China sentences 5 more to death for Xinjiang riots
Suicide bomber kills four in attack on Iraq police
Veiled Bomber Kills 14, including 3 Somali Ministers
Hate crimes against Muslims decrease
Makeup? It’s against Islam, Iran women told
Patience 'limited' on Iran nuclear drive: White House
Time for sanctions on Iran
KOZHIKODE: Muslim youths fell for Nazeer’s fiery oratory
Kerala Police gears up to grill LeT operative Nazeer
Dubai Financial crisis reverberates in Bihar towns
Dubai debt woes give Islamic finance its first big crisis
Dubai debacle to boost neighbours' Islamic bank biz
ISLAMABAD: Attack on naval HQ foiled; two killed
Pakistan wary of new US policy’s fallout
Lahore High Court rejects Lakhvi's plea against indictment over 26/11
Bin Laden not in my country, Pakistan PM tells Brown
Taliban vow to step up resistance in Afghanistan
Defeating Taliban key to beating Qaeda: Gates
Afghanistan needs judiciary not troops
Dead Men on UN Terror List Hinder Global Fight Against Al-Qaeda
Saudi court upholds child rapist crucifixion ruling
Iran frees five British sailors
Iraq directors defy militants, screen films at bomb sites
Iraqi VP to rule on election law
Muslim In NYC: Some New Yorkers Claim Media Portrayal Of Islam Builds Distrust
Bail on hold for suspect in planned terror attack
'Islamophobic policies show Europe losing values'
France Chief Rabbi: Time to change perceptions of Europeans about Islam
Italy May Add 1,000 Extra Troops in Afghanistan
Indonesian Muslim Leaders Invited To Join Australian Exchange Programme
Muslim Punk Rock: A Mash-Up of Piety and Politics
The Threat of Shariah-Compliant Finance
Imam killing needs independent investigation
"Obama is a Muslim"
Muslim celebration is All-American
Muslim Father Misunderstands Islam
Malaysian: The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2009 — Hilman Noordin
5 women killed in Philippines political massacre may have been raped, tests
Kashmir is disputed territory, says Geelani
Compiled by Aman Quadri
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamicWorldNews_1.aspx?ArticleID=2187
Rahul Gandhi to motivate Aligarh Muslim University students to pursue higher education
3 December 2009
HAATHRAS: AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi will interact with the students of Aligarh Muslim University, during his two-day visit to Uttar Pradesh starting December 7.
"Rahul, who has been invited by vice-chancellor P K Abdul Azis, will address students at Kennedy hall of the university on December 7," AMU spokesman Rahat Abrar said here.
This will be Gandhi's first visit to AMU. Around 800 students selected from various faculties, residential halls and schools affiliated with the AMU will also attend the event.
"Rahul will motivate students to pursue higher education," Abrar said.
The Congress leader will also visit Jama Masjid and pay tributes to Sir Syed Ahmad, founder of the AMU.
On the second day of his visit, Gandhi will attend a convention of PCC representatives to be held at UPCC headquarters in Lucknow on December 8 where the party's membership campaign would be discussed.
Later in the day, the Congress leader will also attend programmes to be organised in Ambedkar Nagar and Kanpur.
"Rahul Gandhi, who will be on a two-day visit to Uttar Pradesh, will attend various programmes to be organised in Sitapur, Bahraich, Aligarh, Aliganj (Etah) and Hardoi district on December 7," party spokesman Dwijendra Tripathi said in Lucknow.
AMU revokes suspension of 18 students
The Aligarh Muslim University administration on Thursday revoked the suspension of 18 students, who were charged with misconduct and indiscipline.
"These 18 students were suspended on November 4 for their involvemet in vitiating the academic functioning of the university leading to its closure last month," an official said here.
The suspension was revoked on a condition that each student would provide a written undertaking for maintaining good behaviour in future, he said.
The university reopened partially on December 1 and the process will be completed by this month.
The AMU was closed indefinitely on October 30 following agitation by students, who were protesting against the death of a colleague and were demanding resignation of the university vice-chancellor.
By SCOTT McDONALD
Dec 3, 2009
BEIJING — A Chinese court sentenced five more people to death Thursday for killing a police officer with a brick, kicking bystanders to death and other crimes committed during ethnic riots that rocked the western region of Xinjiang in July.
The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi also sentenced two others to life in prison, said a woman who answered the phone at the media center of the Xinjiang regional government. Like many Chinese officials, she refused to give her name.
China announced last month that nine Uighurs had been executed for taking part in the ethnic rioting that left nearly 200 people dead in July. It was China's worst ethnic violence in decades.
The five identified in the official Xinhua News Agency's report Thursday had names indicating they were Uighurs, and it said the cases were heard in the Uighur language.
Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnic group linguistically and culturally distinct from the Han, and many resent Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, their traditional homeland.
Hundreds of people were rounded up after the riots, in which Uighurs attacked members of China's Han ethnic majority on July 5, only to face retaliatory attacks two days later.
Of the five sentenced to death Thursday, Memeteli Islam was accused of killing a police officer by smashing him in the back of the head with a brick.
Mamattursun Elmu and Memeteli Abburakm were accused of attacking a minibus and kicking a man and woman inside until they died. Mamattursun Elmu was also charged with setting fire to a grain distribution center that killed five people.
Helil Sadir was accused of killing a bystander with a beer bottle and kicks to the face, and Kushiman Kurban was found guilty of stabbing a bystander to death.
China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang. Five months after the violence, Xinjiang remains smothered in heavy security, with Internet access cut and international direct dialing calls blocked.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Thu Dec 3, 2009
Iraqi civilian deaths drop to lowest level of war
Monday, 30 Nov 2009 03:22pm EST
Night-time theater returns to Iraq as courage grows
Thursday, 26 Nov 2009 12:52pm EST
Gunmen in uniform slaughter Iraqi family of six
Wednesday, 25 Nov 2009 10:05am EST
Iraq VP vetoes vote law, poll date in doubt
Wednesday, 18 Nov 2009 03:12pm EST
Gunmen in army uniforms kill 12 Iraqi villagers
Monday, 16 Nov 2009 04:56am EST
TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed four police officers in Saddam Hussein's hometown on Thursday, including the head of the city's anti-riot squad, Iraqi police said.
The attack in a crowded street appeared to target Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Subhi al-Fahal, the commander of the riot police in Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
The three other victims were Fahal's bodyguards, who were accompanying him while he shopped. Seven civilians were wounded.
Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest levels since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Eighty-eight civilians were killed in violence in November, the first time the monthly bodycount fell below 100 in more than 6-1/2 years.
But suspected Sunni Islamists such as al Qaeda continue to stage regular attacks, including devastating suicide bombings against government buildings in Baghdad on October 25 and August 19 in which almost 250 people died.
Tikrit was the hometown of Sunni dictator Saddam, ousted in the 2003 invasion. It remained volatile until the beginning of this year when security incidents began to subside.
(Reporting by Sabah al-Bazee; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing byAlison Williams)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
By Jeffrey Gettleman And Mohamed Ibrahim
December 3, 2009
NAIROBI, Kenya — In a devastating blow to Somalia’s fragile transitional government, a suicide bomber disguised as a veiled woman struck a college graduation ceremony on Thursday, killing at least 10 people, including 3 government ministers, Somali officials said.
The bomber struck in a part of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, that was thought be relatively safe, though many Somalis fear insurgents have infiltrated the government’s security forces. According to witnesses and government officials, dozens of medical students gathered on Thursday morning for a graduation ceremony at the Shamo Hotel, which was often where the few Westerners who visit Mogadishu would stay.
About five high-ranking government officials, including the ministers of health and higher education and another cabinet member, were attending the ceremony. Witnesses said three ministers were killed, along with several Somali journalists and at least two surgeons in a country desperately short of doctors.
The attack, said Mohammed Aden, a Somali diplomat in Nairobi, “is very, very serious, really.”
“It proves the aggressive power” the insurgents have, “and their determination to take over this country,” he said. “They can easily go at the heart of the system. This will create a lot of panic for all the supporters of the government.”
Somalia is embroiled in civil war between a weak but internationally-backed transitional government and an extremist Islamist insurgency with ties to Al Qaeda. The country has been lawless and violent since 1991, when the central government collapsed.
The United States has been shipping arms to the transitional government in the hope that it can beat back the insurgents and reclaim territory. The government currently controls only a few city blocks in a country the size of Texas. Insurgents control much of the rest.
The Shamo Hotel is located in the K-5 neighborhood of Mogadishu, which is nominally under government control. But the insurgents seem to have spread to all parts of the city and, more alarmingly, into the armed forces. Thursday’s attack is certain to undermine the already shaky faith many Somalis have in their own government.
In September, Islamist insurgents mounted a brazen suicide attack at one of the most heavily fortified bases in Mogadishu, killing the second in command of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. One peacekeeping official said it was like the insurgents “had a map of the place.”
Several thousand African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu have been protecting vital government installations, such as the port and the presidential palace, but they seem powerless to push back the insurgents.
The most powerful Somali insurgent group is the Shabab, which the United States has designated a foreign terrorist group. The Shabab have used suicide bombers many times before and have vowed to destroy the transitional government. The group is trying to rule all of Somalia with an austere version of Islam, and in the areas they control Shabab fighters have stoned adulterers to death and cut off the hands of teenage thieves.
Some of the government officials killed on Thursday were allied with the Shabab in 2006, when a grass-roots Islamist movement ruled most of Somalia.
One of them was Ibrahim Hassan Addou, the minister of higher education. Mr. Addou was a moderate Islamist and an American citizen of Somali descent who had spent years as an administrator at American University in Washington. He was known as “the professor.”
By Eric Bradley
December 2, 2009
Hate crimes against Muslims in the United States have decreased, but civil rights-related complaints are rising, according to a study to be released Thursday by a Muslim advocacy group.
Karen Dabdoub, executive director of the Cincinnati office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), called the trend "serious" and an indicator that there is hatred for Muslims in the United States.
The report, called "Seeking Full Inclusion," released locally by the Ohio chapter of CAIR, is intended to show the state of Muslim civil rights in the United States.
It highlights recent events the group said are causes of concern for American Muslims, including anti-Islamic rhetoric during the 2008 presidential campaign and locally, an alleged "overly intrusive" body search on June 2 at the Dayton International Airport of a Muslim woman wearing a full-length dress and head scarf.
It also notes that the bombing of an Islamic mosque in Clifton in 2005 has not been solved by the FBI.
According to the study, reported hate crimes against Muslims fell by 14 percent from 2007 to 2008.
But civil rights complaints reported to CAIR - which can include hate speech and acts or threats of violence - have climbed in number to 721 incidents in 2008, an increase from 564 the previous year. In 2006, 221 incidents were reported.
Overall, nine states - one of them Ohio - and the District of Columbia accounted for almost 80 percent of all incidents reported to CAIR in 2008. Those other states are California, Illinois, New York, Florida, Virginia, Texas, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
Muslims often combat the notion that they are somehow less than American by virtue of their faith, Dabdoub said.
She pointed to the insistence by some during the presidential campaign last year that President Barack Obama, a Christian, is actually Muslim, as if practicing Islam was a negative trait and would make a candidate unfit for the presidency.
"This is not a country that has built its strength on saying, 'You're Jewish, so you're not fully American; you're Mormon, so you're not fully American; you're Hispanic, you're not fully American'," Dabdoub said.
"But that's what's being done to Muslims, still today."
3 December 2009,
TEHRAN: Women appearing in television programmes will not be allowed to wear make-up because it is against Islamic law, or sharia, media today quoted the head of state television as saying.
“Make-up by women during television programmes is illegal and against Islamic sharia law ... There should not be a single case” of a woman wearing make-up during a programme, Ezatollah Zarghami was quoted as saying by the reformist Etemad newspaper.
