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Crafty_Dog
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« on: October 13, 2006, 06:34:48 PM »


No Dates, No Dancing
Why Pakistan's university students are embracing the fundamentalist life
By ARYN BAKER / LAHORE

Like many other universities around the world, Punjab University in Lahore is a tranquil oasis far removed from the rest of society. But to Westerners, there's little else about Punjab U. that seems familiar. Walk around the leafy-green 1,800-acre campus, and you will encounter nothing that resembles frivolous undergraduate behavior. Musical concerts are banned, and men and women are segregated in the dining halls. Many female students attend class wearing headscarves that cover everything but their eyes. This fall, when the university's administrators tried to introduce a program in musicology and performing arts, the campus erupted in protest. "Pakistan is an Islamic country, and our institutions must reflect that," says Umair Idrees, a master's degree student and secretary-general of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba ( I.J.T.), the biggest student group on campus. "The formation of these departments is an attack on Islam and a betrayal of Pakistan. They should not be part of the university curriculum."

What's most striking about that climate of conservatism is that it is being driven not by faculty or administrators or government officials but by students. At Punjab U., I.J.T. is the most powerful force on campus, shaping not just the mores of student life but also larger debates over curriculum, course syllabuses, faculty selection and even degree programs. Nationwide, the group has more than 20,000 members and 40,000 affiliates active at nearly all of Pakistan's 50 public universities. Students who defy I.J.T.'s strict moral code risk private reprimands, public denouncements and, in some cases, even physical violence.

In a country where most politicians cut their teeth as student activists, the rise of groups like I.J.T. provides clues to Pakistan's political future. Although the country is officially aligned with the U.S. in fighting terrorism, it is beset by an internal struggle between moderate citizens and the fundamentalists who aim to turn the country into an Islamic state. As the hard-line demands intensify, President Pervez Musharraf has backed away from some policies sought by the Bush Administration, such as cracking down on radical religious schools, known as madrasahs, and curbing Pakistani support for the fundamentalist Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. Observers say that Musharraf's retreats on contentious issues have only strengthened the radicals. "The universities reflect what you are seeing in the larger political landscape," says Samina Ahmed, South Asia director for the International Crisis Group, a think tank. "The moderate parties have been deprived of their experienced cadre of potential recruits, but the religious parties haven't."

College campuses in Pakistan are becoming prime battlegrounds in the war for the country's soul. Political organizations have been banned from schools since 1992, when violent clashes between the student wings of rival political parties led to the deaths of dozens of students. But by outlawing political activity, the government opened the door to religious organizations such as I.J.T., which acts as an advocacy group that serves as a liaison between students and administration. Founded in 1947, I.J.T. has hundreds of thousands of alumni who provide the group with organizational and financial support, with the goal of "training the young generation according to Islam so they can play a role in Pakistan's social and political life," Idrees says.

A visit to Punjab University reveals what that means in practice. About 2,400 of the university's 24,000 students belong to I.J.T. Members are expected to live morally and to abide by the Koran's injunction to spread good and suppress evil. For many, that involves adopting an austere lifestyle. Members meet for regular study sessions and must attend all-night prayer meetings at least once a month. Outside the classroom, complete segregation of the genders is strictly observed. When asked, many members are critical of the U.S. and its policies toward the Muslim world; although the group has no ties to terrorism, it's likely that some members sympathize with al-Qaeda.

And yet for some, the appeal of I.J.T. has less to do with ideology than a desire for a platform to voice their grievances. Rana Naveed, 22, a soft-spoken communications student who sports just the beginnings of a beard and wears tight, acid-washed jeans, is troubled by some of I.J.T.'s more extreme pronouncements, especially its stand on the proposed new music program. But he is excited about the prospect of becoming a full-fledged member in a few weeks, when he will take an oath of loyalty and then work to spread his faith and dedicate himself to the welfare of other students. "There are certain things I don't agree with," says Naveed. "But as a member, I will have to submit to their way. I.J.T is the only platform to put forward my proposals to the administration, because they turn a deaf ear to regular students."

An atmosphere of moral rigidity governs much of campus life. I.J.T. members have been known to physically assault students for drinking, flirting or kissing on campus. "We are compelled by our religion to use force if we witness immoral public behavior," says Naveed. "If I see someone doing something wrong, I can stop him and the I.J.T. will support me." Threats of a public reprimand or allegations of immoral behavior are enough to keep most students toeing the I.J.T. line. There is no university regulation segregating men from women in the dining halls, but students know that mingling is taboo. "If I talk to a girl in line at the canteen, I.J.T. members will tell me to get my food and get out," says Rehan Iqbal, 25, an M.B.A. student, who is sitting on the floor of a hallway with female classmate Malka Ikran, 22. It's a nice autumn day, and a shady green lawn beckons through an open window, but they dare not sit outside. It's too public. "There are certain places where I know I can't talk to my male friends," says Ikran. When asked what would happen if she talked to a boy at the library, for example, she just shrugs. "I don't know. I would never try it. I'm too afraid."

It's not just students who feel stifled by the I.J.T.'s strict moral code. Faculty members at Punjab University say that if I.J.T. objects to a professor's leanings, or even his syllabus, it can cause problems. It doesn't take much to raise questions about a teacher's moral qualifications. "Those who could afford to leave, did so," says Hasan Askari Rizvi, a former professor of political science who is now a political analyst. "Those who stayed learned not to touch controversial subjects. The role of the university is to advance knowledge, but at P.U. the quality of education is undermined because one group with a narrow, straitjacketed worldview controls it."

Groups like I.J.T. are likely to grow more influential, not less, as its graduates move into the political arena. For those students aiming to become social activists on campus, and later politicians on the national stage, involvement in I.J.T. is the only forum available to learn the necessary skills. I.J.T. groups across the nation have embraced the opportunity to mold Pakistan's future politicians. In addition to taking classes on the Koran, members learn how to debate, how to present and defend their views and how to write persuasive proposals. " I.J.T. trains and promotes leadership qualities," says Mumtaz Ahmad Salik, president of the P.U. staff association and a professor of Islamic studies. "When a national political party catches anyone who has been trained by I.J.T., they benefit." Most I.J.T. members who choose to enter politics after graduation go on to join Jamaat-e-Islami or other fundamentalist political groups. Some sign up with more centrist parties, although they bring with them fundamentalist thinking that has contributed to the general turn toward conservatism in national politics.

For now a future in politics is far from the minds of most P.U. students, who just want to enjoy their last few years on campus. "We would love to have a student union," says Iqbal. "Then we could plan events and activities and take care of the students' problems ourselves. Right now, only I.J.T. has that kind of power. If the I.J.T. had competition, that would change. Then you would see what students really think." But until free elections and campaigning are permitted, the religious groups will continue to walk large on campus. The same could be said of Pakistan.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2010, 10:16:43 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2006, 07:35:24 AM »

I'm moving this post by GM on the Israel thread to here:
================

http://www.aim.org/guest_column/4709_0_6_0_C/

Turkey's Anti-Americanism

By Theodoros Karakostas  |  July 13, 2006 Anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism are faring quite well in Turkey today. 


"Here we have the Director of the American College beaten and robbed, American sailors in uniform fired upon, and an American-non commissioned officer robbed and maltreated by Turkish troops who were sufficiently under control to obey the command of a Turkish officer when they were going too far."
Excerpt from "The Great Betrayal" A Survey of the Near East Problem" by Edward Hale Bierstadt,

The incident described above remains forgotten because it occurred following the entry of Turkish troops in the City of Smyrna in September 1922 when the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal Pasha began slaughtering the Greek and Armenian Christian populations. The story is told by Edward Hale Bierstadt, an American who was the executive of the United States Emergency Committee which provided aid and assistance to Greek and Armenian Christian refugees who were being displaced by the Turkish Kemalists. The anti-American outbursts which took place during this tragic period comes to mind because of what is transpiring in present day Turkey.

Anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism are faring quite well in Turkey today. On February 14, 2006, the New York Times published an article entitled, "If you want a film to fly, make Americans the heavies". The article described the success of a film shown in Turkish movie theatres entitled, "Valley of the Wolves- Iraq". This film depicts American soldiers (as well as a Jewish American doctor) as carrying out atrocities and massacres against Turkish and Iraqi Muslims. The article by Sebnem Arsu notes "Anti-American novels, including one that portrays a war between the United States and Turkey, have been selling briskly, and Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was a best seller last year."

Since 1994, the myth of a secular and western Turkey has been undermined by the Islamic upheaval in Turkey. In March of that year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now Turkish Prime Minister) was elected Mayor of Constantinople (Istanbul). Erdogan's Islamic mentor Necmettin Erbekan became Prime Minister as head of a coalition government in 1996. By 1997, the Generals (known as Kemalists because of their devotion to the nationalist theories of Mustafa Kemal) temporarily disrupted the Islamist rise to power. The Turkish Military has traditionally established a cult of personality around Kemal in the manner that the Soviets had established cults around Lenin and Stalin, and sought to restore Kemal to his status as a venerated ruler.

Despite praises from his western admirers, Kemal was a brutal dictator who completed the genocide of Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian Christian populations and ultimately established a ruthless dictatorship which abolished the Islamic Caliphate and secularized Turkey. The secularization of Turkey, however, was never any stronger or more secure than that in Nasser's Egypt, Asaad's Syria, or Saddam's Iraq. The Islamists in fact were underground and when opportunistic politicians such as Prime Minister Adnan Menderes needed them to participate with Turkish nationalists in the infamous anti-Greek pogroms of 1955, they were readily available.

In November 2002, one year after the 9/11 attacks, the Justice and Development Party finished first with an outright majority in Turkey's national elections. This should have been perceived by American officials and media as a blatant insult, coming as it did following the 9/11 attacks and the exposure of the fanatical excesses of the Taliban. A genuinely secular society does not elect Islamists following 9/11, and when the Taliban, Iran, and Saudi Arabia serve as models for an Islamic State.

The film, "Valley of the Wolves- Iraq," came three years after Turkey refused to allow use of American bases in Turkey for the war on Iraq. This demonstrates that the outpouring of support for Islamists like Erdogan and blatant anti-Americanism have not diminished. There has long been an ominous trail firmly demonstrating that Turkey was not what its American and British supporters claimed it was.

The anti-Greek pogroms of September 1955 alluded to above included the participation of Islamic extremists and secular ultranationalists who were supported by the Turkish government of Premier Adnan Menderes. This is a blatant example of Turkish state sponsorship of terrorism. On a terrible September night, mobs of extremists unhindered by authority proceeded to attack Greek property and to assault the members of the Greek minority who were living in the former Capital of Byzantium. Orthodox Churches were profaned and religious Icons, Bibles, and Crucifixes were burned while chalices used for holy communion were used by thugs for urinating. Greek Orthodox Bishops were forcibly circumcised on the street.

In one night, 100,000 or so Greeks were left homeless with nothing but the clothes on their backs while their homes were completely demolished and their holy places desecrated. The significance of these outrages was minimized by the State Department of John Foster Dulles and the NATO alliance, which refused to take action against Turkey. The American reaction to these outrageous pogroms reflect the misguided support for Turkey over the period of many decades. In additon, Turkey invaded Cyprus during the summer of 1974 under the guise of upholding the accords which established the independence of Cyprus in 1959 and occupied thirty seven percent of Cyprus.

Over 200,000 Greek Cypriots were ethnically cleansed as many young girls were raped by Turkish soldiers. To date, over 1,600 Greek Cypriots remain missing. The Turkish invasions of Cyprus have been presiding over the Islamicization of the island. Greek Orthodox Monasteries dating to the Byzantine era are either being converted into Mosques or destroyed. In April 2004, there was a referendum held in the free and occupied parts of Cyprus. The citizens of the free parts of Cyprus voted against the United Nations plan that would have in effect sealed the Turkish occupation and denies native Cypriots such basic rights as freedom of movement.

The American news media failed to distinguish between the Republic of Cyprus which is the legal authority over the whole of Cyprus but which controls only sixty three percent of the island Republic, and the occupied parts of Cyprus which remain under the control of the Turkish military. Greek Cypriots voting in free Cyprus were blamed while "Turkish Cypriots" were praised for allegedly accepting the U.N. Plan. The reality is that the referendum in the Republic of Cyprus was conducted in a free atmosphere while the referendum in the occupied territories took place under the auspices of 30,000 Turkish soldiers and with the participation of 100,000 Turkish settlers from Anatolia who have no Cypriot origins. The Plan of U.N. Secretary General Annan for Cyprus was intended to legitimize the Turkish occupation, but the Greek majority of Cyprus apparently irritated Annan and his supporters by practicing democracy.

The ultimate result of decades of American and Western appeasement of Turkey is the film "Valley of the Wolves- Iraq". At the present time, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I, who holds a primacy of honor among Eastern Orthodox Churches and who continues to reside in Constantinople like his 269 predecessors which include Saint Andrew the Apostle, is the victim of demonstrations of hate. Members of the infamous "Grey Wolves" routinely demonstrate outside the Ecumenical Patriarchate and burn his holiness in effigy, while the Greek Orthodox School of Theology known as Halki, is not permitted to open by the Turkish authorities.

The history of Turkey is long and bloody, and most of it was been perpetrated by the dictator Kemal. This history has been mostly unreported in the West. Considering the new Turkish Islamism and the success of a propagandistic film espousing hatred against America, it might be time to come to terms with the Turkish reality. The Turks have never been there for America, German allies during World War One, and neutral during the Nazi conquest of Europe.

The United States should not count on the Kemalists displacing the Islamists. The Islamic movement in Turkey is too strong, and ultimately the Kemalists who ruled for eighty years opened the door for the Islamists by suppressing democratic opposition. It is in the interests of the United States to contain and isolate the hostile Turkey that is emerging. Washington should push for the expulsion of all Turkish troops and Muslim settlers from Cyprus. The United States should also give maximum support to democratic Greece whose border with Turkey is the border between the West and militant Islam.

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media.




 



Karakostas is the founder of the Byzantine Cultural Project.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2006, 07:31:47 AM »

Darkness in Dhaka
A gadfly Bangladeshi journalist runs for his life.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Sunday, October 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

Meet Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. As these lines are being written, Mr. Choudhury, a gadfly Bangladeshi journalist, is running for his life. Assuming he survives till Thursday, he will face charges of blasphemy, sedition, treason and espionage in a Dhaka courtroom. His crime is to have tried to attend a writers' conference in Tel Aviv on how the media can foster world peace. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Welcome to Bangladesh, a country the State Department's Richard Boucher recently portrayed in congressional testimony as "a traditionally moderate and tolerant country" that shares America's "commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law." That's an interesting way to describe a country that is regularly ranked as the world's most corrupt by Transparency International and whose governing coalition, in addition to the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, includes two fundamentalist Islamic parties that advocate the imposition of Shariah law. There are an estimated 64,000 madrassas (religious schools) in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Industries is in the hands of Motiur Rahman Nizami, a radical Islamist with a reputation of a violent past. In March the Peace Corps was forced to leave the country for fear of terrorist attacks. Seven other journalists have also been brought up on sedition charges by Ms. Zia's government, most of them for attempting to document Bangladesh's repression of religious minorities.

But few stories better illustrate the Islamist tinderbox that Bangladesh has become than Mr. Choudhury's. "When I began my newspaper [the Weekly Blitz] in 2003 I decided to make an end to the well-orchestrated propaganda campaign against Jews and Christians and especially against Israel," he says in the first of several telephone interviews in recent days. "In Bangladesh and especially during Friday prayers, the clerics propagate jihad and encourage the killing of Jews and Christians. When I was a child my father told me not to believe those words but to look at the world's realities."





With that in mind, Mr. Choudhury, then 38, began publishing articles sympathetic to Israel in the Weekly Blitz while reaching out to Jewish and Israeli writers he encountered on the Web. That led to the invitation by the Hebrew Writers' Association, and to Mr. Choudhury's only crime: By attempting to travel to Israel in November 2003, he violated the Passport Act, which forbids citizens from visiting countries (such as Israel and Taiwan) with which Bangladesh does not maintain diplomatic relations. Violations of the Passport Act are usually punishable by a fine of $8.
But that wasn't the sentence meted to Mr. Choudhury. Following his arrest he was taken into police custody and, as he tells it, blindfolded, beaten and interrogated almost incessantly for 10 days in an attempt to extract a confession that he was spying for Israel. He refused to offer one. He spent the next 16 months in solitary confinement in a Dhaka jail, where he was denied medical treatment for his glaucoma.

By then, Mr. Choudhury's case had come to the attention of Congressman Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), who intervened with Bangladesh's ambassador to the U.S. to secure Mr. Choudhury's release on bail, though the charges were never formally dropped. Help also came from Richard Benkin, a Chicago-area activist who has taken up Mr. Choudhury's cause, and the American Jewish Committee, which invited Mr. Choudhury to the U.S. in May to receive its Moral Courage Award. But Mr. Choudhury says he decided to forgo the trip after a government minister warned him, "If you go, it will not be good for you."

In July, the offices of the Weekly Blitz were bombed by Islamic militants. In September, a judge with Islamist ties ordered the case continued, despite the government's reluctance to prosecute, on the grounds that Mr. Choudhury had hurt the sentiments of Muslims by praising Christians and Jews and spoiling the image of Bangladesh world-wide. Last week, the police detail that had been posted to the Blitz's offices since the July bombing mysteriously vanished. The next day the offices were ransacked and Mr. Choudhury was badly beaten by a mob of 40 or so people. Over the weekend he lodged a formal complaint with the police, who responded by issuing an arrest warrant for him. Now he's on the run, fearing torture or worse if he's taken into custody.





Much of Mr. Choudhury's current predicament can be traced to Ms. Zia's reluctance to cross her Islamist coalition partners, who are keen on the case of the "Zionist spy" and would like nothing more than to see him hang. It doesn't help that a powerless caretaker government will take charge later this month in preparation for next January's elections. The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka has kept track of Mr. Choudhury and plans to send an observer to his trial. But mainly America's diplomats seem to have treated him as a nuisance. "Their thinking," says a source familiar with the case, "is that this is the story of one man, and why should the U.S. base its entire relationship with Bangladesh on this one man?"
Here's an answer: Bangladesh does not mean much strategically to the U.S., except for the fact that it is home to some 120 million Muslims, many of them desperately poor and increasingly under the sway of violent religious notions imported from Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration, which every year spends some $64 million on Bangladesh, has made a priority of identifying moderate Muslims and giving them the space and cover they need to spread their ideas. Mr. Choudhury has identified himself, at huge personal risk, as one such Muslim. Now that he is on the run, somewhere in the darkness of Dhaka, will someone in the administration pick up the phone and explain to the Bangladeshis just what America expects of its "moderate and tolerant" friends?

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2006, 06:05:50 PM »

http://news.yahoo.com/

Italian's kidnappers set terms for release: website

Tue Oct 17, 9:28 PM ET



The kidnappers of an Italian photojournalist in Afghanistan have demanded the return of an Afghan Christian convert living in Italy in exchange for keeping the reporter alive, an Italian online newspaper reported.

The PeaceReporter website said the kidnappers of 36-year-old Gabriele Torsello had made the demand in a telephone call to Italian non-governmental organisation Emergency and had given four days for their demand to be met.

"We want this issue resolved before the end of Ramadan," the PeaceReporter website quoted them as saying. The holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends this year on October 24.

Earlier this year Italy granted political asylum to 41-year-old Afghan Abdul Rahman, who faced possible execution under Islamic Sharia law in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity.

Rahman was freed in secret in late March after the Afghan Supreme Court said it had doubts about his mental capacity to stand trial.

That decision reassured Kabul's Western allies, who had put unprecedented pressure on the new democratic government to honour freedom of religion. But it caused outcry among hardliners in Afghanistan, who are now demanding that Rahman be extradited.

On Tuesday the abductors of photojournalist Torsello demanded Rahman's return in a phone call to a security official at a hospital run by Emergency in Lashkar Gah, provincial capital of the volatile southern province of Helmand.

Torsello, an independent reporter who has converted to Islam, was allowed to exchange a few words with the official and told him he was "so-so". On Monday night he had phoned the same official to say he was all right.

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema said on Monday the government had activated "all its contacts" to secure the release of the reporter, who was kidnapped on October 12.

The Italian media said on Sunday that Torsello had been accused by the Taliban of spying but a spokesman for the radical Islamic movement, Yusuf Ahmadi, told AFP he was not aware of any kidnapping.

Torsello, married with a son, is based in London and has worked in hotspots including Kashmir and Nepal.

Supporters of the former Taliban regime, which was toppled in a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, have stepped up attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan this year.

Fighting has been particularly intense in Hemland, where the US-led military coalition and Afghan forces are focusing their biggest anti-Taliban operation since 2001.

But on Tuesday British troops pulled out of the Musa Qala district of Helmand, following a request from war-weary locals.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2006, 07:50:26 AM »

Mr. Erdogan's Turkey

By MICHAEL RUBIN
October 19, 2006; Page A18

Five years into the war on terror, inept U.S. diplomacy risks undercutting a key democracy (and ally) that President Bush once called a model for the Muslim world. The future of Turkey as a secular, Western-oriented state is at risk. Just as in Gaza and Lebanon, the threat comes from parties using the rhetoric of democracy to advance distinctly undemocratic agendas. Turkey has overcome past challenges from terrorism and radical Islam; always its system has persevered. But now, as Turkish politicians and officials work to defend the Turkish constitution, U.S. diplomats interfere to dismiss Turkish concerns and downplay the Islamist threat.

A crisis has simmered for months, but earlier this month Ankara erupted. On Oct. 1, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer warned parliament, "The fundamentalist threat has not changed its goal to change the basic characteristics of the state." The next day, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Oval Office, Gen. Yasar B?y?kanit, chief of Turkey's armed forces, warned cadets of growing Islamic fundamentalism and promised "every measure will be taken against it." Usually such warnings are enough to keep those transgressing on the constitutional separation of mosque and state in check.

 
Enter U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson. At an Oct. 4 press conference he said: "There is nothing that worries me with regards to Turkey's continuation as a strong, secure, stable and secular democracy." He dismissed opposition concern about the Islamism of Mr. Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (known in Turkish as the AKP) as "political cacophony." His remarks were consistent with those of his State Department superiors. Last autumn, Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European Affairs, said "The development of the AKP into a democratic party . . . has mirrored and supported the development of Turkish political society as a whole in a liberal and democratic direction." He described the AKP as "a kind of Muslim version of a Christian Democratic Party."

Why are so many Turks angry at Washington's dismissal of their concerns? While democrats fight for change within a system, Islamists seek to alter the system itself. This has been the case with the AKP. Over the party's four-year tenure, Mr. Erdogan has spoken of democracy, tolerance and liberalism, but waged a slow and steady assault on the system. He endorsed, for example, the dream of Turkey's secular elite to enter the European Union, but only to embrace reforms diluting the checks and balances of military constitutional enforcement. After the European Court of Human Rights upheld a ban on headscarves in public schools, he changed course. "It is wrong that those who have no connection to this field [of religion] make such a decision . . . without consulting Islamic scholars," he declared. Then in May 2006, his chief negotiator for accession talks ordered the removal, from a negotiating paper, of reference to Turkey's educational system as secular.

The assault on the secular education system has been subtle but effective. Traditionally, students had three choices: enroll at religious academies (so-called Imam Hatips) and enter the clergy; learn a trade at vocational schools; or matriculate at secular high schools, attend university and pursue a career. Mr. Erdogan changed the system: By equating Imam Hatip degrees with high-school degrees, he enabled Islamist students to enter university and qualify for government jobs without ever mastering Western fundamentals. He also sought to bypass checks and balances. After the Higher Education Board composed of university rectors rejected his demands to make universities more welcoming of political Islam, the AKP-dominated parliament proposed to establish 15 new universities. While Mr. Erdogan told diplomats his goal was to promote education, Turkish academics say the move would enable him to handpick rectors and swamp the board with political henchmen.

Such tactics have become commonplace. At Mr. Erdogan's insistence and over the objections of many secularists, the AKP passed legislation to lower the mandatory retirement age of technocrats. This could mean replacement of nearly 4,000 out of 9,000 judges. Turks are suspicious that the AKP seeks to curtail judicial independence. In May 2005, AKP Parliamentary Speaker B?lent Arin? warned that the AKP might abolish the constitutional court if its judges continued to hamper its legislation. Mr. Erdogan's refusal to implement Supreme Court decisions levied against his government underline his contempt for rule of law. Last May, in the heat of the AKP's anti-judiciary rhetoric, an Islamist lawyer protesting the head scarf ban shouted "Allahu Akbar," opened fire in the Supreme Court and murdered a judge. Thousands attended his funeral, chanting pro-secular slogans. Mr. Erdogan was absent from the ceremony.

There have been other subtle changes. Mr. Erdogan has replaced nearly every member of the banking regulatory board with officials from the Islamic banking sector. Accusations of Saudi capital subsidizing AKP are rampant. According to Turkish Central Bank statistics, in the first six months of this year, the net error -- money entering the Turkish economy for which regulators cannot account -- has increased almost eightfold compared to 2002, the year the AKP came to power. According to the opposition parliamentary bloc, debt amassed under Mr. Erdogan's administration is equal to total debt accrued in Turkey between 1970 and 2000. Erkan Mumcu, a former AKP minister who now heads the center-right Motherland Party, accused the AKP in June of interfering in Central Bank operations. Accordingly, President Bush's Oval Office statement, based on State Department talking points -- congratulating "the prime minister and his government for the economic reforms that have enabled the Turkish economy to be strong" -- may have hampered transparency, if not reform.

In the past year, the AKP anti-secular agenda has grown bolder. AKP-run municipalities now ban alcohol. Turkish Airlines recently surveyed employees about their attitudes toward the Quran. On July 11, Mr. Erdogan publicly vouched for the sincerity of Yasin al-Qadi, a Saudi financier identified by both the U.N. and U.S. Treasury Department as an al Qaeda financier.

When Mr. Erdogan began his political career, he did not hide his agenda. In September 1994, while mayor of Istanbul, he promised, "We will turn all our schools into Imam Hatips." Two months later he said, "Thank God Almighty, I am a servant of the Shariah." In May 1996, he called for a ban on alcohol. In the months before his dismissal from the mayoralty, his cynicism was clear. "Democracy is like a streetcar," he quipped. "You ride it until you arrive at your destination and then you step off."

Diplomacy should not just accentuate the positive and ignore the negative. When a country faces an Islamist challenge, PC platitudes do far more harm than good. At the very least, U.S. diplomats should never intercede to preserve the status quo at the expense of liberalism. Nor should they even appear to endorse a political party as an established democracy enters an election season. It is not good relations with Ankara that should be the U.S. goal, but rather the triumph of the democratic and liberal ideas for which Turkey traditionally stands.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2006, 09:58:22 AM »

Quote
In March the Peace Corps was forced to leave the country for fear of terrorist attacks.

That was me!!!! Some ne'er do wells threatened to kidnap my friends. Though during this time, the government also caught the two men in charge of the largest terrorist organization in Bangladesh, and things have reportedly gotten better. That said, the government often cites a conspiracy from the press to malign bangladesh's image and reporters were often killed or disappeared. The guy in this article will probably be dead soon.

