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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: November 30, 2007, 04:46:55 AM »

November 29, 2007
Guilty Verdict in Sudan for British Teacher

By REUTERS
KHARTOUM, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A British teacher accused of insulting Muslims after her class called a teddy bear Mohammad was found guilty and jailed for 15 days, a defence lawyer said on Thursday.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, was ordered to be deported after she had completed her sentence.

"She was found guilty of insulting religion and the sentence is 15 days (in jail) and deportation," defence lawyer Ali Ajib said after the trial in a Khartoum courtroom, which lasted less than a day.

Robert Boulos, head of Unity high school where Gibbons worked, said: "We are happy with the verdict. It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and attention."

He added: "We will be very sad to lose her."

When asked what he thought of the verdict, the head of Gibbons's defence teams, Kamal al-Jazouli, said: "It was not bad."

Gibbons was on Wednesday charged with insulting Islam, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs because of the toy's name. Under Sudan's penal code, she could have faced 40 lashes, a fine, or up to one year in jail.

In court, judge Mohammed Youssef listened to two accounts -- one from school secretary Sarah Khawad, who filed the first complaint about the teddy bear's name, and one from the official who has been investigating the case, court sources said.

Teachers at the school say that calling the teddy bear Mohammad, the name of the prophet of Islam, was not her idea in the first place and that no parents objected when Unity High School sent parents circulars about a reading project which included the teddy bear as a fictional participant.

In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had earlier told the Sudanese ambassador he was concerned about Gibbons.

"We believe that this was an innocent misunderstanding," Miliband said in a statement.

Sudan has had poor relations with Britain, the United States and most European countries for several years, mainly because of their disagreements over how to handle the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan.

The U.N. Security Council, of which Britain is a permanent member, wants to deploy a joint U.N.-African force to Darfur to restore order and help displaced people return home. Khartoum reluctantly agreed but is disputing many details.

Several British Muslim groups said they supported Gibbons.

"This (charging Gibbons) is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the MCB, Britain's largest Muslim organisation.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: December 15, 2007, 10:29:38 PM »

This piece is from the once venerable name of Reuters, now often a source that is less than honest in its shadings:

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

Indonesia cleric warns of big disaster if bombers executed
Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:42am EST


CILACAP, Indonesia, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A controversial Indonesian Muslim cleric warned on Saturday that the country would suffer a big disaster if three Bali bombers on death row were executed.


Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by some foreign governments of once heading the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, spoke before visiting the three Islamic militants awaiting execution for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island.

"I'm worried if they were executed there would be a big disaster," Bashir told reporters on the way to Nusakambangan, an island prison complex off the southern coast of Java where the three are being held. Bashir said he wanted to advise the convicts -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas -- to be patient and to seek God's forgiveness for their wrongdoing.


"It is true they were defending Muslims but their methods were wrong. That is why they are now fasting to pay for the loss of innocent lives," Bashir said. He did not say if the innocent lives included those of foreign holidaymakers, the majority of 202 people who died in the attack.

In an interview with Reuters in October, the three militants said they had no regrets, except for the fact that some Muslims had died in the blasts.

No date for the execution of the three Bali bombers has been set although the Supreme Court has rejected their final appeal.

The Bali bombings and several other deadly attacks have been blamed on militants from Jemaah Islamiah, of which Bashir was alleged to have been the spiritual leader and co-founder. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for conspiracy over the Bali bombings but was later cleared.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam.

While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.

Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants. (Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; editing by Roger Crabb)


http://www.reuters.com/article/lates...s/idUSJAK61420
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #52 on: December 20, 2007, 02:38:26 PM »

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Religion/?id=1.0.1687095144

Tehran, 19 Dec. (AKI) - A top Muslim cleric in Iran, Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hassani said on Wednesday that women in Iran who do not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf, should die.

"Women who do not respect the hijab and their husbands deserve to die," said Hassani, who leads Friday prayers in the city of Urumieh, in Iranian Azerbaijan.

"I do not understand how these women who do not respect the hijab, 28 years after the birth of the Islamic Republic, are still alive," he said.

"These women and their husbands and their fathers must die," said Hassani, who is the representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in eastern Azerbaijan.

Hassani's statements came after two Kurdish feminists in Iran were accused of being members of an armed rebel group and of carrying out subversive activities threatening the security of the state.

It is believed that his statements and the arrests could spark a fresh crackdown on women who do not repect the Islamic dress code in Iran.

Thousands of women in Iran have already been warned this year for their "un-Islamic dress" such as wearing tight, short coats and skimpy headscarves.
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« Reply #53 on: December 31, 2007, 07:05:19 AM »

By MICHAEL MOSS and SOUAD MEKHENNET
Published: December 31, 2007
NY Times
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Ahmed Rafiki sprawled on the makeshift couch in his cell, a fresh red henna dye in his long hair and beard.


Known to other militants as the father of Moroccan jihadists, he was convicted in 2003 of leading young men to fight Americans in Afghanistan. But here in Oukacha Prison, Mr. Rafiki, an Islamist cleric, is serving the final months of his sentence in style.

His kitchen and larder are stocked three times a week by his two wives. His curtained doorway leads to a private garden and bath. He has two radios and a television, a reading stand for his Koran and a wardrobe of crisply ironed Islamic attire.

“In my case,” he said with a smile, “the people treat me well.”

Hardly a scene of harsh interrogation and detention for which Moroccan prisons are known, Mr. Rafiki’s plush prison life is evidence of an awkward balancing act between the crackdown on militants in many countries and the power those militants can hold over the authorities.

Through hunger strikes and protests, Mr. Rafiki and Oukacha’s 65 other militant inmates have won perks — including exclusive use of the conjugal rooms — that make them the envy of the prison’s 7,600 other inmates.

One recent morning, a prisoner advocate handed the warden a long list of inmates not linked to terrorism cases who were demanding equal time with their wives.

“‘Why do they get much more rights than we get here?’” the advocate, Assia El Ouadie, said the other prisoners constantly asked her. “‘Do you want us to become terrorism prisoners, and then we will get those rights?’”

Even as more and more militants are imprisoned around the world — often by governments with records of conducting extreme interrogations — the prisoners are managing to gain a kind of crude leverage over security officials who are struggling to figure out how to handle them.

Draconian, or even strict, treatment of radical inmates can lead to prison unrest and public condemnation, particularly in countries with sizable Muslim populations. At the same time, officials fear that militants given free rein are more likely to turn prisons into prime grounds for radicalization and recruiting.

“More than any time in the modern history of terrorism, the prisons have become a key front in the war on terror,” Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, wrote in a report for the United States government earlier this year.

He estimated that there were 5,000 jihadi inmates and detainees worldwide, not counting those held in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that only 15 percent had received life sentences or the death penalty, meaning the rest would eventually be set free.

Here in Morocco, across the Arab world and in European countries like Spain and France, there is a growing realization that catching and convicting militants is hardly the end of the problem. Many are getting sentences of only a few years, and Arab governments continue to release hundreds every year through mass pardons aimed at quelling fundamentalist Islamic movements.

Last April, a meeting in Morocco on radicalization of Islamic prisoners drew representatives of 21 countries. “There is some confusion as to how, in overcrowded and underfinanced prison systems, you deal with these special case prisoners,” said a British official who helped run the meeting, who spoke anonymously, citing normal diplomatic strictures. British officials acknowledge that they erred in the early 1980s when they gave Irish Republican Army prisoners their own cellblock, only to see them carry out fatal hunger strikes that won public support. But the authorities say militant Islamic inmates are even more sophisticated.

Manuals from Al Qaeda instruct prisoners on how to resist interrogations, wage hunger strikes and use prison time to strengthen religious convictions. This month, Australian officials said a group of 40 Muslim inmates, not previously considered extremists, were found using guidance from a manual to organize themselves and stage protests at a prison near Sydney. Officials responded by scattering them among other prisons.

But that is hardly a fail-safe strategy. When members of the Qaeda-inspired group Fatah al Islam, which fought the Lebanese Army for three months this year, were locked up in Roumieh Prison near Beirut, Lebanese authorities found they had been using smuggled cellphones to contact other jailed militants and their families outside.

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

Page 2 of 3)


Some Middle Eastern and European countries are using moderate imams in prisons in hopes of quelling the extremist fervor. “You have to fight their ideology with Islam and against their wrong interpretation of Islam,” said a top Syrian security official.

 
The biggest concern is that militants will return to the fight once released, despite having been imprisoned, or perhaps because of it.

That is what Mohammed Mazouz did after he was freed in 2004 from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was picked up last fall in Morocco as he was preparing to leave for Iraq to fight American troops. “I can’t forget what they did with me,” he said of his American captors, during an interview in a Moroccan prison. “I can’t forget all my life. I hate it.”

He was released two days later.

Rise of Fundamentalism

Morocco had few Islamic militants in its prisons during the 1990s, when leftists, angered by the country’s poverty and official corruption, posed more of a threat to the monarchy. King Mohammed VI began a series of liberalizations after assuming the throne in 1999. Yet a new challenge was rising, as the Islamic fundamentalism sweeping the Arab world gathered public support in Morocco. While the most popular Muslim leaders professed nonviolence, radicals began planning terrorist attacks.

In May 2003, eight weeks after the United States invaded Iraq, Morocco was hit by its worst terrorist attack ever. A dozen suicide bombers struck a cafe, a hotel and Jewish establishments in Casablanca, killing more than 30 people. The struggle between the militants and the government landed in Morocco’s prisons.

Hundreds of suspects were detained. In prison interviews with The New York Times, five men said they had been tortured during interrogations, subjected to a method of anal rape known as “the bottle treatment.”

In all, more than 1,400 men were convicted of terrorism-related charges and imprisoned. In May 2005, the militants started a 28-day hunger strike, using contraband cellphones to rally compatriots throughout the prison system.

A militant former convict, Abderahim Mohtad, started a prisoner advocacy group and stirred public support for the strikers. “Their strength comes from their belief in God,” he said in his storefront office, where one wall is covered with pictures of militant inmates. “You tortured him, you didn’t get anything from him. You arrested him and you didn’t get anything from him. You judged them, and some of them had been judged with death, and they are still laughing.”

While the Casablanca bombings had dampened public sympathy for terrorist groups, animosity toward the United States ran strong. The jailed militants were seen as motivated by the war in Iraq and by Morocco’s role in America’s campaign against terrorism.

Morocco has participated in a Sahara-wide counterterrorism effort financed by the United States, by helping to gather and share intelligence and by detaining terrorism suspects.

Many inmates protested that they had no role in the bombings, and Moroccan authorities acknowledged in recent interviews that many had been arrested simply for embracing an extreme ideology.

When the strike ended, courts reduced the sentences of some militants, and the king pardoned several hundred more. Those who remained in prison began to get special privileges.

“They started with hunger strikes and problems,” said Abdelati Belghazi, director of Zaki Prison, north of the capital, Rabat. “The media and organizations started to get involved, and because we wanted them to stop, we had to give them some of the things that they have requested. And then they started to feel much stronger because they saw that they received what they wanted. They requested more and more.”

More Space in Cells

At Zaki, one of two prisons where The Times interviewed militant inmates and prison officials, the 309 prisoners held as terrorists have much more space — averaging 3 men in each cell, compared with 22 per cell for the prison’s 3,500 regular inmates, a prison official said.

They also have a system for lodging complaints, a fact that at times irritates Ms. Ouadie, the prisoner advocate appointed by the king to mediate disputes.

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



Page 3 of 3)



“The guards threw a Koran on the ground,” a militant representative in Zaki, Yassine Aliouine, complained. Since the guards are Muslims, too, Ms. Ouadie said, it is more likely that the book simply fell.

“Yes, but they saw it and didn’t pick it up,” Mr. Aliouine replied.
When Ms. Ouadie raised the issue with the prison director, Mr. Belghazi, he played a videotape of the search where the Koran was said to have been abused, and a startlingly different scene emerged.

The video showed the guards collecting a bucketful of contraband electronics, including cellphones. They found a poster that listed militant groups and their leaders. They discovered a jackknife baked in a loaf of bread, and the warden dumped a dozen more blades on a table that he said the militants had tossed out of their windows.

Despite such periodic seizures, militant inmates in several Moroccan prisons were able to call Times reporters, both before and after the visits.

Oukacha, in Casablanca, is arguably the best address for jailed militants. Even the director, El Maati Boubiza, said he was amazed when he took the job last year. “Their cell doors were open 24 hours,” he said. “Only they could use the conjugal rooms, and they were using them starting at 6 a.m.”

Cellblock 5, where many of the militants live, functions like a small village. The inmates hold boxing matches. Sheep are slaughtered for the holidays. In one of the two kitchens, a cook proudly displayed his cutlery and an array of containers that held fresh deliveries from inmates’ families.

Down the hall, Hassan Kettani, a Islamic theorist renowned in global jihad circles, declined to be interviewed on videotape — until he changed out of his everyday clothes.

A few minutes later, he sauntered down to the lobby, unescorted, and posed in a white robe and golden headdress. “We were in very bad shape when we were captured,” he said of the days before the first hunger strike. “It was hard.”

The militants have also sought to draw public support by writing letters to local newspapers and jihadist Web sites, alternately complaining about their incarceration and presenting it as a duty gladly fulfilled.

“In our religion, we believe in destiny, and I believe that God has written this to me and I have to go through that,” said Mr. Rifiki, the militant cleric, whose group, Salafia Jihadia — or Fight of Ancestors — is considered a terrorist organization that reaches from North Africa to Europe.

Moderating the views of the hardest militants may be an impossibility, but Ms. Ouadie said prison authorities could help stop the cycle of radicalization by separating moderate Islamist prisoners from the more extreme ones. “I would arrange Islamic teachings and also treat them in a humane way,” she said.

Still, the terrorist attacks continue in Morocco and, despite the concessions to militant inmates, so do harsh interrogations by the police and intelligence agents, according to interviews with inmates.

Allegations of Torture

While Moroccan officials declined to comment on the allegations of torture, the accusers include a former investigations officer with the national security service, Abderahim Tarik, who was arrested last year on suspicion of ties to a militant group, which he denies.

Mr. Tarik said that for six days at a police station named Temara, he was beaten with sticks, stripped naked, doused with cold water and shocked with an electric prod on his feet and anus. “They started to tell me we will bring your wife tomorrow and rape her directly in front of you,” he said.

Abdelfattah Raydi exemplifies the cycle of arrests, incarceration and attacks.

Mr. Raydi, arrested in 2003 as a militant sympathizer, said in a letter he wrote in Oukacha to a human rights group, obtained by The Times, that he underwent both physical and psychological torture. “He beat me until I fainted,” he wrote of one of his questioners. Abdelfatif Amarin and two other cellmates of Mr. Raydi’s said that Mr. Raydi told them that he had been given the “bottle treatment.”

“I remember that he had nightmares and cried during his sleep,” said one inmate, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisal by prison officials. “He told me several times, ‘I swear to God, if I would have known that they would do this to me, I would have killed myself before.’”

In prison, Mr. Raydi spent time with a militant leader named Hassan al-Khattab, according to inmates, and they were both released in the king’s mass pardon in 2005. Mr. Raydi married, found work and moved away from the shantytown where he was raised with six brothers in a one-room shack, friends and relatives said.

Then last year, according to the authorities, he joined Mr. Khattab in a disrupted terrorist plot. Mr. Khattab was tried and awaits sentencing. But Mr. Raydi evaded capture, and was being sought by the authorities when he walked into an Internet cafe this March and blew himself up when the owner grew suspicious and called the police.

Chased by the authorities, Mr. Raydi’s brother and four other men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up in the following weeks, and the manhunt has produced dozens of new arrests.

On Nov. 8, 51 suspects, including one woman and two of Mr. Raydi’s brothers, made their first appearance in court. Among them was the son of a man arrested in the 2003 sweeps. “Do they treat you well, Hamid?” his grandmother asked after the hearing, pressing her hand to the glass partition. “How is your health?”

“All is good, grandmother,” he replied. “Are you coming to visit me later?”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #54 on: January 12, 2008, 12:13:06 PM »

WSJ
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« Reply #55 on: February 06, 2008, 10:36:49 AM »

LA Times

Man Sentenced to Death for Drinking

An Iranian court has sentenced a 22 year old man to death for violating the Islamic Republic's ban on drinking alchohol several times, a news agency said.

Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, a person who is caught drinking for a fourth time and confesses faces possible capital punishment, even though legal experts say executions for the offense are very rare.

The man, identified only by his first name, Mohsen, can appeal
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« Reply #56 on: February 11, 2008, 01:49:12 PM »

   
REVIEW & OUTLOOK 
 

Head Scarves and Liberty
February 11, 2008; Page A18
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited us in New York a few years ago, he said his daughters chose to study in the U.S. in part because it was illegal to wear head scarves at Turkish universities. Saturday, Turkey's Parliament voted to lift that ban.

There's probably no more contentious issue in Turkish public life, and thousands of secularists took to the streets in protest. The debate goes back to the founding of modern Turkey, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned the fez, veil and head scarf in many public places. When the military outlawed head scarves at public universities after a 1980 coup, it said the move was necessary to push back against Islamists.

 
Our own view is that lifting the ban is a sign of Turkey's democratic maturity. Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamic roots, rightly argued that the restriction violated freedom of religion. The vote to amend the constitution and permit head scarves on campus passed by 411 to 103, and included support from the big secular MHP party. The ban on face-covering veils remains.

Mr. Erdogan would nonetheless be foolish to ignore the concerns of secular democrats. The head scarf is not always merely an expression of female piety. It can also be a symbol of subjugation to political Islam. The challenge is to make sure that the freedom to wear one doesn't evolve into social compulsion to cover up. Some professors say the ban has protected secular students from peer pressure to cover their hair. The trend goes in the other direction, however. According to the European Stability Initiative, a research institute, the number of Turkish women appearing uncovered in public rose to 37% in 2006 from 27% in 1999.

The AKP, in power since 2002, has already demonstrated that a government with Islamist roots can coexist with democracy and free markets. Our hope is that lifting the ban on head scarves is another move toward a modern Muslim state.
 
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« Reply #57 on: February 12, 2008, 09:09:41 PM »

Saudi Arabia bans all things red ahead of Valentine's Day

Story Highlights
Saudi Arabia has banned red gift items like red roses until after Valentine's Day
Islamic conservatives consider the celebration of such a holiday a sin
Celebration seen as encouraging immoral relations between the unmarried
(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has asked florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine's Day, calling the celebration of such a holiday a sin, local media reported Monday.
"As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, " Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, a scholar in Islamic studies, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper.
Every year, officials with the conservative Muslim kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice clamp down on shops a few days before February 14, instructing them to remove red roses, red wrapping paper, gift boxes and teddy bears. On the eve of the holiday, they raid stores and seize symbols of love.
The virtue and vice squad is a police force of several thousand charged with, among other things, enforcing dress codes and segregating the sexes. Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism, punishes unrelated women and men who mingle in public.
Ahmed Al-Omran, a university student in Riyadh, told CNN that the government decision will give the international media another reason to make fun of the Saudis "but I think that we got used to that by now."
"I think what they are doing is ridiculous," said Al-Omran, who maintains the blog 'Saudi Jeans.' "What the conservatives in this country need to learn is something called 'tolerance.' If they don't see the permissibility of celebrating such an occasion, then fine -- they should not celebrate it. But they have to know they have no right to impose their point of view on others."
Because of the ban on red roses, a black market has flowered ahead of Valentine's Day. Roses that normally go for five Saudi riyal ($1.30) fetch up to 30 riyal ($8) on February 14, the Saudi Gazette said.
"Sometimes we deliver the bouquets in the middle of the night or early morning, to avoid suspicion," one florist told the paper.
Saudi Arabia has often come under criticism for its treatment of women, most recently in a United Nations report that blasted the kingdom for widespread discrimination. Under Saudi law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including a prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man's permission to travel or have surgery.
A businesswoman told the Times of London this month that she was detained and strip-searched by the religious police for holding a meeting in a coffee shop with male colleagues.
Two years ago, a teenager was raped by seven men who found her alone with a man unrelated to her. The government sentenced the 19-year-old woman to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being in the company of a man who wasn't a family member or her husband. She was later pardoned. The seven rapists were sentenced to two to nine years in prison.
CNN's Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report
All AboutSaudi Arabia
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #58 on: February 14, 2008, 12:44:17 PM »

International fury over Saudi Arabia's plans to behead woman accused of being a witch

The Saudi Arabian king today faced international outcry over the planned beheading of a woman accused of being a witch.

Fawza Falih turned two men impotent, a court heard in the ultra-religious state where performing supernatural occurrences is considered an offence against Islam.

Judges were also told she cast a spell to bring about the return of a divorced man's ex-wife.

But international charity Human Rights Watch said King Abdullah's religious police had forced a confession out of her.

And they claim the judges who tried her in the northern town of Quraiyat never gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence in the face of "absurd charges that have no basis in law."