Zarghami, a former member of the elite Revolutionary Guards who was re-appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, also ordered that women guests should “preferably” be hosted by women.
peaking at a conference of network directors, he also call-ed for cutting down on music during programmes and urged his staff to take a cue from Western movies, which have “excellent and calm music.”
“I do not mean that we should become like them, but we should use positive points. Therefore we (should) put on the agenda the reduction and refining of music,” he said. “As of today, you in the production department should launch new supervisory methods... I do not want to tell you to filter, but you should be vigilant that nothing inappropriate happens,” Zarghami said.
Zarghami told directors they should also prohibit “repulsive jokes” between men and women on TV or radio, Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
November 27, 2009
WASHINGTON: US and international patience over Iran's nuclear program is "limited," the White House said Friday, hours after the International Atomic Energy Agency censured Tehran.
"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a stern warning to Tehran.
"If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."
Dec. 03, 2009
The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, Dec. 2:
The chances of curtailing Iran's nuclear program seem bleaker than ever with this week's news that the Islamic Republic will build 10 new nuclear-fuel enrichment plants. Its leadership remains defiant, rejecting recently negotiated deals that would have allowed it to continue enriching uranium for peaceful purposes while minimizing its bomb-making potential.
With or without the new plants, Tehran's nuclear threat is growing rapidly, and it seems the West can do little to stop it, short of all-out war. Iran might well be trying to provoke an attack, particularly by Israel, knowing that its nuclear facilities are too well hidden, scattered and hardened to be eliminated. Such an attack might pose setbacks, but Tehran's leadership would likely emerge strengthened by having stood up to the West and rallied the Muslim world to its defense.
The best option to make Tehran reconsider its path is a harsh set of economic sanctions, but Russia and China continue to stall Security Council action. Both rely heavily on trade and oil ties with Tehran. As Iran's second-biggest trade partner, China is particularly squeamish.
Not all trade blockades force change, as a five-decade U.S. embargo of Cuba has demonstrated. But in Iran's case, conditions are ripe for sanctions to be a game-changer. Domestically, Iran is in political turmoil amid ongoing dissent over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June. To quell protests over alleged vote rigging, his government has resorted to oppressive tactics such as execution, rape, torture, censorship and imprisonment of its critics. Even the nation's clerical leadership has split.
A series of harsh sanctions would weaken Ahmadinejad's already tenuous grip on power. If he cannot export oil, he loses the hard currency reserves he needs to pay for raw materials and consumer goods. Because Iran imports about 40 percent of its gasoline, shortages would develop quickly. Inflation, at 25.6 percent last year, would climb to unacceptably high levels. Few governments can sustain the dissent such conditions provoke.
The Soviet Union's experience provides a glimpse of the possibilities. In 1991, Moscow faced massive shortages of consumer goods, food and hard currency. Domestic dissent was peaking, as was Moscow's international isolation. The superpower collapsed under its own oppressive weight.
After the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China endured a long series of international sanctions and loan restrictions. Beijing protested the measures as an affront to its sovereignty and remains embarrassed to admit the changes those sanctions helped provoke.
Russia and China's stalling is helping the Iranian government advance a catastrophic nuclear agenda. They must accept that a change of tactics is in order, despite the economic pain it might bring.
The time is ripe to exploit Ahmadinejad's weaknesses. It's time to bring down the hammer of sanctions.
M P Prashanth
03 Dec 2009
KOZHIKODE: Thadiyantavide Nazeer, the Lashkar-e-Toiba operative now in the custody of Indian security agencies, is a master orator who indoctrinated many a Muslim youth into the path of jehad.
Nazeer had won prizes for elocution while at school and was attracted to the captivating speeches of PDP chairman Abdul Nazar Madhani. A sympathiser of a left students union, Nazeer slowly drifted to extremism under the spell of his ‘ustad’, Madhani. In his classes, organised under the cover of Noorisha Tariqa, a Sunni order, Nazeer used to exhort his followers to take up arms against the Indian Government.
“Islam evolved through the battle of Badr, and it is time to wage another Badr,” he would tell the assembled youths.
“Islam is facing many threats in India and our brothers in Kashmir are being tortured. There is no point in agitating empty-handed; we’ve to learn using weapons and go for arms training,” Nazeer would urge them. And he would add, for good measure: “There will be divine assistance for those who fight for Islam”.
Nazeer alias Umer Haji, who had by then attained the stature of an ustad himself, used to tell his followers that the USA and communism were both enemies of Islam. Abdul Khader, now residing in Hyderabad, told the police that Nazeer and his friends used to tell the classes that BJP leaders Narendra Modi and those behind the Babri Masjid demolition should be eliminated. Nazeer’s methods of indoctrination had a telling effect on the youths. Abdul Raheem, who was killed in Kashmir in an encounter, underwent a complete transformation under his influence; he once smashed the television set in his house, saying TV is against the tenets of Islam. Muhammd Sharief, a member of a sports club at Chettipadi, told the police that Rahim and his friends used to threaten them not to turn the TV on while they were holding their classes.
Kerala Police is still uncertain as to when it will be able to interrogate Thadiyantavide Nazeer of Kannur, the South India commander of LeT whose arrest on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya was confirmed by Union Home Secretary GK Pillai in Delhi on Wednesday.
Nazeer, the chief recruiter of youths into LeT, is wanted in several terror cases by the Anti-Terror Squad and the Joint Investigation Team of the Kerala Police.
The police in Kerala believe that the opportunity to question him might come soon thanks to the influence senior officials have on former Kerala DGP Raman Srivastava, now the Director General of BSF, in whose custody he presently is. Tomin J Thachankery, Inspector General of Police (Kannur region) said that the police had already taken steps to gain access to Nazeer.
Police departments of several states, like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, also want to lay their hands on Nazeer as he is said to be the chief planner of several LeT and Indian Mujahiddin-sponsored blasts in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Nazeer is the key accused in almost all the major terror cases in Kerala. These include the burning of a Tamil Nadu State bus at Kalamassery off Kochi in 2005, the 2006 twin blasts in Kozhikode, the recruitment of youths into the terror network and the blast at the district collectorate, Ernbakulam, this year. Nazeer had not been in touch with his home in Kannur for the past six years, and he disappeared totally following the launch of intense investigation in Kerala into the terror network, after the killing of four Malayalee militants in Kashmir in October, 2008.
According to Home Secretary Pillai, Nazeer and his relative and terror operative Shafaz were arrested on Wednesday morning but they had been taken into custody as early as on November 6 by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh in a raid on the Jami’at’ Ulum Madrasa in Chittagong. However, the Indian authorities had been shying from confirming the reports.
Investigators say Nazeer had gone to Bangladesh after the terror-hunt in Kerala and elsewhere had intensified, with the objective of moving on to Karachi.
He is reported to have gone to Karachi but had returned to Dhaka to coordinate the LeT and Huji activities there. Nazeer, a close disciple of top terror man CMA Basheer from Aluva, was the chief coordinator of all terror operation of the LeT in South India, especially in Kerala, according to the police. Basheer is believed to be in hiding somewhere in the Gulf.
According to the Kerala Police, Nazeer was the chief conspirator behind the burning of the Tamil Nadu bus in Kalamassery on September 9, 2005. The objective was to avenge the torture of Islamist leader Abdul Nasser Madani in Coimbatore prison when he was lodged in connection with the serial blasts case, in that city, that targeted LK Advani.
Muhammad Abdul Halim, third accused in the case of twin blasts in Kozhikode on March 3, 2006, had told the police that the explosions were engineered by Nazeer. The assumption of the police is that the comparatively low-intensity twin blasts in Kozhikode were dry runs carried out in preparation for the later strikes that took place in Bangalore and elsewhere.
Nazeer’s family in Kannur has already made it clear that they have no connection with him. “We are happy that he has been arrested” was how Majeed, Nazeer’s father, reacted when news first came that he had been arrested in Bangladesh. “He should be punished if he has committed these crimes,” said Majeed, who abandoned his Gulf job to settle down in Kannur after controversies began to spread about Nazeer.
Dubai’s debt debacle has had far reaching consequences not just the world over but in various parts of India as well. Two small towns of Bihar are bracing to fight the spectre of uncertainty and unemployment, even as thousands of workers employed in the Emirate return home to a daunting future.
Ever since the Dubai crisis came under world scrutiny, there has been a steady ‘homecoming’ of workers and labourers in Bihar’s Siwan and adjoining Gopalganj districts.
The two districts have the largest number of labourers and workers employed in Dubai and Muscat, and the money order economy has its conspicuous effect on the profile of these two districts with people enjoying a fairly lavish lifestyle. Modest mud and thatch homes have given way to concrete structures with all the additional trappings of luxury in place with residents relying more on the ‘Gulf money’ than depending on agriculture and farming for livelihood.
After Kerala, Siwan stands second in view of receiving remittances from Gulf countries, and according to a rough estimate, about 30,000 people apply for passport every month from Siwan alone. Siwan has the highest number of passport holders in Bihar.
Presently about 75,000 people from Siwan district alone are working in gulf countries like Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Muscat. A majority of them are skilled and semi-skilled labourers said the State’s migrant researcher Ajay Kumar.
“About Rs 2,900 crore are deposited in the banks of the twin districts of Siwan and Gopalganj, the highest in the State. And, all this money has come from the Gulf countries,” said Ajay Kumar who has a done an extensive research on migration in Bihar along with the London-based organisation ODI.
Every year roughly Rs 30 crore reaches the banks of Siwan and Gopalganj, Ajay Kumar told The Pioneer.
One thing leads to another and cashing on this boom several centres offering guidance and help to locals to reach the Gulf countries, have mushroomed in Gopalganj and Siwan.
However, the situation has now changed drastically following the Dubai crisis.
For the villages of Khalispur and Bindusar in Siwan, where every household boasts of at least one member working in the Gulf, Dubai’s financial woes has come as news worth mourning. “A pall of gloom has engulfed the two villages. These two are the hardest hit”, said Fakre-Alam of Khalispur village.
“How are we going to survive? That is the biggest problem we face today. Most of those working in the Gulf have returned in past 10 days or are about to return in a few days, all jobless”, said Rubia Sultana of Panchrukhi village. Rubia’s son who was working in an electrical department there has been retrenched.
The story is the same all round, with people ill-equipped to handle the crisis and an uncertain future in their home state. “Here in Bihar there is no opportunity and for how long can we sit at home and spend our savings?” asks Mohd Zafar who returned just two days back to his home in Gopalganj.
“We’re at loss. With the family totally dependant on us, no jobs at hand and the future uncertain, we really don’t know what to do, where to go,” agonises Mohd Illiyas.
It is not only the skilled, the semi-skilled labourers and workers who are affected, but even hundreds of qualified professionals too have been hard. Many software engineers and young professionals working in banks and construction companies in Dubai and Muscat have started feeling the pinch and most of them are opting to return home to Bihar.
“Though our situation is not as bad as that of the workers but yes, the impact is there and most of us have lost our job too,” admitted Ranjan Singh, a computer engineer in a construction firm in Dubai. Singh, though is one of he luckier ones, he recently got a job in a Delhi-based company.
Wed, Dec 02, 2009
DUBAI, UAE (AFP) - Dubai World's plan to delay repaying a huge Islamic bond issue may damage the image of sharia finance, not due to inherent problems but rather because investors have ignored key questions, analysts say.
"In many ways, this has been an extraordinary crisis, but it is the first for the embryonic sukuk industry," said Khalid Howladar of Moody's Investors Service.
Another expert, Professor Habib Ahmed of Durham University, said the crisis points to the need for a better understanding of the rules applying to sukuk.
