Pakistan army hits 'militants' in Waziristan hospital
Malaysia Court Rules Catholic Paper Can Print ‘Allah’
Malaysian court rules non-Muslims may call God Allah
West Bengal madrassas draw non-Muslim students
The Afghan-Pakistan militant nexus
Hindus, Muslims throng the shrine of Kashmir Sufi saint
CIA chief confirms seven officers killed by Afghan bomb
Two French journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan
Canadians killed in Afghanistan attack
Q&A: Foreign forces in Afghanistan
Banning forced marriages
Give protection to Muslim woman, Hindu husband: HC
Americans blame Britain for rise of Islamic extremism
UN to move some staff out of Pakistan for safety
Talks on Modern Economy in the Light of Qur’an and Sunnah
Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs other Moslem groups condemn attempted terror attack
Dubai panel to settle Tamweel, Amlak disputes
Al Qaeda not in Nigeria: Muslim leaders
Muslim world cautious toward U.S. olive branch
Chinese Muslim region adopts law on national unity
Popular Front to launch national campaign for Muslim reservation
Christian, Muslim leaders call for high-level campaign
'No al-Qaeda on Nigerian soil'
Frame rural employment schemes to benefit Muslim women
Muslims in Zambia seek new beginning
No country for 400,000 Muslim refugees: Refugees in B’desh say no to repatriation
Muslim Law Board, Jamaat Islami condemn Chidambaram for equating Jihad with terrorism
Six killed in new attacks in Thai south: police
Gaza: 77% of women experience abuse
Police arrest senior Pakistani Taliban commander
Iran Prosecutor Threatens Opposition With Trials
Iranians demanding what they have right to demand
'Nigerian terrorist was sexually frustrated'
Yemeni forces raid al-Qaida hideout, clashes erupt
Gunman's body found after Finland mall shootings
CIA workers killed by 'Afghan soldier'
Freed British hostage Peter Moore 'held in Iran'
Yemen 'can handle al-Qaeda menace'
Teenager Arrested in West Bank Mosque Blaze
Muslim anger over war-crime law pledge
Iraq PM faces wiser competition in national vote
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/fazle-hasan-abed,-bangladesh-ngo-head-gets-uk-award/d/2306
Fazle Hasan Abed, Bangladesh NGO head gets UK award
Mr Abed wants Brac to expand across the world
The founder of one of the world's largest non governmental organisations, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, has been honoured in the UK.
Fazle Hasan Abed - who holds dual British and Bangladesh citizenship - will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2010 for services in tackling poverty.
He has also been awarded for empowering the poor in Bangladesh and globally.
Mr Abed's name was included in the Queen's New Year's Honours List released on Thursday.
"I feel very humbled to receive this award," he told the BBC from his office in Dhaka, "which I am delighted to accept on behalf of all Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (Brac) workers across the world.
"I now want to build on this success to continue Brac's fight against poverty not only in Bangladesh but in eight other countries in the world where we are involved - Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Sri Lanka."
Brac also has plans to expand into Haiti.
Mr Abed says that Brac's success was because of a "multi-dimensional approach" to fighting poverty such as improving education, healthcare and financial services.
He Abed is to be made a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) and is the first person of Bangladeshi origin to be honoured with a knighthood by the British Crown since 1947.
Mr Abed is the second person in his family to be honoured with a knighthood. His grand uncle, Justice Nawab Sir Syed Shamsul Huda, was knighted by the British Crown in 1913.
The army says it has secured territory across much of South Waziristan
Pakistani soldiers have raided a hospital in South Waziristan, killing at least four suspected militants and capturing 18, the military has said.
It said that the hospital, in the town of Wana, was being used by Islamist fighters operating in the area.
Those killed were believed to be of Arab and Sudanese origin.
The army has often said it is targeting foreign militants in Pakistan's north-western tribal areas, who it says form the backbone of the insurgency.
A security official told the BBC that the raid followed a tip-off that wounded militants were being brought to the hospital from Sherwangi, a Taliban-held area under attack by the army.
"Commandos and security forces raided the hospital. Militants fired on the troops and in the gunfight, which lasted more than four hours, four militants and a woman were killed, while 22 others were arrested," an official told the AFP news agency.
"One soldier was also injured. The three dead militants appear to be Arabs and one of Sudanese origin."
The identity of the woman was not initially clear, the official said.
Soldiers also captured 18 militants - some of whom were wounded - the army said.
But witnesses said that those arrested included hospital staff and patients with no apparent links to the Taliban.
A security official told the BBC that the operation continued until early on Thursday morning.
The hospital is owned by an influential cleric and former parliamentarian, Maulana Noor Mohammad, who is close to a major religious party of the country, the JUI(F).
South Waziristan is a Taliban stronghold targeted by the army in a major ground offensive in mid-October.
About 30,000 soldiers secured much of the tribal territory, but many militants are believed to have fled to other tribal areas in the north-west to avoid the fighting.
The offensive sparked a wave of violence in retaliation that has killed about 500 people over the past two months, including a bombing against a Sha Muslim procession in the southern city of Karachi on Monday that killed 44 people.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing on Wednesday.
December 31, 2009
By Manirajan Ramasamy and Ranjeetha Pakiam
Malaysia’s High Court ruled that a government ban on non-Muslim publications using the word “Allah” is unconstitutional, settling a dispute that stoked questions about religious freedom in the country.
The Herald, a weekly publication of the Catholic Church of Malaysia, filed for a judicial review after it was temporarily ordered to stop publishing for two weeks in December 2007 after using the word, which means “God,” in its Malay-language section.
The publication has a “constitutional right to use the word,” Judge Lau Bee Lan said in her oral judgment today, saying the paper only used it for a Christian audience and not for Muslims.
Malaysia’s government banned non-Muslims publications from referring to “Allah” in 1986 on grounds that it could threaten national security and confuse the country’s Muslims, who make up more than 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million population.
Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, welcomed today’s decision, saying it upheld freedom of expression and religion in the country.
“This also means that the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking community of the Christian faith can now continue to freely use the word ‘Allah’ without any interference from the authorities,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today.
According to the constitution, all ethnic Malays in the country are Muslims by way of religion, while the largest minority groups, which consist of ethnic Chinese and Indians, are mainly Christian, Hindu and Buddhist. Islam is recognized as the official religion of Malaysia, though non-Muslims have the right to choose and practice their own faith.
In neighboring Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims, there is no such ban and Catholics use two words, “Tuhan” and “Allah,” to refer to God during their prayers.
The word “Allah” is widely used during church worship in the Borneo island states of Sabah and Sarawak, where many indigenous tribes are part of the Christian community in Malaysia. The Malaysian government has also banned Malay translations of the Bible in the country.
--Editor: Barry Porter, Ben Richardson.
To contact the reporters on this story: Manirajan Ramasamy in Kuala Lumpur at +60-3-2302-7858 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Ranjeetha Pakiam in Kuala Lumpur at +603-2302-7856 or email@example.com
31 December 2009
A court in Malaysia has ruled that Christians have a constitutional right to use the world Allah when referring to God.
The High Court said a government ban on non-Muslims using the word was unconstitutional.
The court was ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Herald, a publication of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, in 2007.
The authorities had insisted that Allah was an Islamic word which could only be used by Muslims.
The BBC's Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur said some Muslim groups suspect the Catholic Church is seeking to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity - a move which is illegal in Malaysia.
'Glorious' New Year
The issue had become a symbol of a growing number of religious grievances among minority groups, in a political environment often divided along racial and religious lines, our correspondent adds.
The Herald filed for a judicial review after it was temporarily ordered to stop publishing in 2007 for referring to "Allah".
The publication said it had been been using the word for decades, and had a constitutional right to do so.
The Herald welcomed Thursday's ruling, saying it would be a "glorious" New Year "for some 850,000 Catholics in Malaysia".
More than half of Malaysia's population is Muslim but the large Chinese and Indian communities are mainly Christian, Buddhist or Hindu.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman
KOLKATA, India | After Sept. 11, 2001, many outside the Muslim world have identified South Asias Islamic madrassas as breeding grounds for aspiring terrorists.
But in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, many government-sponsored madrassas have become so successful that they attract large numbers of non-Muslim students. In some institutions, non-Muslims outnumber Muslims.
