity for official human rights entities to operate; and limited education reform. In addition, there were larger public and private celebrations of Shi'a holidays in the Qatif oasis of the Eastern Province.
There were also several positive developments in government policy that, if fully implemented, could lead to important improvements in the future. The Government reiterated its policy to halt the dissemination of intolerance and combat extremism, both within Islam and toward non-Muslim religious groups, in the country and abroad. For example, officials advised that they were monitoring sermons at government-supported mosques and would dismiss or retrain imams whose preaching promoted religious extremism. The Government continued to state its goal of "balanced development," by promising greater infrastructure development in predominantly Shi'a and Isma'ili areas of the Eastern and Najran Provinces. Most significantly, this year saw the beginning of an interfaith dialogue process, led by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The King, along with the support of the Muslim World League, sponsored an intrafaith dialogue in Mecca between June 4-6, 2008, bringing Sunnis and Shi'a together, and at the end of the reporting period, was planning to hold a similar conference in Madrid, Spain, in July, bringing together Christians, Jews, Muslims, and adherents of other faiths.
The King's official title is "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques." As such, upholding Islam within the country is regarded as one of his and his government's paramount functions. In addition, the conservative religious establishmentexerts significant pressure on the state and society to adhere to the official interpretation of Islam and conservative societal norms. Moreover, there is intense pressure within the society to conform accordingly. However, while the majority of citizens support a government and society based on Shari'a, there are varying views among the citizenry on how it should be interpreted and implemented.
Despite this diversity of views, the Government continued to enforce its official interpretation of Sunni Islam. Non-Muslims and Muslims who do not adhere to this interpretation faced significant political, economic, legal, social, and religious discrimination, including limited employment and educational opportunities, underrepresentation in official institutions, and restrictions on the practice of their faith and on the building of places of worship and community centers. There were also charges of harassment, abuse, and killings at the hands of the mutawwa'in, or religious police, who work for the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice (CPVPV). These incidents caused many non-Muslims to worship in fear of, and in such a manner as to avoid discovery by, the police and mutawwa'in. There were also concerns about Saudi textbooks that continued to contain overtly intolerant statements against Jews and Christians and subtly intolerant statements against Shi'a, Isma'ilis, and other religious groups, notwithstanding government claims that it was reviewing educational materials to remove or revise such statements. Furthermore, while government officials stated prospective and current teachers who espoused extremist religious views would be screened out or dismissed, and some screenings reportedly did take place, there were multiple incidents where teachers, in defiance of Saudi government policy, promoted intolerant views in the classroom without being disciplined. Discriminatory and intolerant statements were also made by public officials and government-paid imams.
Senior U.S. officials discussed a number of key policies concerning religious practice and tolerance with the Government, as well as specific cases involving the infringement of the right of religious freedom. In November 2006, the U.S. Secretary of State re-designated Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for violations of religious freedom, and the Government was issued a waiver of sanctions "to further the purposes of the Act."
Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 1,225,000 square miles and a population of more than 28.5 million, including an estimated foreign population of more than 8 million. The foreign population reportedly includes 1.6 million Indians, 1.5 million Bangladeshis, 1.2 million Filipinos, 1 million Pakistanis, 1 million Egyptians, 600,000 Indonesians, 400,000 Sri Lankans, 350,000 Nepalese, 250,000 Palestinians, 150,000 Lebanese, 100,000 Eritreans, and 30,000 Americans.
While accurate religious demographics are difficult to obtain, approximately 90 percent of citizens are Sunni Muslims, who predominantly subscribe to the Government-sanctioned interpretation of Islam. In the western Hejaz region, there are sizeable communities following other Sunni interpretations.
Ten percent of citizens are Shi'a Muslims. The reportedly 1.5 to 2 million Shi'a are primarily located in the Eastern Province, southern Najran Province, and western Medina area. An estimated 150,000 Shi'a also reside in the Medina area of the western Hejaz region, including the Ashraf (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) and approximately 50,000 Nakhawala. In addition, there are reportedly 250,000 – 450,000 Sulaimaniya Isma'ili Shi'a in the southern Najran Province and the Eastern Province. The majority of the country's Shi'a are "Twelvers" (i.e., they are followers of Muhammad ibn Hasan, whom they recognize as the Twelfth Imam) and are primarily located in the Eastern Province and the Medina area of the western Hejaz region. The Sulaimaniya Isma'ili, are known as "Seveners" (i.e., they are followers of Isma'il ibn Jafar, whom they recognize as the Seventh Imam).
Comprehensive statistics for the religious denominations of foreigners are not available; however, they include Muslims from the various branches and schools of Islam, Christians (including Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and over one million Roman Catholics), Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. In addition to European and North American Christians, there are Christian East Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and large numbers of other South Asians residing in the country. Ninety percent of the Filipino community is Christian. Private Christian religious gatherings reportedly take place throughout the country.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call, and Guidance (MOIA) is responsible for 72,000 Sunni mosques and over 50,000 Sunni imams. The Grand Muftis of the two holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina report directly to the King.
In December 2007 the country hosted almost three million Muslim pilgrims from around the world and all branches of Islam for the annual Hajj to Mecca.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
Legal/Policy Framework
According to the Basic Law, the Qur'an and the Sunna (traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) constitute the constitution, and Islam is the official religion. It is the Government's policy that non-Muslims are permitted to privately practice their religion freely within their homes without interference. However, under the Government's interpretation of Islam, there is no legal recognition or protection of religious freedom, which is severely restricted in practice.
The Government considers its legitimacy to rest in part on its interpretation and enforcement of Islam, which are derived from the writings and teachings of 18th-century Sunni religious scholar Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab. The Basic Law establishes the system of government, rights of citizens and residents, and powers and duties of the Government. Neither the Government, nor society in general, accepts the concept of separation of religion and state in terms of governance.
Although no law specifically requires citizens to be Muslim, Article 12.4 of the Naturalization Law requires that applicants attest to their religious affiliation, and Article 14.1 requires applicants to get a certificate endorsed by their local imam. Most non-Muslims and Muslims whose beliefs do not adhere to the Government-approved interpretation of Islam must practice their religion in private and are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, detention, and if a noncitizen, deportation. Blasphemy carries the death penalty. Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) and proselytizing by non-Muslims are both punishable by death, but there have been no confirmed reports of executions for either crime in recent years.

The judicial system is based on Shari'a, the traditional system of interpreting laws derived from the Qur'an, the Sunna, and other religious sources. The Government recognizes all four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence and the Shi'a Ja'afari school of jurisprudence. However, while government universities provide training on the other Sunni schools, they focus on the Hanbali school. Consequently, most judges adhere to the Hanbali school.
The Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) is responsible for approving laws and regulations that are compatible with Shari'a. The 150 male members are supported by 6 female advisors. There are three Shi'a members.
The Council of Senior Ulema (religious scholars) is an advisory body of reportedly 20 Sunni religious jurists, including the Minister of Justice, who reports to the King. Established in 1971, the Council is headed by the Grand Mufti of Mecca
. Itmeets periodically to interpret Shari'a and establish the legal principles that guide lower court judges. Three Ulema members belong to non-Hanbali schools of Shari'a, but none of them are Shi'a.
The Government permits Shi'a judges presiding over courts in the Eastern Province to use the Ja'afari school of jurisprudence to adjudicate cases limited to family law, inheritance, and endowment management. There are only seven Shi'a judges, all of whom were located in the Eastern Province cities of Qatif and al-Ahsa, where the majority of the country's Shi'a live. Shi'a living in other parts of the Eastern Province, Najran Province, and the western Hejaz region, among other places, have no access to local, regional, or national Shi'a courts. Two of the Shi'a judges serve on the Qatif Court and two of the Shi'a judges serve on the al-Ahsa Court. The remaining three judges serve on the Qatif-based Court of Appeals, which oversees the Qatif and al-Ahsa Courts.
In accordance with the country's official interpretation of Islam, it is considered acceptable to discriminate against religions held to be polytheistic. Christians and Jews, who are classified as "People of the Book," are also discriminated against, but to a lesser extent. This discrimination is manifested, for example, in calculating accidental death or injury compensation. In the event a court renders a judgment in favor of a plaintiff who is a Jewish or Christian male, the plaintiff is only entitled to receive 50 percent of the compensation a Muslim male would receive, and all others (including Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs) are only entitled to receive 1/16 the amount a male Muslim would receive. Furthermore, judges may discount the testimony of non-practicing Muslims or individuals who do not adhere to the official interpretation of Islam. For example, testimony by Shi'a can be deemed to carry less weight than testimony by Sunnis or be ignored in courts of law altogether, despite official Government statements that judges do not discriminate based on religion when hearing testimonies. Moreover, a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man's, and a non-Muslim's testimony is worth less than that of a Muslim's. Legally, children inherit their mother's religious affiliation unless the father is a citizen, in which case the law deems such children to be Muslims.
In addition to the secular National Day on September 23, the Islamic religious feasts of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are the only recognized national holidays.
10512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 12:04:23 PM

Book 008, Number 3432:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hanain Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace te upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that:" And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (iv. 24)" (i. e. they were lawful for them when their 'Idda period came to an end).

Book 008, Number 3433:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possessout of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention" when their 'idda period comes to an end". This hadith has been reported on the authority of AbuSa'id (al-Khudri) (Allah be pleased with him) through another chain of transmitters and the words are: They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed:" And women already married except those whom you right hands posses" (iv. 24)

Book 008, Number 3434:
Qatada reported a hadith like this with the same chain of transmitters.
10513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 12:03:21 PM


Book 008, Number 3309:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine. She further said: We went to Medina and I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair had come down to the earlobes. Umm Ruman (my mother) came to me and I was at that time on a swing along with my playmates. She called me loudly and I went to her and I did not know what she had wanted of me. She took hold of my hand and took me to the door, and I was saying: Ha, ha (as if I was gasping), until the agitation of my heart was over. She took me to a house, where had gathered the women of the Ansar. They all blessed me and wished me good luck and said: May you have share in good. She (my mother) entrusted me to them. They washed my head and embellished me and nothing frightened me. Allah's Messenger (, may peace be upon him) came there in the morning, and I was entrusted to him.

Book 008, Number 3310:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house when I was nine years old.

Book 008, Number 3311:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.
10514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 11:42:50 AM
From | Original article available at:

Resisting Islamic Law
by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
February 21, 2008

Westerners opposed to the application of the Islamic law (the Shari‘a) watch with dismay as it goes from strength to strength in their countries – harems increasingly accepted, a church leader endorsing Islamic law, a judge referring to the Koran, clandestine Muslim courts meting out justice. What can be done to stop the progress of this medieval legal system so deeply at odds with modern life, one that oppresses women and turns non-Muslims into second-class citizens?

A first step is for Westerners to mount a united front against the Shari‘a. Facing near-unanimous hostility, Islamists back down. For one example, note the retreat last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in a dispute concerning guide dogs used by the blind.

Muslims traditionally consider dogs impure animals to be avoided, creating an aversion that becomes problematic when Muslim store-owners or taxi drivers deny service to blind Westerners relying on service dogs. I have collected fifteen such cases on my weblog, at "Muslim Taxi Drivers vs. Seeing-Eye Dogs": five from the United States (New Orleans, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Brooksville, Fl.; Everett, Wash.); four from Canada (Vancouver, twice in Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Alberta); three from the United Kingdom (Cambridge, twice in London); two from Australia (Melbourne, Sydney); and one from Norway (Oslo).

News accounts quote Muslim cabbies rudely rejecting blind would-be passengers, yelling at them, "No dog, No dog, Get out, get out"; "Get that dog out of here"; and "No dogs, no dogs." The blind find themselves rejected, humiliated, abandoned, insulted, or even injured, left in the rain, dropped in the middle of nowhere, made late for an appointment, or caused to miss a flight.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes and his guide dog. Innes is often denied service by taxi drivers.
Islamist organizations initially responded to this problem by supporting anti-canine cabbies. The Muslim Association of Canada pointed out how Muslims generally regard dog saliva as unclean. CAIR on one occasion echoed this assertion, claiming that "the saliva of dogs invalidates the ritual purity needed for prayer." On another, the head of CAIR, Nihad Awad, declared that "People from the Middle East especially … have been indoctrinated with a kind of fear of dogs" and justified a driver rejecting a guide dog on the grounds that he "has a genuine fear and he acted in good faith. He acted in accordance with his religious beliefs."
However, when the police and the courts are called in, the legal rights of the blind to their basic needs and their dignity almost always trump the Muslim dislike for dogs. The Muslim proprietor or driver invariably finds himself admonished, fined, re-educated, warned, or even jailed. The judge who found a cabby's behavior to be "a total disgrace" spoke for many.

CAIR, realizing that its approach had failed in the courts of both law and of public opinion, suddenly and nimbly switched sides. In a cynical maneuver, for example, it organized 300 cabbies in Minneapolis to provide free rides for participants at a National Federation of the Blind conference. (Unconvinced by this obvious ploy, a federation official responded: "We really are uncomfortable … with the offer of getting free rides. We don't think that solves anything. We believe the cabdrivers need to realize that the law says they will not turn down a blind person.") And, finally, last week, the Canadian office of CAIR issued a statement urging Muslims to accommodate blind taxi passengers, quoting a board member that "Islam allows for dogs to be used by the visually impaired."

CAIR's capitulation contains an important lesson: When Westerners broadly agree on rejecting a specific Islamic law or tradition and unite against it, Western Islamists must adjust to the majority's will. Guide dogs for the blind represent just one of many such consensus issues; others tend to involve women, such as husbands beating wives, the burqa head coverings, female genital mutilation, and "honor" killings. Western unity can also compel Islamists to denounce their preferred positions in areas such as slavery and Shar‘i-compliant finances.

Other Islam-derived practices do not (yet) exist in the West but do prevail in the Muslim world. These include punishing a woman for being raped, exploiting children as suicide bombers, and executing offenders for such crimes as converting out of Islam, adultery, having a child out of wedlock, or witchcraft. Western solidarity can win concessions in these areas too.

If Westerners stick together, the Shari‘a is doomed. If we do not, we are doomed.


Feb. 21, 2008 update: A nasty attack by an Australian blogger named Irfan Yusuf has appeared; his long analysis accuses me of a mistake in the caption to the picture that accompanies this column. The caption, seen above, reads: "Australian Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes and his guide dog. Innes is often denied service by taxi drivers."

Yusuf jumps on me, saying that "It is unclear how Mr Pipes reached this conclusion about Commissioner Innes," concluding that I "misrepresented" Innes.

Misrepresented him? Hardly. Innes has repreatedly spoken about being denied taxi service on account of his seeing-eye dog. For starters, read here, here, and here. Further, Innes indicates that the drivers sometimes cite a religious reason for refusing his guide dog, a clear allusion to the Shari‘a, the only religious law with strictures about contact with dogs.

My innocuous caption is factually correct. Yusuf's insulting blog is factually incorrect. I bother to point this out because Yusuf's screed is so typical. And to point out how sensible debate cannot proceed when the other side is hysterical and inaccurate.

Mar. 28, 2008 update: For an interesting response to this article, see Omar Amine, "Lettre d'un musulman modéré aux occidentaux « modérés »."


From | Original article available at:
10515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 11:02:37 AM
Sharia Law: Coming to a Western Nation Near You?

By Cinnamon Stillwell | 9/30/2008

Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) will be hosting a conference on October 23 that asks the loaded question: “Is There a Role for Shari'ah in Modern States?”
The Saudi-funded ACMCU and its founding director, John Esposito, one of the foremost apologists for radical Islam in the academic field of Middle East studies, have certainly been doing their bit to make the idea more palatable.

The Saudi prince for whom ACMCU was named has been pumping millions of dollars into Middle East studies at Georgetown, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and beyond, and as the case of Esposito demonstrates, it magnifies the voices of scholars with a decidedly uncritical bent. As a result, ACMCU analysis regarding Sharia (or Islamic) law tends to focus not on its injustices (amputation, stoning, hanging, honor killing, punishment for blasphemy, execution of apostates, persecution of non-Muslims, sanctioned wife-beating, female genital mutilation, and so on), but rather on repackaging it in ways that will appeal to Western sensibilities. The concept of a more “moderate” version of Sharia law that is compatible with democracy is at the forefront of this effort.

While it’s difficult to predict exactly what will take place at the upcoming ACMCU conference, the fact that Esposito will present the opening remarks provides considerable insight into the politics of the event.

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, a book co-authored by Esposito and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed, has been widely criticized for its blatant inaccuracies and attempts to whitewash anti-Western and extremist sentiment in the Muslim world. Accordingly, Sharia law is framed in a non-threatening fashion. As Robert Satloff put it in the Weekly Standard:

…Amazing as it sounds, according to Esposito and Mogahed, the proper term for a Muslim who hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women but does not “completely” justify 9/11 is . . . “moderate.”