"This case is a wake-up call for Islamic finance to focus more on ethical and moral issues that it has been ignoring for so long," Ahmed told AFP.
A widespread view among economists is that fears about the rights of the Dubai World bondholders relate at least as much to a lack of clarity in the Dubai legal system as they do to the rules of Islamic finance.
In addition, much of Dubai's spending has gone on speculative construction projects and the 50 percent fall in property prices in the emirate means all real estate-related finance deals face a problem whether using Islamic or Western rules, they say.
Islamic sharia rules forbid usury, so anyone lending money is barred from charging interest. Instead, investors are granted a share of the assets and in the case of a property developer, the issuer of a sukuk will typically pay a rent until refunding the loan when it matures.
Dubai World's property unit Nakheel, developer of Dubai's iconic Palm Jumeirah artificial island resort, is scheduled to repay a 3.5 billion dollars sukuk on December 14, so it is the first subsidiary affected by the group's request last week for a six-months halt to debt repayments.
"The maturity date of the sukuk was December 14, 2009 when Nakheel wassupposed to pay the last rental coupon and buy back the assets, but instead declared its inability to perform," said Ahmed, chair in Islamic law and finance at Durham's Institute of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
Theoretically at least, Islamic laws on financial transactions have some inherent features that induce stability, he said.
"The ban on interest and other rules would prevent Islamic investors investing in certain instruments such as conventional bonds and derivatives," which caused last year's global credit crunch, Ahmed said.
"Until now, Islamic economists have been saying that Islamic finance was not affected directly by the subprime problems. The Nakheel problem shows that Islamic finance can have similar problems if wrong investments are made," he said.
One reason for this is that many sukuk are structured to resemble conventional bonds, meaning the risks of ownership are transferred to the issuer rather than shared by the investors, the professor said.
"This is one of the criticisms of Islamic products: instead of coming up with products that reflect the spirit and substance of Islamic law, they are structured very similar to conventional products," Ahmed said.
A source who asked to remain anonymous because his company has extensive dealings in the region said credit ratings agencies have valued Islamic debt on the creditworthiness of the issuer rather than the assets because of doubts over investors' claim to the assets.
"Noone has confidence in sukuk investors to foreclose on the assets they have lent money on in Dubai and several countries using sharia rules, because the legal system in those countries is underdeveloped," he said.
The Dubai International Financial Centre, a business district which opened in 2004 with the aim of making the emirate a world-class financial hub, uses English law within its perimeter because of the lack of precision in sharia law, the source told AFP.
Moody's Howladar agreed with Ahmed that many sukuks are too similar to convention finance for their own good.
"The desire for Middle Eastern corporate credit exposure and unsecured debt has created sukuk instruments that, in substance, attempt to be identical to conventional bonds," he said in a study released this week.
Restructurings such as Dubai World's are common in mature markets, but the "immature and opaque nature" of Dubai's law system and the lack of precedent "give little comfort to investors spread across the world," he said.
"Given the sheer scale and complexity of Dubai World, this event will be an important test of investors' rights. If some sukuk are not found to be equivalent to conventional bonds in a default or restructuring, it will have a significant effect on the shape of the sukuk market to come," Howladar said.
Neil Mackinnon of London's VTB Capital said: "I am not sure that Dubai damages Islamic finance. Most of Dubai's problems reflect the wider problems associated with the credit crisis which is excessive lending for property ie not much different from what we have seen in the US and UK.
"Cheap money, leverage and expectations of ever-rising property prices generate 'hot money inflows' which ultimately reverse in spectacular fashion when the bubble bursts. So in my view this is a classic case of Western financial capitalism creating a property bubble and ultimate bust," he said.
As investors flee debt-laden Dubai, neighbouring Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are likely to pick up much of its Islamic banking business, though the financial hub is expected to bounce back eventually.
While banks and builders from London to Singapore count their losses from Dubai's troubles, there are also worries the crisis will hurt its status as a regional centre for sharia finance, which itself had a hand in the emirate's meteoric rise.
Dubai sucked up investments as Islamic banking boomed on the back of record oil prices, drawing throngs of specialist lawyers and bankers attracted by its ease of doing business and more cosmopolitan lifestyle than its conservative rivals.
The emirate positioned itself as a Islamic finance centre with top lenders like HSBC, Deutsche, Standard Chartered using it as a base, as it sought to become a financial hub between Asia and Europe.
Much of that money and talent could now to flow to its immediate neighbours as Dubai slowly works through its mountain of debt and its shaken financial community exhibits a newfound aversion to risk.
Up for grabs is a bigger share of an estimated USD 1 trillion Islamic financing industry, which like conventional banking is back on a growth trajectory as the global credit crisis ebbs.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, which also have ambitions of becoming regional financial centres, will catch up as they are well regulated and have developed at a more measured pace, bankers told Reuters.
"Saudi Arabia will be the next wave when it comes to Islamic finance in the Gulf," said Mohamad Safri Shahul Hamid, deputy CEO at Malaysia's MIDF Amanah Investment Bank.
"They have got all the infrastructure in place, they have all the guidelines on Islamic finance, Islamic REITs, Islamic securities," said Safri, who used to work for Deutsche Bank in Dubai.
Countries outside the Middle East are less likely beneficiaries, market watchers say.
Malaysia, for example, has the world's largest Islamic bond market and is known for more business-friendly interpretations of what is allowed under sharia law than many Gulf countries, opening the door for a far greater range of financial products.
Its ringgit currency, however, is tightly managed, restricting the ease of investment flows. Many Gulf currencies, meanwhile, are pegged to the U.S. dollar.
"The problem with the Malaysian market is that it is very ringgit dominant so the dollar market is still not here," said Haszeri Hussin, Islamic treasury head at the Malaysian unit of Singapore's No. 2 lender Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.
Dubai still attractive long term
Dubai's debt crisis exploded last week when the emirate, known for its flashy lifestyles, said it would delay payment on debt issued by two of its flagship companies while they tried to negotiate a restructuring with creditors.
State-run Dubai World announced on Monday a USD 26 billion restructuring bid that would mostly affect property firms Limitless World and Nakheel, which had issued the world's largest Islamic bond.
Financial markets tumbled on the initial news, which investors feared could plunge the world back into financial crisis, though markets outside the Gulf have since recovered on a growing belief the problem will be largely contained to the Middle East.
Global issuance of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, could taper off in the near term as investors await more developments in Dubai, but it is not expected to dry up completely, bankers said.
Uncertainty over the Dubai government's role and borrowing by the region's state-owned firms could see sovereign and quasi-sovereign bonds in particular come under greater scrutiny.
The Islamic finance industry had already been growing more cautious as defaults elsewhere in the Middle East and uncertainty over how the courts would treat such instruments weighed on the market, which has over $100 billion of outstanding paper.
Still, many bankers believe investors will eventually see the Dubai restructuring -- if it proceeds smoothly -- as a singular credit problem rather than one which will permanently impair its Islamic financing ambitions.
The Dubai International Financial Centre was set up to lure companies with tax breaks and other incentives and has a regulatory framework with its own laws and courts.
"What happened in Dubai doesn't have anything to do with Islamic finance," said Abdul Jalil Rasheed, equities chief at Aberdeen Asset Management's Malaysian unit. "It's just a question of them taking on more debt than they could afford."
Jawad I Ali, a Dubai-based partner with lawyers King & Spalding, also sees investors returning to Dubai over time, saying the emirate "has gotten as close to perfection as possible from a foreign investment point of view."
"You can come in, you can set up with relative ease and there is relative transparency," he said.
"This crisis is not going to affect that, they've already built that system. The market will absorb the shock and turn the page."
By Munawer Azeem
Thursday, 03 Dec, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Dec 2: Two naval personnel were killed and 10 other people injured in an abortive suicide attack on the Pakistan Naval Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
The teenaged suicide bomber blew himself up when he was intercepted by a naval intelligence official, Amjad, metres away from the gate, an official said.
Amjad asked him to stop for identification. After getting no response, the official approached the suspect and tried to search him. He and the attacker were killed and five personnel of the navy and the army, a colonel among them, and six civilians were injured. Constable Ashraf of the Navy police who was injured, later died in hospital.
The main gate of the Naval Complex is near the World Food Programme office where a suicide attack on Oct 5 had killed five UN workers. It is also near the home of President Asif Ali Zardari.
A witness, Haseeb Asif who is a student, told Dawn that he had stopped at a traffic light on the Margalla Road, near the Naval Complex, when he spotted a silver Cultus car stop across the road and a youth wearing white clothes and a coat rush towards the complex. The youth then went towards the entrance of the complex and blew himself up.
A taxi driver said the suspect was talking in an unfamiliar language and appeared to be a foreigner.
Police officials said the attacker was probably an Uzbek.
Some witnesses said a yellow vehicle had dropped two people on the Kohistan Road and moved on. One of the men identified the complex and walked towards the Faisal Avenue, while the other approached the target and blew himself up.
Officials of police and navy said the bomber had been spotted standing at the place a few minutes before the blast.
He was also seen moving around the traffic signal twice or thrice. When he moved towards the complex, the guard told him that as the gate was closed, he should use another entrance.
Moments later, he blew himself up.
Officials were of the view that a school and a college inside the complex were the target, besides navy personnel.
The attacker had arrived at about 1.20pm, a time when the school’s section closes. But for some reason, the bell was not rung till 1.45pm, making the bomber desperate to enter the premises, officials said.
A navy official said the main entrance of the complex had been closed after receiving a threat a month ago and only official vehicles with security stickers, officials on foot and students were allowed to enter.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (Operation) Bani Amin said the terrorist had used a suicide jacket with 8kgs of explosives, pellets, ball bearings and shrapnel.
The suspect was 14 to 16 years old and of fair complexion, the DIG said.
He said the silver car mentioned by a witness belonged to a passer-by who had picked his son from school.
He said limbs of the bomber had been found and his head had been reconstructed, but it was not possible to make out the face.
Navy’s Capt Mobeen Bajwa told reporters that the attacker had tried to enter the complex.
Another official said Naval chief Noman Bashir was in the headquarters at the time of the attack.
President Zardari condemned the attack and said such incidents would not lessen the government’s resolve to fight terrorism and extremism.
AFP adds: Capt Bajwa, the navy spokesman, said security guards stopped the bomber after a taxi driver complained about his suspicious behaviour.
By Iftikhar A. Khan
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ISLAMABAD, Dec 2: Pakistan said on Wednesday it would closely engage with the United States to ensure that there was no adverse fallout on Pakistan of its new Afghan strategy.
“There is certainly a need for clarity and coordination on all aspects of the implementation of this strategy,” the Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said Pakistan and the US needed to closely coordinate their efforts to achieve the shared objectives. Pakistan, he added, had taken careful note of the Afghan strategy announced by President Barack Obama.
“Pakistan is committed to uprooting terrorism from the region and advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
The spokesman said President Obama correctly mentioned that the struggle against violent extremism had extended well beyond the region.
“We welcome Mr Obama’s reaffirmation of partnership between the two countries built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust and also the United States’ strong support for Pakistan’s security and prosperity,” the spokesman said.
Officials told Dawn that Pakistan wanted clarity on implementation aspects of the strategy.
The foremost concern, they added, was the area of deployment of additional troops the United States planned to send to war-torn Afghanistan.
Their deployment in the area bordering Pakistan would have a direct implication on the country and would mean an increase in cross-border infiltration.
The officials said it was a serious issue for Pakistan because reports suggested that Afghanistan’s territory was being used as transit route for the supply of weapons to militants battling security forces in South Waziristan and Malakand division.
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Pakistan-based LeT's operations chief and Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi on Thursday failed to get any reprieve from the Lahore High Court, which disposed of his two petitions challenging his indictment for involvement in the 26/11 strikes.