The Brookings Doha Center, located in Qatar and sponsored by the Brookings Institution of Washington, cites West Bengal madrassas as models for modern education and has suggested that Pakistan emulate them.
"Madrassas have a noble history of use in furthering the cause of science and learning in medieval Islam, but that tradition has been largely forgotten in Pakistan because of a relatively uneducated theological establishment taking over the administration of most madrassas," said a recent Brookings study, "Pakistan's Madrassas: The Need for Internal Reform and the Role of International Assistance."
The report notes that in West Bengal, "a survey of Islamic schools in January 2009 found that because of the higher quality of education at madrassas, even non-Muslims were actively enrolling in them."
The study says non-Muslims, including Hindus, Christians and animist tribals, send their children to Bengali madrassas in the same way that some Pakistani Muslim families send their children to Christian schools "because of the high quality of teaching and discipline" there.
Seventeen percent of the pupils studying in madrassas across West Bengal are non-Muslims, according to Abdus Sattar, West Bengal's minority development and madrassa education minister.
Unlike traditional madrassas, Bengal's state-run versions follow a mainstream school curriculum. Their students are being groomed to become engineers, doctors, scientists and other modern professionals.
West Bengal state's ruling Communist Party government is happy to receive accolades from abroad, which it says it merits because it has ensured quality and progressiveness in madrassa syllabuses.
"Our good work in Bengal's madrassas is being recognized today. It's heartening to note that the study advises Pakistan to emulate the Bengal model," Mr. Sattar said.
"Arabic and other Islamic studies form only a small part of the curriculum in our madrassas," he said. "We are teaching our students all other general subjects that their counterparts are studying in regular schools. Competing on a par with them, our students too are joining the stream of today's successful professionals.
"Non-Muslims who are aware of our modernized infrastructure find no difference between regular schools and our madrassas, which could be the key reason behind the presence of so many non-Muslim pupils," he said.
Full report at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/31/non-muslim-pupils-flock-to-west-bengal-madrassas/
Zabul, Toba Kakar
Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber
Mohmand, Bajaur, Kunar
Oruzgan, Ghazni, Wardak, Logar
Paktika, Khost, Paktia
The Afghan-Pakistan border region is widely believed to be the front line in the war against Islamic militants. Click on the provinces or the links below the map to see how militants operate on either side of the border. (Text: M Ilyas Khan)
Kabul's writ has never run strong in the remote southern plains of Helmand province. For this reason, it has emerged as the most significant Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. Further south, across the border in Pakistan, lies the equally remote Noshki-Chaghai region of Balochistan province.
Since 9/11 this region has been in turmoil. In the Baramcha area on the Afghan side of the border, the Taliban have a major base. From there they control militant activities as far afield as Nimroz and Farah provinces in the west, Oruzgan in the north and parts of Kandahar province in the east. They also link up with groups based in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Commander Mansoor Dadullah, a one-time Taliban chief of the province who has since developed differences with the Taliban leadership, comes from Helmand, but he has currently shifted his operations to Zabul province and across the border into Balochistan.
Taliban from Baramcha region move freely across the border, and often take their injured to hospitals in the Pakistani town of Dalbandin in Chaghai.
The Helmand Taliban have been able to capture territory and hold it, mostly in the south of the province. They constantly threaten traffic on the highway that connects Kandahar with Herat.
British troops have a major base in the town of Gereshk, along the Kandahar-Herat road. Fresh American troops have also been deployed in the area. They have recently pushed back the Taliban from some of their strongholds, bringing the Garmsir area of the province under government control.
In the summer of 2009 US and UK forces led a major anti-Taliban offensive in Helmand province. These operations came ahead of elections in August and were partly aimed at securing areas to allow people to go out and vote.
Return to top
Kandahar has the symbolic importance of being the spiritual centre of the Taliban movement and also the place of its origin. The supreme Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, made the city his headquarters when the Taliban came to power in 1996. Top al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, preferred it to the country's political capital, Kabul.
As such, the control of Kandahar province is a matter of great prestige. The first suicide attacks in Afghanistan took place in Kandahar in 2005-06, and were linked to al-Qaeda. Kandahar has seen some high-profile jailbreaks and assassination attempts, including one on President Karzai.
The Afghan government has prevented the Taliban from seizing control of any significant district centre or town. International forces have large bases in the airport area as well as at the former residence of Mullah Omar in the western suburbs of Kandahar city.
Mullah Omar is thought by some to be hiding in Kandahar or Helmand. Others suspect he is in Pakistan's tribal areas.
But the Taliban have a strong presence in the countryside, especially in southern and eastern areas along the border with Pakistan. Afghan and Western officials have in the past said the Taliban have used Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, as a major hideout as well as other Pakistani towns along the Kandahar border.
Areas on the Pakistan side stretching north-eastwards along the border from Quetta to the town of Zhob are inhabited by Pashtun tribes.
Taliban activity in Balochistan is largely related to operations inside Afghanistan and is of no immediate concern to Islamabad.
The so-called Quetta Shura leadership, alleged by the US to direct much of the Taliban's activity in Afghanistan, is said to be based in the city.
But Pakistani authorities have denied the existence of such a Taliban council in Quetta - or that the Taliban have a major presence in Balochistan.
Afghanistan's Zabul province lies to the north of Kandahar, along the Toba Kakar mountain range that separates it from the Pakistani districts of Killa Saifullah and Killa Abdullah. The mountains are remote, and have been largely quiet except for a couple of occasions when Pakistani security forces scoured them for al-Qaeda suspects.
Reports from Afghanistan say militants use the area in special circumstances. In early 2002, Taliban militants fleeing US forces in Paktia and Paktika provinces took a detour through South Waziristan to re-enter Afghanistan via Zabul. Occasionally, Taliban insurgents use the Toba Kakar passes when infiltration through South Waziristan is difficult due to intensified vigilance by Pakistani and Afghan border guards.
Zabul provides access to the Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Oruzgan and Kandahar. There are few Afghan or foreign forces in the area, except on the highway that connects Qalat, the capital of Zabul, to Kandahar in the south-west, and Ghazni and Kabul in the north.
Taliban activity along parts of this highway has forced government officials, aid workers and journalists to give up travelling on this road.
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7601748.stm
31 Dec 2009
Rajouri (Jammu and Kashmir), Dec 31 : Cutting across religious lines, both Hindu and Muslim devotees thronged the dargah (shrine and grave) of Sufi saint Baba Shah Badshah in Rajouri here to observe Urs, his death anniversary on Wednesday (December 30).
On this occasion, a large number of devotees prayed for peace and tranquility in the state.
"We prayed, as many devotees did, that God bless this country with peace and tranquility. People should get dignity, honour and respect. For all those who have come here with pious intention, may God fulfill their wishes. This is what I prayed to God," said Adbul Rashid Qadari, a devotee.
The Hindu devotees also prayed for peace and tranquility in the region.
"We prayed to God to endow us with peace and tranquility in Jammu and everything should be all right. May God fulfill the wishes of all those who have come hear and may God fulfill our wishes too," said Navjot Singh, a devotee.
Mr Panetta paid tribute to the fallen and pledged to continue their fight
Seven CIA agents were killed in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, the US agency's director, Leon Panetta, has confirmed.
The dead include a mother of three who was the head of the CIA's base in Khost Province, near Pakistan, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The attack was the worst against US intelligence officials since the US embassy in Beirut was bombed in 1983.
The Taliban said one of their members working for the Afghan army and wearing an explosive vest had carried it out.
The bombing has raised questions about the coalition's ability to protect itself against infiltrators, analysts say.
Quoting former CIA officials, AP said the base chief would have led intelligence-gathering operations in Khost, a hotbed of Taliban activity due to its proximity to Pakistan's lawless tribal region.
A total of 90 CIA employees have been honoured for their deaths in the agency's service since its inception in 1947, according to the Washington Post newspaper.
'Close to the enemy'
Paying tribute to the fallen, Mr Panetta said six other agents were injured in Wednesday's attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman.
"Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism," he said.
"We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives - a safer America."