At the Newsweek/Washington Post “On Faith” blog earlier this year, Esposito referenced his book as a means of downplaying concerns over support for Sharia law in the Muslim world:

…for many any mention of Shariah is often equated facilely with Taliban-like laws. In fact, as the Gallup World Poll shows, majorities of mainstream Muslims (women as well as men) want some form of Shariah, religious values, as a source of law. This sentiment is not all that different from a majority of Americans who want to see the Bible as a source of legislation. (See Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think)

But comparing Sharia law under a dictatorial or clerical regime to biblical inspiration in a secular, democratic nation is like comparing apples and oranges. Yet this is precisely the kind of moral equivalency one expects from Esposito at the ACMCU conference.

Providing further cause for concern, keynote speaker and Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman is a notorious champion of Sharia law. In a March, 2008 New York Times Magazine article on the subject, Feldman claimed:

In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation.

…At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law.

Reviewing Feldman’s latest book, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Jonathan Schanzer elaborates on this disturbing thesis:

Feldman’s central premise is that the scholars of early and medieval Islam were guardians of justice. These independent scholars, he argues, kept the all-powerful caliph in line by judiciously ensuring that his decrees were in accordance with Shari'a law. The proper application of Shari'a ensured fair governance. Thus, Feldman claims, resurrecting the scholarly class is needed today.

Yet Feldman’s book, Schanzer concludes, “fails to convince the informed reader that Islamic law and democracy are destined for marriage.”

In an aptly titled piece on Feldman’s scholarship, “Shilling for Sharia at Harvard,” Hillel Stavis warns that “it can only be a matter of time before the professor, having asserted that Sharia law is desirable, will assure us that its introduction in the United States is inevitable.”

Considering recent developments in Britain, the inevitability of Sharia law may not just be an abstraction. As reported last week by The Times Online:

Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Melanie Phillips, writing for National Review Online, notes the role of Saudi funding and Middle East studies in furthering this process:

Even thought itself is being Islamized, with academic objectivity in the teaching of Islam and Middle East studies set aside in favour of indoctrination and propaganda. An as-yet-unpublished report by Prof. Anthony Glees says that extremist ideas are being spread by Islamic study centers linked to British universities and backed by multi-million-pound donations from Saudi Arabia and Muslim organizations. Professor Glees says, ‘Britain’s universities will have to generate two national cultures: one non-Muslim and largely secular, the other Muslim. We will have two identities, two sets of allegiance and two legal and political systems.

Britain can serve as a cautionary tale for the West. Scholars who downplay the threats to democratic societies posed by the encroachments of Sharia law, and push a sanitized, idealized version thereof, may one day help usher in our worst nightmare.

Now there’s a subject that would make for a truly groundbreaking Middle East studies conference.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the Northern California Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at
10516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sharia 101 on: September 30, 2008, 11:01:55 AM
Let's discuss sharia and it's impact on humanity as it spreads globally.
10517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 30, 2008, 10:44:57 AM
Failed Vote
By the Editors

The $700 billion bailout bill is palatable to no one. It’s a huge price tag. It was originally presented to Congress as all but a fait accompli. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have been underwhelming in selling the plan on Capitol Hill. And it’s hated by a public suspicious of the country’s elites, whether in Washington or on Wall Street.

Put that all together with a reflex against such a massive governmental intervention among House Republicans, and it’s understandable that so many of them voted against it and the bill went down yesterday. They were immediately the targets in the Beltway blame game, although there’s plenty of it to go around. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been acrimoniously partisan over the last few days (calling Republicans “unpatriotic” over the weekend), delivered an obstreperous anti-Republican speech on the House floor prior to the vote, apparently unaware of the delicacy of the moment. She didn’t deliver five of her own committee chairmen and lost more than a dozen of her fellow California Democrats. Ninety-five Democrats voted against the plan; if 13 more had voted “aye,” the bailout would have passed.

But as a practical matter, Democrats wanted as much political cover as possible to pass the unpopular Bush administration proposal. The Republican leadership delivered only a third of its caucus. The Republican opponents marshaled arguments that ordinarily would win us over, for instance, about the plan representing “the slippery slope to socialism.” But we believe these arguments fall down in the current crisis. If the crunch that Paulson and Bernanke are warning about comes, it will squeeze off credit — the very lifeblood of capitalism — to businesses, entrepreneurs, and consumers all around the country. The Paulson plan is an intervention designed to keep capitalism functioning rather than supplant it. If it is successful, the assets the government buys will be sold back on the market (perhaps at a profit), after the panic passes.

There are alternatives to the Paulson plan, some of which are better or worse from a free-market perspective. But all of them involve major government action because in a financial crisis like this  — originally stoked by misbegotten government policies — only the government has enough capital to backstop the system. It is the nature of financial panics to destroy institutions and wealth willy-nilly. Insisting only on private action in a crisis this large is like counting on private emergency response to a hurricane or on a private military to fight the country’s wars.

Swallowing hard, some of the most impressive Republicans in the House realize this, not just top leaders John Boehner and Roy Blunt, but the next generation of conservative leaders, members like Eric Cantor of Virginia, Adam Putnam of Florida, and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. These aren’t socialists, creeping or otherwise. Paul Ryan, a principled conservative who has taken upon himself the lonely task of sponsoring legislation to tackle the nation’s entitlement programs, hated having to support the Paulson plan. But on the House floor Monday, he called it a “Herbert Hoover” moment. He noted the calculation of many of his colleagues: “We’re all worried about losing our jobs. Most of us say, ‘I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it — not me.’ ” That, of course, is a formula for the legislation going down. “We’re in this moment, and if we fail to do the right thing,” he said, “heaven help us.”

Just so.
National Review Online -
10518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 30, 2008, 10:37:24 AM
"Religion is not the issue, note, it is not an "Islamic" problem, but one of poverty and ignorance."

This indeed is what got me started  smiley

As I mentioned above, before GM as usual added his usual four posts with no comment or relevancy to the topic,

**It's pretty clear to most everyone that has a reading comprehension ability above a 4th grade level.**

 i.e. a focus on AFRICA, poverty, ignorance and lack of education therein, I agreed Islam truly can and does have a negative influence on women.  I do not dispute this fact.  However, THIS article in the Financial Times that I referred you talked about women being treated as second class citizens focused on AFRICA.  On another post regarding female genital mutilation, AND in this lengthy article, the primary cause of this subrogation of women in AFRICA was identified and confirmed as "poverty and ignorance". 

**Because it's politically incorrect to point out the direct connection between islam and the various pathologies that stem from it's core theological beliefs.**

And in this article, the thrust of the article, education was the solution.  No where in the very long article did it mention Islam as a primary (actually Islam was not mentioned at all) cause of women's problems. 

**Just because the article glosses over islam's global role in oppression, doesn't mean it isn't so.**

Although in no way way was Christianity or any other religion blamed, Zambia as I pointed out is a Christian nation - still, issues such as women having no property rights, polygamy is legal, child marriage is prevalent, etc. exist.  Religion is not the primary issue; the article's point was that subrogation of women was prevalent in AFRICA and as proven on another post, the primary cause of such subrogation and abuse of women in AFRICA was/is poverty and ignorance.  The reason I posted this article was to identify the truly amazing positive results of education to prevent abuse of women in AFRICA; that includes Islamic countries, Christian countries (Zambia and others) and in countries with other religions. Education has been proven to be the best way to beat poverty and ignorance, and through beating poverty and ignorance, women's abuse in AFRICA will and does decrease. 

**The Saudis are far from poor, yet they do all sorts of horrific things, why? The al qaeda leadership, and many of it's high/mid level operatives come from wealth and on average have post-graduate degrees and are multi-lingual. So where does this leave the "poor and uneducated" theory? Why do muslims buy islamic books advocating female genital mutilation while living in first world countries?**
10519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 30, 2008, 09:03:07 AM

The US and global financial crisis is becoming much more severe in spite of the Treasury rescue plan. The risk of a total systemic meltdown is now as high as ever

Nouriel Roubini | Sep 29, 2008

It is obvious that the current financial crisis is becoming more severe in spite of the Treasury rescue plan (or maybe because of it as this plan it totally flawed). The severe strains in financial markets (money markets, credit markets, stock markets, CDS and derivative markets) are becoming more severe rather than less severe in spite of the nuclear option (after the Fannie and Freddie $200 billion bazooka bailout failed to restore confidence) of a $700 billion package: interbank spreads are widening (TED spread, swap spreads, Libo-OIS spread) and are at level never seen before; credit spreads (such as junk bond yield spreads relative to Treasuries are widening to new peaks; short-term Treasury yields are going back to near zero levels as there is flight to safety; CDS spread for financial institutions are rising to extreme levels (Morgan Stanley ones at 1200 last week) as the ban on shorting of financial stock has moved the pressures on financial firms to the CDS market; and stock markets around the world have reacted very negatively to this rescue package (US market are down about 3% this morning at their opening).

Let me explain now in more detail why we are now back to the risk of a total systemic financial meltdown…

It is no surprise as financial institutions in the US and around advanced economies are going bust: in the US the latest victims were WaMu (the largest US S&L) and today Wachovia (the sixth largest US bank); in the UK after Northern Rock and the acquisition of HBOS by Lloyds TSB you now have the bust and rescue of B&B; in Belgium you had Fortis going bust and being rescued over the weekend; in German HRE, a major financial institution is also near bust and in need of a government rescue. So this is not just a US financial crisis; it is a global financial crisis hitting institutions in the US, UK, Eurozone and other advanced economies (Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc.).

And the strains in financial markets – especially short term interbank markets - are becoming more severe in spite of the Fed and other central banks having literally injected about $300 billion of liquidity in the financial system last week alone including massive liquidity lending to Morgan and Goldman. In a solvency crisis and credit crisis that goes well beyond illiquidity no one is lending to counterparties as no one trusts any counterparty (even the safest ones) and everyone is hoarding the liquidity that is injected by central banks. And since this liquidity goes only to banks and major broker dealers the rest of the shadow banking system has not access to this liquidity as the credit transmission mechanisms is blocked.

After the bust of Bear and Lehman and the merger of Merrill with BofA I suggested that Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs should also merge with a large financial institution that has a large base of insured deposits so as to avoid a run on their overnite liabilities. Instead Morgan and Goldman went for the cosmetic approach of converting into bank holding companies as a way to get further liquidity support – and regulation as banks – of the Fed and as a way to acquire safe deposits. But neither institution can create in a short time a franchise of branches and neither one has the time and resources to acquire smaller banks. And the injection of $8 b of Japanese capital into Morgan and $5 b of capital from Buffett into Goldman is a drop in the ocean as both institutions need much more capital. Thus, the gambit of converting into bank while not being banks yet has not worked and the run against them has accelerated in the last week: Morgan’s CDS spread went through the roof on Friday to over 1200 and the firm has already lost over a third of its hedge funds clients together with their highly profitable prime brokering business (this is really a kiss of death for Morgan); and the coming roll-off of the interbank lines to Morgan would seal its collapse. Even Goldman Sachs is under severe stress losing business, losing money, experiencing a severe widening of its CDS spreads and at risk of losing most of its values most of its lines of business (including trading) are now losing money.

Both institutions are highly recommended to stop dithering and playing for time as delay will be destructive: they should merge now with a large foreign financial institution as no US institution is sound enough and large enough to be a sound merger partner. If Mack and Blankfein don’t want to end up like Fuld they should do today a Thain and merge as fast as they can with another large commercial banks. Maybe Mitsubishi and a bunch of Japanese life insurers can take over Morgan; in Europe Barclays has its share of capital trouble and has just swallowed part of Lehman; while most other UK banks are too weak to take over Goldman. The only institution sound enough to swallow Goldman may be HSBC. Or maybe Nomura in Japan should make a bid for Goldman. Either way Mack and Blankfein should sell at a major discount of current price their firm before they end up like Bear and be offered in a few weeks a couple of bucks a share for their faltering operation. And the Fed and Treasury should tell them to hurry up as they are both much bigger than Bear or Lehman and their collapse would have severe systemic effects.

When investors don’t trust any more even venerable institutions such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs you know that the financial crisis is as severe as ever and the fear of collapse of counterparties does not spare anyone. When a nuclear option of a monster $700 billion rescue plan is not even able to rally stock markets (as they are all in free fall today) you know this is a global crisis of confidence in the financial system. We were literally close to a total meltdown of the system on Wednesday (and Thursday morning) two weeks ago when the $85 b bailout of AIG led to a 5% fall in US stock markets (instead of a rally). Then the US authorities went for the nuclear option of the $700 billion plan as a way to avoid the meltdown together with bans on short sales, a guarantee of money market funds and an injection of over $300 billion in the financial system. Now the prospect of this plan passing (but there is some lingering deal risk the votes in the House are not certain) -as well as the other massive policy actions taken to stop short selling “speculation” and support interbank markets and money market funds - is not sufficient to make the markets rally as there is a generalized loss of confidence in financial markets and in financial institutions that no policy action seem to be able to control.

The next step of this panic could become the mother of all bank runs, i.e. a run on the trillion dollar plus of the cross border short-term interbank liabilities of the US banking and financial system as foreign banks as starting to worry about the safety of their liquid exposures to US financial institutions; such a silent cross border bank run has already started as foreign banks are worried about the solvency of US banks and are starting to reduce their exposure. And if this run accelerates - as it may now - a total meltdown of the US financial system could occur. We are thus now in a generalized panic mode and back to the risk of a systemic meltdown of the entire financial system. And US and foreign policy authorities seem to be clueless about what needs to be done next. Maybe they should today start with a coordinated 100 bps reduction in policy rates in all the major economies in the world to show that they are starting to seriously recognize and address this rapidly worsening financial crisis.
10520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 30, 2008, 01:47:23 AM

Fareeda's fate: rape, prison and 25 lashes
Up to 80 per cent of women in Pakistan's jails are charged under rules that penalise rape victims. But hardliners have vetoed an end to the Islamic laws
Dan McDougall in western Pakistan
The Observer, Sunday September 17 2006

In the blinding white desert sunlight in a farm courtyard on the outskirts of the ancient town of Shekhupura, Fareeda nervously passes a green silk hijab between her fingers. Unusually for a young Pakistani woman, her fingernails are not pristine and carefully painted but chewed, cracked and grubby.
Fareeda says she feels safe here - a safe house for rape victims run by a local NGO. Littered with rusting motorcycle carcases and parts of discarded fridges and cookers, it feels like a scrapyard.

The story of this 19-year-old's journey here is horrifying. In spring 2005 she was raped by her family's neighbour, a postman, and his teenage son. She fell pregnant - and later miscarried - as a result. Her mistake was to tell her parents. With their consent, under Pakistan's orthodox Islamic laws, she was charged with fornication outside marriage and sentenced to 100 lashes, later reduced to 50 and then 25 because of her age, and sent to jail. After four months her prison ordeal ended when a family friend secretly paid a bribe. Her plight is not unique.

According to a recent report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a woman is gang-raped every eight hours in the country. However, because of social taboos, discriminatory laws and the treatment of victims by police, campaigners believe the real figure is far higher. Women who report their rapists remain more likely to go to prison themselves than see justice, so most cases are never reported. Women who are raped can face legal difficulties anywhere in the world, but human rights groups remain particularly concerned over Pakistan's record. Their alarm is centred on enforcement of the 'Hudood ordinances', a complex set of Koranic laws whose name is derived from hud meaning 'punishment'. Similar sharia laws have existed in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan for centuries, but Pakistan's were enacted by former President Zia ul-Haq only in 1979, as part of his radical attempt to 'Islamicise' the country.

The legislation has always been full of legal ambiguities, and none more so than the Zina ordinance which deals with adultery, premarital sex and rape. The maximum punishment for adultery is stoning to death for married people and 100 lashes for the unwed.

For a rape trial to go ahead in Pakistan, four adult Muslim men, 'all of a pious and trustworthy nature', must have witnessed the attack and be willing to testify. Evidence from female and non-Muslim witnesses is considered worthless. A woman who can't produce those witnesses can be prosecuted for fornication and alleging a false crime, the penalties for which are stoning, lashings or prison.

Last week, despite claims by President General Pervez Musharraf that he was willing to reform the way rape is handled, as part of his much-trumpeted 'enlightened moderation', hardliners in the Pakistani parliament refused to sanction the introduction of a bill that would have ended the archaic laws. The vetoed legislation, the Women Protection Bill, proposed to transfer rape and adultery cases from the Islamic legal system to Pakistan's British-influenced secular penal code. The bill would have scrapped the most controversial element of the law, the need for four male witnesses. Women's rights campaigners, who marched in their thousands in Islamabad last week, claim that up to 80 per cent of women in Pakistan's jails face charges related to the Hudood ordinances and accuse the international community of ignoring the issue.

Yesterday Pakistan's government announced it would now ask a parliamentary committee to review the repeatedly delayed bill.

Lawyers who handle such cases say the legislation is mainly used as a means of revenge by parents whose daughters have refused arranged marriages, or by husbands in divorce cases. In conservative rural areas, where family honour is paramount, many parents file charges against children who defy tradition to choose their own partners.

'Violence against women is a universal problem,' said Kamila Hyat of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. 'Many governments have taken serious steps to deal with it, Pakistan hasn't. There are thousands of victims of rape and few of them have come close to getting justice; many have been punished for their plight. Simply bringing a rape case to court is widely considered in itself a confession of unlawful sexual intercourse outside marriage.'