I think part of the problem is that literacy is so low in Bangladesh, that they rely on others to tell them what the Koran says or rely on the interpretations coming the arab world. One guy who can read and has a microphone can hold considerable sway among the people.Though there is also a strong sense of Bengali first and muslim second ever since thier war against pakistan.
I met Bengalis who converted to Christianity, and although they were looked down upon, i dont think they faced the death threats that those in Afghanistan/Pakistan have faced. Much more prevalent was the Hindu/Muslim divide. Some ugly stuff takes place.
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2006, 01:24:28 PM »

A very nice piece , , ,

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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: A VOLUNTEER GROUP AND U.S. CASUALTIES
The selfless and the dead
An Iraqi burial society pays its respects to unclaimed war victims.
By Raheem Salman and Doug Smith, LA Times Staff Writers
October 22, 2006


Twice a week, the large delivery truck from Baghdad rolls into the vast cemetery in this holy Shiite Muslim city. A bus follows, bearing wooden caskets on its roof. Half a mile beyond the cemetery gates, at the edge of the desert, the passengers get out of the bus and set to work unloading the truck's grim cargo. On an average trip, there will be 70 to 100 bodies, victims of the sectarian bloodletting that has gripped Iraq.



 The men belong to a word-of-mouth burial society for the unclaimed dead, formed during the 1980s war with Iran, starting small and growing with the need. Today, about 500 men ? laborers, professionals, clerics and tribal leaders ? are members of the legation of the dead in this country where deep piety and terrible brutality have repeatedly intertwined.

The society has no name and no officers. It adheres to no religious sect or political agenda. Thirty to 60 men make each trip. Some go every time; those who have to take time off from work may go only once every few weeks. They pay their own expenses and have rejected government compensation.

"We told them that if there will be money for this work we withdraw, as an act cannot be evaluated with money," said taxi driver Hashim Saadi, 53. "We want the blessing of God only."

Many who belong were drawn to it by their own experiences.

"When I look at them, I feel deeply sad," Saadi said. "Each one of them I see as my son, who was kidnapped five months ago. He was in his last year in the college of economy and administration at Baghdad University. I expect to see his body any time with any group we are bringing."

Mohammed Sabbar, an official with the Iraq Board of Tourism, said he joined the society after his brother disappeared about a year ago and later turned up in the morgue. The family suffered for weeks not knowing his fate.

"I did not go to my work today, preferring to join this act, which is filled with human feelings," Sabbar said. "We feel sad for them. Sometimes I weep. Repeatedly doing this has elicited a sort of acceptance of the sight, but feelings of sadness are still there."

The depth of his commitment is astonishing.

Each two-day trip begins at 4 a.m. after morning prayers. Sabbar walks three-quarters of a mile from the Ur neighborhood of Baghdad to a mosque in Sadr City, where several of the men converge. At the mosque, they pick up two or three caskets, which they tie to the roof of the bus. The bus drives to the Baghdad morgue, an impersonal building of yellow brick, where other men arrive in their cars.  They load the truck with bodies that have been unclaimed for two weeks ? at that point, the morgue has to clear them out to make room new ones. Leaving Baghdad at 7 a.m., they must traverse Latifiya, an insurgent stronghold and one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Kidnappings, shootings and roadside bomb attacks occur there almost daily.

The caskets on the bus could be a liability in the Sunni Arab city, giving the impression that the men are Shiites on the road to Najaf. But they also ensure speedier passage through the many checkpoints on the 110-mile highway. Mourning parties are less likely to be stopped for identity checks.

About noon, the bus arrives at the cemetery. The men say their midday prayers before they unload the bodies on stretchers into the desert heat, loudly chanting, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God." They remove the bodies from black nylon sacks. To each they attach a tag bearing all that is known about the deceased.

Some are headless, some bloated and purple. If the body is too decomposed to wash, the men perform what is called the tayamum, rubbing the face and hands with clean sand, in accordance with Islamic tradition.

They return the body to a sack sprinkled with camphor and pungent leaves. Then they wrap the body with a white cloth. They lower bodies into double graves according to their morgue numbers, odd on one side, even on the other. The graves are marked with flat stones that say "Unclaimed."

"When I look at any one of these victims, we feel that he is my brother or father," said Abu Muntadhar, 44, who receives a government salary to drive one of the delivery trucks but has volunteered for this job. "We cry as if they are our relatives. I imagine how their wives will behave if they see them, or their children."

Caring for the unclaimed began as a charity supported by wealthy residents of Baghdad to provide proper burials for the indigent, said Sheik Mehdi Abdul Zahara, one of about 100 burial brokers who work out of tiny offices at the cemetery. Paid by families of the dead, they acquire plots, hire gravediggers and maintain monuments.

The numbers of dead have grown with each traumatic turn in Iraq's course.

During Saddam Hussein's brutal repression after the failed 1991 Shiite uprising, 30 to 40 bodies arrived each month. After the overthrow of Hussein, the number jumped to 30 a week and kept climbing. Now a truck carrying 70 to 100 bodies comes twice a week, and a separate truck carries as many to Karbala, another holy city. Traditionally, charitable donations paid for burials of the unclaimed. With the increasing numbers, the Health Ministry recently took over. Zahara and his gravediggers do the work for reduced pay.  Bodies go unclaimed mostly because the morgue can't identify them. Relatives may check with police and hospitals or wait for a ransom note, hoping for any information that their loved one is alive. Even when family members go to the morgue, the deteriorated condition of some bodies may give them reason to delay positive identification in the hope that it is someone else.

Zahara does a little detective work of his own, hoping to relieve families of the pain of not knowing. Once, he received a beheaded man and found an address book in his shoe. He telephoned someone who turned out to be a brother.

"He was afraid, thinking that I was a terrorist or a kidnapper," Zahara said.

The brother called back several times before deciding to trust Zahara. The sibling came at night, accompanied by three carloads of family and friends, who were there to provide support, but also protection in the event of a trap.

"They were too sad for the killing of their son, but at least this put an end to their suffering and searching," Zahara said.

The unofficial leader of the group, Sheik Jamal Soodani, has been going on the burial trips since their outset. He is responsible for the roster of volunteers and attends every journey.  Although he has been accused of having political or sectarian motives, he and other members of the group have no aim but getting closer to God, Soodani said.

"We bury the Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Muslim and non-Iraqi," he said. "We deal with the human being as a human being, regardless of considerations like color and religion."

At the end of each day's work, the men are tired and it is too late to return to Baghdad. They retire instead to a rented two-room house at the edge of the cemetery.  They sleep on mattresses spread across the floor like gravestones. Others sleep on the porch outside ? they prefer the fresh air.

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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2006, 06:22:27 AM »

A New Terrorist Haven
The frightening advance of Islamists in Somalia.
by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Bill Roggio
10/30/2006, Volume 012, Issue 07



WHEN FIGHTERS from the radical Islamic Courts Union (ICU) seized Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, in early June, the Western world briefly noticed. Analysts and talking heads were concerned that the country could become a terrorist haven. Then the media largely lost interest, though the situation remains dire. The ICU is on the verge of winning an even bigger strategic victory, and its links to international terrorism have become impossible to deny.

After Mogadishu fell, Somalia's beleaguered transitional government holed up in the south-central city of Baidoa and watched as the ICU won a rapid series of strategic gains. It took control of critical port cities--most recently, Kismayo, captured on September 25--that give it access to the Indian Ocean. The ICU's advances have met with little resistance, as typified by the capture of the town of Beletuein on August 9. The governor, escorted by a couple of "technicals"--pickup trucks mounted with machine guns--fled to Ethiopia shortly after fighting broke out between his forces and ICU militiamen.

Now, in late October, the ICU controls most of the country's key strategic points. It can move supplies from south to north, and ICU troops effectively encircle Baidoa. In the past month, the ICU has begun to make overt moves against the transitional federal government. The most dramatic came on September 18, when the presidential convoy faced a multi-pronged suicide car bombing attack just minutes after President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed delivered a speech to the transitional parliament. Six government officials died in what was the first suicide strike in Somalia's history. There were further casualties in an ensuing gun battle, but President Ahmed escaped unscathed.

That attack occurred against the backdrop of ICU-inspired protests in Baidoa. The ICU used local supporters to organize demonstrations against the transitional government, forcing government police to disperse a crowd with gunfire.

The bottom line is that Baidoa is a city under siege, as evidenced by a stream of defections from the transitional government's military to the more powerful ICU. Over 100 government fighters stationed near Baidoa have defected. All that prevents the transitional government's destruction is the presence of some Ethiopian soldiers. Early this month, witnesses saw at least thirty Ethiopian armored vehicles pass through Baidoa en route to military barracks about twenty kilometers east of the city, and these troops have set up roadblocks in an effort to protect the transitional government.

Intelligence sources, however, doubt the Ethiopian forces can prevent Baidoa from falling. Some believe that the main reason the ICU hasn't yet mounted a full assault is a desire to prevent the transitional government from escaping to Ethiopia or another sympathetic country and becoming a permanent thorn in the ICU's side: The radicals would like to see all major figures in the transitional government killed or captured.

The primary reason Westerners should care about these developments is the ICU's increasingly clear support for international terrorism. Longtime al Qaeda ally Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has been appointed head of the ICU's consultative shura council. The United States named Aweys a specially designated global terrorist in November 2001. He is one of three individuals believed responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who are currently sheltered by the ICU. Aweys's prot?g?, Aden Hashi 'Ayro, reportedly received terrorist training in Afghanistan as the United States was preparing to attack the Taliban in 2001.

These men have seized power in a country that contains 17 operational terrorist training camps, as described in a confidential report prepared by the nongovernmental group Partners International Foundation in 2002. The claim in this report has been confirmed by a military intelligence source. Today, hundreds of terrorists from Afghan istan, Chechnya, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Arabian peninsula are said to be flocking to Somalia to train in or staff these camps. According to a military intelligence source, the camps provide training in the use of improvised explosive devices to counter Ethiopian vehicles.

According to press accounts, the ICU has received funding from the Arabian peninsula that allows it to arm its fighters with new weapons. Sheikh Aweys told a group of 600 fighters at the Hilweyne training camp, "This is the beginning, but thousands of other gunmen will be trained. You are the ones who will disarm civilians, restore law and order, and help enforce sharia law."

But the presence of foreign fighters in Somalia suggests that Sheikh Aweys and the ICU have ambitions beyond Somalia. Some ICU leaders, such as Sheikh Yusuf Indohaadde, have denied the presence of foreign fighters in the country in order to distance themselves publicly from al Qaeda. In a late June press conference, Sheikh Indohaadde said, "We want to say in a loud voice that we have no enemies, we have not enmity toward anyone. There are no foreign terrorists here." Within a few weeks of this unequivocal statement, how ever, the Associated Press obtained a copy of an ICU recruiting videotape directed at both Somali and Arab audiences (with Arabic subtitles) that showed Sheikh Indohaadde in the desert alongside fighters from Arab Gulf states.

Another senior ICU leader, Sheikh Hassan "Turki" Abdullah Hersi, openly admitted foreign involvement in Somalia during a speech to supporters after the seizure of Kismayo. "Brothers in Islam, we came from Mogadishu and we have thousands of fighters, some are Somalis and others are from the Muslim world," he said. "If Christian-led America brought its infidels, we now call to our Muslim holy fighters to come join us."

Nor is the ICU's support for international jihad lost on the movement's highest leaders. In an audiotape released in late June, Osama bin Laden stated, "We will continue, God willing, to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Somalia and Sudan, until we waste all your money and kill your men and you will return to your country in defeat as we defeated you before in Somalia"--a clear nod to the rise of the Islamic courts. In July, bin Laden issued an even stronger statement: "We warn all the countries in the world from accepting a U.S. proposal to send international forces to Somalia. We swear to God that we will fight their soldiers in Somalia and we reserve our right to punish them on their lands and every accessible place at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner."

The rise to power of the ICU is reminiscent of the Taliban's rise in the 1990s. Both radical groups are allied with al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists. And like the Taliban, the ICU is now instituting an extremely strict version of sharia.

In Somalia, as in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the implementation of sharia is facilitated by lawlessness and desperate poverty. The Taliban im posed its harsh rule on what Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid called an "exhausted, war-weary population," many of whom saw the movement "as saviors and peacemakers." Likewise, Somalia, since the toppling of President Muhammad Siad Barre in 1991, has been at the mercy of rival warlord factions known for indiscriminate violence. Rapes and other crimes have been commonplace. It is thus unsurprising that many Somalis view the ICU as a force that can deliver the stability they crave.

In both countries, however, many citizens were unable to accept the radicals' draconian regime. By the time the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, few Afghans were sad to see them go. Likewise, the influx of tens of thousands of Somali refugees into Kenya shows that not all of the ICU's subjects are happy with their rule.

Where it has taken power, the ICU attempts to regulate virtually every facet of Somali citizens' lives, even barring them from watching soccer matches. ICU forces shot at least two people who demanded to watch a World Cup semifinal this summer. And in mid-September, in the course of raiding a Mogadishu hall where a crowd was watching an English Premier League soccer match, they shot and killed a 13-year-old boy. The ICU has also conducted mass arrests of citizens watching videos, cracked down on live music at weddings, and arrested a karate instructor and his female students because the lessons constituted mixing of the sexes.

Beyond the religious basis for these laws, there is clearly a desire to cement the ICU's control. This can also be seen in the ICU's crackdowns on the media. The Islamic courts have closed several radio stations to stifle dissent. On October 8, they gave the press in Mogadishu 13 rules of conduct that the press freedom advocacy group Reporters sans Fronti?res describes as a "draconian charter." It prohibits publishing information "contrary to the Muslim religion," information "likely to create conflicts between the population and the Council of Islamic Courts," and the use of "the terms which infidels use to refer to Muslims such as 'terrorists,' 'extremists,' etc." A Reporters sans Fronti?res press release contends that this charter would result in "a gagged, obedient press, one constrained by threats to sing the praises of the Islamic courts and their vision of the world and Somalia."

The ICU is also moving to disarm the population. In mid-October, the Islamic courts announced the door-to-door collection of weapons owned by Somali citizens and organizations. Only ICU-affiliated Somalis would be allowed to retain their firearms. This move, ostensibly designed to instill order, clearly diminishes citizens' ability to resist the Islamic militia.

Although the situation in Somalia looks grave, the United States has more options for dealing with the ICU than it has in some other areas where terrorist factions have made gains lately, such as the Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Ethiopia's military presence--still relatively light, and meant principally to help the transitional government escape once Baidoa falls--creates an initial opportunity for the United States. Back in the mid-1990s, Ethiopia intervened in Somalia to destroy the predecessor of the ICU, the al Qaeda-backed al-Ittihad al-Islamiya, which was sponsoring Islamic separatist groups in the Ethiopian border province of Ogaden. The Islamic courts are unlikely to be friendlier to Ethiopia than their predecessor. Sharif Ahmed, the head of the ICU's executive council, has openly called for a jihad against Ethiopian soldiers in the country. ICU military commanders have made similar calls.

Nor is Ethiopia the only neighbor concerned about the ICU's rise. On October 5, the ICU moved 15 of its technicals to the village of Liboi, in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya. While an ICU spokes man claimed that this was intended to "check the security in the area," the Kenyans viewed the move as provocative. Concern about the ICU's intentions had already prompted senior Kenyan officials to undergo anti terrorist and counterinsurgency training; when the ICU advanced to Liboi, Kenyan military helicopters responded with a show of force. Kenyan defense minister Njenga Karume later announced that "anybody who might touch Kenya will face the full force of our military."

Since then, Kenya has deployed forces along its border with Somalia. Moreover, the governments of the semiautonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland are hostile to the Islamic courts.

The United States has significant assets at Camp Lemonier in neighboring Djibouti, where the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is made up of Marines, Special Operations forces, civil affairs teams, and a U.S. and international naval task force. The Combined Joint Task Force's primary missions have been patrolling the East African coast and the straits of the Bab el Mandeb oil choke point, training regional militaries to fight the spread of Islamic terror groups, performing goodwill missions designed to improve the lives of Africans, and undertaking covert intelligence and hunter-killer missions. A Predator drone said to be operating from Djibouti killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, al Qaeda's chief operative in Yemen, in November 2002.

All is not lost in Somalia. While the transitional government has no power base to rely on, there is enough concern in the region about the ICU's rise that the United States has potential partners with whom it could fashion an appropriate response if it wanted to. The critical question is whether we can muster the will--or for that matter even the awareness--to address the problem.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior consultant for the Gerard Group International and author of the forthcoming book My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin). Bill Roggio is an independent military blogger who served in the Army from 1991 to 1995.
 
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2006, 06:29:17 AM »

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/006275.htm?print=1
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« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2006, 05:51:32 AM »

 

Activists of an opposition Islamic alliance chant slogans to protest against amendments to Pakistan's Islamic laws in Karachi November 17, 2006. Rights activists welcomed on Thursday amendments to Pakistan's Islamic laws that will allow rape victims to seek justice without the need for four male witnesses but said the laws should be scrapped altogether.
Reuters/ATHAR HUSSAIN

------------------
A friend comments:


? need for four male witnesses? Qur?an 24:13

 

This is only one of many surprising dictates in the Qur?an.  Qur?an 2:282  states that a women?s testimony in court is worth  half as much as that of a man.  I highly recommend reading Robert Spencer?s books (Islam and the Crusades, The Truth About Muhammad.  It appears from my reading that moderate Muslims chose to ignore the parts of the Qur?an they find uncomfortable in this day and age.  However, they lose the theological debate if challenged.  I think this could be the main reason that the Muslim community has been largely muted in response to terrorist acts.   Muhammad stated that ?War is deceit? and all is fair when dealing with non Muslims (infidels). 

It will be truly interesting to see if this proposed amendment stands because it goes directly against what Allah allegedly (and conveniently) told Muhammad (Qur?an 24:13) after Mohammad?s favorite wife Aisha was accused of having an affair.   The Qur?an is supposed to be the exact word of Allah and not subject to interpretation.  Could this amendment, if passed, set a huge precedent for further amendments more in vogue with our current century?

 

I also found it interesting that the vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs yet everyone who recites the Qur?an is instructed to use ancient Arabic.  It is highly doubtful that most Muslims understand the words they are saying when reading and praying even if they are Arabs.

 
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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2006, 07:04:31 AM »

Rape case has Saudis asking questions about legal system
Woman who says she was raped faces punishment
By DONNA ABU-NASR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AL-AWWAMIYA, Saudi Arabia -- When the young woman went to the police a few months ago to report that she was gang-raped by seven men, she never imagined that the judge would punish her -- and that she would be sentenced to more lashes than one of her rapists received.
The story of the Girl of Qatif, as the alleged rape victim has been called by the media here, has triggered a rare debate about Saudi Arabia's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present.
The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. These include one in which a group of men got heavier sentences for harassing women than the men in the Girl of Qatif rape case or three men who were convicted of raping a boy. In another, a woman was ordered to divorce her husband against her will based on a demand by her relatives.
In the case of the Girl of Qatif, she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married -- a crime in this strictly segregated country -- at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.
In the sleepy, Shiite village of al-Awwamiya on the outskirts of the eastern city of Qatif, the 19-year-old is struggling to forget the spring night that changed her life. An Associated Press reporter met her in a face-to-face interview. She spoke on condition of anonymity.
Her hands tremble, her dark brown eyes are lifeless. Her sleep is interrupted by a replay of the events, which she describes in a whisper.
That night, she said, she had left home to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. She had just been married -- but had not moved in with her husband -- and did not want her picture to remain with the student.
While the woman was in the car with the student, she said, two men intercepted them, got into the vehicle and drove the couple to a secluded area where the two were separated. She said she was raped by seven men, three of whom also allegedly raped her friend.
In a trial that ended this month -- in which the prosecutor asked for the death penalty for the seven men -- four of the men received one to five years in prison plus 80 to 1,000 lashes, the woman said. Three others are awaiting sentencing. Neither the defendants nor the plaintiffs retained lawyers, as is common here.

"The big shock came when the judge sentenced me and the man to 90 lashes each," the woman said.
The sentences have yet to be carried out, but the punishments ordered have caused an uproar.
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. Judges -- who are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council -- have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment.
Saudis are urging the Justice Ministry to clarify the logic behind some rulings. In one recent case, three men convicted of raping a 12-year-old boy received sentences of one to two years in prison and 300 lashes each. In contrast, another judge sentenced at least four men to six to 12 years imprisonment for fondling women in a tunnel in Riyadh.
Saleh al-Shehy, a columnist for Al-Watan, asked Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Sheik to explain why the boy's rapists got a lighter sentence than the men in last year's sexual harassment case.
"I won't ask you my brother, the minister, if you find the ruling satisfactory or not," wrote al-Shehy. "I will ask you, 'Do you think it satisfies God?' "
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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2006, 09:19:37 AM »


Canadian Press
Published: Friday, November 24, 2006 ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Two Turkish men who converted to Christianity went on trial Thursday for allegedly insulting "Turkishness," and of inciting religious hatred against Islam, the Anatolia news agency reported.


The trial opened just days before a visit to Turkey by Roman Catholic Pope Benedict, during which the pontiff was expected to discuss improved religious rights for the country's tiny Christian minority who complain of discrimination.
Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, are accused of making the insults and of inciting hate while allegedly trying to convert other Turks to Christianity.
The men were charged under Turkey's notorious Article 301, which has been used to bring charges against dozens of intellectuals - including Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk.
The law has widely been condemned for severely limiting free expression and European officials have demanded that Turkey change the law as part of its bid to join the European Union.
Prosecutors accused the two of allegedly telling possible converts that Islam was "a primitive and fabricated" religion and that Turks would remain "barbarians" as long they remained Muslims, Anatolia reported.
The prosecutors also accused them of speaking out against the country's compulsory military service, and compiling databases on possible converts.
Tastan and Topal, who could face up to nine years in prison, denied the accusations in court.
"I am a Turk, I am a Turkish citizen. I don't accept the accusations of insulting 'Turkishness,' " Anatolia quoted Tastan as telling the court. "I am a Christian, that's true. I explain the Bible ... to people who want to learn. I am innocent."
"I am a Turk, I am a Turkish citizen, it is impossible for me to insult 'Turkishness,"' echoed Topal, according to Anatolia.

? The Canadian Press 2006
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« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2006, 09:56:49 AM »

Somalia Town Threatens to Behead People Who Don't Pray 5 Times Daily

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.
Shops, tea houses and other public places in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town's Islamic court. His court is part of a network backed by armed militiamen that has taken control of much of southern Somalia in recent months, bringing a strict interpretation of Islam that is alien to many Somalis.

Those who do not follow the prayer edict after three days have elapsed, "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do."
He said the edict, which covered only Bulo Burto, was being announced over loudspeakers throughout the town.
Somalia's Islamic courts have made varying interpretations of Koranic law, some applying a more strict and radical version of Islam than others. Some of the courts have introduced public executions, floggings of convicts, bans on women swimming in Mogadishu's public beaches and on the sale and chewing of khat, a leafy stimulant consumed across the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East.

After complaints about the lack of consistency from residents in the capital, Mogadishu, the umbrella Council of Islamic Courts set up an appeals court with better educated judges in October.
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« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2006, 08:53:06 PM »

'Hungry For Asian Islam'
By JOSEPH BRAUDE
December 21, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan -- As the Bush administration continues to puzzle over Middle East reform, a clear example of success might just be a Malaysian greasy spoon in the desert kingdom of Jordan.

The waiters at the Al-Rufaqa dinette in downtown Amman serve more than green tea and samosas. They're missionaries on behalf of a Malaysian cleric, Sheikh Ashaari Muhammad, whose preach-and-fry restaurant and gift shop has franchises as far west as Syria, Egypt and soon, Iraq. It isn't so much the content of Sheikh Ashaari's controversial take on Islam -- purveyed in books and pamphlets displayed beside the dining hall -- that bodes well for Arab Muslim societies; it's the fact a growing number of patrons appear curious enough to take it in.

"Asian Islam is pluralistic, tolerant and antiextremist," says Jordanian cleric Mustafa Abu Rumman. Mr. Rumman preaches at a government-controlled mosque across the street from a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the West Amman suburb of Swayfiya. "Arabs are tired of militant ideologies and hungry for an alternative. If the largest Islamic movements of Malaysia and Indonesia started sharing their teachings with Arabs the way Sheikh Ashaari does, they would find many followers and friends here."

In my travels through the region over the past three months, I've heard this view echoed by civic and spiritual leaders -- from quietists to militants -- spanning Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the Mediterranean. Even a turbaned champion of the Iraqi insurgency, former Saddam Hussein confidante Sheikh Abd al-Latif al-Humayyim, told me in November that he has his eye on the Muslim East. "After the Americans depart," he said confidently, "Iraqis will look to models in Malaysia, Indonesia and India to try and resolve our problems. These exemplars are crucial to the future of Iraq."

What kind of effect will Asia's Islamic influence have on Arab lands? That depends on the institutions and networks put in place to bridge the disparate cultures. Until now, it's been Saudi and Iranian coffers pouring money and manpower into madrassas, fostering a hard-line Islamist bent. But the beginnings of a more moderate trend are forming -- and a nudge from the U.S. may prove vital to the effort.

America has done relatively little so far to promote progressive Islam in Asia -- and even less to help advance the liberal Islamic tendencies manifest in Indonesia, for example, beyond that country's borders. But a pending bill in Congress manifests a heightened appraisal of the importance of Asian Islamic culture to the region. Among other stipulations, the bill allocates modest funds to support "moderation and tolerance" within Indonesian Muslim communities. What's more, it calls for the exportation of Indonesian ideals region-wide: "The Committee recognizes the significant achievements of the Indonesian people in consolidating and strengthening their democratic processes and institutions, and believes this experience should be widely shared with other Islamic countries."

Such initiatives are crucial, judging from moderate Muslim leaders in Indonesia who lament their own government's disinclination to pursue a like-minded policy. "There's a reason Indonesian Islamic pluralism and tolerance don't get similarly exported," says Jakarta-based Islamic University rector Azyumardi Azra, one of Southeast Asia's most prominent Muslim liberals. "Our government doesn't finance such programs because Indonesia is not an Islamic state." Nor have homegrown grass-roots efforts filled the government's void -- perhaps due in part to the formidable language and cultural barriers separating much of Asia from the Arab world.

Nonetheless, Mr. Azra felt the need to impart his country's ideals to Arab Muslim intellectuals. Back in April, he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt and addressed the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies on how Indonesian Muslims effectively reconcile Islam and democracy. A month later, he flew to Amman and urged a Jordanian policy conference to learn more about Jakarta's example of peaceable political Islam. His ideas had potential to win broad audiences in both countries; both Egypt and Jordan are still reeling from al Qaeda suicide bombings, which claimed scores of local civilian lives and provoked a popular backlash. But it's unclear whether Mr. Azra's hit-and-run lectures to policy circles trickled down to the clerical elite, let alone the Arab street.

Contrast Mr. Azra's brief visits with the long-term relations forged by Sheikh Ashaari, the Malaysian cleric and restaurateur. The jury is out on whether Sheikh Ashaari's brand of Islam represents the best of what Asia has to offer. His movement was banned by Kuala Lumpur in 1994 on allegations of "deviationist teachings." (He allegedly claimed to have held personal dialogues with the spirit of the prophet Muhammad, for example.) Still, mainstream Asian religious leaders could learn something from his outreach strategies.

Beginning in the 1980s, Sheikh Ashaari sent small delegations of young Malaysian followers into the Middle East to study Arabic, befriend the local population and build long-term spiritual bonds. The missions were largely self-sustaining, with the Sheikh's young emissaries staffing the restaurant chain and other businesses alongside their studies. Some of the brightest students returned to Malaysia and translated the Sheikh's writings into Arabic for dissemination.