CIA DEATHS: 1965-2009
2009: Seven killed in suicide attack on their base in Afghanistan
2003: Two CIA contractors die in Shkin, Afghanistan; CIA officer killed during training exercise in Afghanistan
2001: Officer shot during prison uprising in Afghanistan
1993: Two CIA employees killed at the agency's Virginia headquarters
1989: Six CIA employees die when a plane carrying military equipment from DR Congo to Angola crashes
1985: CIA Beirut station chief killed after having been kidnapped and tortured
1983: Eight CIA employees killed in the US embassy bombing in Beirut
1965: Seven CIA employees die, most of them in Vietnam
Source: Washington Post
CIA director statement
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8436635.stm
US bound flight with 289 people aboard.
He was tackled by passengers and crew as he allegedly tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear using a liquid-filled syringe, shortly before Northwest Airlines Flight 253 landed in Detroit.
He has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and is being held at a federal prison in Michigan.
The US news website Politico quoted officials involved in the security reviews as saying information that could have prevented the failed attack had been "vague but available" to intelligence agencies.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged over the incident
The Washington Post reported that agencies under scrutiny include the CIA, the National Security Agency, the State Department, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) - which was established after the September 2001 attacks on the US to collate and connect intelligence sharing efforts.
"The right information did not get to the right people - there's no question about that," a senior intelligence official told the newspaper.
"If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path."
After the attempt, Mr Obama acknowledged that security failures had allowed the 23-year-old to fly to the US despite family members warning officials in November that he had extremist views.
US FLIGHT ADVICE
Only one item of hand luggage, including items bought airside
BA and Virgin Atlantic not charging to check in extra hand luggage
Check in wrapped presents
Passengers subject to "pat-down" searches before boarding, on top of usual security checks
Customers to remain seated during final hour of flight
No access to hand luggage and a ban on leaving possessions or blankets on laps during this hour
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8436459.stm
Defence Minister has 'no news of missing French journalists'
Two French reporters have been kidnapped north-east of the Afghan capital Kabul, Afghan officials say.
They say the journalists were seized in Kapisa province, along with three Afghans travelling with them.
French Defence minister Herve Morin, who is visiting Afghanistan, said he had had no news of two journalists since Wednesday.
Their identity is unclear. Media sources in Paris said they work for the French TV Channel FR3.
According to provincial police chief Matiuallah Safi, the journalists and the Afghans accompanying them were abducted in the Shinkai district of Kapisa province, 120km (70 miles) from Kabul.
Mr Safi said police were in contact with local villagers but no contact had been made with the abductors.
Both the Taliban and other insurgent groups operate in Kapisa province. French troops are also stationed there as part of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan.
At the French base in Nijrab, in central Kapisa, Mr Morin said that he was not ruling out "any theories".
He is visiting the French troops in Afghanistan for the new year.
Brig Gen Daniel Menard, commander of coalition forces in Kandahar, on the attack
Four Canadian soldiers and a journalist have been killed in an attack in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for detonating the roadside bomb used in the attack.
The journalist has been identified as Michelle Lang, 34, from the Calgary Herald, who had just arrived on her first assignment in the country.
This has been the deadliest year for foreign troops since the 2001 invasion. Canada's toll stands at 32 for 2009.
It has lost 138 troops in total in the course of the war.
This is the bloodiest attack in a single incident for Canadian troops in Afghanistan this year.
Qari Mohammad Yusuf Ahmadi told the Associated Press the bomb had exploded close to a bridge in Kandahar province.
The armoured vehicle in which the group was travelling was touring local reconstruction projects.
Ms Lang was the third journalist to die in Afghanistan this year, Reuters news agency reports.
An award-winning health reporter, her colleagues at the newspaper were said to have been devastated by the news of her death.
Reporter Michelle Lang had recently arrived in Afghanistan
She was recently engaged to be married and described as bright, quick-witted and kind.
"We are all very saddened to hear this tragic news," Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert said in a statement.
"Michelle covered health issues with professionalism, accuracy and thoroughness."
The BBC's Lee Carter, in Toronto, says the deaths will add to the conviction felt by many Canadians that the country has carried a disproportionate number of casualties, especially in comparison to some European Nato allies.
Canada has a 2,800-strong force in Afghanistan, but the deployment has become increasingly unpopular at home and the troops are scheduled to be withdrawn at the end of 2011.
There are currently around 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, but over the next six months they will be joined by a further 30,000 US soldiers, as well as smaller numbers of additional forces from other countries.
They operate under US and Nato command and are supporting Kabul's Western-backed government against a Taliban-led insurgency that has gained strength in recent years.
Why is the US sending more troops?
After more than three months of deliberation, US President Barack Obama announced a troop surge on 1 December, bringing the total number of US troops in Afghanistan to more than 100,000.
Improvised explosive devices present a growing menace
He said that the soldiers would deploy as fast as possible to target the insurgency, help secure key population centres and bolster training of Afghan forces. The existing US troops in the country lacked the full support they needed to effectively achieve these aims, the president said.
Mr Obama said the troop surge would enable the US to accelerate the handover of responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow the US to begin the transfer of its forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.
What will they do?
Some 9,000 US Marines - a regimental combat team plus helicopters and support - are expected to deploy to Helmand province, where British troops have encountered fierce fighting. Also, some of the 21,000 additional soldiers will go to Kandahar province, to help protect Afghanistan's second city, Kandahar, and its vital road link to Kabul.
Around 4,000 soldiers, spread around the country, will boost efforts to train the Afghan Army and police.
Where do the rest of the troops come from and where are they based?
The lion's share of the troops come from the US. The remainder are from more than 40 other countries - including Canada, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand - with the UK contingent the second largest.
Troops are based in various parts of the country, but their efforts chiefly target the insurgency-wracked south and east.
In the wake of Mr Obama's surge announcement, the Nato secretary general said US allies were ready to commit to sending at least 5,000 extra troops, possibly more.
Who commands the foreign troops?
Most of the troops currently in Afghanistan are deployed as part of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). This 71,030-strong force was established by the UN in December 2001. More than half of its personnel are US soldiers. Isaf's stated mission is to promote security and development; it is also involved in training Afghan soldiers and police. Its activities were initially limited to Kabul, but its remit expanded to all provinces after October 2006.
Gen McChrystal's report on the war preceded President Obama's review
There are also some 30,000 US troops based in eastern Afghanistan - on the border with Pakistan - under Operation Enduring Freedom. This was originally planned in response to the attacks on the US in September 2001. After the Taliban government fell in late 2001, these forces continued operations against Taliban elements and other hostile forces.
US General Stanley McChrystal is the current commander of Isaf and Operation Enduring Freedom forces. He earlier warned that the US mission in Afghanistan was likely to result in failure unless troop numbers were increased.
Where does most fighting occur? Is the violence getting worse?
Most of the fighting takes place in the south and east of Afghanistan - especially the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, where the Taliban are most active. Clashes tend to take place in remote and inhospitable areas where much of the fighting is at close quarters. In some areas, foreign forces are tasked with retaking areas where the Taliban have reasserted control.
Violence is the worst it has been since the Taliban were toppled. Correspondents say that even the capital, Kabul, no longer feels safe. This year has been the bloodiest so far for coalition troops. Increasingly, remotely-detonated explosive devices are being used to target foreign forces across the country. The number of Afghan civilians killed as a result of the armed conflict is also rising, the UN says.
As more soldiers are killed on Afghan battlefields, there have been fierce political debates in the UK and European countries about troop commitments as support for the war declines.
Critics have also argued that communication between Isaf and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is not as strong as it should be.
They argue this is particularly the case when it comes to civilian casualties, when Isaf and OEF have been accused of issuing contradictory accounts of the number of people killed and the circumstances of the attack.
Gen McChrystal has repeatedly said that all troops in the country must focus on protecting civilians when fighting insurgents.
Is it only foreign troops fighting the militants?
A cornerstone of Nato strategy is to boost the size and effectiveness of Afghan security forces in the hope they will eventually take over.
Afghan soldiers support coalition operations on a daily basis
The Afghan National Army, numbering about 94,000 in October 2009, supports Nato operations, and there are just over 80,000 Afghan police.
The coalition aims to build and train an Afghan army 134,000-strong by October 2010. US, British and other foreign forces are with Afghan police and troops every day.
However, the soldiers are paid more and are better trained and equipped - although the police may face similar risk of Taliban attacks.
Are foreign troops there only to fight?
Isaf officials often say that development without security is unachievable, and security without development is meaningless.
It says that its mission in Afghanistan is to bring lasting peace and stability, and while that primarily involves the use of military personnel to secure the country, it also requires reconstruction and development initiatives.