The court also relied on the statements of witnesses who said she had "bewitched" them to convict her in April 2006, according to HRW.

Fawza later retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and said that as an illiterate woman, she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.

An appeals court ruled in September 2006 that Fawza could not be sentenced to death for witchcraft as a crime against God, because she had retracted her confession.

After that, the lower court judges re-sentenced her to death on the court's "discretionary" basis, for the benefit of "public interest" and to "protect the creed, souls and property of this country."

HRW's Joe Stork said: �The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like 'witchcraft' underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations.

"Fawza Falih's case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system.

"The judges' behavior in Fawza Falih's trial shows they were interested in anything but a quest for the truth," Mr Stork added.

"They completely disregarded legal guarantees that would have demonstrated how ill-founded this whole case was."

The statement did not mention Fawza's nationality but said she has relatives in Jordan. Also, Falih's age is unknown.

The case is one of several that have triggered criticism of the Saudi legal system, which does not have a written penal code that spells out the elements of a particular crime.  The Law of Criminal Procedure issued in 2002 grants defendants the right to be tried in person, to have a lawyer present during interrogation and trial and to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses.  But in practice, lawyers are often banned from courtrooms, rules of evidence are shaky and sentences often depend on the whim of judges. 

The most frequent - and recently, most high-profile - victims of such whimsical rulings are women, who already suffer severe restrictions in their daily life in Saudi Arabia.  Women there cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...page_id=181 1
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« Reply #59 on: February 18, 2008, 08:38:24 PM »

LATimes.  Note the *ssbackwards thought process of the article-- no surprise, its the Left Angeles Times.
====================

CLASH OF VALUES: Afghans in Jalalabad protest the death sentence of student and journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, convicted for downloading an Internet article questioning a Muslim precept. A Western outcry may stiffen conservatives’ resolve.
An international outcry is brewing on behalf of the 23-year-old, condemned to death on blasphemy laws. But protests may increase religious conservatives' resolve to assert their independence.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 18, 2008

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Family members describe Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh as a frightened young man, sitting in a cramped Afghan prison cell alongside 30 hard-core criminals, hoping an apology will save him from execution for blasphemy.

But to the outside world, the 23-year-old student and journalist has become a cause: a symbol of Afghanistan's clashing constitutional commitments to freedom of expression yet also to Islamic law that allows apostasy to be punished by death. His sentence, imposed after a closed-door trial during which he was not permitted a lawyer or a hearing, has become a rallying cry for foreign critics who want Afghanistan to hew to international norms on human rights.

The question now is whether international protests will save Kaambakhsh from a firing squad, or instead stiffen the spines of religious conservatives who fear that Afghanistan's morals are being diluted by imported Western values.

The student's troubles began when he downloaded an article written by an Iranian writer living in Europe that questioned the Islamic precept of allowing men to take several wives. Kaambakhsh, a journalist in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, was arrested in October after he circulated copies of the article at the city's Balkh University.

He was convicted and sentenced to death on Jan. 22. Kaambakhsh has told his family he expects to die, but many Afghans expect the death sentence to eventually be rescinded. The student still has the right to appeal to two higher courts and, as a last resort, President Hamid Karzai has authority to commute his penalty to a jail term.

"We have talked to experts in Sharia [Islamic] law who say there are no executions for blasphemy when the accused apologizes," said Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, the condemned man's brother. "And my brother has apologized lots of times."

But many Afghans also say the mounting international pressure against the death sentence is creating a populist backlash against foreign meddling in the country's justice system. That hostility complicates matters for Karzai, whose room to maneuver is already limited by his deepening unpopularity and the perception that he is a U.S. puppet.

"These are the worst kinds of cases for Karzai," said Sherin Aqa Manawi, deputy head of the Ulema Council, Afghanistan's central body of religious scholars. "It was a normal case before the courts until the West made it into a big deal. But when the West interfered, they cornered Karzai.

"He is caught between showing the West that he's bringing democracy and human rights to Afghanistan," said Manawi, "and on the other hand showing Afghans that he supports their religious leaders."

Kaambakhsh's brother calls the sentence "a very emotional decision by the court," whose prosecutor and judges lacked the sophistication to understand the difference between downloading an article and writing it.

"The judges did not even know the difference between a keyboard and a monitor," Ibrahimi said.

Afghans who are aware of the debate are divided over the sentence. Some, -- such as Ahmad Romal, a 21-year-old Kabul University student -- argue, "If there is no death penalty, then these kinds of un-Islamic activities will continue."

Others say the sentence represents the religious extremism that was supposed to have been banished with the defeat of the Taliban in 2001. "We shouldn't let anyone implement laws like the Taliban did," said Mohammed Abraham, 65, a former teacher. "I hope they forgive him and give him a chance."

Organizations ranging from the United Nations mission in Afghanistan to Reporters Without Borders have joined a Western chorus urging Karzai to spare Kaambakhsh.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband raised the case with the Afghan president during meetings this month in Kabul. And NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned last week in a major speech to a security conference in Munich, Germany, that "there should be understanding from our Afghan friends that we have great difficulty to accept a death sentence for a young journalist for downloading an article from the Internet."

"Public support in our societies for our soldiers' presence in Afghanistan will erode," he said, "if we do not agree on the universal values we are defending, together with our Afghan friends."

Karzai has said only that "at the end of the day, justice will be done in the right way."

Afghan critics of Kaambakhsh's death sentence fear that the foreign pressure could prove counterproductive.

"The international community should know that Afghanistan has its rules and laws," said Habiba Danesh, a parliament member who agrees that Kaambakhsh should have been allowed a defense lawyer and an open trial. Still, she said, "Afghanistan should be left to make its decision in light of its judicial system."

There is also lingering ill will from a 2006 case in which an Islamic court passed a death sentence against Abdur Rahman, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. After a storm of international protest led by the Bush administration, his conviction was dismissed for technical reasons and Rahman fled to Italy.

Some Afghans still argue that Rahman escaped justice. And they are suspicious about Kaambakhsh's motives. Manawi of the Ulema Council accuses many young journalists of "intentionally creating trouble in order to get famous, or even as a way to get citizenship in Western countries."

The condemned man's brother said pressure on Karzai from foreign governments can be helpful if it remains low-key.  Letters to Karzai and the Supreme Court are fine, Ibrahimi said. But a drumbeat of foreign criticism could further sour public opinion.

"Afghans are an emotional people, and they take decisions emotionally.  If there is pressure from outside, and people see it on TV, it will cause a big reaction by fundamentalist groups. Fundamentalist groups want to make an example of this case. They want to shock young Afghans.  The mullahs can turn people against my brother," he said.
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« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2008, 03:52:41 PM »

Young Iraqis are losing their faith in religion




BAGHDAD: After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, exhausted by
constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they
have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith
that they preach.
In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a
pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and
middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have
narrowed their lives.
"I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day
and their instruction became heavy over us," said Sara Sami, a high school
student in Basra. "Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic
people control the authority because they don't deserve to be rulers."
Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern
Baghdad, said: "The religion men are liars. Young people don't believe them.
Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore."
The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religiousness among young
people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced
nationalism as a unifying ideology. While religious extremists are admired
by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a
test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied.
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Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force-fed to its
owner. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.
It is far from clear whether the shift means a wholesale turn away from
religion. A tremendous piety still predominates in the private lives of
young Iraqis, and religious leaders, despite the increased skepticism, still
wield tremendous power. Measuring religiousness furthermore, is a tricky
business in Iraq, where access to cities and towns that are far from Baghdad
is limited.
But a shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices
some young Iraqis are making. Professors reported difficulty recruiting
graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears
to be down, even in areas where the violence has largely subsided, according
to worshipers and imams in Baghdad and Falluja. In two visits to the weekly
prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of Moktada al-Sadr last autumn,
vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005.
Such patterns, if lasting, could lead to a weakening of the political power
of religious leaders in Iraq. In a nod to those changing tastes, political
parties are scrubbing overt references to religion.
"In the beginning, they gave their eyes and minds to the clerics, they
trusted them," said Abu Mahmoud, a moderate Sunni cleric in Baghdad, who now
works deprogramming religious extremists in American detention. "It's
painful to admit, but it's changed. People have lost too much. They say to
the clerics and the parties: You cost us this."
"When they behead someone, they say 'Allah Akbar,' they read Koranic verse,"
said a moderate Shiite sheik from Baghdad. "The young people, they think
that is Islam. So Islam is a failure, not only in the students' minds, but
also in the community."

A professor at Baghdad University's School of Law, who would identify
herself only as Bushra, said of her students: "They have changed their views
about religion. They started to hate religious men. They make jokes about
them because they feel disgusted by them."
That was not always the case. Saddam Hussein encouraged religion in Iraqi
society in his later years, building Sunni mosques and injecting more
religion into the public school curriculum, but always made sure it served
his authoritarian needs. Shiites, considered to be an alternate political
force and a threat to Hussein's power, were kept under close watch. Young
Shiites who worshiped were seen as political subversives and risked
attracting the attention of the police.
For that reason, the American invasion was sweetest to the Shiites, who for
the first time were able to worship freely. They soon became a potent
political force, as religious political leaders appealed to their shared and
painful past and their respect for the Shiite religious hierarchy.
"After 2003, you couldn't put your foot into the husseiniya, it was so
crowded with worshipers," said Sayeed Sabah, a Shiite religious leader from
Baghdad, referring to a Shiite place of prayer.
Religion had moved abruptly into the Shiite public space, but often in ways
that made educated, religious Iraqis uncomfortable. Militias were offering
Koran courses. Titles came cheaply. In Abu Mahmoud's neighborhood, a butcher
with no knowledge of Islam became the leader of a mosque.
============

A moderate Shiite cleric, Sheik Qasim, recalled watching in amazement as a
former student, who never earned more than mediocre marks, whizzed by
stalled traffic in a long convoy of sport utility vehicles in central
Baghdad. He had become a religious leader.
"I thought I would get out of the car, grab him and slap him!" said the
sheik. "These people don't deserve their positions."
An official for the Ministry of Education in Baghdad, a secular Shiite,
described the newfound faith like this: "It was like they wanted to put on a
new, stylish outfit."
Religious Sunnis, for their part, also experienced a heady swell in mosque
attendance, but soon became the hosts for groups of religious extremists,
foreign and Iraqi, who were preparing to fight the United States.
Zane Muhammad, a gangly 19-year-old with an earnest face, watched with
curiosity as the first Islamists in his Baghdad neighborhood came to
barbershops, tea parlors, and carpentry stores before taking over the
mosques. They were neither uneducated nor poor, he said, though they focused
on those who were. Then, one morning while waiting for a bus to school,
Muhammad watched a man walk up to a neighbor, a college professor whose sect
Muhammad did not know, shoot him at point-blank range three times and walk
back to his car as calmly "as if he was leaving a grocery store."


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"Nobody is thinking," Muhammad said in an interview in October. "We use our
minds just to know what to eat. This is something I am very sad about. We
hear things and just believe them."
By 2006, even those who had initially taken part in the violence were
growing weary. Haidar, a grade school dropout, was proud to tell his family
he was following a Shiite cleric in a fight against American soldiers in the
summer of 2004. Two years later, however, he found himself in the company of
gangsters.
Young militia members were abusing drugs. Gift mopeds had become gift guns.
In three years, he saw five killings, mostly of Sunnis, including that of a
Sunni cabdriver shot for his car.
It was just as bad, if not worse, for young Sunnis. Rubbed raw by Al Qaeda
in Mesopotamia, they found themselves stranded in neighborhoods that were
governed by seventh-century rules. During interviews with a dozen Sunni
teenage boys in a Baghdad detention facility on several sticky days in
September, several expressed relief at being in jail, so they could wear
shorts, a form of dress they would have been punished for in their
neighborhoods.
Some Iraqis argue that religious-based politics was much more about identity
than faith. When Shiites voted for religious parties in large numbers in an
election in 2005, it was more an effort to show their numbers, than a
victory of the religious over the secular.
"It was a fight to prove our existence," said a young Shiite journalist from
Sadr City. "We were embracing our existence, not religion."
The war dragged on, and young people from both sects became more broadly
involved. Criminals had begun using teenagers and younger boys to carry out
killings. The number of juveniles in American detention was up more than
sevenfold in November from April, and Iraq's main prison for youth, in
Baghdad, has triple the prewar population.
But while younger people were taking a more active role in the violence,
their motivation was less likely than adults to be religion-driven. Of the
900 juvenile detainees in American custody in November fewer than 10 percent
claimed to be fighting a holy war, according to the American military. About
one-third of adults said they were.
A worker in the American detention system said that by her estimate, only
about a third of the adult detainee population, which is overwhelmingly
Sunni, prayed.

"As a group, they are not religious," said Major General Douglas Stone, the
head of detainee operations for the military. "When we ask if they are doing
it for jihad, the answer is no."
Muath, a slender, 19-year-old Sunni with distant eyes and hollow cheeks, is
typical. He was selling mobile phone credits and plastic flowers, struggling
to keep his mother and five young siblings afloat, when a recruiter, a man
in his 30s, a regular customer, offered him cash in western Baghdad last
spring to be part of an insurgent group, whose motivations were a mix of
money and sectarian interests. Muath, the only wage earner, agreed. Suddenly
his family could afford to eat meat again, he said in an interview in
September.
==================


Indeed, at least part of the religious violence in Baghdad had money at its
heart. An officer at the Kadhamiya detention center, where Muath was being
held this autumn, said recordings of beheadings fetch much higher prices
than those of shooting executions in the CD markets, which explains why even
nonreligious kidnappers will behead hostages.
When Muath was arrested last year, the police found two hostages, Shiite
brothers, in a safe house that Muath revealed. Photographs showed the men
looking wide-eyed into the camera; dark welts covered their bodies.
Violent struggle against the United States was easy to romanticize at a
distance.
"I used to love Osama Bin Laden," proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college
student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her
native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was
satisfying, and the deaths, abstract.
Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated
the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she
covers her head for safety.
"Now I hate Islam," she said, sitting in her family's unadorned living room
in central Baghdad. "Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred.
People are being killed for nothing."
Parents have taken new precautions to keep their children out of trouble.
Abu Tahsin, a Shiite from northern Baghdad, said that when his extended
family built a Shiite mosque, they purposely did not register it with the
religious authorities, even though it would have brought privileges, because
they did not want to become entangled with any of the main religious Shiite
groups that control Baghdad.

In Falluja, a Sunni city west of Baghdad that had been overrun by Al Qaeda,
Sheik Khalid al-Mahamedie, a moderate cleric, said that fathers now came
with their sons to mosques to meet the instructors of Koran courses.
Families used to worry most about their daughters in adolescence, but now,
the sheik said, they worry more about their sons.
"Before, parents warned their sons not to smoke or drink," said Muhammad Ali
al-Jumaili, a Falluja father with a 20-year-old son. "Now all their energy
is concentrated on not letting them be involved with terrorism."
Recruiters are relentless, and, as it turns out, clever, peddling things
their young targets need. Stone describes it as a sales pitch a pimp gives
to a prospective prostitute. American military officers at the American
detention center said it was the Al Qaeda detainees who were best prepared
for group sessions and asked the most questions.
A Qaeda recruiter approached Zane Muhammad, on a college campus with the
offer of English lessons. Though lessons had been a personal ambition of
Muhammad's for months, once he knew what the man was after, he politely
avoided him."When you talk with them, you find them very modern, very
smart," said Muhammad, a nonreligious Shiite, who recalled feigning disdain
for his own sect to avoid suspicion.
The population they focused on was poor and uneducated. About 60 percent of
the American adult detainee population is illiterate and is unable to even
read the Koran that religious recruiters are preaching.
That leads to strange twists. One young detainee, a client of Abu Mahmoud's,
was convinced he had to kill his parents when he was released, because they
were married in an insufficiently Islamic way.
There is a new favorite game in the lively household of the Baghdad
journalist. When they see a man with a turban on television, they crack
jokes. In one of them, people are warned not to give their cellphone numbers
to a religious man.

"If he knows the number, he'll steal the phone's credit," the journalist
said. "The sheiks are making a society of nonbelievers."
Kareem Hilmi, Ahmad Fadam and Qais Mizher contributed reporting.


http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/...uth.php?page=1
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« Reply #61 on: April 21, 2008, 03:52:01 PM »

Intolerance in Indonesia
By SADANAND DHUME
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
April 22, 2008

In the global debate about the compatibility between Islam and democracy, Indonesia is often held up as an example of the possible. Ten years after General Suharto's downfall, the world's most populous Muslim country has institutionalized free elections and the peaceful transfer of power, nurtured a lively press, and rolled back a panoply of racist laws that once targeted the country's ethnic Chinese minority. But the ongoing persecution of the Ahmadiyya, a small Muslim sect founded in late 19th century India, underscores Indonesia's – and the Muslim world's – trouble guaranteeing a bedrock democratic value: freedom of conscience. Without it, the country's proud claim to be the world's third-largest democracy will remain lacking.

The most recent assault on the Ahmadiyya comes from a government body that manages to sound Orwellian and Kafkaesque at the same time – the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society. Last Wednesday this august grouping recommended a ban on Ahmadiyya in Indonesia. The reason: Though Ahmadiyya Muslims revere the prophet Muhammad and follow the Quran, they also contend that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), was a prophet as well. This contradicts the mainstream Islamic assertion that all divine revelation ended with Muhammad, the so-called – and it might be noted, self-proclaimed – "seal of the prophets."

Since arriving in Indonesia in the 1920s, Indonesia's tiny Ahmadiyya community, a fraction of the country's 200 million Muslims, had lived peacefully. Ahmadiyyas tend to emphasize education and reject the idea of violent jihad. But in 2005, the Council of Indonesian Ulama, a collection of powerful mullahs, dusted off an obscure 25-year-old religious ruling, or fatwa, and declared the community to be "deviant and misled." Since then mobs have sacked Ahmadiyya mosques while police stood by, local governments have flouted federal laws and imposed bans on Ahmadiyya worship, and leaders of a thuggish vigilante group, the Islamic Defenders Front, have publicly called for the sect's followers to be murdered. Through all this, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has dithered, preferring not to stick out his political neck for an unpopular cause.

 
Mr. Yudhoyono ought to know better. What's at stake is not merely the safety and well-being of a somewhat offbeat religious group but a much more fundamental question: What kind of country does Indonesia want to be? Will it be, as its founding fathers envisioned, a land where people of all faiths live as equals, or one where non-Muslims and heterodox Muslims are effectively second-class citizens? Will it be a country that respects an individual's right to worship as he pleases, or indeed not to worship at all, or one where such matters are determined by safari-suited officials and bearded clerics? Will it be ruled by the law or by the mob?

For now the signs don't augur well, for ironically the deepening of Indonesian democracy has gone hand in hand with a darkening intolerance. As the country's famously easygoing brand of folk Islam gives way to a triple-distilled orthodoxy imported from the Middle East – among the more noxious side-effects of globalization – the live-and-let-live attitude that underpinned Indonesian pluralism has come under sustained assault. In 21st century Indonesia, non-Muslims and heterodox Muslims can find themselves jailed for such medieval-sounding offenses as "being heretical," "tarnishing the purity of Arabic," or "denigrating religion." Christians often bear the brunt of these new attitudes. Christian groups estimate that 110 churches were forcibly closed between 2004 and 2007 alone, and permission to build new ones is increasingly hard to come by.

Belligerence toward religious minorities at home has gone hand in hand with a heightened sensitivity to insults, real and imagined, to Islam abroad. As though to make up for lost time, Indonesia has propelled itself to the front rows of the global culture wars between Islam and the West. During the cartoon crisis of 2006 the Danish embassy in Jakarta was among the first attacked. The following year mobs converged upon the offices of a toned down (no nudity) local edition of Playboy and forced it to relocate to the Hindu island of Bali. Earlier this month, Indonesia briefly blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube and the social networking site MySpace for allowing users to watch the movie "Fitna," Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders's much-derided anti-Islam screed.

As Indonesia mulls the fate of its Ahmadiyyas, its leaders ought to draw lessons from others' mistakes. In 1974 the charismatic Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto sought to appease Pakistan's strident Islamists by declaring the Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims. Bhutto's placing of petty politics above principle is now generally regarded as a turning point in his country's long slide toward obscurantism and lawlessness. If this isn't enough, those perpetually exercised about guarding Islam's "image" ought to consider the irony that it is in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Washington, rather than among their co-religionists in Karachi, Riyadh or Jakarta, that Ahmadiyya Muslims can live with dignity and practice their faith without fear.

Mr. Dhume is a fellow at the Asia Society in Washington, D.C. His book about the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia, "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with an Indonesian Islamist," will be published by Text Publishing in Australia in May.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
WSJ
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« Reply #62 on: April 22, 2008, 01:48:33 PM »

Al-Qaida No. 2 says 9/11 theory propagated by Iran

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 48 minutes ago


Osama bin Laden's chief deputy in an audiotape Tuesday accused Shiite Iran of trying to discredit the Sunni al-Qaida terror network by spreading the conspiracy theory that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The comments reflected al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri's increasing criticism of Iran. Al-Zawahri has accused Iran in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.

