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Crafty_Dog
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« on: March 14, 2007, 11:14:36 AM »

THAILAND: Muslim separatists ambushed a bus in Thailand's southern province of Yala, shooting dead nine people at point-blank range. Only the driver and one critically injured Buddhist passenger survived. The militants detonated a small bomb about 1,640 feet from the bus, reportedly to slow police trying to arrive at the scene.

Stratfor.com
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2007, 06:42:25 PM »

Playboy in Indonesia
By SADANAND DHUME
March 29, 2007; Page A16

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The latest round of the global culture war between Islamists and the West is being played out in a small courtroom here. Erwin Arnada, the beleaguered editor of Playboy Indonesia, faces a two-year jail term for breaching the country's indecency laws.

Earlier this month, about 100 belligerent Islamists, bearded and skull-capped, packed the courtroom shouting "hang him, hang him!" as prosecutors read out the charges against Mr. Arnada. Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation: the gaunt presence of Abu Bakar Bashir, alleged spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group associated with al Qaeda that was behind the 2002 Bali bombings and subsequent attacks on Jakarta's J. W. Marriott hotel and the Australian embassy.

The Playboy affair captures the world's most populous Muslim country's steady slide toward intolerance. But the silence with which it has been greeted in the U.S. -- no press releases from the Committee to Protect Journalists clog my inbox -- also underscores the cringe of bien pensant America toward the export of popular culture, especially to Muslim lands. You'll be hard-pressed to find an NGO head or professional pundit eager to stand up for Playboy, or for that matter for Baywatch or Desperate Housewives. For the most part, such fare is seen as a provocation. Why give the permanently angry Muslim street another excuse to seethe?

In reality, the problem is not Playboy's predilection for the scantily clad, but Islamists' tendency to fly into a rage over a flash of thigh or a bare midriff. (There's no nudity in the Indonesian edition.) American popular culture ought to be celebrated rather than derided. In its crass commercialism and blithe disregard for Islamist sensibilities lie the greatest hopes of bringing Muslim societies to terms with modernity.

Indonesia used to be considered immune to fundamentalism; Muslims practiced an easy-going folk religion inflected with the Hindu-Buddhism that held sway in the archipelago for more than a millennium before Islam took hold in the 1400s. Elites -- Indic by culture and Dutch by outlook -- were determinedly non-sectarian. But the dislocation caused by rapid economic growth, flawed government policies that encouraged religion as an antidote to communism, and the global resurgence of Islam have challenged the very nature of Indonesian society. Suicide bombings, mob violence against Christians and "heretical" Ahmadiyya Muslims, as well as attempts to ban miniskirts and kissing in public, mark a rising tide of intolerance.

Islamists have momentum on their side, but Indonesia's traditional pluralism and kitschy openness have not quite disappeared. Last April it became only the second Muslim majority country, after Turkey, to embrace Hugh Hefner's iconic brand. Though baring less skin than other editions, it immediately became the focal point of Islamist ire. A mob attacked the magazine's Jakarta offices, forcing the editors to move base to the Hindu island of Bali. Headscarved women picketed and harassed the magazine's models. The government buckled under the pressure and took Mr. Ernada to court.

In practical terms, Islamist movements around the world -- from Hamas in the Palestinian territories to the Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent to Indonesia's Justice and Prosperity Party -- follow a two-pronged strategy. They seek to emulate the West's science and technology while walling off their societies from the taint of Western culture. These groups see the path to an Islamist state through the creation of a fundamentalist society. This requires shutting down anything that gets in the way.

American popular culture challenges Islamism like no other force on the planet, certainly more effectively than State Department diplomats, who seem to spend all their time apologizing on al-Jazeera or trotting out banalities about the universality of motherhood. The idea of a woman dressing or undressing as she pleases, or that you may personally disapprove of the Playboy bunny but respect your neighbor's right to fantasize about her, undermines the very core of Islamist totalitarianism.

On a more flippant note, persuading young men to blow themselves up in order to claim 72 dark-eyed virgins in paradise is that much harder when the dark-eyed virgin next door can be found spread across a centerfold. It's no coincidence that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, a country where Starbucks isn't allowed to use its mermaid logo lest it cause offense.

If we're lucky, the Indonesian court deciding on Mr. Arnada's fate will see the larger issues at stake -- the choice between an open society and a repressive one -- and vote to acquit. If we're luckier still, Indonesian Playboy will be joined one day by Baywatch Pakistan and Desperate Saudi Housewives.

Mr. Dhume, a Bernard Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society, has completed a book on the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia.

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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2007, 05:07:37 PM »

Islam's War Against Buddhism   
By Dhammajarat
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 4, 2007

“Allahu Akbar”! The tinny P.A. system tore asunder the pre-dawn peace and quiet.
I was jolted in my mind, almost like experiencing a car wreck, suddenly and without any warning. This totally incongruous sound intruded upon and encompassed everything, causing even the birds to rustle in the darkness.
 
It was just after 4 a.m. I was seated underneath the holy Maha Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, in the state of Bihar in India. It was a few days past the full moon of May 2004, a few days past Veesak. This was my second visit to this unparalleled location, the site of the Lord Buddha’s attainment of full Enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. Now, towards the end of my 10 day stay, I had applied for and been granted the great honor of permission to spend the night within the Maha Bodhi compound.
 
My plan was to spend the entire night practicing seated meditation, walking meditation, and circumambulation of the great Maha Bodhi Stupa. The air was warm and my practice was going very well as I alternated between the three practices, as the hours passed.
 
The beautiful waning full moon light filtering through the glistening leaves of the Maha Bodhi Tree, the soft fluttering of the leaves, the serene quiet, took me back to that time long ago when the Buddha himself had sat very near this same exact spot.
 
Or so I thought…….
 
The mussein’s call to prayer for the faithful of Islam, here in this most sacred location to all of Buddhism, ripped me back to modern reality. I was stunned! How could this be? Here in one of the most significant spots of Buddhism, loud speakers come on at four in the morning every day, to shock and intrude upon meditators and Buddhist practitioners using this spot for that which it has to offer in its most special way?
 
How could this be allowed? It is…
 
The Muslim call to prayer seemed to go on and on…..20 minutes to a half-hour later, the scratchy recording thankfully ended and quiet returned.
 
My concentration was thoroughly blown. Instead of following my breath, I found myself looking at the great distraction and paradox I had just experienced.
 
I thought about Mecca!
 
Could any other religion intrude itself there in the holiest of places to Islam, as the tenets of Islam had so intruded itself here in the holiest place of Buddhism?
 
No way! I could imagine immediate death being visited upon anyone that would even try – that is, if they would be admitted anywhere close to the Muslims’ holy Kabah – let alone be allowed to set up a loud public address system that would broadcast the message of another religion across the courtyards of the Grand Mosque, or any other Moslem religious site. The hypocrisy was astounding.
 
After awhile, I ceased to be so shocked and began to calm down. I began to see that this was merely a continuation of a long and sad trespass against Buddhism perpetrated by the faith of Islam.
 
In my previous visits to India, I had visited every site that was specific to the actual life of the Lord Buddha. At every location the pattern was the same: Just the partial foundations remaining of what had once been great Stupas or elaborate religious universities of Buddhist learning and practice. Even the place of the Buddha’s birth had been destroyed and buried, with modern day excavations only now giving some restoration.
 
I had learned from guides on location, and then from further studies once I returned home, that these locations had all been laid to waste in the early Moslem invasions of India, starting in the 900’s by Turkic hordes issuing forth from what is now Afghanistan, and continuing for over a thousand years until the Mughal era. A prolonged and calculated assault, an assault designed to wipe an entire belief, an entire religion, off the face of the Earth. The long history of Islam, being spread by the sword and by fire, had left its indelible mark on these wonderful peaceful, harmless, legacy sites of Buddhism.
 
I learned how the monks and nuns and religious students were slaughtered without mercy and piled up and burned, and all terrified survivors were driven like dry leaves before a strong wind, out of the region of India entirely, wherever this Islamic wind blew.
 
I was told this is how Buddhism actually came to Tibet and Southeast Asia, by Buddhists fleeing for their lives! My faith had been rendered a refugee faith via the tender mercies of Islam.
 
I learned how Islam was particularly unkind and brutal to Buddhists, because to Moslems the Buddhist represented the most reprehensible type of human personality: the “atheist” holding no monotheistic God image as their object of worship and veneration. We were worse even than the far more numerous Hindus, with their vast pantheon of multiple gods. The Buddhists, to the Muslims, only worshipped the image of a man, and no God higher.
 
Apparently they did not bother to look into the philosophies of Buddhism any more deeply. That was enough for the sword to come down and the fire to be applied. And so they have over the centuries until today.
 
I remember, some years back, before the gripping situations that we face today had quite come in to focus for many of us, I followed the story of the great Buddhas of Bamiyan, in sad and war torn Afghanistan. The Russian war was over, and the rein of the Taliban was in full force, but they were not content to merely rule the people with an iron hand by the strictest applications of Sharia law. They had to physically erase the “infidel” past, as well.
 
I remember shedding tears as I saw the footage of those magnificent Buddhas, the tallest ancient statues in the world, being reduced to rubble by explosive charges and artillery shells. I remembered hearing on the news footage, that same cry of “Allahu Akbar!” – as the dust of Bamiyan settled to reveal the emptiness of the destruction. The same cry that destroyed my meditative absorption under the Bodhi Tree.
 
Now, I pray we never hear this call in this our home, America. Not until and unless Islam totally and completely reforms itself after over a thousand years of ravaging and sweeping all others before it.
 
I feel, through my direct experiences of it, that Islam has not changed its ways in the least. In fact it has become more aggressive now than at any time since its period of greatest expansion in the 900s to the 1200s. “Modern” Islam seeks to return humanity to those very same times – a revival of the dark ages of Islamic slaughter, mayhem, and pillage – all in the name of Allah.
 
We Buddhists must realize that we, and our cherished practices, would be swept away entirely and crushed utterly, should Islam ever gain ascendancy in this world in which we live. Islam is the only belief that propagates itself thus – by the sword.
 
And it is very patient.
Satu.

Dhammajarat is the pen name of a Buddhist author.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2007, 10:21:26 AM »

The Last King of Java
Indonesia's former president offers a model of Muslim tolerance.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Saturday, April 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.

In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all--which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.

Conversation begins with some old memories. In the early 1960s, Mr. Wahid, whose paternal grandfather founded the NU in 1926 and whose father was Indonesia's first minister of religious affairs, won a scholarship to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which for 1,000 years had been Sunni Islam's premier institution of higher learning. Mr. Wahid hated it.

"These old sheikhs only let me study Islam's traditional surras in the old way, which was rote memorization," he recalls, speaking in the excellent English he learned as a young man listening to the BBC and Voice of America. "Before long I was fed up. So I spent my time reading books from the USIS [United States Information Service], the Egyptian National Library, and at the cinema. I used to watch three, four movies a day."

As Mr. Wahid saw it, the basic problem with Al-Azhar was that the state interfered in its affairs and demanded intellectual conformity--a lesson he carries with him to the present day. In 1966 he left Cairo for Baghdad University, where he encountered much the same thing: "The teaching [suffered from] conventionalism. You were not allowed to go your own way."

Here Mr. Wahid digresses into Islamic history. "In the second century of Islam, the Imam al-Shafi'i began remodeling the religion," he says. "He put into place the mechanism of understanding everything through law [Shariah]. Now people can't talk about that anymore. We cannot attack al-Shafi'i."

The point is crucial to Mr. Wahid's understanding of Islam as being something broader, deeper and better than the tradition-bound view of life imposed by traditional schools of Islamic law (all the more striking because Mr. Wahid is himself a leading theologian of the Shafi'i school). It is equally crucial to Mr. Wahid's politics, not to mention his relaxed approach to social issues.

"The globalization of ethics is always frightening to people, particularly Islamic radicals," he says in reference to a question about the so-called pornoaksi legislation. For the past three years Indonesian politics have been roiled by an Islamist attempt to label anything they deem sexually arousing to be a form of "porno-action." Mr. Wahid sees this as an assault on pancasila, Indonesia's secularist state philosophy from the time of its founding. He also sees it as an assault on common sense. "Young people like to kiss each other," he says, throwing his hands in the air. "Why not? Just because old people don't do it doesn't mean it's wrong."

Mr. Wahid is equally relaxed about some of the controversies that have recently erupted between Muslims and the West. Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech from last September was "a good speech, though as usual he pointed to the wrong times and the wrong cases." As for the furor over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, he asks "why should we be angry?" And he dismisses Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the al-Jazeera preacher who helped incite the cartoon riots, as an "angry, conventional" thinker.

What really concerns Mr. Wahid is what he sees as the increasingly degraded state of the Muslim mind. That problem is becoming especially acute at Indonesian universities and in the pesantren--the religious boarding schools that graduate hundreds of thousands of students every year. "We are experiencing the shallowing of religion," he says, bemoaning the fact that the boarding schools persist in teaching "conventional"--that word again--Islam.

But Mr. Wahid's critique is not just of formal Islamic education. He also attacks the West's philosophy of positivism, which, he says, "relies too much on the idea of conquering knowledge and mastering scientific principles alone." This purely empirical and essentially soulless view of things, broadly adopted by Indonesia's secular state universities, gives its students a bleak choice: "Either they follow the process or they are outside the process."