There is little evidence of reconstruction in some places
In some areas, Isaf troops are engaged more in peacekeeping and reconstruction than in fighting.
Activities can include rebuilding damaged schools and hospitals, restoring water supplies and damaged infrastructure and supporting mediation and local governance.
In order to do so, Isaf has deployed 26 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in different parts of the country.
How strong are the Taliban?
The Taliban and their allies have returned with a vengeance after their rout in December 2001, re-emerging as a fighting force and a major threat to the Afghan government.
The militants are thought to be only about 20,000-strong. Estimates of how many are battle-hardened are also vary. But despite their relatively low numbers - and despite the increasing size of the foreign troop presence - the militants have steadily extended their influence and rendered vast tracts of Afghanistan insecure.
Do Afghans support the foreign presence?
According to a survey carried out for the BBC, the proportion of Afghans supporting in the presence of US forces is still strong, but gradually falling.
A BBC/ABC opinion poll published in February 2009 suggests this figure is now down to 63% - from 71% in 2007 and 78% in 2006.
However when asked what posed the biggest danger to the country, most people said the Taliban.
Afghans were also questioned about the use of air strikes by US and other foreign troops. Sixteen per cent thought it was acceptable because it helped to defeat the Taliban and other anti-government fighters. But 77% found it unacceptable because it endangered too many innocent civilians.
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood
How can anyone justify Islam's treatment of women, when it imprisons Afghans under blue shuttlecock burqas and makes Pakistani girls marry strangers against their will?
How can you respect a religion that forces women into polygamous marriages, mutilates their genitals, forbids them to drive cars and subjects them to the humiliation of "instant" divorce? In fact, none of these practices are Islamic at all.
Anyone wishing to understand Islam must first separate the religion from the cultural norms and style of a society. Female genital mutilation is still practised in certain pockets of Africa and Egypt, but viewed as an inconceivable horror by the vast majority of Muslims. Forced marriages may still take place in certain Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, but would be anathema to Muslim women from other backgrounds.
Indeed, Islam insists on the free consent of both bride and groom, so such marriages could even be deemed illegal under religious law.
A woman forbidden from driving a car in Riyadh will cheerfully take the wheel when abroad, confident that her country's bizarre law has nothing to do with Islam. Afghan women educated before the Taliban rule know that banning girls from school is forbidden in Islam, which encourages all Muslims to seek knowledge from cradle to grave, from every source possible.
The Koran is addressed to all Muslims, and for the most part it does not differentiate between male and female. Man and woman, it says, "were created of a single soul," and are moral equals in the sight of God. Women have the right to divorce, to inherit property, to conduct business and to have access to knowledge. Since women are under all the same obligations and rules of conduct as the men, differences emerge most strongly when it comes to pregnancy, child-bearing and rearing, menstruation and, to a certain extent, clothing.
Full report at: http://nation.ittefaq.com/issues/2009/12/31/news0017.htm
December 31, 200
Madurai, (PTI) The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Sivaganga District police to provide protection to a Muslim woman and her Hindu husband, who reportedly received threats after their recent marriage.
When the case came up for hearing yesterday, the couple Murugan and Ariffa, told the court that both of them were above 18 years of age and had married as they were in love with each other.
Justices R S Ramanathan and T S Sivagnanam observed that the court could not interfere in the matter as they were were above 18 years and directed the police to give them protection, if they sought it.
The judges were disposing off a petition filed by Manickam, father of Murugan, who alleged that that his son was facing threats after marrying Ariffa.
Ariffa had reportedly converted to Hinduism after her marriage.
By Karan Jakhad
Washington, Dec. 31 : The United States has accused Britain of being a “menace to the outside world” because of its perceived failure to tackle Islamic extremism.
Senior policymakers in the United States said the attempted suicide bomb attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is thought to have become radicalised in London, was further evidence that one of the biggest threats to US security came from Britain, where the capital has been dubbed “Londonistan” by critics.
There was also criticism of the “ghettoisation” of British Muslims, compared with the “assimilation” of Muslims in America.
Muslim immigrants to the US were much better integrated in society and considered themselves Americans “within a generation” because the US embraced the “melting pot” concept, said Marc Thiessen, former chief speechwriter for President George W Bush and a former Pentagon aide.
“That doesn’t exist in Europe in the same way and particularly in Britain, which is a more socially stratified society than the US,” he said.
“They live in Muslim ghettoes and feel alienated from the larger society and not accepted,” he added.
Daniel Pipes, a scholar on radical Islam and former adviser to Rudolph Giuliani during his presidential campaign, said: “The UK is a menace to the outside world. It’s been a problem for years now. This is just one more example.”
“We are in grave danger as a result of the fact that we are lowering our defences by doing away with vital tools in the war on terror that have proven successful – all in response to the hue and cry from the European Left and to appease European opinion,” said Thiessen. (ANI)
By Sebastian Abbot
Dec. 31, 2009
ISLAMABAD — The United Nations plans to temporarily relocate some of its international staff outside of Pakistan for security reasons following attacks that have killed at least 11 of its personnel in the country this year, a spokeswoman said Thursday.
The move comes about two months after the U.N. decided to suspend long-term development work in volatile areas near the Afghan border. Both decisions could complicate international efforts to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, where a raging Taliban-led insurgency has killed over 500 people in the past two and a half months.
Around 20 percent of the U.N.'s expatriate workers will either leave the country for six months or be relocated to safer areas within Pakistan, said spokeswoman Ishrat Rizvi. The world body will reevaluate the security situation in six months to determine when the staff can return, she said.
"We will review programs and projects and we will see whether we need to bring back those international staff members and which programs are to resume," Rizvi told The Associated Press.
She declined to specify how many international employees and which programs will be affected by the decision. No projects are being shut down, "but some of the programs for the longer duration may be suspended for a while," said Rizvi.
The U.N. announced in early November that it was suspending long-term development work in Pakistan's tribal areas and its North West Frontier Province. It said it would reduce the level of international staff in Pakistan and confine its work to emergency, humanitarian relief, and security operations, and "any other essential operations as advised by the secretary-general."
The U.N. has continued to work with the Pakistani government to determine how to realign its programs to focus on more short-term needs because of the deteriorating security situation, said Rizvi.
Full report at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/top/all/6793500.html
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Malegaon: Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif Education & Research Centre (MMERC) is organising a seminar in January on 'Modern Economy in the Light of Qur’an and Sunnah’, says Director of MMERC MB Qasmi.
"Markazul Ma’arif Education & Research Centre (MMERC), Mumbai is organizing talks on ‘Modern Economy in the Light of Qur’an and Sunnah’ where eminent scholars and modern economist will discuss about opportunities for Muslim in the existing economic system in India", he says.
"The program will be held on Saturday, 9th January 2010, from 02 pm to 04 pm at Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre (MMERC), Patliputra Nagar, Oshiwara, New Link Road, Jogeshwari (w) in Mumbai", he says.
Eminent scholars from India and abroad are expected to deliver lectures on the topic that will cover the feasibility of Islamic Banking in India.
"Mufti Abdul Qadir Barkatullah Qasmi, Shariah Supervisor for Islamic Bank of Britain and Judge Islamic Shariah Council, London and Managing Director of Maulana Azad Minorities Financial Development Corporation Govt. of Maharashtra Gaffar Shaikh will deliver speeches in the programme", MB Qasmi says in his statement.
Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairsother Moslem groups condemn attempted terror attack
NSCIA, other Moslem groups condemn attempted terror attack
No Al-Qaeda group in Nigeria, say clerics
From Mohammed Abubakar, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Ifedayo Sayo, (Ado-Ekiti) and Sulaimon Salau (Lagos)
VARIOUS Islamic organisations in Nigeria, including the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the Assembly of Moslems in Nigeria (AMIN) yesterday joined in condemning the alleged deeds of the Nigerian terror suspect, Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, who, on Christmas day, attempted to blow up a United States airliner.
The Islamic groups rejected the association of the youth with the religion of Islam, insisting that Islam is a religion of peace. They argued that the motive and deeds of the young Mutallab should be viewed in isolation.
Dr. Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, the NSCIA Secretary-General, who signed the statement, said the apex Islamic organisation in Nigeria was deeply shocked at the reported terror attempt.