The authenticity of the two-hour audio recording posted on an Islamic Web site could not be independently confirmed. But the voice sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader, and the posting where it was found bore the logo of Al-Sahab, al-Qaida's official media arm.
It was the second of two messages answering questions that were posted to Islamic militant Web sites earlier this year.

One of the questioners asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor.
"The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.
"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.
Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.
Answering questions about Iraq in Tuesday's tape, al-Zawahri said the insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq, he said, referring to the Americans.
As he often does in his messages, al-Zawahri denounced the "Crusader invasion" of Iraq, but in Tuesday's tape he paired it with a mention of "Iranian complicity" or "Iranian agents."

In the latest tape, al-Zawahri was also asked if the terror group had further plans to attack Western countries that participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent war.
"My answer is: Yes! We think that any country that has joined aggression on Muslims must be deterred," he replied.
In response to a question signed by the Japanese news agency Kyodo asking if Japan remains a target because it once had troops in Iraq, al-Zawahri said "Japan provided help under the banner of the crusader coalition ... therefore it participated in the Crusader campaign against the lands of Islam."
Japan deployed non-combat troops to southern Iraq in 2003 to carry out reconstruction work. It withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2006 and now conducts airlifts to help supply U.S.-led forces in that country.
Al-Zawahri spoke on a wide range of issues, even global warming, which he said reflected "how criminal, brutal and greedy the Western Crusader world is, with America at the top."
He predicted that global warming would "make the world more sympathetic to and understanding of the Muslims' jihad against the aggressor America."

Asked if there are any women in al-Qaida, the terror leader answered simply: "No." In a follow-up answer, he said: "There are no women in al-Qaida jihadi group, but the women of the mujahedeen are playing a heroic role in taking care of their houses and sons."
In several parts of Tuesday's audio message, Al-Zawahri claimed that the Taliban took over 95 percent of Afghanistan and is sweeping Pakistan as well.
"The Crusaders and their agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan are starting to fall," he said.
In another answer Tuesday, al-Zawahri said it was against Islamic religious law for any Muslim to live permanently in a Western country because in doing so they would "have permanent stay there under the laws of the infidels." Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, announced in December that al-Zawahri would take questions from the public posted on Islamic militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible." Queries were submitted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of Jan. 16.
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« Reply #63 on: June 11, 2008, 06:49:18 AM »

Muslim and Indonesian
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 11, 2008

If the war on terror teaches anything, it's that radical Islam cannot tolerate religious pluralism. So it's worrying, and dangerous, to see the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, restrict a moderate religious group at the behest of a radical fringe. This is no way for a democracy to behave.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Monday ordered "all Ahmadiyah followers to stop their activities" or face jail. The Ahmadiyah is a small Muslim sect concentrated mostly in South Asia, with about 200,000 adherents in Indonesia. Its followers revere the Quran and have formally renounced the idea of violent jihad. They respect interfaith dialogues.

 
By restricting the Ahmadiyah, the President isn't acting in accordance with the country's constitution, which guarantees "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief." Instead, he's kowtowing to the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which beat up a peaceful gathering of religious moderates in Jakarta last week and called for the Ahmadiyah to be banned.

The President's refusal to stand up for the Ahmadiyah is part of a pattern. In 2005, the Council of Indonesian Ulama issued a fatwa banning the Ahmadiyah as a "heretical sect" because the group recognizes its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be a prophet like Mohamed. The President's office said nothing. In recent years Ahmadiyah mosques have been forced to close by angry mobs. Again, the President's office was silent. Last year, a few local governments banned the faith. Once more, no word from Jakarta.

Last week the President waited 48 hours before ordering the arrests of the FPI members who led the violence in central Jakarta – until after local media exploded in outrage. The police chief explained that arresting the FPI members immediately would only have "triggered bigger riots." Which tells you something about Jakarta's resolve to enforce its own laws.

Mr. Yudhoyono's decree increases the danger for Ahmadiyah members, who now have had targets painted on their chests. It's also dangerous for any other religious minorities to whom the FPI or other radical Islamists object. They have done so in the past. From 1999 to 2002, to take one example, Muslim extremists carried out execution-style killings of more than a thousand Christians in Poso on Sulawesi Island.

The FPI thug who allegedly led the June 1 Jakarta attacks said in a televised video that attacks on women and unarmed men were justified by the government's inaction on banning Ahmadiyah. He turned himself in to police Monday, claiming his mission was accomplished. Violence against Christians is also starting to percolate in conservative Muslim areas, like West Java.

It is unclear how local governments will interpret the President's edict. Will Ahmadiyah mosques be shuttered? Will members be allowed to worship in their homes? The government already has had to dispatch police around the country to protect Ahmadiyah worshippers. Where will it end?

Citizens in a democratic society must be free to worship as they please. Anything but full religious freedom is a betrayal of Indonesia's pluralism and a dangerous precedent for the country's future.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
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« Reply #64 on: June 11, 2008, 05:44:39 PM »

More on this story:

Summary
Indonesia’s government has issued restrictions on the Ahmadiyah sect of Islam, but stopped short of banning the group. The decision will provoke the radical Islamic Defender’s Front to increase its attacks, which in turn will legitimize the ruling coalition’s efforts to form militias and root out extremism. The country’s two most powerful political factions are driving these confrontations as they jockey for position ahead of the Southeast Asian nation’s 2009 presidential election.

Analysis
Indonesia passed a law June 9 restricting the Ahmadiyah sect of Islam, a religious minority that has become a focal point of political controversy in the Southeast Asian country. The decree has provoked outrage among the numerous political and religious factions in Indonesia and led to large protests. Liberals and many mainstream Muslims blame the government for violating freedom of religion, while Islamist radicals are calling for the sect to be completely banned and forcefully dissolved.

The controversy over the Ahmadiyah movement is not just legal or religious in nature. Instead, Indonesia’s major political factions are using Ahmadiyah as a tool while battling for influence in the run-up to the 2009 Indonesian presidential election.

Ahmadiyah is a religious group with 200,000 members in Indonesia. Members associate themselves with Islam, though mainstream Muslims consider them unorthodox and unaffiliated with Islam. In Indonesia the group has become symbolic of the struggle between secular and Islamic ideals, with the country’s Islamists accusing the Ahmadiyah sect of heresy and seeking for decades, often violently, to banish it.

The joint ministerial decree issued yesterday under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems to strike a balance between the Islamists and those who support constitutional freedom of religion, since it calls for Ahmadiyah to stop spreading the faith but does not proscribe practicing it. But this appearance of compromise is misleading because neither group actually gets what it wants from the decision; it neither preserves freedom of religion nor purges heresy. Instead, it merely makes life harder for Ahmadiyah believers, who are irrelevant to the interests driving the political players in Jakarta.

In fact, the decree will almost certainly stir up fiercer flames between the country’s most powerful parties and their proxies.

There are hundreds of political parties scattered throughout the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia. Two of the strongest parties existed before the country’s independence from the Netherlands.

On one side stands Nahdatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest and most politically influential Islamist group with a 40 million-strong constituency. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid leads NU, which was founded in 1926 by his grandfather, Ulema Hasyim Asyari. Wahid also founded the related National Awakening Party (PKB). NU mainly comprises moderate Muslims who reject radical Islamism and hope to preserve Indonesia’s secular credentials to maintain ties with Western and non-Muslim allies and business partners. At present, NU is allied with Yudhoyono.

On the other side stands Muhammadiyah, a coalition of stridently conservative Muslims as well as a number of radical Islamist groups. With 29 million followers, the party represents a formidable opposition to the government. It has some strong backers in the government — mainly in the departments overseeing religious affairs and education — but draws the bulk of its strength from an influential cadre of retired generals. Some rogue elements in the Indonesian army are suspected of orchestrating riots against Wahid in 1999 through the radical Islamic Defense Front (FPI), which leans toward Muhammadiyah.

With a presidential election approaching in 2009, NU and Muhammadiyah are vying for position. Political transitions in Indonesia always see the emergence of radical groups, which often receive surreptitious backing from bigger parties. Small factions have always been used as instruments of major parties in Indonesia, with student protests partially engineered in this way overthrowing Suharto in 1998.

Accordingly, FPI has increased attacks and vandalism against the Ahmadiyah sect to revive a nationally polarizing issue and pressure Yudhoyono’s government. Recently, FPI wounded Wahid in an outburst of violence, leading him to redouble his efforts against FPI. FPI also struck out against peaceful NU demonstrators June 1 at the Monas in Jakarta. Since FPI is a relatively small, radical group comprising mostly young Islamists who are sometimes implicated in vandalism, the massive protests against the government’s decision yesterday implies that a larger force — rumors in Jakarta implicate former generals — is backing it financially. A small group like FPI hardly could have orchestrated such a large demonstration (requiring multiple buses for transporting protesters) on its own.

In response, NU and PKB have begun forming special militias to retaliate against FPI. The stated mission of these militias, which will have roughly 300 members, each armed with knives and machetes, is to protect the public and force FPI to disband. Yudhoyono and Wahid have allied to pioneer this operation, which already has led to the June 5 arrest of FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab.

For Yudhoyono, retaining power in 2009 means counterbalancing the opposition factions. He probably did not wish for the Ahmadiyah question to be revived or to make an executive decision on it. But political necessity forced him to make a move, so he chose a path that will prove less aggravating for foreign investors and suppliers sensitive to religious freedom since he did not formally banish the group. He must have known that a merely soft restriction of Ahmadiyah would provoke the FPI into further attacks, and that he (and Wahid’s NU) can use the FPI’s attacks to their advantage by pointing to them as justifications for a crackdown on FPI through the new special militias.

If Yudhoyono manages to shut down FPI, he will have destroyed a potentially destabilizing force that could obstruct his bid for re-election. FPI is not popular enough for such a crackdown to spawn a backlash against Yudhoyono, so putting FPI under his heel might even allow him to present himself as a strong leader in the national elections.

Whatever happens, the competition between Indonesia’s political factions can be expected to get fiercer during the build-up to the 2009 elections.
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« Reply #65 on: June 25, 2008, 03:57:37 AM »

Jakarta's Slippery Slope
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 25, 2008

With the World Peace Forum under way in Jakarta today, Indonesia is happy to boast of its commitment to interfaith dialogue. The 200,000 members of the Ahmadiyah sect would disagree.

On Thursday, Islamic radicals sealed off more than 10 Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia. This was the predictable outcome of a June 9 government ruling barring the Ahmadiyah from "dissemination activities," whatever that means. Their crime? Peacefully worshipping a liberal form of Islam.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sold the ruling as a way to forbid a "deviant" Islamic group from propagating their ideas but not banning them outright. But it was really a cave-in to radicals such as the Islamic Defenders Front, who advocate strict interpretations of Islam and have made their views known by beating up people in the streets.

Now, a coalition of Islamic fanatics, the Forum Umat Islam, has taken the ruling as a pretext to shut down Ahmadiyah mosques. In response, Mr. Yudhoyono has ignored the Indonesian constitution's freedom of religion clause and done nothing.

Perhaps he is worried about sparking wider violence if he opposes the well-funded and well-organized Forum Umat Islam. Or perhaps he wishes to court what he perceives as the "Muslim vote." But short-term gain could have serious long-term consequences.

If radical thugs are allowed to target Ahmadiyah houses of worship today with impunity, what prevents them from targeting other kinds of Muslims tomorrow? Or Christians? Or Sikhs? The government's refusal to protect the Ahmadiyah threatens the underpinnings of Indonesia's tolerant society. It's a familiar theme in history, and one that has not boded well for liberal democracies.

WSJ
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« Reply #66 on: July 04, 2008, 10:18:24 AM »

The trend recently in Indonesia has not been good, but nice to see the government arresting bad guys:
==============

9 Terrorism Suspects Detained in Indonesia After a Raid Uncovers Bombs
 Achmad Ibrahim/Associated Press
An Indonesian police officer with one of the nine terrorism suspects arrested on Thursday in Sumatra. An antiterrorism official said the men were planning an attack on Westerners in Jakarta.

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By PETER GELLING
Published: July 4, 2008
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police transferred nine terrorism suspects, bound and wearing black hoods, to the capital, Jakarta, on Thursday after their arrest in southern Sumatra.

According to the police, a raid on Wednesday in the Sumatran port city of Palembang by an elite Indonesian counterterrorism team turned up more than a dozen homemade bombs and a cache of ammunition. A police spokesman refused to give further details, saying that the prisoners were being interrogated about the nature of their plan and their roles within the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network.

Indonesian news outlets quoted an antiterrorism official as saying that the men were planning an attack on Westerners in Jakarta, but no details were given.

Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have a vast network throughout the island of Sumatra.

The police confirmed that at least one of the suspects was Singaporean, but experts dismissed rumors that he might be Mas Selamat Kastari, who is suspected of being the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. He escaped from a Singapore prison in March.

Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert who is the director of International Crisis Group in Jakarta, however, said the escapee was not among those caught in the Wednesday raids. “They are all certainly members of Jemaah Islamiyah,” Ms. Jones said. “And at least one is Singaporean, but he is definitely not Mas Selamat.”

The authorities suspected that Noordin Top, a Jemaah Islamiyah militant from Malaysia, was hiding in Palembang in early 2007, and some analysts have said that he may have started a splinter terrorist group. He is believed to be responsible for several major bombings in Indonesia.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for most of the major attacks in Indonesia in recent years, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed more than 200 people.

The militant wing of Jemaah Islamiyah, however, has been seriously weakened in recent years after the loss of several important leaders, including the group’s master bomb maker, Azhari Husin, who was killed in a shootout in 2005.

Indonesia’s success in fighting terrorism prompted the Bush administration to renew military ties with the country. And the State Department lifted a travel advisory last month that had warned Americans of possible terrorist attacks.

Australia, which has worked closely with Indonesia in its fight against the militant network, has refused to lift its travel warning for Indonesia, however, saying there is still evidence that terrorists are planning attacks.

Despite its setbacks, Jemaah Islamiyah has proven resilient. The group relies on a grassroots recruiting effort focused heavily on Indonesia’s many Islamic boarding schools. One of the suspects arrested Wednesday, Ms. Jones said, was the director of an Islamic school in Palembang.

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« Reply #67 on: July 26, 2008, 10:01:10 AM »

It's Déjà Vu for Malaysia's Opposition Leader
By MARY KISSEL
July 26, 2008; Page A7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"I was dumped into this high-security police lockup for, you see, these high-level criminals. . . . On the cement floor, without any mattresses. That explains why I have to be back on this." Anwar Ibrahim gingerly peels up his shirt to reveal a corset-like back brace. And then he bursts into laughter.

 
Ismael Roldan 
For a man released from a night in jail only a few days earlier, Mr. Anwar is an awfully jolly man. Malaysia's opposition leader has been accused of sodomy by a former aide -- a criminal offense in this Muslim-majority country that could send him to jail for up to two decades. It's a bizarre déjà vu for the bespectacled politician, who spent 1998-2004 behind bars on a trumped-up sodomy charge the last time he challenged for political power.

But he's pushing ahead: On Wednesday, Mr. Anwar vowed to run for parliament "imminently" in a by-election, with the aim of toppling the government by September. If he's successful, he could be the next prime minister of Malaysia.

None of this would matter much outside Southeast Asia were it not for the fact that Mr. Anwar's political coalition espouses something unusual in the Muslim world: the virtues of a secular, free-market democracy. More Muslims live in Asia -- Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh -- than in the Middle East.

Mr. Anwar is unusually suited to bridge East-West divides. A Muslim, "though never typically very religious," he chuckles, he is a good friend of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. alike -- a man who memorized "hundreds of Elvis Presley, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson tunes" in his youth, but also attended weekend religious classes and, in his 20s, founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. He has never been afraid to argue that democracy and Islam are compatible forces -- or to make that case to undemocratic Arab regimes.

In many ways, Malaysia -- though it sports big urban centers and modern wonders like the Petronas Towers -- seems stuck in a time warp. The media is largely state-controlled, and the executive branch still locks up political dissidents without trial under the British colonial-era Internal Security Act.

Mahathir Mohamad's 22-year rule, which ended in 2003, did bring economic development to Malaysia. But Mr. Anwar says only a "fringe few" would ignore the widespread corruption that also occurred. Mr. Anwar, who was Dr. Mahathir's deputy at the time, found himself accused of sodomy in 1998 when he started pushing for reform. His arrest and imprisonment brought thousands of people onto Kuala Lumpur's streets.

And the recent accusation against him? It is "unfortunate," Mr. Anwar said as we settled into conference room chairs at his People's Justice Party's new headquarters in a strip mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week. But it's a sign that "the system is crumbling."

"Malaysia was resilient -- at least in the late '80s and '90s -- primarily because it was able to attract foreign investment," Mr. Anwar says. "It has lost that. So we have to see why? Well," he answers his own question, "economic policies considered obsolete -- particularly the New Economic Policy." He's referring to the pervasive pro-Malay affirmative-action program that reaches deeply into almost every corner of the economy and the university system. "There's no rule of law, endemic corruption and general incompetence" in Malaysia, he adds.

Malaysia's current government is trying harder than any other Asian regime -- save the little kingdom of Brunei -- to push closer to the Middle East, luring investment and Arab tourists to its shores. Women shrouded from head to toe are common sights in Kuala Lumpur's upscale shopping district. The country is an emerging center for Islamic finance, and Saudi-backed mosques are popping up everywhere.

Mr. Anwar thinks there's another way forward: by incorporating conservative Muslims into the democratic fold, and enforcing a secular rule of law without exception. He also made this point in a chat we had at his home in Kuala Lumpur last month. "You need a free media and free and fair elections. Moderate democracies and parties don't accept radicalism. You must give them space. Muslims can't be made to feel that democracy can only be applied to certain groups. That's not healthy."

Mr. Anwar's party is largely Malay, and secular. But his three-party coalition also includes a Chinese party and a conservative Muslim party that advocates Islamic law. The latter, the Parti Islam se-Malaysia, has supported measures such as segregated grocery store lines for men and women, bans on lipstick and antifornication laws. Why does Mr. Anwar's multiethnic coalition include a party that embraces such a platform?

"We took some years to cement this relationship because I don't want it to be seen purely as a politically expedient exercise," he says. "We base it on a clear reform agenda. So what we did instead of using labels -- Islam, secularism, liberal -- we spell out what we want. So in the agenda, for example, we believe in 'democracy and freedom.' By this we mean freedom of religion, or worship, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience. Which means all laws to the contrary will have to be rejected."

Mr. Anwar returned to Malaysia in 2006 -- after teaching stints at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies -- to launch a political comeback. He utilized every tool at his disposal outside the state-run media -- "SMSes, blogs, Web sites" -- to get out his message of anticorruption, freedom and religious tolerance. His coalition romped home in March with more than one-third of the seats in the national Parliament, and the leadership of five of Malaysia's 13 states. The result stunned the ruling United Malays National Organization, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1957.

Mr. Anwar gets almost giddy when I query him about the result: "People on the ground, they couldn't care two hoots about this scurrilous attack on my character," he exclaims, referring to the latest sodomy accusation. "They want to hear me talk about change . . . I think the old system -- the center cannot hold. Remember that brilliant piece by Yeats?" Mr. Anwar is referring, aptly, to the poem, "The Second Coming."

He thinks political change in Malaysia could reverberate outside the country's borders, setting a "crucial" example for the rest of the Muslim world. But is the rest of the Muslim world ready to hear his message? What about Iran?

"I respect Iran as a nation, with such a great civilization, with great potential," Mr. Anwar says, evading the question with a grin. But "they know my views on democracy. They know my engagement with the West and with the Americans."

Being pro-American isn't popular in Malaysia, and Mr. Anwar is careful to stress his distance from Washington. "For example, the occupation of American forces in Iraq. I disagree, I totally disagree. But I don't treat America as my enemy. And I believe that we would gain immensely by maintaining very good diplomatic and economic relations, trade relations, with America. But it doesn't mean we must agree with them on many issues, or most issues."

It also doesn't mean that Mr. Anwar agrees with other Islamic powers, either. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, he met government officials and heard them talk of their modern education system. "I said I was impressed," but "quality education" needs "a liberal democratic space" and "creativity."

Could Malaysia serve as an example for the rest of the Islamic world, as a tolerant, Muslim-majority and multiethnic democracy? "Right now, it's certainly a very poor example," he says, laughing out loud. "But it has this enormous potential in terms of gender equality. Although you know, my wife wouldn't agree with that term. She says it's not that equal for now. . . . You should say, moving toward gender equality." Mr. Anwar's wife and one of his daughters are members of Parliament.