While disposing of the petitions, a Rawalpindi-based bench of the Lahore High Court only directed the anti-terrorism court, which had formally charged him along with six other suspects last month with involvement in the 26/11 strikes, to consider Lakhvi's objections against his indictment under provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Lakhvi's lawyer Khwaja Sultan Ahmed claimed during proceedings that the prosecution had no incriminating evidence against his client. He also said the statement given to Indian authorities by Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone attacker captured in Mumbai, is not admissible in the anti-terrorism court.
However, the judges told Ahmed such issues could be addressed only when the evidence, including Kasab's statement, is presented during the trial in the anti-terrorism court. It is not possible for such matters to be addressed now, they indicated.
Lakhvi's counsel filed the petitions challenging his indictment in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court yesterday.
Lakhvi was indicted along with six other suspects for planning and helping execute the attacks that killed 166 people in India's financial hub.
In one petition, Lakhvi claimed there were no evidence and witnesses against him except Kasab and five policemen involved in a case registered in Pakistan.
The policemen cited as witnesses by the prosecution had only described Lakhvi as a commander of the LeT and accused him of training people for terrorist activities, he claimed.
Lakhvi pointed out that witnesses had not said anything about his involvement in the Mumbai attacks. He also claimed that Kasab's statement to Indian authorities is not admissible in a case registered in Islamabad.
In his second petition, Lakhvi challenged the anti-terrorism court's decision to try Kasab separately under provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
He said these provisions can be applied only when a co-accused cannot appear in court due to illness or other reasons.
Lakhvi claimed the prosecution has not stated any reason for Kasab's absence from the Pakistani court.
Lakhvi was formally indicted along with Zarar Shah, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Abu al Qama, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum last month.
The next hearing of the case against them in the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi's high-security Adiala jail is scheduled for December 5.
Twenty other suspects who are at large were also accused of planning and helping carry out the attacks a year ago.
Bin Laden not in my country, Pakistan PM tells Brown
Pakistan's PM Yousuf Raza Gilani has told Gordon Brown he does not think Osama Bin Laden is in his country.
Speaking after talks with the UK prime minister, Mr Gilani said the US had provided no "actionable" intelligence on the al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts.
Mr Brown hailed Pakistan's anti-terror efforts and pledged more support to help stabilise its border regions.
But the UK prime minister did not repeat his weekend call for Pakistan to do more to track down Bin Laden.
Questioned about these comments at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Brown hailed Pakistan's efforts to "disrupt the activities of al-Qaeda" in its South Waziristan region and vowed to continue sharing intelligence with "our allies".
Mr Gilani praised America's cooperation with Pakistan on security issues but he said Pakistan had yet to be given any "credible or actionable information" by the US on Bin Laden.
He added: "I doubt the information which you are giving is correct because I don't think Osama Bin Laden is in Pakistan."
The Pakistan prime minister also said he wanted "more clarity" from the Americans on US President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan war strategy before his country could take action on it.
He said President Obama had discussed plans to send 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan with Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari but added that Pakistan was still seeking more details.
He said: "Regarding the new policy, we are carefully examining it. We have already issued a statement through the foreign office and we are looking into how we will be able to implement it and we need more clarity on it as well."
Mr Gilani praised Britain's record of cooperation with Pakistan and said Mr Brown had agreed in their talks to press for "early commencement of free trade negotiations with the European Union".
Mr Brown began the Downing Street press conference by praising Pakistan's efforts to counter the Taliban and acknowledged the "huge sacrifices" made by the country in fighting extremism.
He stressed Britain's support for the battle against militants in its border regions, telling Mr Gilani: "This is your fight but it is also Britain's fight."
He said aid being provided by Britain would go into reconstruction, education and the relocation of people displaced by fighting in Pakistan's turbulent border regions with Afghanistan.
He then pledged £50m to help Pakistan achieve the "long-term stabilisation" of the border region: "The international community expects much of Pakistan... What we've all got to do is work together (and) step up our efforts."
Mr Brown said last weekend that questions must be asked about why nobody has been able to "spot or detain" either al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in the eight years since the September 11 attacks in the US.
KANDAHAR, Dec 2: The Taliban vowed on Wednesday to step up resistance and fight against the extra 30,000 American troops US President Barack Obama has ordered to Afghanistan, a spokesman said.
“Obama will witness lots of coffins heading to America from Afghanistan,” spokesman Yousuf Ahamdi told from an unknown location.
“Their hope to control Afghanistan by military means will not become reality,” he said, reading from what he described as a statement issued by the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.
“The extra 30,000 troops that will come to Afghanistan will provoke stronger resistance and fighting,” he added.
“They will withdraw shamefully. They cannot achieve their hopes and goals,” the rebel spokesman said.
The statement said the Americans would face the same fate as Russian and British soldiers previously — during the 19th century British invasion of Afghanistan and that by Soviet troops in the 1980s.
The Taliban were in power between 1996 and 2001 before they were ousted in a US-led attack that was backed by most members of the Nato alliance. Remnants of the Taliban have been leading an insurgency to regain power since then.
The insurgency, which includes an increasing number of suicide bombings once unheard of in the destitute nation, has gained pace every year, with 2009 now the deadliest since US and Nato troops deployed.
“This is a colonising strategy which is securing the colonising interests of American investors and it shows that America has dirty plans not only for Afghanistan but for the region,” the Taliban statement said.
Currently there are around 113,000 western, mainly US, troops in Afghanistan.
They are fighting against the Taliban and helping Kabul train its security forces, which Afghans hope will eventually take responsibility for security.—AFP
WASHINGTON: Defeating Al Qaeda requires turning the tide against insurgents in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday, arguing for a surge of US forces to take on the Taliban.
“Rolling back the Taliban is now necessary, even if not sufficient, to the ultimate defeat of Al Qaeda,” Gates told a Senate hearing a day after President Barack Obama unveiled plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
Defending Obama’s decision, Gates said it was vital to halt the momentum of the insurgents and that ceding Afghanistan to the militants would hand a powerful propaganda victory to Al Qaeda.
But he also said the Kabul government needed to understand that US forces would not stay indefinitely. afp
December 03, 2009
Barack Obama’s long-awaited policy decision on Afghanistan comes against a long and depressing backdrop of that country’s contemporary history: wars, bloodshed, and a confusing series of transitions, from foreign occupation to liberation, from liberation to warlordism and chaos, from chaos to the Taliban, and from the Taliban to warlords again.
The world’s statesmen have made many promises to the Afghan people. Waves of interest have battled waves of disinterest, while the lies and the failed promises have piled up.
Why does the world treat the Afghans as if they don’t want stability, or as if they’re unaware of the benefits of having a strong, functioning state?
Before blaming Afghan attitudes and social-cultural practices, one can’t help but remember the historical context of foreign intervention. The road from Kabul to China was built by the Chinese. The road from the old USSR border to the Afghan capital was built by the Russians. The road from Kabul to Pakistan was built with American assistance. This heavy and prolonged multi-national interference is a chief reason why the Afghans have largely given up on trying to build their state by themselves.
Now, Obama has declared Washington’s latest plan, a troop increase of 30,000 soldiers. The US will continue to spend billions on this war-occupation, and it’s already engaged in funding tribal leaders to build a militia to counter the Taliban from within, similar to the Sahwa movement in Iraq.
The way forward lies in building a judiciary, the backbone of an effective state. Sending 30,000 more troops is like bringing in a big hammer to break an egg: a tremendous waste of people and their efforts. Instead, the US and the world can take an example from neighboring Pakistan, where Pervez Musharraf ignited a storm by sacking the country’s top judge. Muslim societies have no inherent immunity to the law; the Taliban itself arose in part as a reaction to lawlessness of the warlords.
Muslim societies will coalesce around the state if its priority is the effective implementation of a fair system of laws.
Obama may wield a silver tongue as he orders this troop increase, but it’s surprising that he hasn’t remembered his days in Indonesia and knowledge of other places: Muslim societies don’t need an iron (foreign) hand, they need an ironclad judiciary. Afghanistan’s institutions and population have been shredded by the Russians, the Americans, the Islamists and the opium trade. The people of Afghanistan are poor, and capable, and have received the short end of the stick for decades. They must be given space to build their own law, and their own state, and this should take place despite the presence of Hamid Karzai and the warlords. Troop levels are irrelevant; the only level that counts is people’s trust in their judiciary, and their own, effective state.
By Peter S. Green
Ahmad Zerfaoui is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to the United Nations, which lists him as a member of al-Qaeda’s North African arm. It may be difficult to bring him to justice: He died three years ago. At least 42 dead people and as many as 69 defunct companies are among about 500 names on the UN’s list of alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters, said Richard Barrett, who heads the world body’s committee monitoring sanctions on the groups and is working to clean up the register.
UN member states are reluctant to apply sanctions on the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their supporters because governments don’t know who on the list is a legitimate threat, Barrett said. The inaccuracies also hamper Obama administration efforts to motivate allies in the war on terrorism who don’t want to be seen as too close to the U.S., said Eric Rosand, a security analyst in New York.
“We turn to the UN for its global legitimacy, but if the UN tool is seen as illegitimate, you limit your effectiveness,” said Rosand, co-director of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, an independent research group. “The UN has a lot of cachet where the U.S. is not appreciated.”
The list grew out of UN sanctions levied against the Taliban in 1999 after the Afghan Islamists refused to give up al-Qaeda operatives following the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Assets and Travel
The sanctions, which require nations to freeze assets of those listed and bar them from travel and weapons transactions, were extended to al-Qaeda in 2000 and strengthened after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“It was all a bit frantic after 9-11” and some names were added to the list that don’t belong, said Barrett.
All 15 Security Council nations must agree to add or remove any person or company from the register.
“There are dead people on the list and the committee can’t get them off,” Rosand said.
Groups on the list include Egyptian Islamic Jihad; branches of Saudi Arabia-based al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which the UN called a main source of funds for al-Qaeda; and two honey shops and a bakery in Yemen whose owner was accused by the UN of being an al-Qaeda financier.
Thomas H. Nelson, an attorney for al-Haramain’s now- shuttered U.S. branch, called the terrorism accusation “ridiculous” in a phone interview from Welches, Oregon.
Barrett has removed 12 entities from the list this year. Some defunct companies are kept on to ensure they don’t revive, he said.
Death in Mali
Zerfaoui, who died in Mali in 2006, according to the UN, remains on the list because his name hasn’t come up for review.
“The problem with ‘dead’ people is proving that they are dead, particularly if they have died in ungoverned areas or countries where identities are uncertain and burials take place as soon as possible after death,” Barrett said in an e-mail.
Barrett, 60, a former officer of Britain’s MI6 spy agency, heads eight senior officials and about a dozen support staff from countries including Russia, France and the U.S., working from a midtown Manhattan office.
Many of Barrett’s security, intelligence and financial contacts are in countries that shy away from open cooperation with the U.S.
“This is a good way for the U.S. to get its agenda applied under a neutral flag,” said Barrett.
Even with its flaws, the list helps the U.S. stifle al- Qaeda and the Taliban, said David S. Cohen, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing.
“We’ve had some significant success in degrading the financial facilitation networks by which al-Qaeda has been obtaining their funds,” he said in an interview.
Barrett said intelligence reports show al-Qaeda and the Taliban made several appeals for cash this year, a signal they are hurting from the sanctions. He said he didn’t have data from member states to show conclusively how much money has been seized under the sanctions.
Critics of the program including Jean-Charles Brisard, a former head of corporate intelligence at Paris-based Vivendi Universal SA, said the UN hasn’t kept up with terrorists’ financing methods. Since 2003, the amount of assets frozen and the number of names on the list has remained at about $80 million and 500 people, said Brisard, now a consultant for families of Sept. 11 victims.