Sheikh Ashaari's grass-roots Arab outreach has proven that, against tough odds, Asian Muslims can reach deep into Arab societies and win followers and friends. In the struggle to counter Saudi- and Iranian-backed extremist teachings, the Sheikh's model could be appropriated and customized, on a grand scale, by the largest Muslim movements in Asia: Spreading liberal Islam in the Middle East is a vital step toward countering the roots of Islamist militancy in the Far East and beyond.

Any concerted push for a westward flow of Muslim ideals from Asia will find natural allies not only in Asia but also in the U.S. and across the Arab world. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who advocates the quietist teachings of "Islam Hadhari," now serves as chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an umbrella group of 57 mostly Muslim nations. He could use his position to press for exchange programs that bring large numbers of Asian clerics to Arab Muslim seminaries -- and students from Arab countries to Islamic institutions in Asia. Such an approach would be consistent with the keen interest Mr. Abdullah expressed in a speech last year to export these principles to "Pakistan, India, the Middle East, Jeddah, Dubai, England, New Zealand and many other places I have spoken on Islam Hadhari."

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a leader of his country's 30 million-strong spiritual movement, the Nahdatul Ulama, influences a vast network of progressive Islamic boarding schools, pesantren, in Java and beyond. This formidable base of education could have a profound mark on countries to its west -- if it's sufficiently focused on building the language, media and networking competencies necessary to reach out to Arab Muslims at the grass roots.

But the chances of success without widespread institutional support are slim. As an eccentric Malaysian sheikh has shown, Arab societies are as hungry for Asian Islam as they are for Asian fried dishes. For the sake of tolerance and pluralism, perhaps it's time more spiritual leaders from the East joined him in the Asian hospitality business.

Mr. Braude is a columnist for The New Republic and author of "The New Iraq" (Basic Books, 2003).
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2006, 11:23:43 AM »

A human portrayal of the mindset in Afghanistan

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=23790_Cut_From_Different_Cloth&only
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2007, 08:12:24 PM »

Saudis May Ban Letter ‘X’

A group of Islamic clergy in Saudi Arabia has condemned the letter "X” because of its similarity to a hated banned symbol – the cross.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which has the ultimate say in all legal, civil and governance matters in the kingdom, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against the "X.” It came in response to a Ministry of Trade query about whether a Saudi businessman could be granted trademark protection for a new service with the English name "Explorer.”

The request from the businessman, Amru Mohammad Faisal, was turned down. "Experts who examined the English word ‘explorer’ were struck by how suspicious that ‘X’ appeared,” Youssef Ibrahim writes in the New York Sun.

"In a kingdom where Friday preachers routinely refer to Christians as pigs and infidel crusaders, even a twisted cross ranks as an abomination.”

In response to the turndown, Faisal wrote an article that appeared on several Arabian Web sites, sarcastically suggesting that the authorities might consider banning the "plus” sign in mathematics because of its similarity to the cross. Among the commission’s earlier edicts is the 1974 fatwa declaring that the Earth is flat.

http://newsmax.com/archives/ic/2007/...803.shtml?s=ic
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« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2007, 12:02:56 PM »

The Murder of Hrant Dink
By ELIF SHAFAK
January 22, 2007; Page A15

ISTANBUL -- "I feel like a pigeon," Hrant Dink wrote in his last article. "Like a pigeon I wander uneasily amidst this city, watching my back constantly, so timid and yet, so free." That pigeon was gunned down Friday by a young Turkish fanatic on one of the most crowded streets of Istanbul.

Few people can inspire a whole nation in their lifetime, fewer still with their death. Hrant Dink did both. He was a prominent journalist, the editor of the Armenian weekly Agos, an outspoken intellectual, a peace activist, a true citizen of Istanbul and a dear friend. When the news of his assassination broke, thousands poured into the streets, chanting, "We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenian!" People slept in front of his office, guarding the spot where he'd fallen with candles and flowers.

The next day, all the main Turkish papers, left or right, spoke in a chorus of outrage on their front pages. Even more hard-line writers sincerely mourned his loss, asking where things had gone wrong. His death shattered the country and the grief cut across all sorts of ideological and social divides. His funeral will be attended by people from all religions, ethnicities and political inclinations. For Hrant Dink was a man impossible not to love, and far from "denigrating Turkishness," the crime which an Istanbul court convicted him of (under the anti-free-speech Article 301), for talking about the killings of Armenians in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire, he truly loved this land.

That his death was interpreted by some beyond Turkey as proof that Turks don't belong in the European Union would have upset Hrant. Without close ties to the EU, and the West as a whole, he worried that the country will become less democratic and more insular. His Turkey is a tapestry, a place where conflicting voices coexist. His best friends, companions and colleagues were Muslim Turks.

Yet Hrant Dink was, since his early childhood, used to discrimination. As he was getting ready to appeal his six-month sentence (eventually suspended) to the European Court of Justice, he wrote that, "I had no other option left. Why is it that although everyone tried under Article 301 has been acquitted one way or another, I have been sentenced to prison? Is it because I am Armenian and they wanted to intimidate me, teach me my limits?" Hrant knew the price to be paid for being in the political and ethnic minority, and still refused to withdraw into a glass ghetto.

Surrounded with friends and family, Hrant Dink was in many ways a lonely man. As critical as he was of Turkish ultranationalism, he had little time for Armenian ultranationalism. At his talks in the U.S., Europe and Australia to Armenian groups, he never played to the gallery. The biases and generalizations about Turkey and Turks in the Armenian diaspora frustrated him. "There is a big difference between Armenians in the diaspora and Armenians in Turkey," he once said. "You guys are Armenian one day a year, on the 24th of April" -- the commemoration of the 1915 massacres and deportations -- "whereas we are Armenian every day of the year but on that one."

Hrant opposed a French bill last year that sought to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, as well as a similar law now under discussion in the U.S. Congress. "If they pass the law in France, I will go there," he said, "and though I believe the opposite, I will openly say that there was no genocide." As a genuine supporter of freedom of expression, Hrant believed that it should be up to people, Turks and Armenians together, to find the means to reconcile, not to politicians to pass judgment on that history.

Many people asked Hrant why he didn't leave Turkey for Europe or America. The answer he gave was the inspiration for one that a Turkish-Armenian characters in my last novel, "The Bastard of Istanbul," offers.

"But why would I want to do that? This city is my city. My family's history in this city goes back at least 500 years. Armenian Istanbulites belong to Istanbul, just like the Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and Jewish Istanbulites do. We have first managed and then badly failed to live together. We cannot fail again."

Ms. Shafak is the author of "The Bastard of Istanbul" (Viking, 2007).


WSJournal
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« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2007, 01:06:40 PM »

Another one on this:

A Murder in Istanbul
January 22, 2007
The fatal shooting of Turkey's most prominent ethnic Armenian Friday was an act of individual madness. But the outpouring of grief and outrage speaks volumes about Turkey's national character.

In condemning Hrant Dink's killing almost in unison, Turkey's ruling and opposition parties and thousands of citizens -- nationalists, Islamists and many more in between -- understand that their entire nation was impugned. That doesn't make the tears and chants of "We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenians" any less heartfelt. This spontaneous reaction, rather than the crime itself, is the true reflection of Turkish society today.

 
Turkey's democracy is as healthy and vibrant, and its economy as booming, as never before. Tremendous changes in recent years are the result of broadly backed efforts to modernize. Mr. Dink, a journalist, was among the champions, knowing well that Turkey's small Armenian community, and an honest discussion of the painful past, were best served by expanding freedoms in Turkey. He bravely stood up to anti-Turkish voices in the Armenian diaspora who sought not truth but belated revenge for massacres of Armenians in the closing days of the Ottoman empire. He was braver still, in hindsight, for fighting Turkish hardliners who wanted him silenced for openly discussing those far-off times. No one knows for sure what motivated Mr. Dink's alleged killer, a teenager who confessed late Saturday, but speculation centers on the nationalist fringe.

One of the remaining weaknesses of Turkish democracy is the criminalization of free speech. A rogue nationalist lawyer opposed to membership in the European Union has exploited Article 301, which forbids "denigrating Turkishness," to tarnish his country's good name. Among dozens of writers brought up on charges, including novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak (who writes on the next page), Mr. Dink was the only one who was actually convicted -- not a good signal, either, since he was the only prominent Armenian Turk -- and received a six-month suspended sentence. He is now the first fatality of Article 301.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, previously reluctant to anger the nationalists in an election year, can pay no better tribute to Hrant Dink than to rescind this misguided law. It would also send a strong message about Ankara's commitment to reform and democratization, which had been cast in doubt before Friday. For beyond Turkey, this murder will surely be used to try to erect more barriers on its path, not least toward the EU. It would be doubly tragic if the killing of Mr. Dink, a man committed to making Turkey a freer and better place, ends up undermining his life's work.
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« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2007, 07:31:22 PM »

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=91626&d=1&m=2&y=2007

The Nightmare of Being a Saudi Woman
Abeer Mishkhas, abeermishkhas@arabnews.com
 
HERE WE go again and this time, it is official. A woman in Saudi Arabia has no right to choose her husband; she is forced to marry whomever her family chooses and, what is most shocking of all, a Saudi woman can be divorced from her husband against her will if that is the wish of her family. Add to this all the “normal” limitations in her life which if we start listing them, we’ll fall into a vicious cycle of repetition. But repetition or not, a serious crime is taking place in front of us and just because we have gotten used to hearing about it does not make it any less serious.

All our anger and frustration aside, the latest news concerning the much-written about Fatima is very unsettling. She is the woman who was happily married to a husband whom her father approved of; after his death, however, her half-brothers decided she should divorce Mansour since, in their eyes, he was not her social equal. And they set about going to the court and divorcing the couple even though Fatima and Mansour were happily married with two children. The court has ruled in favor of the half-brothers so the couple is now “legally” divorced. There is nothing in Islam or its laws that allows such a thing to happen but nonetheless, the court has issued its verdict.

Now Fatima is facing being forced into her brothers’ custody who are threatning to revive the accusation of “khulwa”, or being alone with Mansour, for which they were originally arrested. She now has to face being given over to her brothers, being charged for being alone with her husband (as the court ruled that they are divorced), and having to live with the feeling that her life has been taken away from her unjustifiably and by force.

Fatima no doubt feels that her life has been taken completely, unjustly and unjustifiably away from her. To take things a step further, we are facing a situation which could become the nightmare of every woman in Saudi Arabia. A woman is not secure in her marriage; she is at the mercy of her brother, or half-brother or any male relative who can tear her life apart and get a court to support the action. The question is clear: Where and when will this madness stop? One of my colleagues pointed out something that is definitely not encouraging — the verdict in this particular case was handed down very swiftly and very clearly. There are thousands of other cases involving husbands and wives in which a verdict is sorely needed but which has been delayed by maneuverings and machinations. Many women in Saudi Arabia are waiting for a verdict that will free them from an abusive husband, father or male relative; far too many of them have been refused justice since their sufferings have been deemed to be unimportant. The men continue their abuse and the women suffer. Other women have had their children taken away from them as there are no laws granting them visitation rights, let alone the right to take care of their children. Other women are beaten up and forced to go back to their abusers and still the courts do not intervene in the name of justice. In none of these cases has it been recognized that women have rights and that they are being threatened on a daily basis.

To look at the whole story, Fatima’s case also proves that men can also be caught in the same web. Her husband is as much a victim as she is, and maybe his case will widen the issue and make it more of a human rights case than one involving only a mere woman.

Fatima’s verdict was announced on the day I learned about a case that made me explode with questions and exclamations. Here are the details: A young Saudi woman living in the UK went to a hospital with injuries and it turned out that she had been beaten by her husband. The woman doctor at the hospital was very sympathetic and supportive and listened carefully to the details of the assault; she did not hide her anger or disgust at the man who did this. She then alerted the social services and also reported the matter to the police. The police began investigating and used the woman’s own statement. No one told her, “We can’t believe you because you don’t have proof” which had happened to her previously in the Kingdom. The police sent a team to arrest the husband and the woman was absolutely incredulous. “I can’t believe that they are listening to me, believing what I said and actually acting,” she exclaimed.

Her amazement increased with each passing day with calls from social services and the police, checking to see that she was living comfortably and that her children were all right and offering any help that she needed. All of this support occurred at the same time she began to get threats from her husband’s family in Saudi Arabia. You see, she had dared to complain. His family has threatened to take her children away from her as soon as she returns to Saudi Arabia. And guess what? They can do exactly that if they feel like it. Not because they have a right to but because as a woman, she cannot demand her rights in the Kingdom. If she returns, she faces a long humiliating process — probably coupled with social ostracism and disgrace — and the final result is by no means guaranteed.
 
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« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2007, 08:16:49 PM »

Cruellest cut in the name of Islam

Genital mutilation and forced marriage occurs even among educated Muslims in some countries, writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a shocking account of her early life in Somalia, in her new book
February 03, 2007

KORAN school was a shed down the road. The other pupils were from the neighbourhood. At first I liked it. I learned to mix ink from charcoal, water, and a little milk, and to write the Arabic alphabet on long wooden boards. I began learning the Koran, line by line, by heart. It was uplifting to be engaged in such an adult task.
But the kids at madrassah (Islamic religious school) were tough. They fought. One girl, who was about eight years old, they called kintirleey, "she with the clitoris".
I had no idea what a clitoris was, but the kids didn't even want to be seen with this girl. They spat on her and pinched her; they rubbed sand in her eyes, and once they caught her and tried to bury her in the sand behind the school.

The madrassah teacher didn't help. Once in a while he called her dammin, dunce, and kintirleey, too. My teenage cousin Sanyar used to pick me up after madrassah. One day she arrived just as a girl hit me in the face. Sanyar took me home and told the story. "Ayaan didn't even defend herself," she said in horror. "Coward!" my family jeered.

The next day Sanyar waited for me outside the madrassah with another teenager, the older sister of the girl who had hit me the day before. They caught hold of the two of us and tugged us over to an open space, then ordered us to fight. "Scratch her eyes out. Bite her," Sanyar hissed at me. "Come on, coward, think of your honour."

The other girl got the same encouragement. We flew at each other, fists tight, hitting, wrestling, pulling each other's hair, biting. "Ayaan, never cry!" Sanyar called out. The other children cheered us on. When they let us stop, our dresses were torn and my lip was bleeding, but Sanyar was delighted. "I don't want you to ever let another child hit you or make you cry," she said. "Fight. If you don't fight for your honour, you're a slave."

Then, as we walked away, the other girl shouted after me, "Kintirleey!" Sanyar winced. I looked at her, horror dawning on me. I was like that other girl? I, too, had that filthy thing, a kintir? In Somalia, like many countries across Africa and the Middle East, little girls are made "pure" by having their genitals cut out. There is no other way to describe this procedure, which typically occurs around the age of five.

After the child's clitoris and labia are carved out, scraped off, or, in more compassionate areas, merely cut or pricked, the whole area is often sewn up, so that a thick band of tissue forms a chastity belt made of the girl's own scarred flesh. A small hole is situated to permit a thin flow of pee. Only great force can tear the scar tissue wider, for sex.

Female genital mutilation predates Islam. Not all Muslims do this, and a few of the peoples who do are not Islamic. But in Somalia, where virtually every girl is excised, the practice is always justified in the name of Islam. Uncircumcised girls will be possessed by devils, fall into vice and perdition, and become whores. Imams never discourage the practice: it keeps girls pure.

Many girls die during or after their excision, from infection. Other complications cause enormous, more or less lifelong pain. My father Abeh was a modern man and considered the practice barbaric. He had always insisted that his daughters be left uncut. In this he was quite extraordinarily forward-thinking. Though I don't think it was for the same reason, Mahad, who was six, had also not yet been circumcised.

Not long after that first fight of mine at the madrassah, Grandma decided that the time was right for us to undergo the necessary and proper dignity of purification. My father was in jail and my mother was away for long periods, but Grandma would ensure that the old traditions would be respected in the old ways.

After she made the arrangements, Grandma was cheerful and friendly all week long. A special table was prepared in her bedroom, and various aunts, known and unknown, gathered in the house. When the day itself came I was not frightened, just curious. I had no idea what was going to happen, except that there was a festive atmosphere in the house and we - all three of us - were going to be cleansed. I wouldn't be called kintirleey any more.

Mahad went first. I was driven out of the room, but after a while I stole back to the door and watched. Mahad was on the floor, with his head and arms on Grandma's lap. Two women were holding down his spread-eagled legs, and a strange man was bending down between them. The room was warm and I could smell a mixture of sweat and frankincense.

Grandma was whispering in Mahad's ears, "Don't cry, don't stain your mother's honour. These women will talk about what they have seen. Grit your teeth." Mahad wasn't making a sound, but tears rolled down his face as he bit into Grandma's shawl. His face was clenched and twisted in pain.

I couldn't see what the stranger was doing, but I could see blood. This frightened me. I was next. Grandma swung her hand from side to side and said, "Once this long kintir is removed you and your sister will be pure."

From Grandma's words and gestures I gathered that this hideous kintir, my clitoris, would one day grow so long that it would swing sideways between my legs. She caught hold of me and gripped my upper body in the same position as she had put Mahad. Two other women held my legs apart. The man, who was probably an itinerant traditional circumciser from the blacksmith clan, picked up a pair of scissors. With the other hand, he caught hold of the place between my legs and started tweaking it, like Grandma milking a goat. "There it is, there is the kintir," one of the women said.

Then the scissors went down between my legs and the man cut off my inner labia and clitoris. I heard it, like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs, indescribable, and I howled. Then came the sewing: the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia, my loud and anguished protests, Grandma's words of comfort and encouragement. "It's just this once in your life, Ayaan. Be brave, he's almost finished." When the sewing was finished, the man cut the thread off with his teeth. That is all I can recall of it. But I do remember Haweya's bloodcurdling howls. Though she was the youngest - she was four, I five, Mahad six - Haweya must have struggled much more than Mahad and I did, or perhaps the women were exhausted after fighting us, and slipped, because the man made some bad cuts on Haweya's thighs. She carried the scars of them her whole life.

I must have fallen asleep, for it wasn't until much later that day that I realised that my legs had been tied together, to prevent me from moving to facilitate the formation of a scar. It was dark and my bladder was bursting, but it hurt too much to pee. The sharp pain was still there, and my legs were covered in blood. I was sweating and shivering. It wasn't until the next day that my Grandma could persuade me to pee even a little.

By then everything hurt. When I just lay still the pain throbbed miserably, but when I urinated the flash of pain was as sharp as when I had been cut.

It took about two weeks for us to recover. Grandma tended to us constantly, suddenly gentle and affectionate. She responded to each anguished howl or whimper, even in the night. After every tortured urination she washed our wounds carefully with warm water and dabbed them with purple liquid. Then she tied our legs again and reminded us to stay completely still or we would tear, and then the man would have to be called again to sew us back up.

After a week the man came and inspected us. He thought that Mahad and I were doing well, but said Haweya needed to be resewn. She had torn her wound while urinating and struggling with Grandma. We heard it happening; it was agony for her. The entire procedure was torture for all of us, but undoubtedly the one who suffered the most was Haweya.

Mahad was already up and about, quite healed, when the man returned to remove the thread he had used to sew me shut. This was again very painful. He used a pair of tweezers to dig out the threads, tugging on them sharply. Again, Grandma and two other women held me down. But after that, even though I had a thick, bumpy scar between my legs that hurt if I moved, at least my legs didn't have to be tied together any more, and I no longer had to lie down without moving all day.

It took Haweya another week to reach the stage of thread removal, and four women had to hold her down. I was in the room when this happened. I will never forget the panic in her face and voice as she screamed with everything in her and struggled to keep her legs closed. Haweya was never the same afterward. She became ill with a fever for several weeks and lost a lot of weight. She had horrible nightmares, and during the day began stomping off to be alone. My once cheerful, playful little sister changed. Sometimes she just stared vacantly at nothing for hours. We all started wetting our beds after the circumcision. In Mahad's case, it lasted a long time.

When Ma came back from her trip this time, she was furious. "Who asked you to circumcise them?" she yelled, more angry with her mother than I had ever seen her. "You know their father doesn't want it done! Allah knows, I have never in my life been so betrayed as by you. What possessed you?"

Grandma turned on my mother in fury. She yelled that she had done Ma a huge favour. Everyone was cut.

ONE Friday afternoon at the end of January 1992, my father Abeh came straight from the mosque to our flat. He never did that - never paid us a visit these days - and when he arrived he was completely excited. "Ayaan, my daughter, I have good news for you - the best news - my prayers are answered!" he crowed. "Today in the mosque a blessed man came to me with a proposal of marriage, and I offered him your hand!"

I remember letting him talk while I felt my heels sinking into the ground. I cleared my throat and said no, but he didn't hear me. I said, "I'm not going to marry a stranger!" and my father, bubbling with enthusiasm, answered, "But he's not a stranger! He's not a stranger at all! He's your cousin! He's an Osman Mahamud!" He began chanting back all of this man's names.

I said, "Not a stranger in that sense, Abeh," and he answered, "In what sense, then?" "But I haven't even met him!" I wailed. My father told me, "That's fine - you will meet him tomorrow."

My father had given me away to a man called Osman Moussa, a fine young Somali man who had grown up in Canada. He had come to Nairobi to find and rescue family members who had been stranded by the civil war, and also to find a bride. He thought the Somali girls in Canada were too Westernised, by which he meant that they dressed indecently, disobeyed their husbands, and mixed freely with men; they were not baarri, which made them unworthy of marriage. And the civil war meant that daughters of the best families in Somalia were available for practically nothing.

My father had met this young man in the mosque barely two hours before. He was tall, he told me, with strong bones and white teeth, well fed on milk and meat in North America. Osman Moussa must have approached him. I can imagine the scene, the respectful recitation of lineage, finally the request: "You are the father of daughters, and I seek a bride." My father must have felt so very happy.

There was no bride price. Because of the civil war, it would have been indecent to ask for one. But this was a strategic marriage; Osman Moussa could boast that he was married to a Magan, and we would now have relatives in Canada. There were all kinds of reasons for my father to be happy about this match.

I summoned the strength to say to my father "Abeh, what if I am already with some other person?" but he wasn't even listening. He said, "Allah has sent us the answer." He was overcome with his own cleverness. The next day, my father came to the house with Osman Moussa.

The living room was clean, and everyone was excited except me. I just wore normal clothes, a loose dress and headscarf. I wasn't going to dress up for this.
This man came in. He wanted to shake my hand. He was very tall, and wore enormously long blue jeans; he looked like a basketball player, with a shaved head and a baseball cap. I was polite. I said, "Hello, come in. I am Ayaan," without looking him in the eye, and fetched my mother.

My father and mother both remained in the room with us - Ma and I sat on the bed - and this man talked about Canada, where he had lived since he was a small boy, and about the refugees and the war. We didn't make eye contact. Osman Moussa was talking with my mother, trying to pass muster. When I could look up, I scrutinised him - the way he talked, his face - thinking, "Will I like this man?" I was supposed to make a home and a life with him; cook, bear his kids, respond to his whims. And what did I know of him? His Somali was poor, half-learned. He seemed earnest.

He neither repelled nor attracted me. I felt indifferent, completely without feeling. I didn't detect that he had any special interest in me, either. The marriage was set for Saturday, six days away.

Our second meeting was more intimate. Osman Moussa and his sister came, and I asked Haweya and Mahad to be with me, to help me evaluate this man. Ma left us five young people alone. I asked about prayer; I wanted to find out how religious this Osman Moussa was. I felt I had to make some sort of decision fast, even though there seemed to be no way I could stop the arrangement from proceeding.

I asked, "What do you expect of a wife?" Osman's sister was mortified, and said, "Maybe we shouldn't be here if you're going to discuss such things!" But Osman Moussa belly-laughed and said, "You're going to give me six sons. We will be a home for all the Osman Mahamud."

We grilled him subtly in the Somali epics we had learned from our mother, some of them composed by the Abdihalin brothers' greatgrandfather, to our eternal wonder. He knew none of them. Worse still, instead of admitting his ignorance he pretended he knew what we were talking about, which made him seem small. We asked him Grandma's old riddles; he failed them.

We switched to English - we assumed this man's English must be better than his limping Somali - and Haweya asked him what kind of books he read. He said, "Hmya. I read, you know, stuff." I realised his English was half-learned, too, and he clearly read nothing at all.

I summoned enough courage to ask him to take off his baseball cap, which he did. I thought perhaps I might fall in love with his head of hair or something. But though Osman was only 27 years old, his head was already as bald as the bottom of baby Abbas. Baldness is associated with wisdom among Somalis, but this man had nothing to show for losing so much hair at such an early age.

He thought the Osman Mahamud were the chosen people; he was dull, trite, and a bigot, a dyed-in-the-wool Brotherhood type. I remember thinking, "No, surely Abeh could not do this to me?"

When Osman Moussa finally left I tried to pull together the courage to take matters into my own hands. I put on my coat and went to Buruburu, where my father was living. When he opened the door I said, "Osman Moussa came to our house today and Haweya and Mahad and I tested him. We think he's a pea-brain. He's not eloquent, he's not brave enough to admit his shortcomings, and he's a bigot."

Just like that. That way my father couldn't ignore what I was saying, as he mostly did. He had me come and sit down and said, "Now tell me."

"I don't think this man and I are compatible," I said.

He said, smiling broadly, "On the basis of one afternoon?" I told my father, "You thought on the basis of one minute that we would be compatible, so I may think on the basis of one afternoon that we are not."

But Abeh said, "No, I know more than that. He is the son of the son of the son of" - he quoted the lineage. "He has a good job in Canada, he doesn't chew qat, he is clean and a conscientious worker, he is strong. I am giving you to him to ensure your safety."

He went on, "The ceremony will be Saturday, at Farah Goure's house. The sheep have been bought, the qali has been hired. Your saying you don't want this - it's not a question. We are living in bad times. Surely you won't reject my choice of a husband for you just because he doesn't read novels." He reduced it to the smallest thing. Imagine how trivial my opposition would sound to Abeh if I added: but he has no hair!

Still, I sat up straight and told him, "I am not going to do it." My father said, "I can't accept a no from you for something you haven't even tried."

I asked, "You mean I can't say no before I get married?"

He answered, "Of course not. Everything is all arranged." Nobody tied me up. I was not shackled. I was not forced at gunpoint. But I had no realistic way out.