As a result, Western-style education in Indonesia has come to represent not just secularism but the negation of religion, to which too many students have responded by embracing fundamentalism. At the University of Indonesia, for example, an estimated three in four students are members or sympathizers of the "Prosperous Justice Party," or PKS, an ultra-radical Islamic party.





This raises the subject of religion and politics. "For us, an Islamic party is not a thing to follow," he says, adding that "religion and morality is tied to person, not a party." To illustrate the point, he observes that religious parties in the Muslim world have more often been the handmaids of dictatorship than democracy. "Whenever governments tried to enforce their institutions they use 'Islamic' people as potential allies." The Front for the Defense of Islam (FPI), a radical vigilante group that uses violent means to suppress "un-Islamic" behavior, was, he observes, originally a creature of the Indonesian military.
So why did Mr. Wahid, as a religious leader, make the choice to go into politics himself? He demurs at the suggestion of choice. "I am against politics, so to speak. In 1984 I tried hard to convince people that the NU should not be in politics." He was overruled by others in the organization, and eventually he founded the Party of National Awakening, or PKB. Yet the party, he insists, is "based on non-Islamic principles," a fact he illustrates by pointing to a nearby aide who is an Indonesian Protestant. "We have to go for plurality, for tolerance."

He also believes that the "only solution" to the challenge of Islamic radicalization in Indonesia is more democracy. But what about the example of Hamas, which came to power through democratic means, and of other groups like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that would probably do the same if given the chance? Mr. Wahid's answer is to distinguish between what he calls "full democratization" and the "hollow imitation of democracy" that he sees taking place in Indonesia as well as among Arabs in Palestine and Iraq.

"The problem is not personalities, it is institutions," he says. "For the past 250 years the Americans have had not just Jefferson's concept of the rights of the individual but also Alexander Hamilton's belief in a strong state." In order to function properly, democracy requires competent government that can effectively uphold the rule of law. It also requires a broadly understood concept of self-rule, which is missing in too much of the developing world: "Here, ordinary citizens expect the government to do everything for them."

He therefore takes a fairly dim view of Iraq's democratic prospects. "Iraqis understood that Saddam had caused them trouble," and were grateful to be rid of him, he says. "But as for the U.S. concept of democracy, they don't understand it at all." The problem, he adds, goes double in the rest of the Arab world, where, he says, the prevailing view is that being a democracy is an expression of weakness, while being a dictatorship is a sign of strength.

What's needed, in other words, is for countries like Indonesia and Iraq to find a way to combine effective government with a powerful respect for the rights of the citizen. But how one goes about doing that is itself a deeper problem, a problem of culture. "How do we follow the West without [becoming] Westerners? How do you do that? I don't know."





In fact, Mr. Wahid has begun to develop an answer through two organizations he chairs, the Wahid Institute, run by his daughter Yenny, and LibForAll, an Indonesia- and U.S.-based nonprofit run by American C. Holland Taylor, which works to discredit Islamism's ideology of hatred. "It's up to LibForAll to introduce both sides to Muslims; to show that common principles are also the principles of Islam," Mr. Wahid says. "Hundreds of thousands of Muslim youth learn in countries where there is technological modernity. We need to [nurture] the emergence of a new kind of people who think in terms of being modern but still relate to the past."
In fact, that perfectly describes Mr. Wahid, who is keenly aware of his own roots in both Islamic and Javanese traditions. Among his ancestors are the last Hindu-Buddhist king of the Javanese Majapahit dynasty, and Sunan Kalijogo, a Sufi mystic who married Islamic and local traditions and, according to lore, defeated Islamic extremism in the 16th century. Can Mr. Wahid, heir to this venerable tradition, accomplish the same feat? "Right now, the fundamentalists think they're winning," he once told a friend. "But they're going to wake up one day and realize we beat them."

Mr. Stephens writes "Global View," The Wall Street Journal's foreign affairs column.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2007, 10:46:09 AM »

Second post of the morning:

http://opinionjournal.com/columnists/bstephens/?id=110009922

The Exorcist
An Indonesian man seeks "to create an Islam that will make people smile."

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

SENDANG AYU, Indonesia--In the fall of 2005, Abdul Munir Mulkhan returned to his childhood village to exorcise a demon.

Belief in the spirit world persists in this corner of southern Sumatra, as it does throughout most of Indonesia. In this case, however, the demon took human form as an itinerant Islamic preacher named Mun Faasil. He had appeared as if from nowhere the year before and had promptly set about "purifying" the villagers' religious practices. For instance, he objected to sacrificing water buffalo (a local practice) instead of sheep (an Arab one) for the annual feast of Eid ul-Adha. He also disapproved of the villagers' custom of giving couples an envelope of cash on their wedding day, on the grounds that there was no Quranic basis for it.

What happened next is a portrait-in-miniature of the assault being waged against traditional Indonesian Islam by its totalitarian variant. "Mun Faasil's speeches created a crisis of faith," recalls a village elder. "One group started implying that the others were not true believers." Things got worse when the preacher began extolling the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a radical Islamist party modeled on Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, while attacking the Muhammadiyah, the century-old, 30 million-strong, apolitical Islamic social movement to which most of the villagers belong. Soon PKS cadres started arriving in the village.

It was at this point that some of the villagers called on Mr. Mulkhan, 60, to offer a "clarification" on the true teachings of Islam. They were fortunate in their native son. A leading scholar of Islamic theology and history, Mr. Mulkhan had only recently stepped down as vice secretary of the Muhammadiyah and continues to wield influence as a reformer within the organization. It did not take much to persuade his old neighbors that good Muslims do not use narrow theological pretexts to condemn fellow Muslims as infidels. Mun Faasil and his cadres were told to go.





For Mr. Mulkhan, however, what happened in Sendang Ayu was not the end of the matter but only the beginning. If the PKS could reach a remote rural community of 150 people, he reasoned, where had they not penetrated? The problem was compounded by the PKS's use of clandestine cells to infiltrate the Muhammadiyah's institutions--hospitals, universities, schools, mosques, charities, student associations--and recruit new members. "We had a situation where people in positions of trust were suddenly revealing themselves as PKS," he says. "If we had allowed this to continue they would have consolidated their position with a purge of their opponents."
The rise of the PKS nationally is itself a thing to marvel at. Barely eight years old, it won just 7% of the vote in the 2004 elections and has made itself conspicuous with its support of radical cleric Abu Bakir Bashir. Yet it has already managed to seize key institutions of prestige and patronage throughout Indonesia, including the speakership of the national Parliament, the ministry of agriculture and key municipal posts. As with Hamas in the Palestine Authority, it has burnished a reputation for incorruptibility.

But the Muhammadiyah, with its immense network of social services, is the organization the PKS must first seize if--in the spirit of the Antonio Gramsci's "long march through the institutions"--it is to achieve its longer-term political objectives. As a takeover target, it also helps the PKS that the Muhammadiyah has espoused a relatively strict form of Islam, making its members all the more susceptible to tarbiyeh, the form of Islamic indoctrination practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood and adopted by the PKS.

Ahmed Sujino, a teacher at a Muhammadiyah boarding school in the Sumatran city of Metro, is a case in point. "There is nothing wrong with tarbiyeh," he says, making little effort to disguise his PKS sympathies. Despite the Muhammadiyah's longstanding support for a secular state, Mr. Sujino believes Shariah must become the law of the land and that those who persistently refuse to observe it, including non-Muslims, should be reminded of what's expected of them "in a physical way." He also has invited Salafist preachers from Jakarta to "make themselves at home and teach the students."

It is against this backdrop--compounded by the appointment of two PKS sympathizers to the Muhammadiyah's 13-member Central Board--that Mr. Mulkhan and a handful of allies have decided to fight back. As vice secretary of the Muhammadiyah, he had already revoked its longstanding practice of requiring new members to abandon local Islamic traditions that were at variance with organizational dogma. At his behest, too, the Muhammadiyah had issued an official finding that Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism were theologically legitimate faiths, worthy of the organization's respect. "This wasn't just about my personal beliefs but about the organization's future," he explains. "We needed to stop fighting everyone and start getting along with everyone."





Now Mr. Mulkhan is in the midst of carrying out his most ambitious reform. Later this month, a Mohammadiyah congress is set to approve a decree he helped engineer banning the PKS from its activities. The ostensible motive is to distance the Muhammadiyah from parties of any kind whose "primary goal is the acquisition of political power for themselves."
The larger issue, however, concerns Islam's identity and reputation in Indonesia, both of which, he believes, the PKS and its fellow travelers are bringing into global disrepute. Whether the Muhammadiyah and its millions of members will stand as a bulwark against it will rest in no small part on the outcome of the congress--and on whether people like Mr. Mulkhan will be able to maintain the support and resources they need to keep the organization out of the radicals' grip.

"What is the Muhammadiyah for?" Mr. Mulkhan asks. "My answer is that the Muhammadiyah is not just for the Muhammadiyah and Islam is not just for the Muslims. There are many teachings in Islam that are very beautiful but they are being covered over by this black-and-white way of thinking. For instance, there is a hadith [teaching] that says that smiling at other people is a form of charity. I want to create an Islam that will make people smile."

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2007, 12:30:32 AM »

India: The Islamization of the Northeast
Summary

India's insurgent-ridden northeastern region has long given foreign powers a gamut of exploitable secessionist movements to use to prevent India from emerging as a major global player. Though India has grown accustomed to the ongoing volatility in its northeastern corridor, growing Islamization in the region -- spurred by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and instability in neighboring Bangladesh -- will give New Delhi a good reason to pay closer attention to its porous northeastern border.

Analysis

Northeastern India is a region wracked by secessionist violence, where wide networks of drug smuggling, extortion and arms trafficking run rampant. India has traditionally dealt with the myriad secessionist movements through force, fearing that any concessions made to one group would only exacerbate the others' secessionist tendencies and further undermine the country's territorial integrity.

The balkanization of the region and the constant drain on Indian resources required to deal with these rebel movements was all part of the United Kingdom's blueprint for the Indian subcontinent to prevent its former colony from developing a strong national identity and emerging as a major Asiatic power. Up until the partition in 1947, the British played a major role in encouraging tribal, ethnic, religious and linguistic identities, and in isolating various tribal groups from the mainland and the plains areas in Assam for the British East India Co. to secure its commercial enterprise.




Pakistan did not hesitate to jump in where the British left off in the post-partition period, and has since used its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to fund, train and arm these rebel groups in order to keep India's hands tied. The largest and most powerful of the northeast secessionist movements is the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Once a student movement with populist aims to redistribute the state's oil wealth, ULFA has gradually changed into what appears to be a moneymaking machine with a strong willingness to do the ISI's bidding. ULFA runs an impressive extortion racket in the northeast, where Assam's tea plantation owners and corporate leaders are regularly targeted.

The group maintains that its armed campaign will not let up until the Indian government engages it in unconditional peace talks. Yet, when New Delhi makes such an offer, ULFA usually responds with a bombing, as was the case in the April 9 bomb attack near Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's motorcade in the Assamese capital of Guwahati. ULFA's leadership understands that New Delhi is not about to reward the armed movement with political concessions, and does not wish to disturb the financial networks it has running throughout the region. Moreover, to preserve their militant proxy, the group's handlers in both Pakistan's and Bangladesh's intelligence services have told ULFA not to hold peace talks with the Indian government.

Pakistan's ISI, in cooperation with Bangladesh's Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), appears to be investing a considerable amount of resources in solidifying India's militant corridor. There are growing indications that these two agencies are working clandestinely in Bangladesh to bring all the northeast-based insurgent outfits and jihadist elements under one umbrella. The ISI has facilitated cooperation between ULFA and other northeastern militant outfits with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, Islamist militant groups in Kashmir, Islamist groups in Bangladesh and a growing number of al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups operating in the region.

Religion, ethnicity and ideology lose relevance within this militant network, as each group has a common interest in furthering their militant and financial capabilities by working together. For example, Tigers cadres organize training camps in the northeast and use their maritime contacts to assist ULFA in transporting arms and narcotics up to Cambodia in ULFA-owned shrimp trawlers that operate out of Bangladesh's Chittagong port. The Tigers have also been known to train Maoist rebels in Nepal and India at camps in the jungles of India's eastern state of Bihar.

ULFA's growing links with Bangladeshi Islamists and jihadist elements in the area are increasingly coming to light. The April 9 attack timed with Singh's visit to Assam marked the group's first-ever suicide bombing, a tactic that was pioneered by the Tigers (a non-Islamist, majority Hindu group) and has been frequently employed by Islamist militants. Prior to the attack, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa warned that New Delhi's offer for unconditional peace talks was not acceptable, and that that ULFA cadres "have reached such a stage they would strap bombs on their chest and attack." ULFA's adoption of suicide bombing looks to be the result of the group's increased Islamization caused by collusion with Islamist outfits in the region. The bomber in the April 9 suicide attack was Ainul Ali, a Muslim. Indian security sources revealed that ULFA did not have many Muslim cadres in its fold in the past, but the increasing flow of Bangladeshi refugees across the border has given the group more -- and more capable -- members willing to sacrifice their lives for the group's cause with nudging from the ISI.