“That’s quite ridiculous,” he said from Paris.
Countries have also been reluctant to enforce the sanctions out of concern the list won’t stand up to legal challenges, said Brisard and Barrett.
A Saudi businessman, Yassin Abdullah Kadi, also known as Yasin al-Qadi, who is on the list for allegedly supplying arms and funds to al-Qaeda and had his assets frozen, appealed to the European Court of Justice. The court ruled last year that the European Union regulations enforcing the UN sanctions denied his rights, including the right to judicial review. The asset freeze, the court said, was “an unjustified restriction” on property rights.
The council is discussing new rules on the listing and appeals process.
“For the sanctions to be efficient,” Barrett said, “they have to be respected.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Peter S. Green in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEHRAN, Dec 2: Five British yachtsmen detained in the Gulf last week by Revolutionary Guards were freed on Wednesday after it was determined they inadvertently strayed into Iran’s territorial waters, Tehran and London said.
“The five Britons who had illegally entered with their vessel into the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran and who were arrested near Siri island have been freed hours ago,” the Guards said in a statement carried by Fars news agency. The British Foreign Office said Iran confirmed the release.
“The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have confirmed that the five yachtsmen have been released,” a spokesman said in London.
“We understand that they are being towed to international waters and will be met by a representative from the sailing company.” The Guards, whose navy patrols Gulf waters, said the five sailors were interrogated and “after investigation it became evident that their illegal entry was a mistake.” “So they were freed after taking the needed written commitments.” The ISNA news agency also reported the releases.
“The five Britons were released an hour ago,” it said in a report.
The five had been held since Nov 25, and on Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie warned they would be dealt with “firmly” if found guilty of illegal entry into Iranian waters.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had pressed his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki to release the five — Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher, Luke Porter and sports journalist David Bloomer, who holds dual Irish-British nationality.—AFP
BAGHDAD: “Are you going to the funeral?” asked the police officer at a checkpoint near the bombed-out hulk of the justice ministry, which was attacked in October. He saw plastic chairs being lined up outside the building and assumed the only reason people would gather in such a spot would be to mourn.
In fact, the devastated building was deliberately chosen as the backdrop for Baghdad’s first outdoor movie screening, an attempt by filmmakers to show that no matter how much blood the militants may spill they cannot kill the artistic imagination.
“We wanted to create life in a dead place,” said Bashir al-Majid, one of the lead actors in the movie “Ahlam,” which means “Dreams” and was screened on Tuesday night.
This week, Iraqi feature films will be shown at the sites of four of the most devastating bombings in Baghdad.
The making of “Ahlam,” which was shot in 2004, is itself as dramatic a tale as anything Hollywood could devise.
“Ahlam” was shot on the run in the streets of Baghdad, with the crew and actors on more than one occasion finding themselves caught in the cross-fire of warring groups.
At one point, four members of the crew were kidnapped by a Sunni insurgent group known as al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, then released after a few hours, only to be kidnapped later by a Shia militia, which in turn handed them over to the American military. The Americans held them in prison for two weeks.
Iraqi VP to rule on election law
Tariq al-Hashemi, an Iraqi vice-president and member of the presidential council, is expected to announce whether he will accept or veto an amended version of the country's election law.
MPs initially passed the law, which sets out the process for general elections scheduled for January, on November 8 after months of political wrangling.
But Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, rejected the first version of the law saying it had failed to give sufficient voice to Iraqis living abroad, many of whom are Sunni Muslims who fled the country during sectarian fighting after the US-led invasion in 2003.
Last week, MPs passed an amended version of the law, which is currently under review by Iraq's three-member presidential council, composed of Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president, and vice presidents Adel Abdel Mehdi, a Shia Arab, and Hashemi.
Talabani and Mehdi ratified the amended election law last week.
Under the constitution, only one official from the three-member council would need to veto the bill for it to be sent back to parliament.
If a second veto is used, MPs can overturn it with a 60 per cent majority vote in parliament. An alliance of Shia and Kurdish MPs could theoretically pass that threshold with around 30 votes to spare in the 275-seat assembly.
The new version of the law does not address Hashemi's concerns. The amendments would count the votes of Iraqis living abroad toward their home provinces, rather than allocating additional parliamentary seats representing the Iraqi diaspora, as Hashemi had requested.
The amended law also increases the number of MPs to be elected in the northern autonomous Kurdish region after many Kurds threatened to boycott the polls if the three provinces they control were not allocated more seats.
Osama al-Nujeifi, a Sunni parliamentarian from the northern city of Mosul, said the amendment would transfer seats from northern provinces where Sunnis have a strong presence to the Kurdish-run north.
"It is a way to steal seats from Mosul and Salahuddin provinces and give them to Kurdistan provinces in an illegitimate way," he said.
Shia-dominated provinces will also broadly have fewer seats under the new law but are likely to retain a substantial majority in parliament.
Elections in question
Hashemi's November 18 veto started a chain of events which has put the national elections in question with the electoral commission halting its work organising the polls until the law is finalised. According to the constitution, national elections must be held before January 31,
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, called the veto a "dangerous threat to the political process and democracy".
Faraj al-Haidari, the chief of the election commission, said that the body would wait for the council's response before "deciding future moves" for organising the vote.
"I think that it is very difficult to hold the elections in January. Most probably, it might be moved to February," he said.
The US and the UN have tried to pressure Iraqi politicians to avoid a delay.
Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Irbil, northern Iraq, says there have been intense negotiations over the past few days to reach some kind of compromise.
"If Hashemi accepts the electoral law as is, there is a community that will boycott the elections. We spoke to the Sunni Arabs in Mosul who said the new law is a conspiracy against them."
Ad Melkert, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq (SRSG), held talks with Maliki, Hashemi and other parliamentary officials in a bid to resolve the political impasse.
The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) said in a statement that it believes February 27, 2010 would be "a feasible option for practical and constitutional reasons" to hold elections.
By: Ruschell Boone
The issue of whether the media promotes negative stereotypes of Islam or suffers from political correctness divides many New Yorkers. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the third part of her five-part series on New York City's Muslim community.
In the wake of several recent high-profile terrorism cases, some Muslims describe media coverage of their religion and their community as unfair and unbalanced.
"What happens is you have a lot of cases in the media, a lot of times the whole entire Muslim community is criminalized," says organizer Marjon Kashani of Desis Rising Up and Moving.
They say the Islamic community in New York City and the United States is extremely diverse, with many different points of view.
"Muslims are different. Everybody has their own ideology, their beliefs, their own goals and ambition," says Mehwish Sarwari of Women for Afghan Women.
While Muslims complain the media is insensitive towards them, there is also a backlash from people who say they media is too soft on the Muslim community because of political correctness.
"I don't fear Muslims. I fear [political correctness], and it's called 'suicide by PC' because we are going to PC some real terrorist," says Bob Doocey of Middle Village, Queens.
Doocey, a longtime community activist, expresses what he says is a commonly-held view among his friends and neighbors. Yet he says many are reluctant to express such views publicly for fear of being labeled anti-Muslim.
"The terrorists who come here are indeed Muslims. Again, they're not Irish, they're not English, they are not Scandinavian," says Doocey.
Fellow Middle Village activist Lorraine Sciulli is on the same page.
"When you see pictures of the terrorists, and you know that they are all Muslims, it's very hard to not look at a Muslim and say, 'Is that a terrorist?'" says Sciulli. "It's not right, it's not the American way, and I will admit that. But I think when that's all you see, if you have a normal intelligence, you can't think another way."
Unlike some people, Sciulli isn't afraid to speak her mind.
"Anytime you see people walking around with their faces all covered and their bodies all covered up in a place called America, it's a little frightening and it's a little new," says Sciulli. "Do I think everyone who is a Muslim is a terrorist? No."
Still, when many in the Muslim community hear opinions like that, it has them concerned.
"We are scared right now to walk on the street with the hijab [tradition women's headscarf] and the Afghan clothes," says Shakila Hamidi of Women for Afghan Women.
Such fears seem to be growing each day between Muslims and non-Muslims.
By Jeff Coen Tribune reporter
One of two Chicago men charged in a terrorist plot to attack a Danish newspaper over cartoons that enraged the Muslim world is a family man who never has voiced extremist or violent views, his brother-in-law and two acquaintances testified Wednesday in federal court.
The testimony came in a hearing at which a judge postponed a decision on whether Tahawwur Hussain Rana can be bailed out while awaiting trial on charges of providing material support to terrorism.
Rana is accused of supporting co-defendant David Coleman Headley's efforts to scout out Danish targets in retaliation for the cartoonsthat appeared in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
His brother-in-law, Athar Akhtar, said he never had known Rana to espouse violence in the 20 years he has known him.
"He's very good and sincere, and he always gives very good advice," Akhtar said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan held off on deciding if Rana will remain in custody so she can review prosecution evidence, including a five-hour statement he gave to authorities after his arrest in October.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins told Nolan that Rana communicated with Headley in coded e-mails and that the witnesses who testified on his behalf Wednesday didn't really know him.
"They just don't know this guy the way the evidence reveals him to be," Collins said.
Prosecutors have said Rana was very close to Headley, who had been trained in part by the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
As recently as Sept. 7, the men allegedly discussed other "targets," Collins said.
"The word 'target' is that man's word," said Collins, pointing at Rana as he sat at the defense table.
Rana's lawyer, Patrick Blegen, contended that Rana was duped by Headley, who allegedly traveled overseas under the guise of being a representative of Rana's Immigration business.
Blegen disputed the strength of the government's evidence against Rana and said that his client denied knowing Headley used his business as a front for his travels to Denmark and elsewhere.
Blegen also pointed to the testimony of another witness, Mohammad Arshad Mirza, a local eye doctor, who said Rana belongs to the Iqbal Society, which ascribes to the beliefs of a peaceful Pakistani philosopher and poet who urged Muslims to meet their goals through education.
Authorities also are investigating Rana and Headley for links to last year's massive terror attack in Mumbai that left scores dead.
Their alleged roles in that attack never were raised by prosecutors during the hearing Wednesday.
02 Dec 2009
A man writes slogans on a symbolic minaret to protest at the Swiss ban.
A notable religious authority in Bosnia has lashed out at the EU's recent discriminatory moves against the continent's Muslim community.
Bosnia's head of the Islamic Community, Dr. Mustafa Ceric said he hoped Europe would restore its values, citing the recent Swiss ban on the construction minarets and the European Union's exclusion of three overwhelmingly-Muslim Balkan countries from a visa-free regime, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Bern on Saturday declared the construction of any new minaret on Swiss soil illegal. The same day saw the EU banning citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo from travelling visa free across Europe, while granting the privilege to the citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, reported the English-language Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman.
The Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina said, "The message from Brussels told us we are worth less than our Serbian, Montenegrin, Macedonian and Croatian neighbors, and the one from Switzerland told us that our religious and cultural symbols are unwanted.''
"Bosnia's Muslims should be given assurances that they have the right to live in Europe,'' added Ceric, who is renowned for his peace efforts and contributions to interfaith understanding.
The Swiss move drew sharp criticism from Muslim around the world and European countries, as well as the UN and the Vatican. Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast branded the move as an "Islamophobic act."
A notable opposition came from Ankara with the Turkish State Minister Egemen Bagis saying Muslims have to respond to the move by withdrawing their money from their Swiss bank accounts.
Gilles Bernheim considers Swiss vote on banning minarets 'unfair', calls for 'dialogue and openness'.
PARIS - The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, called "for the Europeans to change their opinions on Islam" after the Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets, calling it "unfair" in a article published Thursday by Le Figaro.
"Today, we must act so that the Europeans - and not just the Swiss - change their minds about Islam. This requirement applies to leaders of all religions" Rabbi Bernheim said, holding that "it requires dialogue and openness".