Edited extract from Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to be published next week by Free Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), $34.95.
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« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2007, 07:58:00 AM »

Egyptian Court Sentences Blogger Charged With Insulting Islam to 4 Years in Prison

Thursday , February 22, 2007

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt —
An Egyptian blogger was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday in Egypt's first prosecution of a blogger.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, had pleaded innocent to all charges, and human rights groups had called for his release.
Nabil, who used the blogger name Kareem Amer, had sharply criticized Al-Azhar on his Web log, calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of suppressing free thought. He also often criticized Mubarak's regime on the blog.
In one post, he said Al-Azhar University "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is not place for differences in this life."
He was a vocal critic of conservative Muslims and in other posts described Mubarak's regime as a "symbol of dictatorship."
The university threw him out last year and pressed prosecutors to put him on trial.
The judge issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and another year for insulting Mubarak. Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He was immediately taken from the pen and put in a prison truck and did not comment to reporters.
Egypt arrested a number of bloggers last year, most of them for connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement. Nabil was arrested in November, and while other bloggers were freed, Nabil was put on trial — a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion.
Hafiz Abou Saada, head of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization, described the verdict as "very tough"
"This is a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance that the punishment will very strong," he told the Associated Press.
Two U.S. congressmen also expressed deep concern about the arrest of Nabil — who also goes by the blogger name of Kareem Amer — and called for the charges to be dropped.
"The Egyptian government's arrest of Mr. Amer simply for displeasure over writings on the personal Web log raises serious concern about the level of respect for freedoms in Egypt," Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Barney Frank, D-Mass., wrote to U.S. Ambassador Nabil Fahmy.
The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil's trial, despite its past criticism of the arrests of Egyptian rights activists.
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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2007, 02:22:27 PM »

FOXNEWS.COM HOME > WORLD > THE MIDEAST
       
Saudi Kidnap, Rape Victim Faces Lashing for 'Crime' of Being Alone With Man Not Related to Her
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

 E-MAIL STORY PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
A 19-year-old Saudi woman who was kidnapped, beaten and gang raped by seven men who then took photos of their victim and threatened to kill her, was sentenced under the country's Islamic-based law to 90 lashes for the "crime" of being alone with a man not related to her.

The woman is appealing to Saudi King Abdullah to intervene in the controversial case.

"I ask the king to consider me as one of his own daughters and have mercy on me and set me free from the 90 lashes," the woman said in an emotional interview published Monday in the Saudi Gazette.

"I was shocked at the verdict. I couldn't believe my ears. Ninety lashes! Ninety lashes!" the woman, identified only as "G," told the English-language newspaper.

Five months after the harsh judgment, her sentence has yet to be carried out, "G" said she waits in fear every day for the phone call telling her to submit to authorities to carry out her punishment.

Lashes are usually spread over several days. About 50 lashes are given at a time.

The woman's ordeal began a year ago when she was blackmailed into meeting a man who threatened to tell her family they were having a relationship outside wedlock, which is illegal in the desert kingdom, according to a report in The Scotsman newspaper.


 
She met the man at a shopping mall and, after driving off together, the blackmailer's car was stopped by two other cars bearing men wielding knives and meat cleavers.

During the next three hours, the woman was raped 14 times by her seven captors.

One of the men took pictures of her naked with his mobile phone and threatened to blackmail her with them.

Back at home in a town near the eastern city of Qatif, the young woman did not tell her family of her ordeal. Nor did she inform the authorities, fearing the rapist would circulate the pictures of her naked. She also attempted suicide.

Five of the rapists were arrested and given jail terms ranging from 10 months to five years. The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty for the men.

The Saudi justice ministry, however, said rape could not be proved because there were no witnesses and the men had recanted confessions they made during interrogation.

The judges, basing their decision on Islamic law, also decided to sentence the woman and her original blackmailer to lashes for being alone together in his car.

The Saudi Gazette and The Scotsman contributed to this report.
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« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2007, 01:11:13 PM »

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=8773&size=A#


Quote:
IRAQ
Islamic groups impose tax on Christian “subjects”
Islamic militias in Baghdad and Mosul order Christians to pay the jizya, a poll tax which dates back to the period of the Ottoman Empire, which guaranteed non Muslims the right to practise their religion as well as Muslim protection; the groups are ordered “not to reveal their activities” to Iraqi authorities while all contributions are given in alms to the Mosques.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Non Muslim subjects must pay a contribution to the jihad if they wish to be allowed to live and practise their faith in Iraq”. These orders are being imposed on the Christians of Mosul and Baghdad by Islamic militias. Besides these threats of extortion, thousands of non Muslims are also being forced to leave their homes by letters assigning their house to Muslim citizens. The initiative is part of the general campaign to Islamafy the entire country, which begun with the imposition of the veil on all women. The website Ankawa.com was the first to carry news of this latest development; the website has eye witness accounts of Iraqi refugees in Erbil, in the semi autonomous region of Kurdistan.

The fourth anniversary of the US military’s arrival in Baghdad, March 20th 2003, brings with it little improvement in the conditions of the ever decreasing Christian community. Bomb attacks, kidnappings and threats continue to mark the daily existence of those few who so far have not been able to leave. The latest sign of the increasingly worrying situation is news that the community is now being forced to pay the jizya, a “poll tax” requested from non Muslims according to the Koran, guaranteeing “protection” form the Islamic umma. The tax was once extracted by the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in 1918, but now Baghdad and Mosul’s Mosques have ordered it be put in place again, “without revealing it to authorities”.

According to local Christians it really is a contribution to the holy war, which – the jihad maintains - will also protect their community from external aggression. The monies collected are then given over to Mosques, but “without the knowledge of authorities”.

Other accounts tell of letters being left in gardens or the entrance to Christian homes, notifying the families that they must leave their dwellings because they have been assigned to others, whose names and surnames are listed in black and white in the letters. 

------------------

For three translations of sura 9 verse 29 below. See http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/009.qmt.html.

009.029
YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

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« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2007, 05:06:38 PM »

Saudi woman kicks butt

http://switch5.castup.net/frames/20041020_MemriTV_Popup/video_480x360.asp?ai=214&ar=1420wmv&ak=null
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« Reply #24 on: April 15, 2007, 06:31:56 PM »

Clerics issue edict over sinful hugging

By SADAQAT JAN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Apr 15, 6:56 AM ET

Pakistan's tourism minister says she fears for her life after clerics at a radical mosque issued an edict accusing her of sinning by hugging her French parachute jumping instructor, the state news agency reported.

Minister of Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar told a parliamentary committee of her fear on Saturday following the Taliban-style edict against her by Islamic clerics at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The clerics said the hug was "an illegitimate and forbidden act" and "without any doubt, she has committed a great sin."

Two clerics at the mosque issued the edict against Bakhtiar last Sunday, demanding that she be sacked, her family punish her and she be made to ask for forgiveness after pictures in the Pakistani media showed Bakhtiar hugging her parachute jumping instructor at a fundraising jump in France.

Hundreds of students from an Islamic seminary attached to the mosque have been running an anti-vice campaign in Islamabad, threatening music shops and brothels, in a bold challenge to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally who has pledged to promote moderate Islam.

The mosque's chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, has threatened to stage suicide attacks if authorities try to raid the mosque.

Bakhtiar rejected the edict last week, saying she had only received a pat from her instructor for her jump in France last month to raise money for victims of a devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.

Bakhtiar was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.

"I have strengthened my security after the fatwa (edict) from the so-called Shariat court and the killing of Punjab provincial minister Zil-e-Huma," APP quoted Bakhtiar as saying, referring to the shooting death in February of a female provincial official by a man who told police he was opposed to women holding high offices.

Last month, an anti-terrorism court sentenced to death the man who attacked Zil-e-Huma Usman, who was minister for social welfare in Punjab province.

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« Reply #25 on: April 17, 2007, 12:03:46 AM »

The Arab Invasion
Indonesia's radicalized Muslims aren't homegrown.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
WSJ

JAKARTA, Indonesia--The headquarters of the Front for the Defense of Islam is reached by a narrow alley just off a one-lane street in a residential neighborhood near downtown Jakarta. But step inside the carpeted reception area, decorated by a mural of a desert mosque and partially open to the sky, and it's as if you've arrived in a bedouin kingdom.

Your host is Habib Mohammad Rizieq Shihab, 41. He is dressed entirely in white, a religious conceit far from typical of most Indonesian ulama, or experts in Islamic theology. To the question, "Where are you from?" Mr. Rizieq is quick to explain that he is descended from the Quraishi tribe, from what is now Yemen. Just how he knows this isn't clear, but it's the symbolism that counts: The Prophet Mohammad was a Quraishi, and the tribe is entrusted with the responsibility for protecting God's House, the Qe'eba, in Mecca. Mr. Rizieq, in fact, is a native of Jakarta.





For the better part of the past decade, Mr. Rizieq and his Front--known by its Indonesian initials FPI--have played a prominent role in Indonesian political life, although the FPI is not a political party. It is an Islamist vigilante group, with the self-appointed mission of policing and, if necessary, violently suppressing "un-Islamic" behavior. Squads of FPI militants have forcibly shut down hundreds of brothels, small-time gambling operations, discos, nightclubs and bars serving alcoholic beverages. They have also stormed "unauthorized" Christian houses of worship, attacked peaceful demonstrators from Indonesia's renascent Communist party, trashed the office of the National Commission on Human Rights and rampaged through airports looking for Israelis to kill.
"Non-Muslims from Dar el-Harb [countries at war with Muslims], if they are in Indonesia, then it is the duty of Muslims to oppose them to the last drop of blood," he says. "George Bush can be killed, too." As for the legitimacy of attacks on American diplomats and civilians, "this is a dilemma," though after a moment's reflection he concludes that they "cannot be disturbed" since they are here with the consent of a Muslim government.

The source of Mr. Rizieq's views--and of the Islamic radicalism that increasingly infects this country--becomes a little clearer as he tells his life story. A poor child but talented student, he won a full scholarship to study at King Saud University in Riyadh. He says he was "not influenced by Wahhabism," which he found excessively literal in its readings of the Quran and Islamic law. As evidence of his moderation, he observes that in his future Shariah state, authorities would not "cut off people's hands for stealing right away. First, you have to raise people up."

Still, Saudi attitudes plainly rubbed off on Mr. Rizieq, particularly in their obsession with religious purity. "I violently reject the mixing of non-Islamic and Islamic theology," he says in reference to the syncretic practices of Indonesian Muslims who often incorporate such pre-Islamic rituals as communing with the spirits of the dead. Muslims who do not pray five times a day, or do not fast during Ramadan, are "infidels, deviants." The same goes for heterodox Islamic sects such as the Ahmadiyya, as well as the great 13th century Sufi mystic Ibn . He is just as opposed to pancasila, Indonesia's secular and pluralist official ideology, which he contrasts invidiously with the Islamic concept of dhimmitude. "The status of being a dhimmi [religious minority] is an exalted one because you are under Islam and you are protected as long as you respect its rules."

Mr. Rizieq claims to have five million followers; in an apparent joke, he proposes to send them to New York "to study and learn." The real figure is probably in the tens of thousands at most. But there is no question Mr. Rizieq has magnified the FPI's influence with his modulated (and so far non-lethal) use of violence, which has helped stave off a full-scale government crackdown while allowing him to bully businesses, communities and individuals at will. He has also reportedly benefited from the support of the so-called Green (Islamic) generals, who rose to prominence in the last years of the Suharto era as the dictator, in a pattern common to ostensibly secular Muslim leaders, sought to shore up his regime by appealing to his "Islamic" constituency.

Less clear is whether the FPI also gets financial support from abroad; knowledgeable observers suggest Mr. Rizieq gets all the money he needs by extorting the victims of his Islamic purification campaigns. But as Imdadun Rahmat, a leading scholar of Islamic extremism in Indonesia, notes, "the radicals are all drinking from the same breast," by which he means the ideological inspiration and financial support provided by Saudi Arabia. The Mecca-based Muslim World League, for example, is notorious for sending its representatives to Indonesia with suitcases of cash to fund its pet projects, often extremist religious boarding schools. The Saudi religious affairs office in Jakarta finances the publication of a million books a year translated from Arabic into Indonesian, according to Angel Rabasa of the Rand Corporation.





Then there is the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies, or LIPIA, a Saudi-funded university in Jakarta, which offers full scholarships to top students. "LIPIA was designed to create cadres," says Mr. Rahmat. Its graduates include Jafar Umar Thalib, the founder of Laskar Jihad, a terrorist group responsible for the death of thousands of Indonesian Christians in the Moluccas.
For his part, Mr. Rizieq tries to distance himself from that kind of violence--although not by much. "If I wanted to I could always bomb these places," he says. "I'd rather have a physical confrontation." He adds that he is in contact with Jemaah Islamiyah, responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing, but only in order to persuade it to change its ways. Why would he set his troops upon mere gamblers or prostitutes while conversing with murderers? "When there is universal agreement among Muslims on [the immorality of] adultery or fornication then we will act violently. When there is no agreement [on issues like terrorism] then the approach is dialogue."

It's a curious form of tolerance, conceived by a man who arrogates to himself the right to define what is and is not Islamic. Is it a harbinger for Indonesia? That will depend on whether his country seeks to remain a part of Asia, or become a satellite of the Middle East.

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 #26 on: April 25, 2007, 08:28:16 AM »


By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: April 25, 2007
NY Times
ISTANBUL, April 24 — Turkey’s ruling party on Tuesday chose a presidential candidate with an Islamic background, a move that will extend the reach of the party — and the emerging class of devout Muslims it represents — into the heart of Turkey’s secular establishment for the first time.

The selection has focused the worries of secular Turks who fear that sexual equality, as well as drinking alcohol and wearing miniskirts, could eventually be in danger.
Abdullah Gul, 56, the foreign minister, whose wife wears a Muslim head scarf and who is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest political ally, is expected to be confirmed as president by Parliament in several rounds of voting that begin Friday. That will boost Turkey’s new political class — modernizers from a religious background.

“These are the new forces, the new social powers,” said Ali Bulac, a columnist for a conservative newspaper, Zaman, in Istanbul. “They are very devout. They don’t drink. They don’t gamble. They don’t take holidays. They are loaded with a huge energy. This energy has been blocked by the state.”

Turkey is a Muslim country, but its state, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is strictly secular, and the presidency is its most important office. The current president is Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a secularist with a judicial background whose term is expiring.

Mr. Gul, an affable English speaker who has long been his party’s public face abroad, nodded to secular concerns in a news conference in Ankara after his nomination, saying, “Our differences are our richness.” His candidacy was a concession: the choice most distasteful to the secular establishment was Mr. Erdogan himself, who deftly bowed out.

Still, if Mr. Gul is confirmed, his party would occupy the posts of president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker, a lineup that the opposition party leader, Deniz Baykal, called “unfavorable.” His party later announced that it would boycott the vote.

In the Middle East, where mixing religion with government has been seen as poisonous for modernity, Turkey’s very light blend stands out as unusual, even unique.

“This party has done more for the modernization of Turkey than all the secular parties in the previous years,” said Joost Lagendijk, a member of the European Parliament who heads a committee on Turkish issues. “They were willing to open up the system, to challenge the elite.”

The party that Mr. Gul helped found, known by its Turkish initials, AK, sprang from the Islamic political movements of the 1990s. But the AK became significantly more moderate after taking power on a national scale in 2002. Since then, it has applied pragmatic policies that helped create an economic boom and opened up the state in ways that the rigid secular elite, which relied heavily on state control, had never imagined, in part to qualify for membership in the European Union.

Although the party is publicly adamant about keeping religion separate from policy, bristling at shorthand descriptions of it as pro-Islamic, it draws much of its support from Turkey’s religiously conservative heartland. Once on the periphery, these traditional Turks are now emerging as a powerful middle class that has driven Turkey’s boom. The economy has nearly doubled in the four years that the AK has been in power, largely because it has stuck to an economic program prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Gul’s candidacy goes to the heart of the secular-religious debate, because the presidency is such a revered symbol with real powers — he is commander in chief and has a veto. Turkish military leaders in the past have remarked that they would refuse to visit the presidential palace if a woman in a head scarf were living in it.

“How can she now become the host of a palace that represents the very same principles?” said Necmi Yuzbasioglu, a professor of constitutional law at Istanbul University.

Mehmet A. Kislali, a columnist with the newspaper Radikal, who has contacts with the military, said: “The military should not be underestimated. Thousands of officers are watching the developments.”

But the party’s only real application of Islam has been its grass-roots approach. In practices that would be familiar to Shiite Muslims in Lebanon or to Palestinians in Gaza, women’s groups go door to door offering aid, community centers offer women’s literacy classes and sports centers give free physical therapy to handicapped children.

The question of religion aside, economic progress under the AK has been extraordinary, with a steady rise in entrepreneurship. In Istanbul, fuel-efficient taxis zip down tulip-lined streets. New parks have sprung up. The air is less polluted.

Mustafa Karaduman, a textile designer and fashion house owner, is among the new entrepreneurs. He is from Anatolia, a capital of middle-class production, and the homeland of Mr. Gul. His fashion house has turned into an empire, supplying Islamic clothing for women in Europe and the Middle East. He is 50, has seven children, and is an outspoken opponent of the miniskirt.

“My mission,” he says, “is to cover all women around the world.”

=========



In Turkey, a Sign of a Rising Islamic Middle Class

(Page 2 of 2)


The country’s wealth has drawn more observant Turks into public life. Some religious schools now teach English, unheard of a decade ago, improving the chances of students from religious backgrounds on university entrance exams.

At the Kartal Anadolu Imam Hatip High School in a conservative middle-class neighborhood, 16-year-old girls in head scarves and sweatshirts played basketball last week in brightly patterned Converse sneakers. (Skulls were a popular choice.) Last year, 94 students were admitted to universities, up from almost none a decade ago, said Hadir Kalkan, the school’s principal, pointing to students’ career choices in marketing, broadcasting, psychology and finance. Just 14 chose to continue religious training.

The city pool and gym in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Okmeydani is a testament to the ascendancy of the pious middle class. Few observant women attended in 1996, when the pool opened, an attendant said. Now they fill treadmills and lap lanes.

“I always wanted to but there were no places to go,” said Dondu Koc, a 46-year-old in yellow sweat pants as she pedaled an exercise bike in a room full of women on Wednesday. Before Mr. Erdogan’s stewardship as mayor of the city, there was only one public pool. Now there are three, and five are under construction.

The complex is separated by sex, an arrangement Ms. Koc likes because it lets her and other covered women pedal, jog and swim without their head scarves. But the division irritates secular Turks.

“There shouldn’t be a split like this,” said Tamis Demirel, 47, a homemaker whose hair was still wet from her swim. “We sit next to each other; we should swim next to each other, too.”

The remark seemed to answer the question of Elif Demir, a 19-year-old office clerk at a youth rally for Mr. Erdogan on Sunday. “We have no problem with women wearing miniskirts,” she said, “but why are they so bothered with our head scarves?”

That frustration took the form of a public scolding at a meeting on the far edge of Istanbul on Friday night, where a man who supports Mr. Erdogan’s party complained about what he said was weak party support for religious schools.

“What about Koran courses?” he asked a party representative. “We are looking for generations that have morality.”

The apartment where the meeting took place bore the traces of upper-middle-class life: a running machine, a washing machine and a dryer. Brightly colored scarves covered the hair of the hostesses.

The representative, Kenan Danisman, paused as the evening prayer began. He then offered some pragmatic advice. “If you transfer this prayer into practical support, in three to five years, the problems that hurt peoples’ consciences will be resolved.”

It is precisely the open question of religion’s role in society that makes secular Turks so uncomfortable. Mr. Erdogan may be explicit in his opposition to Islam’s entering policy, but what about the rank and file who are filling jobs in public administration — what is their view of sexual equality? Secular Turks worry that their conservative worldview will lead to a reinterpretation of the rules and lower tolerance for a secular lifestyle.

“People like me are not calculating the economy or what sort of policies they are making,” said Basak Caglayan, 35, a financial consultant who will be married next month. “The life we expect, we want, for our children, is changing. I worry about that.”
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« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2007, 08:56:09 AM »

Like most things from the NY Times, caveat lector-- but a very interesting read nonetheless.
=======
At 2 in the morning, a few days after I arrived in Cairo last month, a text
message beeped into my cellphone: "Mahmoud Ghozlan, MB Guide Bureau, is
being arrested NOW." Ghozlan was only the latest prominent member of the
Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that commands deep loyalty in
Egypt, to be hauled off by the dawn visitors of President Hosni Mubarak's
security apparatus. In recent months, leaders of the organization,
businessmen thought to be financial backers and other members of the
brotherhood's Guidance Bureau have been arrested on a variety of charges.
Forty members of the group have been indicted under Egypt's emergency laws
and put under the jurisdiction of a military tribunal, which is likely to
give them long jail sentences.

Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image

Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse
Nay Sayed Askar, a Muslim Brotherhood member of the Egyptian Parliament,
voices dissent.

The arrest and imprisonment of political opponents is nothing new in Egypt,
which has been ruled by a succession of authoritarian leaders since 1952;
secular democrats are in jail along with the Islamists. Egypt is generally
rated as one of the more repressive countries in the world's most repressive
region. But two years ago, responding in part to White House pressure, the
regime of President Hosni Mubarak allowed parliamentary elections to take
place under conditions of unprecedented political freedom - at least
initially. And the brotherhood, though a banned organization that had to run
candidates as independents, dominated the contest until the government
cracked down in later rounds of voting. The organization still took 88 of
the 454 seats in Egypt's lower house, the People's Assembly, becoming, in
effect, the first opposition party of Egypt's modern era.

But it is not simply numbers that make the brotherhood a threat from the
regime's point of view. While Mubarak and his allies regularly denounce the
brothers as fundamentalists bent on turning Egypt into a theocracy, the new
legislators have made common cause with judges, liberal intellectuals and
secular activists in calling for increased political freedom. They have
steered clear of cultural or religious issues. Abdel Monem Abou el-Fotouh,
one of Ghozlan's colleagues on the Guidance Bureau, said to me flatly, "We
are not a religious body." Only one of his 15 fellow guides, he said, is a
sheik, or religious authority - "and even he is political." While many
secular critics fear that the brotherhood harbors a hidden Islamist agenda,
so far the organization has posed a democratic political challenge to the
regime, not a theological one; and that makes it all the more dangerous.

In his 2005 Inaugural Address, President Bush traced out the logic of a new,
post-9/11 American foreign policy. "For as long as whole regions of the
world simmer in resentment and tyranny," he declared, violence "will gather
. . . and cross the most defended borders" - i.e., our own. Therefore, he
announced, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the
growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,
with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Thus was born the
Freedom Agenda; and Egypt occupied the bull's-eye on this new target. Egypt
was an authoritarian state that had supplied much of the leadership of Al
Qaeda. It is also the largest nation in the Arab world and, historically,
the center of the region's political and cultural life. Progress in Egypt's
sclerotic political system would resonate all over the Islamic world. The
nearly $2 billion a year in military and economic aid that the U.S. had been
providing since the Camp David accords in 1979 offered real leverage. And
Egypt's early experience of democratic government (from 1922 to 1952),
mostly under British occupation, and its lively community of democratic and
human rights activists gave political reform a firmer foundation than it had
elsewhere in the Arab world.

As it happened, presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for
2005. Not long after his inaugural address, President Bush called Mubarak to
urge him to allow independent monitors to oversee the elections and to loose
the asphyxiating controls on political activity and the press. For his part,
Mubarak needed to respond not only to Washington but also to a rising tide
of domestic dissent - and to the continued enfeeblement of his own National
Democratic Party, which performed badly in legislative elections five years
earlier. He agreed to hold Egypt's first contested presidential elections
and to permit unprecedented, if carefully circumscribed, political freedom.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, which in years past had
allowed the regime to control the hundreds of millions of dollars it spent
in Egypt, earmarked $50 million for democracy and governance; much of the
money went to the training of political party activists and election
monitors.

The Muslim Brotherhood was not at that time a major force in national
electoral politics. Since its founding in 1928, the brotherhood had sunk
deep roots in the country's urban working and middle classes, and especially
among the professions, establishing a powerful base in the "syndicates" that
represent doctors, lawyers, journalists and others. The organization began
dipping its toes in the water of parliamentary electioneering in the mid-'80s;
in 2000 it gained 17 seats. But the group responded to the new climate of
openness by fielding a much larger slate of candidates for the 2005
elections - 160 in all. Candidates from old-line Nasserist and left-wing
parties ran as well.

After decades of quiet organizing, the Islamists proved to be far more
popular, and more disciplined, than the isolated leaders of Mubarak's ruling
party expected. In the first of three rounds of voting, the brothers won so
many seats that the regime grew alarmed. In the second round, the police
restricted access to polling areas in brotherhood strongholds; the Islamists
still won most of the seats they sought. In the third round, the regime
pulled out all the stops: despite the presence of hundreds of
American-trained election monitors, security forces beat up and arrested
opposition activists and shut down voting booths. In the end, election
violence would claim 14 lives. Video footage showed old women in head
scarves and veils scaling ladders to reach polling places - this in a
country notorious for dismal turnout. The regime had feared a surge of
support for secular opposition forces like Ghad, a new party founded by
Ayman Nour, a charismatic figure who also opposed Mubarak in the
presidential race, or Tagammu, the traditional party of the left. These were
the groups that the Bush administration's democracy agenda was designed to
promote. But they proved to have relatively little national following; few
voters risked arrest to cast a ballot in their behalf.

==================

(Page 2 of 5)



The brotherhood quickly proved that it was not only popular, but savvy. The
leaders understood that it was not in their interests to provoke a
confrontation with the regime and its hair-trigger security forces. They
fielded candidates in only a fraction of the districts they could have won.
According to Joshua Stacher, an American scholar of Egyptian politics who
lives in Cairo, a brotherhood politician who projected winning 17 seats in
his governorate was instructed by his superior to come back with a smaller
number. Only when he whittled the figure to seven was he told to go ahead.
The brotherhood won six of the seats. Stacher also notes that when the
brotherhood held a press conference (which he attended) four days after the
election to introduce their new legislators, a reporter asked Muhammad Akef,
the "supreme guide," if they would be prepared to talk to the Americans. And
Akef answered, "Yes, but they should forward the request to the Egyptian
Foreign Ministry." He was saying both that the brotherhood was open to
dialogue and that it had nothing to hide from the regime.

The brotherhood bloc took Parliament a great deal more seriously than the
ruling party did. The entire 88-person contingent moved into a hotel in
Cairo in order to be able to work and live together while the People's
Assembly was in session. Merely showing up changed the dynamic of this
torpid body, since N.D.P. lawmakers had to attend as well lest they be
outvoted. The brothers formed a "parliamentary kitchen" with committees on
various subjects; the committees, in turn, organized seminars to which
outside experts were regularly invited. The Islamists formed a coalition
with other opposition legislators, and with sympathetic members of the
N.D.P., to protest the extension of emergency rule. They stood in solidarity
with judges who were protesting growing infringements on their autonomy;
hundreds of protesters, including some of the brotherhood's major figures,
were arrested during several weeks of demonstrations in central Cairo. In an
article in the journal Middle East Report, Joshua Stacher and Samer Shehata,
a professor at Georgetown, concluded, "Brotherhood M.P.'s are attempting to
transform the Egyptian parliament into a real legislative body, as well as
an institution that represents citizens and a mechanism that keeps
government accountable."

Many members of Egypt's secular opposition remain deeply skeptical of the
brotherhood, which they see as the regime's silent ally in blocking their
hopes for an open, pluralist society. Egypt's ruling elite has, in turn,
traditionally worried far more about the secular opposition than about the
Islamists. Anwar el-Sadat, the president from 1970 to his assassination in
1981, made peace with religious forces by initiating a thoroughgoing
Islamization of Egyptian society. Sadat rewrote the educational curriculum
along religious lines and amended Article 2 of Egypt's extremely progressive
constitution to stipulate that Shariah - Islamic law - was the "main source"
of the nation's laws. Mubarak, who was Sadat's vice president, continued
this practice. Some secularists fear that the brotherhood, perhaps in
collaboration with the military, would establish an authoritarian theocracy.
"I have no doubt that they would implement Shariah if they ever came to
power," says Hisham Kassem, a leading publisher in the progressive media. "I
see them as a menace."