Collaboration between ULFA and the Islamist militants will expand further, as political conditions in Bangladesh appear to be indirectly contributing to the empowerment of Islamists there. Using the Pakistani military regime as an example, Bangladeshi army chief Lt. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed is reasserting the army's role in Bangladeshi politics -- which have long suffered from a bitter political feud between the family dynasties represented by the Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Begum Khaleda Zia. With both party leaders driven into exile, a political vacuum has started to take root in the country, and Bangladesh's Islamist parties are anxiously waiting to fill it.

India will be taking note of these political developments in Dhaka, though there is not much New Delhi can or wants to do to intervene. As a result, New Delhi is facing a bleak situation in which the ISI's maneuvers and Bangladesh's political troubles are sure to further constrain India's ability to dig itself out of the militant trap Pakistan has set.

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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2007, 12:14:18 PM »

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Show of Bad Faith
By ANGELA C. WU
June 1, 2007

As Islamist protestors' shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" echoed through Putrajaya's Palace of Justice, the Malaysian Federal Court Wednesday reaffirmed that religion is determined by court orders and not personal conscience. The two-to-one landmark decision by the country's highest court marks a monumental setback to religious freedom and human rights in Malaysia, a secular country increasingly influenced by Islamism.

Lina Joy, about whom I wrote on this page last September, is an ethnic Malay born into an Islamic family who converted to Christianity in 1998 at the age of 36. Desiring to live as a Christian, she sought to have "Islam" removed from her national identification card so that she could marry her Roman Catholic fiancé. However, the National Registration Department refused her request without an official order from the Islamic Sharia court declaring her an apostate. Because Ms. Joy was not a Muslim, she argued that the Sharia court -- which constitutionally has jurisdiction only in limited, enumerated matters relating to family law "over persons professing the religion of Islam" -- had no jurisdiction over her decision.

 
Once a Muslim, forever a Muslim in Malaysia.
On principle, Ms. Joy never applied to the Sharia court because she rightly reasoned that the state could not tell her what she believes in her heart. Further, no Sharia court has ever recognized an application for apostasy made by an ethnic Malay. Instead, a common judgment has been years-long sentences to religious "rehabilitation" camps for re-education in Islam.

Ms. Joy courageously filed suit in civil court, optimistic that the federal Constitution's provisions for equal protection and freedom of religion for all Malaysians would strengthen her case. The trial court dismissed her application, arguing that ethnic Malays are constitutionally defined as Muslim, thereby making conversion from Islam illegal. The judge also reasoned that allowing this exemption would encourage future converts. The Court of Appeals subsequently wrote that allowing Ms. Joy's conversion would "consequently be inviting the censure of the Muslim community."

Any hope that Ms. Joy might find protection from the federal Constitution was crushed by the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the doctrine that if you are born a Muslim, you will stay a Muslim until the community decides otherwise. Ignoring Lina Joy's years of Catholic study, church attendance, and the baptism certificate she presented as proof of her sincerity, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in his decision, "You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another."

Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim among the three judges, dissented, arguing that because the National Registration Department had required a special approval only for Muslims, it violated the equal treatment provision in Article Eight of the federal Constitution. In its perverse way, Wednesday's ruling was discriminatory only against those born into Islam.

Even beyond Ms. Joy's plight, this and similar rulings set dangerous precedents for related cases regarding the application of Sharia law. Consider Subashini Rajasingam, whose husband embraced Islam in 2006 and then converted their eldest son. He then filed an application before the Kuala Lumpur Sharia Court to dissolve their civil marriage and obtain custody of the children. Ms. Subashini lost her case in both lower courts, and the Federal Court granted leave to appeal on May 17.

Malaysia's religious and ethnic diversity, growing economy, and regional leadership make these rulings all the more troubling. Indicators such as Ms. Joy's case, in which judges unabashedly set aside constitutional protections in favor of the sensibilities of Muslim believers, suggest that there is growing support for Islamization.

Just as Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists mingle in Kuala Lumpur's Central Market, so too have Sharia and civil law existed side by side since Malaysia's Constitution came into force in 1957. Now, the prospects of Sharia and civil law peacefully coexisting have grown dim. Malaysia's ability to protect fundamental human rights while navigating its parallel legal system among rising religious and ethnic tensions is an indication of whether it's possible anywhere.

In Malaysia, where Islam as the state religion was historically merely a symbolic statement, and where the Constitution reflects religious freedom for people of all faiths, the issue is not whether Sharia can accommodate human rights. It's whether human rights can accommodate Sharia.

Ms. Joy remains in hiding, trapped in a legal quagmire designed by a state judging her religion according to her ethnicity and not what she professes. Meanwhile her country -- whose motto is "Unity is Strength" -- is at a cultural and legal crossroads. Wednesday's ruling is a step toward an Islamic state in which group religious sentiment trumps the most fundamental human right, the right without which other rights are meaningless -- the right to follow one's conscience. Let us hope Malaysia can turn back in time.

Ms. Wu is the International Director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2007, 10:38:59 PM »

http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/10/2001243.htm?section=justin
 
Two beheaded, clinics attacked in Thailand
Posted 6 hours 19 minutes ago


Two Buddhist health workers have been gunned down in a clinic in Thailand's restive south, while two others were beheaded in a grisly killing spree blamed on separatist rebels, police say.

Three other people have been killed in shooting attacks around the Muslim-majority region bordering Malaysia, in the latest sign of intensifying violence this month.  The attacks came as authorities stepped up a crackdown on separatists in the region where more than 2,400 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since the unrest broke out in January 2004.

The two health workers were killed inside a clinic in Pattani province late on Wednesday (local time), when militants stormed into the building and shot them at their desks, police said.

Authorities shut down 15 nearby clinics in response and could not say when they would reopen.  Separatist rebels also torched two schools in Pattani, gutting the buildings early on Thursday.  Rebels often attack government schools as they are seen as symbols of Thailand's attempt to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the Muslim-majority region.  Meanwhile, militants have beheaded two elderly Buddhists inside their homes in Pattani and then set the houses on fire, police say.

The charred remains of the headless bodies were found early on Thursday.

In nearby Narathiwat province, three people including a soldier were killed in separate shootings.

The restive region was once an autonomous Malay sultanate until Buddhist Thailand annexed it a century ago. Separatist violence has flared periodically ever since.  After the military seized power in Thailand last September, the post-coup Government offered a series of olive branches to the militants but the unrest has only worsened.  This year the Government has boosted military spending and deployed more security forces as part of a tougher approach to tackling the militants.  More than 200 people are being held at army bases around the region as part of the Government's latest crackdown.

 
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« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2007, 08:27:01 AM »

India Appeases Radical Islam
By SADANAND DHUME
November 27, 2007; Page A18

Friday's multiple bomb blasts in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh -- which killed 13 people and injured about 80 -- ought to give pause to those who see the world's largest democracy as a linchpin in the war on terror. India's leaders and diplomats seek to portray the country as a firebreak against radical Islam, or the drive to impose the medieval Arab norms enshrined in Shariah law on 21st century life. In reality, India is ill- equipped to fight this scourge.

Like neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, (and unlike Turkey or Tunisia) India has failed to modernize much of its Muslim population. Successive generations of politicians have pandered to the most backward elements of India's 150-million strong Muslim population, the second largest in the world after Indonesia's. India has allowed Muslims to follow Shariah in civil matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. An increasingly radicalized neighborhood, fragmented domestic politics and a curiously timid mainstream discourse on Islam add up to hobble India's response to radical Islamic intimidation.

Most Indian Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, and are more concerned with the struggles of daily life than the effort to create a global caliphate. Muslim contributions to the fabric of national life -- most visible in sports, movies and the arts -- should not be dismissed. Furthermore, religious zealotry in India is not a Muslim monopoly. Still, the notion that Indian Islam is uniquely tolerant, or somehow immune to the rising tide of world-wide radical sentiment, is a myth.

Last year, Haji Muhammad Yaqoob Qureshi, a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, publicly offered a $11 million bounty for beheading the Danish cartoonists who had drawn the prophet Mohammed. In high-tech Hyderabad, parts of which are Muslim strongholds, three sitting legislators of a local Islamic party recently roughed up Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi author critical of her country's treatment of its Hindu minority and her faith's treatment of women. Last week, the government of West Bengal state in eastern India had to call in the army to quell Muslim rioters in Calcutta, whose demands included Ms. Nasreen's expulsion from the country.

India's historically weak-kneed response to radical Islamic intimidation only encourages such behavior. In 1988, India was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." (Ayatollah Khomeini issued his infamous death sentence on the author only after reading about disturbances in India.) In 1999, after terrorists hijacked an Indian aircraft to then Taliban-controlled Kandahar, New Delhi responded by releasing three prominent Islamic militants from prison in Kashmir. One of them, the British-Pakistani London School of Economics dropout Omar Saeed Sheikh, went on to mastermind the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. True to form, the authorities have responded to the latest outbreak of violence in Calcutta by bundling off Ms. Nasreen to distant Rajasthan, and from there to Delhi.

As in other democracies -- Britain and Holland to name just two -- a permissive approach toward radical Islam has only made the country more vulnerable to terrorism. In August this year, 42 people died in attacks on a Hyderabad restaurant and an open-air auditorium. Last year, a series of explosions on commuter trains in Bombay killed over 200 people. Two years ago, the Hindu festival of Diwali was rung in with bombs that claimed 62 lives in Delhi.

New Delhi has blamed the attacks on groups such as the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and Bangladesh's Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami. Though much of India's terrorism problem is imported, part of it is homegrown. Instead of reflexively blaming Islamabad, Indians need to ask themselves why foreign terrorists appear to have little trouble recruiting accomplices from India. (The Uttar Pradesh attacks appear to be the work of a previously unknown outfit called Indian Mujahideen.) The bromide about the lack of Indian Muslim involvement in international terrorism, accepted unquestioningly by much of India's liberal intelligentsia, must be called into question after the involvement of Indian doctors in this year's failed attacks in London and Glasgow.

India's experience offers important lessons to other democracies struggling to integrate large Muslim populations. It highlights the folly of attempting to exempt Muslims from universal norms regarding women's rights, freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. It reveals that democracy alone -- when detached from bedrock democratic principles -- offers no antidote to radical Islamic fervor.

Mr. Dhume is a fellow at the Asia Society in Washington, D.C. "My Friend the Fanatic," his book about the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia, will be published by Melbourne next year.


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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2008, 05:23:10 PM »

http://www.reuters.com/articlePrint?articleId=USSP23014220080727

India on alert after two days of bombings kill 46
Sun Jul 27, 2008 1:12pm EDT
By Alistair Scrutton and Bappa Majumdar

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) - India's major cities were put on high alert on Sunday, with fears of more attacks after at least 40 people were killed in two days of bombings that hit a communally-sensitive western city and a southern IT hub

At least 16 small bombs exploded in the Indian city of Ahmedabad on Saturday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 110, a day after another set of blasts in Bangalore killed a woman.

A little known group called the "Indian Mujahideen" claimed responsibility for the Ahmedabad attack on Saturday. The same group said it carried out bombs attacks that killed 63 people in the western city of Jaipur in May.

It is unusual for any group to claim responsibility, but India says it suspects militant groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh are behind a wave of bombings in recent years, with targets ranging from mosques and Hindu temples to trains.

"The entire nation, including major metro cities in India have been put on high alert and they have been asked to step up security in vital installations," a home ministry spokesman said.

In New Delhi, police used loudspeakers and distributed leaflets in crowded market places, warning people to watch out for unclaimed baggage and suspicious objects. Police guarded Hindu temples in the eastern city of Kolkata.

There were two separate series of bombings in Ahmedadad, the first near busy market places. A second quick succession of bombs went off 20 to 25 minutes later around a hospital, where at least six people died, police said. All were detonated with timers.

"I came with my two children to cheer up my mother admitted to hospital," said Pankaj Patel, whose son Rohan and daughter Pratha were killed at Ahmedadad hospital. "They were laughing when the blast occurred. Now they are dead."

Two doctors were killed in the hospital in a blast in which at least one bomb was tied onto a gas cylinder. Charred motorcycles and bicycles were shown outside. TV showed victims writhing in pain and covered in blood on hospital floors.

The other bombs were in Ahmedabad's crowded old city dominated by its Muslim community. Many were packed into metal tiffin boxes, used to carry food, and packed with ball-bearings. Some were left on bicycles.

Police found three other unexploded bombs in Ahmedabad on Sunday, local media said.

Ahmedabad is the main city in the communally sensitive and relatively wealthy western state of Gujarat, scene of deadly riots in 2002 in which 2,500 people are thought to have died, most of them Muslims killed by rampaging Hindu mobs.

Both Ahmedabad and Bangalore are in states ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and are among the country's fastest-growing.

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi is one of India's most controversial politicians, accused of turning a blind eye to the Gujarat riots.

MUSLIM BACKLASH?

Some analysts say there is evidence of local Muslim groups, for years seen as unaffected by the rise of global Islamist militancy, of taking up violence against India, where they are a poor and often neglected minority. They may be getting training and financial backing from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

"Over the last few years, the dissatisfaction among Indian Muslims has hitched onto the wagon of the global/regional jihad," said C. Uday Bhaskar, a security analyst and former director of New Delhi's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

"If you have 150 million Muslims in India, only 0.0001 percent of that figure would mean a militant nucleus of 15,000 people."