"Part of the work is to be done here in Europe. Another part is the responsibility of Muslim countries," he said, emphasizing that "it would be unrealistic to expect massive results here without visible change there" .
While "some condemn the results of the vote and that the majority of Swiss who has voted wrongly," Rabbi Bernheim "the opinion of the Swiss should be heard" even if we "disagree with it".
He is "against the ban on minarets, which was passed in Switzerland," stressing "any decision that leads to give less rights to followers of a religion … is an unfair decision. "
In this regard he said part of the "framework" of "the Republic, secularism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides, in the same article: freedom of thought, conscience and religion".
Many Jewish organisations worldwide issued statements condemning the result of the Swiss vote.
Italy May Add 1,000 Extra Troops in Afghanistan
By ALAN COWELL
PARIS — As political and military leaders across the globe pondered President Obama’s announcement of his Afghan strategy, European allies offered a mixed response, with some of the biggest contributors to the NATO coalition withholding promises of immediate troop reinforcements.
But, with NATO foreign ministers set to hold two days of talks at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels starting Thursday, Italy was reported to be considering the biggest increase among European allies made public so far, about 1,000 soldiers.
Corriere della Sera, a daily newspaper, quoted the Italian defense minister Ignacio La Russa, as saying the scale of reinforcements would be discussed at a meeting between the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. But asked if the number was likely to be around 1,000, Mr. La Russa said: “Yes, I’d say so.”
According to the NATO command in Afghanistan, Italy has 2,750 soldiers currently serving in western Afghanistan. An increase of 1,000 soldiers would put the Italian deployment on a par with France.
The NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Wednesday he believed members of the alliance would contribute 5,000 soldiers — and possibly more — to make a “substantial” increase to the 42,000 NATO troops already ranged against the Taliban.
“This is not just America’s war,” he said at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
But the president’s entreaties drew an ambivalent response in some European nations where the war is broadly unpopular among voters who question why it is being fought and whether it can be won.
France and Germany ruled out an immediate commitment, saying they were awaiting an Afghanistan conference in London in late January. Other nations offered only limited numbers of soldiers.
Álvaro de Vasconcelos, director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, said the war was “badly perceived in Europe, contaminated by the Iraq war, the killing of civilians, the collateral damage, all of which has contributed to a widespread opposition to the Afghan war among Europeans.”
“If the civilian side is as important as the military one — training the Afghan police, judiciary and doing development, which Europeans know very well how to do and consider their main expertise — it will make it easier for European leaders to get support.’”
“More troops for a very unpopular war, without knowing where we’re going, doesn’t work — you can’t sell it to Europeans,” Mr. de Vasconcelos said. “But you can sell the transition from war to crisis management.”
Mr. Obama’s plan to send around 30,000 more American soldiers was closely watched in Pakistan, gripped by a Taliban insurgency intertwined with Afghanistan’s.
There, distrust of American intentions runs deep, partly because the United States is seen as having abandoned the region after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, and there is widespread fear in the security establishment of a repetition of those events. And Pakistanis remain concerned about the possible implications of a huge troop surge just across their long and porous border with Afghanistan.
“Pakistan looks forward to engaging closely with the United States in understanding the full import of the new strategy and to ensure that there would be no adverse fallout on Pakistan,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Shireen Mazari, editor of an English-language Pakistani daily newspaper, The Nation, said the American surge was unlikely to bring success and would force Taliban insurgents into Pakistan. “Their policy is flawed, and it has to be changed. Playing the numbers game has to be stopped,” she said.
Mehmood Shah, a former military official and a security analyst based in Peshawar, Pakistan, said: “The biggest apprehension is that our international borders will be crossed by the U.S. military. It can create a big dilemma for us.”
In Europe, some analysts also said Mr. Obama’s speech had fallen short of expectations.
“This is one of Obama’s most important foreign policy decisions,” said Ayesha Khan, an analyst with Chatham House, a policy institute in London. “It comes after months of deliberation and a painstaking consultative process, but the outcome to this much-anticipated and long-awaited announcement has been an anticlimax for those who expected a paradigm shift.”
Mr. Rasmussen, the NATO secretary general, did not say where he expected additional coalition forces to come from. Britain, the second-largest contributor after the United States, has promised to add 500 to its 9,000-strong Afghan deployment, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that Britain would “continue to play its full part in persuading other countries to offer troops to the Afghanistan campaign.”
Poland’s defense minister said the country would increase its contingent by 600 from its current level of 2,000, to serve in combat, reconnaissance and training missions, The Associated Press reported, but the decision awaits governmental approval. A Spanish newspaper said Spain might increase its deployment by 200 soldiers to 1,200. Britain pledged to press other allies to boost their contingents in the patchwork of foreign troops in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force.
With more than 2,800 soldiers on the ground — and a relatively high casualty rate among them — Canada welcomed Mr. Obama’s decision, with Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon saying the “additional U.S. resources will help to provide a more secure environment for the Afghan people.”
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, called Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday night “courageous, determined and lucid, giving new impetus to the international commitment” but he did not commit to adding to France’s nearly 3,750 troops now in the war zone.
“France expects clear commitments from Afghan authorities, in answer to the strong commitments of the international community, on policy, economic and social development and on fighting drug trafficking,” he said.
The foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said in a radio interview Wednesday that France had increased its force levels in September and, in its area of operations, “our zone doesn’t need a troop increase. Our area is well taken care of.”
But he did not rule out further adjustment, referring to the international conference on Afghanistan in London in late January. “We will see how to adjust things then.”
Germany, too, is awaiting the gathering in London to decide whether to increase the size of its contingent. “We hear the wishes of the United States, but we will not decide in the coming days. We will decide only after the Afghanistan conference,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Several German newspapers have reported that Washington is pressing for up to 2,500 more German soldiers. As the third-largest contributor in the alliance with 4,300 troops on the ground, Germany is currently debating a one-year renewal of a parliamentary mandate for the deployment which sets a maximum level of 4,500 troops.
An increase would need fresh parliamentary approval.
In a statement issued in Kabul on Wednesday Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the president’s review of Afghan strategy had “provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task.”
General McChrystal had sought up to 40,000 American reinforcements in addition to the 68,000 already there.
Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall and Sangar Rahimi from Kabul, Afghanistan; Sabrina Tavernise and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan; Steven Erlanger and Nadim Audi from Paris; and Victor Homola from Berlin.
The Australian Embassy in Jakarta is continuing to call for applications for the 2010 Australia-Indonesia Exchange Programme for Young Muslim Leaders with the deadline for applications closing on December 4, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported Thursday.
High-caliber, young Muslim leaders are encouraged to apply for this prestigious bilateral interfaith programme and become international ambassadors for Indonesian Islam, the Australian Embassy said in a media release here on Thursday.
"This is an important opportunity for young Muslims in Indonesia and Australia to promote interfaith understanding, cooperation and mutual respect and celebrate the diversity both countries share," Australian Ambassador Bill Farmer said.
He said that this week Australia hosts the Parliament of the World`s Religions in Melbourne which, as a multifaith, multilingual and multicultural city, is an ideal place to hold the world`s largest interfaith gathering," Farmer said.
Now approaching its eighth year and a highly regarded model for fostering inter-faith dialogue, the Australia-Indonesia Muslim Exchange Programme aims to build links between Muslim communities in Australia and Indonesia.
As part of the independent and rigorous selection process, candidates are interviewed by a panel consisting of Professor Virginia Hooker (Australian National University), Professor Merle Ricklefs, Phillip Knight (University of Melbourne) and Rowan Gould from the Islamic Council of Victoria.
Paramadina University has acted as a valued partner and Indonesian coordinator of the programme since its inception.
The programme is funded by the Australian Government through the Australia-Indonesia Institute. Over the past two decades, the Institute has fulfilled a unique and vital role in fostering friendship and understanding between Australia and Indonesia through projects in the arts, music, education, youth, civil society, interfaith, Australian Studies, media and sport.
By Carla Power
Thursday, Dec. 03, 2009
When Jimi Hendrix smashed his guitar in the 1960s, it was clear he was attacking "The Establishment." When a Muslim punk rocker smashes up a guitar outside an American Muslim convention, the now-standard rock 'n' roll trope gains a few new meanings. These young punks are taking on every establishment going: Muslim, American and Muslim-American. "In this so-called War of Civilizations, we're giving the finger to both sides," says the godfather of the Muslim punk movement, Michael Muhammad Knight, in Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, a new documentary by Pakistani-Canadian director Omar Majeed. As a mash-up of piety and politics, of hard-core music and anarchy, the Muslim punk movement makes The Sex Pistols look like Fleetwood Mac.
The guitar-smashing episode occurred in 2007 after a crowd of Muslim punks were thrown out of the Islamic Society of North America's open mike night. They'd shocked the national meeting — North America's largest annual Muslim gathering — not just by cranking up their amps, swearing and screaming their lyrics, but also by having a woman sing onstage. In the documentary, young women in hijabs are shown staring open-mouthed at first, then rocking out and yelling, "Stop the hate!" The concert then comes to an abrupt halt when organizers, backed by Chicago police, step in, deeming it "not Islamically appropriate." Afterward, the punks smash their guitars and begin an ironic, anti-authority chant outside: "Music is haram [forbidden]!" (See pictures of Muslims in America.)
In their small but burgeoning scene — there are only a handful of Muslim punk bands in the U.S. and Canada — rebellion is an act of piety. Strident as their sound can seem, it is, in spirit, in harmony with the other rebellious voices in the current breakdown of authority in the Islamic world. Whether it is Muslim feminists going back to read the Quran and Hadith as documents of liberation, gay Muslims working out a theology that embraces homosexuality, or even the millions of Muslim youths who trust Islamic chat rooms in cyberspace — what one British Muslim leader dismisses as "Sheikh Google" — more than the local imam, they, like Muslim punks, are voicing a growing dissent with the Islamic world's mainstream theologians.
It was Knight, an American convert, who first articulated a vision for a Muslim punk scene in 2002, when he wrote a novel about it, called The Taqwacores. (The title combines the word "taqwa", Arabic for "higher consciousness," and "core" from hardcore.) He then received an e-mail from a 16-year-old Texan Muslim, Kourosh Poursalehi, who was in a band called Vote Hezbollah, asking how he could get in touch with the mohawked Sufis, skater punks, burqa-wearing riot grrrls and skinhead Shias in the book. When Knight told him it was fiction, Poursalehi responded, "Well, then I'll make it real." With Knight's help, he began contacting other like-minded Muslim musicians on the Internet. Soon, Muslim bands from across the U.S. and Canada decided to put together a tour in a green spray-painted school bus. Among the performers were The Kominas, a Boston group fronted by Pakistani-Americans, and Secret Trial Five, a Vancouver band fronted by a lesbian, Sena Hussain. (See pictures marking the end of Ramadan.)
Given punk's history and values, Muslim punk makes sense, says Majeed. "Punk tends to gravitate towards marginalized voices," he says. "So it's no surprise that there are Afro-punks, Latino punks. It's about questioning authority. The purpose of it is not to be a jerk, but to talk truth to power." The scene has certainly managed to rankle both Muslim and punk traditionalists. "There are Muslims who think you're not supposed to be rude if you're pious, you're not supposed to be playing music," Majeed says. "Punks have told [Muslim punks] there's no room for God or religion in punk. If there is, it's like, 'You're a fool, you've been co-opted by The Man.'" (Read: "Jakarta: Punk's Last Refuge.")