But defenders of Hudood claim it is more of a deterrent than anything else, and the penalties are rarely invoked. 'We don't think Hudood laws are against human rights,' said Dr Mirajul Huda, from Jamaat-e-Islami, the biggest group in the six-party Islamist alliance that forced the legislative climbdown. 'They prevent people going to the limits. They put an obstacle on all types of obscenity and protect society.'

For Musharraf, who has survived several assassination attempts since his 1999 military coup and has repeatedly angered Muslim clerics by allying himself with the US, the climbdown is seen as an attempt to placate hardliners. But it plays to fears of what some commentators call a 'creeping Talibanisation' across Pakistan. His supporters claim that Musharraf, who heads a fragile coalition, has taken some action. Several months ago he issued a decree making 1,300 women awaiting trial on Hudood violations eligible for bail, but The Observer has discovered that fewer than 400 of those have been released.

'The ordinance is like a sword hanging over the heads of all the women of Pakistan,' said Dr Rubina Saigol, director of Actionaid Pakistan, which gives shelter and legal support to victims of violence. 'It is tragic that the government has reneged on the reforms. Women's rights are not negotiable.'

For Sharma Zia, another victim in the safe house, it is unlikely the fear of being raped again will go away. 'I know I can't stay here for ever,' she says. 'My home town isn't that far away, but I can't return. The men who raped me live close to my parents and even they took the side of my rapists. My allegations only brought them shame. Sometimes I feel like I only bring people shame. I wish I could leave, go abroad, but I know that will never happen.'
10521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 29, 2008, 11:59:50 PM

A female witness is considered half of that of a man by the text of the Qur'an:
Allah says (interpretation of meaning): {… And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. …} [2:282].
Imam Bukhari reported from the Hadith narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri, and Muslim from the Hadith narrated by Ibn Umar (Radiya Allahu Anhum) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “I have never seen before women who are weak in mind and religion who overcome the people who are more minded than yourselves.”  A woman said: ‘O, Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam), what is the weakness of mind and religion.’  The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) replied: “The weakness of mind is that the witness of two women is equal to the witness of one man, this is the weakness of mind.  And a woman spends several nights (or days) without praying, and she breaks the fasting in Ramadan (while she is in menstruation or after childbirth – while men are fasting), and this is the weakness of religion.”
However, she is not blamed for this weakness because she cannot do anything to avoid it.  Allah, the Most-High, pointed out her weakness as a witness by saying (interpretation of meaning): {… so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. …} [2:282].
She might forget when standing as a witness, and another woman would remind her.  That’s why the Islamic jurisprudent could not take the testimony of one woman only, but of the two together.
Sheikh Zindani mentioned that modern science discovered that there are two focuses (in the brain) for each of the man and the woman, a focus for speech and a focus for remembering.  When a man speaks, one-focus functions and the second remains for remembering.  However, when the woman speaks, the two focuses function, that’s why she cannot completely remember what she is giving witness to, so the second woman would remind her, so that the purpose of witnessing will not be missed.
As regards the witness of one woman if she is the only witness on a murder, then her witness is considered as indication, not an evidence, because even if the witness is one man, his witness will not be considered as a sufficient evidence to prove the murder, because there must be two trustworthy witnesses to establish the evidence, but that would be considered as an indication that a given person is the murderer.
Allah knows best.
10522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 29, 2008, 11:45:47 PM
rticle 7: Right to equal protection by the law

Read this article in full

Case Study: SHARIA LAW

Sharia law, the traditional Islamic law, is a far-reaching moral code that prescribes how Muslims should best conduct their lives.
It was originally conceived to regulate all aspects of life in Muslim societies, from the behaviour and habits of individuals to the workings of the criminal justice system and financial institutions.
In 2002, it came under intense international scrutiny when it was revealed that a young Nigerian woman had been sentenced to death by stoning for bearing a child out of wedlock.
One third of Nigeria's states have adopted a strict interpretation of Sharia law following the return to civilian rule in 1999.
Human rights advocates are charging that, in some countries, the Sharia law does not protect men and women or Muslims and non-Muslims equally and thus violates international human rights agreements.

A Moral Code

Long associated in the non-Muslim world with severe punishments such as stoning and amputations, the system of traditional Islamic law known as Sharia is often criticised but rarely understood.

It was originally designed to regulate all aspects of life in Muslim societies, from the behaviour and habits of individuals to the workings of the criminal justice system and financial institutions.

It stipulates, for instance, that men and women must dress modestly, refrain from alcohol and pray five times per day. It also prohibits banks from collecting interest.

The Sharia derives from the Koran, the Islamic holy book, and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad, known as the Sunna.

Varying Interpretations

The implementation of Sharia varies tremendously in the world's predominantly Muslim societies.

In countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, and in the Taleban-era Afghanistan, which are governed by Islamists who view Islam as a political ideology as well as a personal faith, a strict interpretation of the Sharia serves as the supreme law of the land.

In the majority of Muslim countries, however, the Sharia is applied selectively. Some countries adopt only a few aspects of Sharia law; others apply the entire code.

While some aspects of traditional Sharia law are still present, the legal systems of these countries have also been deeply influenced by European-style common and civil law.

Severe Punishments

Within Sharia law, there is a category of crimes known as the hudud (Koranic) offences, for which there are specific penalties for particular crimes. For example, fornication is punished by stoning, the consumption of alcohol by lashing, and theft by the amputation of limbs.

The penalties for hudud offences have not been adopted in all Islamic countries. Many predominantly Muslim countries, such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, have not adopted the hudud penalties in their criminal justice systems.


Supporters of the hudud penalties argue that they serve as an effective crime deterrent.

Moreover, they also argue that the hudud penalties are rarely carried out. They are more symbolic as the fear of punishment promotes lawfulness.

Sharia Revival

In some parts of the Muslim world, a stricter interpretation of Sharia law appears to be making a return. In recent years, some Muslim leaders have advocated 'pure' Sharia law, complete with a reinstatement of the traditional punishments for the hudud offences.

In September 1999, several of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim northern states began to adopt a strict interpretation of the Sharia law. By late 2002, 12 out of Nigeria's 36 states had done so.

The new laws impose segregation of the sexes and traditional punishments for the hudud offences.

Women have been banned from working outside of the home and from sharing taxis and buses with men. Fornication outside marriage is now punishable by stoning and theft by amputation.

The sale and consumption of alcohol has also been prohibited, and is punishable by public lashing.

Equal Protection

Both non-Muslim and Muslim human rights activists have charged that the application of Sharia law in some countries has breached international human rights law as codified in numerous conventions and treaties.

They have argued that in some places, the application of Sharia law does not offer equal protection for men and women. Critics say it favours men.

In Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

For example, in Saudi Arabia, a women's testimony in court is worth half that of a man's testimony, according to a Human Rights Watch report in 2002.

Under the so-called zina (fornication) law in Pakistan, extramarital sex is punishable by public whipping or even stoning to death.

If a woman is raped, she runs a high risk of being charged with zina, particularly if she becomes pregnant. In order to prove an absence of consent, however, a woman is required to provide four witnesses to the rape, a near impossible task.

In Nigeria

In the northern Nigeria state of Katsina, Amina Lawal, a 30 year-old divorcee, was convicted by a Sharia court in March 2002 for bearing a child out of wedlock. The charges against the alleged father of Amina's baby, however, were dropped after he denied having had sexual relations with her.

With the help of several human rights and women's organisations, Amina filed an appeal against her death sentence. Despite this, her conviction was upheld in August 2002.

The court's ruling has renewed tension between Nigeria's Muslim and Christian communities. While Muslims make up 50% of Nigeria's population, Christians are a substantial minority that make up 40% of the population.

Christians in states that have reinstated Sharia law are worried that their rights will not be equally protected before Sharia courts. They argue that the new laws create an atmosphere of intimidation.

Human rights organisations all over the world have urged that Sharia law be interpreted in a manner that is in accordance with international human rights standards and the conventions of international law.
10523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: September 29, 2008, 11:30:01 PM

Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:19 GMT
Saudi police 'stopped' fire rescue
The Mecca city governor visited the fire-damaged school
Saudi Arabia's religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers.
In a rare criticism of the kingdom's powerful "mutaween" police, the Saudi media has accused them of hindering attempts to save 15 girls who died in the fire on Monday.

About 800 pupils were inside the school in the holy city of Mecca when the tragedy occurred.

15 girls died in the blaze and more than 50 others were injured
According to the al-Eqtisadiah daily, firemen confronted police after they tried to keep the girls inside because they were not wearing the headscarves and abayas (black robes) required by the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.

One witness said he saw three policemen "beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya".

The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police - known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned "it is a sinful to approach them".

The father of one of the dead girls said that the school watchman even refused to open the gates to let the girls out.

"Lives could have been saved had they not been stopped by members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," the newspaper concluded.

Relatives' anger

Families of the victims have been incensed over the deaths.

Most of the victims were crushed in a stampede as they tried to flee the blaze.

The school was locked at the time of the fire - a usual practice to ensure full segregation of the sexes.

The religious police are widely feared in Saudi Arabia. They roam the streets enforcing dress codes and sex segregation, and ensuring prayers are performed on time.

Those who refuse to obey their orders are often beaten and sometimes put in jail.
10524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: September 22, 2008, 06:24:31 AM
In video, Al Qaeda vows more U.S. attacks

Story Highlights
In video, adviser to Taliban leader says Osama bin Laden is alive and well
Speaker in video posted on al Jazeera says "major, large-scale attacks" to come
Video is meant to mark the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks

(CNN) -- In a video marking the seventh anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda's top leader in Afghanistan vows more "large-scale" attacks against the United States and its allies.

In another segment, the personal adviser to Taliban leader Mullah Omar says al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is alive and well. Al Qaeda leaders featured on the video promise more violence against their enemies.

"We inform the forces of the Cross and their apostate agents that the Mujahedeen's policy in the coming stage, God permitting, is going to be more major, large-scale attacks like the Kandahar prison operation, the Nuristan raid, the Sarobi ambush and Khost airport operation in which approximately 50 Americans and 100 apostates were killed and four helicopters were hit and destroyed," Mustafa Abu al-Yazid says.

CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the video posted on jihadi Web sites, purportedly by al Qaeda's video production arm, As Sahab.

The well-being of bin Laden, and the possibility of his demise, are frequently in question. But in the video, Mullah Mohammed Hassan Rahmani, adviser to Mullah Omar, says, "Sheikh Osama is healthy and well, and we ask God to protect him, and we pray to God to preserve him and foil the attempts if the enemies of the Nation to reach him."

Mullah Omar has been on the U.S. military's most-wanted list since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban rulers from Afghanistan in 2001.

Also on the video is a reading from the will of Saeed al Ghamdi, one of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 suicide missions in New York and Washington. He was believed to have been aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Officials said his passport was recovered from the crash site.

The documentary-style video is nearly 1½ hours long. Among the other speakers are Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Hamza al-Muhajjer, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq; and Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's second-in-command.

Video excerpts were first released by the Arab news network al-Jazeera on September 8. Availability of the entire video was delayed by technical problems, according to terrorism analyst and CNN contributor Laura Mansfield
10525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: September 22, 2008, 06:09:12 AM
Spies Warn That Al Qaeda Aims for October Surprise
Intercepted Messages Asking Local Cells To Be Prepared for Imminent Instructions
By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 22, 2008
WASHINGTON — In the aftermath of two major terrorist attacks on Western targets, America's counterterrorism community is warning that Al Qaeda may launch more overseas operations to influence the presidential elections in November.

Call it Osama bin Laden's "October surprise." In late August, during the weekend between the Democratic and Republican conventions, America's military and intelligence agencies intercepted a series of messages from Al Qaeda's leadership to intermediate members of the organization asking local cells to be prepared for imminent instructions.

An official familiar with the new intelligence said the message was picked up in multiple settings, from couriers to encrypted electronic communications to other means. "These are generic orders," the source said — a distinction from the more specific intelligence about the location, time, and method of an attack. "It was, 'Be on notice. We may call upon you soon.' It was sent out on many channels."

Also, Yemen's national English-language newspaper is reporting that a spokesman for Yemen's Islamic Jihad, the Qaeda affiliate that claimed credit for last week's American embassy bombing in Sa'naa, is now publicly threatening to attack foreigners and high government officials if American and British diplomats do not leave the country.

Mr. bin Laden has sought to influence democratic elections in the past. On March 11, 2004, Al Qaeda carried out a series of bombings on Madrid commuter trains. Three days later, the opposition and anti-Iraq war Socialist Workers Party was voted into power.

In the week before the 2004 American presidential election, Mr. bin Laden recorded a video message to the American people promising repercussions if President Bush were re-elected. In later messages, Al Qaeda's leader claimed credit for helping elect Mr. Bush in 2004. Last year in Pakistan, Qaeda assassins claimed the life of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who returned to her native country in a bid for re-election.

"There is an expectation that Al Qaeda will try to influence the November elections by attempting attacks globally," a former Bush and Clinton White House counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, said yesterday.

Mr. Cressey said Al Qaeda lacks the capability to pull off an attack in the continental United States, however. "It would likely be a higher Al Qaeda tempo of attacks against U.S. and allied targets abroad," he said.

At a talk at the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs on August 12, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats said he expected to see more threat reporting on Al Qaeda as America approaches the November elections.

The terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Saturday was a particular blow to the allied effort against Al Qaeda. The hotel's lobby in recent years served as a meeting place for the CIA and Pakistanis who would not risk being seen at the American Embassy. The bombing, which targeted one of the most heavily fortified locations in Pakistan's capital, will likely claim close to 100 lives after the dead are pulled from the rubble.

President Zardari, who had just given his first major address as Pakistan's head of state, on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, was the target of Saturday's attack, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, said.

"He was expected to attend the iftar dinner at the Marriott," Mr. Gartenstein-Ross said "Think of the symbolic value if they were able to kill Zardari after his first address as president of Pakistan in a speech announcing his fight against the terrorists. The symbolic effect of the attack on the same day would be devastating."

An adviser to Senator McCain and a former director of central intelligence under President Clinton, James Woolsey, said Al Qaeda has a "history of doing three things at least related to elections. One is to attack before elections, such as in 2004 in Spain, and of course the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. They also have a history of attacks when new leaders take over, like Gordon Brown in Britain and the new leader in Pakistan, with the attack over the weekend. Also Al Qaeda sends messages to populations in elections. You really don't know which one of these they are going to implement."

Earlier this summer, another McCain campaign official mused in an interview that an attack could benefit his candidate in the polls. But whether that statement is true is unclear: At the Republican National Convention this month, Mr. McCain praised the president's counterterrorism policies for preventing an attack in America since September 11, 2001. The Bush administration has deliberately refrained from pointing to this success in light of the many plots that the president has said have been aborted on American soil since September 11.

The deputy communications director for the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb, said: "There is no doubt that Al Qaeda is still dangerous and still desires to strike at America and our allies. But Americans will not be intimidated and their votes will not be swayed by terror."

A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, Wendy Morigi, said, "Last week's attacks demonstrate the grave and urgent threat that Al Qaeda and its affiliates pose to the United States and the security of all nations. As Senator Obama has said for some time, we must refocus our efforts on defeating Al Qaeda around the world."
10526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 21, 2008, 08:19:14 PM

Democrats and Double Standards
Obama's not-so-secret weapon: the media.
by Stephen F. Hayes
09/29/2008, Volume 014, Issue 03

When Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10, 2007, he promised to change the practice of American politics.

This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice--to push us forward when we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not.

Obama told the crowd on that chilly day that he was running "not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation." He was particularly concerned with the way politicians run for office. He decried "the smallness of our politics" and "the chronic avoidance of tough decisions" and politicians who win by "scoring cheap political points." All of this, he said, had led voters to look away in "disillusionment and frustration."

"The time for that politics is over," Obama said.

Or maybe not.

This past week at a campaign rally, Obama told his supporters to challenge Republicans and independents skeptical of his candidacy. "I want you to argue with them and get in their face," he said.

This is the newer, tougher Obama. The avatar of a new American politics of hope is gone, replaced by a no-nonsense practitioner of the old politics. His campaign is now less the vehicle of your hopes and your dreams than a vehicle of your frustration and your anger.

You might think that this walking, talking contradiction would be the focus of intense media scrutiny--hypocrisy being a staple of modern political reportage--but you'd be wrong.

The media line on the new Obama is simple: It's John McCain's fault. Barack Obama would like to win the presidency the right way but McCain won't let him.

According to the press, in recent weeks, the McCain campaign has so distorted Obama's record and campaign proposals that the young senator has had no choice but to fight back with old-school tactics. "McCain's tactics are drawing the scorn of many in the media and organizations tasked with fact-checking the truthfulness of campaigns," wrote Politico's Jonathan Martin. "In recent weeks, Team McCain has been described as dishonorable, disingenuous and downright cynical."

And so while McCain's every utterance is factchecked and factchecked again in an attempt to shame him from challenging Obama too aggressively, Obama gets a pass.

Consider two examples.

On August 16, Pastor Rick Warren asked John McCain how much money someone would have to make to be considered rich. McCain didn't answer directly. "I think that rich should be defined by a home, a good job, an education and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited," he said.