Police raided one house in Mumbai where they believe e-mails from the Indian Mujahideen were linked, local media reported.

India's home ministry said on Friday it suspected "a small militant group" was behind the Bangalore attacks, while some police officials suspected the blasts could be the work of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India.

Some IT companies in Bangalore, known as India's Silicon Valley, were increasing security after bombs went off there. Each bomb had a similar explosive force to one or two grenades.

The city is a prominent software development centre and is also home to a major outsourcing industry.

(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain Nair in Ahmedabad; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2009, 07:48:02 AM »

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Thomas L. Friedman

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There are nine bodies — all of them young men — that have been lying in a Mumbai hospital morgue since Nov. 29. They may be stranded there for a while because no local Muslim charity is willing to bury them in its cemetery. This is good news.

The nine are the Pakistani Muslim terrorists who went on an utterly senseless killing rampage in Mumbai on 26/11 — India’s 9/11 — gunning down more than 170 people, including 33 Muslims, scores of Hindus, as well as Christians and Jews. It was killing for killing’s sake. They didn’t even bother to leave a note.

All nine are still in the morgue because the leadership of India’s Muslim community has called them by their real name — “murderers” not “martyrs” — and is refusing to allow them to be buried in the main Muslim cemetery of Mumbai, the 7.5-acre Bada Kabrastan graveyard, run by the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust.

“People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim,” Hanif Nalkhande, a spokesman for the trust, told The Times of London. Eventually, one assumes, they will have to be buried, but the Mumbai Muslims remain defiant.

“Indian Muslims are proud of being both Indian and Muslim, and the Mumbai terrorism was a war against both India and Islam,” explained M.J. Akbar, the Indian-Muslim editor of Covert, an Indian investigative journal. “Terrorism has no place in Islamic doctrine. The Koranic term for the killing of innocents is ‘fasad.’ Terrorists are fasadis, not jihadis. In a beautiful verse, the Koran says that the killing of an innocent is akin to slaying the whole community. Since the ... terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery.”

To be sure, Mumbai’s Muslims are a vulnerable minority in a predominantly Hindu country. Nevertheless, their in-your-face defiance of the Islamist terrorists stands out. It stands out against a dismal landscape of predominantly Sunni Muslim suicide murderers who have attacked civilians in mosques and markets — from Iraq to Pakistan to Afghanistan — but who have been treated by mainstream Arab media, like Al Jazeera, or by extremist Islamist spiritual leaders and Web sites, as “martyrs” whose actions deserve praise.

Extolling or excusing suicide militants as “martyrs” has only led to this awful phenomenon — where young Muslim men and women are recruited to kill themselves and others — spreading wider and wider. What began in a targeted way in Lebanon and Israel has now proliferated to become an almost weekly occurrence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is a threat to any open society because when people turn themselves into bombs, they can’t be deterred, and the measures needed to interdict them require suspecting and searching everyone at any public event. And they are a particular threat to Muslim communities. You can’t build a healthy society on the back of suicide-bombers, whose sole objective is to wreak havoc by exclusively and indiscriminately killing as many civilians as possible.

If suicide-murder is deemed legitimate by a community when attacking its “enemies” abroad, it will eventually be used as a tactic against “enemies” at home, and that is exactly what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The only effective way to stop this trend is for “the village” — the Muslim community itself — to say “no more.” When a culture and a faith community delegitimizes this kind of behavior, openly, loudly and consistently, it is more important than metal detectors or extra police. Religion and culture are the most important sources of restraint in a society.

That’s why India’s Muslims, who are the second-largest Muslim community in the world after Indonesia’s, and the one with the deepest democratic tradition, do a great service to Islam by delegitimizing suicide-murderers by refusing to bury their bodies. It won’t stop this trend overnight, but it can help over time.

“The Muslims of Bombay deserve to be congratulated in taking this important decision,” Raashid Alvi, a Muslim member of India’s Parliament from the Congress Party, said to me. “Islam says that if you commit suicide, then even after death you will be punished.”

The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society. They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst.

It is why so few, if any, Indian Muslims are known to have joined Al Qaeda. And it is why, as outrageously expensive and as uncertain the outcome, trying to build decent, pluralistic societies in places like Iraq is not as crazy as it seems. It takes a village, and without Arab-Muslim societies where the villagers feel ownership over their lives and empowered to take on their own extremists — militarily and ideologically — this trend will not go away.
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2009, 11:51:15 PM »

By SADANAND DHUME
Against a backdrop of Korean missile launches and violent protests in Thailand, those looking for a spot of calm in Asia may alight on an unlikely candidate: Indonesia. Largely peaceful parliamentary elections last week -- the third consecutive free elections since the end of Gen. Suharto's 32-year rule in 1998 -- reflect the strides made by a country that not so long ago was in danger of becoming a byword for chaos and random violence.

Most heartening of all has been the Indonesian electorate's affirmation of its legendary moderation. The top three parties in the incoming parliament -- President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democrat Party, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's left-leaning Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, and Suharto's former political machine, Golkar -- are all nonsectarian.

They stand for the country's founding ideology, the live-and-let-live doctrine of Pancasila, and draw their supporters from each of the country's five major faiths. Mr. Yudhoyono, known as the "gentle general" for his military past and avuncular manner, is the overwhelming favorite to win July's presidential election.

Islam-based parties saw their cumulative vote-share shrink to about 20% from 38% five years ago. Take the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) -- Indonesia's version of the Muslim Brotherhood -- which seeks to institute Shariah law. In the outgoing parliament, PKS and the Democrat Party were virtually tied; in the new parliament the president's party, which deftly stole PKS's signature issue, a promise of graft free governance, will seat about three times as many members.

Five years ago, when the Democrat Party won only 7% of the parliamentary vote, Mr. Yudhoyono was forced to rely on PKS support in parliament. This time around he can exclude PKS from the governing coalition and deny it the chance to grow under the umbrella of state power. Nevertheless, while PKS is down, it is still the fourth-largest party in parliament, thanks to the decline of other Islam-oriented parties. It controls several important governorships, including those of the populous provinces of West Java and North Sumatra.

In the short term, striking a deal with PKS may be expedient -- it's natural for any politician to eye the party's disciplined voter base. But in the long term, as the experience of Pakistan and Sudan shows, trucking with Islamists is a high-risk gamble. A pathbreaking new report by the Libforall Foundation, an anti-extremist nonprofit co-founded by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, notes that PKS continues its effort to infiltrate mainstream Islamic organizations, and to replace Indonesia's tolerant, homespun Islam with an arid import from the Middle East.

It will take much more than a single election to dent PKS's access to Saudi funding and its network of supportive mosques and madrassas, or to diminish the appeal for many newly educated Indonesians of its starkly utopian message: Islam is the solution.

Since it first burst into prominence five years ago, PKS has done little to dispel fears that it is the dark bloom at the heart of Indonesia's democratic flowering. Party leaders are outspoken supporters of Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group responsible for suicide bombing in Bali that killed hundreds. Last year, PKS piloted through parliament a harsh antipornography bill that legalizes vigilante violence and forces non-Islamic communities to conform to conservative Islamic norms.

The party's attitudes toward women's rights are captured by its obsession with dress codes and outspoken support for polygamy. In a country long famous for a pragmatic foreign policy, PKS makes emotive appeals to pan-Islamic causes such as Palestine. Among the party rank and file, 9/11 conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are rampant.

If Indonesia is to fulfill its potential as a moderate and modern Muslim-majority democracy, mainstream politicians must not make the mistake of legitimizing this party. In the short term, this means scotching rumors that the PKS may snag the vice-presidential spot on President Yudhoyono's ticket.

In the long term, it means recognizing the sobering reality that Indonesia's long struggle with radical Islam is not about to end any time soon. That struggle will be won not by embracing PKS, but by working to banish it to the margins of political life, where it belongs.

Mr. Dhume is a Washington-based writer and the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels With a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009).
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2010, 07:29:11 AM »

BANGKOK — An uproar among Muslims in Malaysia over the use of the word Allah by Christians spread over the weekend with the firebombing and vandalizing of several churches, increasing tensions at a time of political turbulence.

Arsonists struck three churches and a convent school early Sunday, and black paint was splashed on another church. This followed the firebombing of four churches on Friday and Saturday. No injuries were reported, and only one church, Metro Tabernacle in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, had extensive damage.

The attacks, unlike anything Malaysia has experienced before, have shaken the country, where many Muslims are angry over a Dec. 31 court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of the word Allah to denote the Christian God.

Though that usage is common in many countries, where Arabic- and Malay-language Bibles describe Jesus as the “son of Allah,” many Muslims here insist that the word belongs exclusively to them and say that its use by other faiths could confuse Muslim worshipers.

That dispute, in turn, has been described by some observers as a sign of political maneuvering, as the governing party struggles to maintain its dominance after setbacks in national and state elections in March 2008.

Some political analysts and politicians accuse Prime Minister Najib Razak of raising racial and religious issues as he tries to solidify his Malay base. In a difficult balancing act, he must also woo ethnic Chinese and Indians whose opposition contributed to his party’s setback in 2008.

“The political contestation is a lot more intensified,” said Elizabeth Wong, a state official who is a member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, an opposition party. “In Malaysia the central theme will always be about the Malay identity and about Islam. The parties come up with various policies or means to attempt to appeal to the Muslim Malay voters.”

Mr. Najib condemned the violence, saying the government would “take whatever steps it can to prevent such acts.”

In an interview, the main opposition figure, Anwar Ibrahim, implied that the government was behind the current tensions. “This is the last hope — to incite racial and religious sentiments to cling to power,” he said. “Immediately since the disastrous defeat in the March 2008 election they have been fanning this.”

The government has appealed the court decision and has been granted a stay. The dispute has swelled into a nationwide confrontation, with small demonstrations at mosques and passionate outcries on the Internet.

The tensions are shaking a multiethnic, multiracial state that has tried to maintain harmony among its citizens: mostly Muslim Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population, and minority Chinese and Indians, who mostly practice Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.

About 9 percent of Malaysia’s population of 28 million people are Christians, most of them Chinese or Indian. Analysts say this is the first outright confrontation between Muslims and Christians.

But race has become a staple of political discourse in recent years, and religion has been its vehicle, said Ooi Kee Beng, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“Religion has become a much more useful tool for parties who depend on playing on ethnic divisions,” Mr. Ooi said. “They find it difficult to talk about racial issues but possible to talk about religious issues. We are seeing the result of that political opportunism over the last two decades.”

The line between race and religion is blurred in a country where the Constitution equates Muslim and Malay identities, said Jacqueline Ann Surin, editor of The Nut Graph, an analytical Malaysian news site.

“Malaysia is peculiar in that we have race-based politics and over the past decade or so we have seen an escalation of this notion that Malay Malaysians are superior,” she said. “That has been most apparent from consistent attempts by the U.M.N.O. leadership to promote the notion of ‘ketuanan Melayu,’ or Malay supremacy or dominance.” The United Malays National Organization is the governing party.

“So it’s a logical progression that if the Malay is considered superior by the state to all others in Malaysia, then Islam will also be deemed superior to other religions,” she said.

In a widely quoted speech given Thursday, Razaleigh Hamzah, a former finance minister, said the governing party, founded on a formula of communal power sharing, “had ossified into what appeared to be an eternal racial contract, a model replicated at every level of national life.”

He called the 2008 election “a watershed in Malaysian politics” as the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost its dominating two-thirds majority in Parliament and lost five states to the opposition.

“The entire political landscape had changed overnight,” Mr. Hamzah said, and has left the formerly invincible Malay-based party seeking to redefine its electoral base and political rationale.

The political uncertainty comes against the backdrop of a flagging economy in a country that once had ambitions to lead the economies of Southeast Asia.

In a speech in December, the second-ranking finance official, Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, said: “Our economy has been stagnating in the last decade. We have lost our competitive edge to remain as the leader of the pack in many sectors of the economy. Our private investment has been steadily in decline.”

He called for changes in an economic system that gives preferential treatment to Malays, saying that all Malaysians should be given “equal opportunity to participate in the economy.”

At the same time, the country has had a rise in political Islam, along with continuing ethnic and religious tensions.

Hindus have protested the destruction of some temples, and in November Muslims paraded a severed cow’s head in the streets of Shah Alam, capital of Selangor state, to protest the construction of a new one.

On New Year’s Day, the Islamic morality police arrested 52 unmarried couples in budget hotels — mainly students and young factory workers — who were expected to be charged with the offense of close proximity.

Last year, a Muslim woman was sentenced to a public caning for drinking beer in a hotel. The sentence has not yet been carried out, with the authorities saying that they have not found a woman trained to carry out a caning.

In this atmosphere, there is a danger that the furor over religious language will feed on itself, said Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is a newspaper columnist and social activist.