According to the statement: "We deplore the reprehensible act which put the lives of so many passengers and crew at great risk. We, however, thank the Almighty Allah that the evil design did not materialise.
"Be that as it may, the Muslims unequivocally reject the insinuation in some quarters linking the embarrassing and condemnable incident to Islam. Islam as a religion of peace, abhors violence and forbids extra-judicial killing of people. On our part, we would continue to pray Allah to make justice prevail everywhere in the world so as to banish one of the main causes of uncontrollable anger that tends to propel otherwise sane people to resort to violence and acts of terror."
Similarly, AMIN, in a statement by its National Chairman, Sheikh Ibrahim Saleh Alhussaini, among others, advised that all must be ready to protect the rule of law in Nigeria. Also, dialogue must be intensified on issues in dispute so that a culture of moderation could be nurtured to yield lasting stability and prosperity for all nations.
The statement argued that the denial of some people's rights, suppression and injustice results in nothing, but extremism that leads to terrorism, which in most cases consumes innocent lives. It however reminded Moslems globally to recognise the fact that Islam is a religion of peace, which always preaches peaceful co-existence.
Full report at: http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/news/article03/indexn2_html?pdate=311209&ptitle=NSC
Dec 30, 2009
DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai has set up a panel to protect the creditors of troubled mortgage lenders Amlak AMLK.DU and Tamweel TAML.DU, whose long-planned merger is slated for early 2010, in a bid to boost transparency.
The Gulf emirate's reputation took a big hit over its request on November 25 for a delay in repaying $26 billion in debt linked to flagship firm Dubai World DBWLD.UL. It has been trying to put its financial house in order in recent weeks.
Dubai has formed a judicial committee to protect creditors and companies related to Amlak and Tanweel, a statement from ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's office said on Wednesday.
The committee "will be the only judicial body ... with the right to review all requests and legal claims related to settling the financial issues of the two companies," it said.
The office gave no more details on the panel or on why it was set up.
Dubai-based lawyer Wael al-Tunsi said it was unclear whether the panel would handle criminal or civil cases or both.
"I think this is an attempt to reach the best settlement for cases related to both companies, otherwise it's too complicated and might not be beneficial to anyone," he said.
Amlak and Tamweel separately welcomed the move, saying it would help the merger plans and protect the interests of stakeholders.
Dubai has planned to restructure the two Islamic firms -- battered by a property downturn caused by the global financial crisis -- since trading in their stocks was halted last year.
"What's happening really is that Dubai is trying to restructure many of its high risk entities," said UBS analyst Saud Masud. "It is taking on the responsibility of making sure that whatever they can fix, they fix first and whatever needs federal support then goes to the federal teams."
MERGER IN 2010
In November 2008, the federal government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would combine Amlak and Tanweel, and a state panel later recommended merging them into an Islamic bank.
Tamweel said last month the merger was set for early 2010.
"Given that these two key, UAE Islamic home finance institutions have been in policy limbo for over a year, their lenders and creditors are probably quite concerned about any exposure they have," Moody's analyst Khalid Howladar said.
Full report at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BT1KH20091230
Abuja, December 31, 2009
Muslim leaders in Nigeria have denied allegations that the international terrorist network Al Qaeda is active in the country, media reports said on Wednesday.
Islamic clerics interviewed by Abuja newspaper the Daily Trust said the 23-year-old Nigerian who attempted to blow up an Airbus flight from Amsterdam to Detroit December 25 was an isolated case.
"There is no connection between the accused and any religious group in Nigeria," Islamic scholar Abdulfattah Adeyemi was quoted as saying.
"We cannot say for sure what is responsible for the problem, but I will suggest that the matter should be thoroughly investigated and people should avoid passing comments that will bring disgrace to the nation and should equally refrain from wrongfully pointing accusing fingers at anyone when investigations have not been carried out or concluded."
Taofik Adbulazeez, the imam of the University of Abuja, also warned against the drawing of hasty conclusions about Nigeria.
The Supreme Council of Muslims in Nigeria, the Federation of Muslims and other Islamic organisations in the country condemned the attempted terrorist attack.
ISTANBUL, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama extended an olive branch to the Muslim world by promising at the beginning of 2009 to overhaul strained relations between his country and the Islamic countries.
Obama laid out a new blueprint in his two landmark speeches -- one in Ankara in April and the other in Cairo in June -- with a desire to move beyond terrorism and security to focus on issues of mutual respect and mutual interest with the world's 1.57 billion Muslims.
However, the Muslim world has been more cautious and prudent toward Obama's olive branch since the new American president only voiced flattered feelings but showed no concrete actions in his ambitious reconciliation move in the past year.
Local political observers said that Obama's remarks were designed to reset relations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the occupation in Iraq. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were seen by many Muslims as an assault on their faith. Many Muslims around the world still perceive America's eight-year-old War on Terror as a veiled assault on Islam.
Although his predecessor George W. Bush fuelled a wave of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world, the sitting U.S. president has said he would not apologize for the Bush administration's policies.
Ilter Turan, a political scientist at the Bilgi University in Istanbul, said: "Six months after Obama's speech in Cairo, the relations between the U.S. and the Muslim countries have not experienced any significant difference. There are some hopeful developments, but the core issues still await solution."
The United States has not yet withdrawn its troops from Iraq, but Obama is elevating U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to about 100,000 troops, by sending in 30,000 more. The U.S. administration has not yet abandoned its Middle East policy biased toward Israel. The Guantanamo Bay prison still remains in operation. The United States still threats to strike the nuclear facilities in Iran.
The issues that Muslims care about are very obvious. First is the Arab-Israeli issue. Second, the wars that the U.S. is conducting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The third is the presence of American forces in the region.
Full report at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-12/31/content_12736236.htm
By Gillian Wong
BEIJING -- The government of a restive Chinese Muslim region rocked recently by ethnic strife said Thursday it has adopted what appeared to be a sweeping law barring the spread of views deemed to threaten national unity.
The far-western, predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang said on its Web site that the vaguely described law on "education for ethnic unity in Xinjiang" was adopted Tuesday at a local legislature session and would take effect in February.
Nearly 200 people died according to official count in violent ethnic riots that erupted in July between the Muslim Uighurs and the ethnic majority Han Chinese in the oil-rich region that abuts Pakistan and Central Asia. China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for greater Uighur rights in Xinjiang, but has presented no direct evidence.
The Uighurs see Xinjiang as their homeland and resent the millions of Han Chinese who have poured into the region in recent decades. A simmering separatist campaign has occasionally boiled over into violence in the past 20 years.
Chinese authorities view the control of information as key to heading off or controlling the spread of unrest. Since the riots in Urumqi, the Chinese government has blocked Twitter and Facebook, scrubbed news sites, unplugged the Internet entirely in some places and slowed it and cell phone service to a crawl in others to stifle reports about the violence. Limited Internet service slowly began to return to the region this week.
The law passed Tuesday bars individuals and organizations from spreading opinions deemed not conducive to national unity and also from gathering, producing and spreading information to that effect.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency cited an official with the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress as saying that anyone who endangers ethnic unity or provokes secession will face prosecution and penalties.
Full report at: dyn/content/article/2009/12/31/AR2009123100337.html
New Delhi: Popular Front of India will launch a two-month long national campaign for reservation for Muslims in coming February and March 2010, with grand public meeting on 31st January in Pune in Maharashtra. A Parliament March will be held in New Delhi to mark the conclusion of the campaign.
A series of public awareness programs through pamphlets, posters, exhibitions and by holding street meetings, vehicle caravans, rallies, seminars and cultural shows will be held in various states as part of the campaign.
The decision to launch the nationwide campaign to demand Muslim reservation was taken recently in the National Executive Council meeting of PFI in Calicut, said K. M. Shareef, General Secretary, PFI. The meeting demanded the central and state governments to take immediate steps for providing reservation to all Muslims in education and government employment in the light of the recommendations of Ranganath Mishra Commission, Shareef said.
The report was tabled in the recently concluded winter session of the Parliament without any action taken statement from the Congress-led UPA Government.
The PFI has called upon all minority and backward class organizations to get united for the implementation of the Mishra Commission recommendations.
The reservation to minorities should be provided without affecting existing reservation quotas enjoyed by tribals, dalits and other backward communities, PFI said and warned against any attempts by communal, upper caste and vested interest outfits to divide the deprived sections.