Then he made a joke: "So, I think if you are just talking about income, how about $5 million?"

The audience laughed, immediately understanding that McCain was being facetious. Just in case there were any doubts McCain started his next comment by saying "seriously," to underscore the joke. Then he made a prediction.

"I'm sure that comment will be distorted," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.

And it has been. "It should come as no surprise that John McCain believes the cutoff for the rich begins at $5 million," Barack Obama's campaign said in a statement. "It may explain why his tax plan gives a $600,000 tax cut to the richest 0.1 percent of earners." At a campaign appearance two days after McCain made the comments, Obama himself mocked McCain. "I guess if you're making $3 million a year, you're middle class," Obama said.

Some news accounts noted that McCain was joking and others even reported that McCain predicted his words would be twisted and used against him. In an August 18 article in the Los Angeles Times, Greg Miller actually did both and noted that McCain aides had made clear their boss was joking. "Even so," Miller wrote, "the remark highlighted the candidates' disparate outlooks. Analysts who study income distribution said the answers appeared to reflect shifting political calculations more than economic reality."

So Miller, writing under the headline, "Who's Rich? McCain and Obama have very different definitions," used McCain's facetious answer as if he had meant it. (Miller also speculated that Cindy McCain's family money may have shaped McCain's views of what constitutes rich.) Not only was Obama not called on his misuse of McCain's comment, reporters piled on. Is it any wonder that the line has made regular appearances in Obama speeches over the past month?

"Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans," Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. "I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year?"

Then there are the absurd lengths to which some reporters are willing to go to protect Obama and attack McCain. Last week, the McCain campaign released an ad accusing Obama of being too close to Fannie Mae executives. In particular, it claims Obama took advice on housing and finance issues from former Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines. The Obama campaign protested, saying that Raines was not an adviser and had not given Obama counsel in any capacity. The McCain campaign defended the claim by citing an article that ran in the Washington Post on July 16, 2008. That article noted that Raines had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters."

Last Friday, the Washington Post "factchecked" the McCain ad and concluded that the campaign had been "clearly exaggerating wildly" in order to link Obama to Raines and that the "latest McCain attack is particularly dubious."

Factchecker Michael Dobbs wrote that McCain's evidence that Raines had advised Obama was "pretty flimsy"--not a description that probably endeared him to Anita Huslin, the reporter who wrote the story this summer. But Dobbs did talk to Huslin. Here is his account of their conversation:

Since this has now become a campaign issue, I asked Huslin to provide the exact circumstances of the quote. She explained that she was chatting with Raines during the photo shoot, and asked "if he was engaged at all with the Democrats' quest for the White House. He said that he had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign. I asked him about what, and he said 'oh, general housing, economy issues.' ('Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific,' I asked, and he said 'no.')"

By Raines's own account, he took a couple of calls from someone on the Obama campaign, and they had some general discussions about economic issues.

Got that? Huslin stands by her reporting--that Raines had given advice to the Obama campaign about mortgage and housing policy matters--and yet the McCain campaign is faulted by the Washington Post for relying on information that comes from the Washington Post.

More amusing, though, is that in the rush to accuse the McCain campaign of lying, Dobbs glosses over a major discrepancy between the story that appeared in his paper and that of the Obama campaign. Obama spokesman Bill Burton claims that the campaign "neither sought nor received" advice from Raines "on any matter." It is possible, of course, that Raines simply made up the conversations he described to the Post reporter. But it seems more likely, given the toxicity of Raines, that the Obama campaign would simply prefer that those conversations had never taken place.

Dobbs concludes: "I have asked both Raines and the Obama people for more details on these calls and will let you know if I receive a reply."

That's reassuring, since Dobbs has already decided that the McCain campaign has been dishonest. Two things are clear with six weeks left in the presidential race. Barack Obama will practice the old-style politics that he lamented throughout the Democratic primary. And the media will give him a pass.
10527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 06:32:59 PM
It's been said that "The Saudis are proof that money can buy everything, but civilization". I'd say this applies to more than just the Saudis.
10528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 06:29:29 PM
**Speaking of Bill and Melinda Gates and global charity.....**

Bill Gates secretly paid for Gaza greenhouses
Deal to 'enhance peace process,' but Palestinians stripped, looted facilities
Posted: April 13, 2006
1:00 am Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008

Bill Gates (Courtesy JERUSALEM – In a revelation that surprised many here associated with the deal, it emerged this week the charitable foundation of Microsoft founder Bill Gates largely was responsible for transferring to the Palestinians the high-tech Jewish greenhouses of the Gaza Strip prior to Israel's evacuation of the area.
The greenhouses, passed in a private charity deal last summer, reportedly have been stripped and looted by Palestinian gangs and Palestinian security officers hired to protect the structures.

"I wish I would have known it was Bill Gates who paid for the greenhouses. I would have sent him a thank you letter," Ahmed Al-Masri, current manager of the Gaza greenhouses, told WorldNetDaily.

Prior to Israel's August withdrawal, the residents of Gaza's Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities ran greenhouses known for producing high-quality insect-free vegetables. The Gush Katif gardens featured some of the most technologically advanced agricultural equipment and accounted for more than $100 million per year in exports to Europe. The greenhouses also supplied Israel with 75 percent of its own produce.

The hothouses, worth several hundred million dollars, were passed to the Palestinians in September in a $14 million deal brokered by former World Bank President James Wolfenson. According to reports, Wolfenson personally contributed $500,000 of his own money and the rest was ponied up mostly by American Jews, including billionaires Mortimer Zuckerman and Leonard Stern.

But an article in Forbes Magazine stated the $29 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's biggest charity, provided most of the money – $10 million – to purchase the greenhouses.

The magazine pointed out the donation falls outside the main focus of the foundation: global health. Gates is not known to involve himself in Mideast diplomacy or charities associated with Israel or the Palestinian territories.

A foundation representative told WND, "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed $10 million to facilitate the transfer of the greenhouses. This was a unique grant, made quickly and quietly because we believed it was in the best interest of all parties and would enhance the peace process."

Zuckerman, a real estate mogul who owns U.S. News and World Report and the New York Daily News, told WND, "We were advised the Gates Foundation wished to keep their gift anonymous. I am happy to acknowledge their contribution if confidentiality is not of concern to them now."

Major players involved in the greenhouse transfer say they were shocked to learn Gates was behind the financing.

Al-Masri was not aware of the donation until he was contacted by WND yesterday.

Officials from the Palestine Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development involved in the greenhouse transfer said they did not know Gates money funded the deal.

Also unaware was Eitan Haderi, a former Gaza Jewish farmer who represented the Gush Katif community in the greenhouse transfer.

"I am stunned. No one on our side had any idea Bill Gates paid for the greenhouses," Hadei told WND.

But Gates may not have got his money's worth. According to reports, the greenhouses were looted by gunmen following Israel's withdrawal. Computer equipment and, in some cases, entire greenhouses were stolen. The theft has put out of action about 70 acres of the roughly 1,000 acres left by the Jewish communities, according to Al-Masri.

"The looters took their time to dismantle the greenhouses and to uproot entire greenhouses and carry them away," Amid al-Masri previously told reporters.

Another round of looting struck the greenhouses in February when Fatah gunmen hired to protect the greenhouses abandoned their posts because they had not been paid. Witnesses reported some of the security guards themselves participated in the looting.

As WND reported, Palestinian farmers have had trouble reproducing the bug-free produce previously generated by the Jewish owners. The Palestinian owners reportedly asked the U.S. governmental development group USAID to hire former Jewish Gaza greenhouse owners as consultants for their declining vegetable businesses.

Al-Masri yesterday said the Gaza greenhouses are fully functioning and are producing at full capacity. He also said most of the stolen greenhouse equipment has been recovered by the Palestinian Authority police. His claims could not be independently verified before press time.
10529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 06:26:19 PM

Mawassi residents say life was better before 2005, when they were part of an Israeli settlement enclave. Few can find work now.

By Rafael D. Frankel | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the August 12, 2008 edition

Correspondent Rafael D. Frankel visits the Gaza town of Mawassi.
MAWASSI, GAZA - Three years have passed since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, and in that time the economy of this coastal territory of 1.4 million people has gone from bad to worse.

Gas and food shortages are now being compounded by cash shortages as tens of thousands of people were unable to withdraw money from banks on Monday.

Still, despite their economic hardships, most Gazans insist that they prefer life here without the Israelis.

But in Mawassi – a mixed ethnic Palestinian and Bedouin town that was completely isolated from the rest of Gaza inside a Jewish settlement enclave – it's a different story.

"I want [the Israelis] to come back," says Riyad al-Laham, an unemployed father of eight who worked in the area's Jewish settlements for nearly 20 years. "All the Mawassi people used to work in the settlements and make good money. Now there is nothing to do. Even our own agricultural land is barren."

Located in the middle of Gush Katif, the former block of Jewish settlements here, Mawassi fell within the security cordon the Israeli army threw around its citizens from 2002 to 2005, when attacks from the neighboring Palestinian town of Khan Yunis came almost daily.

During those years, the people of Mawassi continued to work in Gush Katif, mainly as farmhands in hundreds of greenhouses the Jewish settlers operated.

Mr. Laham and many others in Mawassi say they preferred the relative economic security of those days to the current destitution, even if they are now free from Israeli occupation.

"Freedom to go where?" Laham asks. "I have no fuel now for my car. Where can I go? Freedom is a slogan. Even for a donkey you need money – which I don't have."

Three years ago, before Israel withdrew, Mawassi was a town of fertile corn crops and greenhouses, which – like the ones in the Jewish settlements – grew cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and strawberries.

Now, in the ethnic Palestinian section of town, nearly half the land lies barren.

Only shells remain of many of the greenhouses that were stripped of valuable materials.

A city that fed itself with its produce and the money its men made from working with the settlers, Mawassi is now dependent on food handouts from the United Nations.

Like the rest of Gaza, its people lack cooking gas and petrol, even if they feel more secure without Israeli soldiers all around them.

In the Bedouin section of town, Salem al-Bahabsa sits with five of his 24 grandchildren in front of his chicken coop. Goats and sheep wander around the other parts of the Bedouin quarter, where people live mostly in tents with tin roofs.

"We are all now unemployed and depend on charity for food," Mr. Bahabsa says. "My sons were farmers in the greenhouses. We worked in the settlements and had resources. Now, I don't think I could survive without [the UN].... Before was better."

There are voices in Mawassi who disagree, including Laham's brother, Iyad. Reclaiming their beachfront, which became the Jewish settlement of Shirat Hayam in 2001, and the ability to move around Gaza as they please, makes the quality of life here better even if there is no longer a market for their produce, Iyad says.

"It was dark days because of the occupation," says Iyad, an employed English teacher and father of three. "Working is not everything. The checkpoints made our city a prison.... We can't say the occupation days were better than today."

But interviews in the village appear to indicate that Iayd's point of view puts him in the minority.

One main reason that life is worse now, say many villagers, is the lack of attention paid to Mawassi by both the previous Fatah and current Hamas governments since the Israeli withdrawal.

The Israelis "used to take responsibility for us as occupiers," Riyad Laham says. "Neither [Hamas nor Fatah] knocked on the doors to ask what we need. People are fed up.... We have become beggars.

"At 9 a.m. in every other country, everyone is at his desk doing his work," Laham says. "Here, people are by the side of the road with their arms crossed together."
10530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 06:17:13 PM
**Supporting Israel=Billions

Keeping a state sponsor of terrorism from getting nukes=PRICELESS

From The Sunday Times
September 16, 2007
Israelis ‘blew apart Syrian nuclear cache’
Secret raid on Korean shipment

Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv, Sarah Baxter in Washington and Michael Sheridan
IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”

The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.” The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

But why would nuclear material be in Syria? Known to have chemical weapons, was it seeking to bolster its arsenal with something even more deadly?

Alternatively, could it be hiding equipment for North Korea, enabling Kim Jong-il to pretend to be giving up his nuclear programme in exchange for economic aid? Or was the material bound for Iran, as some authorities in America suggest?

According to Israeli sources, preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.

The Israeli spy chief apparently feared such a device could eventually be installed on North-Korean-made Scud-C missiles.

“This was supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel,” said an Israeli source. “We’ve known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can’t live with a nuclear warhead.”

An expert on the Middle East, who has spoken to Israeli participants in the raid, told yesterday’s Washington Post that the timing of the raid on September 6 appeared to be linked to the arrival three days earlier of a ship carrying North Korean material labelled as cement but suspected of concealing nuclear equipment.

The target was identified as a northern Syrian facility that purported to be an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river. Israel had been monitoring it for some time, concerned that it was being used to extract uranium from phosphates.

According to an Israeli air force source, the Israeli satellite Ofek 7, launched in June, was diverted from Iran to Syria. It sent out high-quality images of a northeastern area every 90 minutes, making it easy for air force specialists to spot the facility.

Early in the summer Ehud Barak, the defence minister, had given the order to double Israeli forces on its Golan Heights border with Syria in anticipation of possible retaliation by Damascus in the event of air strikes.

Sergei Kirpichenko, the Russian ambassador to Syria, warned President Bashar al-Assad last month that Israel was planning an attack, but suggested the target was the Golan Heights.

Israeli military intelligence sources claim Syrian special forces moved towards the Israeli outpost of Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights. Tension rose, but nobody knew why.

At this point, Barak feared events could spiral out of control. The decision was taken to reduce the number of Israeli troops on the Golan Heights and tell Damascus the tension was over. Syria relaxed its guard shortly before the Israeli Defence Forces struck.

Only three Israeli cabinet ministers are said to have been in the know – Olmert, Barak and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. America was also consulted. According to Israeli sources, American air force codes were given to the Israeli air force attaché in Washington to ensure Israel’s F15Is would not mistakenly attack their US counterparts.

Once the mission was under way, Israel imposed draconian military censorship and no news of the operation emerged until Syria complained that Israeli aircraft had violated its airspace. Syria claimed its air defences had engaged the planes, forcing them to drop fuel tanks to lighten their loads as they fled.

But intelligence sources suggested it was a highly successful Israeli raid on nuclear material supplied by North Korea.

Washington was rife with speculation last week about the precise nature of the operation. One source said the air strikes were a diversion for a daring Israeli commando raid, in which nuclear materials were intercepted en route to Iran and hauled to Israel. Others claimed they were destroyed in the attack.

There is no doubt, however, that North Korea is accused of nuclear cooperation with Syria, helped by AQ Khan’s network. John Bolton, who was undersecretary for arms control at the State Department, told the United Nations in 2004 the Pakistani nuclear scientist had “several other” customers besides Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Some of his evidence came from the CIA, which had reported to Congress that it viewed “Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern”.

“I’ve been worried for some time about North Korea and Iran outsourcing their nuclear programmes,” Bolton said last week. Syria, he added, was a member of a “junior axis of evil”, with a well-established ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The links between Syria and North Korea date back to the rule of Kim Il-sung and President Hafez al-Assad in the last century. In recent months, their sons have quietly ordered an increase in military and technical cooperation.

Foreign diplomats who follow North Korean affairs are taking note. There were reports of Syrian passengers on flights from Beijing to Pyongyang and sightings of Middle Eastern businessmen from sources who watch the trains from North Korea to China.

On August 14, Rim Kyong Man, the North Korean foreign trade minister, was in Syria to sign a protocol on “cooperation in trade and science and technology”. No details were released, but it caught Israel’s attention.

Syria possesses between 60 and 120 Scud-C missiles, which it has bought from North Korea over the past 15 years. Diplomats believe North Korean engineers have been working on extending their 300-mile range. It means they can be used in the deserts of northeastern Syria – the area of the Israeli strike.

The triangular relationship between North Korea, Syria and Iran continues to perplex intelligence analysts. Syria served as a conduit for the transport to Iran of an estimated £50m of missile components and technology sent by sea from North Korea. The same route may be in use for nuclear equipment.

But North Korea is at a sensitive stage of negotiations to end its nuclear programme in exchange for security guarantees and aid, leading some diplomats to cast doubt on the likelihood that Kim would cross America’s “red line” forbidding the proliferation of nuclear materials.

Christopher Hill, the State Department official representing America in the talks, said on Friday he could not confirm “intelligence-type things”, but the reports underscored the need “to make sure the North Koreans get out of the nuclear business”.

By its actions, Israel showed it is not interested in waiting for diplomacy to work where nuclear weapons are at stake.

As a bonus, the Israelis proved they could penetrate the Syrian air defence system, which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites.

This weekend President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent Ali Akbar Mehrabian, his nephew, to Syria to assess the damage. The new “axis of evil” may have lost one of its spokes.
10531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 05:51:59 PM
GM, perhaps sometime I am missing the point; please make one... rather than posting irrelevant articles.

Regarding English Law, "As for me being wrong, time will tell."  Maybe yes, maybe no, but you are WRONG today and therefore your post was wrong today.  Simply admit you are WRONG; period. Just follow the simple logic...