“It’s only a few people who are inflamed about it, while the rest of the country is going on as if normal,” she said in an interview. “But if you keep stoking and if you keep giving these people leeway, sooner or later more and more people will think, ‘Oh, maybe we should be upset as well.’ ”
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2010, 09:15:26 AM »

   
The Caucasus Emirate
April 15, 2010




By Scott Stewart and Ben West

On April 9, a woman armed with a pistol and with explosives strapped to her body approached a group of police officers in the northern Caucasus village of Ekazhevo, in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia. The police officers were preparing to launch an operation to kill or capture militants in the area. The woman shot and wounded one of the officers, at which point other officers drew their weapons and shot the woman. As she fell to the ground, the suicide vest she was wearing detonated. The woman was killed and the man she wounded, the head of the of the Russian Interior Ministry’s local office, was rushed to the hospital where he died from his wounds.

Such incidents are regular occurrences in Russia’s southernmost republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. These five republics are home to fundamentalist separatist insurgencies that carry out regular attacks against security forces and government officials through the use of suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), armed assaults and targeted assassinations. However, we have noted a change in the operational tempo of militants in the region. So far in 2010, militants have carried out 23 attacks in the Caucasus, killing at least 34 people — a notable increase over the eight attacks that killed 17 people in the region during the same period last year. These militants have also returned to attacking the far enemy in Moscow and not just the near enemy in the Caucasus.


History of Activity

Over the past year, in addition to the weekly attacks we expect to see in the region (such as the one described above), a group calling itself the Caucasus Emirate has claimed five significant attacks against larger targets and, notably, ventured outside of the northern Caucasus region. The first of these attacks was a suicide VBIED bombing that seriously wounded Ingushetia’s president, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, and killed several members of his protective detail in June 2009 as Yekurov was traveling along a predictable route in a motorcade from his residence to his office. Then in August of that year, CE militants claimed responsibility for an explosion at the Siberian Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric dam that flooded the engine room, disabled turbines, wrecked equipment and killed 74 people (the structure of the dam was not affected). In November 2009, the group claimed responsibility for assassinating an Orthodox priest in Moscow and for detonating a bomb that targeted a high-speed train called the Nevsky Express that runs between Moscow and St. Petersburg and killing 30 people. Its most recent attack outside of the Caucasus occurred on March 29, 2010, when two female suicide bombers detonated IEDs in Moscow’s underground rail system during morning rush hour, killing 40 people.

The group’s claim of responsibility for the hydroelectric dam was, by all accounts, a phony one. At the time, STRATFOR was not convinced at all that the high level of damage we saw in images of the site could be brought about by a very large IED, much less a single anti-tank mine, which is what the Caucasus Emirate claimed it used in the attack. STRATFOR sources in Russia later confirmed that the explosion was caused by age, neglect and failing systems and not a militant attack, confirming our original assessment. While the Caucasus Emirate had emerged on our radar as early as summer 2009, we were dubious of its capabilities given this apparent false claim. However, while the claim of responsibility for the dam attack was bogus, STRATFOR sources in Russia tell us that the group was indeed responsible for the other attacks described above.

So, although we were initially skeptical about the Caucasus Emirate, the fact that the group has claimed several attacks that our Russian sources tell us it indeed carried out indicates that it is time to seriously examine the group and its leadership.

Russian security forces, with the assistance of pro-Moscow regional leaders such as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov, are constantly putting pressure on militant networks in the region. Raids on militant hideouts occur weekly, and after major attacks (such as the assassination attempt against Yevkurov or the Moscow metro bombings), security forces typically respond with fierce raids on militant positions that result in the arrests or deaths of militant leaders, among others. Chechen militant leaders such as Shamil Basayev (who claimed responsibility for the attack that killed pro-Russian Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and the Beslan school siege, both in 2004) was killed by Russian forces in 2006. Before Basayev, Ibn Al-Khattab (who was widely suspected of being responsible for the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia) was killed by the Russian Federal Security Service in a 2002. The deaths of Basayev, Khattab and many others like them have fractured the militant movement in the Caucasus, but may also have prompted its remnants to join up under the Caucasus Emirate umbrella.

It is impressive that in the face of heavy Russian pressure, the Caucasus Emirate not only has continued operations but also has increased its operational tempo, all the while capitalizing on the attacks with public announcements claiming responsibility and criticizing the Russian counterterrorism response. Between March 29 and April 9, the group coordinated three different attacks involving five suicide operatives (three of which were female) in Moscow, Dagestan and Ingushetia. This is a substantial feat indicating that the Caucasus Emirate can manage several different teams of attackers and influence when they strike their targets.


Doku Umarov: A Charismatic (and Resilient) Leader

The Caucasus Emirate was created and is led by Doku Umarov, a seasoned veteran of both the first and second Chechen wars in which he was in charge of his own battalion. By 2006, Umarov had become the self-proclaimed president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, an unrecognized secessionist government of Chechnya. He has been declared dead at least six times by fellow militants as well as Chechen and Russian authorities, most recently in June 2009. Yet he continues to appear in videos claiming attacks against Russian targets, including a video dated March 29, 2010, in which he claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro attacks.

In October 2007, Umarov expanded his following by declaring the formation of the Caucasus Emirate as the successor to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and appointing himself emir, or leader. In his statement marking the formation of the Caucasus Emirate, Umarov rejected the laws and borders of the Russian state and called for the Caucasus region to recognize the new emirate as the rightful power and adopt Shariah. The new emirate expanded far beyond his original mandate of Chechnya into Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and other predominantly Muslim areas farther to the north. He called for the creation of an Islamic power that would not acknowledge the current boundaries of nation-states. Umarov also clearly indicated that the formation of this emirate could not be done peacefully. He called for the “Islamic” entity to be created by forcefully driving out Russian troops. The policy of physically removing one political entity in order to establish an Islamic emirate makes the Caucasus Emirate a jihadist group.

Later, in April 2009, Umarov released another statement in which he justified attacks against Russian civilians (civilians in the Caucasus were largely deemed off-limits by virtually all organized militant groups) and called for more attacks in Russian territory outside of the Caucasus. We saw this policy start to take shape with the November 2009 assassination of Daniil Sysoev, the Orthodox priest murdered at his home in Moscow for allegedly “defaming Islam,” and continue with the train bombing later that month and the Moscow metro bombing in March 2010.

Umarov has made it clear that he is the leader of the Caucasus Emirate and, given the effectiveness of its attacks on Russian soil outside of the Caucasus, Russian authorities are rightfully concerned about the group. Clearly, however, there is more there than just Umarov.


A Confederacy of Militant Groups

The Caucasus Emirate appears to be an umbrella group for many regional militant groups spawned during the second Chechen war (1999-2009). Myriad groups formed under militant commanders, waged attacks (sometimes coordinated with others, sometimes not) against Russian troops and saw their leaders die and get replaced time and again. Some groups disappeared altogether, some opted for political reconciliation and gave up their militant tactics and some produced leaders like the Kadyrovs who formed the current Chechen government. All in all, the larger and more organized Islamist groups seen in the first and second Chechen wars are now broken and weak, their remnants possibly consolidated within Umarov’s Caucasus Emirate.

For example, the militant group Riyadus Salihin, founded by Basayev, seems to have been folded into the Caucasus Emirate. Umarov himself issued a statement confirming the union in April 2009. When Basayev was killed in 2006, he was serving as vice president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria under Umarov. Significantly, Riyadus Salihin brought Basayev together with Pavel Kosolapov, an ethnic Russian soldier who switched sides during the second Chechen war and converted to Islam. Kosolapov is suspected of being an expert bombmaker and is thought to have made the explosive device used in the November 2009 Moscow-St. Petersburg train attack (which was similar to an August 2007 attack in the same location that used the same amount and type of explosive material) as well as devices employed in the March 2010 Moscow metro attack.

The advantage of having an operative such as Kosolapov working for the Caucasus Emirate cannot be understated. Not only does he apparently have excellent bombmaking tradecraft, but he also served in the Russian military, which means he has deep insight into how the forces working against the Caucasus Emirate operate. The fact that Kosolapov is an ethnic Russian also means that the Caucasus Emirate has an operator who is able to more aptly navigate centers such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, unlike some of his Caucasian colleagues. While Kosolapov is being sought by virtually every law enforcement agency in Russia, altering his appearance may help him evade the dragnet.

In addition to inheriting Kosolapov and Riyadus Salihin, the Caucasus Emirate also appears to have acquired the Dagestani militant group, Shariat Jamaat, one of the oldest Islamist militant groups fighting in Dagestan. In 2007, a spokesman for the group told a Radio Free Europe interviewer that its fighters had pledged allegiance to Doku Umarov and the Caucasus Emirate. Violent attacks have continued apace, with the last attack in Dagestan conducted as recently as March 31, a complex operation that used a follow-on suicide attacker to ensure the death of authorities responding to an initial blast. In all, nine police officers were killed in the attack, including a senior police commander, which occurred just two days after the Moscow metro attacks. The March 31 attack was only the second instance of a suicide VBIED being used in Dagestan, the first occurring in January 2010. This tactic of using a secondary IED to attack first responders is fairly common in many parts of the world, but it is not normally seen in Dagestan. The timing of the attack so close to the Moscow metro bombing and the emergence of VBIEDs in Dagestan opens the possibility that the proliferation of this tactic may be linked to the expansion of the Caucasus Emirate.


In the Crosshairs

The Caucasus Emirate appears to have managed to centralize (or at least take credit for) the efforts of previously disparate militant groups throughout the Caucasus. Russia announced that it would start withdrawing troops from Chechnya in April 2009, but some 20,000 Russian troops remain in the region, and the start of withdrawal has likely led to a resurgence in local militant activity. Ultimately, Moscow will have to live with the threat, but it will work hard to ensure that militant groups stay as fragmented and weak as possible. While the Caucasus Emirate seems to demonstrate a relatively high level of organization, as well as an ability to strike at Russia’s heartland, STRATFOR sources say Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was outraged by the Moscow attacks. This suggests that people will be held accountable for the lapse in security in Moscow and that retribution will be sought in the Caucasus.

Umarov’s founding statement for the Caucasus Emirate, in which he called for the region to recognize the emirate as the rightful regional power and adopt Shariah, marked a shift from the motives of many previous militant leaders and groups, which were more nationalistic than jihadist. This trend of regional militants becoming more jihadist in their outlook increases the likelihood that they will forge substantial links with transnational jihadists such as al Qaeda — indeed, our Russian sources report that there are connections between the group and high-profile jihadists like Ilyas Kashmiri.

However, this alignment with transnational jihadists comes with a price. It could serve to distance the Caucasus Emirate from the general population, which practices a more moderate form of Islam (Sufi). This could help Moscow isolate and neutralize members of the Caucasus Emirate. Indeed, key individuals in the group such as Umarov and Kosolapov are operating in a very hostile environment and can name many of their predecessors who met their ends fighting the Russians. Both of these men have survived so far, but having prodded Moscow so provocatively, they are likely living on borrowed time.

 
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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2010, 12:21:00 AM »

By JAMES HOOKWAY
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A political party once bent on turning Malaysia into an Islamic state is for the first time preparing to put up non-Muslim candidates for election, in a bid to grab the political center in this divided country.

Some other Islamic-based political parties around the world have tried to make themselves more accessible to mainstream voters in recent years. Islam-based political parties in Indonesia have attempted to dig themselves a foothold in that country's young democracy. Turkey's Justice and Development Party has built a mass support-base that has twice elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
 
Malaysia is 40% non-Muslim, including Hindus, above, and Christians.
.Now, frustrated with Malaysia's entrenched race-based government and worried about the stability of its opposition partners as speculation grows that the government may call early elections, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party is reaching out to its non-Muslims, who make up around 40% of Malaysia's 28 million people.

It's a big change for the party, best known by its Malay acronym PAS. Many of its top leaders prefer long billowing robes and turbans to the western-style businesses suits favored by top government officials. The party's founding objective was to create an Islamic state in Malaysia, a major exporter and resources powerhouse that has long been regarded in the Muslim world as a home to a modern, moderate form of Islam.

As PAS softens its old, hard-line edges, some non-Muslims are taking notice.

Alex Ong, an investment banker for 20 years who now works for an organization helping migrant workers, set up PAS's non-Muslim "supporters' club" in 2004. The 51-year-old Baptist says the party represents Malaysia's best chance of breaking its race-based political system and eliminating graft from a country that's ranked worse than South Africa, Jordan and Uruguay by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.

"PAS is the most misunderstood political party in Malaysia," says Mr. Ong. He says the party's turban-wearing leaders aren't really focused on turning Malaysia into an Islamic state, and notes that the PAS hierarchy has no problem with him eating pork or drinking alcohol.

Instead, Mr. Ong says, "we want to encourage Islamic values to help strengthen the state and push for a moral renewal."

 .Some PAS members, however, are cautious of alienating their predominantly ethnic Malay support base, and suggest overtures to non-Muslims could be easily reversed.

Many urban non-Muslim voters, too, are wary of PAS and its mostly rural roots, especially as the country has taken a steadily more Islamic direction in recent years. This year for the first time, three Muslim women were caned for engaging in extramarital sex, while the government is appealing a court ruling allowing Christians to use the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in Malay-language publications.

But some political analysts say PAS's outreach to non-Muslims could help alter the political landscape in this ethnically diverse, resource-rich nation.

Since independence from Britain in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by the National Front, an amalgamation of ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian-based parties whose affirmative-action policies have impeded economic growth in recent years, economists say, undermining Malaysia's role as a development model for the Muslim world.