Meanwhile, the National Executive Council of PFI has also expressed concern over the functioning of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“The National Executive Council meeting observed that the functioning of the recently constituted National Investigation Agency is against the spirit of federalism which guarantees the autonomy and independence of administrative and police machinery of each state,” Shareef said.
Full report at: http://twocircles.net/2009dec30/popular_front_launch_national_campaign_muslim_reservation.html
By E.T. Suarez
With the start of the New Year, Christian and Muslim leaders called Thursday for a high level, informative and educational political campaign to properly guide the people in voting for the best available candidates whether in the national or local levels.
They said a high-level, informative and educational campaign will also be very helpful in preventing political violence from flaring up as politicians will be constrained to explain their respective platforms of government to convince the people to vote for them.
“Thus, the political campaign could be prevented from going down the gutter and enables the people to vote on issues rather than on political demagoguery,” Christian and Muslim leaders said.
The leaders include Rizal reelectionist Governor Jun Ynares III, Reps. Francisco T. Matugas and Guillermo Romarate of the 1st and 2nd Districts, respectively, of Surigao del Norte; Rep. Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza who is running for Senator under the banner of Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), Muslim party-list Rep. Acmad M. Tomawis of Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (ALIF), QC Council Majority Floor Leader Antonio Enrile Inton who is running for QC mayor, Eduardo “Boy” C. Morales of 1-Aangat Ka Pilipino (1-AK) party-list and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who is running for reelection.
They said a peaceful, orderly and credible elections bring out the best in democracy and give substance to the constitutional mandate that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. “Political violence, along with a bloody campaign, weakens rather than strengthens democracy,” Christian and Muslim leaders said as they urged the people to go out and vote on election day.
Thu, 31 Dec 2009
Nigerian Muslim leaders have vehemently dismissed the alleged reports on the al-Qaeda network's terrorist activities inside Nigeria, media reports say.
In an interview with the Abuja-based Daily Trust, a number of Nigerian Muslim leaders argued that the failed attempts of a 23-year-old Nigerian youth to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day is not proof of al-Qaeda's activities in Nigeria.
The announcement came after the al-Qaeda claimed that it was behind the bombing attempt of US airliner on approach to Detroit.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab purportedly was subdued when attempting to light up a "fairly sophisticated" combustible mixture aboard a Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday.
"There is no affiliation between this young Nigerian man and Islamic and religious groups in the country," Muslim scholar Abdulfattah Adeyemi said.
"We can not accuse the Nigerian Muslim groups of cooperation with al-Qaeda in their terrorist acts," he added.
Meanwhile, Friday prayers leader of Abuja University Taofik Abdulazeez warned against any hasty judgment on recent events and connecting the failed terrorist attempt to Nigeria's internal and religious affairs.
The Muslim Supreme Council, the Muslims Federation and other Islamic organization of Nigeria condemned Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's actions vehemently.
US President Barack Obama blamed the US intelligence network and the Homeland Security for failing to identify the Nigerian man, who was already in the US and UK terrorist watch list.
Speculations suggest that Obama's increasing pressure on security officials to pursue terrorist suspects and the media hype behind the event seem to be Washington's effort to justify a move similar to the controversial measure taken by former US president George W. Bush, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and subsequently Iraq in the aftermath of the September 11 attack in 2001.
The current approach lumps Obama and his predecessor as well as the Neo-cons together in continuing their hegemonic policies in the Middle East.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in an attempt to capture the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Not only the US-led war did not remove the terrorist leader, it led to the killing of many civilians, including women and children.
It would appear that the 'Nigerian' case, as we have it, which is non-verifiable and without any shred of legally binding evidence pointing to the Nigerians being in cohorts with the actions of this 'lone operative' is another Afghanistan or Iraq in the making.
Nigeria, however, has plenty of oil and other resources which would provide excellent spoils of war, should the 'war on terror' decide to drop in on them!
December 30, 2009
Madurai: A state-level consultation of Muslim organisations has urged the Government to frame rural employment schemes that would benefit Muslim women also work from their home.
SAAYA, a Network of Voluntary Organisations working among Muslim women, said works implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNRGES) should also help Muslim women, confined to their homes
"Desilting work or digging wells or laying roads did not attract Muslim women," said S Syed Ahmed, Secretary SAAYA.
There were Muslim women in places like Natham or Vathipatti who had no problem mingling with villagers. But there were also villages where Muslim women do not mingle with other people.
He suggested that Muslim Women Aid Society (MWAS) in districts be asked to identify works that could be given to Muslim women.
He also said that credit facilities were not available for Muslim women. Even the Tamil Nadu Minorities Economic Development Corporation was insisting that two government servants provide surety for granting loans. Such conditions should be modified or relaxed, he said and also suggested that the government open more schools in minority areas.
December 31st, 2009
The Islamic Council of Zambia has encouraged the Muslim community and other religious leaders to work with the government of the day in promoting peace and unity in the country.
ZANIS Ndola reports that the Islamic Council of Zambia Deputy Mufti (Chief Priest) Sheikh Isaa Bonomali said this during a one-day Leaders’ workshop aimed at seeking a new beginning among Muslims in Zambia.
The workshop was aimed at based upon mutual interest and respect for all religions.
Sheikh Bonomali said the core interest of all religious leaders and politicians was to ensure that the people they lead had unity and peace.
The deputy chief priest further observed that there was need for religions in the country to work together and not compete since they share common principles of justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of human beings.
He explained that there was a misconception by people that Islam was a violent religion just because of few individuals that were engaging into violent activities.
He explained that Islam was not a violent religion but a peaceful one and that it was not competing with any other religion.
Sheikh Bonomali further said Islam had a proud tradition of tolerance, which was evidenced by Muslims’ participation in interfaith meetings in the country.
He said Muslim community has been participating in candlelight memorial services, which are held in churches on the eve of December 1 every year to commemorate the World AIDS day.
Sheikh Bonomali further praised government for creating providing freedom of worship among different religions in the country.
He further called upon the Muslim community to be good citizens and abide by the laws of the present government.
He said the Islamic Council would not protect any Muslims who will break the law of the land but would instead urge government to take stern action against those found wanting.
DHAKA: Bangladesh’s plans to repatriate 9,000 Myanmar Muslim refugees to their homeland hit trouble on Wednesday when a leader of the minority said they would refuse to leave.
Bangladesh’s top foreign ministry official, Mirajul Quayes, said that neighbouring Myanmar had agreed to take back 9,000 Rohingya refugees in what was seen as a breakthrough in a decade-long problem. Quayes, the foreign secretary, said during talks with Myanmar deputy foreign minister Maung Myint in Dhaka that the military regime had agreed to accept nearly one-third of the officially recognised refugees now in Bangladesh.
Jalal Uddin, who is the secretary of the UN-recognised Kutupalong camp, said Rohingya refugees “are always ready to go back home” but stressed that rights as Myanmar citizens could not be guaranteed. “(But) we don’t have any rights in Myanmar,” he said. “If we go back, the armed forces will use us as bonded labour. “Many will be sent to jail. There are still curbs on practising our religion or movement from one place to another without the army’s permission.” Described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities, some 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh in the early 1990s. But some 230,000 were later taken back by Myanmar following a UN-brokered deal. Since then, thousands of Rohingyas from Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s northern Rakhaine state have streamed across the border every year and are now estimated to number nearly 400,000. But only 28,000 of them have been granted official refugee status and are allowed to stay in two UN-assisted camps in the country’s Cox’s Bazar district just miles across the Myanmar border. afp
By Mumtaz Alam Falahi
30 December 2009
New Delhi: India’s leading Muslim organizations All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind have strongly condemned Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram for equating Jihad with terrorism. His statement reveals his ignorance about Islam or his true mind, leaders of the organizations said.
Delivering 22nd Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture in New Delhi on December 23, Chidambaram had equated Jihad with terrorism and said that the objective of Jihad is war against unbelievers. He had also said that Jihad is a kind of war that emerged after the end of Cold War in 1989. Making an interesting distinction between Crusades and Jihad Chidambaram had termed Crusades as “a conventional war” and Jihad terrorism.
Dr Qasim Rasool Ilyas, Executive Committee Member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, described Chidambaram’s statement as highly deplorable and condemnable.