**Let me help you on this. Does current law in the UK explicitly allow for dv? No. Let's move a step or two beyond your simple thinking and look at how the introduction of sharia law places muslim women in greater jeopardy, a group in theory whom you care for deeply.
As sharia law holds women (and non-muslims) in a much lower legal status than muslim men and does not recognize domestic violence as a wrong when a muslim man uses it to keep his wife in a state of submission (A common theme you'll find in islamic thought, not a shock given that "islam" most closely translates to "submission"). So, if a woman that wishes to divorce a husband that beats her, that is pressured by her familiy/community to go before a sharia court will be as protected as if she went to a british civil court? Do you think that abusive husbands who see wife-beating as an activity blessed by allah will be more or less likely to do so now?

I believe in that post, I used the phrase "woo-hoo". To assist you, I will explain that this was something called sarcasm.


A form of irony in which apparent praise conceals another, scornful meaning. For example, a sarcastic remark directed at a person who consistently arrives fifteen minutes late for appointments might be, “Oh, you've arrived exactly on time!”

In the future, when I use sarcasm or irony or other non-literal statements, I'll be sure to label them as such so there is no confusion.**

As for McCain being "confused" I was not referring to any mental disease (I find the man competent albeit not brilliant) simply that he does not seem to have an answer and that he wildly fluctuates on his response to the economic issues of today.  Even the WSJ agreed.  Nothing sinister.  Trying to smear the messenger, yet it was a WSJ article, you posted a lengthy post on Cafferty receiving a traffic ticket; so?  A post on a traffic ticket ... that was just plain silly and inane.

**A common theme from you has been McCain's age. Given that the presidency does not involve heavy lifting or a six minute mile, the implication is his mental abilities are imparied due to his age. Cafferty striking a cyclist then driving through at least 2 red lights while dragging the bicycle underneath his car says a lot about his capacity. Try to minimize it, as you will.**

And I doubt "that Obama has concerns about his mental competency due to his history of hard drug use" or if anyone else has a concern; his brain worked well enough to get through Harvard and Harvard Law; he could lose a few brain cells and still be far ahead of McCain.

**Obama has never released his medical records or his grades from his undergrad/postgrad. Why? What does he have to hide? If Barry-O is as smart as you insist he is, then he should proudly display his academic accomplishments. It would help his otherwise wafer thin resume. He should disclose his medical records, including his usage of hard drugs and any drug treatment he obtained. It would be nice to know he's not using coke now.**

I can't tell you why the muslim world has so little in the way of accomplishment; I don't know.  I  think many problems contribute to their lack of success; money is not the only answer.  But then by your definition, Africa has achieved nothing, Central and Latin America have achieved nothing, nor has most of Asia and frankly, much of Europe.  They are all "failures" by your "success" definition.  Yet in many of these places, the people are very happy.

**Actually, you can't lump all the countries into successful or not successful by region or continent. Examine the "Four Tigers" of asia, as well the the gains made by mainland China, India and Japan being the 2nd. largest economy on the planet and you'll see the core elements that contribute to economic growth. Examine the muslim world, especially the arab nations and I think the contrast will make things clear.**

And I am glad Israel is a friend, but then I am happy Canada, England, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Korea, etc. are friends too; they are all successful yet they don't demand billions of dollars in aid each year; they are successful and they pay their own way. 

**Not exactly. Though they may not receive direct financial aid, they all have profited from the "pax americana", especially in the area of defense spending. Crunch the numbers since WWII and you'll see just how much they've glided along in our wake.**

These successful countries give money to the needy, they don't beg for money for themselves. As for it being "the right thing to do" I am not sure I know what that means.  Isn't it also the right thing to do to give these billions to education, poverty and disease like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in areas where it is really needed?  Giving and charity is not giving to the rich and successful; it's giving to the needy, isn't it?

**Israel exists on a war footing, as they have from the first moments of their existence. Blind giving can only do some much, while contributing to science and technology enriches us all collectively. Frankly, the fact that Israel has accomplished so much while under such constant threat is nothing short of miraculous.**
10532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 01:14:32 PM
GM, as Marc has pointed out, you are able to access a great number/quantity of articles; good for you.  Some are interesting and perhaps poignant, but often, none are relevant. 

**I think sometimes you sometimes miss the point.**

It drives me crazy; you don' like that I pointed out that you were wrong about British Law so you print numerous unrelated articles,

**In an attempt to educate you about sharia law. As for me being wrong, time will tell.**

mind you, recently as to the WSJ piece adverse to McCain, you don't challenge the WSJ accusations or overall article, rather you point out Cafferty got a traffic ticket - again does this answer the question?  Is it even relevant?  I mean Cafferty didn't even write the article; the WSJ staff wrote the article and who frankly cares if Cafferty got a traffic ticket. 

**You were trying to float the "McCain was confused" meme, and posted a link to Cafferty's blog. I pointed out that Obama has concerns about his mental competency due to his history of hard drug use.**

It reminds me of an old boss of mine when I got out of school; to paraphrase, he said, "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bu$%^*&.  Quantity, obfuscating the issues is not an answer.

**I've asked you to explain why the muslim world has so little in the way of accomplishments. You don't seem to want to address this question. There is an immense amount of oil wealth in the arab world, while Israel has none. So what have the arabs done with it?.**

In this instance, you stated that Israel is a rich and successful notion; you noted their numerous individual successes and contributions to science, etc.; I agreed, we both admire the country.  However, I inquired that given Israel is such a wealthy and successful nation, why are they the number one (1) beneficiary of our foreign aid; far and above anyone else?  As your articles pointed out we have been giving close to 3 billion dollars per year to Israel, year after year plus special perks and other benefits; this is more than 10% almost 15% of our total foreign aid budget.  Money, as you indirectly pointed out that could be spent funding projects elsewhere like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing. The world is hungry, the world has disease, we need to help.  So I am still waiting... given that Israel is so successful, why are we giving them so much foreign aid?

**Israel is a friend in a region filled with barbarism. We should support them for sound geopolitical reasons and because it's the right thing to do.** 

It's a simple question; please don't post articles on non related issues.  Just answer the question or if you cannot, simply say "I don't know", or "I agree, it's not right", or "I think we should give them money because many people in Israel are hungry" or "yeah, maybe Israel's success is partially due to our money and support" or ?  But please address the issue rather than avoiding the subject or pointing fingers elsewhere.
10533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 12:59:48 AM
**All the oil wealth, and where does it go?**

Saudi Charity Begins...Nowhere   
By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld | Friday, July 07, 2006

Upon hearing Warren Buffett’s announcement on June 25, 2006, of giving $37 billion to charitable foundations, mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, declared that Muslim organizations “are lagging behind,” only because of intimidation by the West. The Muslims, he said, are in “the cycle of fear,” [of] “being accused of funding suspicious organizations that fall under the scrutiny of anti-terrorism investigations.” One wonders why they are funding “suspicious organizations” in the first place.
Instead of blaming America and the West, as CAIR constantly does, it could initiate the establishment of a new Muslim foundation with a similar mission to that of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This new Muslim foundation could supply immunization, HIV and anti-malarial medication, and medical means to reduce cervical cancer incidence and deaths in poor Muslim countries, feed millions of refugees from Muslim atrocities in Darfur, and generally “bring innovations in health” to Third World Muslim countries. Indeed, Awad himself pointed out that, “We in the Muslim world are lagging behind when we should be pioneers as per our Islamic beliefs.”
To be sure, there is no shortage in oil billionaires in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. According to Forbes Magazine 2006 list of the World’s Richest People, Saudi and Gulf billionaires are worth at least $134 billion. Muslim billionaires in Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon are worth additional $29.4 billion. This is not taking into account Muslim billionaires and millionaires in Asia and elsewhere. Moreover, the oil boom in the Middle East generated at least 300,000, new wealthy millionaires in the region.
According to the Department of Energy, Saudi Arabia is estimated to gain $154 billion in oil revenues in 2006, alone, and has at least $110 billion in foreign assets.
Yet, despite all this wealth, Muslim charities do not focus on alleviating the suffering of millions of poor Muslims and provide for their economic development the way the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) does. Instead, Muslim charities, led by the Saudis, continue to pour billions into madrassas to spread Wahhabism and hatred of the West around the globe – and not only in the Muslim world.
Testifying before the House International Relations Committee on June 29, 2006, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer stated, “Saudi Arabia has become a leading financier of the Islamic takeover of Somalia.” And in the Middle East, Saudi and Gulf cash, smuggled into Gaza under the watchful eyes of the Egyptians, helped Hamas pay the salaries of at least 130, 000 employees of the Palestinian Authority, according to Middle Eastern sources. And more money is coming. On July 5, The Arab League announced in Cairo the transfer of $50 million to the West Bank and Gaza, and $15 million to pay for o Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and to employees and diplomats in Palestinian embassies and Palestinian representative. In addition, the U.S. “good ally,” Saudi Arabia, “also provided $50 million.” This is at the time that President George W. Bush, declared: "In order for there to be peace, Hamas must be dismantled."
Two years ago, the Saudi government gave at least $12 billion per year to Muslim charities. In light of their growing oil revenues, it is reasonable to assume that they are contributing more now.
According to testimony  given before the Senate Banking Committee by Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey on on April 4, Saudi money “is going to Iraq. And it's going to Southeast Asia and it's going to any other place where there are terrorists.” He added Saudi promises to stop the financing of terrorism “haven't been uniformly implemented.”
While the Saudis work hard to fight domestic terrorism, they have yet to turn off the flow of money from wealthy Saudis and their charities that continue to fuel terrorism against the West. Instead, the Kingdom increased its public relations offensive in the U.S., spending tens of millions of dollars on Washington lobbyist, and in contributions to U.S.-based Muslim organizations such as CAIR, who oppose the government’s condemnation of Palestinian terrorism and Hamas.
Last month, CAIR announced that it was “launching a massive $50 million media campaign involving television, radio, and newspapers as part of its five-year program to create a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the U.S.” Following their Saudi paymaster’s lead, CAIR now orchestrates a media offensive demanding that President Bush come to Hamas’s rescue and condemn Israel.
Clearly, the idea that the $50 million CAIR spends to promote Hamas’ culture of death can instead help millions of Muslims to live better, just did not cross Awad’s mind.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It, Director of American Center for Democracy and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger. She is the world’s leading expert on Narco-Terrorism and a noteworthy authority on international terrorism, political corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Most recently, she was a consult for the Department of Defense’s Threat Reduction Strategy.
10534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 21, 2008, 12:49:37 AM

You are avoiding the point. We aren't the only country that gives out money, and many arab nations are far from poor, so why the difference in outcomes?


Life Insurance for Palestinian Suicide Bombers

By Christoph Schult, Britta Sandberg and Ansgar Mertin
An Arab bank pays a type of life insurance to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. But now it could soon face a lawsuit from American lawyers representing the victims.

Palestinian suicide bomber Bassam Takruri killed seven people when he blew himself up on a Jersualem bus on May 18, 2003. His family then received $200 a month for over a year, after opening an Arab Bank account.

On the morning of the day before he planned to blow himself up, Bassam Takruri wore a freshly ironed shirt, a blazer and polished shoes. At 10 a.m., the student said goodbye to his father, who gave him ten shekels in pocket money. It was a beautiful Saturday in May in the Palestinian town of Hebron.

Everything seemed normal, at least for the rest of the family. The 18-year-old Bassam, a boy with dark, earnest eyes, was ambitious. He wanted to become an engineer. His father called him his best son. But he spent the last night of his life away from this family -- something many suicide bombers do so as not to lose their nerve at the last moment.

On the Sunday morning of the day Bassam picked for his terror attack, Steve Averbach strapped on his pistol in a Jerusalem suburb just as he had been doing for years. Averbach was a police officer. It was early, not even 6 a.m. and his two small sons Sean and Adam and his wife Julie were still sleeping. At a stop in the northern part of Jerusalem, he boarded the No. 6 bus, a green accordion-stretch model. At around 5:45 a.m. it reached the stop at French Hill.

Averbach scrutinized each new passenger. After serving in the anti-terrorist unit of the Jerusalem police department, he was now teaching the police, civilians and private security how to handle a weapon. His colleagues even called him "Weapon Steve."

As the bus began to pull away, a man ran up to the side and the bus driver stopped and opened the door. The man was wearing the black suit and skullcap of an observant Jew. But his beard was too thin. Seeing a bulge underneath the man's jacket, Averbach quickly stood up and headed toward the stranger. But Bassam, disguised as a devout Jew, was quicker than Averbach and he ignited his belt of explosives.

Bassam died and Averbach survived seriously injured for life.

A few weeks after the suicide bombing, the phone at the home of Bassam Takruri's parents rang. On the other end of the line was a representative of Muassafat Usar al Shuhada, or "The Organization of Martyr Families." He told Bassam's mother that the family had received money, but that they would have to open an account at the Arab Bank in order to withdraw the first deposit. The Takruris were puzzled, but they did what the man said. Shortly thereafter money was transferred to the new account. From then on, Bassam's family received $200 (€152) each month for more than a year.

The Arab Bank is one of the largest and most important financial institutions in the Arab world. The Jordan-based private bank, of which 40 percent is still held by the founding Schuman family, is active in 28 countries. The Jordanian monarchy even awarded Abd al Hamid Schuman a medal for his achievements and services to the country.

But the bank has long been suspected of directing money used to finance terrorism in the Palestinian Territories. And accounts at its Palestinian branches are also supposedly used to pay a type of life insurance to the families of youthful suicide bombers, who blow themselves up with the aim of killing as many Israelis as possible. The blood money paid for a son turned murderer is 20,000 Saudi riyal -- roughly €4,000 or $5,000. The funds take a circuitous route to the accounts of those families that prove the death of their son by showing a death certificate at the Arab Bank branch in the Palestinian Territories. Then monthly deposits are made just like in Takruri's case.

Suicide bombers with foresight can take care of all the necessary paperwork before they blow themselves to smithereens. A so-called Martyr Kit includes everything from a death certificate from the Palestinian Authority to an account card at the Arab Bank.

The attack carried out by the student Bassam Takruri on May 18, 2003 was one of the worst at the time. He had several kilograms of explosives strapped around his waist and the power or the blast was so strong that the bus was catapulted from the street. Seven people died and 20 were injured.

As the police found Steve Averbach's body inside the bus, his finger was still on the trigger of his pistol. He told them they should be careful since the weapon's safety was off. Then he lost consciousness. He spent five weeks in intensive care. Shards of glass had punctured his lungs and a ball bearing had penetrated his neck to become lodged between his third and fourth vertebrae. Since that day, Averbach has been paralyzed from the neck down.

A year after the attack he got himself an attorney, an American named Gary Osen from New Jersey. He now wants to sue the Arab Bank on the basis of a 1996 anti-terrorism law making it illegal to support terrorists financially. The 37-year-old Osen has a neat haircut, a sonorous voice, a sober demeanor -- and plenty of experience in damage compensation cases. In Germany, he represented the heirs of the Wertheim family against major retailer KarstadtQuelle. "In our suit we accuse the Arab Bank of supporting the funding of extremist Palestinian groups," says Osen. "Our goal is to make it much more difficult for them to access the money."

His law office represents 200 US clients who lost relatives in Israel in terrorist attacks. The law firm of US star attorney Ron Motley, who led a class-action lawsuit for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is representing another 700 people seeking compensation. The lawyers are optimistic they can at least reduce the flow of money coming predominately from Saudi Arabia via Arab Bank accounts into the Palestinian Territories.

According to the lawsuit complaint, the blood money was often collected in Saudi Arabia and then sent via the Arab Bank's New York branch in US dollars to either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Much financial support is thought to come from the Saudi Committee for the Al-Quds Intifada, a charity headed by Saudi Interior Minster Prince Nayef. "This committee," says Osen, "is nothing more than a fundraising organization to support the Palestinian resistance." But a spokesman for the group in the Saudi capital Riyadh denies supporting the families of suicide bombers, claiming the committee only works with official Palestinian organizations and ministries.

But an ad published in the Palestinian daily newspaper Al Quds in November 2001 supports the theory of the US attorneys. The committee placed an advertisement listing the names of injured and imprisoned Palestinians, as well as the names of a few suicide bombers. Their families were instructed to go to a local branch of the Arab Bank in order to receive donations from the committee.

In February 2002, a similar ad was placed in another publication, Al Hayat Al Jadeeda, again asking families of "martyrs" to go to the Arab Bank in order "to receive the tenth payment, totaling $5,316 for each family, donated by the Saudi committee." The generous donors ended up giving $1,594,980 to some 300 families in the occupied territories via the Arab Bank.

Representatives of the financial institution deny that the bank knowingly takes part in such transactions. "Our bank has nothing to do with terror financing," says Bob Chlopak, the Arab Bank's spokesman in the United States. "But a bank isn't a law-enforcement agency. It can't google every single one of its clients before they make a transfer. And no bank is perfect."

Apparently not the Arab Bank either, which had its New York branch on Madison Avenue essentially shut down by the US banking authorities for not having sufficient internal controls on money transfers. In 2005, a unit of the US Treasury Department also slapped a $24 million fine on the bank, which can no longer carry out dollar-denominated transactions and international transfers.