The sodomy accusation is meant not just to discredit Mr. Anwar, but to rip apart his nascent coalition. It was levied a few days before Mr. Anwar was scheduled to announce his candidacy for parliament. Fearing the worst, he fled to the Turkish embassy -- another moderate Muslim democracy -- for refuge. Since then, photos purportedly showing his accuser meeting with high-level government officials began to circulate. The government denies any involvement.

"To allow for some segment or sector, groups, within the system to resort to these dirty machinations is pathetic," he says, then pauses. "To them, it may be necessary to pre-empt our next move, my contesting the by-election."

Malaysia's most prominent mufti, or religious scholar, Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, has backed Mr. Anwar's cause. Around 2,000 supporters flocked to the police station last week when word got out that Mr. Anwar was spending the night there. "I've advised my supporters to remain calm," he says. "Don't overreact, don't be provoked. Because that's exactly what they want. In any authoritarian system, what they want to present is a near chaos so they can declare a state of emergency."

Why not pack it all in and retire with his wife and six children? "You come in with a clear conviction, that you believe in freedom, you believe in democracy," Mr. Anwar replies. "And you have so much affection for the people. You love your country. You want the country to succeed. And this is one, unique, multiracial, multireligious country with a Muslim majority that should prove to the world that we can co-exist and succeed with a vibrant economy. Now, there's a lot of intimidation, a lot of efforts to derail this. If I choose to surrender, keep quiet, then it would adversely affect the process."

He asks a rhetorical question: "If I, in my position, with my experience, have no courage, just because I was beaten up before, humiliated, then what do you expect from the people? What sort of leadership do you provide?"

Mr. Anwar's aides are gesticulating to him at the window outside his office -- he's late for his next appointment. "It's going to be tough," he says. "But this time, I am certain -- as we say, inshallah, God willing, we are going to make it." He laughs, and walks away, still smiling.

Ms. Kissel is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page.
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« Reply #68 on: August 01, 2008, 08:22:28 AM »

Saudi Arabia Bans Sale of Dogs and Cats in Capital in Effort to Keep Sexes Apart

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,395341,00.html


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Every single man knows: Walking a dog in the park equals sure babe magnet. Saudi Arabia's Islamic religious police, in their zeal to keep the sexes apart, want to make sure the technique doesn't catch on here.

The solution: Ban selling dogs and cats as pets, as well as walking them in public.

The prohibition went into effect on Wednesday in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and authorities in the city say they will strictly enforce it — unlike previous such bans in the cities of Mecca and Jiddah, which have been ignored and failed to stop sales.

Violators found outside with their pets will have their beloved poodles and other furry companions confiscated by agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the official name of the religious police, tasked with enforcing Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code.

The commission's general manager, Othman al-Othman, said the ban was ordered because of what he called "the rising of phenomenon of men using cats and dogs to make passes at women and pester families" as well as "violating proper behavior in public squares and malls."

"If a man is caught with a pet, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act," al-Othman told the Al-Hayat newspaper. "If he does, he will be referred to authorities."

The Saudi-owned Al-Hayat announced the ban in its Wednesday edition, saying it was ordered by the acting governor of Riyadh province, Prince Sattam, based on an edit from the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars and several religious police reports of pet owners harassing women and families.

Commission authorities often do not formally announce to the public new rules that they intend to implement. Officials from the commission and Riyadh city government could not be reached for comment on Thursday, which is a weekend day in Saudi Arabia. The English-language Arab News reported on the ban on Thursday.

So far, the new prohibition did not appear to have any effect in Riyadh. It's extremely rare, anyway, to see anyone walking a dog — much less carrying a cat in public — in the capital, despite the authorities' claims of flirtatious young men luring girls with their pets in malls.

Salesmen at a couple of Riyadh pet stores on Thursday said they did not receive any official orders from the commission banning the sale of pets. Cats and dogs were still on display.

"I didn't hear of the ban," said Yasser al-Abdullah, a 28-year-old Saudi nurse, who was at one pet store with his 3-month-old collie, Joe.

Al-Abdullah, who also owns an 8-month-old Labrador, said a couple of Western friends had been told to get off the streets by the religious police for walking their dogs.

"I won't allow the commission to take my dogs from me," he said.

The religious police prowl streets and malls throughout the kingdom, ensuring unmarried men and women do not mix, confronting women they feel are not properly covered or urging men to go to prayers.

They also often make attempts to plug the few holes in the strict gender segregation that innovations bring. In 2004, they tried to ban cameras on cell phones, fearing that men and women would exchange pictures of each other — though the prohibition was quickly revoked. Every year, religious police warn against marking Valentine's Day, even trying to prevent people from wearing red clothing on the holiday, which they consider a Western creation that encourages vice.

There was no word whether commission authorities intend to expand the dog and cat ban beyond the capital.

The prohibition may be more of an attempt to curb the owning of pets, which conservative Saudis view as a sign of corrupting Western influence, like the fast food, shorts, jeans and pop music that have become more common in the kingdom.

Pet owning has never been common in the Arab world, though it is increasingly becoming fashionable among the upper class in Saudi Arabia and other countries such as Egypt.

In Islamic tradition, dogs are shunned as unclean and dangerous, though they are kept for hunting and guarding. In large cities around the Middle East, stray dogs often wander the streets and are considered pests.

The ban on cats is more puzzling, since there's no similar disdain for them in Islamic tradition. One of the Prophet Muhammad's closest companions was given the name Abu Huraira, Arabic for "the father of the kitten," because he always carried a kitten around with him and took care of it.

A number of hadiths — traditional stories of the prophet — show Muhammad encouraging people to treat cats well. Once, he let a cat drink from the water that he was going to use for his ablutions before prayers. Another time, Muhammad said a woman who kept a cat locked up without feeding it would go to Hell.

Street cats are also plentiful, and people will often feed them or play with them — but it isn't a widespread custom to keep one in the home, and many cannot afford it.
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« Reply #69 on: August 01, 2008, 09:02:31 AM »

Interesting.

Are all marriages arranged in SA?

Another question?  What is it about pets that attracts the women?  The association with status, money, or simply a conversation piece?

It sounds like women like the corruptive influence from the West.
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« Reply #70 on: August 01, 2008, 09:14:08 AM »

Interesting.

Are all marriages arranged in SA?

**Most all, if not all. Usually to a first cousin. No joke.**

Another question?  What is it about pets that attracts the women?  The association with status, money, or simply a conversation piece?

It sounds like women like the corruptive influence from the West.

**The wahabists are always on the lookout for corruptive western influences.**
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« Reply #71 on: August 12, 2008, 07:13:53 AM »


Saudi Arabia: Mother moves to block child marriage


Riyadh, 11 August (AKI) - The Saudi Arabian mother of an eight-year-old girl is trying to stop her marrying a middle-aged man who made a marriage contract with the girl's father in the province of al-Qasim, in the centre of the country.

The father's consent is needed to validate the marriage contract between the man, who is in his fifties and the child. He reportedly agreed to the union in exchange for an undis closed sum of money.

According to the Saudi newspaper, Okaz, the news emerged after the mother of the child reported her husband and took him to court to prevent the marriage from going ahead.

Referring to another case where a man in his seventies was charged for marrying a ten-year-old girl in the area of Asir, south of Mecca, the woman also sought the help of local human rights groups.

The mother of the girl said her husband has two other wives, and considering the age of the child, asked for the contract to be withdrawn to allow her to have a normal childhood.

According to human rights lawyers, there are many cases of this kind before the Saudi courts.

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/CultureAndMedia/?id=1.0.2408174538
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« Reply #72 on: August 24, 2008, 08:02:36 AM »


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,408644,00.html

Friday , August 22, 2008

Hundreds of Christian theology students have been living in tents since a mob of angry Muslim neighbors stormed their campus last month wielding bamboo spears and hurling Molotov cocktails. The incident comes amid growing concern that Indonesia's tradition of religious tolerance is under threat from Islamic hard-liners.
In talks since the attack, the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology has reluctantly agreed to shut its 20-year-old campus in east Jakarta, accepting an offer this week to move to a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital.
"Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?" asked the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, chairman of the 1,400-student school.
The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament, is struggling to balance deep Islamic traditions and a secular constitution. With elections coming next April, the government seems unwilling to defend religious minorities, lest it be portrayed as anti-Islamic in what is the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.
The July 25 attack, which injured 18 students, was the culmination of years of simmering tensions between the school and residents of the Kampung Pulo neighborhood.
Senny Manave, a spokesman for the Christian school, said complaints were received from neighbors about prayers and the singing of hymns, which they considered disturbing evangelical activity.
Several neighbors refused to comment, saying they feared that could further strain relations. A prominent banner, signed by scores of people, has been hung over an entrance to the neighborhood.
"We the community of Kampung Pulo demand the campus be closed and dissolved," it says.
The assault began around midnight, when students woke to the crash of stones falling on their dormitory roof as a voice over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque cried "Allah Akbar," or "God is great" in Arabic.
The unidentified speaker urged residents to rise up against their "unwanted neighbors," said Sairin, the head of campus security, who goes by a single name.
The attack followed a claim that a student had broken into a resident's house, but police dismissed the charge.
Uneasy relations date to 2003, when neighbors began to protest the school's presence. Last year, residents set fire to shelters for construction workers to try to stop the campus from expanding deeper into the neighborhood. Some also questioned the legality of the school's permit.
Christian lawmaker Karol Daniel Kadang accused property speculators of provoking last month's incident to clear the land for more profitable use, after the school refused to sell out.
He also blamed the government for failing to build interfaith relations, which he and others believe are beginning to fray.
"People are still tolerant, but there is a growing suspicion among Muslims of others," said Prof. Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest who has lived in Indonesia for half a century.
He added that the police have failed to prevent both attacks on minorities and the forced closure of Christian churches and nontraditional mosques by mobs incited by radical Muslims.
"The state has some responsibility for this growing intolerance, namely by not upholding the law," he said.
A mob stormed a church service last Sunday in another east Jakarta neighborhood, forcing dozens of Christian worshippers to flee, said Jakarta Police Chief Col. Carlo Tewu. No arrests have been made.
Since being driven from campus, nearly 600 female students have been sleeping under suspended tarps at a nearby scout camp, where they had to dig trenches to keep water out during downpours. Classes are held with megaphones in the sweltering summer heat, under trees or the tarps. A similar number of male students live in a guesthouse. The remainder have returned to their families.
Food, water and school supplies are donated by church groups and community charities.
"We feel like refugees in our own country," said Dessy Nope, 19, a second-year student majoring in education. "How can you study here? I only followed 20 percent of my last lesson. It's difficult to concentrate."
Christians have not been the only targets for Muslim hard-liners, who this year set fire to mosques of a Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, that they consider heretical.
In June, the government ordered members of the sect to return to mainstream Islam, sparking concern among activists who fear the state is interfering in matters of faith and caving in to the demands of radicals.
"We're living in a country where there are many religions, but the government cannot prevent the actions of fundamentalist groups," said Manave, the school spokesman. "The government cannot protect minorities."
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« Reply #73 on: August 31, 2008, 06:01:18 PM »

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Saturday, August 30th 2008, 10:41 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by northwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, told The Associated Press Saturday.

"Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.

They were still breathing as mud was shoveled over their bodies, according to media reports, which said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Zehri told a packed and stunned Parliament on Friday that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers to stop making such a fuss about it.

Several lawmakers stood up in protest, describing the so-called honor killings as "barbaric."

Human rights groups accused local authorities of trying to hush up the executions, which according to local media reports and activists took place a month ago in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_w...ani_pol-2.html
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« Reply #74 on: September 21, 2008, 10:13:28 AM »

Ali, who became an international celebrity after refusing to accept her marriage to a man three times her age and winning a divorce, is now back to a semblance of a normal life in Sana.
By Delphine Minoui and Borzou Daragahi, Special to The Times
September 20, 2008

SANA, YEMEN -- Still groggy, the schoolgirl brushed her hair, struggled to pull on her socks and snuggled into her school uniform: a green gown and a white head scarf.

By the time she gathered up her books and strapped on her backpack she was smiling and enthusiastic, her nervousness eclipsed by anticipation of the first day of class.  Like children across the world, 10-year-old Nujood Ali went back to school this month after a lengthy break. But Nujood hadn't been lazing about or playing hide-and-seek with her friends during the summer.  Instead, after she was pulled out of the second grade by her father earlier this year, she was married off to a man three times her  age, who beat her and sexually abused her.

For many girls in this traditional society, where tribal custom and conservative interpretations of Islam dominate, that would have been the end of the story. But Nujood was outraged. She gathered up her courage and on the advice of an aunt went to court in April. She got the help of a lawyer and filed for divorce.


A judge quickly granted it.

And on Tuesday morning, the divorcee, possibly the world's youngest, once again became a schoolgirl.

"I'm very happy to be going back to school," she said, waiting in her ramshackle home for her younger sister Haifa to get ready. "I'm going to study Arabic, the Koran, mathematics and drawing. I will do that with my classmates and I will definitely make friends there."

Nujood's unusual story of rebellion made her an international celebrity. Since The Times wrote of her in June, CNN, Elle magazine and other international media have come to this mountaintop capital to chronicle her tale.  Hordes of nonprofit organizations offered to help her get back to school, some even willing to foot the bill to send her abroad or to a fancy private academy, though they ignored Haifa, Nujood's little sister and best friend.

In the end, Nujood opted for a small, government-run public school relatively close to her home. She would begin where she left off, starting the second grade again.

Even then, it wasn't easy. One teacher said she worried that Nujood might disturb other students by talking about her sexual experiences.  The night before she went to school, Nujood said she dreamed of notebooks, drawings and new friends.

"When I left school, I learned how to count from one to 100," she said. "Now, I am going to learn how to count until a million."

Nujood said she wanted to study hard, to be able to attend university and become a lawyer like Shada Nasser, the well-known Yemeni human rights advocate who helped her get her divorce.  The girl's experience, and her ambition, have even served as an inspiration to her parents, uneducated rural people who moved to the capital's outskirts a few years ago and say they married her off to protect her from the dangers of the city.

"We were never asked if we wanted to go to school when we were children," said her father, Ali Mohammed Ahdal, who has two wives and 16 children.

"If we had a choice, we would have loved to study like Nujood."

On Tuesday morning, Nujood and Haifa climbed into a yellow taxi paid for by an Italian aid group and drove through the capital's smog-choked streets, passing vendors of the mildly narcotic khat leaves and the occasional shepherd.

Outside the schoolhouse, Nasser stood waiting, eager to share a day she had anticipated. "I can't believe we finally made it," said the attorney, who agreed to drop the rest of her caseload to take up Nujood's cause after the girl showed up alone in a Sana courthouse in April.
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Nujood and Nasser were welcomed by Njala Matri, the principal of the school in Rawdha, a lower-middle-class neighborhood along the road to the city's international airport.

"You are welcome here. You can feel at home," she said, smiling at Nujood.

Only about half of Yemeni girls attend primary school. Last year, one of the school's 1,200 girls, a 13-year-old, dropped out to marry, though the legal age of consent is 15. "Now, she's a mother," Matri said in dismay.

Women's rights activists say child marriage is part of a vicious circle. Girls drop out of school and bear too many children, contributing to Yemen's high female illiteracy and exploding birth rate.  But on Tuesday, Nujood stepped through the school's gates into a vast courtyard, disappearing into a swarm of noisy classmates. Some paid her no mind, while others approached the girl who had become a local and international media star.

"I am so excited," she said, playing nervously with her hands.

A bell sounded and the students quieted down, forming lines for roll call before shuffling into classrooms of about 50 students each. 
Nujood took a seat in the third row, neither at the front nor the back of the classroom.  The teacher, dressed in an all-covering black abaya, hushed the students and began the day's lesson by asking them to recite the national anthem as well as passages from the Koran.

Small hands shot into the air.

"Who can recite the Surat al-Hamd?" the teacher asked, referring to the first chapter of the Koran.

She saw Nujood's hand, and called her name.

"Nujood?" she said.

Nujood stood up and began, ending with: "Show us the straight path. The path of those whom You have favored. Not the path of those who earn Your anger nor of those who go astray."

"May God bless you," said the teacher.

"Let's give her a round of applause."

The others clapped as Nujood sat down, a little girl once again.


LA Times
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« Reply #75 on: October 02, 2008, 12:33:20 PM »

I suppose I could have posted this in the Gender thread as well  cheesy

Flirting with Palin earns Pakistani president a fatwa

A leading religious leader condemned Asif Ali Zardari's comments to Sarah Palin at the UN.

By Issam Ahmed | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor from the October 2, 2008 edition
Lahore, Pakistan - After the flirtation came the fatwa.
With some overly friendly comments to Gov. Sarah Palin at the United Nations, Asif Ali Zardari has succeeded in uniting one of Pakistan's hard-line mosques and its feminists after a few weeks in office.
A radical Muslim prayer leader said the president shamed the nation for "indecent gestures, filthy remarks, and repeated praise of a non-Muslim lady wearing a short skirt."

Feminists charged that once again a male Pakistani leader has embarrassed the country with sexist remarks. And across the board, the Pakistani press has shown disapproval.

What did President Zardari do to draw such scorn? It might have been the "gorgeous" compliment he gave Ms. Palin when the two met at the UN last week during her meet-and-greet with foreign leaders ahead of Thursday's vice presidential debate with opponent Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

But the comments from Zardari didn't end there. He went on to tell Palin: "Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you."
"You are so nice," replied the Republican vice presidential hopeful, smiling. "Thank you."

But what may have really caused Pakistan's radical religious leaders to stew was his comment that he might "hug" Palin if his handler insisted.
Though the fatwa, issued days after the Sept. 24 exchange, carries little weight among most Pakistanis, it's indicative of the anger felt by Pakistan's increasingly assertive conservatives who consider physical contact and flattery between a man and woman who aren't married to each other distasteful. Though fatwas, or religious edicts, can range from advice on daily life to death sentences, this one does not call for any action or violence.

Last year, the mosque that issued the fatwa, Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, condemned the former tourism minister, Nilofar Bahktiar, after she was photographed being hugged by a male parachuting coach in France.
Clerics declared the act a "great sin" and, though less vocal about it, similar sentiments were shared by many among Pakistani's middle classes. The Red Mosque gained international infamy in July 2007 after becoming the focal point of a Pakistan Army operation.

For the feminists it's less about cozying up to a non-Muslim woman and more about the sexist remarks by Zardari.

"As a Pakistani and as a woman, it was shameful and unacceptable. He was looking upon her merely as a woman and not as a politician in her own right," says Tahira Abdullah, a member of the Women's Action Forum.
Dismissing the mosque's concerns as "ranting," she, however, adds: "He should show some decorum – if he loved his wife so much as to press for a United Nations investigation into her death, he should behave like a mourning widower," in reference to former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, a feminist icon for millions of Pakistani women.
The theme of decorum was picked up by English daily Dawn, whose editorial asked: "Why do our presidents always end up embarrassing us internationally by making sexist remarks?"
The incident bears some resemblance to yet another charm offensive by a senior Pakistani politician. Marcus Mabry's biography of Condoleezza Rice includes a passage in which he relates a meeting between former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Ms. Rice, in which Mr. Aziz was said to have stared deeply into the secretary of State's eyes and to have told her he could "conquer any woman in two minutes."
There are some, however, who see things as having been blown out of proportion.
"It was a sweet and innocuous exchange played as an international incident on Pakistani and rascally Indian front-pages with one English daily [writing] it in a scarlet box, half-implying Mrs. Palin would ditch Alaska's First Dude and become Pakistan's First Babe. As if," wrote columnist Fasih Ahmed in the Daily Times.
For most, it will soon be forgotten in a country dealing with terrorism, rising food prices, and a struggling economy. "We don't care that much how they [politicians] behave – what really matters is keeping prices down," says Nazeera Bibi, a maid in Lahore.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1002/p04s01-wosc.html
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« Reply #76 on: October 13, 2008, 07:41:30 PM »

Hanged for being a Christian in Iran

Eighteen years ago, Rashin Soodmand's father was hanged in Iran for converting to Christianity. Now her brother is in a Mashad jail, and expects to be executed under new religious laws brought in this summer. Alasdair Palmer reports.

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A month ago, the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.

Imposing the death penalty for changing religion blatantly violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the European Convention of Human Rights. It is even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution, which states that no one may be molested simply for his beliefs.

And yet few politicians or clerics in Iran see any contradiction between a law mandating the death penalty for changing religion and Iran's constitution. There has been no public protest in Iran against it.

David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing.

It is a sign of how little interest there is in Iran's intention to launch a campaign of religious persecution that its parliamentary vote has still not been reported in the mainstream media. (Guess at this point any criticism of that "tiny country that does not pose a threat" might be bad for the Obamination and his campaign, so it's better to pretend shit like that isn't happening.)