“A couple of months back he had praised Islam in high terms while addressing the gathering of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind in Deoband and said that terrorism has been wrongly attached with Islam which preaches peace. But now addressing police and intelligence officials he has equated Jihad with terrorism. It is very unfortunate and uncalled for from a person who is holding very important post of Home Minister,” Ilyas said.
Asked if his statement at Jamiat gathering and very contrary one at Intelligence Bureau gathering can be termed as part of balance politics, Ilyas said: No, it is not balance politics. It shows the real intention of the person. It shows that what you said at Jamiat gathering was just to convince the gathering that your were secular or you were just appeasing the community. But when you are addressing people who are actually responsible for law and order in the country you equate Jihad with terrorism. It means here you are giving out your real mind and your impression about Islam. It is unfortunate that Chidambaram who is supposed to be a clean person so far has given so highly objectionable statement.
On Chidambaram’s view that Jihad emerged after the Cold War in 1989, Ilyas said: It is unfortunate that a person like Chidambaram who is well-read person does not know about Jihad. Actually Jihad is a pious war and it is mentioned in the Quran. Jihad is a struggle against evils and evil forces. It starts from oneself and goes to the struggle with weapon. It does not always mean war.
Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri, Ameer, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, has also condemned Chidambaram for his remarks on Jihad. He said Jihad is not terrorism, rather it is part of the teachings of Islam.
Full report at: http://twocircles.net/2009dec30/muslim_law_board_jamaat_islami_condemn_chidambaram_equating_jihad_terrorism.html
(AFP) – December 31, 2009
PATTANI, Thailand — Suspected Islamist militants killed two soldiers and four civilians in drive-by shootings in the latest violence to rock Thailand's insurgency-hit south, police said Thursday.
More than 4,000 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since a separatist rebellion erupted nearly six years ago in Thailand's troubled provinces bordering Malaysia.
Two members of the rangers security force and a Buddhist civilian were killed Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Narathiwat province by suspected insurgents who also took the troops' assault rifles, police said.
Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead a 42-year-old villager as he drove home in neighbouring Pattani province, also on Thursday, said police.
On Wednesday, motorbike-riding attackers killed a 49-year-old assistant to a village chief in Pattani at a local tea shop, police said.
An hour later a district chief aged 45 was shot dead by gunmen in a pick-up truck while he was driving home from a meeting in Pattani. The shooting also injured two villagers.
The current insurgency erupted in January 2004, when militants raided a southern army base, killing four soldiers, and has escalated with a string of attacks ranging from bombings and shootings to burnings and crucifixions.
Tensions had bubbled under the surface in the region with occasional flare-ups since predominantly Buddhist Thailand annexed the former Malay Muslim sultanate in 1902.
The shadowy militants never claim responsibility for their attacks but the violence has also remained confined to the south and is not thought to have links to foreign extremist groups.
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
Qur'an 4:34: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them."
No matter how apologists attempt to spin the beatings as a last resort (as if it would be acceptable then), the bottom line is that Allah says a man can hit the women under his control. These are the consequences of the letter and spirit of the law.
"Report: 77% of Gaza women face violence," by Rachel Kliger for The Media Line, December 29 (thanks to Don):
The vast majority of women in Gaza face violence of varying types, a new survey has found.
The study, by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women's Information and Media Center, found that violence against women in Gaza has increased since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the June 2007 coup and Israel subsequently imposed restrictions on the coastal enclave.
The study found that 77.1% of Gazan women have experienced violence of various sorts, with almost half experiencing violence of more than one type.
A quarter of the women said they do not feel safe in their own homes because of violence and more than a third said they were unable to fight back as they had more urgent priorities to deal with.
7% of the women surveyed said they had encountered verbal violence, 71% mental violence, 52% physical violence and more than 14% sexual violence.
"I think the levels [of violence] are higher than they were in the Gaza Strip in previous years and compared to other countries, the rates are certainly higher," Huda Hamouda, Director of the PWIC told The Media Line. "It's hard to imagine a family living in dignity when seven family members are living on less than three dollars a day."
"Many say they suffer from disrespect and deprecation," Hamouda said. "There's also domestic violence, which is committed by relatives such as the father, the brother or the husband."
Even this, Hamouda tries to pin on Israel. But it wasn't Israel who put verse 4:34 in the Qur'an; there are also similar statistics for domestic abuse elsewhere in the Muslim world. Did Israel do that, too?
By Babar Dogar
Pakistan — Authorities arrested a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who led the group's network in the key central province of Punjab, where violence has been increasing in recent months, police said Thursday.
The arrest strikes a blow as militants have stepped up their efforts to wage attacks far from their sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border in response to a major military offensive there.
Khalil Ullah, whose arrest was announced Thursday, was the mastermind of a market bombing in Punjab's provincial capital, Lahore, on Dec. 7 that killed 49 people, said senior police investigator Chaudhry Shafiq. He declined to say where or when Ullah was arrested.
More than 500 people have been killed in attacks throughout the country since the army launched an anti-Taliban offensive in the South Waziristan tribal area in mid October. The military has secured much of the territory in the area, but operations continue.
Soldiers raided a hospital used by militants in South Waziristan on Thursday, killing five foreign fighters, intelligence officials said. The troops captured 27 militants, 10 of whom were wounded in a gunbattle that broke out during the raid, they said.
It was unclear whether the troops suffered any casualties, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Many militants are believed to have fled South Waziristan to avoid the fighting and have been launching attacks in different areas of the country, including a bombing of a Shiite Muslim procession in the southern city of Karachi on Monday that killed 44 people.
On Wednesday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, a sign the militants may be escalating their war against the state with a rare attack in Pakistan's commercial hub.
Although the teeming city of about 15 million has often been the scene of sectarian, ethnic and political violence, the Pakistani Taliban have rarely claimed responsibility for attacks there. Many analysts believe the group has spared it in the past because its militants used the city as a haven to raise money and to rest.
President Asif Ali Zardari has speculated the motive was to spark sectarian conflict that could complicate the government's battle against the Pakistani Taliban.
Full report at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010643916_apaspakistan.html
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's state prosecutor warned opposition leaders Thursday they could face trial if they do not denounce this week's anti-government protests -- the worst unrest since the aftermath of June's disputed presidential election.
The prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, said the opposition leaders could be accused of supporting people who defy God by protesting against the government last Sunday, when Shiite Muslims observed the sacred day of Ashoura. He said the leaders may face charges of ''supporting apostates,'' or those who go against God. At least eight people died during the protests and hundreds were arrested.
Ejehei's comments, published in state-owned Iran newspaper, deepened the bitter internal strife in Iran.
Also Thursday, a group of government supporters, wearing white funeral shrouds to symbolize a willingness to die in defense of the clerical rulers, staged a rally in southern Tehran and gathered outside the offices of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, state radio reported.
At mass pro-government rallies around the country on Wednesday, some called for the execution of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and another top figure Mahdi Karroubi -- both losing candidates in the disputed June 12 presidential election. The opposition contends the election was rigged and that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.
The orderly and peaceful display of popular support for the government was in sharp contrast to the bloody crackdown by security troops and hard-line militiamen on opposition protests at the height of the unrest over the summer.
Iranian security forces crushed rallies against the government after the summer but they have regained momentum recently.
Full report at: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/31/world/AP-ML-Iran.html
We are inspired by the bravery of Iranians who continue to demand their rights, even in the face of their government's relentless and shameful brutality. Iran's leaders are so desperate to repel a rising tide of popular unrest that even Ashura -- which marks the death of Shiite Islam's holiest martyr -- is no longer sacred.
The anniversary, which fell on Sunday, is supposed to be a time of peaceful commemoration. Even during war, Iranian governments have honored the prohibitions against violence during a two-month period surrounding Ashura. Tehran's current rulers have proved again that their only belief is in their own survival.
On Sunday, the police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, reportedly killing at least 10 people, and arrested hundreds more. ...
The government is trying hard to keep the Iranian people, and the world, from learning the full extent of its abuses. Foreign correspondents largely have been barred from the country. Journalists there risk their lives when they dare to do their jobs. Redha al-Basha, a Syrian journalist with Dubai TV, has been reported missing. He was last seen in the midst of the protests, surrounded by security forces. He must be released unharmed. Thankfully there are still many people -- journalists, bloggers, concerned citizens with cell phone cameras -- who are determined to get the word out. ...