The Israeli army also found documents during searches in the West Bank years ago that allegedly substantiate charges that the Arab Bank has been used by Saudi organizations to finance terrorism. Funds supposedly were transferred to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Confiscated Arab Bank documents from 2003 intimate that fund transfers via the New York branch ended up with the Tulkarm Charitable Society, which has ties to Hamas.

The 40-year-old bombing survivor Steve Averbach now lives in Ganei Tikva, "the garden of hope," in a quiet street in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. In front of his house is a silver van with a blue wheelchair sticker on the back window. Averbach now needs care 24 hours a day. He can't talk on the telephone without help, nor can he feed himself. He can speak, nod his head, laugh and cry. When he cries his caregiver has to wipe away his tears. Every day he has to swallow 40 different pills and his body slumps in his wheelchair.

"I'm not the victim of terrorism," says Averbach looking at his wife Julie. "The victims are my wife and my children." Julie quit her job as an accountant and the Averbachs are living on his meager police pension. If his lawsuit against the Arab Bank is successful he could end up getting a few million dollars in three or four years.

The father of the bomber lives in the Ras al Jura part of Hebron. Jamal Takruri sits on his yellow sofa, a small man with a friendly face. Behind him on the wall hangs a photograph of his son Bassam. The likeness is unmistakable -- the big eyes, the high forehead, the bushy eyebrows. Since their son blew himself up, the family has been living in a small apartment. Israeli bulldozers flattened their house a few weeks after the attack. The apartment that is now their home belongs to the Organization of Martyr Families -- the very group that suddenly offered them the generous financial payments.

Bassam's father has never questioned whether he should accept the funds sent to his Arab Bank account. "We needed the money," he says lighting up a smoke. "We suddenly no longer had a house."

Correction notice: The headline text of this story has been changed to reflect the original German version. In English, it read: "An important Arab bank in the Arab world offers accounts paying a type of life insurance to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers." However, in the original German version of the article it read: An Arab bank pays a type of life insurance to the families of suicide bombers." The text has been corrected to reflect this inconsistency.

10535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon on: September 20, 2008, 11:00:14 PM

Palin: Yes, she's 100 percent Ivy-free.

Posted: 3:26 am
September 20, 2008

I KNOW Sarah Palin, and so does my wife.

Neither of us ever actually met the governor of Alaska, but we grew up with her - in the small-town America despised by the leftwing elite.

One gal-pal classmate of my wife's has even traveled from New York's Finger Lakes to Alaska to hunt moose with her husband. (Got one, too.) And no, Ms. Streisand, she isn't a redneck missing half her teeth - she's a lawyer.

The sneering elites and their mediacrat fellow travelers just don't get it: How on earth could anyone vote for someone who didn't attend an Ivy League school? And having more than 1.7 children marks any woman as a rube. (If Palin had any taste, her teenage daughter would've had a quiet abortion in a discreet facility.)

And what kind of retro-Barbie would stay happily married to her high-school sweetheart? Ugh. She even kills animals and eats them. (The meat and fish served in the upscale bistros patronized by Obama supporters appears by magic - it didn't really come from living things. . .)

Palin has that hick accent, too. And that busy-mom beehive 'do. Double ugh! Bet she hasn't even read Ian McEwan's latest novel and can't explain Frank Gehry's vision for a new architecture. She and her blue-collar (triple ugh!) husband don't even own a McMansion, let alone an inherited family compound on the Cape.

And she wants to be vice president?

The opinion-maker elites see Sarah Palin clearly every time they look up from another sneering article in The New Yorker: She's a country-bumpkin chumpette from a hick state with low latte availability. She's not one of them and never will be. That's the real disqualifier in this race.

Now let me tell you what those postmodern bigots with their multiple vacation homes and their disappointing trust-fund kids don't see:

Sarah Palin's one of us. She actually represents the American people.

When The New York Times, CNN, the NBC basket of basket cases and all the barking blog dogs insult Palin, they're insulting us. When they smear her, they're smearing every American who actually works for a living, who doesn't expect a handout, who doesn't have a full-time accountant to parse the family taxes, who believes in the Pledge of Allegiance and who thinks a church is more than just a tedious stop on daughter Emily's 100K wedding day.

Go ahead, faux feminists and Hollywood deep thinkers: Snicker at Sarah America's degree from the University of Idaho, but remember that most Americans didn't attend Harvard or Princeton as a legacy after daddy donated enough to buy his kid's way in.

Go ahead, campaign strategists: Mock Americans who go to church and actually pray. But you might want to run the Census numbers first.

And go right ahead: Dismiss all of us who remember how, on the first day of deer season, our high school classrooms were half empty (not a problem at Andover or Exeter).

That rube accent of Palin's? It's a howler. But she sounds a lot more like the rest of us than a Harvard man or a Smithie ever will.

Why does Sarah Palin energize all of us who don't belong to the gilded leftwing circle? Because she's us. We sat beside her in class. We hung out after school (might've even shared a backseat combat zone on prom night). And now she lives next door, raising her kids.

For the first time since Ronald Reagan, our last great president, we, the people, see a chance that one of us might have a voice in governing our country.

Speaking of Reagan (Eureka College, Illinois), every chief executive we've had since the Gipper snapped his final salute as president has had the imprimatur of an Ivy League university. And we've gone from bad to worse:

* George Herbert Walker Bush: Yale.

* William Jefferson Clinton: Georgetown, Oxford, Yale Law.

* George W. Bush: Yale and Harvard Business School.

The first lacked the sense to finish the job in Desert Storm; the second lacked the guts to go after al Qaeda when it was just a startup - and the third, well, let's just say he disappointed our low expectations.

Now we have the Ivy League elite's "he's not only like us but he's a minority and we're so wonderful to support him" candidate, Sen. Barack Obama (Columbia and Harvard Law).

Our country can't afford another one of these clowns. Harvard isn't the answer - Harvard's the problem.

So here's the message Palin is sending on behalf of the rest of us (the down-market masses Dems love at election time and ignore once the voting's done): The rule of the snobs is over. It's time to give one of us a chance to lead.

Sen. John McCain's one of us, too. He raised hell at Annapolis (quadruple ugh: military!), and he'll raise the right kind of hell in Washington.

McCain's so dumb he really loves his country.

Sarah Palin's dumb that way, too. How terribly unfashionable.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."
10536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2008, 08:47:24 PM
September 19, 2008, 7:00 a.m.

Obama 101
My firsthand lesson.

By Amir Taheri

On Monday, in an opinion piece published in the New York Post, I suggested that Senator Barack Obama had urged Iraqi leaders to postpone making an agreement with the United States until there was a new administration in Washington.

I said this because Obama himself had said it.

In an interview broadcast by NBC on June 16, 2008, Obama said that he had told Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari that “the Congress should be involved in any negotiations regarding the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq” and “suggested it may be better to wait until the next administration to negotiate such an agreement.”

I said it because Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said it.

In an interview published by the pan-Arab daily Asharq Alawast on September 11, 2008, Zebari raised the issue at length. This is part of what he said: “Obama asked me why, in view of a change of administration, we were hurrying the signing of this special agreement, and why we did not wait until the coming of a new administration next year to agree on some issues and matters.”

I said it because my Iraqi sources, who asked not to be identified because they do not wish to pick a quarrel with someone who could be the President of the United States next year, said it.

A day after my op-ed was published, Obama’s campaign issued a statement, in effect confirming what I had said.

It said, in part, “Senator Obama has consistently said that any security arrangements that outlast this administration should have the backing of the US Congress — especially given the fact that the Iraqi parliament will have the opportunity to vote on it.”

On Wednesday, the senator issued another statement — also in response to my op-ed — denying that he had ever opposed “a redeployment and responsible drawdown” of U.S. forces in Iraq. But I never said he did. I also never said that he opposed motherhood and apple pie; In any case, no one would oppose “redeployment and responsible drawdown,” something that is happening all the time. Redeployment means moving some units from one location to another. Drawdown means reducing the size of the expeditionary force in accordance with the task at hand. Right now troops are being redeployed from Anbar province to Salahuddin. There is also drawdown: The number of U.S. troops has been drawn down to 136,000, the lowest since a peak of 170,000 in 2003.

What Obama hopes his more radical followers will not notice is that he is no longer speaking of “withdrawal.”

He also hopes to hide the fact that by telling the Iraqi leaders that a putative Obama administration might scrap agreements reached with the Bush team, he might have delayed the start of a process that should lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces within a mutually agreed timeframe. The later you start the negotiating process, the later you get an agreement. And the later you have an agreement, the later you can withdraw your troops based on the agreed necessary security arrangements to ensure their safe departure.

By trying to second-guess the present administration in its negotiations with Iraq, Obama ignored a golden rule of American politics. I first learned about that rule from Senator Edward Kennedy more than 30 years ago. During a visit to Tehran, Kennedy received a few Iranian reporters for a poolside chat. The big question at the time was negotiations between Washington and Tehran about massive arms contracts. When we asked Kennedy what he thought of those negotiations, his answer was simple: He would not comment on negotiations between his government and a foreign power, especially when abroad. That, he said, was one of the golden rules of American politics.

A few years later, I spent a day with Ronald Reagan during his visit to Iran. I asked what he thought of the strategic arms limitation talks between the U.S. and the USSR. He echoed Kennedy’s golden rule: He would not comment on his government’s negotiations with a foreign power, especially when abroad.

A couple of years ago, I ran into that golden rule again. At a meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton in Washington, I asked what she thought of the Bush administration’s negotiations with the Iraqis concerning security cooperation. She said she would not second-guess the president and would wait for the outcome of the negotiations. In a statesmanlike manner, Senator Clinton reminded me of the golden rule—one that is common to all mature democracies where the opposition is loyal and constitutional.

Today, Senator Obama is the leader of a loyal opposition in the United States, not the chief of an insurrection or a revolutionary uprising. What we are witnessing in the U.S. is an election, not an insurrection or a coronation, even less a regime change.

Obama should not have discussed the government-to-government negotiations with the Iraqis. That he did, surprised the Iraqis no end. Raising the issue with them, especially the way he did, meant that he was telling them that he did not trust his own government. The Iraqis could not be blamed for wondering why they should trust a government that is not trusted by the leader of its own loyal opposition. (There was also no point in raising the matter, because Obama did not know the content of the negotiations.)

An opposition leader’s foreign trips are useful as fact-finding missions. This means that the opposition leader listens to the locals, asks questions, and tries to get the political feel of the place. He is not there to lecture the natives or bad-mouth his own government back home.

Obama might have attended a session of the new Iraqi parliament and congratulated the people of Iraq for defying death to go through one referendum and two general elections to build a new democracy.

He might have visited some of the good work done by over 1.2 million Americans, both military and civilian, who have heroically served in Iraq since its liberation.

He might have visited some of the wounded victims of terrorism, both U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, to comfort them, and assure them of continued U.S. determination to fight the forces of evil.

He did none of those things during his eight-hour photo-op visit.

In the American system, the administration can conclude agreements with foreign powers on a range of issues backed by an executive order from the president. I am no expert, but the U.S. has signed scores, maybe hundreds of such agreements with many countries across the globe. To be sure, the U.S. legislature always has the power to seek the abrogation of any of these agreements. When it comes to treaties, however, they cannot come into effect without full Senate approval.

However, Iraq and the U.S. are not negotiating a treaty, and, if they were, Obama could have waited until the draft text was submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by his vice-presidential running mate Joseph Biden.

In any case, every agreement and every treaty contains mechanisms for its suspension or abrogation. Therefore, even supposing Bush was negotiating an absolutely terrible agreement with the Iraqis in which he would be selling the family silver, Obama should have waited until he saw the text, and then demanded the cancellation of the accord through the constitutional channels.

One key feature of all mature powers, at least since the Congress of Vienna, is the reliability of their international commitments. Even putschists who seize power in a military coup make sure that their first pronunciamento includes this key sentence: We shall honor all of our country’s international obligations and commitments. Even regime change does not absolve states from their international obligations. The new Iraqi government, for example, has not rejected the estimated $100 billion in foreign debt left by Saddam Hussein.

Instances of a state reneging on all its obligations as a result of change are rare in history. One instance came in 1918 when Trotsky, appointed Commissar for Foreign Affairs by Lenin, announced that he had abrogated all of Tsarist Russia’s treaties with foreign nations and ordered the texts burned to heat the rooms of an empty foreign ministry.

What Obama was attempting, however, was more original. It amounted to preemptive diplomacy used against one’s own government: opposing an agreement not yet negotiated and of the content of which he knew nothing. A neophyte in matters of politics and diplomacy, the young senator is certainly not wanting for originality.

Since I do not wish to become involved in an Alphonse-and-Gaston number with Obama, I suggest that we focus our attention on the fact that the nominee is left without anything resembling a policy on Iraq. So, rather than coming out with another denial of something I never said that he had done, the esteemed senator should ponder these questions:

Does he still believe that toppling Saddam Hussein was illegal and “the biggest strategic blunder in U.S. history”? If yes, we might wonder why he is prepared to deal with the new Iraqi leaders who, by definition, have usurped Hussein’s power in Baghdad with American support.

Does he still want to withdraw from Iraq or does he want to stay, doing a bit of “drawdown” and “redeployment” every now and then? And, if he wants to stay, on what basis, for what purpose, and for how long?

Is Senator Biden’s plan to carve Iraq into three separate states still a live option or has it been thrown into the dustbin where it should have been from the start?

Would Obama now support the conclusion of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) through negotiations between the Bush administration and the Iraqi administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, also a “lame duck,” as it faces elections early next year?

— Amir Taheri’s new book, The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution, is due for publication in November.

National Review Online -
10537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 20, 2008, 06:41:28 PM
We give lots of money to those entities surrounding Israel too. So where is all of the accomplishments from the neighboring arab nations? Why the difference in outcomes?
10538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 20, 2008, 06:38:06 PM,2506,L-3362402,00.html   

Israel still top recipient of US foreign aid

President Bush's administration to submit proposed budget for US foreign aid in 2008 to Congress; requests over 12 percent increase in foreign aid from 2007; Lebanon to receive some USD 52 million, Israel to get USD 2.4 billion
Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush's administration will submit its proposed budget for US foreign aid in 2008 to Congress on Wednesday, requesting USD 20.27 billion - a more than 12 percent increase in foreign aid from 2007.
However America's foreign aid budget composes only a small portion of its overall budget of USD 2.9 trillion.
Israel, long since the US' top recipient of foreign aid, will receive USD 2.4 billion. Since 1979 and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Israel has annually received up to USD 3 billion in aid.
As part of with an initiative by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the civilian aid has been steadily decreased over the course of the past 10 years, going from USD 1.2 million to being completely cancelled this year. At the same time military aid to Israel has increased from USD 1.8 billion to USD 2.4 billion.
Egypt received the second largest aid package from the US and will receive USD 1.3 billion in military aid as well as USD 415 million in civilian aid. Jordan will receive USD 264 million in economic aid as well as USD 200 million in military aid.
Aid to the Palestinian Authority has been frozen following Hamas' victory in the recent PA elections. Despite this President Bush has asked Congress to authorize the transfer of USD 63.6 million in aid to the Palestinians, to be appropriated by the United States Agency for International Development.
Lebanon is expected to receive some USD 52 million in aid in 2008, this in addition to the special aid the administration already sought for Lebanon in 2007 – totaling at USD 580 million.
10539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2008, 03:07:37 AM

Does Obama Have Cocaine-Related Mental Impairment?
Cocaine is a risk factor for permanent mental impairment, and disqualification for access to nuclear weapons

The Obama campaign, as shown by material on over which the campaign’s staff exercises editorial control, sanctions the spread of rumors to the effect that John McCain has an age-related neurodegenerative disease. The Obama campaign is apparently unfamiliar with the adage about glass houses and stones. Let’s begin with the facts, as stated by Barack Obama himself.

I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though… (Barack Obama, “Dreams From My Father,” page 93, paperback edition., “Blow” = “Cocaine; to inhale cocaine; to smoke marijuana; to inject heroin”)

While the Obama campaign sanctions supporters’ use of McCain’s age (younger than Dianne Feinstein, Robert Byrd, and Ted Kennedy by the way) to suggest that he might have a neurodegenerative disease, Obama’s admitted use of cocaine puts him at higher risk for mental impairment. It also disqualifies him from access to or control of nuclear weapons under the Armed Forces’ Nuclear Weapon Personnel Reliability Program.

Cocaine is one of the most potent, addictive, and unpredictable recreational drugs, and thus can cause the most profound and irreversible damage to the nervous system. The high risk associated with cocaine remains the same regardless of whether the drug is snorted, smoked, or injected into the user’s bloodstream. In addition to the intense damage cocaine can cause to the liver, intestines, heart, and lungs, even casual use of the drug will impair the brain and cause serious damage to the central nervous system. Although cocaine use affects many components of the body, including vision and appetite, the most significant damage cause by cocaine takes place in the brain and central nervous system. adds,

Taking cocaine could cause irreversible brain damage, scientists from Edinburgh University have warned.

Tests on genetically modified mice showed that cocaine inhibited the brain by destroying a key protein responsible for learning and memory.

Abusing the highly addictive drug can lead to long-term memory loss and learning difficulties, say experts.