But opinions are shifting. After holding a symposium on free speech, Negad
al-Borai, a democracy activist and human rights lawyer, says that he
received an emissary from the supreme guide. "He came and said: 'We accept
everything in your initiative as a beginning to the democratic process. The
only thing we ask is that if issues arise where we wish to state our
opposition according to our own views, we can have our own voice.' "
Al-Borai readily agreed, and the brotherhood endorsed untrammeled free
speech. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian dissident most widely known in the
West, says that the performance of the brotherhood's parliamentary bloc over
the last year has allayed his own concerns. The regime, he says, is
brandishing the Islamist threat in order "to scare the foreigners and the
middle class and the Copts" Egypt's ancient Christian minority, who fear
being treated as "nonbelievers."

Indeed, since the 2005 election and the brotherhood's subsequent
performance, the regime has turned the full force of its repressive energies
on it. Last April and May, when brotherhood members demonstrated in
solidarity with Egypt's judges, who had been seeking greater autonomy,
security forces waded in, arresting hundreds of the brothers. The campaign
of arrests resumed earlier this year, aiming at leading figures like Mahmoud
Ghozlan, the Guidance Bureau member, as well as financiers; the government
has frozen assets of brotherhood supporters said to amount to $2 billion.
And there could be no mistaking the intent of the constitutional "reforms"
submitted last December. Article 5, which lays the basis for the regulation
of political parties, was rewritten to stipulate that "political activity or
political parties shall not be based on any religious background or
foundation." This prohibition seemed to directly contradict the language of
Article 2, which made Shariah the foundation of Egyptian law. How can a
self-professed religious state prohibit political activity with a "religious
background"? When I posed this question to Hossam Badrawi, a leading member
of a group of young politicians who profess to be reforming the N.D.P. from
within, he asked me in return, "If I go to Germany and I want to start a
Nazi Party, would I be allowed to do that?"

"Is that a fair analogy?"

"Yes, because they don't respect the constitution, which lays out a separate
role for politics and religion." Except that it doesn't or didn't, until
just now.

=================



(Page 3 of 5)



This is the kind of language that, as Saad Eddin Ibrahim put it, is bound to
scare foreigners and the middle class. President Mubarak has called the
group a threat to national security. Mohamed Kamal, a political scientist
who is close to Gamal Mubarak, the president's son and heir apparent, and
who now serves as the N.D.P.'s semiofficial spokesman to the Western media,
says of the brotherhood: "They're fundamentalist in their ideology. I'm not
saying necessarily that they're terrorists; they want to establish a
religious state based on their interpretation of the Koran and the Shariah."
While some of their leaders "pay lip service to democracy, women's rights
and so on," Kamal says, the grass roots are deeply reactionary.

Is that so? One night I drove out to the far northeastern edge of Cairo - a
trip that took an hour and a half through the city's insane traffic - to
meet with Magdy Ashour, a member of the brotherhood's parliamentary bloc.
The caucus is heavy with lawyers, doctors and professors, but Ashour is an
electrician with a technical diploma. The neighborhood he represents,
al-Nozha, is a squalid quarter of shattered buildings and dusty lanes.
Ashour had established himself in what seemed to be the only substantial
structure in the area, a half-completed apartment building; I walked through
plaster dust and exposed wiring to reach his office. Ashour hurried in from
the evening prayer. He was a solemn, square-jawed 41-year-old with short
hair and unfashionable glasses, a brown suit and a brown tie. He grew up, he
said, in the neighborhood, and as a young man often gave the Friday sermon
at the local mosque. He joined the brotherhood when he was 23. Why? "From my
reading and my earliest meetings with brotherhood members," he said through
a translator, "I could see that they were moderate, that they don't impose
their religion on people, but at the same time they're not loose with their
religious principles."

I asked Ashour if the spate of arrests had him worried, and he said that he
indeed feared that the state might be seeking an "open confrontation" with
the brotherhood. Might not that provoke the group's supporters to violence?
Ashour answered by citing an aphorism he attributed to the brotherhood's
founder, Hassan al-Banna: "Be like trees among the people: They strike you
with stones, and you shower them with blessings." Ashour then embarked on a
brief oration: "We would like to change the idea people have of us in the
West," he said, "because when people hear the name Muslim Brotherhood, they
think of terrorism and suicide bombings. We want to establish the perception
of an Islamic group cooperating with other groups, concerned about human
rights. We do not want a country like Iran, which thinks that it is ruling
with a divine mandate. We want a government based on civil law with an
Islamic source of lawmaking." If Magdy Ashour was a theocrat - or a
terrorist - he was a very crafty one.

As it has fully entered the political arena, the brotherhood has been forced
to come up with clear answers on issues about which it has been notably
ambiguous in the past. Some are easy enough: There seems to be little
appetite among them for stoning adulterers or lopping off the hands of
thieves; and all deprecate the jizya, or tax on nonbelievers, as a relic of
an era when only Muslims served in the military. Some are not so easy. I
asked Magdy Ashour about the drinking of alcohol, which is prohibited in
Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states. He was quite unfazed. "There is
a concept in Shariah that if you commit the sin in private it's different
from committing it in public," he explained. You can drink in a hotel, but
not in the street. This was flexibility verging on pragmatism. I wondered if
Ashour, and the other brotherhood candidates, had offered such nuanced
judgments on the stump; a number of detractors insist that the group's
campaign rhetoric was much more unabashedly Islamist.

There are, of course, more fundamental questions. In the course of a
three-hour conversation in the brotherhood's extremely modest office in an
apartment building in one of Cairo's residential neighborhoods, I asked
Muhammad Habib, the deputy supreme guide, how the brotherhood would react if
the Legislature passed a law that violated Shariah. "The People's Assembly
has the absolute right in that situation," he said, "as long as it is
elected in a free and fair election which manifests the people's will. The
Parliament could go to religious scholars and hear their opinion" - as it
could seek the advice of economists on economic matters - "but it is not
obliged to listen to these opinions." Some consider grave moral issues, like
homosexual marriage, beyond the pale of majoritarianism; others make no such
exception. Hassan al-Banna famously wrote that people are the source of
authority. This can be understood, if you wish to, as the Islamic version of
the democratic credo.
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« Reply #28 on: April 29, 2007, 08:57:18 AM »

(Page 4 of 5)



The acceptance of democracy is itself a proxy for something else - the
repudiation of violence and terrorism. Here the brotherhood has a fair
amount of history to answer for. The organization was established in 1928 in
the wake of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secularization of Turkey and his
abolition of the caliphate, the line of religious rulers that stretched back
to the Prophet Muhammad. Hassan al-Banna, the charismatic founder, aspired
to revitalize the spirit of Islam among the umma, the worldwide body of
believers, and ultimately to restore the caliphate and Shariah. But for all
al-Banna's emphasis on peaceful evangelizing, he also created a paramilitary
wing, like Mussolini's brown shirts, known as al-nizam al-khas - the Special
Apparatus. During the '40s, when Egyptians fought to free themselves from
British rule, brotherhood operatives engaged in a campaign of bombings and
assassinations. The organization was banned in 1948; soon afterward, a
member of the group assassinated Egypt's prime minister. Al-Banna denounced
the deed, but he was himself murdered by government security forces. And
when a brotherhood plot to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser miscarried, most
of the leading figures were jailed and tortured.

In 1964, the most prominent of the jailed leaders, Sayyid Qutb, produced a
tract, "Milestones," which magnified the militant side of the brotherhood
and rejected al-Banna's faith in the merits of instruction and moral
example. Islamic regimes that failed to establish Shariah were apostates, he
declared no better than the infidels themselves. Egypt was, of course, just
such a state. "Milestones" was read as a call to revolution. Qutb was
sentenced to death and hanged in 1966, making him a martyr throughout the
Middle East. Among his disciples were the radical Islamists who conspired to
murder Sadat in 1981 including Ayman al-Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda's second in
command. Osama bin Laden was deeply influenced by Qutb's works and regularly
attended lectures given by Qutb's younger brother, Muhammad. "Milestones" is
now considered the founding manifesto of jihadism.

Qutb remains a heroic figure for many Egyptians. But Ibrahim Hudaybi, the
young activist who sent me the text message about the arrest, pointed out to
me when we met the next day that his own grandfather, Hasan Hudaybi, who
replaced al-Banna as supreme guide and was jailed along with Qutb, wrote a
book from prison, "Preachers, Not Judges," designed to reassert the
brotherhood's commitment to peace and to open debate. Hudaybi was a
thoroughly modern figure; we met in a coffee shop near the American
University in Cairo, where he recently received his master's in political
science. He was now working as a business consultant. Hudaybi wanted to see
the brotherhood deal explicitly with the legacy of Qutb, even if doing so
might not play well in the hustings. Other, more senior figures I spoke to
insisted rather implausibly that Qutb had been misunderstood; but all swore
by the philosophy of tolerance and the program of gradual reform laid out in
"Preachers, Not Judges."

The brotherhood is an international organization. It has, however, no
Comintern, no central apparatus. In Sudan, brotherhood members have formed
an alliance with a deeply authoritarian ruling party. The brotherhood in
Jordan and Morocco is considered relatively moderate. But in the Palestinian
territories, the organization mutated into Hamas. Policy makers and
academics in the West tend to be more concerned with the brotherhood's views
of Hamas than with its understanding of Shariah. And here there is little
satisfaction to be had. When I asked Muhammad Habib about Hamas attacks on
Israeli civilians, he said, "With the continuous crackdown and ongoing war
launched by the Israeli Army, which does not distinguish between civilians
and noncivilians, you cannot speak about the Palestinians disregarding
Israeli citizens." Brotherhood figures do not, at bottom, accept Israel's
right to exist. Seif al-Islam, the son of Hassan al-Banna and a venerated
elder of the group, said to me, in his stylized version of English: "Not any
Palestine man or Egypt man feels that Jews who come from the outside have
the right to stay in Palestine. At the same time, the Palestinian people on
the outside cannot have a grave to bury in. This is not religion."

The more worldly among the brotherhood's legislators and thinkers understand
that Israel is a test just as Qutb is a test, and that the Western audience
matters even if it doesn't vote. Hazem Farouk Mansour, a dentist who is the
head of the foreign-policy committee of the parliamentary bloc, says of Camp
David, "We accept it as an agreement, whether we like it or not." Essam
el-Erian, a clinical pathologist who is head of the brotherhood's political
committee and perhaps its most sophisticated thinker, said to me: "Look,
this is a historical and ideological and religious crisis. It cannot be
solved in a few years. Every part in this conflict can be put forth for
dialogue." Like virtually all of his colleagues, el-Erian urged me not to
get too hung up on this or any other question of what the brotherhood might
do in some unimaginably remote future in which the regime had somehow
relinquished its grip on power. "We can solve the problem of our society,"
he said, "to have democratic reform respected by Europeans and Americans,
whatever happens to the Palestinians."

=============



Page 5 of 5)



From what I could tell, in fact, the brotherhood in its public oratory
sticks to issues of political process, while voters worry about the kind of
mundane issues that preoccupy people everywhere. Magdy Ashour said that few
voters knew or cared anything about issues like constitutional reform. He
agreed to let me sit by his side one evening as he met with constituents.
None of the dozen or so petitioners who were ushered into the tiny, bare
cell of his office asked about the political situation, and none had any
complaints about cultural or moral issues. Rather, there were heart-rending
stories of abuse by the powerful, like the profoundly palsied young man
confined to a wheelchair who sold odds and ends from a kiosk under a bridge,
and who was ejected, along with his meager goods, when a road-improvement
project came through. (Ashour promised to go with him to the police station
the following morning.) Mostly, though, people wanted help getting a job.
One ancient gentleman with a white turban and walking stick wandered in as
if from the Old Testament. He was accompanied by his daughter and 3-year-old
granddaughter. His daughter's husband had abandoned her, and she needed a
job. Ashour explained that since the woman had a business degree, she might
find work in a private school.

The old man shook his head. "She must have a government job," he said. "She
has three girls. I am too old to take care of her. She needs security."
Ashour later explained to me that while a private job might pay $90 a month
and a public one only $35, the government job would carry a guaranteed $15
pension, which felt like insurance against destitution. Only a government
job was considered real; Ashour himself had worked as the superintendent for
lighting infrastructure for a portion of Cairo. Nasser caught the bug of
socialism half a century earlier, and the government continued to dominate
the economy and to sap the energies needed for private initiative. Egypt's
arthritic economy and its deeply corrupt public administration were much
more salient problems for Ashour than was, say, debauchery on TV.

___?___ arrived in Cairo in the middle of a heated national debate over
Mubarak's proposed reform of the constitution. During the presidential
campaign, Mubarak promised to reduce his own powers in favor of the
Legislature and the cabinet and to loosen restrictions on political parties.
Only trace elements of those vows remained; in fact, the reforms seemed
designed to consolidate, rather than dissipate, the regime's authority.
Article 88, which had stipulated that elections be held "under the
supervision of members of the judiciary authority," now granted that control
to "a higher commission marked by independence and impartiality." Since no
such bodies had been known to exist in Egypt, few figures outside the ruling
party were willing to take the proposal at face value. And a new
anti-terrorism provision allowed the state to set aside civil liberties
enumerated elsewhere in the constitution in the pursuit of suspected
terrorists. Mohamed Kamal described this measure to me as the equivalent of
the USA Patriot Act, but political activists are convinced that it will be
used to snuff out opposition. (The brotherhood may be the chief target,
since the regime regards it as a quasi-terrorist body.) Amnesty
International described the package as the gravest threat to human rights in
Egypt since Mubarak took power.

In mid-March, on the day the proposed amendments were presented to the
People's Assembly, the brotherhood legislators and the dozen or so members
of the secular opposition staged a joint protest. The entire group stood
silently inside the gates of Parliament wearing black sashes that read, "No
to the Constitutional Amendments," and carrying signs that read, "No to
Electoral Fraud," "No to Dawn Visitors" and so on. The muezzin's call led to
an interval of prayer, and then legislators squeezed one by one through the
gates, backing the scrum of reporters and photographers into a busy two-way
street. Drivers honked furiously while legislators struggled to be heard
over the din. I had the impression that the brotherhood hadn't yet gotten
the hang of press relations.

The entire opposition boycotted the debate; the regime, unimpressed, carried
the day with the near-unanimous support of the N.D.P. and then scheduled the
mandatory national referendum for the following week, presumably to prevent
the opposition from mobilizing. But the tactic failed; opposition
legislators urged supporters to boycott the ballot. All of the brotherhood
legislators I spoke to that day said that the polling places in their
constituency were literally empty. Civic groups canvassing Cairo and other
major cities came to the same conclusion. Estimates of turnout varied from 2
to 8 percent. When it was over, government officials pegged turnout at 27
percent - a figure so improbable that it scarcely seemed intended to be
believed. Perhaps the implicit message was that the regime didn't care if it
was believed or not.

In June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a landmark
address at the American University in Cairo in which she bluntly declared,
"The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees and when
the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice." Egypt's democracy
activists were enthralled - though they were to become increasingly
disappointed, and then embittered, as the administration offered no public
response to Mubarak's crackdown. But Rice's call to the political barricades
was carefully modulated, perhaps in order to limit the offense to the
regime. Asked after the speech about the Muslim Brotherhood, Rice said
flatly, "We have not engaged the Muslim Brotherhood and . . . we won't." In
fact, American diplomats had been in regular contact with brotherhood
officials over the years; Rice was declaring - in fact, making - a new
policy. And that policy still largely obtains. Rice's spokesman, Sean
McCormack, told me, "We do not meet with the Muslim Brotherhood per se, as
we don't want to get entangled in complexities surrounding its legality as a
political party." He added, however, "Consistent with our practice
elsewhere, we will nonetheless meet with any duly elected member of the
parliamentary opposition." In fact, American officials in Cairo included
leading brotherhood parliamentarians in a group of legislators who met
recently with Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic majority leader of
the House.

But why not engage the brotherhood openly? Is what is gained by mollifying
the Mubarak regime worth what is lost by forgoing contact with the
brotherhood? "Americans," Essam el-Erian said to me, "must have channels
with all the people, not only in politics, but in economics, in social, in
everything, if they want to change the image of America in the region." Of
course, that principle applies only up to a point. The administration has,
understandably, refused to recognize the democratic bona fides either of
Hamas or of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But the Muslim Brotherhood, for all its
rhetorical support of Hamas, could well be precisely the kind of moderate
Islamic body that the administration says it seeks. And as with Islamist
parties in Turkey and Morocco, the experience of practical politics has made
the brotherhood more pragmatic, less doctrinaire. Finally, foreign policy is
no longer a rarefied game of elites: public opinion shapes the world within
which policy makers operate, and the refusal to deal with Hamas or Hezbollah
has made publics in the Islamic world dismiss the whole idea of democracy
promotion. Even a wary acceptance of the brotherhood, by contrast, would
demonstrate that we take seriously the democratic preferences of Arab
voters.

In general, I found the brothers deeply suspicious of American designs in
the world but also curious about America itself. When I took my leave of
Magdy Ashour once the crowd of petitioners thinned out, he asked if he could
pose some questions of his own. "I've heard," he said, "that even George
Bush's mother thinks he's an idiot; is that true?" And, "Why did George Bush
say that America is going on a Christian crusade against the Muslim people?"
And finally, "Is it true that the Jews control and manipulate the U.S.
economy?" These are, alas, the kinds of questions - with the possible
exception of the first - that people all over the Middle East ask.

Then Ashour said that he was thinking about visiting America. I asked how he
could afford such an expensive journey, and he explained that the
brotherhood has offered each legislator one free trip anywhere in the
world - a remarkable program for an organization said to be bent on
returning Egypt to the Middle Ages. "I would," Ashour said, "like to see for
myself."
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« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2007, 07:50:24 AM »

The WSJ on recent events in Turkey:

Turkish Turmoil
May 2, 2007; Page A20
The Muslim world's liveliest democracy has long been a work in progress, but the stakes just got a lot higher for Turkey and the greater Mideast. Turkey's future as a pluralistic, free society is on the line.

Amid a presidential campaign marked by street protests and divisive rhetoric, the powerful military inserted itself into politics late Friday by threatening a coup. The generals and their secularist allies in the civil service and professions are trying to derail the ruling party's selection for president. Yesterday the country's highest court sided with the secularists.

The crisis erupted last week when the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, by virtue of its majority in Parliament, nominated one of its own for the presidency. The job is currently held by a secularist, and the AKP choice would give a party with roots in the Islamist movement control over all branches of government for the first time. Despite the belief of some secularists that the AKP's "secret agenda" is to implant political Islam in Turkey, its five years in power have done more to entrench democracy and free markets than have most previous governments.

The AKP's candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, is a pro-Western moderate who spearheaded Turkey's political and economic reforms and helped secure an invitation to start membership talks with the European Union. But Mr. Gül got his political start in the Islamist movement and -- the greatest sin in secular eyes -- his wife wears a headscarf.

The battle came to a head Friday, when Mr. Gül failed by a slim margin to get the two-thirds needed to win. Then the military weighed in just before midnight with a statement posted on its home page. "It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces takes sides in these debates and is the absolute defender of secularism," the missive read. "When necessary they will display their attitudes and actions very clearly." The message was lost on no Turk.

Yesterday the court annulled Friday's vote, ruling in favor of the opposition party that had boycotted the vote. The judges, all staunchly secular, ruled that a two-thirds quorum must be present in the legislature for a vote -- even though the constitution says nothing firmly about a quorum and past presidents were elected with less than two-thirds.

Turkey has done well under the political stability and sound economics brought by the AKP, which took office in late 2002, and party leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may feel confident enough to keep pressing back. As a soft Islamist who has taken a few false steps -- pushing a law banning adultery and cozying up to Hamas -- he has stronger democratic credentials and more legitimacy than the secularists, who fall back on the generals.

The court decision, while unfortunate, could show a way out of the problem. The public demonstrations indicate that Mr. Erdogan continues to make a large chunk of the Turkish public uneasy. Though Mr. Gül is a capable politician, a different candidate may calm the public storms without compromising the AKP's right to choose that figure. Down the road, the AKP's oft-mooted ideas about a directly elected president could be part of a broader constitutional overhaul. Mr. Erdogan said yesterday that early parliamentary elections are likely.

The immediate need for anyone concerned about Turkey's future must be to get politics played by the rules and by the civilians. The military made important contributions to Westernizing the country, but its current behavior is a danger to Turkish progress. The best thing that can be said about the high court's decision is that early elections are better than tanks in the street. But the damage done to Turkey's institutions might have been avoided by sticking to the rules set down in the constitution.
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« Reply #30 on: May 08, 2007, 11:04:01 AM »

WSJ
Trouble in Turkey
By MELIK KAYLAN
May 8, 2007; Page A19

ISTANBUL -- There is a perfectly logical temptation to take the position of much of the non-native press on the current political crisis in Turkey. The argument goes something like this: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his "mildly Islamic" Justice and Development Party (AKP) are good for the country. They proposed Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for president. Under the current constitution, parliament elects the president. Thus the AKP has a freely elected majority in parliament and represents the will of the people, therefore Mr. Gul should be president.

The rest, observers argue, is just loud noise, such as the two massive demonstrations in 10 days in Ankara and Istanbul (the latter of a million or more people) in tandem with grim warnings by the military against any AKP violation of secularist principles. AKP, the argument goes, has played by the rules and democracy is all about due process, which produces stability over time.

Turkey must accept that it is culturally Eastern but politically Western. Otherwise the EU will never take it, foreign investment will dry up and the country will remain excluded from the Western world. So goes the argument in favor of Mr. Erdogan as well as Mr. Gul, who withdrew his candidacy on Sunday.

 
There are a number of critical flaws in this argument, the first being that such a country will ultimately neither belong to an Eastern nor a Western club. It might serve, distantly, as an example to other Muslim countries, but the EU will certainly not accept it because the EU considers itself as much a civilization as a political alliance.

The pro-AKP argument suffers from other critical flaws. Mr. Erdogan's party won only 35% of the vote, but under a constitution rigged to create a two-party system, AKP has 65% of parliamentary seats. Besides, even that 35% derived in part from voters disgusted by the corrupt incompetence of the secular parties, not from pro-Muslim sentiment.

The results in no way suggest that a majority of the country regards itself as politically Islamic or nonsecular, and under such conditions AKP has no mandate for foisting a partisan figure onto the presidency, an office that is supposed to rise above party dogma and represent the country and constitution. This is why most nominees for the presidency rarely survive the painstaking but necessary business of consultation and compromise between parties. It's a somewhat uncodified process but it works to ensure a unifying, rather than divisive, outcome.

Mr. Erdogan did the exact opposite. He pushed the system's limits for his own ends until it gave way at the seams. He didn't select a compromise candidate but tried to impose his choice on the country through his technical parliamentary majority. In the event, the other parties simply didn't turn up for the vote on Mr. Gul's confirmation. They then appealed to the Constitutional Court which held that without them the numbers would be inquorate, leaving Mr. Gul unelected. The Court intentionally sent the country to a June or July national election which is, surely, the best place to settle the entire matter.

Mr. Erdogan has responded with predictable acuity, proposing new parliamentary term-lengths and direct elections for presidency, thus offering his AKP as the party that most trusts in the ballot box. If he wins, he simply rewinds to the beginning. With prime minister, president and house speaker all AKP figures, he can make such structural changes as to shift the national polity for a several generations.

So what, some say, Mr. Erdogan is hardly a fundamentalist. Sure, he and Mr. Gul have said hair-raising things in the past -- an old Gul remark made in the 1990s that "the Republic is over" recently surfaced in the press -- but politicians become pragmatic once in power. What have he and Mr. Gul done concretely in the last four years to be alarmed about? One hears this question particularly from foreign observers who don't understand or can't credit the Islamic concept of "Takkiye," meaning dissimulation.

The answer, of course, is that they have palpably tried to influence the army, universities and the Constitution itself, only to have their efforts stymied by those same institutions. Even so, disturbing incidents abound. In the city of Van a university dean is sacked because he resisted the request of a fully veiled female student for a go-between to deal with male teachers. He is later reinstated. In Istanbul's Uskudar district the municipality treats beer bars like a red-light zone and you can barely get alcohol anywhere. The national newspaper Sabah is taken over by state officials and soon the political commentators are being told what to write. Yasin El Kadi, a Saudi sought by the U.S. for financial links to terrorism, is publicly supported by Mr. Erdogan. Everywhere, barely qualified madrassa graduates replace more qualified secular technocrats in the civil service.

But the headscarf controversy and the bogeyman of military intervention eclipse such incremental dangers. Mr. Erdogan knows how to play the symbols and polarize for political ends. One side effect, no doubt unintended but predictable, is the spike in Islamic political violence: the murder of a Catholic nun near the Black Sea, of Protestant missionaries in the town of Malatya and so on. Pulled on either side by Europe and the Middle East, both Turkey and Turkish identity are as constantly in flux as its institutions are in danger of drifting out of control. That this never quite happens is in part due to the military threatening to step in periodically to restore democracy, a very Turkish paradox.

A military coup is always a disastrous option, but without past coups would there even be a Turkey today? One need only look at Iraq, a democracy without an effective army, or indeed Lebanon, to imagine the possibilities.

Turkey's democratic history shows that politicians can too easily lead the country, whether by drift or design, to such dangerous political extremes as to threaten national stability. It's wise to judge the merit of a Turkish politician by asking where his policies will ultimately lead.

Does Mr. Erdogan's populism suggest stability or a hidden drift to extremes? The voters will decide soon enough. They have got it wrong before. With such leaders, who can blame them?

Mr. Kaylan is an Istanbul-born writer living in New York.
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« Reply #31 on: May 15, 2007, 11:01:57 AM »


KONYA, Turkey, May 12 — In the not too distant past here in Turkey’s religious heartland, women would not appear in public unless they were modestly dressed, a single woman was not able to rent an apartment on her own, and the mayor proposed segregating city buses by sex.


Fears of such restrictions, inflamed by secularist politicians, have led thousands of Turks to march in major cities in the past month. A political party with a past in Islamic politics led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to capture the country’s highest secular post.

Once it succeeds, the secularists’ argument goes, Turkey will be dragged back to an earlier era when Islam ran the state. [Another march drew a million people in Izmir on Sunday.]

But here in Konya, a leafy city on the plains of central Turkey, Mr. Erdogan’s party has done no such thing. In the paradox of modern Turkey, the party here has had a moderating influence, helping to open a guarded society and make it more flexible.

Konya is still deeply attached to its faith. Mosques are spread thickly throughout the city; there are as many as in Istanbul, which has five times the population. But in a part of the world where religion and politics have been a poisonous mix and cultural norms are conservative regardless of religion, it is an oasis: women here wear relatively revealing clothing, couples hold hands and bus segregation is a distant memory.

“We’ve been wearing the same dress for 80 years, and it doesn’t fit anymore,” said Yoruk Kurtaran, who travels extensively in Turkey. “Things used to be black and white.”

Now, he said, “there are a lot of grays.”

The shift shows the evolution of Turkey’s Islamic movement, which has matured under Mr. Erdogan, abandoning the restrictive practices of its predecessors and demonstrating to its observant constituents the benefits of belonging to the European Union.

It also follows a pattern occurring throughout Turkey, where the secularists who founded the state out of the Ottoman Empire’s remains are now lagging behind religious Turks in efforts to modernize it.But secular Turks, like those who took part in the recent protests, do not believe that Mr. Erdogan and his allies have changed.

The mayor who proposed segregation, for example, is now part of Mr. Erdogan’s party. The protesters argue that the party may say it wants more religious freedom for its constituents, for example allowing observant women to wear their head scarves in universities, but it has never laid out its vision for how to protect secular lifestyles.