A growing number of voters have turned to a PAS-backed opposition alliance, which broke the National Front's two-thirds majority in Parliament in 2008 for the first time in decades and has since won eight of 11 special elections. Prime Minister Najib Razak has to call a new election by the middle of 2013, but could choose to call it sooner.

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Alex Ong, founding secretary-general of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party's supporters club.JPG no credit
 
PAS supporter Alex Ong
.PAS's move to bring in non-Muslim candidates, announced at its annual conference on June 11, appears designed to expand the party's electability. To that end, its leaders discuss defeating corruption as frequently as they talk about strengthening traditional Muslim values. Nasaruddin Mat Isa, PAS's vice-president, says the party expects to field its first non-Muslim candidate "soon."

Some analysts say PAS has little choice but to aggressively expand its appeal. The country's main opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim of the multiracial People's Justice Party, is on trial for the second time in a decade for allegedly sodomizing a male aide. Mr. Anwar denies doing anything wrong, saying the allegation is a conspiracy to derail his career. The trial could drag on for months, and a conviction will deprive Malaysia's fragile opposition alliance of its most charismatic leader and leave PAS positioned to fill the void by reaching into center ground occupied by Mr. Anwar. If PAS doesn't take the initiative, it risks leaving the National Front in power for years to come.

At the same time, Mr. Najib appears to be gaining in popularity among voters, and on June 10 made a play for more ethnic Chinese and Indian support by unveiling plans to strip away decades of affirmative-action policies that favor Malaysia's ethnic Malays, who are Muslim by law.

"PAS is trying to show non-Muslims that they can engage with them, and they are being quite bold in this," says Bridget Welsh, a political science professor and Malaysia expert at Singapore Management University. "There's no question PAS now has national aspirations."
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« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2010, 11:55:02 AM »

Somali militants praise attacks that killed 64

July 12, 2010 - 7:32am


By MAX DELANY and JASON STRAZIUSO
Associated Press Writers KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - An al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group suspected in twin bombings in Uganda's capital that killed 64 people watching the World Cup final endorsed the attacks on Monday but stopped short of claiming responsibility, as Uganda's president vowed to hunt down those responsible.

The blasts came two days after a commander with the Somali group, al-Shabab, called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi, two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The attacks also raise concerns about the capabilities of al-Shabab, which the U.S. State Department has declared a terrorist organization. If confirmed that the group carried out the attacks, it would be the first time al-Shabab has struck outside Somalia.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda but refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible.

"Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us," Sheik said.

Kampala's police chief, Kale Kaihura, said he believed al-Shabab could be responsible.

A California-based aid group, meanwhile, said one of its American workers was among the dead. Police said Ethiopian, Indian and Congolese nationals were also among those killed and wounded, police said.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said Monday there were indications that two suicide bombers took part in the late Sunday attacks, which left nearly 60 others wounded.

Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor among overturned chairs at the scenes of the blasts, which went off as people watched the game between Spain and the Netherlands. The attack on the rugby club, where crowds sat outside watching a large-screen TV, left 49 dead, police said. Fifteen others were killed in the restaurant explosion.

"We were enjoying ourselves when a very noisy blast took place," said Andrew Oketa, one of the hospitalized survivors. "I fell down and became unconscious. When I regained, I realized that I was in a hospital bed with a deep wound on my head."

Several Americans from a Pennsylvania church group were wounded in the restaurant attack including Kris Sledge, 18, of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. He said from a hospital bed afterward that he was "just glad to be alive."

Florence Naiga, 32, a mother of three children, said her husband had gone to watch the World Cup final at the rugby club.

"He did not come back. I learnt about the bomb blasts in the morning. When I went to police they told me he was among the dead," she said.

Invisible Children, a San Diego, California-based aid group that helps child soldiers, identified the dead American as one of its workers, Nate Henn, who was killed on the rugby field. Henn, 25, was a native of Wilmington, Delaware.

"From traveling the United States without pay advocating for the freedom of abducted child soldiers in Joseph Kony's war, to raising thousands of dollars to put war-affected Ugandan students in school, Nate lived a life that demanded explanation. He sacrificed his comfort to live in the humble service of God and of a better world, and his is a life to be emulated," the group said in a statement on its website.

Kony heads the Lord's Resistance Army, which has waged one of Africa's longest and most brutal rebellions, in northern Uganda.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni toured the blast sites Monday and said that the terrorists behind the bombings should fight soldiers, not "people who are just enjoying themselves."

"We shall go for them wherever they are coming from," Museveni said. "We will look for them and get them as we always do."

Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said it was too early to speculate about any military response to the attacks.

Somalia's president condemned the blasts and described the attack as "barbaric."

Al-Shabab, which wants to overthrow Somalia's weak, U.N.-backed government, is known to have links with al-Qaida. Al-Shabab also counts militant veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts among its ranks.

Al-Shabab's fighters, including two recruited from the Somali communities in the United States, have carried out multiple suicide bombings in Somalia.
Uganda's government spokesman said the first blast occurred at the Ethiopian Village restaurant at 10:55 p.m. Two more blasts happened at the rugby field 20 minutes later, he said.

Ethiopia, which fought two wars with Somalia, is a longtime enemy of al-Shabab and other Somali militants who accuse their neighbor of meddling in Somali affairs. Ethiopia had troops in Somalia between December 2006 to January 2009 to back Somalia's fragile government against the Islamic insurgency. Ethiopia later withdrew its troops under an intricate peace deal mediated by the United Nations.

In addition to Uganda's troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European-backed programs.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was prepared to provide any necessary assistance to the Ugandan government.

President Barack Obama was "deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks," Vietor said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Obama in offering condolences and added, "The United States stands with Uganda. We have a long-standing, close friendship with the people and government of Uganda and will work with them to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice."

Officials said the Sunday attacks will not affect the African Union summit being held in Uganda from July 19-27. Many African leaders are expected to attend.

"The summit will go on. The AU and African countries have the resolve to fight terrorism with the international community," said Ramtane Lamamra, the AU's peace and security commissioner.
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« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2010, 01:04:35 AM »

France Declares War on AQIM

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday that France was at war with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The statement came after AQIM declared two days earlier that it had killed a 78-year-old French aid worker who had been held hostage by the group since April 19. Michel Germaneau was reportedly beheaded by his AQIM captors in retaliation for a joint French-Mauritanian raid in Mali, which aimed to free Germaneau. Following Fillon’s blunt declaration, French politicians — including the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Parliament — stated that France would provide logistical support and training to the governments in the region, especially Mauritania, Mali and Niger, in their ongoing efforts against AQIM.

France’s reaction to Germaneau’s death has been strong and direct, suggesting that Paris is potentially about to divert its attention to a region it knows very well, dating back to its days as a colonial power. The “declaration of war” is not so much about terrorism as it is about France’s fundamental national interests.

The French presence in West Africa goes back to the 17th century. The French incorporated their various trading outposts into French West Africa in 1895, largely as a response to colonial competition with European imperial rivals. However, other than certain parts of the Niger and Senegal River valleys (a substantive part of the Niger River flowed through British territory in present-day Nigeria), the rest of the enormous territory ranged from sparse desert to the semi-arid Sahel region, inhabited by nomadic tribes that offered no significant economic benefit for Paris. France retained a direct imperial presence in the region for nearly 70 more years and then continued its influence throughout the Cold War via direct patronage of post-independence West African leaders.

French policy in Africa was part of a Gaullist foreign policy employed during the Cold War. This fiercely independent policy led France not only to retain links with — and to a large extent control over — its former colonies, but also to develop a nuclear deterrent and establish relations with the Soviet bloc independent of its NATO allies. Paris saw itself as the pre-eminent political and military power in Europe — with German economic might harnessed for French political gains via the European Economic Community —that justified not only independence in military and political affairs but also a continued presence in its former empire unmatched by any other European country. Even if the former colonies provided little economic gain — aside from funneling illicit funds for the campaigns of various French politicians, including presidential candidates — they provided France with a “bloc” of countries to call its own that enhanced its prestige during the Cold War.

“The ‘declaration of war’ is not so much about terrorism as it is about France’s fundamental national interests.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has therefore been seen as a break in the Gaullist tradition. He reintroduced the French military into NATO’s military command, began repairing relations with the United States that had deteriorated during the presidency of his Gaullist predecessor Jacques Chirac and indicated that French patronage for West African regimes would end. Part of the reason that Sarkozy ditched Gaullism was that he believed that there was no need for France to maintain a “bloc” in distant former colonies, not with the Cold War over and the global game reformatted into a more regional affair. German reunification, of course, played a large role in this shift in French focus, as Paris now felt that balancing Berlin — rather than the United States or Russia — was the real strategic imperative in 2007.

However, ditching Gaullism has proven to be more complicated and less useful than Paris might have thought in 2007. First, the United States’ involvement in the Middle East has made it an inattentive partner for France. The United States has focused wholly on what France can do for its efforts in the Middle East — especially Afghanistan — leaving Sarkozy feeling ignored on European issues. Second, the global economic crisis of 2008 and the eurozone sovereign debt crisis of 2010 have shown Paris that its fate is either with Germany as second-in-command or on the receiving end of German directives. It is a relationship more akin to that of the supposed “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States than one of true partnership or co-leadership.

But as such, Paris needs to have something to contribute to the relationship. Certainly its influence in the Third World is one form of political capital that Berlin does not bring to the table. From it, France not only derives influence in matters of development aid and diplomatic influence, but also — as the case with AQIM could prove — in security and anti-terror matters as well. Berlin still feels uncomfortable with these policy realms and could be convinced to outsource to Paris. This is especially true considering Germany’s lack of capacity in the security arena, certainly compared to France. Therefore, France may be able to prove that it provides the “muscle” behind German economic might.

But a French security role in West Africa — if one develops — is not just about redefining post-Gaullist foreign policy. It would also be about real interests that France never lost in the region, Cold War or not. France is one of the few countries with the capacity — and will — to conduct military operations in Africa (however limited) when its security is provoked. Paris sent commandos to the coast of Somalia when pirates hijacked French citizens. They also remain the only forces to have gone ashore in Somalia to capture pirates, taking them to France for punishment. France still maintains garrisons in a handful of African countries, for defending allied governments or its own commercial interests.

And those commercial interests are particularly acute in West Africa. Holding vast territory was seen in the 19th century as a benefit only in terms of prestige. Today that territory is vital to the French economy, since beneath the sands of Niger lies the source of 40 percent of France’s uranium consumption, set to substantially increase in the current decade as new mining projects come online. While AQIM has not threatened uranium production in the past, the roaming Tuareg nomads have. The two may not share an ideological affinity, but they have worked together previously to share resources. Considering that France relies on nuclear energy for nearly 80 percent of its electricity, the Sahel region is arguably more important to France than the Persian Gulf region is to the United States. Paris understandably tenses up whenever any threat arises that potentially could disrupt its uranium mining operations in Niger. France’s activity and security presence in the region therefore not only makes sense to a Paris looking to redefine its role within the Franco-German leadership duo, but in terms of real national interest as well.
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« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2010, 11:02:02 AM »

Heroic, Female and MuslimBy NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 15, 2010
 
 What’s the ugliest side of Islam? Maybe it’s the Somali Muslim militias that engage in atrocities like the execution of a 13-year-old girl named Aisha Ibrahim. Three men raped Aisha, and when she reported the crime she was charged with illicit sex, half-buried in the ground before a crowd of 1,000 and then stoned to death.

Nicholas D. Kristof

Dr. Hawa Abdi runs a hospital in Somalia and stands up to extremists there.

That’s the extremist side of Islam that drives Islamophobia in the United States, including Congressional hearings on American Muslims that House Republicans are planning for next year.

But there’s another side of Islam as well, represented by an extraordinary Somali Muslim woman named Dr. Hawa Abdi who has confronted the armed militias. Amazingly, she forced them to back down — and even submit a written apology. Glamour magazine, which named Dr. Hawa a “woman of the year,” got it exactly right when it called her “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.”

Dr. Hawa, a 63-year-old ob-gyn who earned a law degree on the side, is visiting the United States to raise money for her health work back home. A member of Somalia’s elite, she founded a one-room clinic in 1983, but then the Somalian government collapsed, famine struck, and aid groups fled. So today Dr. Hawa is running a 400-bed hospital.

Over the years, the hospital became the core of something even grander. Thousands and thousands of people displaced by civil war came to shelter on Dr. Hawa’s 1,300 acres of farmland around the hospital. Today her home and hospital have been overtaken by a vast camp that she says numbers about 90,000 displaced people.

Dr. Hawa supplies these 90,000 people with drinking water and struggles to find ways to feed them. She worries that handouts breed dependency (and in any case, United Nations agencies can’t safely reach her now to distribute food), so she is training formerly nomadic herding families to farm and even to fish in the sea.

She’s also pushing education. An American freelance journalist, Eliza Griswold, visited Dr. Hawa’s encampment in 2007 and 2008 and was stunned that an unarmed woman had managed to create a secure, functioning oasis surrounded by a chaotic land of hunger and warlords. Ms. Griswold helped Dr. Hawa start a school for 850 children, mostly girls. It’s only a tiny fraction of the children in the camp, but it’s a start. (Ms. Griswold also wrote movingly about Dr. Hawa in her book “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam.”)