The fact that cocaine use increases the risk for permanent mental impairment does not make such impairment automatic, just as age does not make neurodegenerative diseases automatic. On the other hand, if the Obama campaign wishes to tacitly albeit not actively suggest that the country should not take a chance on McCain because of his age, we are quite prepared to argue that the country should not take a chance on a former cokehead–and the Armed Forces’ Nuclear Weapon Personnel Reliability Program agrees. While pre-service marijuana use does not automatically disqualify a service member from access to or control of nuclear weapons, pre-service cocaine use does.

(2) Drug Abuse

(a) See definition 15. in enclosure 2. It is not the intent of this
Directive to automatically render ineligible for the PRP any individual
who, before the effective date of this Directive, has disclosed
pre-Service drug abuse, or who has not yet been asked to make such
disclosure, and who is currently certified for PRP duties after having been
formally screened in accordance with then-existing guidance. Further
recertification of such individuals for future PRP status shall be in
accordance with this Directive, except that previously disclosed and
considered drug abuse and pre-Service drug use not required previously
to be disclosed, shall not be sole grounds for denial of
recertification or for mandatory decertification.

(b) Except for the category of individuals identified in
subparagraph B.2.a.(2)(a), above, or otherwise provided in this
Directive, any pre-Service use, admitted or otherwise discovered, of illicit drugs such as heroin, heroin derivatives, cocaine, “crack,” phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ecstasy,” or other “designer” drugs, amphetamines, barbiturates, or other narcotic drugs not prescribed by proper medical authorities, and anabolic steroids shall
render an individual ineligible for admission to or retention in PRP
duties. The individual shall not be certified into the program or shall be permanently decertified, and those actions shall be made a matter of
permanent record.

The reference adds that prior marijuana use (to which Bill Clinton as well as Barack Obama admitted) is not an automatic disqualifier. The bottom line is, however, that prior history of cocaine use disqualifies a member of the Armed Forces from touching a nuclear launch key, or indeed any access to weapons of mass destruction. The idea of giving someone with that kind of history the authority to order the use of such weapons, or even access to the codes for launching such weapons, should therefore appall all Americans. This document from the Secretary of the Navy adds,

b. Drug Abuse. Drug abuse is a violation of the law. It
demonstrates a behavior pattern or action which is reasonably
indicative of a contemptuous attitude toward the law or other
duly-constituted authority. Any conduct which falls within the
definition of drug abuse may be grounds for disqualification or

(1) Any personnel determined to have pre-service or inservice abuse
of any drug will be disqualified prior to initial assignment to a PRP
billet or, if currently assigned, will be permanently decertified except:

(a) pre-service or in-service cannabis use which was acceptably
screened under previous PRP guidance will not be the sole basis for
disqualification or decertification,

Again, PRP refers to the (Nuclear Weapon) Personnel Reliability Program, and pre-service marijuana use is not an automatic disqualifier. Any history of cocaine use, however, does permanently disqualify an individual from access to or control of nuclear weapons, because the Armed Forces cannot afford to take the slightest chance on a person with impaired judgment having access to weapons that can kill millions of people.
10540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2008, 03:04:14 AM
**Sounds like Mr. Cafferty was confused.**,675980.story

By Karen Freifeld
Staff Writer

August 5, 2003, 3:37 PM EDT

Like most journalists, CNN morning anchor Jack Cafferty would prefer to cover news than make it. Especially when it's bad news.

But Tuesday, a stunned Cafferty was greeted by photographers as he went into a midtown Manhattan court to plead guilty in connection with a hit and run accident.

According to the criminal complaint, Cafferty was driving a Cadillac with a New Jersey Press license plate on Ninth Avenue near 42nd Street May 14th when he allegedly made an abrupt turn and hit bicyclist Billy Maldonado.

About five people tried to stop Cafferty by running after the car, waving their arms and yelling, "Hey Stop," according to the complaint, but the newsman allegedly continued through at least two red lights, while dragging the bicycle underneath the vehicle.

Maldonado, who was knocked to the ground, suffered bruises.

Cafferty was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, assault and harassment.

But Tuesday he was allowed to plead guilty to only a traffic violation: Operating a motor vehicle knowing or having cause to know property damage had been caused. He was sentenced to 70 hours of community service, with six months to complete it, and a $250 fine. He also apparently made restitution.

Cafferty had no comment yesterday but the criminal complaint said Cafferty told police he saw the bicyclist get off the ground but didn't realize he had hit him. "I am unaware I was in an accident," he said.

Cafferty's attorney Seth Rosenberg insisted his client had acted responsibly ."This was never anything more than a traffic violation," he said.

Attorney Suzanne Holzberg, who represents Maldonado, expressed disappointment. "He did not plead guilty to the more serious charge of leaving the scene knowing he caused personal injury," she said. "I think he got off pretty easy."

Maldonado, she said, wasn't as lucky. Bruised up from the fall, she said, he still needs an operation on his right elbow.
10541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2008, 02:40:37 AM
I saw Obama looking extra-nervous recently, is he back on coke? Did he ever quit?
10542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2008, 04:17:18 PM
Ok, so aside from new and exciting forms of terrorism, let's see this list of "palestinian" contributions to humanity.

The floor is yours, JDN.

10543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2008, 04:13:08 PM


by Richard Baehr
Spring 2008

In 60 short years as a modern state, Israel has become a nation of remarkable achievements. Over 2.9 million Jews have moved to Israel since 1948 from Africa, Arab nations, Europe, India, Latin America, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, not to mention 1.1 million persons from the former Soviet Union. Over the years, the Israeli population has grown from an estimated 750,000 to over 7 million. This includes a Christian and Muslim Arab population that comprises nearly 20 percent of the current population. Thanks to basic laws that defend democratic principles, all of these peoples and religions are provided the opportunity to join the Israeli "melting pot," similar to that of the United States.

The unlikely story of Israel does not end there. Israeli entrepreneurship and research have improved the lives of people in a variety of areas: medicine, agriculture and irrigation, communications, computer technology, security, aviation safety, alternative energy development, business services, and disaster relief and rescue, to name just a few. This has been accomplished by a nation with barely 0.1percent of the world's population, which has been forced, due to the unremitting enmity of its neighbors, to devote an astronomical 10 percent of its GDP to defense.

Despite these amazing achievements, no country in the world is more roundly rejected by the community of nations.

Location, Location, Location

It is Israel's misfortune to be the only non-Muslim state located in the center of the Arab world. Reborn in war in 1948, Israel has never since been free from the threat of war or terror directed against its population from surrounding state and non-state actors.

Despite repeated attempts (some successful) to make peace with its neighbors, Israel is treated as a pariah state. While most of the criticism is focused on the measures that Israel takes to prevent its citizens from being harmed by terrorism, the scorn can be traced back to the very founding of the state. Indeed, the anger at Israel persists, not because of its policies, which have shifted dramatically over the years, but because many of Israel's Arab neighbors still do not want to recognize it. This is the case despite peace agreements with two of its neighbors - Egypt and Jordan - in addition to intermittent peace negotiations with the Palestinians for 15 years. In fact, the isolation and hostility have, if anything, worsened.

International Isolation

Israel's isolation is not only regional. Approximately 40 percent of all resolutions passed by the United Nations at the behest of Arab nations have condemned Israel for its security policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians or Arab nations. Human rights commissions, and international courts have convicted Israel of all kinds of alleged violations of international law and international human rights standards, while ignoring truly atrocious human rights violations, including suicide bombings, and the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars at Israelis. They also neglect to mention the continued threats to "wipe Israel off the map" (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) or "drive the Israelis into the sea" (Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar).

While Israel fights for its survival, the international community routinely calls Israel's very legitimacy as a nation into question. Entire international conferences such as those at Durban in 2001, and the upcoming "Durban 2" are devoted to the "scourge" of Zionism.

In the face of this constant drubbing, Israel has repeatedly sought to explain itself to the world. Efforts at hasbara, or public relations, have repeatedly failed. The Palestinians have cornered the "victim" market, making it nearly impossible for Israel to gain world sympathy. Israel has thus taken upon itself to create a "rebranding" program, to attempt to communicate its achievements and contributions, instead of the steady and unrelenting coverage of war, terrorism, and the rebuke from other nations and international bodies that issue most reports on the country.

Business and Technology

For 60 years, Israel has given the world the products of its high tech society. These are innovations to make life better for billions of people on the planet. Quietly, Israel has become one of the world's leading technology, science, and medical research centers.

Much of Israel's innovation can be traced to an unusually well-educated workforce. Israel has the highest number of university degrees per capita in the world, with a high concentration of them in science, medicine, and engineering. Half of Israelis with degrees also hold advanced degrees. This commitment to higher education occurs in a country where most students do not even begin university study until after their military service is completed, usually at age 22. Israel's science and technology universities - including the Technion, Weizmann Institute, and Talpiot program of the Israel Defense Forces - graduate some of the best-trained scientists and engineers in the world.

Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation in the world, and has one of the highest rates of per capita patents filed. Israel is the nation with the highest number of scientists and technicians per 1,000 in the workforce, with far higher levels than in the U.S., Japan, and Germany. Over 25 percent of Israel's workforce is employed in technical professions, putting Israel first in the world in this category, too.

Thus, it is not by accident that Israel trails only the United States in the number of startup technology companies. In fact, Israel ranks behind only the United States and Canada in NASDAQ-listed companies. It is also number two in the world in the allocation of venture capital funds, after the United States. Israel is the only country outside the United States where Cisco Systems and Microsoft have located R & D facilities. Google, IBM, and Intel all have large operations in Israel.

In the area of software and communications, products that are a part of every day life around the world owe their development to Israel's high tech industry. These include: voice mail technology, AOL's Instant Messenger, Intel's Pentium 4 microprocessor and Centrino chipsets, most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems, the original cell phone made by Motorola, the first PC anti-virus software, the first key-chain storage system, the largest communications router in the world from Cisco, and other advanced computerized security systems.

Thanks to these innovations, Israel has achieved remarkable and consistent economic growth, with a current per capita income of approximately $20,000 per resident, and a GDP approaching $150 billion. Indeed, Israel has become a developed country, much like many of the nations in Western Europe.

Tikkun Olam

Israel's relative wealth is only one part of the picture. One of the bedrocks of the Jewish faith is a concept known as tikkun olam, or repairing the world. As such, Israel has emerged as a leader in the field of medicine and medical research. Indeed, Israel has been on the cutting edge of embryonic and adult stem cell research, including research in neurodegenerative disease, such as ALS, and the regeneration of heart tissue.

Israeli researchers developed the first instrumentation to diagnose breast cancer without radiation, the first ingestible video camera inside a pill to view the small intestine for cancer and digestive disorders, and a computerized system to ensure proper administration of medications in institutional settings. They also developed the Ex-Press shunt to treat glaucoma, and were in the forefront of the introduction of both bare metal and drug-eluting stents.

Israelis developed a device that helps the heart pump blood, a blood test for MS, a new acne treatment that causes bacteria to self-destruct without damaging skin or tissue, a vaccine against mosquito-borne West Nile virus, a new painless device to allow diabetics to inject themselves with insulin, a device for monitoring coronary disease inside a cell phone, a bone "glue" for faster recovery from injuries, a DNA nano-computer to detect cancer and release drugs to treat the disease, and a nose drop that serves as a five-year flu vaccine.

Due, in part, to its innovations in medicine and, in part, to the fact that Israel has too much experience with disaster resulting from war, Israelis are on the cutting edge of search and rescue. Israeli teams are often called on to help locate and rescue victims after earthquakes and other natural disasters. The experience and knowledge gained in rescuing Israelis from buildings and buses blown apart by terrorists, have been applied to save victims of natural disasters in Turkey, Greece, Mexico, Cameroon, India, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, and Sri Lanka, as well as victims of violence in Bosnia, Romania, Kenya, Kosovo, Rwanda, Argentina, and Cambodia.

Green Machines

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, had a dream of "turning the desert green." While Ben Gurion was dreaming of expanding Israeli agriculture to arid environments, subsequent generations of Israelis had different visions of "green." Israel is now a leader in environmentally-friendly technologies.

Israel is the only country in the world that is rapidly increasing its number of trees. Israelis developed and installed (in California) the first large-scale solar powered and fully functional electricity generating plant. Israeli scientists have developed sensors that pick up signs of stress in plants, the technology for an all electric bus for urban use, an engineless nano remote-piloted vehicle, the world's first jellyfish repellent, a toilet system with small and large flushes that saves billions of gallons of water per year, and a nano-lubricant that could end the need to change car oil.

All the while, Israel continues to chase Ben Gurion's dream. With the help of science, Israelis have made vast desert areas of their country bloom. They have done so through special drip irrigation and water desalination systems that Israeli scientists and agronomists have since introduced on all five continents, including projects in India, China, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and Jordan.

Looking Back

What is particularly remarkable about these achievements is that Israel has created all of it amidst a constant barrage of terrorist attacks, not to mention full-scale wars every few years. As such, Israel has shown that it is a resilient nation; it will not be brought to its knees by war, terror, boycotts, and international isolation. Unfortunately, this success is one more source of intense envy and resentment for Israel's Arab neighbors; Israel is a key innovator in modern science and technology, and they are not.

As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary in May 2008, the Palestinians will expectedly mark the day as al-Naqba, the disaster. To the continued amazement of those who understand Israel's achievements in recent decades, much of the world will offer its condolences to the Palestinians, and share the Palestinian belief that the world might have been better without Israel's creation in 1948.

For the foreseeable future, most of the world (with the United States as the principal exception) will continue to enjoy the innovations that Israel produces while simultaneously berating the Jewish state for defending itself. For its part, Israel will continue to provide the world with the fruits of its labor with the ironic hope that, one day, the Jewish state will simply be seen as one state among many.

Richard Baehr is a visting fellow at the Jewish Policy Center, and co-founder and political director of The American Thinker, a web-based policy journal.

10544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2008, 04:08:31 PM

December 31, 2004

Ed Weiss

(Editor's Note: Now that doing economic damage to Israel is the moral fashion, with European groups organizing boycotts, the Presbyterian Church voting to "selectively" divest from companies doing business in Israel and the Episcopal Church suggesting it may follow suit, the following article is a welcome reminder of the damage the boycotters, if they were -- perish the thought -- consistent, would do to themselves.)

O.K. So I understand that you are ticked off at Israel, and in love with the Palestinians. That's fine with me, as long as you have truly weighed up all the facts.

So, you want to boycott Israel? I'll be sorry to miss you, but if you are doing it—do it properly. Let me help you.

Check all your medications. Make sure that you do not have tablets, drops, lotions, etc., made by Abic or Teva. It may mean that you will suffer from colds and flu this winter but, hey, that's a small price for you to pay in your campaign against Israel, isn't it?

While we are on the subject of your Israeli boycott, and the medical contributions to the world made by Israeli doctors and scientists, how about telling your pals to boycott the following.....

An Israeli company has developed a simple blood test that distinguishes between mild and more severe cases of Multiple Sclerosis. So, if you know anyone suffering from MS, tell them to ignore the Israeli patent that may, more accurately, diagnose their symptoms.

An Israeli-made device helps restore the use of paralyzed hands. This device electrically stimulates the hand muscles, providing hope to millions of stroke sufferers and victims of spinal injuries. If you wish to remove this hope of a better quality of life to these people, go ahead and boycott Israel.

Young children with breathing problems will soon be sleeping more soundly, thanks to a new Israeli device called the Child Hood. This innovation replaces the inhalation mask with an improved drug delivery system that provides relief for child and parent. Please tell anxious mothers that they shouldn't use this device because of your passionate cause.

These are just a few examples of how people have benefited medically from the Israeli know-how you wish to block.

Boycotts often affect research. A new research center in Israel hopes to throw light on brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease. The Joseph Sangol Neuroscience Center in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer Hospital aims to bring thousands of scientists and doctors to focus on brain research.

A researcher at Israel's Ben Gurion University has succeeded in creating human monoclonal antibodies which can neutralize the highly contagious smallpox virus without inducing the dangerous side effects of the existing vaccine.

Two Israelis received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Doctors Ciechanover and Hershko's research and discovery of one of the human cells most important cyclical processes will lead the way to DNA repair, control of newly produced proteins, and immune defense systems.

The Movement Disorder Surgery program at Israel's Hadassah Medical Center has successfully eliminated the physical manifestations of Parkinson's disease in a select group of patients with a deep brain stimulation technique.

For women who undergo hysterectomies each year for uterine fibroids, the development in Israel of the ExAblate 2000 System offers a non-invasive alternative to surgery.

Israel is developing a nose drop that will provide a five year flu vaccine.

These are just a few of the projects that you can help stop with your Israeli boycott.

But let's not get too obsessed with medical research, there are other ways you can make a personal sacrifice with your anti-Israel boycott.

Most of Windows operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel. So, set a personal example. Throw away your computer!

The Pentium NMX Chip technology was designed at Intel in Israel. Both the Pentium 4 microprocessor and the Centrium processor were entirely designed, developed, and produced in Israel. Voice mail technology was developed in Israel. The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 in Israel by four young Israeli whiz kids. Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R.& D. facilities outside the US in Israel.