Mr. Erdogan’s party has been the most flexible and open of all parties that consider Islam an important part of Turkish society. Its politics have so far been respectful of secular freedom in most cases. But there are harder-line members who would like to see a more religious society, and secular Turks fear that highly personal questions like their children’s education and rights for unmarried women could be threatened.

In the country as a whole, religious Turks have felt like second-class citizens for generations, in part a legacy of Ataturk’s radical, secular revolution in the early 20th century. Now, elevated by a decade of economic growth, they are pressing for a bigger share of power.

In Konya some of the change started from the top. In 2003, around the time Mr. Erdogan’s party came to power, an irreverent ophthalmologist and a veterinarian with long hair were appointed to run Selcuk University in Konya. They immediately began challenging the sensibilities of this conservative city, organizing concerts and encouraging student clubs.

Kursat Turgut, the veterinarian, who became vice rector, said he had been confronted by a group of students who went to his office and demanded that he cancel a concert because they did not like the singer. He refused.

“Change is the most difficult thing,” Mr. Turgut said, sitting in the rector’s office, where paintings lined the walls. “It takes time to change a mentality.”

The students were from a nationalist group with an Islamic tinge that for years had used scare tactics to enforce a strict moral code on campus. When Umit, who did not want to give his last name, started at the university’s veterinary school five years ago he was chastised by students from the group for cuddling with his girlfriend and, on another occasion, for wearing shorts.

“They thought they were protecting honor and morals,” said Aliye Cetinkaya, a journalist who moved here 12 years ago for college. “If we crossed the line there was a fight.”

========

Mr. Turgut and the rector, Suleyman Okudan, shut down the group’s activities. Now, four years later, there are more than 80 student clubs, students like Umit behave and dress any way they choose, and Mr. Turgut’s concerts, open to the public, draw large crowds.


“It is like a different century,” Ms. Cetinkaya said.

She still faces limitations. When she covered a demonstration in Konya early last year against the Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark, stones and shoes were thrown at her because she was not wearing a scarf. But such incidents are rare, and far outweighed by improvements. For example, there were only about 50 women in the two-year degree program she attended a decade ago. Now the number is above 1,000, she said.

The deep-rooted religiosity in Konya found public expression in politics in the late 1980s, when the city became one of the first in the country to elect a pro-Islamic party — the Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan, the grandfather of the Turkish Islamic movement — to run the city. Mr. Erbakan himself was elected to Parliament from Konya.

The administration was restrictive: it was a Welfare Party mayor, Halil Urun, who proposed, unsuccessfully, segregating the buses in 1989. But the city kept electing the party until the late 1990s, when it was shut down by the state establishment for straying from secularism.

Then, in 2000, a young member of the banned party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began the Justice and Development Party. Mr. Erdogan had made a concerted effort to take Islam out of politics altogether — aware that continuing to push religion would lead to the same end — and it was unclear whether Konya voters would accept it.

They did. Of the 32 members of the City Council, all but two are now members of Mr. Erdogan’s party.

It was economics that convinced Ahmet Agirbasli, 57, a businessman who sells car parts and pasta. When he was younger he did not shake hands with women. For years he voted for Mr. Erbakan’s party. He did not believe that Turkey’s future was with Europe, but he changed his mind after Mr. Erdogan’s party began reforms with the intention of joining the European Union, and his business began to grow.

“Erbakan didn’t have an open mind,” Mr. Agirbasli said, eating a club sandwich in a hotel restaurant. “He didn’t believe the country needed links with the rest of the world.”

Now he sells macaroni to 50 countries. Five years ago he sold to only 10.

Akif Emre, a columnist at Yeni Safak, a conservative newspaper in Istanbul, argues that Mr. Erdogan has helped to bridge the gap between Turkey’s religious heartland and urban, secular Turks.

“They really accept secularism,” he said of Mr. Erdogan and his allies. “They are changing the mentality. Conservative people changed their lifestyle toward a more secular way.”

Religious Turks, for their part, still harbor an unspoken wariness of the state. New civil organizations are more focused on building mosques than engaging in public debate, and people scrupulously avoid talking about politics.

Religious extremists have been found on the fringes. In January the authorities arrested a man they said was the leader of Al Qaeda in Turkey, and in 2000 a pile of bodies that showed signs of torture was found buried under a villa rented by a homegrown Islamist group called Hezbollah.

“Konya is one of the main hubs of traditional and conservative, anti-Ankara countryside,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Isik University in Istanbul. “It has a structure that takes religion very seriously and formulates social life around it.”

Rahmi Bastoklu, the leader in Konya of the secularist Republican People’s Party and the only one of the Konya district’s 16 members of Parliament who is not from Mr. Erdogan’s party, put it bluntly: “People have to leave Konya to enjoy themselves.”

But an unspoken understanding between Konya’s religious Turks and the secular state is in place, in which the mosques are left alone, but religious Turks do not press too many demands on the state. The balance is often held steady by Mr. Erdogan’s party.

Still, pushing too hard against the secular establishment might mean the loss of recent gains. “It’s not a useful thing to talk about,” said Ilhan Cumrali, 36, sitting in his clothing store among racks of floor-length skirts. “We are trying to find the right path. If we do it too aggressively there will be a negative reaction.”

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« Reply #32 on: May 15, 2007, 11:06:36 AM »

Second post of the morming.  From the Political Journal of the WSJ:

We Won't Take Any More of Your Shiite, Iran
The New York Times reports on an encouraging development in Iraq:

The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the country's most powerful Shiite parties, announced Saturday that "revolution" would be dropped from its name and that Iran's top cleric would cease to be the party's dominant spiritual leader.

The change--made to the party's platform at a meeting here on Friday, leaders said--reflected an effort by the group to shore up support among nationalist Iraqis and American officials who have questioned its loyalties because of its Iranian roots.

The Supreme Council was formed in Iran more than 20 years ago with a stated goal of installing a government in Baghdad modeled on Iran's Islamic revolution. But with Saddam Hussein gone and the newly named Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council controlling roughly 25 percent of the seats in Parliament, the need for radical change has passed, the group's leaders said.

"The name should be consistent with the facts on the ground, so there is no need to talk about revolution anymore," said Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a Supreme Council leader in Parliament and a hard-line cleric. "The word means change, and we have achieved the changes through the Constitution."

The New York Times-owned Boston Globe reports from Tehran that the influence of Iraqi Shiites is growing even there:

Some Iranians are intrigued by the more freewheeling experiment in Shi'ite empowerment taking place across the border in Iraq, where--Iraq's myriad problems aside--imams can say whatever they want in political Friday sermons, newspapers and satellite channels regularly slam the government, and religious observance is respected and encouraged but not required.

In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric--rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.

Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shi'ite leaders should stay out of government, and Sistani has stuck to it despite the great temptation to wade into the chaos of Iraqi politics.

Yet even as the Times and its daughter paper report on these excellent results of Iraq's liberation, the crazies on the Times editorial page want to put the whole thing to a stop. It's a crazy mixed-up world on West 43rd Street.

Mistaking Words for Weapons
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« Reply #33 on: May 15, 2007, 11:12:13 AM »

Third post of the morning.

One notes that these Iranians most definitely are NOT in Iran wink

Iranians against Antisemitism

ON THE HOLOCAUST CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF IRAN

By Gholam Reza Afkhami and over one hundred others

Tuesday, Juanuary 23, 2007


We the undersigned Iranians,

Notwithstanding our diverse views on the IsraeliˆPalestinian conflict;

Considering that the Nazis' coldly planned "Final Solution" and their ensuing campaign of genocide against Jews and other minorities during World War II constitute undeniable historical facts;

Deploring that the denial of these unspeakable crimes has become a propaganda tool that the Islamic Republic of Iran is using to further its own agendas;

Noting that the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history;

Emphasizing that this is not the first time that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has resorted to the denial and distortion of historical facts;

Recalling that this government has refused to acknowledge, among other things, its mass execution of its own citizens in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners, previously sentenced to prison terms, were secretly executed because of their beliefs;

Strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11ˆ12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history;

Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world.


Abadi, Delnaz (Filmmaker, USA) Abghari, Shahla (Professor, Life University, USA)
Abghari, Siavash (Professor/Chair, Department of Business Administration, Morehouse College, USA)
Afary, Janet (Faculty Scholar/Associate Professor of History, Purdue University, USA)
Afkhami, Gholam Reza (Senior Scholar, Foundation for Iranian Studies, USA)
Afkhami, Mahnaz (Executive Director, Foundation for Iranian Studies/Women's Rights Advocate, USA)
Afshar, Mahasti (Arts/Culture Executive, USA)
Afshari, Ali (Human Rights Advocate/Political Activist, USA) Ahmadi, Ramin (Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine/Founder, Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights, USA)
Akashe-Bohme, Farideh (Social Scientist/Writer, Germany) Akbari, Hamid (Human Rights Advocate/Chair/Associate Professor, Department of Management and Marketing, Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
Akhavan, Payam (Jurist/Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law of McGill University, Canada) Amin, Shadi (Journalist/Women's Rights Activist, Germany)
Amini, Bahman (Publisher, France)
Amini, Mohammad (Writer/Political Activist, USA)
Amjadi, Kurosh (Human Rights Advocate)
Apick, Mary (Actress/Playwright/Producer/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Ashouri, Daryoush (Writer/Translator, France)
Atri, Akbar (Student Rights and Political Activist, USA)
Bagher Zadeh, Hossein (Human Rights Advocate/Former Professor, Tehran University, Great Britain)
Bakhtiari, Abbas (Musician/Director, Pouya Iranian Cultural Center, France)
Baradaran, Monireh (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Germany) Behnoud, Massoud (Writer/Journalist, Great Britain)
Behroozi, Jaleh (Human Rights Advocate/Iranian Mothers' Committee for Freedom, USA)
Beyzaie, Niloofar (Theater Director/Playwright, Germany) Boroumand, Ali-Mohammad (Lawyer, France)
Boroumand, Ladan (Historian/Research Director, Boroumand Foundation, USA)
Boroumand, Roya (Historian/Human Rights Advocate, USA) Chafiq, Chahla (Sociologist/Writer/ Women's Rights Advocate, France)
Dadsetan, Javad (Filmmaker)
Daneshvar, Abbas (Chemist, Netherlands) Daneshvar, Hassan (Mathematician, Netherlands)
Daneshvar, Reza (Writer, France)
Davari, Arta (Painter, Germany)
Djalili, Mohammad Reza (Professor, L'Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales, Switzerland)
Ebrahimi, Farah (USA)
Eskandani, Ahmad (Entrepreneur, France)
Fani Yazdi, Reza (Political Activist, USA)
Farahmand, Fariborz (Engineer, USA)
Farssai, Fahimeh (Writer, Germany)
Ghahari, Keivandokht (Historian/Journalist, Germany)
Ghassemi, Farhang (Professor in Strategic Management, France) Hejazi, Ghodsi (Professor/Researcher, Frankfurt University, Germany)
Hekmat, Hormoz (Human Rights Advocate/Editor, Iran Nameh, USA)
Hojat, Ali (Entrepreneur/Human Rights Advocate, Great Britain) Homayoun, Dariush (Writer, Switzerland)
Idjadi, Didier (Professor/Associate Mayor, France)
Jahangiri, Golroch (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany) Jahanshahi, Marjan (Professor, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Great Britain)
Karimi Hakkak (Director, Center for Persian Studies, University of Maryland, USA)
Kazemi, Monireh (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany) Khajeh Aldin, Minoo (Painter, Germany)
Khaksar, Nasim (Writer, Germany)
Khazenie, Nahid (Remote Sensing Scientist/Program Director, NASA, USA)
Khodaparast Santner, Zari (Landscape Architect, USA) Khonsari, Mehrdad (Political Activist, Great Britain)
Khorsandi, Hadi (Poet/Writer, Great Britain)
Khounani, Azar (Educator/Human Rights Advocate, USA) Mafan, Massoud (Publisher, Germany)
Malakooty, Sirus (Composer/Chairman, Artists Without Frontiers, Germany)
Manafzadeh, Alireza (Writer, France)
Mazahery, Ahmad (Engineer/Political Activist, USA)
Mazahery, Lily (Lawyer, President of the Legal Rights Institute/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Memarsadeghi, Mariam (Freedom House, USA)
Mesdaghi, Iraj (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Sweden) Milani, Abbas (Director, Iranian Studies Program, Stanford University, USA)
Mohyeddin, Samira (Graduate Student, University of Toronto, Canada)
Moini, Mohammadreza (Journalist/ Human Rights Advocate, RSF, France)
Molavi, Afshin (Journalist, USA)
Monzavi, Faeze (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moradi, Golmorad (Political Scientist/Translator, Germany) Moradi, Homa (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moshaver, Ziba (London Middle East Institute, SOAS, Research Fellow, Great Britain)
Moshkin-Ghalam, Shahrokh (Ballet Dancer/Actor, France) Mourim, Khosro (Sociologist, France)
Mozaffari, Mehdi (Professor of Political Science, Denmark) Naficy, Majid (Poet/Writer, USA)
Nafisi, Azar (Writer/Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Nassehi, Reza (Human Rights Advocate/Translator, France) Pakzad, Jahan (Teacher/Researcher, France)
Parham, Bagher (Writer/Translator, France)
Parsipour, Shahrnush (Writer, USA)
Parvin, Mohammad (Human Rights Advocate/Founding Director of Mehr/Adjunct Professor, California State University, USA) Pirnazar, Jaleh (Professor, Iranian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA)
Pourabdollah, Farideh (Human Rights Advocate, USA) Pourabdollah, Saeid (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Rashid, Shahrouz (Poet/Writer, Germany)
Royaie, Yadollah (Poet, France)
Rusta, Mihan (Human Rights Advocate/Refugee Adviser, Germany)
Sadr, Hamid (Writer, Austria)
Sarchar, Houman (Independent Scholar, USA)
Sarshar, Homa (Journalist, USA)
Satrapi, Marjane (Writer, France)
Sayyad, Parviz (Actor/Playwright, USA)
Shahriari, Sheila (World Bank, USA)
Soltani, Parvaneh (Actor/Theater Director, Great Britain) Tabari, Shahran (Journalist, Great Britain)
Taghvaie, Ahmad (Founding Member, Iranian Futurist Association, USA)
Toloui, Roya (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Vaziri, Hellen (Germany)
Wahdat-Hagh, Wahied (Social Scientist, USA)
Zarkesh Yazdi, Fathieh (Human Rights and Refugee Rights Advocate, Great Britain)
Ziazie, Arsalan (Writer, Germany)
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« Reply #34 on: May 26, 2007, 06:40:55 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

ALGIERS, May 25 — In this tradition-bound nation scarred by a brutal Islamist-led civil war that killed more than 100,000, a quiet revolution is under way: women are emerging as an economic and political force unheard of in the rest of the Arab world.


Algerian Women’s Growing Participation in Society
Women make up 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.

Although men still hold all of the formal levers of power and women still make up only 20 percent of the work force, that is more than twice their share a generation ago, and they seem to be taking over the machinery of state as well.

“If such a trend continues,” said Daho Djerbal, editor and publisher of Naqd, a magazine of social criticism and analysis, “we will see a new phenomenon where our public administration will also be controlled by women.”

The change seems to have sneaked up on Algerians, who for years have focused more on the struggle between a governing party trying to stay in power and Islamists trying to take that power.

Those who study the region say they are taken aback by the data but suggest that an explanation may lie in the educational system and the labor market.

University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.

But for women, he added, university studies get them out of the house and allow them to position themselves better in society. “The dividend may be social rather than in terms of career,” he said.

This generation of Algerian women has navigated a path between the secular state and the pull of extremist Islam, the two poles of the national crisis of recent years.

The women are more religious than previous generations, and more modern, sociologists here said. Women cover their heads and drape their bodies with traditional Islamic coverings. They pray. They go to the mosque — and they work, often alongside men, once considered taboo.

Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

“They never criticize me, especially when they see I am wearing the hijab,” said Denni Fatiha, 44, the first woman to drive a large city bus through the narrow, winding roads of Algiers.

The impact has been far-reaching and profound.

In some neighborhoods, for example, birthrates appear to have fallen and class sizes in elementary schools have dropped by nearly half. It appears that women are delaying marriage to complete their studies, though delayed marriage is also a function of high unemployment. In the past, women typically married at 17 or 18 but now marry on average at 29, sociologists said.

And when they marry, it is often to men who are far less educated, creating an awkward social reality for many women.

Khalida Rahman is a lawyer. She is 33 and has been married to a night watchman for five months. Her husband was a friend of her brothers who showed up one day and proposed. She immediately said yes, she recalled.

She describes her life now this way: “Whenever I leave him it is just as if I am a man. But when I get home I become a woman.”

Fatima Oussedik, a sociologist, said, “We in the ’60s, we were progressive, but we did not achieve what is being achieved by this generation today.” Ms. Oussedik, who works for the Research Center for Applied Economics and Development in Algiers, does not wear the hijab and prefers to speak in French.

Researchers here say the change is not driven by demographics; women make up only a bit more than half of the population. They said it is driven by desire and opportunity.

================



Published: May 26, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)



Algeria’s young men reject school and try to earn money as traders in the informal sector, selling goods on the street, or they focus their efforts on leaving the country or just hanging out. There is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes — the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.

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Algerian Women’s Growing Participation in Society
Increasingly, the people here have lost faith in their government, which draws its legitimacy from a revolution now more than five decades old, many political and social analysts said. In recent parliamentary elections, turnout was low and there were 970,000 protest votes — cast by people who intentionally destroyed their ballots — nearly as many as the 1.3 million votes cast in support of the governing party.

There are regular protests, and riots, all over the country, with people complaining about corruption, lack of services and economic disparities. There are violent attacks, too: bombings aimed at the police, officials and foreigners. A triple suicide bombing on April 11 against the prime minister’s office and the police left more than 30 people dead.

In that context, women may have emerged as Algeria’s most potent force for social change, with their presence in the bureaucracy and on the street having a potentially moderating and modernizing influence on society, sociologists said.

“Women, and the women’s movement, could be leading us to modernity,” said Abdel Nasser Djabi, a professor of sociology at the University of Algiers.

Not everyone is happy with those dynamics. Some political and social analysts say the recent resurgence in radical Islamist activity, including bombings, is driven partly by a desire to slow the social change the country is experiencing, especially regarding women’s role in society.

Others complain that the growing participation of women in society is a direct violation of the faith.

“I am against this,” said Esmail Ben Ibrahim, an imam at a neighborhood mosque near the center of the city. “It is all wrong from a religious point of view. Society has embarked on the wrong path.”

The quest for identity is a constant undercurrent in much of the Middle East. But it is arguably the most complicated question in Algeria, a nation whose borders were drawn by France and whose people speak Berber, Arabic and French.

After a bitter experience with French occupation and a seven-year revolutionary war that brought independence in 1962 at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, the leaders here chose to adopt Islam and Arab identity as the force to unify the country. Arabic replaced French as the language of education, and the French secular curriculum was replaced with a curriculum heavy on religion.

At the same time, girls were encouraged to go to school.

Now, more than four decades later, Algeria’s youth — 70 percent of the population is under 30, researchers said — have grown up with Arabic and an orientation toward Middle Eastern issues. Arabic-language television networks like Al Jazeera have become the popular reference point, more so than French television, observers here said.

In the 1990s radical Islamist ideas gained popular support, and terrorism was widely accepted as a means to win power. More than 100,000 people died in years of civil conflict. Today most people say the experience has forced them to reject the most radical ideas. So although Algerians are more religious now than they were during the bloody 1990s, they are more likely to embrace modernity — a partial explanation for the emergence of women as a societal force, some analysts said.

That is not the case in more rural mountainous areas, where women continue to live by the code of tradition. But for the time being, most people say that for now the community’s collective consciousness is simply too raw from the years of civil war for Islamist terrorists or radical Islamic ideas to gain popular support.

There is a sense that the new room given to women may at least partly be a reflection of that general feeling. The population has largely rejected the most radical interpretation of Islam and has begun to return to the more North African, almost mystical, interpretation of the faith, sociologists and religious leaders said.

Whatever the underlying reason, women in the streets of the city are brimming with enthusiasm.

“I don’t think any of this contradicts Islam,” said Wahiba Nabti, 36, as she walked through the center of the city one day recently. “On the contrary, Islam gives freedom to work. Anyway, it is between you and God.”

Ms. Nabti wore a black scarf covering her head and a long black gown that hid the shape of her body. “I hope one day I can drive a crane, so I can really be financially independent,” she said. “You cannot always rely on a man.”
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« Reply #35 on: June 06, 2007, 11:10:02 AM »

There's a major front page piece in today's LA Times by a woman reporter on her experiences in Saudi Arabia.  I'm on my way out the door for a very full day of teaching.  Would someone be so kind as to cut and paste it here?

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« Reply #36 on: June 06, 2007, 11:34:38 AM »

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-women6jun06,0,4669523.story?coll=la-home-center
From the Los Angeles Times
COLUMN ONE

In Saudi Arabia, a view from behind the veil
As a woman in the male-dominated kingdom, Times reporter Megan Stack quietly fumed beneath her abaya. Even beyond its borders, her experience taints her perception of the sexes.
By Megan K. Stack
Times Staff Writer

June 6, 2007

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — THE hem of my heavy Islamic cloak trailed over floors that glistened like ice. I walked faster, my eyes fixed on a familiar, green icon. I hadn't seen a Starbucks in months, but there it was, tucked into a corner of a fancy shopping mall in the Saudi capital. After all those bitter little cups of sludgy Arabic coffee, here at last was an improbable snippet of home — caffeinated, comforting, American.

I wandered into the shop, filling my lungs with the rich wafts of coffee. The man behind the counter gave me a bemused look; his eyes flickered. I asked for a latte. He shrugged, the milk steamer whined, and he handed over the brimming paper cup. I turned my back on his uneasy face.

Crossing the cafe, I felt the hard stares of Saudi men. A few of them stopped talking as I walked by and watched me pass. Them, too, I ignored. Finally, coffee in hand, I sank into the sumptuous lap of an overstuffed armchair.

"Excuse me," hissed the voice in my ear. "You can't sit here." The man from the counter had appeared at my elbow. He was glaring.

"Excuse me?" I blinked a few times.

"Emmm," he drew his discomfort into a long syllable, his brows knitted. "You cannot stay here."

"What? Uh … why?"

Then he said it: "Men only."

He didn't tell me what I would learn later: Starbucks had another, unmarked door around back that led to a smaller espresso bar, and a handful of tables smothered by curtains. That was the "family" section. As a woman, that's where I belonged. I had no right to mix with male customers or sit in plain view of passing shoppers. Like the segregated South of a bygone United States, today's Saudi Arabia shunts half the population into separate, inferior and usually invisible spaces.

At that moment, there was only one thing to do. I stood up. From the depths of armchairs, men in their white robes and red-checked kaffiyehs stared impassively over their mugs. I felt blood rushing to my face. I dropped my eyes, and immediately wished I hadn't. Snatching up the skirts of my robe to keep from stumbling, I walked out of the store and into the clatter of the shopping mall.

--

THAT was nearly four years ago, a lesson learned on one of my first trips to the kingdom. Until that day, I thought I knew what I was doing: I'd heard about Saudi Arabia, that the sexes are wholly segregated. From museums to university campuses to restaurants, the genders live corralled existences. One young, hip, U.S.-educated Saudi friend told me that he arranges to meet his female friends in other Arab cities. It's easier to fly to Damascus or Dubai, he shrugged, than to chill out coeducationally at home.

I was ready to cope, or so I thought. I arrived with a protective smirk in tow, planning to thicken the walls around myself. I'd report a few stories, and go home. I had no inkling that Saudi Arabia, the experience of being a woman there, would stick to me, follow me home on the plane and shadow me through my days, tainting the way I perceived men and women everywhere.

I'm leaving the Middle East now, closing up years spent covering the fighting and fallout that have swept the region since Sept. 11. Of all the strange, scary and joyful experiences of the past years, my time covering Saudi Arabia remains among the most jarring.

I spent my days in Saudi Arabia struggling unhappily between a lifetime of being taught to respect foreign cultures and the realization that this culture judged me a lesser being. I tried to draw parallels: If I went to South Africa during apartheid, would I feel compelled to be polite?

I would find that I still saw scraps of Saudi Arabia everywhere I went. Back home in Cairo, the usual cacophony of whistles and lewd coos on the streets sent me into blind rage. I slammed doors in the faces of deliverymen; cursed at Egyptian soldiers in a language they didn't speak; kept a resentful mental tally of the Western men, especially fellow reporters, who seemed to condone, even relish, the relegation of women in the Arab world.

In the West, there's a tendency to treat Saudi Arabia as a remote land, utterly removed from our lives. But it's not very far from us, nor are we as different as we might like to think. Saudi Arabia is a center of ideas and commerce, an important ally to the United States, the heartland of a major world religion. It is a highly industrialized, ultramodern home to expatriates from all over the world, including Americans who live in lush gated compounds with swimming pools, drink illegal glasses of bathtub gin and speak glowingly of the glorious desert and the famous hospitality of Saudis.

The rules are different here. The same U.S. government that heightened public outrage against the Taliban by decrying the mistreatment of Afghan women prizes the oil-slicked Saudi friendship and even offers wan praise for Saudi elections in which women are banned from voting. All U.S. fast-food franchises operating here, not just Starbucks, make women stand in separate lines. U.S.-owned hotels don't let women check in without a letter from a company vouching for her ability to pay; women checking into hotels alone have long been regarded as prostitutes.

As I roamed in and out of Saudi Arabia, the abaya, or Islamic robe, eventually became the symbol of those shifting rules.

I always delayed until the last minute. When I felt the plane dip low over Riyadh, I'd reach furtively into my computer bag to fish out the black robe and scarf crumpled inside. I'd slip my arms into the sleeves without standing up. If I caught the eyes of any male passengers as my fingers fumbled with the snaps, I'd glare. Was I imagining the smug looks on their faces?

The sleeves, the length of it, always felt foreign, at first. But it never took long to work its alchemy, to plant the insecurity. After a day or two, the notion of appearing without the robe felt shocking. Stripped of the layers of curve-smothering cloth, my ordinary clothes suddenly felt revealing, even garish. To me, the abaya implied that a woman's body is a distraction and an interruption, a thing that must be hidden from view lest it haul the society into vice and disarray. The simple act of wearing the robe implanted that self-consciousness by osmosis.

In the depths of the robe, my posture suffered. I'd draw myself in and bumble along like those adolescent girls who seem to think they can roll their breasts back into their bodies if they curve their spines far enough. That was why, it hit me one day, I always seemed to come back from Saudi Arabia with a backache.

The kingdom made me slouch.

--

SAUDI men often raised the question of women with me; they seemed to hope that I would tell them, either out of courtesy or conviction, that I endorsed their way of life. Some blamed all manner of Western ills, from gun violence to alcoholism, on women's liberation. "Do you think you could ever live here?" many of them asked. It sounded absurd every time, and every time I would repeat the obvious: No.

Early in 2005, I covered the kingdom's much-touted municipal elections, which excluded women not only from running for office, but also from voting. True to their tribal roots, candidates pitched tents in vacant lots and played host to voters for long nights of coffee, bull sessions and poetry recitations. I accepted an invitation to visit one of the tents, but the sight of a woman in their midst so badly ruffled the would-be voters that the campaign manager hustled over and asked me, with lavish apologies, to make myself scarce before I cost his man the election.