For Knight, punk's rebellious ethos echoes the rebellious spirit of Islam, which, when it began in 7th century Arabia, directly challenged everything from the Meccan economic power structures of the day to the prevailing tribal views on women. Knight's novel opens with a poem, which Poursalehi set to music and has become an anthem of sorts for the scene. "Muhammed was a punk rocker/You know he tore s___ up/Muhammed was a punk rocker/ Rancid sticker on his pickup truck." For Knight, now a graduate student in Islamic Studies at Harvard University, the richness and elasticity of Islam has allowed a Muslim punk scene to develop and now flourish. "The energy of punk is about tearing down," he says. "But I don't want to just be tearing something down. I want to build, to do something positive."
The Threat of Shariah-Compliant Finance [David Yerushalmi]
December 02, 2009
News of the financial meltdown of Dubai World — a quasi-sovereign global concern that owns 77 percent of the international port manager DP World and is the single largest real-estate developer in Dubai, which is known for its palm-tree-shaped luxury residential developments — has raced from the business pages to the headlines of the front pages in a matter of days. Since the first reports on Thanksgiving, the Wall Street Journal and just about every other major media outlet are now reporting on the worldwide implications of this latest financial shockwave.
What makes this story more than simply one of a massive real-estate-investment company gone bad is the double-edged sword so prevalent in the chase for oil-based Middle East wealth: sovereign wealth funds and Shariah-compliant finance.
Beginning in the 1970s with the Carter-era oil embargo and accelerating during the post-9/11 oil-price spikes, Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.’s wealthiest city-state of Abu Dhabi have been awash in liquidity. These trillion-dollar cash reserves are controlled in every case by the respective royal families, typically in sovereign or quasi-sovereign wealth funds.
Another phenomenon that followed the great Oil Rush of the post-9/11 era was the promotion and aggressive exportation of a Muslim Brotherhood doctrine called Shariah-compliant finance (SCF). SCF or “Islamic finance” was first articulated in the mid-20th century by men like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, both of whom argued for a jihad against Westernization and for the creation of Islamic polities that would ultimately join in a hegemonic global Caliphate, with the goal of establishing Shariah not merely as the supreme law of the land, but as the supreme law of the world.
In the post-9/11 era, Western imams and their infidel advisors in business suits speaking the Queen’s English have understood that, given the global jihad’s reliance on the dictates of Shariah to murder apostates and terrorize the infidels into submission, SCF must be attired in a kind of progressive Western garb to attract the attention of the financial centers in London, Hong Kong, and New York. So it was that SCF became known as “Ethical Investing” and Western and Muslim financiers began lecturing the world that fraud and abuse in the financial markets were driven by the desire for forbidden gain through interest and gambling. They told us that SCF was based not on forbidden interest and speculative paper assets, but on profits acquired through equity participation and sound investing in real assets.
Dubai World, a company wholly owned by the Dubai sovereign, has funded itself through debt to the tune of $60 billion in the form of Shariah-compliant bonds (or “sukuk”). These bonds pay interest just like their forbidden cousins in the Western markets, but the interest is put into the black box of Shariah-created fictions and “special purpose vehicles” to keep the forbidden interest off the books. What we now see as a real-estate-bubble collapse in Dubai is no different and no more or less ethical than any other financial failure. But what makes this collapse so problematic is precisely what makes SCF and sovereign wealth funds so dangerous.
To understand the rather opaque world of Islamic finance, one must understand the players. Since its founding, the modern SCF world has been driven by essentially two groups. The first we can label the Shariah fundamentalists. They come in the form of the fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia and Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood “political Islamists” operating principally in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. These Shariah-inspired financiers understand SCF as “financial jihad” — indeed, as part of a larger stealth campaign to institutionalize Shariah in the West.
What makes this institutionalization a bit tricky is that the financial jihadists must convince the Western financiers and their governmental counterparts that Shariah-inspired finance is somehow distinct from Shariah-inspired global jihad against the infidel West. In other words, how do you export a financial model among infidels when that model is built upon a doctrine that manifestly calls for the death and destruction of the infidels and their political and social systems? The answer to this quandary is found in the second group of SCF advocates: the Western facilitators.
The financial jihadists built their strategy upon both sovereign wealth and the cravenness and fecklessness of the Western facilitators who would sell their own well-being and physical security for a place among the Fortune 500. Led by the Saudis but also joined by the other oil-soaked Persian Gulf regimes, the Shariah-inspired jihadists learned quickly that Western financial institutions and their professional lackeys in the legal and accounting fields would do anything for that next billion-dollar transaction.
Greed, self-indulgence, and even treason are of course not new to the international banking and multinational corporate worlds. But what the Shariah advocates have found even more to their liking is the fact that the Western technocrats and government policymakers have been more than willing to ignore Shariah’s call for global jihad and its resonance as the common doctrine articulated by jihadists around the globe.
The result has been the perfect convergence of (1) Western financial markets in dire need of liquidity, (2) the liquidity available in the sovereign wealth funds of the Shariah faithful, and (3) the willful blindness of Western governments.
— David Yerushalmi is an attorney specializing in litigation and general counsel to the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think tank specializing in national security.
Dec. 3, 2009
Detroit's Muslim community and many local leaders, including Mayor Dave Bing, have called for an independent investigation into the death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the imam shot by federal agents during a raid at a Dearborn warehouse. The U.S. Department of Justice should heed that call to clear questions harbored by Muslims around the world, as well as by many Detroiters, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Abdullah's death on Oct. 28 may mark the first killing of a religious leader by U.S. government agents since David Koresh died at the Branch Davidian ranch outside Waco, Texas, in 1993. No one should assume government wrongdoing or impropriety, but the death of Abdullah, an African-American Muslim, has racial and religious overtones, especially in a community with a history of excessive police force. It has evoked the kind of skepticism, fear and anger that government should not ignore. Heavy-handed tactics by federal agents in the name of national security are not new. They were also employed against socialists and communists in the 1930s and black militants in the 1960s.
Muslim leaders contend that federal agents, not finding evidence of terrorist activity, often lure poor people into other illegal activities. The Justice Department -- or even the House Judiciary Committee -- should review these practices and, if warranted, recommend changes to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who suggested in a recent visit to Detroit that Abdullah's death had aggravated community tensions. Local government agencies should also act openly. It didn't help community relations that the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office informed CAIR, in response to a freedom-of-information request, that photos of Abdullah's autopsy would cost $1,500. That makes government look as though it were hiding something.
No terrorism charges were brought against Abdullah, or any of the 11 mosque members indicted in the case. Instead, the government alleges that they conspired to traffic in stolen goods. An investigation should determine whether federal agents who shot Abdullah violated his civil rights, but it must also include a broader review of widespread government policies and practices regarding the use of informants to infiltrate mosques.
"Our government needs to show that there's not a double standard: a rule of law for the broader public and another standard for Muslims," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan.
The FBI says its agents acted appropriately. Still, questions linger, not only about how Abdullah died but also whether federal agents inappropriately target Muslims and mosques. No American should harbor those doubts. They are, as Holder stated in Detroit, contrary to our Constitution and the government that created it. A thorough and independent review is the best way to dispel them.
Thursday December 3, 2009
My most recent column made its way to Pennsylvania, where it offended a reader, who e-mails this morning:
Read your article in my local news paper. You came across as having a distorted thinking pattern disorder.
Obama is a Muslim. His father was a Muslim and Obama was brought up as a child in Muslim schools in Kenya.
If you listen carefully to Obama he reveals his past up bringing as a Muslim in his speeches.
His apologies are towards Muslims for what he thinks America has done wrong to Islam.
He is reluctant to use force to kill Muslim terrorist limiting it towards Osama Bin Laden, who is considered an out law by Muslims.
The problem with Obama is he has a self ego and a self ego is blind to truth and reasoning.
Words fail. I'm not just saying that; I mean, they really do fail -- there is nothing you can say to people like that to prove them wrong. "Obama is a Muslim" is a non-falsifiable conclusion. It's like a religious dogma. Any of Obama's words and deeds one might cite to prove that the president is not, in fact, a Muslim, are actually evidence of his deviousness, and his devotion to taqiyya, or the principle endorsed by some Muslims justifying lying about one's true faith when persecution threatens.
The more interesting question is why so many Americans have a compulsion to believe, against all evidence, that their president is a closet Muslim? Ten years ago, I heard a priest serving a Palestinian Christian congregation puzzle over his congregation believing that Yasser Arafat was a closet Jew. He thought they'd lost their minds to conspiracy theory. I no doubt thought that it's good we Americans aren't given over to that kind of batshit lunacy. Silly me.
By Dana Bartholomew
Gala recognizes diversity of culture in L.A. region
It doesn't get more American than to be a cowboy country singer from Oklahoma - who is Muslim.
That's what San Fernando Valley organizers of Friday's Muslim American Heritage Celebration say of its key entertainer, Kareem Salama.
"Kareem's as American as apple pie," said Haris Tarin, co-founder of the Ehsan Center, an online Muslim American community and host of the inaugural gala.
"Kareem represents what it means to be a Muslim-American - of our beliefs, values, heritage and our identity as Americans."
The Muslim American Heritage Celebration is billed as a unique tribute to the region's diverse multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual Muslim population.
More than 500,000 Muslims live in Greater Los Angeles, including an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Muslims in the San Fernando Valley.
It's also billed as a celebration of the Islamic American mainstream, Tarin said, which is peace-loving and patriotic.
"Generally, it's Muslims or anyone on the extreme fringe who set the agenda," said Tarin, a West Valley native who is director of the the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. "This is about the mainstream - taking the agenda back, and taking the narrative back.
"We, as a community, are Muslim-Americans. We are loyal Americans. We feel no contradiction between being full citizens in our society and being Muslims."
The Ehsan Center is a nonprofit community of Muslim-Americans in
the San Fernando Valley who hope to build a community center and mosque.
Its celebration for up to 400 guests will include dinner, entertainment by singer-songwriter Salama, whose parents are Egyptian, and a keynote address by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, who is Muslim.
It comes one week after the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and the Eid al-Adha, or festival of sacrifice commemorated by Muslims throughout the world.
"What we want to do is to create an environment that is a welcoming place to all Muslims," said Murtaza Sanwari, chairman of the Ehsan Center, of Northridge. "It's a celebration of the holiday that brings together the entire community."
By Robert Spencer
03 December 2009 08:42
Muslim father misunderstands Islam, calls for murder of his son for converting to Christianity
As we all know from the mainstream media coverage of the Rifqa case, a Muslim father would never -- never -- call for the death of one of his children for leaving Islam! Why, it would be absolutely unheard of! If only Lamine Yansané's father, El Hadj Aboubacar Yansané, could get Michael Kruse or Meredith Heagney to explain Islam to him!
"Father issued fatwa against son, letter says," by Graeme Hamilton in the National Post, December 2 (thanks to David Wood):
MONTREAL -- In Lamine Yansané's hometown of Boké in Guinea, his father is a revered imam who sometimes leads Friday prayers. But after Mr. Yansané married a Catholic woman and abandoned Islam for Christianity, his father disowned him, and Friday prayers have featured a call for his death, the Federal Court heard yesterday.
Mr. Yansané, who has been denied refugee status, is seeking a last-ditch reprieve on the grounds that he faces certain harm if he is deported from Canada. "If you return him to his country, he is going to die," Mr. Yansané's lawyer, Stewart Istvanffy, told the court. He called his client "a victim of radical Islam, who is threatened by the imam of his town, his own father."
Mr. Yansané, 37, arrived in Canada from Guinea in the fall of 2005. He told the Immigration and Refugee Board that he fled the West African nation after his father and uncle tracked him down in the country's capital of Conakry, confronted him about his church attendance and threatened him as a traitor to Islam. His wife and three children remain in Guinea.