For one woman living in London, however, the Iranian parliamentary vote cannot be brushed aside. Rashin Soodmand is a 29-year-old Iranian Christian. Her father, Hossein Soodmand, was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy, the "crime" of abandoning one's religion. He had converted from Islam to Christianity in 1960, when he was 13 years old. Thirty years later, he was hanged by the Iranian authorities for that decision.

Today, Rashin's brother, Ramtin, is also held in a prison cell in Mashad, Iran's holiest city. He was arrested on August 21. He has not been charged but he is a Christian. And Rashin fears that, just as her father was the last man to be executed for apostasy in Iran, her brother may become one of the first to be killed under Iran's new law.

Not surprisingly, Rashin is desperately worried. "I am terribly anxious about him," she explains. "Even though my brother is not an apostate, because he has never been a Muslim – my father raised us all as Christians – I don't think he is safe. They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim."

Her brother's situation has ominous echoes of her father's fate. Rashin was 14 when her father was arrested. "He was held in prison for one month," she remembers. "Then the religious police released him without explanation and without apology. We were overjoyed. We thought his ordeal was over."

But six months later, the police came back and took her father away again. This time, they offered him a choice: he could denounce his Christian faith, and the church in which he was a pastor – or he would be killed. "Of course, my father refused to give up his faith," Rashid recalls proudly. "He could not renounce his God. His belief in Christ was his life – it was his deepest conviction." So two weeks later, Hossein Soodmand was taken by guards to the prison gallows and hanged.

Life for Rashin, her siblings and her mother became extremely difficult. Some Muslims are extremely hostile to people of any other religion, never mind to those who they consider apostates: Ayatollah Khomeini declared that "non-Muslims are impure", insisting that for Muslims to wash the clothes of non-Muslims, or to eat food with non-Muslims, or even to use utensils touched by non-Muslims, would spoil their purity.

The family was supported with financial and other help from a Christian church based in Iran. That support became even more critical as Rashin's mother began to lose her sight. Rashin herself was eventually able to leave Iran. She now lives in London, married to a fellow Christian from Iran who successfully applied for asylum in Germany.

It took years for Rashin to understand how her father could have been legally executed simply for becoming a Christian. In 1990, there was no parliamentary law mandating the death for apostates. What, then, was the legal basis for Hossein Soodmand's execution?

"After the revolution of 1979, Iran's rulers wanted to turn Iran into an Islamic state, and to abolish the secular laws of the Shah," explains Alexa Papadouris of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organisation that specialises in freedom of religion. "So the clerics instituted a mandate for judges presiding over criminal cases: if the existing penal code did not include legislation on whether a certain kind of behaviour is an offence, then the judges should refer to traditional Islamic jurisprudence." In other words: sharia law.

"That automatically created problems" says Mr Papadouris, "because Islamic jurisprudence is not codified law: it is a series of formulations developed across generations by scholars and clerics. Depending on the Islamic school or historical era, these formulations can differ and even contradict each other."

On one subject, however, sharia law is unequivocal: men who change their religion from Islam must be punished with death. So when the judge heard the case of Rashid's father, he could refer to sharia and reach a straightforward decision: the death penalty. There was no procedure for appeal.

Nevertheless, in the 18 years since Hossein Soodmand's execution, there have been no judicially sanctioned killings of apostates in Iran, although there have been many reports of disappearances and even murders. "As the number of converts from Islam grows," notes Ms Papadouris, "apostasy has again become a serious concern for the Iranian government." In addition to 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, there are several hundred thousand Baha'is who are deemed apostates.

There is another factor: President Ahmadinejad. "The President didn't initiate the law mandating the death penalty for apostates," says Papadouris, "but he has been lobbying for it. It is an effective form of playing populist politics. The Iranian economy is doing very badly, and the country is in a mess: Ahmadinejad may be calculating that he can gain support, and deflect attention from Iran's problems, by persecuting apostates."

The new law is not yet in force in Iran: it requires another vote in parliament, and then the signature of the Ayatollah. But that could happen within a matter of weeks. "Or," says Papadouris, "it could conceivably be allowed to drop, were there a powerful enough international outcry".

Time may be running out for Rashin's brother. She believes that the new law will be applied in an arbitrary fashion, with individuals selected for death being chosen to frighten others into submission. That is why she fears for her brother. "We just don't know what will happen to him. We only know that if they want to kill him, they will."
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« Reply #77 on: October 13, 2008, 08:35:55 PM »

http://jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/001590.php

Islam, Apostasy, and Human Rights

Ibn Warraq

Here is the full text of an enormously important paper that was presented by Ibn Warraq at a panel discussion on "Apostasy, Human Rights, Religion and Belief" held at the the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on April 7, 2004. Ibn Warraq, of course, is the outstandingly courageous author of Why I am not a Muslim and the editor of The Origins of the Koran; The Quest for the Historical Muhammad; What the Koran Really Says; and Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out.

The very notion of apostasy has vanished from the West where one would talk of being a lapsed Catholic or non-practicing Christian rather than an apostate. There are certainly no penal sanctions for converting from Christianity to any other religion. In Islamic countries, on the other hand, the issue is far from dead.
The Arabic word for apostate is murtadd, the one who turns back from Islam, and apostasy is denoted by irtidad and ridda. Ridda seems to have been used for apostasy from Islam into unbelief ( in Arabic, kufr ), and irtidad from Islam to some other religion. A person born of Muslim parents who later rejects Islam is called a Murtadd Fitri - fitri meaning natural, it can also mean instinctive, native, inborn, innate. One who converts to Islam and subsequently leaves it is a Murtadd Milli, from milla meaning religious community .The Murtadd Fitri can be seen as someone unnatural, subverting the natural course of things whose apostasy is a willful and obstinate act of treason against God and the one and only true creed, and a betrayal and desertion of the community. The Murtadd Milli is a traitor to the Muslim community, and equally disruptive.

Any verbal denial of any principle of Muslim belief is considered apostasy. If one declares, for example, that the universe has always existed from eternity or that God has a material substance, then one is an apostate. If one denies the unity of God or confesses to a belief in reincarnation, one is guilty of apostasy. Certain acts are also deemed acts of apostasy, for example treating a copy of the Koran disrespectfully, by burning it or even soiling it in some way. Some doctors of Islamic law claim that a Muslim becomes an apostate if he or she enters a church, worships an idol, or learns and practises magic. A Muslim becomes an apostate if he defames the Prophet’s character, morals or virtues, and denies Muhammad’s prophethood and that he was the seal of the prophets.

KORAN

It is clear quite clear that under Islamic Law an apostate must be put to death. There is no dispute on this ruling among classical Muslim or modern scholars, and we shall return to the textual evidence for it. Some modern scholars have argued that in the Koran the apostate is threatened with punishment only in the next world, as for example at XVI.106, “Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief –save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with the Faith but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom.” Similarly in III.90-91, “Lo! those who disbelieve after their (profession of) belief, and afterward grow violent in disbelief, their repentance will not be accepted. And such are those who are astray. Lo! those who disbelieve, and die in disbelief, the (whole) earth full of gold would not be accepted from such an one if it were offered as a ransom (for his soul).Theirs will be a painful doom and they will have no helpers.”

However, Sura II.217 is interpreted by no less an authority than al-Shafi’i(died 820 C.E.), the founder of one of the four orthodox schools of law of Sunni Islam to mean that the death penalty should be prescribed for apostates. Sura II.217 reads: “… But whoever of you recants and dies an unbeliever , his works shall come to nothing in this world and the next, and they are the companions of the fire for ever.” Al-Thalabi and al -Khazan concur. Al-Razi in his commentary on II:217 says the apostate should be killed.

Similarly, IV. 89: “They would have you disbelieve as they themselves have disbelieved, so that you may be all like alike. Do not befriend them until they have fled their homes for the cause of God. If they desert you seize them and put them to death wherever you find them. Look for neither friends nor helpers among them…” Baydawi (died c. 1315-16), in his celebrated commentary on the Koran, interprets this passage to mean: “Whosover turns back from his belief ( irtada ), openly or secretly, take him and kill him wheresoever ye find him, like any other infidel. Separate yourself from him altogether. Do not accept intercession in his regard”. Ibn Kathir in his commentary on this passage quoting Al Suddi (died 745) says that since the unbelievers had manifested their unbelief they should be killed.

Abul Ala Mawdudi [1903-1979], the founder of the Jamat-i Islami, is perhaps the most influential Muslim thinker of the 20th century, being responsible for the Islamic resurgence in modern times. He called for a return to the Koran and a purified sunna as a way to revive and revitalise Islam. In his book on apostasy in Islam, Mawdudi argued that even the Koran prescribes the death penalty for all apostates. He points to sura IX for evidence:
“But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail our revelations for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief Lo! they have no binding oaths in order that they may desist.”(IX: 11,12)

Hadith

Here we find many traditions demanding the death penalty for apostasy. According to Ibn Abbas the Prophet said, “Kill him who changes his religion,” or “behead him.” The only argument was as to the nature of the death penalty. Bukhari recounts this gruesome tradition:
“Narrated Anas:Some people from the tribe of Ukl came to the Prophet and embraced Islam .The climate of Medina did not suit them, so the Prophet ordered them to go to the (herd of milch ) camels of charity to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine).They did so, and after they had recovered from their ailment they turned renegades (reverted from Islam, irtada ) and killed the shepherd of the camels and took the camels away. The Prophet sent (some people) in their pursuit and so they were caught and brought, and the Prophet ordered that their hands and legs should be cut off and that their eyes should be branded with heated pieces of iron , and that their cut hands and legs should not be cauterised, till they die.”

Abu Dawud has collected the following saying of the Prophet:
“ ‘Ikrimah said: Ali burned some people who retreated from Islam. When Ibn Abbas was informed of it he said, ‘If it had been I, I would not have them burned, for the apostle of Allah said: ‘Do not inflict Allah’s punishment on anyone.’ But would have killed them on account of the statement of the Apostle of Allah, ‘Kill those who change their religion.’ ”

In other words, kill the apostates (with the sword) but certainly not by burning them, that is Allah’s way of punishing transgressors in the next world. According to a tradition of Aisha’s, apostates are to be slain, crucified or banished.

Should the apostate be given a chance to repent? Traditions differ enormously. In one tradition, Muadh Jabal refused to sit down until an apostate brought before him had been killed “in accordance with the decision of God and of His Apostle.”

Under Muslim law, the male apostate must be put to death, as long as he is an adult, and in full possession of his faculties. If a pubescent boy apostatises, he is imprisoned until he comes of age, when if he persists in rejecting Islam he must be put to death. Drunkards and the mentally disturbed are not held responsible for their apostasy. If a person has acted under compulsion he is not considered an apostate, his wife is not divorced and his lands are not forfeited. According to Hanafis and Shia, a woman is imprisoned until she repents and adopts Islam once more, but according to the influential Ibn Hanbal, and the Malikis and Shafiites , she is also put to death. In general, execution must be by the sword, though there are examples of apostates tortured to death, or strangled, burnt, drowned, impaled or flayed. The caliph Umar used to tie them to a post and had lances thrust into their hearts, and the Sultan Baybars II (1308-09) made torture legal.

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« Reply #78 on: October 13, 2008, 08:37:07 PM »

Should attempts be made at conversion? Some jurists accept the distinction between Murtadd fitri and Murtadd milli, and argue that the former be put to death immediately. Others, leaning on sura IV.137,“Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will he guide them unto a way,” insist on three attempts at conversion, or have the apostate imprisoned for three days to begin with. Others argue that one should wait for the cycle of the five times of prayer and ask the apostate to perform the prayers at each. Only if he refuses at each prayer time is the death penalty to be applied. If he repents and embraces Islam once more, he is released.
The murtadd of course would be denied a Muslim burial, but he suffers other civil disabilities as well. His property is taken over by the believers, if he returns penitent he is given back what remains. Others argue that the apostate’s rights of ownership are merely suspended, only if he dies outside the territory under Islam does he forfeit his property to the Muslim community. If either the husband or wife apostasizes, a divorce takes place ipso facto; the wife is entitled to her whole dower but no pronouncement of divorce is necessary. According to some jurists, if husband and wife apostasize together their marriage is still valid. However if either the wife or husband were singly to return to Islam then their marriage would be dissolved. According to Abu Hanifa, legal activities such as manumission, endowment, testament and sale are suspended. But not all jurists agree. Some Shi’i jurists would ask the Islamic Law towards apostates to be applied even outside the Dar al -Islam, in non-Muslim countries.

Finally, according to the Shafites it is not only apostasy from Islam that is to be punished with death, but also apostasy from other religions when this is not accompanied by conversion to Islam. For example, a Jew who becomes a Christian will thus have to be put to death since the Prophet has ordered in general that everyone “who adopts any other religion” shall be put to death.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR,1948] states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.

The clause guaranteeing the freedom to change one’s religion was added at the request of the delegate from Lebanon, Charles Malik, who was a Christian. Lebanon had accepted many people fleeing persecution for their beliefs, in particular for having changed their religion. Lebanon especially objected to the Islamic law concerning apostasy. Many Muslim countries, however, objected strongly to the clause regarding the right to change one’s religion. The delegate from Egypt, for instance, said that “very often a man changes religion or his convictions under external influences with goals which are not recommendable such as divorce.” He added that he feared in proclaiming the liberty to change one’s religion or convictions the Universal Declaration would encourage without wishing it “the machinations of certain missions well- known in the East, which relentlessly pursue their efforts with a view to converting to their faith the populations of the East”. Significantly, Lebanon was supported by a delegate from Pakistan who belonged to the Ahmadi community which, ironically, was to be thrown out of the Islamic community in the 1970s for being non-Muslim. In the end all Muslim countries except Saudi Arabia adhered to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During discussions of Article 18 in 1966, Saudi Arabia and Egypt wanted to suppress the clause guaranteeing the freedom to change one’s religion. Finally a compromise amendment proposed by Brazil and the Philippines was adopted to placate the Islamic countries. Thus, “the freedom to change his religion or belief” was replaced by “the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice.” Similarly in 1981, during discussions on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Iran, under the new regime reminded everyone that Islam punished apostasy by death. The delegate from Iraq, backed up by Syria, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference expressed his reserve for any clauses or terms that would contradict the Islamic Sharia, while the delegate from Egypt felt that they had to guard against such a clause being exploited for political ends to interfere in the internal affairs of states.

The various Islamic human rights schemes or declarations - such as the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (1981) are understandably vague or evasive on the issue of the freedom to change one’s religion, since Islam itself clearly forbids apostasy and punishes it with death. As Elisabeth Mayer says, “The lack of support for the principle of freedom of religion in the Islamic human rights schemes is one of the factors that most sharply distinguishes them from the International Bill of Human Rights, which treats freedom of religion as an unqualified right. The [Muslim] authors’ unwillingness to repudiate the rule that a person should be executed over a question of religious belief reveals the enormous gap that exists between their mentalities and the modern philosophy of human rights.” Islamic Human Rights Schemes are clearly not universal since they introduce a specifically Islamic religious criterion into the political sphere, whereas the UDHR of 1948 places human rights in an entirely secular and universalist framework. The Islamic human rights schemes severely restrict and qualify the rights of individuals, particularly women, non-Muslims and those, such as apostates, who do not accept Islamic religious orthodoxy.

As for the constitutions of various Muslim countries, while many do guarantee freedom of belief (Egypt,1971; Syria, 1973; Jordan, 1952) some talk of freedom of conscience (Algeria:1989), and some of freedom of thought and opinion (Mauritania: 1991). Islamic countries with two exceptions do not address the issue of apostasy in their penal codes; the two exceptions are the Sudan, and Mauritania. In the Sudanese Penal Code of 1991, article 126. 2, we read: “Whoever is guilty of apostasy is invited to repent over a period to be determined by the tribunal. If he persists in his apostasy and was not recently converted to Islam, he will be put to death.” The Penal Code of Mauritania of 1984, article 306 reads: “…All Muslims guilty of apostasy, either spoken or by overt action will be asked to repent during a period of three days. If he does not repent during this period, he is condemned to death as an apostate, and his belongings confiscated by the State Treasury.” This applies equally to women. The Moroccan Penal Code seems only to mention those guilty of trying to subvert the belief of a Muslim, or those who try to convert a Muslim to another religion. The punishment varies between a fine and imprisonment for anything up to three years.

The absence of any mention of apostasy in some penal codes of Islamic countries of course in no way implies that a Muslim in the country concerned is free to leave his religion. In reality, the lacunae in the penal codes are filled by Islamic Law. Mahmud Muhammad Taha was hanged for apostasy in 1985, even though at the time the Sudanese Penal Code of 1983 did not mention such a crime.

In some countries, the term apostate is applied to some who were born non-Muslim but whose ancestors had the good sense to convert from Islam. The Baha’is in Iran in recent years have been persecuted for just such a reason. Similarly, in Pakistan the Ahmadiya community were classed as non-Muslims, and are subjected to all sorts of persecution.

There is some evidence that many Muslim women in Islamic countries would convert from Islam to escape their lowly position in Muslim societies, or to avoid the application of an unfavorable law, especially Sharia law governing divorce. Muslim theologians are well aware of the temptation of Muslim women to evade the Sharia laws by converting from Islam, and take appropriate measures. For example, in Kuwait in an explanatory memorandum to the text of a law reform says: “Complaints have shown that the Devil makes the route of apostasy attractive to the Muslim woman so that she can break a conjugal tie that does not please her. For this reason, it was decided that apostasy would not lead to the dissolution of the marriage in order to close this dangerous door.”

Just to give you one recent example among many, others are discussed in my book, Leaving Islam Apostates Speak Out (Prometheus Books, 2003):
“A Somali living in Yemen since 1994, Mohammed Omer Haji, converted to Christianity two years ago and adopted the name "George." He was imprisoned in January, 2000 and reportedly beaten and threatened for two months by Yemeni security police, who tried to persuade him to renounce his conversion to Christianity. After he was re-arrested in May, he was formally put on trial in June for apostasy, under article 259 of Yemen's criminal law. Haji's release came seven weeks after he was given a court ultimatum to renounce Christianity and return to Islam, or face execution as an apostate. Apostasy is a capital offence under the Muslim laws of "sharia" enforced in Yemen. After news of the case broke in the international press, Yemeni authorities halted the trial proceedings against Haji. He was transferred on July 17 to Aden's Immigration Jail until resettlement could be finalized by the UNHCR, under which Haji had formal refugee status. One of the politicians who tabled a motion in July 2000 in the British House of Commons was David Atkinson. “Early Day Motion on Mohammed Omer Haji. That this House deplores the death penalty which has been issued from the Aden Tawahi Court in Yemen for the apostasy of the Somali national Mohammed Omer Haji unless he recants his Christian faith and states that he is a Muslim before the judge three times on Wednesday 12th July; deplores that Mr Haji was held in custody for the sole reason that he held to the Christian faith and was severely beaten in custody to the point of not being able to walk; considers it a disgrace that UNHCR officials in Khormaksar stated they were only able to help him if he was a Muslim; and calls on the British Government and international colleagues to make representations immediately at the highest level in Yemen to ensure Mr Haji's swift release and long-term safety and for the repeal of Yemen's barbaric apostate laws.”

Amnesty International adopted Haji as a prisoner of conscience in an "urgent action" release on July 11, 2000 concluding that he was "detained solely on account of his religious beliefs”. The government of New Zealand accepted Haji and his family for emergency resettlement in late July after negotiations with the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However charges of apostasy, unbelief , blasphemy and heresy whether upheld or not clearly go against several articles in UDHR of 1948 , and the legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] of 1966 to which 147 states are signatories. General comment No 22, adopted by the UN Human Rights Commission at its 48th session (1993) ( HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 of 22 May 2003 , pp.155-56 ) declares (quote):“Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The term “belief” and “religion” are to be broadly construed”.

As with my statement to the U.N. Human Rights Commission delivered by the President of the IHEU, I urge the U.N. Human Rights Commission to call on all governments to comply with applicable international human rights instruments like the ICCPR and to bring their national legislation into accordance with the instruments to which they were a party , and forbid fatwas and sermons preaching violence in the name of god against those holding unorthodox opinions or those who have left a religion.
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« Reply #79 on: October 14, 2008, 10:56:30 AM »

ISTANBUL — High school hurt for Havva Yilmaz. She tried out several selves. She ran away. Nothing felt right.


Havva Yilmaz, center, with friends at a cafe in Istanbul. Ms. Yilmaz has embraced her religious identity, and has campaigned for tolerance of those who, like her, choose to express their beliefs.


“There was no sincerity,” she said. “It was shallow.”

So at 16, she did something none of her friends had done: She put on an Islamic head scarf.

In most Muslim countries, that would be a nonevent. In Turkey, it was a rebellion. Turkey has built its modern identity on secularism. Women on billboards do not wear scarves. The scarves are banned in schools and universities. So Ms. Yilmaz dropped out of school. Her parents were angry. Her classmates stopped calling her.