A few days later, a female U.S. official, visiting from Washington, gave a press appearance in a hotel lobby in Riyadh. Sporting pearls, a business suit and a bare, blond head, she praised the Saudi elections.

The election "is a departure from their culture and their history," she said. "It offers to the citizens of Saudi Arabia hope…. It's modest, but it's dramatic."

The American ambassador, a bespectacled Texan named James C. Oberwetter, also praised the voting from his nearby seat.

"When I got here a year ago, there were no political tents," he said. "It's like a backyard political barbecue in the U.S."

One afternoon, a candidate invited me to meet his daughter. She spoke fluent English and was not much younger than me. I cannot remember whether she was wearing hijab, the Islamic head scarf, inside her home, but I have a memory of pink. I asked her about the elections.

"Very good," she said.

So you really think so, I said gently, even though you can't vote?

"Of course," she said. "Why do I need to vote?"

Her father chimed in. He urged her, speaking English for my benefit, to speak candidly. But she insisted: What good was voting? She looked at me as if she felt sorry for me, a woman cast adrift on the rough seas of the world, no male protector in sight.

"Maybe you don't want to vote," I said. "But wouldn't you like to make that choice yourself?"

"I don't need to," she said calmly, blinking slowly and deliberately. "If I have a father or a husband, why do I need to vote? Why should I need to work? They will take care of everything."

Through the years I have met many Saudi women. Some are rebels; some are proudly defensive of Saudi ways, convinced that any discussion of women's rights is a disguised attack on Islam from a hostile Westerner. There was the young dental student who came home from the university and sat up half the night, writing a groundbreaking novel exploring the internal lives and romances of young Saudi women. The oil expert who scolded me for asking about female drivers, pointing out the pitfalls of divorce and custody laws and snapping: "Driving is the least of our problems." I have met women who work as doctors and business consultants. Many of them seem content.

Whatever their thoughts on the matter, they have been assigned a central, symbolic role in what seems to be one of the greatest existential questions in contemporary Saudi Arabia: Can the country opt to develop in some ways and stay frozen in others? Can the kingdom evolve economically and technologically in a global society without relinquishing its particular culture of extreme religious piety and ancient tribal code?

The men are stuck, too. Over coffee one afternoon, an economist told me wistfully of the days when he and his wife had studied overseas, how she'd hopped behind the wheel and did her own thing. She's an independent, outspoken woman, he said. Coming back home to Riyadh had depressed both of them.

"Here, I got another dependent: my wife," he said. He found himself driving her around, chaperoning her as if she were a child. "When they see a woman walking alone here, it's like a wolf watching a sheep. 'Let me take what's unattended.' " He told me that both he and his wife hoped, desperately, that social and political reform would finally dawn in the kingdom. He thought foreign academics were too easy on Saudi Arabia, that they urged only minor changes instead of all-out democracy because they secretly regarded Saudis as "savages" incapable of handling too much freedom.

"I call them propaganda papers," he said of the foreign analysis. "They come up with all these lame excuses." He and his wife had already lost hope for themselves, he said.

"For ourselves, the train has left the station. We are trapped," he said. "I think about my kids. At least when I look at myself in the mirror I'll say: 'At least I said this. At least I wrote this.' "

--

WHEN Saudi officials chat with an American reporter, they go to great lengths to depict a moderate, misunderstood kingdom. They complain about stereotypes in the Western press: Women banned from driving? Well, they don't want to drive anyway. They all have drivers, and why would a lady want to mess with parking?

The religious police who stalk the streets and shopping centers, forcing "Islamic values" onto the populace? Oh, Saudi officials say, they really aren't important, or strict, or powerful. You hear stories to the contrary? Mere exaggerations, perpetuated by people who don't understand Saudi Arabia.

I had an interview one afternoon with a relatively high-ranking Saudi official. Since I can't drive anywhere or meet a man in a cafe, I usually end up inviting sources for coffee in the lobby of my hotel, where the staff turns a blind eye to whether those in the "family section" are really family.

As the elevator touched down and the shiny doors swung open onto the lobby, the official rushed toward me.

"Do you think we could talk in your room?" he blurted out.

I stepped back. What was this, some crazy come-on?

"No, why?" I stammered, stepping wide around him. "We can sit right over here." I wanted to get to the coffee shop — no dice. He swung himself around, blocking my path and my view.

"It's not a good idea," he said. "Let's just go to your room."

"I really don't think … I mean," I said, stuttering in embarrassment.

Then, peering over his shoulder, I saw them: two beefy men in robes. Great bushes of beards sprang from their chins, they swung canes in their hands and scanned the hotel lobby through squinted eyes.

"Is that the religious police?" I said. "It is!" I was a little mesmerized. I'd always wanted to see them in action.

The ministry official seemed to shrink a little, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

"They're not supposed to be here," he muttered despondently. "What are they doing here?"

"Well, why don't we go to the mall next door?" I said, eyes fixed on the menacing men. "There's a coffee shop there, we could try that."

"No, they will go there next." While he wrung his hands nervously, I stepped back a little and considered the irony of our predicament. To avoid running afoul of what may be the world's most stringent public moral code, I was being asked to entertain a strange, older man in my hotel room, something I would never agree to back home.

I had to do something. He was about to walk away and cancel the meeting, and I couldn't afford to lose it. Then I remembered a couple of armchairs near the elevator, up on my floor. We rode up and ordered room-service coffee. We talked as the elevators chimed up and down the spine of the skyscraper and the roar of vacuum cleaners echoed in the hallway.

--

ONE glaring spring day, when the hot winds raced in off the plains and the sun blotted everything to white, I stood outside a Riyadh bank, sweating in my black cloak while I waited for a friend. The sidewalk was simmering, but I had nowhere else to go. As a woman, I was forbidden to enter the men's half of the bank to fetch him. Traffic screamed past on a nearby highway. The winds tugged at the layers of black polyester. My sunglasses began to slip down my glistening nose.

The door clattered open, and I looked up hopefully. But no, it was a security guard. And he was stomping straight at me, yelling in Arabic. I knew enough vocabulary to glean his message: He didn't want me standing there. I took off my shades, fixed my blue eyes on him blankly and finally turned away as if puzzled. I think of this as playing possum.

He disappeared again, only to reemerge with another security guard. This man was of indistinct South Asian origin and had an English vocabulary. He looked like a pit bull — short, stocky and teeth flashing as he barked: "Go! Go! You can't stand here! The men can SEE! The men can SEE!"

I looked down at him and sighed. I was tired. "Where do you want me to go? I have to wait for my friend. He's inside." But he was still snarling and flashing those teeth, arms akimbo. He wasn't interested in discussions.

"Not here. NOT HERE! The men can SEE you!" He flailed one arm toward the bank.

I lost my temper.

"I'm just standing here!" I snapped. "Leave me alone!" This was a slip. I had already learned that if you're a woman in a sexist country, yelling at a man only makes a crisis worse.

The pit bull advanced toward me, making little shooing motions with his hands, lips curled back. Involuntarily, I stepped back a few paces and found myself in the shrubbery. I guess that, from the bushes, I was hidden from the view of the window, thereby protecting the virtue of all those innocent male bankers. At any rate, it satisfied the pit bull, who climbed back onto the sidewalk and stood guard over me. I glared at him. He showed his teeth. The minutes passed. Finally, my friend reemerged.

A liberal, U.S.-educated professor at King Saud University, he was sure to share my outrage, I thought. Maybe he'd even call up the bank — his friend was the manager — and get the pit bull in trouble. I told him my story, words hot as the pavement.

He hardly blinked. "Yes," he said. "Oh." He put the car in reverse, and off we drove.

--

DRIVING to the airport, I felt the kingdom slipping off behind me, the flat emptiness of its deserts, the buildings that rear toward the sky, encased in mirrored glass, blank under a blaring sun. All the hints of a private life I have never seen. Saudis are bred from the desert; they find life in what looks empty to me.

Even if I were Saudi, would I understand it? I remember the government spokesman, Mansour Turki, who said to me: "Being a Saudi doesn't mean you see every face of Saudi society. Saudi men don't understand how Saudi women think. They have no idea, actually. Even my own family, my own mother or sister, she won't talk to me honestly."

I slipped my iPod headphones into my ears. I wanted to hear something thumping and American. It began the way it always does: an itch, an impatience, like a wrinkle in the sock, something that is felt, but not yet registered. The discomfort always starts when I leave.

By the time I boarded the plane, I was in a temper. I yanked at the clasps, shrugged off the abaya like a rejected embrace. I crumpled it up and tossed it childishly into the airplane seat.

Then I was just standing there, feeling stripped in my jeans and blouse. My limbs felt light, and modesty flashed through me. I was aware of the skin of my wrists and forearms, the triangle of naked neck. I scanned the eyes behind me, looking for a challenge. But none came. The Saudi passengers had watched my tantrum impassively.

I sat down, leaned back and breathed. This moment, it seems, is always the same. I take the abaya off, expecting to feel liberated. But somehow, it always feels like defeat.

--

megan.stack@latimes.com

Stack reported in Saudi Arabia repeatedly during her tenure as The Times' Cairo Bureau chief from September 2003 until last month.
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DogBrian
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« Reply #37 on: June 06, 2007, 03:26:35 PM »

Dateline runs a story about Jews living harmoniously in Iran.

Part 1    http://www.youtube.com/v/VCBDZfjmPAw
Part 2    http://www.youtube.com/v/a60pRSZshF

I don't see any yellow badges on the Jews like our trusting media told us they would have to wear....
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3252934,00.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #38 on: June 15, 2007, 12:27:33 PM »

Good Catch
WSJ
June 15, 2007; Page A16
Chalk one up for the good guys. This week's arrest of an alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is the most notable victory yet for Indonesia's four-year-old crack counterterrorism squad. It's also a sign of what committed antiterror governments can accomplish, even in countries with majority-Muslim populations.

Abu Dujana is a major catch by any measure. A long-time terrorist, he started his training in explosives, small arms and guerrilla tactics as early as 1986. While fighting with the mujahadeen in Afghanistan, he befriended other future leaders of JI, including Hambali, mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings; Zulkarnaen, JI's military operations leader; and Abu Rusdan, who helped shelter at least one of the Bali bombers before serving as JI's No. 1.

Dujana is believed to have been critical to JI's ability to function as a broad-based terror network, stretching from Indonesia to the southern Philippines. His loss could prove a major disruption to JI's training, logistics and weapons-procurement efforts -- especially if he rats out his fellow terrorists. More broadly, Dujana was one of the few leaders who bridged operational factions within JI. His arrest doesn't necessarily presage JI's dissolution, but it will complicate life for any successor.

The heroes here are members of Detachment 88, Indonesia's elite counterterrorism security squad. Organized with U.S. and Australian support in the wake of the Bali bombing, the force has steadily gained expertise and morale over its brief life. As each new raid has yielded more information about JI's terrorist network, arrests have been growing in number and frequency; the unit can claim 250 JI kills or captures. The raid that snared Dujana and seven alleged accomplices followed a similar round-up in March.

Detachment 88's strengths are offset by the weaknesses of an Indonesian court system that is still woefully inadequate to tackling complex terrorism cases, as the muddled 2005 prosecution of Bali mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir showed. And Indonesian prisons are becoming hotbeds of radicalization, not least because many jails don't separate terror suspects-cum-proselytizers from potential recruits. Looming in the background is Jakarta's failure to ban Jemaah Islamiyah, largely for domestic political reasons.

Nonetheless, Indonesia has come a long way in a short time, and Detachment 88 shows what a small but elite squad can accomplish. Indonesians have been especially successful at collecting human intelligence and combining it with more high-tech intelligence programs. Dujana's arrest is another sign that the U.S. is not alone in resisting radical Islam's terror methods.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #39 on: July 24, 2007, 06:45:29 AM »

WSJ

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« Reply #40 on: July 25, 2007, 10:08:08 AM »

All:

I found this article to be very interesting and thought the victory comments of Erdogan hit the right notes.

Marc
================================

Turkey's Illiberal Seculars
By MUSTAFA AKYOL
July 25, 2007
WSJ

ISTANBUL -- Sunday's general elections in Turkey were seen by some commentators as the vote that would shape the upcoming decades of this overwhelmingly Muslim and yet resolutely secular republic. While it was widely expected that the incumbent Justice and Development Party, also known by its Turkish initials, AKP, would come out as the strongest party, very few predicted the extent of its victory. The AKP gained 46.6% of the votes and 340 seats in a parliament of 550 -- an astounding electoral triumph that has many implications for Turkey and the broader Islamic world.

 
Although the AKP has been in power since 2002 and has carried out a very successful program of political and economic liberalism -- in the classic sense -- Turkey's staunchly secular establishment never fully trusted the party that had started as a liberal offshoot of a more radical Muslim movement. While the AKP leaders define themselves as "conservatives," Turkey's secularists continue calling them "Islamist," a label designed to tarnish their image, at home and abroad, as Taliban-style Muslim totalitarians. Therefore the political battle in Turkey, which reached its tipping point when Turkish generals issued a harsh "secularism memorandum" on the night of April 27, has commonly been defined as a power struggle between "Islamists" and "secularists." For the uninitiated foreigner, it is easy to presume that the former is bigoted and xenophobic, and the latter is open-minded and pro-Western.

The true picture is exactly the opposite. While the AKP is a strong proponent of free markets, civil liberties and Turkey's European Union bid, the secularist opposition, led by the People's Republican Party, rejects all these objectives. The secularists actually think that most of the liberal reforms the AKP has spearheaded during the EU process are in fact part of a plot cooked up by Western "imperialists" designed to dilute Turkey's national sovereignty. A series of recent bestsellers by a die-hard secular conspiracy theorist, Ergun Poyraz, is a good indicator of this zeitgeist. His "investigative" books make the paranoid argument that the AKP leaders -- and their head-scarved wives -- are in fact crypto-Jews who collaborate with the "Elders of Zion" to destroy Turkey's secularism.

The correct way of interpreting Turkey's power struggle would in fact be to define it as a conflict between liberal Muslims and illiberal secularists. The mindset of the latter camp is shaped by a very rigid and outmoded ideology, which is known as "Kemalism." The term comes from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the hero of Turkey's war of liberation, and the founder of the modern-day Turkish republic. Although Atatürk was undoubtedly a great leader, he never claimed to have a political theory. And yet that's precisely what his followers ascribed to him. After his death, a personality cult was created around this "Supreme Leader," and his policies were turned into everlasting principles. One such principle is "statism," which dictates that the economy should be managed by the state. That's why most contemporary Kemalists fiercely oppose privatization and foreign direct investment.

Turkey's much debated principle of secularism -- which, unlike the First Amendment in the U.S., leaves very little room for religious freedom -- is another sacred pillar of Kemalism that reflects the mood of the early 20th century. At the time, most European thinkers believed that religion was an irrational myth that must be replaced by science during the course of modernization. Hence Kemalists not only want to keep religion out of the state -- a principle that the AKP accepts -- but out of society altogether. Today, many philosophers and social scientists believe that religion and modernity are indeed compatible. But the Kemalists neither know of nor care about such novel concepts. For them, all the basic truths that the Turks require have already been decreed by Mustafa Kemal. All the nation needs to do is to safeguard this transmitted wisdom.

While the Kemalists have frozen themselves in this unholy scholasticism, Turkey's more devout Muslims, who have been regarded for decades as the underclass, have caught up with and even outdone the secularist nomenclature in terms of modernization. They have integrated far better into the globalized world. Additionally, the more they realized that free countries such as the U.S. or Britain give their Muslim citizens all the religious freedoms that are absent in Turkey, the more they appreciated Western style democracy. That's why Turkey's flourishing Muslim bourgeoisie and the rising Muslim intelligentsia have become defenders of democracy and liberalism. Kemalists oppose both, and, in return, praise "the Republic," which has become a euphemism for secularist oligarchy.

The main argument of the secularist camp is that AKP leaders are Islamic-oriented, and when Islam influences politics in any form, it becomes a tyrannical force. While it is certainly true that the synthesis of Islam and totalitarianism -- a lethal blend that has created al Qaeda and its ilk -- is horrific, the synthesis of Islamic values with liberal democracy might well be a blessing. Perhaps that's why the AKP's policies toward the Kurds are much more tolerant and generous: While the Kemalists still wish to turkify all Kurds -- an 80-year-old policy which derives from the cult of Turkishness, the secular alternative to Islam -- Mr. Erdogan's party respects Kurdish identity and refers to the common Ottoman past of the Turks and the Kurds. No wonder that in Sunday's elections, the AKP won a great victory in Kurdish cities, and gained more votes than the Kurdish nationalists who ran as independent candidates.

Interestingly, when compared to the Kemalists, the AKP is much more tolerant to Turkey's non-Muslim minorities, too. That's why some prominent Turkish Christians, including the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan, declared their sympathy for the ruling party before the elections. Once again, the values of the Ottoman/Islamic tradition, which represent the peaceful co-existence of the three monotheistic faiths, seem to be more pluralistic than the Kemalist principles that require a strictly homogeneous nation.

In short, the AKP's election victory is good news for all those who wish for a more open and democratic Turkey. It might also be a source of inspiration for other Muslim nations who have been suppressed throughout the 20th century by either secular autocrats or Islamist tyrannies. Now the AKP proves that a political movement led by devout Muslims can embrace capitalism, democracy and secularity. That's precisely the example that the Muslim world needs to see.

Mr. Akyol is the deputy editor of the Turkish Daily News.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #41 on: August 16, 2007, 07:52:02 AM »

As we all know, Saudi Arabia is the home of the Muslim religion, and SA is the home of AQ.  Here is one particular take on the SA government and its relation with Islam:
=============


csmonitor.com - The Christian Science Monitor Online
from the August 15, 2007 edition -
http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0815/p09s02-coop.html

A tipping point in Saudi Arabia
By favoring merchants over clerics, Abdullah is making crucial reforms.
By Dana Moss and Zvika Krieger

Brussels; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

When Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud was crown prince of Saudi Arabia, one
of his most infamous decisions was banning the use of camera phones in 2004
- a demand from the country's Wahhabi clergy who claimed the devices were
"spreading obscenity."

But the decision was quickly reversed when King Abdullah faced pressure from
his government ministers and, allegedly, from a cadre of foreign businessmen
who threatened to pull their companies from Saudi Arabia. "Abdullah was
presented with a choice between the Wahhabis and good business," says one
Riyadh-based businessman. "His decision [for the latter] was clear."

It is a decision that Abdullah has made time and again over the course of
his reign as king, which hit its two-year mark this month. By sidelining the
traditional clergy in favor of the merchant classes and more progressive
religious voices, Abdullah has been challenging the "great bargain" of the
Saudi state - namely the empowerment of the Wahhabi ulema (hard-line Islamic
scholars) in exchange for their sanction of the House of Saud.

This unlikely reformer, who has unofficially led the kingdom since King
Fahd's stroke in 1995, has propelled the country through a radical
transformation. From accession to the World Trade Organization to the
billion-dollar overhaul of the educational system to increased criticism of
the religious "police" who enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia
law, the closed kingdom is beginning to crack open.

'The oil boom is over'

These reforms come at a critical time. Saudi Arabia is barreling toward an
economic and social crisis if it does not act fast. Almost 75 percent of
Saudi citizens are under age 30 and youth unemployment is approaching 30
percent - a potential breeding ground for terrorists and regime dissidents.
Current high oil prices are not enough to paper over the economic ravages of
the past two decades. "The oil boom is over and will not return," Abdullah
told his subjects. "All of us must get used to a different lifestyle."

Economic restructuring of the kingdom is no easy task, nor can it be
separated from social reform, such as increasing women's participation in
economic life and creating a business environment and laws suitable for
foreign companies.

Faced with resistance from the conservative official ulema, Abdullah has
adopted a strategy of "circumvention" to coerce these reforms - officially
toeing the Wahhabi line, but quietly giving more leeway to the private
sector.

Education, for example, had traditionally been firmly under Wahhabi control,
with a focus on creating more imams than businessmen. But this won't help a
country striving to become an international powerhouse. So private
universities - previously shunned by the religious elite because of their
relative independence - have recently been legalized, with a half-dozen
Western-style institutions slated to open soon. The new King Abdullah
University for Science and Technology, the kingdom's first coeducational
institution, is an Abdullah initiative to create a global leader in
technological innovation. He tasked the relatively secular Ministry of
Petroleum and Mineral Resources with running the project, keeping it away
from the fundamentalists.

By sidelining the ulema, Abdullah has been forced to find a new source for
religious legitimacy in order for him and his successors to rule over "the
land of the two holy mosques."

His strategy has been to allow a wider base of voices to speak for Islam,
both Sunni and Shiite. He instituted an annual forum titled "National
Dialogue," which invited a variety of prominent intellectuals to make their
views heard.

The forum included Sunni scholars such as Safar al Hawali, a former member
of an opposition grouping called the "Awakening Sheikhs," many of which had
been previously imprisoned for their biting criticism of palace policy.

Other invitees included prominent Shiite thinkers - a distinct change from
earlier years, when the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia had
declared Shiites to be "apostates." Most important, the official ulema were
pointedly left off the guest list.

Some have criticized the weak translation of the forum's rhetoric into real
action. Yet even its existence is an accomplishment, and a new building has
been set up in Riyadh to host this forum. This is a sign, in the words of
Saudi Arabia expert Jean-François Seznec, of how the "National Dialogue" is
becoming "systematized and routinized," reflecting long-term changes in the
regime's attitude.

Of course, Abdullah's reforms have been highly limited when compared with
Western expectations.

The country is still an iron-fisted dictatorship: The much-heralded
municipal elections of 2005 excluded women, and the trumpeted majlis
(parliament) remains a body undemocratically appointed by the king. Women
can't drive, and religious freedom is nonexistent. Fundamentalist forces
also remain significant in the kingdom, with characters such as Prince Naif,
the ultra-conservative interior minister, still wielding enormous power.

Economic impetus for reform

At 83 years old, Abdullah's time left in office may be short, and it is
uncertain that those next in line to the throne will have the will or the
ability to continue making crucial reforms.

The challenges facing the desert kingdom require highly tuned maneuvering
skills. Reformers are counting on the durability of Abdullah's reforms
regardless of his successor. His legacy is likely to be protected by the new
economic elite he is helping to create.

"You can't bury your head in the sand and expect to become a global economic
power," said one administrator at a new Western-style university in Saudi
Arabia. "The king knows this, and he's ready to accept the consequences of
reform."

. Dana Moss is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the
Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. Zvika Krieger is a Middle East-based
special correspondent for Newsweek magazine.

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« Reply #42 on: September 09, 2007, 07:59:55 AM »

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=%7BD51B2383-01A0-4896-B174-19F115EC0942%7D

Just recently, the Taliban issued a new set of 30 rules to its fighters.


Many of the instructions were to be expected: rule No. 25 commands the murder of teachers if a warning and a beating does not dissuade them from teaching. No. 26 outlines the exquisite delicacy of burning schools and destroying anything that aid organizations might undertake -- such as the building of a new road, school or clinic. The essence of the other rules are easily left to the imagination, basically involving what militant Islam is about: vile hate, death and destruction.

 

But there is a curious rule that the Western media has typically ignored. Rule No. 19 instructs that Taliban fighters must not take young boys without facial hair into their private quarters.

 

Right.

 

(Cough and clearing of the throat).

 

Aside from the question of what is permitted if a young boy does happen to have facial hair, this new Taliban commandment brings light to a taboo pathology that underlies the structures of militant Islam. And it is crucial to deconstruct the meaning of this rule -- and the horrid reality that it represents -- because it serves as a gateway to understanding the primary causes of Islamic rage and terror.

 

Rule No. 19 obviously indicates that the sexual abuse of young boys is a prevalent and institutionalized phenomenon among the Taliban and that, for one reason or another, its widespread practice has become a problem.

 

The fact that Taliban militants’ spare time involves sodomizing young boys should by no means be any kind of surprise or eyebrow raiser. That a mass pathology such as this occurs in a culture which demonizes the female and her sexuality -- and puts her out of mind and sight -- is only to be expected. To be sure, it is a simple given that the religious male fanatic who flies into a violent rage even at the thought of an exposed woman’s ankle will also be, in some other dysfunctional and dark secret compartment of his fractured life, the person who leads some poor helpless young boy into his private chambers.

 

The key issue here is that the demented sickness that underlies Rule No. 19 is by no means exclusive to the Taliban; it is a widespread phenomenon throughout Islamic-Arab culture and it lies, among other factors, at the root of that culture’s addiction to rage and its lust for violence, terror and suicide.

   

There is a basic and common sense empirical human reality: wherever humans construct and perpetuate an environment in which females and their sexuality are demonized and are pushed into invisibility, homosexual behaviour among men and the sexual abuse of young boys by older men always increases. Islamic-Arab culture serves as a perfect example of this paradigm, seeing that gender apartheid, fear of female sexuality and a vicious misogyny are the structures on which the whole society functions.

 

It is no surprise that John Racy, a psychiatrist with much experience in Arab societies, has noted that homosexuality is “extremely common” in many parts of the Arab world. [1] Indeed, even though homosexuality is officially despised in this culture and strictly prohibited and punishable by imprisonment, incarceration and/or death, having sex with boys or effeminate men is actually a social norm. Males serve as available substitutes for unavailable women. The key is this: the male who does the penetrating is not considered to be homosexual or emasculated any more than if he were to have sex with his wife, while the male who is penetrated is emasculated. The boy, however, is not considered to be emasculated since he is not yet considered to be a man. A man who has sex with boys is simply doing what many men (especially unmarried ones) do. [2] And this reality is connected to the fact that, as scholar Bruce Dunne has demonstrated, sex in Islamic-Arab societies is not about mutuality between partners, but about the adult male's achievement of pleasure through violent domination. [3]

 

While secrecy and taboo surround this phenomenon, some courageous Arabs have dared to discuss and expose it. Walid Shoebat, for instance, a former Palestinian terrorist, has openly related the abuse of young boys in Palestinian Muslim society. He himself witnessed a line of shepherd boys waiting for their turn to sodomize a five-year-old boy. [4] Amnesty International has also reported that Afghan warlords routinely sexually victimize young boys and film the orgies. [5] (The sexual abuse of young girls in this environment is also obviously widespread). [6]

 

While she was in Afghanistan in 1961, author and scholar Phyllis Chesler saw homosexuals roaming the streets, holding hands in broad daylight and gazing into each other’s eyes. “One of the pair,” she writes, “might sport a flower behind his ear; another might be wearing lipstick or have rouged cheeks.” At the same time, Chesler observed that everyone, including her Arab husband, was in denial about this common social reality, refusing to admit that this widespread behaviour was, in fact, homosexuality. [7]

 

In the dysfunctional and morbid paradigms of this culture, the idea of love is, obviously, completely absent from men's understanding of sexuality. Like the essence of Arab masculinity, it is reduced to a form of prison sex: hurting others with violence. A gigantic rupture inevitably develops between men and women, where no harmony, affection or equality is allowed to exist. [8]

 

The sexual confusion, humiliation, and repression that develop in the mindset of many males in this culture are excruciating. And it is no surprise that many of them find the only avenue for personal gratification in the act of sexually abusing young boys and, of course, in humiliating the foreign "enemy," whose masculinity must be violated at all costs -- just as theirs once was.