The board member who heard his case called his testimony "devoid of credibility." She did not believe that a family of religious fanatics would have permitted his marriage to a Christian in the first place. (Mr. Yansané said he was allowed to marry on the condition he convert his wife to Islam, a project he abandoned.) And she found it far-fetched that his family would tolerate the couple's presence in Boké for the 10 years they lived there before moving to Conakry.
A subsequent review by an Immigration Department officer concluded Mr. Yansané would not be at risk if he were sent home, and the officer dismissed additional evidence gathered by Mr. Istvanffy.
That evidence included a report from a Conakry lawyer, hired by Mr. Istvanffy to investigate the situation in Conakry. The lawyer quoted another Boké imam who was persuaded Mr. Yansané's father would follow through on the threat. The father considers Mr. Yansané's actions "a true humiliation and an affront to his honour," the lawyer reported, adding that "he never stops saying he will seek vengeance against Lamine."
A letter from a priest in Boké was similarly dire, describing Mr. Yansané's father as "one of the fundamentalists who do not accept their children changing religion: They are born, live and die Muslims."
In June 2008, the National Post reached the father, El Hadj Aboubacar Yansané, in Boké and he warned his son to stay away: "He knows what will happen. It would be dangerous for him to come back to Boké," he said.
Following that interview, the imam repeated his threats during Friday prayers, according to a letter filed with the court. The handwritten letter to Mr. Yansané from his friend Mamady Chérif in Boké reported that his father had announced during Friday prayers that he had learned his son was in Canada. Mr. Chérif said Mr. Yansané, Sr., called on the faithful to contact their countrymen living in Canada to inform them of the fatwa he had issued against his son....
The past couple of weeks has shown that Malaysians are featured in the “500 most influential Muslims in the world” list. The research categorised influential people into 15 categories — depicting the source of influence, among others, Scholarly, Political, Administrative, and Lineage. It is interesting to note that Women is also in one of the categories.
The research done by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC) of Jordan exerted that influence is hard to be quantified, thus those who are in the top 50 position are monarchs, religious scholars, or leaders of religious networks.
It also exerted that geography played a vital role in determining how influential someone is. Let’s say you are a religious scholar living in the Middle East, you are more likely be more influential than those living outside the region. North America and Europe are homes to many influential Muslims, considering the number of high-ranking institutions situated in these regions.
You are probably aware that the RISSC has placed Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, at the 42nd position in the list.
Other Malaysians on the list are Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri (Women), Zainah Anwar (Women), Prof Dato’ Dr Osman Bakar (Scholarly), Anwar Ibrahim (Political), Mohideen Abdul Kadir (Development), Prof Dr Mohd Hashim Kamali (Scholarly) , Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Political) and the nasheed group, Raihan (Arts and Culture).
It is also noted that only the top 50 is ranked. The other 450 appear unranked. But, there are 12 names that appeared in a list said to have an influence, compared to the top 50 people.
I can’t help but wish to put into context the 42nd name on the list, make some commentaries on the relevance of the list on the Muslimah’s movement in Malaysia, and track some trends on the future of influence/popularity in the Muslim world in the coming years. These are my interests, among other things that I too wish to write on.
Without any royal connections, being far from the Middle East, and not in command of a big oil reserve under his feet, I would say number 42 is quite something. I try to differentiate between two subjective things — influence and popularity. You have Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan at number 46 — A Pakistani Nuclear Scientist — the father of ‘Islamic Bomb’ who made Pakistan into a Muslim country with nuclear weapon.
Osama bin Laden made into the list — as a radical. I believe he is more popular than our own Tuan Guru, but in this case RISSC made him less ‘influential’.
I do believe however RISSC has considered popularity as one of the most important aspects to denote influence. Amr Khaled for who is at 14th place in the list is an example of this. A televangelist whose website said to rival Oprah Winfrey’s, Amr Khaled has been ranked as the 13th most influential person in the world by Time magazine.
Now it gets harder to quantify influence and popularity.
Said to have source of influence in the Administrative, Political and Scholarly spheres, — Tuan Guru Nik Aziz is written in the book as a Spiritual Leader of the largest political party in Malaysia. The RISSC also added that he is a “spiritual leader of Malaysian Islamic politics, and holds very important sway over the tenor of politics in the nation” — I can’t help but agree, he really deserves the spot.
Tuan Guru Nik Aziz is always in the middle of controversies. But at every turn, one can learn something from his method of handling problems — by employing two of the most important Islamic elements, which are the spiritual and intellectual. He is a teacher to both his rivals and his friends.
In the time of writing, the 42nd most influential Muslim in the world is asked to resign his position.
It is not a surprise when two members of Sisters in Islam (SIS) made it to the list under the Women category. Zainah Anwar and Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri are both members of the movement, and being in the list is proof that despite the many critics hurled towards SIS, the world community is beginning to accept them. Musawah, a Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, which was launched on February 2009, has been initiated by SIS, indicates just how sophisticated the movement is.
Prof Amina Wadud who was a lecturer in International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) between 1989 and 1992 also made it to the list in the same category as an influential Muslim in the United States.
However, not a single first lady of this Muslim country however, made it to the list. Turkey has Hayrunnisa Gul — the first First Lady in Turkey to wear the hijab. I begin to have a secret wish that the next person who becomes the first lady in the future, will also have an influence on the Muslimahs of the country and beyond. A good influence, I mean.
This shows that the Malaysian Muslimah Movement is not far from being influential, but the many criticism hurled their way, can’t help but makes me think if there is truth that Muslim women in Malaysia don’t speak their minds, or are they wrong to making SIS as a representative of the Malaysian Muslimah.
But then, who is the most influential women in the Muslim world? Number 31 — Syeikha Munira Qubeysi — is a leader of a women only Islamic movement. She is an educator, and she has more than 75,000 students.
The Malaysian Muslimah Movement has alot to learn from her. Meanwhile, critics have to do better. They should wipe-out inaction from their vocabulary. And there is a lot to be done, when there are only 43 women in the 500 long list.
Revisiting Amr Khaled at number 14, there are a lot of reasons to see why he was given this spot. He owns the most popular personal website in the world with 20 million regular users, 232,219 fans on 79 Facebook groups, and 2 million hits on 200 Youtube videos. He makes everything seems possible to the average person.
At number 19, we can see IslamToday.com supervisor, Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda. IslamToday.Com has 2000 daily hits. Sheikh Salman is also featured in many TV appearances, with global reachability.
These are ‘ordinary people’ who have major influence in the Muslim world. The list boasts royalties, grand muftis, spiritual leaders, presidents and head of nations. It seems that you and I have a shot here — by hosting a website that caters to many. But you can always opt to follow the footsteps of Osama or Obama — the latter accused as a Muslim, and does is not given a place in the list.
Whatever it is, the media is playing a very important role in the new age. Whether you own one or you opt for the alternative, is beside the point. Having both however, is one of the strategies that media giants adopt. CNN for example, being an old media agency, provides a personal touch by making their newscasters active on Twitter.
In the next 10 year, the list will have to consider the influence made on the youths of today. Influence and popularity tend to be similar in the new world. You are said to have an influence if people are able to look you up easily on Google, able to communicate with you through the various social networks, that you have plenty of connections with important people, for instance those who have a say in the Parliament, and that you are listed in Wikipedia.
While it is getting more subjective to quantify influence today, the published list helps. Fellow Muslims may look at it and see that there are people out there doing real work to help better the world, and they are Muslims. They can be proud of people featured, and also have faith that they can do something major, even though they are inside the Muslim community — assumed to be restrictive by many who do not understand Islam.
Others can have a look on the list and track the trends of Muslims, and where they are heading. They can identify who are the ones representing Islam in their community and learn from them.
The list has shown that there is a very thin line separating popularity and influence. The Issues of the Day category however, compensates the subjective “popularity equals influence” equation. The category boasts names that are involved in the recent issues in the world of today — I might even say this is where the real work is being done, though it may have either good or bad influence.
RISSC welcomes everyone to contribute to the list next year by sending emails to them. The list will become something to look forward to in the coming years, though I now wish that there will also be a list on “Muslims of the year”. The subjective influence/popularity can be put out of the equation — and those who really did contribute something, those that matter in the Muslim world made it to the list.
Hilman Nordin is a reader of The Malaysian Insider.
5 women killed in Philippines political massacre may have been raped, tests suggest
December 3rd 2009
MANILA, Philippines – At least five women among 57 people massacred in an attack on an election convoy in the southern Philippines last week may have been raped, police said Thursday.
The forensic findings from the Nov. 23 carnage, blamed on a powerful clan that has ruled impoverished Maguindanao province unopposed for years, also indicated that some of the victims were mowed down with a light machine gun and others shot from a distance of only 2 feet (60 centimeters), said Arturo Cacdac, director of the police crime laboratory.
The convoy was carrying 30 journalists, their staff and the family and supporters of a local politician to file his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao, a position held by the powerful Ampatuan clan.
The politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, sent his wife and relatives to submit his papers after he had received death threats from the Amptuans. He said he thought his female family members would not be harmed.
Twenty-one of the 57 people slain were women. More than half of those killed were journalists.
The scion of the clan and a town mayor, Andal Ampatuan Jr., turned himself in last week and was charged Tuesday with multiple counts of murder. His father — the family's patriarch — and six other members also are considered suspects but have not been charged.
Troops have surrounded at least one of two sprawling Ampatuan compounds in the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak ahead of serving search and arrest warrants, which will come after a court order. It was not clear when that will happen.
Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said she will subpoena 11 people, including the patriarch, for a preliminary investigation in Manila on Dec. 14.
Ampatuan's clan, notorious for running a large private army purportedly for protection against Muslim rebels active in the southern Philippines, has been allied with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who received crucial votes from the region during the 2004 elections.
But Arroyo has promised swift justice in the killings and her ruling party has since expelled the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuans deny involvement in the killings.
Maguindanao's 1,092-strong entire police force has been relieved and will be replaced by personnel from other regions to ensure an impartial investigation of the killings, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.
Results of police laboratory tests, released Thursday in Manila, found traces of semen in five of the 21 slain women, said Cacdac, the lab chief. He called it "presumptive evidence (that) they were raped."
Cacdac said two of the women were married, and their husbands will be asked to submit their DNA samples to rule out the possibility it was their semen found in the tests.
The bodies of all five women had bruises or injuries on their genitals, said Ruby Grace Diangson, head of the police medico-legal office.
Investigation of 15 other bodies revealed no sign of rape. Test results on the remaining female body have not been concluded.
Srinagar : Kashmir is not an integral part of India, it is disputed, claimed Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chairman of the hardline faction of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), on Wednesday.
“We never refuse dialogue, but from March 23, 1952, more than 130 rounds of dialogues have been taken place but they were unable to provide any solution,” said Geelani.
“India has to accept one basic fact that Jammu and Kashmir is not an integral part of India, it is a disputed territory,” he added during an interaction with the media on the sidelines of an Eid Milan party here.
“Our demand is very much genuine and based on historical facts. The people of Jammu and Kashmir must be given right to self determination so that they can decide their future whether they want to be with India or exceed to Pakistan,” he said.
Some leaders of the moderate faction of the APHC held secret talks with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram recently, suggesting that plans are afoot for a resumption of dialogue with separatist elements in theKashmir Valley.
The Hurriyat has urged New Delhi to pull out troops, release prisoners and end human rights violations before resuming peace talks.
Dialogue between the government and the separatists broke down in 2006. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered to resume talks during a visit toKashmir in October.
Officials say more than 47,000 have been killed in the past 20 years in the Muslim majority region, where anti-India sentiment still runs deep.
With violence down in recent years, India began withdrawing troops from Kashmir’’s main towns and handed over law and order to the police, giving signals they were getting ready for peace talks.
Any sign of peace talks may help reduce tension in the Himalayan region, the focus of conflict between India and Pakistan for decades. (ANI)