In addition, Dr. Hawa runs literacy and health classes for women, as well as programs to discourage female genital mutilation. And she operates a tiny jail — for men who beat their wives.

“We are trying an experiment,” she told me. “We women in Somalia are trying to be leaders in our community.”

So Dr. Hawa had her hands full already — and then in May a hard-line militia, Hizb al-Islam, or Party of Islam, decided that a woman shouldn’t run anything substantial. The militia ordered her to hand over operations, and she refused — and pointedly added: “I may be a woman, but I’m a doctor. What have you done for society?”

The Party of Islam then attacked with 750 soldiers and seized the hospital. The world’s Somalis reacted with outrage, and the militia backed down and ordered Dr. Hawa to run the hospital, but under its direction.

She refused. For a week there were daily negotiations, but Dr. Hawa refused to budge. She demanded that the militia not only withdraw entirely but also submit a written apology.

“I was begging her, ‘Just give in,’ ” recalled Deqo Mohamed, her daughter, a doctor in Atlanta who spoke regularly to her mother by telephone. “She was saying, ‘No! I will die with dignity.’ ”

It didn’t come to that. The Party of Islam tired of being denounced by Somalis at home and around the world, so it slinked off and handed over an apology — but also left behind a wrecked hospital. The operating theater still isn’t functional, and that’s why Dr. Hawa is here, appealing for money (especially from ethnic Somalis). She has worked out an arrangement with Vital Voices, a group that helps to empower female leaders, to channel tax-deductible contributions to her hospital.

What a woman! And what a Muslim! It’s because of people like her that sweeping denunciations of Islam, or the “Muslim hearings” planned in Congress, rile me — and seem profoundly misguided.

The greatest religious battles are often not between faiths, but within faiths. The widest gulfs are often not those that divide one religion from the next, but those between extremists and progressives within a single faith. And in this religious season, there’s something that we can all learn from the courage, compassion and tolerance of Dr. Hawa Abdi.

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« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2010, 01:36:57 PM »

Prediction: Sooner or later someone will decide it's allah's will that she die for her unislamic conduct and will act on that.
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« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2010, 08:10:39 PM »

That may or may not turn out to be the case.  Either way she sounds like an outstanding human being.
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« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2010, 08:32:22 PM »

Reminds me of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who lives under the shadow of muslim assassins.
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« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2011, 12:43:51 PM »

Stratfor: North Africa After Tunisia
January 14, 2011 | 2031 GMT



Summary

The Tunisian government has fallen. The first collapse of an autocratic regime in the Arab world due to a popular uprising has implications for the wider region, where there is no shortage of states with similar vulnerabilities. Though a domino effect is unlikely given the unique conditions in each country, Egypt is the next one to watch.

Analysis

Unprecedented public agitation in Tunisia has brought down the government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, an event that may have repercussions far beyond the tiny North African state.

Though a small, closed, and isolated place, Tunisia is part of a significant region where other states — to varying degrees — also are vulnerable to mass uprisings. The social unrest in Tunisia over the past month suggests the decades-old style of governance in the Middle East and North Africa region increasingly is becoming untenable.

Since their establishment in the post-colonial period, regimes in the region have relied on a number of factors to maintain their power. These have included exploiting the Islamist threat to get the masses to accept an autocratic state as a defense against an “Islamic” one. They also have included a strong security and intelligence apparatus that has prevented social mobilization efforts. And they have been marked by an ability to maintain a decent level of economic development by gradually moving away from the command-style economy toward economic liberalization.

Each of these three core factors are no longer working the way they once used to.

For one thing, Islamists increasingly have fragmented into different strands, the majority of which want to pursue their political goals via democratic means. The jihadist threat has also subsided. And most important, a rising Turkey under the Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is seen by many people in the Arab world as a template for a system in which religious and secular segments of society could coexist. In essence, the old Islamist bogeyman these regimes would cite is no longer an argument capable of convincing the masses to tolerate a secular
autocrat.



For another thing, the security and intelligence apparatuses in the Arab world have struggled to thwart public mobilization in an age where communication technology has advanced tremendously. When these regimes came to power, people at best had one landline telephone and watched state radio and television — a situation that continued until the last few years. With the explosion of satellite television, the Internet and cellular phones, people have found it much easier to communicate and to mobilize, especially in countries where education levels have gone up rapidly as is the case with Tunisia.

Still another change has been the gradual move by the region’s autocratic regimes from command economies to more market-oriented ones. Some — such as Algeria, Libya, and to a lesser degree, Egypt — have managed the change on account of their petroleum wealth. Meanwhile, the forces unleashed by global financial downturn and economic recession have made it much more difficult for the regimes’ to maintain decent economic conditions in their respective countries. Some of the following countries can rely on energy wealth to address this problem, avoiding the kind of social unrest unleashed in Tunisia due to runaway unemployment; others will not:

Libya has a small population (6.5 million) relative to its size and wealth and is unlikely to see mass unrest. The Gadhafi regime over the years also skillfully has employed institutions to connect with the grass-roots in order to counter the threat of alienation from the government. Besides, in the case of Libya the issue is an intra-elite struggle between old guard and those calling for more reforms.
Algeria is also petro-rich but has a much larger population (35 million). It also has had the worst experience with Islamist insurgency, and given that the North African node of al Qaeda is based in country, many remain fearful that jihadists will exploit any mass rising against the government. There is also a fair degree of democracy in Algeria, with multiparty politics including Islamists in parliament. Each of these factors reduces the chances of a mass uprising.
Morocco is more vulnerable than Algeria given that it has more less the same size population (33 million) but without the energy resources. That it has a constitutional monarchy with multiparty parliamentary politics including an AKP-style Islamist party in the legislature provides it with a decent cushion, however. The society is also significantly torn between religious and secular classes.
Egypt is the most vulnerable in all of North Africa and the Middle East given it is already in a historic period of transition given that its elderly president, Hosni Mubarak, is ailing and his successors are divided over how to ensure regime stability and continuity of policies. Moreover, the opposition boycotted recent elections that it saw as unfair, and opposition parties are lack representation in the system. The country’s largest opposition force, the Muslim Brotherhood, has even said it is considering civil disobedience as a way forward in the wake of the recent electoral rigging. Regime-change in the region’s largest Arab state (80 million people) has huge implications for not just the Arab states but also Israel and U.S. interests.
The Arab masses (not just in North Africa but the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula) have watched the fall of the Tunisian regime blow by blow, creating the possibility that the public in many countries may find inspiration in the Tunisian experience. It is too early to say how things will unfold in the Middle East and North Africa, as each state has unique circumstances that will determine its trajectory. What is certain, however, is that a regional shift is under way, at least to the extent that governments can no longer continue with business as usual.

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« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2011, 03:58:53 PM »

I asked Tunisian friends to comment with any inside word on the events back in their homeland.  In an amongst teasings aimed back at me for my own politics I received this interesting insight: "...the catalyst--no shit--was the government's increased limitation on Skype and Facebook."  Educated population, no jobs, time spent online...[that was where oppression had gone too far.]

I leave it in this thread where neighboring leaders fear something similar, but seems to me also places like China, Iran need to take notice.  I understand the 'first lady' of Tunisia took with her a ton and a half of gold.  Maybe there is a positive lesson there.  We could send our investment bankers in instead of missionaries or intelligence officers and negotiate favorable buyouts for oppressive leaders around the globe.
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« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2011, 02:31:07 PM »

One of my Indian physician colleagues thinks a 50 billion valuation on Facebook is nothing for its potential.

I asked I thought they don't know how to make money off it yet.  But when one thinks of billions of people being tuned into it he is definetly right.

Of course GS is getting in at the bottom....

Us average joes never have a chance.

Getting back to N. Africa and the Middle East, it will be interesting to see what happens in the other countries.

The rise of Muslim Brotherhood.  The fall of the shieks?
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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2011, 09:28:25 AM »

**Muslims killing people for being non-muslim? Shocking!

http://www.aina.org/news/201103921279.htm

Washington -- International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Ethiopian government has sent military forces to put down the anti-Christian violence perpetrated by Muslims in Asendabo and the surrounding areas. Government officials have arrested several Muslims suspected of attacking Christians in the area.

When the attacks began on March 2, Muslims killed one Christian, wounded several others, burned down 55 churches, 30 Christian homes, a Bible school, a Christian orphanage, and a church office. More than 3,000 Christians are now displaced because of the violence.

The violence started after Muslims falsely accused Christians of desecrating the Qur'an. The local police and government officials did nothing to stop the attackers. Federal government officials have now stepped in and removed the local Muslim administrator for his failure to protect Christians.


A Christian leader told ICC that the attacks were organized by members of Kwarej, a radical Islamic group that fights to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia. The Muslim attackers came from different parts of Ethiopia, including the Somali region.

"It's very sad that a radical Muslim group destabilizes the unity of Ethiopian Christians and Muslims. We are devastated by the attacks and we urge all concerned people to help us. We call upon Ethiopian officials to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future," the church leader added.

Asendabo is a town located in Jimma Zone, Western Ethiopia. Western Ethiopia was the scene of violent attacks against Christians in 2006 when Muslims killed more than a dozen Christians and burned down several churches. Thousands of Christians have been forced to leave their homes as a result of these attacks.

"Islamic radicals are fighting to establish an Islamic state in Christian majority Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the Christians have borne the brunt of the Islamic attacks. Christians will continue to be killed unless the government of Ethiopia starts taking serious measures to stop Islamists from carrying out similar attacks. We urge all the concerned to put pressure on Ethiopia to protect its citizens," said Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa.
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« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2012, 05:06:38 PM »

A spree of bomb blasts and machine-gun attacks attributed to an Islamic militia targeting Nigeria's Christians—and apparent reprisal attacks against Muslims—have stoked fears the government is powerless to halt escalating religious violence in Africa's most populous country.

As the militia, Boko Haram, was blamed for more attacks on Wednesday, the government's move to end a fuel subsidy brought thousands of protesters to the streets of Lagos for a third day. Nigeria's largest oil-worker union, meanwhile, threatened to shut down the country's offshore oil platforms.

Analysts say such a shutdown could cut production in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, by one-quarter within weeks—or sooner if security forces guarding the facilities sympathize with union demands.

Thousands fled for protection Wednesday to an army barracks near Nigeria's southern city of Benin, after a mob of young men torched a local mosque the day before, said a Nigeria Red Cross spokesman.

The attack killed at least five and appeared to be in response to Christian killings in Nigeria's mostly Muslim north by Boko Haram, the spokesman said.

The attorney general, Mohammed Bello Adoke, encouraged Nigerians to stay put, saying government would address the insecurity.

So far, no mass exodus on religious lines has taken place. But many Nigerians saw in the recent tit-for-tat killings a threat of religious pogroms that recalled the country's most violent period, the 1967-70 civil war. During that conflict, about two million Nigerians migrated back to their region of origin to escape the violence.

"It is scary...a dark omen," said Anthony Chigbo, chief executive of public opinion polling company, Gallup Polls Nigeria Ltd., who said he had witnessed some truckloads of men migrating back to the north. "There is total national insecurity."

Violence resumed Wednesday when gunmen shot dead four people in the northeastern town of Pokiskum, where on Tuesday suspected Boko Haram members shot and killed people in a bar, Reuters reported.

At least 61 people have died in the past week in attacks that appear to stem from the group's warning for Christians to leave Nigeria's north. In a YouTube video posted Tuesday, the group's spiritual leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, warned of more attacks against Christians, who include President Goodluck Jonathan.

"We are also at war with the Christians because the entire world knows what they did to us," he said, reclining between AK-47 assault rifles under the title "Message to Goodluck Jonathan."

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sin," says it is avenging the 2009 death of the sect's leader while in police custody. But its motives for issuing increasingly menacing statements in the past year against Christians living in the nation's mostly Muslim north remain unclear.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
Imam Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram's spiritual leader, warned of more attacks against Christians.
.Boko Haram's taunts and attacks appear aimed at exposing government weakness in Nigeria, highlighting the shaky grip officials have over one of Africa's largest economies and most populous nations, with 155 million people.

The Muslim sect has ramped up attacks despite a state of emergency the president declared late last year. The attacks have emboldened the group against security forces that have flooded the northern regions but that have largely failed to gather enough intelligence to prevent targeted killings of Christians and police through car bombs, drive-by shootings and church raids.

On Sunday, Mr. Jonathan told reporters that members of Boko Haram had infiltrated his executive arm as well as the legislature and the judiciary.

"Our security services are trying," he said.

A Boko Haram spokesman, who identifies himself as Abul Qaqa, has claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for a string of attacks. Security officials wonder if Mr. Qaqa is one person, or several, each taking on the identity of the spokesman in an internal rivalry within the sect.

On Jan. 1, Mr. Qaqa, speaking to local media by phone, warned that millions of Christians living in the north had just a few days to resettle in Nigeria's south. Meanwhile, former separatist militants in Nigeria's oil-rich south have threatened retaliatory attacks against Muslims in the mostly Christian region.

The Nigerian government struggle to stem religious violence comes as it grapples with unrest linked to the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy.

The subsidy was supposed to be the first in a series of major reforms. But it has caused gas prices to double, spurring tens of thousands of protests under an "Occupy Nigeria" movement. Nigeria's top two labor unions have added muscle to the protest movement, demanding full restoration of the subsidy.