 

Islamist terror, therefore, is, in part, very much a release of the terrorists’ bottled-up sexual rage in connection to sexual frustration and desperation -- and to the humiliation connected to feelings of emasculation, which culminates in the act of striking out against “the enemy” and violating his masculinity. The inner workings of this mindset explain why Islamic terrorists consistently engage in sexual mutilation of their victims. Psychiatrist David Gutmann notes this phenomenon in the context of Arab Jew-hatred:

 

The Israelis perform in this Arab psychodrama of gender as a potent, destabilizing threat: to begin with, as a people they broke out of the deprecated but tolerated status of Dhimmi - a kind of submissive "woman" - to the "masculine" status of pioneer, rebel, warrior and nation builder. In retaliation, in their wars and Intifadas the Arabs strive to castrate the uppity masculinizing Jew -- and this project is carried out quite literally on the battlefield, where the bodies of fallen Jews have been mutilated in the most obscene ways. [9]

 

This lust for violence against “the enemy” and the accompanying yearning to die in the process are fuelled by the morbid earthly existence that is engendered by militant Islam. Indeed, there exists very few reasons for males to value their time on earth; their freedom of action and ability to experience joy and pleasure are extremely limited in terms of what is allowed. To be sure, most young men have absolutely no experience in love, sex, affection or friendship with females, and they have no outlet for their libido, which, to further pathologize the mindset, they regard as evil temptation. Killing and dying, therefore, become the only areas where free will can be exercised.

 

This lust for death is further compounded by the theological underpinnings of Islam itself, which promises the Muslim male sexual treats in the afterlife which are forbidden to him on earth. Indeed, if a Muslim male dies in the cause of jihad, he will enjoy a blissful union with virgins in paradise (Suras 78:31, 37:40-48, 44:51-55). And for those Muslim warriors for whom women are not of interest, there will be young pre-pubescent boys at their service -- and they will be like “scattered pearls” of “perpetual freshness” (Suras 52:24, 56:17, 76:19).

 

Thus, for the Taliban fighters who are frustrated with the new obstacles posed by Rule No. 19, there no doubt exists an even greater incentive to get to paradise a little faster.

 

In essence, suicide through jihad represents a form of perverted liberty through which an individual can express himself. In so doing, the Islamic radical strikes out at what tempts him, avenges his own emasculation and, through the act of suicide, cleanses himself of his own temptation by ridding himself of his earthly existence.

 

Theodore Dalrymple offers a profound analysis of this phenomenon in the context of the Muslim fundamentalist’s agonizing hate and self-hate inside a Western society. Analyzing the motivations of the Pakistani suicide bombers who struck in London in June 2005, he demonstrates that they saw no way out of their confrontation with freedom and modernity except death:

 

What more convincing evidence of faith could there be than to die for its sake? How can a person be really attached or attracted to rap music and cricket and Mercedes cars if he is prepared to blow himself up as a means of destroying the society that produces them? Death will be the end of the illicit attachment that he cannot entirely eliminate from his heart. The two forms of jihad, the inner and the outer, the greater and the lesser, thus coalesce in one apocalyptic action. By means of suicide bombing, the bombers overcome moral impurities and religious doubts within themselves and, supposedly, strike an external blow for the propagation of the faith. [10]

 

All of these inter-related phenomena serve as windows of understanding for us, through which we become able to grasp the demented and psychopathic psychology that creates the need for a rule such as the Taliban’s No. 19. It is a rule that exposes a fanatic mindset that holds the sight and reality of an unveiled woman to be a horrific nightmare and the greatest sin, yet simultaneously considers the forced rape of a young prepubescent boy to be in the normal swing of things.

 

It is on this eerie and putrid plateau that we come to see the factors that spawn the yearning for death and suicide inside militant Islam. Circumscribed in the most vicious and sadistic of ways, the men imprisoned in these cages long to regain a masculinity and humanity that was violently robbed from them as children. In a setting where healing through contact with feminine affection is denied and considered evil, self-extinction through hurting the “enemy” -- and the tempter -- becomes the only way out. 

 

Notes:

 

[1] David Pryce-Jones, The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs (Chicago: Irvin R. Dee, 2002), p.131.

 

[2] Bruce Dunne, “Power and Sexuality in the Middle East,” Middle East Report, Spring 1998. For a further discussion on the widespread homosexuality among men in Muslim societies in North Africa and South Asia, and how married men having sex with boys and other men is considered a social norm, and not “homosexual,” see Arno Schmitt and Jehoeda Sofer (eds.), Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Muslim Societies (New York: Harrington Park Press, 1992).

 

[3] Dunne.

 

[4] Chesler, The Death of Feminism, (Macmillan: New York , 2005), p.144.

 

[5] Chesler, p.144.

 

[6] Author Nawal El Saadawi, gives an account of the horrifying and widespread sexual abuse of young girls in the Muslim-Arab world, a crime for which the perpetrators are exonerated. See Sadawwi, The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World, pp.12-24. While it is obvious that this abuse, as with the abuse of young boys, is connected to the unavailability of women for men in the culture at large, Chesler notes that the widespread sexual abuse of female children in the Muslim world “is one of the main ways of traumatizing and shaming girls into obedience and rendering them less capable of rebellion or resistance when they grow up.” (Chesler, p.145)

 

[7] Chesler, p.88 and p.144.

 

[8] Dunne.

 

[9] David Gutmann, “Symposium: Purifying Allah's Soil,” FrontPageMagazine.com, January 27, 2006.

 

[10] Theodore Dalrymple, “The Suicide Bombers Among Us,” City Journal, Autumn 2005.

 
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« Reply #43 on: September 14, 2007, 10:17:33 AM »

Women Drivers
September 14, 2007; Page A12
'Cats and dogs in the developed world have more rights than Arab women," says Wajeha al-Huwaider, the Saudi writer and human rights activist. With that in mind, she has co-founded, along with Fawzia al-Uyyouni, the League of Demanders of Women's Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia.

Don't laugh; such a movement will strike many as quixotic considering the current status of women in the desert kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, the fairer sex can't work, travel, study, marry or see a doctor without the permission of a male "legal guardian." Strict dress codes are enforced by the vice police. Dissent, by men or women, isn't tolerated. Ms. al-Huwaider says she is taking one step at a time.

The league is now collecting signatures for a petition to be delivered to King Abdullah on September 23, the country's national holiday. Published on the liberal Arab Web site Aafaq last week, the petition demands that the King "return that which has been stolen from women: the right to (free) movement through the use of cars," according to a translation by MEMRI media research institute. As of this writing, the petition has collected 220 signatures. Those are 220 brave people.

There have been small signs of recent progress for women in Saudi Arabia, especially in the workplace. King Abdullah issued a decree last year saying women should be encouraged to work in all fields; and an increasing number of workplaces, including in government, are establishing separate sections for female employees. A year ago women were admitted to law school for the first time. Now if only they were free to drive themselves to school or work.

WSJ
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« Reply #44 on: September 15, 2007, 08:50:29 AM »

Iran: Tehran Officials Begin Crackdown On Pet Dogs

Dogs are taken from their owners and kept at a detention center
(Courtesy Photo)

In an unprecedented move, Iran's police have created a dog "prison" in Tehran. The move is part of a crackdown on what officials describe as immoral and un-Islamic behavior, during which thousands of young men and women have been detained or received warnings about the way they are dressed. Radio Farda reports that Tehran pet-owners are now also among those under pressure from the authorities.

September 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Since the creation of the Islamic republic in Iran in 1979, the acceptability of dog ownership has been debated by the authorities.

Iranian officials say that according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty animals, and people who own dogs are viewed as being under Western influence. Some conservative clerics have denounced dog ownership as "morally depraved" and say it should be banned.

Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Gholamreza Hassani, who is known for his hard-line stances, was quoted a few years ago as saying that all dog owners and their dogs should be arrested.

In the past, dog owners have received warnings or were forced to pay fines for having a pet dog. Despite such harassment, dog ownership has increased over the years, especially among young people in Tehran.

One of them is 23-year-old Banafshe, whose dog was recently detained in Tehran for 48 hours and then released on bail. Banafshe says she was walking her young puppy, Jessica, when Iranian police snatched the dog and took her to a dog "jail." The dog's crime was "walking in public."

Banafshe claims the police insulted her, but out of fear for her dog, she didn't protest. She said she told the police that Allah says in the Koran that nothing bad has been created in this world.

"They said, 'We want to get rid of Western culture,'" Banafshe said. "They said, 'You live in an Islamic country, it's not right to have dogs. Are you not Islamic? Why does your family allow you to own a dog?' They insulted me, they even told me that they hope my dog will die. But there was nothing I could do but cry. You can't imagine how badly I was insulted."

'The Police Must Be Laughing'

The new clampdown on dogs follows a recent order by the head of Tehran's security forces, Ahmad Reza Radan, who said it is against the law for dogs to walk in public. The order has left many people baffled.

Nadja, whose sick dog was arrested right after it had surgery, considers the clampdown on dogs ridiculous. "One day it's dogs, the next day it's [crime prevention], tomorrow they have to catch birds. The police themselves must be laughing at this," Nadja said.

Another dog owner in Tehran, who did not want to be named, said that instead of detaining dogs, officials should concentrate their efforts on improving the country's economy and other important issues.

Some say they see the move as government interference in their lives.

All detained pets are taken to a newly created detention center. Radio Farda reports that some dogs are housed amid piles of garbage and debris. Others reported that a very large dog was confined to a cramped cage within the dog "prison."

Dr. Javid Aledavud, the head of Iran's Society to Defend the Rights of Animals, told Radio Farda that conditions at the center are very poor and unsuitable for pets. He says there are no passages in the Koran about dogs being dirty.

He adds that sniffer dogs are being used in Iran in the fight against drug trafficking.
 
Iranian security forces say the ban against walking dogs in public is meant strictly to fight Western influences.

Reza Javalchi, the secretary of the Society to Defend the Rights of Animals, says dog ownership, more common in the West, is considered by Iranian officials to be a sign of Western influence. "But that is not the case," he said. "If we want to speak about symbols of Western civilization then maybe wearing a suit is also Western. These are issues that have become part of human life. Based on our research, domestic dogs were kept in Iran for hunting and guarding maybe long before it became widespread in the West."

Last month, a young person was arrested in Tehran for posting ads of his lost dog.

According to Mehdi Ahmadi, a spokesman for Tehran's police force, such ads spread depravity by encouraging dog ownership.

Activists say that officially no legal prohibition exists in Iran against keeping dogs as pets. But that is little solace to the dozens of dogs that kept in the detention center, or their owners waiting for the return of their beloved pets.

(Radio Farda's Mohammad Zarghami, Keyvan Hosseini, and Azadeh Sharafshahi all contributed to this report.)

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/09/4df82da8-fdad-4fae-9661-d0eb1183be32.html
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« Reply #45 on: September 20, 2007, 09:02:11 AM »



KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

At a symposium on female circumcision in Tanta, Egypt, a poster reads, "The Beginning of the End, No to Female Circumcision."
The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”

Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is customary is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

But now, quite suddenly, forces opposing genital cutting in Egypt are pressing back as never before. More than a century after the first efforts to curb this custom, the movement has broken through one of the main barriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo to discuss it in public. That shift seems to have coincided with a small but growing acceptance of talking about human sexuality on television and radio.

For the first time, opponents said, television news shows and newspapers have aggressively reported details of botched operations. This summer two young girls died, and it was front-page news in Al Masry al Yom, an independent and popular daily. Activists highlighted the deaths with public demonstrations, which generated even more coverage.

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.

 =========

Page 2 of 2)



Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

 World View With Michael Slackman (mp3)The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

And it will be a challenge to convince influential people like Osama Mohamed el-Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, the city near where the 13-year-old girl lived, and died. “This practice has been passed down generation after generation, so it is natural that every person circumcises his daughter,” he said. “When Ali Gomaa says it is haram, he is criticizing the practice of our fathers and forefathers.”

But the movement against genital cutting has matured and is increasingly prepared for these arguments. At first, Ms. Assaad and a group of intellectuals who together created a task force simply lectured their neighbors, essentially calling the practice barbaric.

“At the beginning we preached and said this is wrong,” she recalled. “It didn’t work. They said, ‘It was done to our mothers and grandmothers, and they are fine.’ ”

She and her colleagues sounded like out-of-touch urban intellectuals, she said. But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives.

“Circumcision is a very old custom and has absolutely no benefits,” Vivian Fouad, who helps staff the national hot line, said to a caller wondering what to do with her own daughter. She continued: “If you want to protect your daughter, then you have to raise her well. How you raise your child is the main factor in everything, not mutilating your daughter.”

Egypt is a patriarchal society, but women can be a powerful force. So Ms. Assaad helped persuade two important women, elite and privileged, who like herself could not believe the practice was as widespread as it was, to join her battle.

The first was Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a political force in her own right. The second was an ally of Mrs. Mubarak, Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency that helps set national health and social policies.

Mrs. Khattab has become a force in pressing the agenda. Her council now has a full-time staff working on the issue and runs the hot line. She toured the Nile Delta region, three cities in one day, promoting the message, blunt and outraged that genital cutting had not stopped.

“The Koran is a newcomer to tradition in this manner,” she said. “As a male society, the men took parts of religion that satisfied men and inflated it. The parts of the Koran that helped women, they ignored.”

It is an unusual swipe at the Islamists who have promoted the practice as in keeping with religion, especially since the government generally tries to avoid taking on conservative religious leaders. It tries to position itself as the guardian of Islamic values, aiming to enhance its own wilted legitimacy and undercut support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but popular opposition movement.

But the religious discourse concerning genital cutting has changed, and that is credited to Ms. Assaad’s strategy of reaching up to people like Mrs. Mubarak and out to young women like Fatma Ibrahim, 24. When Ms. Ibrahim was 11 years old, she said, her parents told her she was going for a blood test. The doctor, a relative, put her to sleep and when she woke, she said she could not walk.

The memory haunts her now, and though she says that her parents “will kill” her if they find out, she has become a volunteer in the movement against genital cutting, hoping to spare other women what she endured.

“I am looking to talk to the young, the ones who will be parents in 10 years,” she said. “This is my target group. I talk to the young. When I get married, inshallah, I will never, ever circumcise my daughter.”

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« Reply #46 on: October 07, 2007, 08:39:14 AM »

NIGERIA: TEN CHRISTIANS KILLED IN MUSLIM RAMPAGE IN KANO STATE

Homes, churches destroyed as 500 people are displaced; government slow to respond.

TUDUN WADA DANKADAI, Nigeria, October 5 (Compass Direct News) – A Muslim rampage last week in this town in the northern state of Kano resulted in the killing of 10 Christians and the destruction of nine churches, according to eyewitnesses.

Another 61 people were injured and more than 500 displaced in the September 28 disturbance, touched off when Muslim students of Government College-Tudun Wada Dankadai, a public high school, claimed that a Christian student had drawn a cartoon of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, on the wall of the school’s mosque.


Christian students said no one saw the alleged cartoon and that no one in the tiny minority group of Christians would have dared such a feat, especially during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Of the student population of 1,500 at the high school, only 14 are Christians. Seven of them live on campus.


Iliya Adamu, an 18-year-old student at the school, told Compass that he had been preparing to go to class when a group of Muslim students stormed into his dorm and began to beat him.


“I was surprised that they were beating me without telling what I did,” Adamu said. “I asked to know what was happening, and they claimed that one Christian student had gone to their mosque to draw a cartoon of Muhammad. In spite of my denying the act, they kept beating me.”

Adamu said he saw them beating a Christian classmate, Sule La’azaru. Sensing that he would be killed, he ran to the principal’s office to take refuge. Soon the remaining Christian students escaped and joined him in the principal’s office.


Sensing danger, Muslim teachers locked the Christian students in the principal’s office. They were kept there for about 30 minutes before the school principal, Alhaji Garba Wajume, arrived at the chaotic scene.

Disregarding the appeal of their Muslim teachers to calm down, Muslim students began throwing stones at the Christian students through the window of the principal’s office, wounding the head of student Ayuba Wada.


“I was inside the office of our principal, with the others, when suddenly the Muslim students began throwing stones at us,” Wada said. “It was through this way that my head was broken. I was bleeding, and no help came as the situation became more riotous.”


Trapped in the Principal’s Office
The Muslim students eventually broke into the office, but the timely arrival of the principal saved Wada’s life.


Apart from his head wound, Wada also suffered cuts on his legs. He was taken to Hayin Yawa Clinic, where he was treated and smuggled to Doguwa village. Two of his colleagues also were taken to the clinic and subsequently escaped the carnage. The Christian students remaining in the principal’s managed to escape from the Muslim mob unaided.

Christian student Shehu Bawa told Compass that when he arrived at the school that morning, he noticed there were no students on the assembly grounds as there normally would be.


“I then went to my class, however, after about 10 minutes I heard shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar [God is Great]’ all over the school,” he said. “The Muslim students were now attacking every Christian student on sight. Four of us ran into the office of the vice principal, but when it was finally broken into by the Muslim students, we ran out and escaped.”


The Christian students denied that any of them could have drawn a cartoon of Muhammad. “How can we take such a risk when we know that we are a minority and cannot stand [against] them?” Bawa told Compass. “This is a lie created to have a reason to attack us.”


Adamu added that no one saw the alleged cartoon.


“We suspect that either one of the Muslim student in the school did this to create an excuse for us to be attacked, or that a Muslim fanatic from the town might have done this to spark off a fight among Muslims and Christians,” he said. “How could we have done this when Muslim students are always around the mosque day and night because of the Ramadan?”

Having attacked Christian students in the school, Muslim students poured into the streets of Tudun Wada, joined in the mayhem by other Muslims. Burned down churches, vandalized Christian property and unrestrained killings marked the next four hours.


The churches burned included St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. George’s Anglican Church, Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), Assemblies of God Church, First Baptist Church, and a Pentecostal church, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church.


Other churches destroyed by the Muslim militants were an African independent church, the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, and two other Pentecostal churches, The Chosen Bible Church and Deeper Life Bible Church.


Among the 10 Christians murdered were Augustine Odoh and his younger brother Cosmos Odoh, both members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Another Catholic, Joseph Eze, was also killed. At press time, the corpses of the three Catholics were lying at the City Hospital in Kano city.


Seven other Christians killed were buried in a common grave by officials of the government of Kano state on Wednesday (October 3), as government workers did not allow relatives or church leaders to identify the corpses.

Those injured were being treated at the Assumpta Clinic, Nomansland in Sabon Gari area of Kano city.


Musa Ahmadu Haruna, priest of St. George’s Anglican Church, Tudun Wada Dankadai, whose church was burned, told Compass that he believes no Christian student in the school could have drawn an image of Muhammad.

“None of these students is capable of drawing a cartoon on a mosque,” he said. “That is a frame-up to find a reason to attack us.”

Part 2


Town in Flames
Rabiu Danbawa, pastor of area ECWA church, said that when he heard of an outbreak of violence against Christians, he decided to move closer to the town center to see what was happening.


“I stood as they set fire on our churches one by one,” he said.

Danbawa said he helped evacuate a member of his church, Juliana Lawal, on his motorcycle before returning for his own family. By the time he approached his home, the storming Muslims had already set fire to the structure, part of the church building already in flames.


Danbawa said he stood about 500 meters from the church as it burned.


“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “I did not know the fate of my wife and my children. I prayed asked for their protection, even as I did not know whether they were killed in the fire in the church or not. However, a few days later, I found my wife and children safe.”


Danbawa said he went to the police station, only to find the police dispersing the many Christians who had run there to escape the attack.

“We were told to leave, as our safety could not be guaranteed,” he said, in tears. “Women and children all scampered to the bush, only to be attacked by the Muslims who had already hid themselves in the bush awaiting their Christian prey.”


Many Christians, Danbawa said, were killed in the surrounding foliage as they tried escaping. Other Christian victims corroborated this statement.

Danbawa and his family are now refugees in Dogon Kawo village alongside other Christian victims. Other Christians are also taking refuge in Kalgo village. None of them have food or shelter, he said.


Christian survivors of the attack told Compass that their survival was a miracle. While Kano state was the site of religious violence in which hundreds died in 2004, the destruction in Tudun Wada, they said, is unprecedented.


The Rev. Father Emmanuel Koro, parish priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the town, told Compass that Muslim fanatics intent on killing him his hand cut with a machete.


“That I survived this attack is a miracle,” Rev. Koro said. “When I had the cut on my hand and was bleeding, it was not possible for me to do anything. Schoolchildren on the church premises were crying for help from me, but there was nothing I could do. I had to be helped out through a back fence in the parish to escape.”


The slashing of his hand, it turned out, may have saved his life, as it seemed to signal the aborting of a plan to burn Koro alive; they had already poured gas on him, he said, in preparation for doing so. He was rescued and taken to the police station, and then moved to a cathedral in Kano city.


Policemen who are Christians were not spared from attack; the Muslim rowdies attacked about 30 officers and their families, looted their household items and set their rooms on fire. Eyewitnesses said the Muslim fanatics also extended their attacks to Christians living in Kumbarau (Yarkawu) village.


Christian Shops Destroyed
The attack comes on the heels of a call in July by the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar III, to Muslims in northern Nigeria to rise against Christianity. Kano state government has led the implementation of sharia (Islamic) law throughout northern Nigeria.


Haruna of St. George’s Anglican Church estimated property damage at his church alone at 5 million naira (US$40,718). Haruna said that in the carnage, not only churches but Christian businesses were attacked.

“All shops and businesses of Christians were looted and burnt,” he told Compass at Tudun Wada police station. “Christians have been killed, and all homes of Christians burnt too.”


Afiniki Andy Luka, a Christian widow, told Compass at the Tudun Wada police station that she missed the carnage because she was in Kano city.

“I was phoned and told not to come back to the town, but my children were alone in the house,” she said. “God in his way led them through the carnage as they escaped to the police station. I found them among displaced persons the following day.”


Luka said no house belonging to a Christian in town, nor a church, remains – they have all been destroyed.

“There is not a single church standing in this town as they have all been burned,” she said. “I had two shops, but the Muslims looted them and then burned every other thing in them. I have now been forced to become a refugee in my country with no home to stay in, no husband and no means of survival.”


Dr. Chudi Nwoye, medical director of Assumpta Clinic, told Compass that the victims of the crisis have not only been violated but traumatized.

“These people have been dehumanized and traumatized,” Dr. Nwoye said. “Religious conflicts have become recurrent problems in Kano. It is terrible that these victims have been made to experience deep emotional trauma for not committing any wrong.”


He said there is the urgent need at the moment for these Christians to be rehabilitated.


Mark Lipdo, director of the Stefanos Foundation, a ministry to the persecuted in Nigeria, told Compass that it is shocking that the Nigerian government has done nothing to assist the injured and the displaced.

“It is surprising that an overwhelming thing like this that has displaced thousands of Christians is not known to the Nigerian government,” he said, as the government initially downplayed the extent of the tumult. “The government must act to check such unprovoked attacks against Christians.”

Haruna of St. George’s Anglican Church said, “We are living under persecution in Kano state, and yet, we are being told that we are under a democratic government. Do Muslims really want us to co-exist together as a nation? I doubt so.”

Link:http://www.compassdirect.org/en/disp...yname=&rowcur=
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« Reply #47 on: November 03, 2007, 09:07:03 AM »


Saudi Marriage 'Expert' Advises Men in 'Right Way' to Beat Their Wives

Friday, November 02, 2007
Move over, Dr. Phil, there's a new relationship expert in town.
He's Saudi author and cleric, "Dr." Muhammad Al-'Arifi, who in a remarkable segment broadcast on Saudi and Kuwaiti television in September, counseled young Muslim men on how to treat their wives.
"Admonish them – once, twice, three times, four times, ten times," he advised. "If this doesn't help, refuse to share their beds."
And if that doesn't work?
"Beat them," one of his three young advisees responded.
"That's right," Al-'Arifi said.
Click here to view the segment at MEMRITV.org
He goes on to calmly explain to the young men that hitting their future wives in the face is a no-no.
"Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals," he explained. "Even if you want your camel or donkey to start walking, you are not allowed to beat it in the face. If this is true for animals, it is all the more true when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face."
/**/
His final words of wisdom?
"Woman, it has gone too far. I can't bear it anymore," he tells the men to tell their wives. "If he beats her, the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly.
"He must beat her where it will not leave marks. He should not beat her on the hand... He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage. He should not beat her like he would beat an animal or a child -- slapping them right and left.
"Unfortunately, many husbands beat their wives only when they get mad, and when they start beating, it as if they are punching a wall – they beat with their hands, right and left, and sometimes use their feet. Brother, it is a human being you are beating. This is forbidden. He must not do this."
Take that, Match.com!

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,307680,00.html
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« Reply #48 on: November 15, 2007, 04:33:22 PM »

A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.


Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
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« Reply #49 on: November 29, 2007, 09:37:06 PM »

URL=1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling]1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling[/URL]

1,500 Qaeda Members Freed After Counseling
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 27, 2007
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/67016




WASHINGTON — On the eve of the Annapolis summit on the Middle East conflict, the Saudi royal family released 1,500 members of Al Qaeda from prison, requiring them only to promise to refrain from jihad within the Arabian Peninsula.

The presence of the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, at the peace parley has been touted by the White House and the State Department as an important diplomatic breakthrough.

Mr. Faisal has said he was reluctant to attend the meeting, the first time the Saudis would be formal participants in an international peace conference dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict. In an interview with Time magazine, he said he would not shake the Israeli prime minister's hand and that he was only interested in a response to his kingdom's peace offer, a full withdrawal from the territory Israel won in 1967 in exchange for peace.

However, while the State Department was wooing the Saudi foreign minister, the kingdom's Interior Ministry released about 1,500 Al Qaeda members arrested in crackdowns that began in 2003 against the group headed by Osama bin Laden.

The story first broke over the weekend in the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. In an interview with the newspaper, a member of a special committee to reform jihadists in the kingdom, Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said the newly released prisoners had been reformed.

"The committee has met around 5,000 times to offer counseling to 3,200 people, who were accused of embracing the takfir ideology. The committee has successfully completed reforming 1,500 people," he said.

The ideology of takfir is prevalent in both fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni and Shiite Islam, and it holds that there are separate rules that allow Muslims to kill, lie to, and steal from nonbelievers.

While the Saudi state has at times been targeted by Muslims embracing the philosophy of takfir, its mosques and Ministry of Culture and Information also have been exporting the strain of Islam that encourages this doctrine.

Yesterday, an American intelligence analyst who was following the story said he was wary about the release of the prisoners. "This Saudi process of reform has been so opaque. What no one knows right now is whether the people who have gone through this program have pledged to stop practicing terror or whether they are only pledging to stop terror inside the kingdom."

Mr. Nujaimi told Al Watan that the reformed prisoners have pledged to end their campaign to rid the Arabian Peninsula of infidels. "After several graded sessions with the committee, and having been convinced of their misguided vision, they renounced their erroneous ideologies, including the concept of driving out all infidels from the Arabian Peninsula," he said.

The director of the Gulf and Energy program at the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs, Simon Henderson, told the New York Sun yesterday that he did not think the prisoner release was connected to Mr. Faisal's visit. "I don't see this as being connected with the Saudi decision to take part in the Annapolis meeting," he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Henderson was skeptical about the program. "This would appear to be 1,500 people reformed so far out of 3,200 who have entered the so-called counseling process," he said. "By my calculation, that is less than a 50% success rate. And what is success? They don't use violence in the kingdom. Does this mean they can use this elsewhere, for example, in Iraq?"
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