Like many young people at a time of religious revival across the Muslim world, Ms. Yilmaz, now 21, is more observant than her parents. Her mother wears a scarf, but cannot read the Koran in Arabic. They do not pray five times a day. The habits were typical for their generation — Turks who moved from the countryside during industrialization.

“Before I decided to cover, I knew who I was not,” Ms. Yilmaz said, sitting in a leafy Ottoman-era courtyard. “After I covered, I finally knew who I was.”

While her decision was in some ways a recognizable act of youthful rebellion, in Turkey her personal choices are part of a paradox at the heart of the country’s modern identity.

Turkey is now run by a party of observant Muslims, but its reigning ideology and law are strictly secular, dating from the authoritarian rule in the 1920s of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army general who pushed Turkey toward the West and cut its roots with the Ottoman East. For some young people today, freedom means the right to practice Islam, and self-expression means covering their hair.

They are redrawing lines between freedom and devotion, modernization and tradition, and blurring some prevailing distinctions between East and West.

Ms. Yilmaz’s embrace of her religious identity has thrust her into politics. She campaigned to allow women to wear scarves on college campuses, a movement that prompted emotional, often agonized, debates across Turkey about where Islam fit into an open society. That question has paralyzed politics twice in the past year and a half, and has drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest what they call a growing religiosity in society and in government.

By dropping out of the education system, she found her way into Turkey’s growing, lively culture of young activists.

She attended a political philosophy reading group, studying Hegel, St. Augustine and Machiavelli. She took sociology classes from a free learning center. She met other activists, many of them students trying to redefine words like “modern,” which has meant secular and Western-looking for decades. She made new friends, like Hilal Kaplan, whose scarf sometimes had a map of the world on it.

Their fight is not solely about Islam. Turkey is in ferment, and Ms. Yilmaz and her young peers are demanding equal rights for all groups in Turkey. They are far less bothered by the religious and ethnic differences that divide older generations. “Turkey is not just secular people versus religious people,” Ms. Kaplan said. “We were a very segregated society, but that segregation is breaking up.”

In a slushy week in the middle of January, the head scarf became the focus of a heated national outpouring, and Ms. Yilmaz one of its most eloquent defenders.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to pass a law letting women who wear them into college. Staunchly secular Turks opposed broader freedoms for Islam, in part because they did not trust Mr. Erdogan, a popular politician who began his career championing a greater role for Islam in politics and who has since moderated his stance.

Turkey remains a democratic experiment unique in the Muslim world. The Ottomans dabbled in democracy as early as 1876, creating a Constitution and a Parliament. The country was never colonized by Western powers, as Arabs were. It gradually developed into a vibrant democracy. The fact that young people like Ms. Yilmaz are protesting at all is one of its distinguishing features.

In many ways, Ms. Yilmaz’s scarf freed her, but for many other women, it is the opposite. In poor, religiously conservative areas in rural Turkey, girls wear scarves from young ages, and many Turks feel strongly that without state regulation, young women would come under more pressure to cover up.

The head scarf bill, in that respect, could lead to less freedom for women, they argued. But for Ms. Yilmaz, the anger against the bill was hard to understand.

So one day, armed with a microphone and a strong sense of justice, Ms. Yilmaz marched into a hotel in central Istanbul and, with two friends, both in scarves, made her best case





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


Page 2 of 3)


“The pain that we’ve been through as university doors were harshly shut in our faces taught us one thing,” she said, speaking to reporters. “Our real problem is with the mentality of prohibition that thinks it has the right to interfere with people’s lives.”



Generation Faithful

Ms. Yilmaz’s heartfelt speech, written with her friends, drew national attention. They were invited on television talk shows. They gave radio and newspaper interviews. Part of their appeal came from their attempt to go beyond religion to include all groups in Turkish society, like ethnic and sectarian minorities.

After Ms. Yilmaz left high school, she joined a group called the Young Civilians, a diverse band of young people who used dark humor and occasional references to the philosopher Michel Foucault to criticize everything from the state’s repression of Kurds, the biggest ethnic minority, to its day of “Youth and Sport,” a series of Soviet-style rallies of students in stadiums every spring.

Their symbol was a Converse sneaker. Their members were funny and irreverent. One once joked that if you mentioned the name Marx, young women without head scarves assumed you were talking about the British department store Marks & Spencer, while ones in scarves understood the reference to the philosopher.

In a tongue-in-cheek effort to change perceptions of Kurds, the group ran a discussion program called “Let’s Get a Little Kurdish,” which featured sessions on Kurdish music, history and — in a particularly rebellious twist — even language.

By March, the month after Parliament passed the final version of the head scarf proposal, the debate had reached a frenzied pitch. Ms. Yilmaz and some friends — some in scarves, some not — agreed to go on a popular television talk show. The audience’s questions were angry.

One young woman stood up and, looking directly at another in a scarf, said that she did not want her on campus, said Neslihan Akbulut, a friend of Ms. Yilmaz, who had helped to compose the head scarf statement. Another said she felt sorry for them because they were oppressed by men. A third fretted that allowing them into universities would lead to further demands about jobs, resulting in an “invasion.”

Ms. Yilmaz said later: “I thought, are we living in the same country? No, it’s impossible.”

They did not give up. They spent the day in a drafty cafe in central Istanbul, wearing boots and coats and going over their position with journalists, one by one.

“If women are ever forced to wear head scarves, we should be equally sensitive and stand against it,” Ms. Akbulut said.

One of the journalists said, “You don’t support gays.”

Ms. Kaplan countered: “Islam tells us to fight this urge,” but she said that did not affect a homosexual’s rights as a citizen. “I am against police oppression of homosexuals. I am against a worldview that diminishes us to our scarves and homosexuals to the bedroom.”

Ms. Yilmaz agreed. “When you wear a scarf,” she said, “you are expected to act and think in a certain way, and support a certain political party. You’re stripped of your personality.”

The young women say that the scarf, contrary to popular belief, was not forced on them by their families. Some women wear it because their mothers did. For others, like Ms. Yilmaz, it was a carefully considered choice.

Though it is not among the five pillars of Islam — the duties required for every Muslim, including daily prayer — Ms. Yilmaz sees it as a command in the Koran.

“Physical contact is something special, something private,” she said, describing the thinking behind her covering. “Constant contact takes away from the specialness, the privacy of the thing you share.”

Still, in Turkey, traditional rules are often bent to accommodate modern life. Handshaking, for example, is a widespread Turkish custom, and most women follow it. Turkey is culturally very different from Arab societies, and for that reason interprets Islam differently. Islam here is heavily influenced by Sufism, an introspective strain that tends to be more flexible.

“You can’t reject an extended hand,” Ms. Kaplan said. “You don’t want to break a person’s heart.”






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

(Page 3 of 3)



Young activists like Ms. Yilmaz are driving change in Turkish society against a backdrop of growing materialism and consumerism. Most young Turks care little for politics and are instead occupied with the daily task of paying the bills.

This is the seventh in a series of articles examining the lives of the young across the Muslim world at a time of religious revival.

That is an easier task in Turkey than in a number of Middle Eastern countries, because Turkey is relatively affluent. After three decades of intense development, its economy is five times bigger than Egypt’s — a country with roughly the same population.

The wealth has profoundly shaped young lives. In cities, young people no longer have to live with their parents after marriage. They take mortgages. They buy furniture on credit. They compete for jobs in new fields like marketing, finance and public relations.

In past generations, women lived with their husband’s families, doubling their work.

“When you don’t have time to do anything for yourself, you don’t have time to question anything, even religion,” Ms. Kaplan said.

The economic changes that have swept Turkish society, bringing cellphones, iPods and the Internet, are transforming the younger generation. Young people are more connected to the Western world than ever before. A quick visit to a bookstore or a movie theater offers proof.

Observant Turks are grappling with questions like: Where does praying fit in a busy life of e-mail messages and 60-hour weeks? How do you hold on to Eastern tradition in a rising tide of Western culture?

The head scarf debate ended abruptly in June, when Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the new law allowing women attending universities to wear scarves was unconstitutional, because it violated the nation’s principles of secularism.

Ms. Yilmaz got the news in a text message from her friend. In her bitter disappointment, she realized how much hope she had held out. “How can I be a part of a country that does not accept me?” she said.

Still, she has no regrets and is not giving up. “What we did was worth something,” she said. “People heard our voices. One day the prohibition is imposed on us. The next day, it could be someone else. If we work together, we can fight it.”
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« Reply #80 on: October 14, 2008, 11:01:48 AM »

Second post of the AM
=================================

LA Times

The Mujahedin Council wants to put an end to what it sees as Western depravity, including racy ads and beauty contests. But opponents say the bill threatens free expression.
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 14, 2008
JAKARTA, INDONESIA -- A beauty queen in a full-length evening gown is enough to make Abu Mohammed Jibril's blood boil.

Those bare arms and uncovered head. That cleavage. And don't get him started on the bikini portion of the show.


 
 Abu Mohammed JibrilMiss Universe is disgusting pornography to the deputy head of Indonesia's Mujahedin Council.

"It's destructive," he said of the contest that airs here. "Miss Universe is very famous, so Muslim mothers want their daughters to be like Miss Universe and copy what they've seen.

"So all of these things, like Miss Universe, fashion shows, are degrading morality. They're all porn. A Muslim woman should not let her hair be seen by other people."


Jibril's council hopes a proposed anti-pornography law will put an end to what it sees as Western depravity. But religious and cultural minorities, artists, teachers and other opponents warn that the bill, which supporters hope will come up for a vote in parliament this week, threatens free expression in Indonesia.

The Muslim council is headed by Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been widely accused of being the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Southeast Asia, a claim he denies. Still, his council shares Al Qaeda's sharp disdain for what Bashir and his followers consider Western moral pollution.

When worshipers answered the call to prayer at Jibril's Jakarta mosque on a recent afternoon, one young man arrived wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Jibril sat for an interview on a green prayer rug, behind the wooden lectern he uses for sermons. Vilifying immoral dress, loose sex and other social trends he sees as signs of social decay, he paused only for an occasional question -- and to answer the male voice reciting a verse from the Koran, which is his cellphone's ring tone.

To punctuate each point, he flashed his palms, fingers stretched wide in little starbursts around his white turban.

"It's not only drugs and criminals that are at the root of all the devastation of our younger generation, but also the culture of pornography," said Jibril. "That is why we find many husbands cheating on their wives, and many wives cheating on their husbands."

Indonesia's long debate over the anti-porn bill, which has gone through many revisions, is dividing a nation founded on principles that include "Unity in Diversity." The Muslim majority has long been known for respecting the rights of religious minorities. Although this is the most populous Muslim nation, women more commonly wear Western fashions than head scarves.

The proposed law casts a broad net for purveyors of smut. It defines porn as sexual material that includes photographs, cartoons, films, poems, vocalization, conversations and body gestures in the media, or in public shows, exhibits or performances.

Those that "arouse sexual propensity, desires or longings" or "contravene community ethics, decency or morality" would be criminal acts if the bill becomes law.

Producers of obscene material, which would include depictions of sexual intercourse, child pornography, sexual violence, masturbation and what is described as "allusions to nudity," would face up to 15 years in prison or a maximum fine equivalent to $1.5 million.

Distributors of porn, which also would include what the bill's drafters call racy advertising, could be sentenced to a maximum three-year prison term or a $500,000 fine.

Backers of the bill's provisions against the sexual exploitation of children, Internet porn and other, more conventional measures against indecency decry what they consider the overkill of the measure's more aggressive elements. The loudest opposition comes from the resort island of Bali, where Hindus are a majority and Western tourists exposing skin are part of the scenery.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters from around the country came to Bali to rally against the bill, which opponents say is a threat to minority cultures. To make their point, Papuan tribesmen danced wearing only traditional penis sheaths and body paint.

Bali Gov. Made Mangku Pastika raised objections to the bill in a letter this month to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Jibril discounts the governor's objections, which he says are to be expected from the leader of a province where "they gain income from allowing foreigners to shows their breasts, to get naked by the beach, to kiss on the lips in public." Jibril said he doubts the bill will pass because the government is a cabal of liars intent on prolonging the debate to manipulate voters. In the end, the politicians will side with minorities and Muslims will give up on peaceful protest, he said in what sounded like a veiled threat.

"There will be a time when Muslims are tired of holding these [mass protests] and then something unwanted can happen," he warned.

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« Reply #81 on: October 26, 2008, 04:17:47 PM »

Pakistani Christians told to convert or die


Source: http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?id=16554&t=Pakistani+Christians+told+t o+convert+or+die

Christians of south Punjab have received letters threatening death if they do not convert to Islam. In Jun3 2008, Islamic militants abducted Christians during worship. Pakistani police appear impotent.


About after a year, once again Christians of Shantinagar, a Christian village in south Punjab, Pakistan, received threatening letters by post, in which they were asked to convert to Islam or be ready to die or leave the area. Nine Christian religious and political leaders received the menacing mail on Sept. 3. Like previous mail, there is no dead line for the threat.

The letters say that, "Don't think we have forgotten you. We are after you and we will teach you a lesson if you do not obey our advice." The letters have no names of the senders but the message is almost the same. "Although each letter is a little different from others, the message are for conversion," Kaleem Dutt, one of the recipients of the letters told Minorities Concern of Pakistan (MCP) by phone. About fifteen days before these letters, few Christian families who live outside the village on their agricultural lands were attacked at night by some miscreants. They tortured them, beat them, insulted them and looted them. They also told the Christians to leave the area otherwise they will again and again be treated like this.

This is not the first time that Christians of this area received these sorts of letters. Last year, 10 Christians of the same village twice received the same type of correspondence with the same messages. That time the dead-line to convert to Islam was mentioned in the letters which was ten days. "Thanks God nothing happened after those ten days, so people feel relaxed," Saleem Dutt, a villager form Shantinagar told MCP. The new mail once again threatened Christians and they are so scared. They had informed the police officers of the special branch and arranged a security system around the village.

Last year, during the months of May, June and August, along with people of Shantinagar, religious minorities of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), especially Christians of Charsada and Peshawar, capital of NWFP, also received threatening letters from the unknown militants. The letters' message was to change their religions and convert to Islam. On June 21, 2008, Islamic militants kidnapped 16 Christians in a raid around 8pm while they were worshipping in the house of Salamat Masih, a Christian, in Peshawar. They were taken to the Khyber Agency, near the boarder with Afghanistan.

However, after couple of hours they were released after government's negotiation with the militants. Last year when Christians of Shantinagar received the intimidating letters, they immediately informed the police authorities about the letters and also gave the phone numbers of the threatening phone calls "but police did nothing," Christians complained. There are many militants groups active in the country especially in the tribal region of NWFP, but it is still not clear which militant group is behind these intimidating messages.

The Christians of Shantinagar are living under constant threat of attack by the militants. The apprehension of people of Shantinagar is genuine because on Feb. 6, 1997 this village was attacked by a mob of about 2000 people when the whole village was burnt and destroyed despite the presence of around 300 policemen outside the village. Christians were allegedly accused of insulting the Holy Quran. So, within hours, about 80 percent village was annihilated. Almost 800 houses were destroyed and 2500 people were affected. In the attack, about 2000 Bibles were burnt also. A judicial inquiry was held but still the findings of the inquiry are not made public. Moreover, police arrested 97 persons in this connection but nobody has been convicted so far.

The recent letters are a visible example of an attempt to force conversion of religious minorities in the country. In many cases, Christian, Hindu and Sikh women, have been kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslim men after conversion. Minority rights groups estimate that around 600 people a year are forcibly converted to Islam.
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« Reply #82 on: November 24, 2008, 07:35:54 PM »

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/11/21/60545.html

 rolleyes tongue
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« Reply #83 on: November 29, 2008, 08:40:45 AM »

11/27/2008 15:34

EGYPT

Thousands of Muslims attack Coptic church in Cairo

On the day of the inauguration of a church in the suburbs of the Egyptian capital, Islamic demonstrators have attacked the building, forcing about 800 faithful to barricade themselves inside the church.


Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Several thousand Muslims have attacked the Coptic church of the Virgin Mary in West Ain Shams, in the suburbs of Cairo. 800 faithful attending the first liturgy remained barricaded inside the church.

The demonstrators attacked the building on the day of its inauguration, November 23. The strife began in the early hours of the morning when a group of Muslims took possession of the first floor of a building in front of the church, turning it into a place of prayer. At about five o'clock in the afternoon, other demonstrators blocked the road on both sides, and began the attack. The building was originally a factory, but has been modified as a place of worship for the Orthodox Coptic community, after a bureaucratic process that lasted five years.

It is the latest of many acts of violence against Christians. The Copts are the main religious minority living in Egypt, and represent 15% of the population, out of a total of 80 million inhabitants. Over the last 30 years, it is estimated that about 4,000 Christians have been killed or injured in attacks. In 2008, there have been dozens of events similar to the one that happened to the community in the suburb of Cairo.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Fr. Milad Sidky Zakhary, director of the Catholic Institute of religious studies in Cairo, explains: "The problem is that legal authorization is not given easily to Christians to build churches. It often happens that communities are groups are forced to meet in homes or private buildings in order to fulfill the Sunday precept. If anyone discovers them, they do not report it to the authorities, but directly attack the faithful."

According to Voice of the Copts, A Coptic Christian association based in Italy and the United States, about 10,000 demonstrators attacked the church. Other local sources say that there were 20,000, and report that, when the police came, the crowd moved on to the businesses and property owned by Christians in the neighborhood, waving clubs and chanting incitements to jihad. According to reports, two cars were burned, and five people were injured, in addition to the damage to the newly consecrated church.

Witnesses say that there were also women and children among the demonstrators. Video taken at the moment of the attack on the church has been published on the website of the agency Assyrian International.

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=13869&size=A
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« Reply #84 on: November 30, 2008, 09:13:13 AM »

A Judgement call as to whether to place this here on in the Gender Issues thread:
============

Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies. Naeema Azar, above, was attacked by her husband after they divorced. Her 12-year-old son, Ahmed Shah, looks after her.

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: November 30, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Some terrible pictures of Naeema Azar's fac and as she normally presents herself, to avoid shocking people

Terrorism in this part of the world usually means bombs exploding or hotels burning, as the latest horrific scenes from Mumbai attest. Yet alongside the brutal public terrorism that fills the television screens, there is an equally cruel form of terrorism that gets almost no attention and thrives as a result: flinging acid on a woman’s face to leave her hideously deformed.

Here in Pakistan, I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region.

This month in Afghanistan, men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: “I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.”

When I met Naeema Azar, a Pakistani woman who had once been an attractive, self-confident real estate agent, she was wearing a black cloak that enveloped her head and face. Then she removed the covering, and I flinched.

Acid had burned away her left ear and most of her right ear. It had blinded her and burned away her eyelids and most of her face, leaving just bone.

Six skin grafts with flesh from her leg have helped, but she still cannot close her eyes or her mouth; she will not eat in front of others because it is too humiliating to have food slip out as she chews.

“Look at Naeema, she has lost her eyes,” sighed Shahnaz Bukhari, a Pakistani activist who founded an organization to help such women, and who was beginning to tear up. “She makes me cry every time she comes in front of me.”

Ms. Azar had earned a good income and was supporting her three small children when she decided to divorce her husband, Azar Jamsheed, a fruit seller who rarely brought money home. He agreed to end the (arranged) marriage because he had his eye on another woman.

After the divorce was final, Mr. Jamsheed came to say goodbye to the children, and then pulled out a bottle and poured acid on his wife’s face, according to her account and that of their son.

“I screamed,” Ms. Azar recalled. “The flesh of my cheeks was falling off. The bones on my face were showing, and all of my skin was falling off.”

Neighbors came running, as smoke rose from her burning flesh and she ran about blindly, crashing into walls. Mr. Jamsheed was never arrested, and he has since disappeared. (I couldn’t reach him for his side of the story.)

Ms. Azar has survived on the charity of friends and with support from Ms. Bukhari’s group, the Progressive Women’s Association (www.pwaisbd.org). Ms. Bukhari is raising money for a lawyer to push the police to prosecute Mr. Jamsheed, and to pay for eye surgery that — with a skilled surgeon — might be able to restore sight to one eye.

Bangladesh has imposed controls on acid sales to curb such attacks, but otherwise it is fairly easy in Asia to walk into a shop and buy sulfuric or hydrochloric acid suitable for destroying a human face.

Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies: they are poor and female. The first step is simply for the world to take note, to give voice to these women.

Since 1994, Ms. Bukhari has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.

For the last two years, Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have co-sponsored an International Violence Against Women Act, which would adopt a range of measures to spotlight such brutality and nudge foreign governments to pay heed to it. Let’s hope that with Mr. Biden’s new influence the bill will pass in the next Congress.

That might help end the silence and culture of impunity surrounding this kind of terrorism.

The most haunting part of my visit with Ms. Azar, aside from seeing her face, was a remark by her 12-year-old son, Ahsan Shah, who lovingly leads her around everywhere. He told me that in one house where they stayed for a time after the attack, a man upstairs used to beat his wife every day and taunt her, saying: “You see the woman downstairs who was burned by her husband? I’ll burn you just the same way.”