On Wednesday, for the second time this week, the loosely organized movement thronged the highways of Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city. In the city of Kaduna, they defied a government-imposed curfew. Both Nigeria's House of Representatives and its Senate have asked the president to restore the 1.2 trillion-naira ($7.5 billion) annual subsidy. Mr. Jonathan, the president, has so far refused.

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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2012, 10:00:15 AM »

Following up here on GM's post on Mali on the Middle East/FUBAR thread:

GM: 

You seem to blame Obama for this.  What was it you think he should have done?
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« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2012, 10:13:47 AM »

Following up here on GM's post on Mali on the Middle East/FUBAR thread:

GM: 

You seem to blame Obama for this.  What was it you think he should have done?

Perhaps proving US military support to jihadists in Libya wasn't such a great move. It's funny how every move Buraq makes, he seems to end up empowering the global jihad/caliphate. Almost like it is intentional.
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« Reply #28 on: July 15, 2012, 09:34:46 AM »



Radical Islamists Wage Muslim Civil War in Africa
Extremist imams and jihadists infiltrate peaceful Muslim lands, uprooting religious customs that have existed for centuries. r 
By MELIK KAYLAN

The recent spate of attacks on Muslim historic and religious sites in the ancient city of Timbuktu calls to mind the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan over a decade ago. The Taliban, of course, were obliterating the icons of a rival religion, as they saw it. The Salafist militias that have lately overrun Timbuktu and Mali are obliterating a rival tradition within their own faith.

Their actions more closely resemble intra-Islamic frictions at the end of the Yugoslav conflict in the mid-1990s that were largely overlooked by the news media. In exchange for rebuilding their war-damaged religious sites, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims first had to acquiesce to the destruction of headstones in their ancestral cemeteries and old decorative motifs on mosque walls. This was required by their benefactors, the Mideast-based Muslim fundamentalist sources of international funds.

Such incidents have now become a global phenomenon. In effect, primitive iconoclastic strains of tribal Islam have burst out of their historical isolation on the margins of civilization and coalesced globally to attack the more cosmopolitan, syncretistic and culturally advanced centers of their faith.

To Western minds, Mali denotes the most marginal of places in the African desert. But it is home to African Islam. The city of Timbuktu, located on a timeless crossroads of trade, developed as a marketplace of ideas for centuries, open to learning from afar and reverential to saintly scholars who came on pilgrimage and stayed. Their manuscripts are housed in Timbuktu's ancient celebrated desert libraries. Their mosques and shrines are what the al Qaeda-related militia Ansar al Dine are busy trying to destroy.

Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo had prospered under the Ottoman dispensation of tolerance among faiths, trade with the West, and aesthetic heterogeneity. Their ancestors' tombstones often featured pictorial bas-reliefs and carved turbans in shapes that denoted professional ranks. Their communities also built shrines to their saints.

None of this was acceptable to Wahbist puritanism—a form of fundamentalist Islam which originated in Saudi Arabia—or al Qaeda and allied zealots of revolutionary, internationalist Islam. In recent decades they have assailed the localized variegations of Islam everywhere.

Islamist militia from Niger and Mauritania have invaded Mali, destroying centuries-old shrines reflecting the local Sufi version of Islam.

This is the new power topography of the Muslim geosphere. Oil money has funded extremist madrassas, or religious schools, to propagate a stripped-down, one-size-fits all ideology precisely suited for pollination across impoverished regions such as Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Pakistani-Afghan border and the like. With money and threats, this international extremist franchise has targeted peaceful Muslim lands where the faith had blended with local customs or become more cosmopolitan through contact with other cultures. Places, in other words, where Islam had lost its aggression and exclusivity.

Today, radicalized imams from the outside infiltrate such places and rebuke the natives for their superstitions and weakness, their relaxed and idolatrous ways. Few can resist the irruption of money and guns legitimized by a virulent Quranic rhetoric, however pious they may be.

Some of the oldest communities in Islam, loosely categorized as Sufi for their mystical bent and ecstatic rituals often involving dance and music, have come under attack. In Pakistan, last year 41 Sufis were killed at a festival in Punjab province. Nothing provokes Salafists more than a festival. In postrevolution Libya and Egypt, Sufi mosques, cemeteries and schools have been assaulted.

According to the Islamists, the Sufis, along with other Muslim sects such as the Ismailis and the Ahmadis—not to mention artists, women without veils and the like—have allowed impure outside influences to alloy their faith. They have lost their Islamic authenticity.

In the radical worldview, violence furnishes the litmus test: All authentic Muslims are jihadists, or holy warriors. The addition of anti-imperialism to the religious ideological mix happened under the Afghan resistance to the Russian occupation. Anti-imperialism has become so central to radical Islam's message and appeal that these days any fellow Muslim daring to demur gets branded a foreign agent.

Yet the real imperialists, the outsiders bent on conquest and control, are the radicals themselves. What Timbuktu and other ancient Muslim locales and cultures face is precisely an alien colonial and imperial force—a species of Islam that evolved organically in only one region of the world and now seeks to impose its dominion universally.

That is why national identities and indigenous cultural traditions pose such a threat to international jihad. Local Islam has a living memory tied to geography and ritual, to historical moments when culture was enriched through songs or buildings or to even paintings that commemorate a particular phase.

Jihadists have no memory except for the Quranic era. They have no intervening identity or nostalgia. What we take for granted, the era of Mozart or Shakespeare or Big Band music, photographs of our grandparents beside a 1950s automobile—such things don't exist for iihadists and represent dangerous, idolatrous deviancy. So too with Muslim societies with history and traditions of their own.

There is a countering strategy, if only we in the West would take up the cause. We have abetted the liberation of political life, freedom of religion and freeing of markets where we can in the Middle East. We have neglected culture.

It's time for the other shoe to drop. We must encourage Muslim countries—with funds and ideas for museums, mass media, education and entertainment—to celebrate their national cultures at their historical peaks. If we help them inculcate their citizens with a pride in their specific regional identity, this pride will act as a shield if the jihadists come to erase it all.


Mr. Kaylan, a writer based in New York, writes frequently about culture in the Journal
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« Reply #29 on: July 15, 2013, 11:55:23 PM »

http://dcclothesline.com/2013/07/15/pro-caliphate-muslim-group-stripped-children-before-machine-gunning-and-setting-them-ablaze-geller-atlas-shrugs/
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« Reply #30 on: July 26, 2013, 09:00:13 AM »

Not yet confirmed, but seems likely it belongs here:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Bihar/Nine-blasts-in-30-minutes-rock-Bodh-Gaya-Buddha-s-abode-bombed-in-Mahabodhi-temple/Article1-1088883.aspx
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« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2013, 08:09:37 PM »

Nigeria's Christians Plead for Help Against Islamist Onslaught
by Andrew E. Harrod
Special to IPT News
July 29, 2013
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4105/nigeria-christians-plead-for-help-against

 
"We are in the vineyard of Allah," Abubaker Schekau, the leader of the Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad ("People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad") has stated. Nigerian Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) representing a claimed 80 million Nigerian Christians, quoted Schekau during the second of two successive briefings last Thursday at the Rayburn House Office Building and the National Press Club. The chilling accounts of today's Nigeria facing Islamist terror by Oritsejafor and his associates gave rise to a cry for American help.

The ravages of Shekau's group, commonly known by its Hausa nickname Boko Haram (BH) or "Western education is forbidden," was a central concern for Oritsejafor. He described a Nigeria in which "every week I get a text message—a church was burnt or a pastor was murdered or Christians were randomly rounded up on a roadside and summarily executed." More than 100 Christians died a month on average during 2012, amounting to about 70 percent of all Christians killed around the world that year. Whether by machete-wielding mobs or Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) suicide bombing attacks on churches, "it is open season on Nigeria's Christians."
CAN's secretary for Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, Reverend Faye Musa Pama, was one such victim on May 14. That same day, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency (SOE) in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states. Oritsejafor stated that Pama's "children pleaded for his life; they refused, they killed him." Oritsejafor also received a call from another pastor in neighboring Yobe describing his imminent murder by a BH mob. "They are coming, they are shooting," the pastor said. "I couldn't do anything until they shot him," Oritsejafor recounted. "That was the end, gone." The Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Emmanuel Ogebe, meanwhile, described a Yobe state that has "been so de-Christianized" with "entire villages run out of town."

Church attendance "is down…drastically" in the Muslim-majority north, Oritsejafor noted. Nigeria's 175 million people are almost evenly split north-south between Muslims and Christians. Oritsejafor cited one congregation dropping from 500 to 13 members. In some instances, a "pastor can come and sit there alone" in church on Sunday while his family remains home because of safety concerns. Even in Nigeria's south, weekly church attendance has declined while many churches now feature metal detectors at their entrances.

BH also targets modern, Westernized schools because, as Oritsejafor stated, BH terrorists "see the West as Christian." Fifty of Borno's 175 schools now lie in ruins. Fears that BH "will do more" have resulted in parents not sending their children to school. Christian girls face the further danger of abduction into coerced Muslim marriages.
At the National Press Club, James Fadele, president of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), rejected State Department claims that BH resulted from an "economic and poverty crisis" rather than a "Jihadist extremist mandate." Fadele referenced the World Bank's Nigeria Economic Report released in May. Relatively calm Jigawa state reported therein a 77.5 percent poverty rate in comparison to an average 59.7 percent poverty rate for Nigeria's northeast containing the "hotbeds of Boko Haram terrorism."

Oritsejafor identified BH as a "theological problem," an "ideological problem," and a "jihadist issue." BH started with "mullahs, sheikhs…people who studied the Koran."

"In the mosques," meanwhile, "there are things that are being taught that are not right." According to Boko Haram, "Islam must rule Nigeria" and Shekau had stated that "we will not stop until we create an Islamic state."

Seeing the BH problem as a "religious ideology," Oritsejafor's solution was that "you must go to theologians." Oritsejafor calls upon these Muslim leaders to "sit down and break out your holy books" in order to develop theological responses to BH ideology. In this process, Orisejafor rejects any superficial, controversy-free dialogue with Muslims, in which people often afterwards think, "What did you just do: nothing." A willingness to "annoy" and "offend" is the "only way you can really get results."

Religious sensibilities aside, Oritsejafor noted that some Muslim leaders are unsurprisingly "afraid" to challenge BH. "If you don't agree" with BH, "you are an infidel like me." After BH finishes with the Christians, it will turn to any Muslims not deemed sufficiently faithful and "will wipe them out."

Oritsejafor and his associates called for the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. That action, CANAN executive director Laolu Akande stated, would inhibit the finances of BH. BH is not just working with "chicken change," but has "fat pockets" backing. A designation, Oritsejafor added, also "sends a message that these people are terrorists" from a world leader.

Nigeria's porous borders only facilitate BH arms acquisitions, allowing arms in from an instable post-Gadhafi Libya as well as from strife-torn Mali, with Islamist fighters coming from there as well. An October 2010 seizure in Lagos, Nigeria, of 13 containers filled with munitions such as rocket launchers linked to Iran, also indicates ready suppliers for groups like BH.

Yet, even as parts of the American government have favored designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization, the State Department has refused to act. Its 2012 Country Reports on Terrorism, lists BH among the world's top 10 terrorist perpetrators, second only to Afghanistan's Taliban. A fact sheet distributed by the Jubilee Campaign, though, noted that five groups – Indonesia's Jemaah Anshourut Tauhid, the Middle East's Abdallah Azzam Brigades, Pakistan's Haqqani Network, Mali's Ansar Al-Dine, and Iraq's Al Nusra – have all been designated terrorist organizations since 2012, despite mounting fewer attacks.

Ogebe dismissively explained State Department thinking that there are "good parts and bad parts of Boko Haram." Even as Boko Haram has avoided terrorist designation, the State Department designated Shekau himself as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on June 21, 2012, with a $7 million reward on his head. "If he is a terrorist," asked Oritsejafor, "what about his organization?"

Ogebe noted the "irony" that Nigeria helped the United States after the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, but now the United States is "dragging its feet" on BH. In contrast, the "American government is funding a lot of things for Muslims in the north," Oritsejafor complained. American aid to Nigerian Muslim schools completed a "trifecta" of mixing mosque and state in education from three levels of government, Ogebe said. In addition to the international American aid, the federal Nigerian government funded 400 madrassas and Muslim religious education is required for all public school children in the state of Sokoto.

Boko Haram victims, meanwhile, receive no relief from the Nigerian government, and have "personally paid their hospital bills," Oritsejafor said. "There are rich Christians. They should wake up."

He appealed to "awaken the conscience to stop this genocide." Fadele similarly ended the press club briefing by asking the assembled journalists, "what will you do, what will you write." To Nigeria's suffering, "you may be the answer."
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« Reply #32 on: August 25, 2013, 08:22:36 PM »

Muslims on receiving end this time?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324591204579034934065058304.html?mod=world_newsreel
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« Reply #33 on: September 30, 2013, 06:22:32 PM »

http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/thailands-secessionist-muslim-insurgency-escalates
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« Reply #34 on: April 16, 2014, 07:48:46 AM »

http://shariaunveiled.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/boko-haram-muslim-terrorists-massacre-at-least-200-christian-children-on-the-way-to-school/
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