So, due to your complete boycott of anything Israeli, you now have poor health and no computer. But your bad news does not end there. Get rid of your cellular phone!

Cell phone technology was also developed in Israel by Motorola, which has its biggest development center in Israel. Most of the latest technology in your mobile phone was developed by Israeli scientists.

Feeling unsettled? You should be. Part of your personal security rests with Israeli inventiveness, borne out of our urgent necessity to protect and defend our lives from the terrorists you support.

A phone can remotely activate a bomb, or be used for tactical communications by terrorists, bank robbers, or hostage-takers. It is vital that official security and law enforcement authorities have access to cellular jamming and detection solutions. Enter Israel's Netline Communications Technologies with their security expertise to help the fight against terror.

A joint, non-profit, venture between Israel and Maryland will result in a five day Business Development and Planning Conference in March. Selected Israeli companies will partner with Maryland firms to provide innovations for homeland security.

I also want you to know that Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita -- 109 per 10,000 -- than any other nation. Israel has the highest number of start-up companies per capita and in absolute terms, the highest number, except for the U.S. Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley. Israel is ranked second in the world for venture capital funds, behind the U.S. Israel has the second highest publication of new books per capita.

Relative to population, Israel is the largest immigrant absorbing nation on earth. These immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom or expression, economic opportunity, and quality of life.

Believe it or not, Israel is the only country in the world which had a net gain in the number of trees last year.

So, you can vilify and demonize the State of Israel. You can continue your silly boycott, if you wish. But I wish you would consider the consequences, and the truth.

Think of the massive contribution that Israel is giving to the world—and to you—in science, medicine, communications, security. In relation to our population we are making a greater contribution than any other nation on earth.

Ed Weiss lives in Ra'anana, Israel
10545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 04:02:23 PM

Q: When we reach our goal of independency from oil-soaked nations that use their oil for terror, then what do you see becoming of them if they no longer have wealth? Will they be forced to educate themselves and develop with the West? Will poverty force them, as in Afghanistan, to turn to drug trafficking? The populations are generally poor or nowhere near the level they should be with such oil wealth, except for the Emirates. Basically, what is their future?

A:They will have to get work. Twenty-one Arab nations, plus Iran, have about the same population as the United States and Canada. Other than fossil fuels—mainly oil, of course—they export to the world less than Finland, a country of only 5 million people. If the world moves away from oil, these countries will have to learn from countries like Finland that have no oil but that produce decent lives for their people by educating their women, teaching engineering, math, and science in their schools and colleges—not just the rote memorization of religious texts—and otherwise move out of the 7th century. Indeed there is a fine role model quite near them, a nation that operates in this fashion, practices freedom of speech, press, and religion, and has a GDP per capita of over $18,000 per year (as contrasted to Saudi Arabia's of some$13,000 per year). This country—Israel—has virtually no natural resources except for farmland it has reclaimed from the desert. Tours should perhaps be organized for those who want to learn how to start with little more than sand and resolve, and from those create a prosperous democracy in the Middle East.

R. JAMES WOOLSEY served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1993-95. During a long career in government service, he served both Republican and Democratic administrations.
10546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 03:48:50 PM
The last time I drank wine, it was red and came out of a box. I couldn't tell the difference between a cuban cigar and a Philly blunt without looking at the label. I'm a blue collar guy, what can I say?
10547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 03:33:22 PM
A while ago I posted to the effect, "... Muslims getting blamed for everything."  Perhaps it's not true, yet if I read this forum, especially GM's posts, it seems all the evils of the world are caused by and propagated by Muslims.  Otherwise, America is perfect; Europe is perfect, Israel is innocent, etc.  yet it is simply not true. 

**Lacking any valid point, all you can do is offer this pathetic straw man argument? Where have I ever said that all the world's evils are caused by muslims, or asserted that the US, Israel or europe is perfect? Answer: I haven't.**

 There is plenty of blame to pass around if one just looks for it.  And many of the problems are multidimensional; it is not black and white.

**This is why some people actually bother to read up on and study issues rather than endlessly parrot the same mindless talking points. Yes, not every muslim is a jihadist, but EVERY jihadist is a muslim, and is motivated by core elements of islamic theology. I actually read up on a topic before rendering an opinion, you might give it a try sometime. I've made an in depth study of islam and islamic theology a major aspect of my life since 9/11 and have spent endless hours reading about the theological roots of violent jihad. I don't love wading through fatwas and the writings of Ibn Taymiyya and Sayid Qutb, I do it to understand what we face today with a complex understanding of the multidimensional nature of this problem.**

I worked out at my gym with my attorney friend yesterday (Cambridge - Law; not as old as Al-Azhar or equal to Columbia  smiley  but not shabby either).  He is from England (Wales). His comment was that yes, the Muslims are a problem, not necessarily for religious reasons, but rather poverty and ignorance.  He lived through the Irish times; they were much much worse he said, although not that much different.  Today, Ireland is doing great.  He went on further to say that the Muslims, "are really not a big deal", they "just get bad press".  As for arbitration, he said that arbitration has existed for many years and often religious leaders from all denominations will intercede. 

After we finished our beer, he left, but I had scotch  smiley in the Library and picked up this month's Foreign Affairs Magazine (I should be grateful to this forum; a few months ago I might have picked up a wine or cigar magazine while I drank).   grin

**I don't doubt that your are much more qualified to render an opinion on cigars or wine than I am. I'll defer to you on these topics.**

Now as I read this forum, especially GM's posts, Muslims, the Palestinians, seem to always be the "bad guy"; I rarely if ever (did I miss a post?) see a positive article by GM on Muslims or Palestinians.   

**Ok, let's post in the Israel thread. I'll post all the scientific advances, books published, nobel prizes and contributions to medical science that have come from Israel. You can do the same for that "Palestinians". Want to wager as to who will have the longer list?**

Yet, as I read the article/review by Shlomo Ben Ami, the former Israel Foreign Minister I realized that two sides do exist.  I love his line, "The ability to engage in a sober inquiry, into the past (or present) is an essential test of free democracies."

Now, I am sure he is a good Jew and that he truly loves Israel, but the article goes on to honestly talk of the atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers.  And how "Zionists deliberately killed far more civilians and prisoners of war and committed more acts of rape" than the Palestinians ever did.  In a similar manner, instances exist where America has done wrong, Europe, and other allies of ours have done wrong.

My point is that all sides often contribute bad and nearly all sides can and do contribute good.  A balanced approach or at least one that is not so biased might be better?  I think a "sober inquiry" means an open mind; one that is not blinded by racial or ethnic prejudices.  Lately, this forum, led by GM seems to be a "dump on Muslim" forum. 

**A rational examination of the global jihad and the theological roots behind it isn't just "dumping on muslims". Again, Islam isn't a race or ethnicity and more than Roman Catholics are a race or ethnicity. Just as there are blue eyed, blond catholics, there are blue eyed, blond muslims. The majority of the planet's muslims live in asia, not the middle east. There isn't a muslim "race" or ethnicity.**

I think there are good Muslims, frankly I think most Muslims are good, just as I like to think most Christians, Jews, Buddhists are good.  And, there are a few bad apples.  I am not defending the "bad apples".  Those of ANY religion that publicly promote FMG, violence, killing of gays, etc. should be stopped, arrested, incarcerated and frankly, if they don't stop I don't care what you do to them.  But don't only blame the Muslims; there are many other participants and religions to share the blame.

Christianity: 2.1 billion

Islam: 1.5 billion

According to the website below, the global jihad's deadly attacks since 9/11/2001 is 11490 as of 7/21/2008.

Can you provide stats for attacks by "christianists" worldwide? So then the question would be, if islamic terrorism is from a "tiny minority of extremists" from out of the larger muslim population, and the number of christians is larger than the number of muslims, then why the "extremist gap"? Please explain.**

10548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 02:03:38 PM

Clarification of Islamic Law Support for Female Genital Mutilation, by Dr. Mark Durie
January 22nd, 2008 by Andrew Bostom |

Indonesian toddler following her ritual FGM

Dr. Mark Durie is the author, most recently of Revelation? Do We Worship the Same God?—Jesus, Holy, Spirit, God in Christianity and Islam, 2006. His cogent analysis, “Isa, the Muslim Jesus,” is available online, here. 

Dr. Durie has also studied the Acehnese (i.e., from Aceh, Indonesia), and published many articles, and books (here, here, and here, for example) on their language and culture. 

Dr. Dure writes—

In Februrary 2007 Dr Muhammad al-Mussayar of Al-Azhar University, referring to reliable hadiths from Muslim and al-Bukhari, stated: 

“All jurisprudents, since the advent of Islam and for 14 centuries or more, are in consensus that female circumcision is permitted in Islam.  But they were divided as to its status in the sharia.  Some said that female circumcision is required by the sharia, just like male circumcision.  Some said this is a mainstream practice, while others said that it is a noble act.”

Of the four Sunni schools of sharia, it is the Shafi’is who have said that circumcision of girls is compulsory. The Reliance of the Traveller, a respected manual of Shafi’i jurisprudence, states  “Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris” (section e4.3).  [The English translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (certified by Al-Azhar University) disguises the true meaning of the Arabic text by offering the following bogus English ‘translation’: “For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (Ar. Bazr) of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert).” ]

As Indonesia is a country in which Shafi’i Islam predominates, it is hardly surprising that female circumcision is commonly practiced among Indonesian Muslims, from Java to Aceh. There is a close correlation between Shafi’i Islam and the frequency of FGM.  Regions where the Shafi’i school predominates are also the places where FGM is more frequent.  These include Egypt, southern Arabia, Bahrain, Kurdistan, Somalia, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. The oft-recited claim that FGM is not a religious practice is proved false, not only because it is more frequently found in Shafi’i areas, but also because it was introduced, along with Shafi’i Islam, into Southeast Asia, a part of the world where it had previously been unknown.

It is only the teachings of the sharia  which account for this practice being followed in Bandung Java today, and specifically the doctrinal formulations of the Shafi’i school of sharia.  Imam Shafi’i may be long-dead, but he has a lot to answer for to the Muslim women of the world.
10549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 01:01:49 PM

When are you flying off to Al-Azhar university to lecture those islamic theologians on the un-islamic nature of female genital mutilation?

Gosh, did I miss a day of geography class?  To be fair, it's been a while.  But, I mean, isn't Al=Azhar University still in Africa?Huh?  Or did it move and I missed it?

**I guess I need to help you out in reading the important parts of what I post.

"Today, Al-Azhar is not just a university, but an institution that vanguard the teachings of Sunni Islam, and an umbrella body to which thousands of ulama affiliate themselves with. "

Al Azhar is the most important theological institution in the world for sunnis. You not knowing this is like not knowing that Vatican City has a global impact on catholic theology and trying to assert that theology being formulated in the Vatican applies only to southern europe. There is no hierarchy in islam like the pope and college of cardinals, but you are very mistaken in trying to assert that what theologians in Al Azhar say doesn't sway sunnis around the planet. My state has a law specifically banning female genital mutilation. Can you guess why? Last time I checked my map I live a long distance from North Africa.**

Wasn't I (I'm sorry I mean WHO and UNICEF) clear enough in my post above that this is an "African problem", a terrible problem, but it is not necessarily an Islamic problem and rarely does it appear
among practicing Muslims in the Middle East or Europe or the US? 

**The UN and it's WHO UNICEF are hardly fair and impartial. Would you like me to deconstruct this assertion? What is "rare" when it comes to female genital mutilation outside of africa?

"That book "Fatwas of Muslim Women" says that women who lie deserve 100 blows and the husband's duty of care for his wife is negated if she refuses him sex or leaves the home without his permission. One of its most controversial aspects is the call for Muslim girls to be circumcised."

Why would this book be sold by a mosque in the Netherlands if FGM is just "an african problem" and has nothing to do with islamic theology?**

 To answer your question, No, I don't plan on going to Al-Azhar in Africa, or Ethiopia, or Somalia, or Yemen,
or ...... or any other place in Africa and lecture on female genital mutilation.

**A perfect example of your utter ignorance on this topic.**

Al-Azhar is the world's oldest university, older than Cambridge or Oxford. Situated at the heart of Cairo, Egypt's capital, Al-Azhar has been the greatest learning centre for Muslims since it was first built by the Fatimid dynasty in the 10th century AD. 

The Fatimids were of Shiah belief. They erected Al-Azhar as an institution to propagate the teachings of the Isma'iliya madhhab. When the Ayyubids took over Egypt, they turned Al-Azhar into a school that taught the Sunni understanding of Islam.

Rich in tradition and knowledge, Al-Azhar had produced brilliant ulama throughout history. Examples of Imam Suyuti, Imam Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani and Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Haitami bejeweled its glorious past. Contemporary ulama produced by this university include Shaykh Ghazali and Shaykh Sha`rawi. With thousands of others, these giants of Islamic knowledge became the symbol of Al-Azhar supreme position among Muslims, something unrivalled thus far.

Today, Al-Azhar is not just a university, but an institution that vanguard the teachings of Sunni Islam, and an umbrella body to which thousands of ulama affiliate themselves with. The Head of Al-Azhar, called the Grand Imam (Imamul Akbar Shaykhul Azhar), was previously appointed by a committee of Azharian top scholars (shuyukh). But now it is under the appointment from the Egyptian President from the advice of the committee. Recently however, the Egyptian government is getting inclined to leave the matter of appointment purely in the hands of the Azharian ulama.

Ahhhh GM I never said Al-Azhar university isn't a fine university or isn't "rich in tradition and knowledge"; I (a study by WHO and UNICEF - read unbiased source) simply stated that FMG is an AFRICAN PROBLEM ergo Al-Azhar being in Africa represents an African take on the problem.  IF Al-Azhar was in in the Sudan or Ethiopia or Somolia it would be the same; they are all in Africa; got it?  FMG according to unbiased references (often you seem to have a hard time finding these) is a result of poverty and ignorance; yes Islam in Africa supports FMG as does a dozen or more other religions in Africa. And elsewhere, people talk of it, a few people are proponents of it, but not a significant number and even then in nearly every case they are from Africa. That one or a very few Islamic individuals promote it does not make a majority of Muslims supporting it. Most Muslims abhor it and do not practice FMG.  Again, my point, the vast majority of Muslims are good people as are most Buddhists, Christians and Jews, and most....  but all religions have extremists and they are dangerous.  But to bash all Muslims seems wrong to me.

10550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: September 18, 2008, 01:56:20 AM

Hirsi Ali: shut anti-woman, anti-gay Dutch mosque

22 April 2004

AMSTERDAM — Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali demanded on Thursday the closure of an Amsterdam mosque that sells books supporting female circumcision, beating wives and the murder of gay people.

The Dutch Parliament is to hold an emergency debate about the El Tawheed mosque next week. MPs want Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk to explain what they intend to do about the book "De weg van de moslim".

The publication — translated as The Way of the Muslim in English — is said to advocate violence against women and killing gay people

Gay people should be thrown head first off high buildings. If not killed on hitting the ground, they should then be stoned to death, the book allegedly suggests.

In her column in newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, Hirsi Ali — who was raised as a Muslim — went one step further and called on the government to close the mosque. The MP has been a strident opponent of Islamic teachings on women and gay people.

The Liberal VVD party MP said it was time for the Justice Ministry to indicate whether it intended to go to court to have the mosque banned.

Hirsi Ali said the latest revelations about the book advocating beating women and killing gay people was the last straw. Closure of the mosque was a question of "political will", she wrote.

"This mosque has been warned repeatedly by the authorities that intolerance against non-Muslims and undermining the law is unacceptable in the Netherlands," Hirsi Ali said.

"The Way of the Muslim" is one of the publications on sale at the El Tawheed mosque. Earlier this month the mosque was at the centre of a storm about another book available at its open day organised to help combat the mosque's negative public image.

That book "Fatwas of Muslim Women" says that women who lie deserve 100 blows and the husband's duty of care for his wife is negated if she refuses him sex or leaves the home without his permission. One of its most controversial aspects is the call for Muslim girls to be circumcised.

A fatwa is an official statement or order from an Islamic religious leader.

MPs in the Dutch Parliament have indicated they want the second book, "The Way of the Muslim", banned if it supports violence towards women and killing gay people.

VVD parliamentarian Geert Wilders has called for the emergency debate next week.

Another MP, Mirjam Sterk of the Christian Democrat CDA, said imams (Islamic religious leaders) must distance themselves from the book's content. If not, the imams must be prosecuted or deported.

An Islamic cleric was deported from France to his native Algeria on Wednesday after he caused uproar by his endorsement of wife-beating and polygamy.

Clerics at El Tawheed feel they have been unfairly singled out in the media as part of a wider campaign against Islamic institutions in Europe.

MPs and media commentators attacked the Amsterdam mosque previously when one of the imams referred to non-Muslims as "firewood for hell". He also forbade Islamic women from leaving the family home without the permission of their husbands.

RTL Television reported on Thursday a cameraman was assaulted when a news team attempted to buy "The Way of the Muslim" at the mosque.

Eventually RTL's female reporter managed to buy the book, albeit while accompanied by police protection.
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