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog www.nytimes.com/ontheground, and join me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kristof.

Frank Rich is off today.

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« Reply #85 on: November 30, 2008, 09:36:39 AM »

Such a wonderful culture.
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« Reply #86 on: December 23, 2008, 07:49:50 PM »

GM: I am starting to come around to your point of view.  This is ridiculous.  Eight years old and being sold for her father's debts?


(CNN) -- A Saudi judge recently refused to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man -- a union apparently arranged by the girl's father to settle his debts -- a lawyer in the case told CNN.
On Saturday, the judge, Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib, dismissed a petition brought by the girl's mother because she "is not the legal guardian of the girl," the woman's lawyer Abdullah al-Jutaili said.
"Therefore, she cannot represent her daughter in these proceedings," al-Jutaili said.
Her parents are separated, he said.

According to the lawyer, the girl's father arranged the marriage in order to settle his debts with the man, who is "a close friend" of his.
The judge did ask for a pledge from the husband, who was in court, not to consummate the marriage until the girl reaches puberty, according to al-Jutaili.
The judge ruled that when the girl reaches puberty, she will have the right to request a divorce by filing a petition with the court, the lawyer said.

Christoph Wilcke, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said his organization has heard many other cases of child marriages.
"We've been hearing about these types of cases once every four or five months because the Saudi public is now able to express this kind of anger, especially so when girls are traded off to older men," Wilcke said.
Zuhair al-Harithi, a spokesman for the Human Rights Commission, a Saudi government-run human rights group, said his organization is fighting against child marriages.

"The Human Rights Commission opposes child marriages in Saudi Arabia," al-Harithi said. "Child marriages violate international agreements that have been signed by Saudi Arabia and should not be allowed."
The spokesman said he did not have specific details about this case but his organization has been able to stop at least one other child marriage. E-mail to a friend
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« Reply #87 on: December 23, 2008, 08:45:54 PM »

I think anyone with a basic sense of right and wrong can see how horrific sharia law is to live under.
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« Reply #88 on: December 24, 2008, 12:29:50 AM »

And JDN qualifies  smiley
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« Reply #89 on: December 24, 2008, 09:07:23 AM »

AMMAN, Jordan — Muhammad Fawaz is a very serious college junior with a stern gaze and a reluctant smile that barely cloaks suppressed anger. He never wanted to attend Jordan University. He hates spending hours each day commuting.


As a high school student, Mr. Fawaz, 20, had dreamed of earning a scholarship to study abroad. But that was impossible, he said, because he did not have a “wasta,” or connection. In Jordan, connections are seen as essential for advancement and the wasta system is routinely cited by young people as their primary grievance with their country.

So Mr. Fawaz decided to rebel. He adopted the serene, disciplined demeanor of an Islamic activist. In his sophomore year he was accepted into the student group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest, most influential religious, social and political movement, one that would ultimately like to see the state governed by Islamic law, or Shariah. Now he works to recruit other students to the cause.

“I find there is justice in the Islamic movement,” Mr. Fawaz said one day as he walked beneath the towering cypress trees at Jordan University. “I can express myself. There is no wasta needed.”

Across the Middle East, young people like Mr. Fawaz, angry, alienated and deprived of opportunity, have accepted Islam as an agent of change and rebellion. It is their rock ’n’ roll, their long hair and love beads. Through Islam, they defy the status quo and challenge governments seen as corrupt and incompetent.

These young people — 60 percent of those in the region are under 25 — are propelling a worldwide Islamic revival, driven by a thirst for political change and social justice. That fervor has popularized a more conservative interpretation of the faith.

“Islamism for us is what pan-Arabism was for our parents,” said Naseem Tarawnah, 25, a business writer and blogger, who is not part of the movement.

The long-term implications of this are likely to complicate American foreign policy calculations, making it more costly to continue supporting governments that do not let secular or moderate religious political movements take root.

Washington will also be likely to find it harder to maintain the policy of shunning leaders of groups like the Brotherhood in Egypt, or Hamas in Gaza, or Hezbollah in Lebanon, which command tremendous public sympathy.

Leaders of Muslim countries have tried to appease public sentiment while doing all they can to discourage the West from engaging religious movements directly. They see the prospect of a thaw in relations with the West, and see these groups as a threat to their monopoly on power.

Authoritarian governments view relative moderation as more of a political challenge than extremism, which is a security problem that can be contained through harsh methods.

“What happens if Islamists accepted the peace process and became more pragmatic?” said Muhammad Abu Rumman, research editor at the newspaper Al Ghad in Amman. “People see them as less corrupt and as the only real opposition. Israel and the U.S. might look at them differently. The regime is afraid of the Brotherhood when it becomes more pragmatic.”

The financial crisis only adds to the anxiety of governments in the Middle East that had hoped economic development could appease their citizens, create jobs for legions of unemployed and underemployed young people and dilute the appeal of Islamic movements. But the crisis and the drop in oil prices have hit hard, throwing the brakes on once-booming economies in the Persian Gulf region, and modest economic growth elsewhere in the region.

In this environment, governments are forced to confront a reality of their own creation. By choking off democracy and free speech, the only space where groups could gather and discuss critical ideas became the mosque, and the only movements that had room to prosper were religion-based.

Today, the search for identity in the Middle East no longer involves tension between the secular and religious. Religion has won.

The struggle, instead, is over how to define an Islamic society and government. Zeinah Hamdan, 24, has traveled a typical journey in Jordan. She says she wants a more religious government guided by Shariah law, and she took the head scarf at a younger age than anyone else in her family.

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

(Page 2 of 3)



But when she was in college, she was offended when an Islamist student activist chastised her for shaking a young man’s hand. She wants to be a modern religious woman, and she defines that as working and socializing in a coed environment.


“If we implement Shariah law, we will be more comfortable,” she said. “But what happens is, the people who come to power are extremists.”

Like others here, she is torn between her discomfort with what she sees as the extreme attitudes of the Muslim Brotherhood and her alienation from a government she does not consider to be Islamic enough. “The middle is very difficult,” she said.

Focus on Popular Causes

Under a bright midday sun one recent day, Mr. Fawaz and his allies in the Islamic student movement put on green baseball caps that read, in Arabic, “Islamic Current of Jordan University” and prepared to demonstrate. Mr. Fawaz carried a large poster board reading, “We are with you Gaza.”

The university protest reflected the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country as a whole: precisely organized, deliberately nonthreatening and focused on popular causes here such as the Palestinians. The Brotherhood says it supports democracy and moderation, but its commitment to pluralism, tolerance and compromise has never been tested in Jordan.

Mr. Fawaz and about 200 other students stood in a straight line, extending nearly two city blocks, parallel to the traffic on the major roadway in front of the university. More than half of the students were women, many with their faces veiled.

State security men in plain clothes hurried up and down the line. “Brother, for God’s sake, when will you be angry?” one security agent screamed into his phone, recording for headquarters the slogan on a student’s placard.

At 12:30 p.m., the male students stepped into the road, blocking traffic, while the women rushed off to the sidewalk and melted back into the campus. One minute later, they walked out of traffic, took off their caps and folded up their signs, tucked them into computer bags and went back to school.

“I want to be able to express what I want; I want freedom,” Mr. Fawaz said, after returning to the campus. His glasses always rest crooked on his face, making him look younger, and a bit out of sorts. “I don’t want to be afraid to express my opinion.”

Mr. Fawaz grew up in a small village called Anjara, near Ajloun, about 50 miles from Amman. His father grew up in the Jordan Valley and worked as a nurse in Irbid. Mr. Fawaz said he was 8 years old he was first invited to “leadership retreats” with a youth organization of the Brotherhood.

When he was 13, the youth group took him on a minor pilgrimage to Mecca. So, he said, he had been enticed by religion at an early age. But he only decided to become politically active — and to join the Brotherhood — when he was denied a scholarship to study abroad.

While there are no official statistics on student membership in the Brotherhood, only a fraction of Jordan University students are formally affiliated. Yet many others say they share the same vague sense of discontent and yearning, the same embrace of the Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam Is the Solution,” a resonant catchall in the face of many problems.

The university, with about 30,000 students from across the country, has long served as a proxy battlefield for Jordan’s competing interests.

Competing Loyalties

In Jordan, unlike Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is legal, with a political party and a vast network of social services. It also has a political party, called the Islamic Action Front. While some fear it as too extreme, others argue that it has sold out by working within a political system they see as corrupt and un-Islamic. On campus, the Islamists try to build sympathy, handing out study sheets or copying notes for students.

Mr. Fawaz decided this year to run as an Islamist candidate for the student council, an influential organization with its own budget and the right to put up posters, distribute fliers and hold on-campus events.

The Islamic students’ movement had boycotted the elections for years to protest a change of election rules that called for appointing — not electing — half of the council’s 80 members. The rule change, decreed by the former university president, was made in order to block the Islamists, who were the most organized group on campus, from controlling the council.

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

Page 3 of 3)



That is a direct echo of how the state has long tried to contain the Islamist movement in Jordan. The Brotherhood is allowed to operate, but the government and the security services broadly control the outcome of elections.


Indeed, as Islamist movements have swelled, governments across the Middle East have chosen both to contain and to embrace them. Many governments have aggressively moved to roll back the few democratic practices that had started to take root in their societies, and to prevent Islamists from winning power through the voting booth. That risks driving the leaders and the followers of Islamic organizations toward extremism.

At the same time, many governments have tried to appease popular Islamist fervor. Jordan recently granted a Muslim Brotherhood-aligned newspaper the right to publish daily instead of weekly; held private talks with Hamas leaders; arrested a poet, saying he had insulted Islam by using verses of the Koran in love poems; and shut down restaurants that had served alcohol during Ramadan, though they had been licensed by the state to do so.

This year, the new president of Jordan University permitted all student council seats to be elected, but with rules in place that would, again, make it nearly impossible for the Islamist bloc to have control.

Two days before the voting took place, Mr. Fawaz was campaigning on the steps of the education building, dressed in his best suit and tie. His campaign message to the students was simply, “For your sake.”

Running as an Islamist risks consequences: Mr. Fawaz said that he was approached by a student in his class who he believed was delivering a message from the security services. “He told me that they will write about me; I will never get a job,” Mr. Fawaz said.

But even when the police ordered him to take down his posters on election day, he remained resolute and confident.

“Everybody knows that I am going to win,” Mr. Fawaz said, without sounding boastful. “Because I represent the Islamic movement.”

But he did not win. Instead, a candidate representing a large tribe from the city of Salt won, reflecting the loyalty to bonds of kinship and family heritage even as tribal culture has begun to absorb more conservative Islamic practices and beliefs.

Yet Mr. Fawaz was untroubled. “What is important for me,” he said, “is to serve the movement by spreading the word among the students.”

Amjad al-Absy, 28, remembers the moment when he pledged to join the Muslim Brotherhood. He was 15 and he was identified by Brotherhood recruiters when he was playing soccer in a Palestinian refugee camp. He described how the Brotherhood monitors young men — when they play soccer, go to school, to mosque, to work, as well as in the street and singles out those who appear receptive.

“Once you say yes, they put you in a ring, in a family,” said Mr. Absy. “Outside of the Brotherhood, there is no concern for young men, there is no respect. You are alone.”

Mr. Absy and his friend Tarak Naimat, 24, said that while they were students at the university, they had helped to recruit other young men.

“In the computer lab, in the mosque, you buddy up,” Mr. Naimat said. “Then you participate in events together. Then he becomes a member. If he’s advanced, it can take six months. If less, maybe two years.”

The appeal, Mr. Naimat said, was simple: “It gives you the feeling you can change things, you can act, you can be a leader. You feel like you are part of something important.”

Recruiters to the movement operate in a social atmosphere far more receptive than in the past. Every one of five young men talking near the cafeteria of the university recently insisted that the only way Jordan would have democracy was under an Islamic government, which is what the Brotherhood says it wants to achieve.

Muhammad Safi is a 23-year-old with neatly gelled hair and a television-white smile who described himself as the least religious student at the table. He said he had lived in the United States for five years and was eager to marry an American so he could return. Yet he declared: “An Islamic state would be better. At least it would take care of people.”

A Political Crossroads

The task facing Middle East governments and Islamic leaders is to figure out how to harness the energy of the Islamic revival. The young — the demographic bulge that is defining the future of the Islamic world and the way the West will have to engage it — have embraced Islam with all the fervor of the counterculture.

But the movement is still up for grabs — whether it will lead to greater extremism, even terrorism in some cases, and whether the vague dissatisfaction of young people will translate into political engagement or disaffection.

So the cycle is likely to continue, with religious identification fueled not only by the Islamic movements, but also by governments eager to use religion to enhance legitimacy and to satisfy demands of their citizens. That, in turn, broadens support for groups like the Brotherhood, while undermining support for the government, said many researchers, intellectuals and political scientists in Jordan.

The battle lines are clear on the campus of Jordan University. Bilal Abu Sulaih, 24, is a leader in the Islamic student movement. He returned to school this year to study Islamic law after being suspended for one year for organizing protests, he said. During the year off, he said, he worked as a student organizer for the political party office of the Brotherhood. “We are trying to participate,” he said of the movement’s role on campus. “We do not want to overpower everyone else.”

But his reassurances were brushed aside as another student confronted him. “It’s not true,” shouted Ahmed Qabai, 28, who was seated on a nearby bench. He thrust a finger in Mr. Sulaih’s direction.

“You want to try to control everything,” Mr. Qabai said. “I’ve seen it before, your people talking to women and asking them why they’re not veiled.”

Mr. Sulaih, embarrassed by the challenge, said, “It’s not true.”

Mr. Qabai made it clear that he detested the Muslim Brotherhood, getting more and more worked up, until finally he was screaming. But what he said summed up the challenge ahead for Jordan, and for so many governments in the region: “We all know Islam is the solution. That we agree on.”
« Last Edit: December 24, 2008, 09:09:35 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #90 on: December 26, 2008, 07:35:20 AM »

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s religious businessmen spent years building empires on curtains, candy bars and couches. But as observant Muslims in one of the world’s most self-consciously secular states, they were never accepted by elite society.

Now that group has become its own elite, and Turkey, a more openly religious country. It has lifted an Islamic-inspired political party to power and helped make Turkey the seventh largest economy in Europe.

And while other Muslim societies are wrestling with radicals, Turkey’s religious merchant class is struggling instead with riches.

“Muslims here used to be tested by poverty,” said Sehminur Aydin, an observant Muslim businesswoman and the daughter of a manufacturing magnate. “Now they’re being tested by wealth.”

Some say religious Turks are failing that test, and they see the recent economic crisis as a lesson for those who indulged in the worst excesses of consumption, summed up in the work of one Turkish interior designer: a bathroom with faucets encrusted with Swarovski crystal, a swimming pool in the bedroom, a couch rigged to rise up to the ceiling by remote control during prayer. “I know people who broke their credit cards,” Ms. Aydin said.

But beyond the downturn, no matter how severe, is the reality: the religious wealthy class is powerful now in Turkey, a new phenomenon that poses fresh challenges not only to the old secular elite but to what good Muslims think about themselves.

Money is at the heart of the changes that have transformed Turkey. In 1950, it was a largely agrarian society, with 80 percent of its population living in rural areas. Its economy was closed and foreign currency was illegal. But a forward-looking prime minister, Turgut Ozal, opened the economy. Now Turkey exports billions of dollars in goods to other European countries, and about 70 percent of its population lives in cities.

Religious Turks helped power that rise, yet for years they were shunned by elite society. That helps explain why many are engaged in such a frantic effort to prove themselves, said Safak Cak, a Turkish interior designer with many wealthy, religious clients. “It’s because of how we labeled them,” he said. “We looked at them as black people.”

Mr. Cak was referring to Turkey’s deep class divide. An urban upper class, often referred to as White Turks, wielded the political and economic power in the country for decades. They saw themselves as the transmitters of the secular ideals of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder. They have felt threatened by the rise of the rural, religious, merchant class, particularly of its political representative, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The old class was not ready to share economic and political power,” said Can Paker, chairman of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, a liberal research organization in Istanbul. “The new class is sharing their habits, like driving Mercedes, but they are also wearing head scarves. The old class can’t bear this.”

“ ‘They were the peasants,’ ” the thinking goes, Mr. Paker said. “ ‘Why are they among us?’ ”

Ms. Aydin, 40, who wears a head scarf, encountered that attitude not long ago in one of Istanbul’s fanciest districts. A woman called her a “dirty fundamentalist” when Ms. Aydin tried to put trash the woman had thrown out her car window back inside.

“If you’re driving a good car, they stare at you and point,” Ms. Aydin said. “You want to say, ‘I graduated from French school just like you,’ but after a while, you don’t feel like proving yourself.”

She does not have to.

Her father started by selling curtains. Now he owns one of the largest home-appliance businesses in Europe. Ms. Aydin grew up wealthy, with tastes no different from those of the older class. She lives in a sleek, modern house with a pool in a gated community. Her son attends a prestigious private school. A business school graduate, she manages about 100 people at a private hospital founded by her father. Her head scarf bars her from employment in a state hospital.

Her husband, Yasar Aydin, shrugged. “Rich people everywhere dislike newcomers,” he said. In another decade, those prejudices will be gone, he said.

The businessmen describe themselves as Muslims with a Protestant work ethic, and say hard work deepens faith.

===========

Page 2 of 2)



“We can’t lie down on our oil like Arab countries,” said Osman Kadiroglu, whose family owns a large candy company in Turkey, with factories in Azerbaijan and Algeria. “There’s no way out except producing.”

Fortunes were made, forming new patterns of consumption. Istanbul, Turkey’s economic capital, is No. 4 in the world on the latest Forbes list of cities with the highest number of billionaires. Luxury cars stud its streets. Shopping malls, 80 at last count, are mushrooming.

“Now, unfortunately, there is a taste for luxury, excessive consumption and comfort, vanity, exhibitionism and greed,” said Mehmet Sevket Eygi, a 75-year-old newspaper columnist, who has written extensively about Muslims and wealth.

An Islamic concept called israf forbids consuming more than one needs, but the line is blurry, leaving rich Muslims struggling with questions like whether luxury cars can be offset by donations to charity, a central tenet of Islam.

“You have money, but do you buy whatever you want?” said Recep Senturk, a sociologist at the Center for Islamic Studies in Istanbul. “Or should you keep a humble life? This is a debate in Turkey right now.”

Islam requires that the wealthy give away a portion of their income to the poor. In the Ottoman Empire, it paid for everything from hospitals to dishes broken by maids in rich houses.

Donations to Deniz Feneri, one of the largest charities in Turkey, jumped almost 100-fold in the six years ending in 2006, when they topped $62 million.

Even house designs take charity into account. Mr. Cak described a multimillion-dollar house whose design included an industrial-size kitchen where food was cooked daily and distributed in trucks.

Ms. Aydin, for her part, supports 25 families. The real problem is not finding a place to pray on a busy day out (mall fitting rooms work), but being truly charitable and putting others first when the frenzied pace of life pushes in the opposite direction. She holds onto traditions, like Muslim holidays, tightly.

“The world is changing but I don’t want to lose this,” she said.
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« Reply #91 on: January 14, 2009, 08:22:48 AM »

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,479878,00.html

I suppose its progress of a sort that someone disagrees , , ,
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« Reply #92 on: January 18, 2009, 12:32:21 PM »

The long-term security threat to Arab states

By BARRY RUBIN
JERUSALEM — In Iran, elements from within the regime are reportedly offering a $1 million reward for the assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because of his opposition to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In Lebanon, the leader of Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, merely calls for the Egyptian government's overthrow.

In response to this, Tariq Alhomayed, a Saudi who is editor in chief of the newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, describes Hamas as Iran's tool, and argues that "Iran is a real threat to Arab security."

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, agrees — and he is not alone. When Arab states met to discuss the Gaza crisis, Saudi Arabia vetoed any action. Even the Palestinian Authority (PA) blames Hamas for the fighting. Activists in Fatah, Hamas' nationalist rival that runs the PA, make no secret of their hope that Hamas loses the war.

Welcome to the new Mideast, characterized no longer by the Arab-Israeli conflict, but by an Arab nationalist-Islamist conflict. Recognizing this reality, virtually all Arab states — other than Iran's ally, Syria — and the PA want to see Hamas defeated in Gaza.

Given their strong self-interest in thwarting Islamist revolutionary groups, especially those aligned with Iran, they are not inclined to listen to the "Arab street" — which is far quieter than it was during previous conflicts, such as the 1991 war in Kuwait, the 2000-2004 Palestinian uprising, or the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

Today's Middle East is very different from the old one in many significant ways. First, the internal politics of every Arab country revolves around a battle between Arab nationalist rulers and an Islamist opposition. In other words, Hamas' allies are the regimes' enemies. An Islamist state in the Gaza Strip would encourage those who seek to create similar entities in Egypt, Jordan and every other Arab country.

Already, a tremendous price has been paid in lives and treasure for this conflict. The violence has included civil wars among Palestinians and Algerians; the bloodshed in Iraq; and terrorist campaigns in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In the Palestinian case, after winning an election victory and making a deal with Fatah for a coalition government, Hamas turned on its nationalist rivals and drove them out of Gaza by force. In return, the PA has been repressing Hamas in the West Bank. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has been trying to bully its more moderate Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Druze rivals into submission.

Second, because Arab states confront an Iran-Syria alliance that includes Hamas and Hezbollah, in addition to internal conflicts, there is a regional battle between these two blocs. An aspect of this is that the largely Sunni Muslim-led states face a largely Shiite Muslim-led competitor for regional hegemony.

These two problems pose far greater dangers to existing states than does any Israeli threat. The region's rulers know it.

On the other side of the divide, Iran and its allies have put forward the banners of jihad and "resistance." Their platform includes: Islamist revolution in every country; Iran as the region's dominant state, backed up by nuclear weapons; no peace with Israel and no Palestinian state until there can be an Islamist one encompassing all of Israel (as well as the West Bank and Gaza); and the expulsion of Western influence from the region.

This is a very ambitious program, probably impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, it is a prescription for endless terrorism and war: Both pro- and anti-Iranian revolutionary Islamists believe that, because God is on their side and their enemies are cowardly, they will win, and they are quite prepared to spend the next half-century trying to prove it.

While this seems to be a very pessimistic assessment of the regional situation, the radical Islamist side has many weaknesses. Launching losing wars may make Islamists feel good, but being defeated is a costly proposition, for their arrogance and belligerence antagonizes many who might otherwise be won over to their cause.

In addition, the situation provides a good opportunity for Western policymakers. The emphasis should be on building coalitions among the relatively moderate states that are threatened by radical Islamist forces, and on working hard to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons — a goal that is in the interests of many in the region.

The worst mistake would be to follow the opposite policy — an inevitably futile effort to appease the extremists or seek to moderate them. Such a campaign actually disheartens the relative moderates who, feeling sold out, will try to cut their own deal with Tehran.

The current crisis in Gaza is only one aspect of the much wider battle shaking the region. Helping Hamas would empower radical Islamism and Iranian ambitions, while undercutting the PA and everyone else, not just Israel. Arab states don't want to help their worst enemy. Why should anyone else?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest books include "The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East." © 2009 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)
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« Reply #93 on: January 27, 2009, 02:11:21 PM »

January 26, 2009   No. 2210

Pakistani Daily: "More People Have Been Killed in [Taliban-Led] Violence... In the [Swat] Valley Than In The Israeli Onslaught on Gaza"
As international attention is focused on Gaza, Taliban militants are enforcing Islamic shari'a in the SwatValley of Pakistan's North WestFrontierProvince (NWFP). Since January 15, 2009, the Taliban have enforced a complete ban on female education in the Swat district. The forced Islamization in the Swat district, which was once compared to Switzerland for its picturesque valley, has been underway in recent months, and was stepped up after the Pakistani government released Islamist leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad last year under a deal with the militants. The Taliban in the district are led by Maulana Sufi Muhammad and his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah.

Some 400 private schools have been shut down, depriving about 40,000 girls of their right to education. Additionally, about 84,000 female students enrolled in government-run schools are unlikely to get an education, despite the Pakistani government's pledge to reopen the schools beginning March 1, 2009. [1] At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district. [2] The Taliban have also made it compulsory for men to wear caps and have banned shaving, beginning January 25, 2009. [3]

In parts of the North WestFrontierProvince, the Taliban are already operating Islamic shari'a courts, while the state of Pakistan is paralyzed and the international community is focused on Gaza. In a report, the Pakistani daily The News expressed concern that while the Pakistani religious and political parties and civil society groups are turning out in large numbers in the streets of Pakistan to protest against Israel, no one is bothered about the people of the Swat district.

Following are excerpts from the report published by The News: [4]

"The People [of Swat] Have Been Unfortunate Not to Get Due Attention of the Government, Politico-Religious Parties, and Civil Society - Who Have Been Crowding the Streets to Protest the Killing of Palestinians"

"One could not differentiate between two pictures in Tuesday's [January 20] papers showing the widely scattered rubble of the destroyed buildings in Gaza and blown-up schools in Swat valley, until reading their captions.

"The valley is replete with such scenes, as more than 170 schools have been bombed or torched, along with other government-owned buildings. Also, more people have been killed in violence and military operations in the valley than in the Israeli onslaught on Gaza - but the people [in the valley] have been unfortunate not to get due attention of the government, politico-religious parties, and civil society, who have been crowding the streets to protest the killing of Palestinians."

"Following the Refusal by 600-800 Officials of the Elite Police Force to Carry Out Their Duties in the Militant-TeemingValley, The Military Is Also Having Trouble Providing Security to Schools - So the Girls of the Valley Seem Destined to Face a Bleak Future"

"The blowing up of five schools on Monday [January 19] in the heart of Mingora city belied the tall claims of the provincial and federal governments vis-a-vis ensuring security to schools in Mingora in particular and rest of the valley in general. It added to the worries of the people and girl students, and pointed at the vulnerability of schools.

"The federal and provincial governments have insisted that they were capable of providing security to schools against the militants' threat. 'Education is the basic right of every citizen and the government will ensure it. We will provide security to schools. The militants are not capable to materialise their threat, but have been spreading propaganda to blackmail the government,' NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the other day. 'Federal Minister for Information Sherry Rahman has also expressed the same resolve.

"However, their words proved hollow, meant to give false solace to the worried countrymen, particularly Swatis [people of the Swat district]. 'No special security was provided to schools. Protection to schools is impossible until improvement in the overall security situation. It's the writ of the government that ensures security to schools and all other installations, which is nonexistent at the moment,' an officer of the administration said...

"Interestingly, incapable to stop militants from destroying schools, Iftikhar still claimed that the schools would be reopened on March 1 despite militants' threat. 'We have requested donors to provide finances to rebuild and reopen the ruined schools,' he added, declaring, as he usually does, to take militants head-on.

"It has also been learned that following the refusal by 600-800 officials of the Elite Police force to carry out their duties in the militant-teeming valley, the military is also having trouble providing security to schools. So the girls of the valley seem destined to face a bleak future.

"Maulana Fazlullah-led militants have asked the administration of all schools to stop providing female education by January 15, or else the buildings would be blown up. This led the administrations of private schools to announce the closure of female classes in 400 schools. The government came under heavy flak for failing to restrain the militants in the valley, where more than 120 girls' schools have been destroyed, and to ensure female education there. The private schools refused to trust the government and security forces against the militants, saying that they could not risk the lives of students and would open institutes only after peace was fully restored, or a go-ahead after assurance from the powerful militants.

"Commenting on their failure in the valley, a member of the NWFP cabinet said, while requesting anonymity, that they were serious not only in protecting schools but also in restoring peace to the entire valley.

"About accelerating the operation, he said that the government was satisfied with the operation in the valley, and had passed a resolution to ask the army to make the operation effective. 'Democratic governments convey acts in this manner, but here resolutions by legislatures mean nothing, unfortunately...."'
[1] The News, Pakistan, January 16, 2009.

[2] The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009.

[3] The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009.

[4] The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009.

http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD221009
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« Reply #94 on: January 29, 2009, 12:14:02 AM »

For those who wonder what problems corruption-ridden and disaster-plagued Indonesia must tackle most urgently, the Indonesian Council of Ulema has the answer: yoga.

On Monday, the Council, a quasi-official grouping of 700 Islamic clerics, decreed that Muslims should shun the ancient Indian practice. The clerics worry that Hindu-influenced chants and invocations might weaken Muslim believers' faith. The decree, though not legally binding, carries the force of moral authority, and, as is not uncommon in the Muslim world, the unspoken threat of enforcement by vigilantes.

The Council's decision was not entirely unprecedented. Malaysia's National Fatwa Council issued a similar ban last November. Nonetheless, it comes as a reminder of the challenges the world's most populous Muslim-majority country faces as it struggles to nurture a fledgling democracy in the face of the increasingly undemocratic demands of fundamentalist Islam.

To be sure, Indonesia is no Saudi Arabia. The majority of the country's Muslims -- 88% of its 235 million people -- practice a gentle folk Islam infused with elements of the archipelago's long Animist-Hindu-Buddhist past. The country's constitution is nonsectarian. Overt legal discrimination against non-Muslims, the cornerstone of government policy in neighboring Malaysia, is rare. Most people live in harmony.

But in recent years, Indonesian fundamentalists -- including hardline clerics, politicians from the Prosperous Justice Party and vigilante groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front -- have grown increasingly assertive. These groups don't always agree with each other on tactics, but have broadly similar worldviews. They have spearheaded the persecution of the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim community, the passage of a so-called antipornography bill that encourages vigilantism and discriminates against non-Muslim cultures, and a regulation that forces Christian schools to offer religious instruction on Islam.

Put bluntly, Islamic fundamentalism puts a crimp on Indonesia's otherwise impressive democratic flowering. It's at odds with individual rights, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. In a mature democracy, you wouldn't find a government body called the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society outside the pages of a novel. In Indonesia, it helps the government determine which groups are labeled "heretical" or "deviant."

After two successful national elections since the end of Suharto's 32-year-reign in 1998 -- and with another due this year -- Indonesians are justifiably proud of having mastered the processes of democracy. But the gains may be chimerical unless they can defend their ability to publicly scrutinize, criticize -- and, if necessary, mock -- bad ideas that come from Islam as readily as those drawn from a political manifesto.

Since the 1970s, Indonesian Islam has been stripped of its legendary tolerance toward other faiths by a combination of rapid urbanization, compulsory religious education in government schools, and the efforts of Middle Eastern and homegrown purifiers of the faith. In recent years, this Arabization of Indonesian Islam has gathered pace as globalization has brought the religious and political discourse (often indistinguishable from each other) of Riyadh and Tehran to Jakarta. Reminded daily that they are recipients of God's final revelation, a large minority of Muslims -- perhaps between 10% and 15% -- embrace the fundamentalist notion that the cause of their backwardness lies not in a failure to embrace modernity but in a failure to fully embrace their faith. Many more, while not full-blown fundamentalists themselves, are broadly sympathetic to these ideas.

Indonesia's fundamentalists have shown themselves to be better motivated and better organized than their opponents. Weak or sympathetic politicians (including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono), courts and police allow them to use violence or the threat of violence to control the public square -- by driving Playboy magazine out of Jakarta, or by attacking secular nationalists at a high-profile rally for religious freedom. Meanwhile cultural norms put any public criticism of Islam out of bounds. Hardliners can be chided for distorting the faith, but an unspoken code of self-censorship ensures that no one ever questions the faith itself. The kind of robust debate between believers and unbelievers that marks most democracies is notable for its absence in Indonesia.

To put this in perspective, consider that Indians are free to debate the caste-centered and sexist aspects of Hindu scripture. The Spaniard who believes in contraception and gay rights can flatly declare that he doesn't care what the Bible says or what the Pope thinks. But an Indonesian who publicly expresses similar sentiments about the Quran or the prophet Muhammad immediately invites threats of violence.

This constrained national discourse cedes fundamentalists the moral high ground, a crucial advantage in this battle of ideas. Unless Indonesians can find a way to broaden the debate, to allow purely secular and even antireligious arguments to set up stall in the public square, they should not be surprised to find themselves in a land where clerics set the agenda, both in yoga class and outside it.

Mr. Dhume is a Washington-based writer and the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels With a Radical Islamist" (Skyhorse Publishing, May 2009).

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #95 on: February 04, 2009, 10:57:47 AM »

 Insurgents Use Rape to Create Female Bombers

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BBC News: Iraq's 'female bomber recruiter'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7869570.stm

 
Samira Jassim is accused of recruiting dozens of female attackers


Suspected militant recruiter Samira Jassim reportedly calls herself "the Mother of Believers". Detained in January by Iraqi security forces, the mother of six is accused of converting dozens of vulnerable women into suicide attackers.

In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.  She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the "shamed" women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.

Her apparent confession could help throw light on the recent increase in attacks in Iraq involving female bombers. In 2007 there were eight suicide attacks by women; in 2008 there were 32, the US military says. In early January, a female bomber killed at least 35 Shia pilgrims in a blast near a Baghdad shrine.

Insurgents use female bombers because they can hide explosives under their robes and are less likely to be searched by male guards at security checkpoints.

'Bring her to us'

Samira Jassim worked with Sunni militants from the Ansar al-Sunnah group in Diyala province, one of the last remaining centres of Sunni insurgency, Iraqi security officials said.
 
Women can sometimes bypass the security checks in Iraqi cities

She had recruited 80 women to act as bombers, 28 of whom had gone on to launch attacks, a military spokesman told journalists at a news conference in Baghdad. 

In a filmed confession, the black-robed Jassim described how she recruited one woman for an attack in the city of Mukdadiyah, 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

"I talked to her a number of times," she said. "I went back to them (the militants) and gave them the details on her. And they told me, bring her to us... And I took her to the police station and that's where she blew herself up."

She also described the long process of persuading a woman named Amal, who had family problems, to launch an attack.

"I talked to her many times, sat with her and she was very depressed," she said.

In a separate interview with AP a week after her 21 January arrest, Jassim also described how insurgents used organised rape as a way of generating more bombers. Her role was to persuade the traumatised victims that carrying out a suicide attack was their only way out.

That claim was impossible to verify, AP said, and during their interview with her police interrogators sat in an adjoining room.  But in a culture where rape is considered very shameful for the victim, it is not implausible, correspondents say.
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« Reply #96 on: March 10, 2009, 09:19:47 AM »

Saudi court sentences 75-year-old woman to lashes

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The religion of peace and joy shows it's true self again.

CAIRO (AP) - A 75-year-old widow in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 40 lashes and four months in jail for mingling with two young men who are not close relatives, drawing new criticism for the kingdom's ultraconservative religious police and judiciary.
The woman's lawyer told The Associated Press on Monday that he would appeal the verdict against Khamisa Sawadi, who is Syrian but was married to a Saudi. The attorney, Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, said the verdict issued March 3 also demands that Sawadi be deported after serving her sentence.

He said his client, who is not serving her sentence yet, was not speaking with the media, and he declined to provide more details about the case.

The newspaper Al-Watan said the woman met with the two 24-year-old men last April after she asked them to bring her five loaves of bread at her home in al-Chamil, a city north of the capital, Riyadh.

Al-Watan identified one man as Fahd al-Anzi, the nephew of Sawadi's late husband, and the other as his friend and business partner Hadiyan bin Zein. It said they were arrested by the religious police after delivering the bread. The men also were convicted and sentenced to lashes and prison.

The court said it based its ruling on "citizen information" and testimony from al-Anzi's father, who accused Sawadi of corruption. "Because she said she doesn't have a husband and because she is not a Saudi, conviction of the defendants of illegal mingling has been confirmed," the court verdict read.

Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam prohibits men and women who are not immediate relatives from mingling. It also bars women from driving, and the playing of music, dancing and many movies also are a concern for hard-liners who believe they violate religious and moral values.

Complaints from Saudis have been growing that the religious police and courts are overstepping their broad mandate and interfering in people's lives, and critics lambasted the handling of Sawadi's case.

"How can a verdict be issued based on suspicion?" Laila Ahmed al-Ahdab, a physician who also is a columnist for Al-Watan, wrote Monday. "A group of people are misusing religion to serve their own interests." Sawadi told the court she considered al-Anzi as her son, because she breast-fed him when he was a baby. But the court denied her claim, saying she didn't provide evidence.

In Islamic tradition, breast-feeding establishes a degree of maternal relation, even if a woman nurses a child who is not biologically hers. Sawadi commonly asked her neighbors for help after her husband died, said journalist Bandar al-Ammar, who reported the story for Al-Watan. In a recent article, he wrote that he felt the need to report the case "so everybody knows to what degree we have reached."

The woman's conviction came a few weeks after King Abdullah fired the chief of the religious police and a cleric who condoned killing owners of TV networks that broadcast "immoral content." The move was seen as part of an effort to weaken the hard-line Sunni Muslim establishment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. By MAGGIE MICHAEL
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« Reply #97 on: April 02, 2009, 10:58:12 PM »

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090402/...an_women/print

Critics assail Afghan law that 'legalizes rape'
By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer Fisnik Abrashi, Associated Press Writer 1 hr 3 mins ago

KABUL – A new Afghan law makes it legal for men to rape their wives, human rights groups and some Afghan lawmakers said Thursday, accusing President Hamid Karzai of signing the legislation to bolster his re-election prospects. Critics worry the legislation undermines hard-won rights for women enacted after the fall of the Taliban's strict Islamist regime.

The law — which some lawmakers say was never debated in parliament — is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan's Shiite community, which makes up about 20 percent of this country of 30 million people. The law does not affect Afghan Sunnis.

One of the most controversial articles stipulates the wife "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires."

"As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night," Article 132 of the law says. "Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

One provision also appears to protect the woman's right to sex inside marriage saying the "man should not avoid having sexual relations with his wife longer than once every four months."

The law's critics say Karzai signed the legislation in the past month only for political gains several months before the country's presidential election.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, said the law "legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband." "The law violates women's rights and human rights in numerous ways," a UNIFEM statement said.

The U.S. is "very concerned" about the law, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "We urge President Karzai to review the law's legal status to correct provisions of the law that limit or restrict women's rights."

Wood added that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had met with female Afghan lawmakers in The Hague and had assured them that "women's rights are going to be paramount in this administration's foreign policy, not an afterthought."

Canada's Defense Minister Peter MacKay said he will use this week's NATO summit to put "direct" pressure on his Afghan counterparts to abandon the legislation.

The issue of women's rights is a continuous source of tension between the country's conservative establishment and more liberal members of society. The Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 banned women from appearing in public without a body-covering burqa and a male escort from her family.

Much has improved since then. Millions of girls now attend school and many women own businesses. Of 351 parliamentarians, 89 are women.

But in this staunchly conservative country, critics fear those gains could easily be reversed.

Fawzia Kufi, a lawmaker who opposed the legislation, said several of its articles undermine constitutional and human rights of women as equals and take the country backward.

"All the efforts that were made in the last seven years to enhance women's rights will be undermined," Kufi said.

Karzai has not commented on the law. A spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the president is "aware of the discussion surrounding the law, and is looking into the matter."

Brad Adams, the Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the law is a "dramatic setback for women's rights."

"It directly contradicts the freedoms enshrined in the Afghan constitution and the international conventions that Afghanistan has signed up to that guarantee the rights of women," Adams said.

Safia Sidiqi, a lawmaker from Nangarhar province who condemned the legislation, said she cannot remember parliament debating or even voting on the law and she does not know how it came to be signed by Karzai. She called for the law to be recalled to parliament for debate.

"It is impossible in a two-month session for parliament to pass a law more than 200 pages long," she said of the 263-page law.

Sayed Hossain Alemi Balkhi, a Shiite lawmaker involved in drafting it, defended the legislation saying it gives more rights to women than even Britain or the United States does. He said the law makes women safer and ensures the husband is obliged to provide for her.

As Karzai seeks re-election later this year, he is courting voters in the Shiite community, Kufi said. Women voters are presumed to vote as their husbands do.

"Women's basic freedoms are being sacrificed for the political and electoral gain of a few parliamentarians," Human Rights Watch's Adams said.
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« Reply #98 on: April 03, 2009, 09:29:19 PM »

And why would Karzai support such legislation?
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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #99 on: April 09, 2009, 03:22:15 PM »

Crafty: Maybe you could provide a service by starting a "Sharia Divorce" wherein folks could follow the steps outlined below.

THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2009

Sharia Court Approves Text Message Divorce


Under Sharia law men can divorce their wives (as Islam allows up to four of them) by just writing or saying that they want a divorce three times. This is known as talaq. A Sharia Court in Saudi Arabia has now allowed a Muslim man to divorce his wife via text message. Back in 2003 a Malaysian court also allowed a text message divorce. Obviously the women have no say at all in this.


Shariah court approves SMS divorce
Arab News

JEDDAH: A Shariah court here has approved the divorce of a young Saudi woman in her 20s whose husband sent her an SMS text from Iraq saying he had divorced her.

The husband, who is in Iraq to participate in what he described as “jihad,” also telephoned two of his friends who witnessed his marriage and told them that he had divorced his wife.

The woman had approached the court and asked for an official document proving she was divorced.

A judge summoned the two witnesses who confirmed that their friend called them from Iraq and told them that he had divorced his wife. Another two relatives of the absent husband also confirmed that he had told them on telephone that he had divorced his wife.

The judge approved the divorce and told the woman that she did not have to go through the iddah (the post-divorce waiting period stipulated by the Shariah) as the marriage was not consummated.

http://islaminaction08.blogspot.com/2009/04/sharia-court-approves-text-message.html
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