The Iranian people are demanding what all people have a right to demand: basic freedoms, economic security and the knowledge that their government is committed to protecting, not killing its citizens. -- The New York Times
PTI 31 December 2009,
The 23-year-old Nigerian, charged with attempting to destroy a US aircraft on its final approach to Detroit airport, is a sexually frustrated loner who nurtured fantasies about holy war.
British tabloid the Sun claims to have gathered evidence of the twisted mind of the bomber by retrieving 300 of his chilling messages which he posted on an Islamic portal.
In one, he wrote: "I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win insha'Allah (God willing) and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!"
In another, he said: As I get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and I struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities. This problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused".
AP 31 December 2009
SAN'A, YEMEN: Yemeni forces raided an al-Qaida hideout and set off a gunbattle Wednesday as the government vowed to eliminate the group that claimed it was behind the Christmas bombing attempt on a US airliner.
The fighting took place in an al-Qaida stronghold in western Yemen, haven for a group that attacked the US Embassy here in 2008, killing 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians. A government statement said at least one suspected militant was arrested during the clashes.
"The (Interior) Ministry will continue tracking down al-Qaida terrorists and will continue its strikes against the group until it is totally eliminated," deputy interior minister Brig. Gen. Saleh al-Zawari told senior military officials at a meeting in Mareb, another province believed to shelter al-Qaida fighters.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's group, claimed it was behind the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner. Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old passenger, was arrested Friday after he allegedly tried to bring down the Northwest Airlines flight, carrying 289 people.
US investigators said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. Yemen's government has said Abdulmutallab spent two periods in the country, from 2004-2005 and from August to December of this year, just before the attempted attack.
Abdulmutallab's Yemen connection has drawn attention to al-Qaida's growing presence in the impoverished and lawless country, which is located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia.
Wednesday's clashes took place in Hudaydah province, an al-Qaida stronghold along the Red Sea coast. A security official said the target was a house owned by an al-Qaida sympathizer. The official said the owner was arrested, a suspected al-Qaida member was injured and several militants who fled were being pursued. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Before Wednesday's clashes, Yemeni forces backed by US intelligence carried out two major strikes against al-Qaida hideouts this month, reportedly killing more than 60 militants.
The US has increasingly provided intelligence, surveillance and training to Yemeni forces during the past year, and has provided some firepower, according to a senior US defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Yemen received $67 million in training and support under the Pentagon's counterterrorism program last year, second only to some $112 million spent in Pakistan.
He said the program was not a new one. "We are going to work with allies and partners to seek out terrorist activity, al-Qaida, wherever they operate, plan their operations, seek safe harbor," he said. "This is an effort that is years old now."
Finnish police have confirmed they have found the body of a gunman responsible for killing five people in a shooting rampage in the southern city of Espoo.
Investigators said 43-year-old Ibrahim Shkupolli shot dead three men and a woman with a 9mm pistol at a grocery shop inside the Sello shopping centre.
One of the shop's employees, reportedly Mr Shkupolli's ex-girlfriend, was later found dead at a flat in the city.
The incident is Finland's third major shooting in the past two years.
Thursday's bloodshed reportedly broke out at about 1008 local time (0808 GMT) inside the Prisma grocery store, on the second floor.
A witness told Finland's state broadcaster, YLE, that the gunman appeared to have opened fire at random.
The victims were aged 27, 40, 42 and 45, and worked at the shopping centre, police said.
Another witness said chaos had ensued after the shots were heard.
"There were loads of people who were crying, and many vendors who were completely panicked," the witness told Finnish radio.
The gunman was later seen walking towards another shop.
A fifth victim, a Prisma employee identified by YLE as Mr Shkupolli's ex-girlfriend, was later found dead at a flat on the outskirts of Espoo. Investigators said the killing was believed to have had a "domestic" motive, and that there had been a restraining order in place against Mr Shkupolli.
When police then went to Mr Shkupolli's flat, they found his body.
"The four victims in the shopping centre were, in a way, outsiders. It looks like the incident is linked to the fifth victim," Chief Inspector Jukka Kaski told a news conference.
"She seems to have been the gunman's main target and the whole shooting is tied up with the relationship between her and the gunman," he added.
The Sello centre remains cordoned off, and trains are not stopping at the local railway station. Ambulances and police are still outside.
Gun laws tightened
There is a long tradition of hunting in Finland, which has vast areas of forest and wilderness, but until recently gun crime has been rare.
But two deadly shootings in recent years focused attention on gun laws in a country where young people were permitted to own and use a firearm at 15 years of age if they had parental consent.
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8435857.stm
Eight Americans working for the CIA have died in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, the worst against US intelligence officials since 1983.
A bomber wearing an explosive vest entered Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, near Pakistan.
A Taliban spokesman said a member of the group working for the Afghan army had carried out the attack.
It has raised questions about the coalition's ability to protect itself against infiltrators, analysts say.
The bombing was one of at least three deadly incidents across Afghanistan on Thursday. Elsewhere:
* Taliban militants beheaded six men they suspected of being spies for the government in the southern province of Uruzgan, police said
* Four Canadian soldiers and a journalist died in a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar, in the most deadly attack on Canadians in the country for more than two years
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the BBC the Khost bomber was wearing an army uniform when he managed to breach security at the base, detonating his explosives belt in the gym.
Unnamed US officials were quoted as saying that most if not all of the dead Americans were either CIA agents or contractors, although this has not been officially confirmed by either the CIA or the Pentagon.
A further six Americans are reported to have been wounded.
The death-toll was the worst suffered by the CIA since eight officers were killed in a 1983 attack on the US embassy in Beirut.
Reports say the Chapman base is used by provincial reconstruction teams - which include soldiers and civilians - and is protected by some 200 Afghan soldiers.
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8435502.stm
Five Britons kidnapped in Iraq -including Peter Moore who was freed on Wednesday after two-and-a-half years - were held in Iran, it has been claimed.
Mr Moore and his four bodyguards were taken to a camp in Iran within a day of being seized, says the Guardian paper.
Three of the bodyguards were killed; the fourth is also thought to be dead.
However one Iraqi MP whom the Guardian said had been a key negotiator in the crisis has strongly denied Iran had any involvement in the hostage-taking.
The UK Foreign Office said it had seen the "speculation" about Iran's role in the kidnappings.
A spokesman added: "Iran of course has an influence in Iraq, but we have no evidence to substantiate claims of direct involvement in this case."
The BBC's Jim Muir, in Baghdad, said there were many versions of what had happened.
"It's an extremely murky business, we may never know the truth," he said.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said when he asked US General David Petraeus - the US's top military commander in the region - for his view this month, he said he thought "it was 90% certain" the Britons had been held in Iran.
But our correspondent added that this was "not same as saying that this was directed from the top by the Iranian leadership".
The Guardian quoted an unnamed former Revolutionary Guard saying: "It was an Iranian kidnap, led by the Revolutionary Guard, carried out by the al-Quds brigade.
"My contact works for al-Quds. He took part in the planning of the kidnap and he watched the kidnapping as it was taking place. He told me that they spent two days at the Qasser Shiereen camp. They then took them deep inside Iran."
The newspaper also said a serving Iraqi government minister with close links to Iran had told its reporter it was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard operation.
"You don't think for a moment that those militia groups from Sadr City could have carried out a high-level kidnapping like this one," he is quoted as saying.
Full report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8435699.stm
The Yemeni government has vowed to deal with the "menace of al-Qaeda in Yemen" after the group claimed responsibility for a plot to bring down an aircraft bound for the US city of Detroit on Christmas.
Saying his government would not authorise or co-operate with any potential US strike on its soil, Abdullah Alsaidi, Yemen's permanent representative to the United Nations, told Al Jazeera that his country "is capable of taking care of its own problems".
Alsaidi welcomed co-operation with and assistance from the US "with respect to intelligence information", saying it was necessary to Yemen's battle against al-Qaeda.
But he added that "we are not encouraging US attacks, we are saying that Yemen will take care of this problem on its own".
On Wednesday, Yemeni security forces raided an alleged al-Qaeda hideout in a western province, sparking a gun battle with fighters.
A security official speaking on condition of anonymity said the target was a house owned by an al-Qaeda sympathiser.
The official said the owner was arrested, a suspected al-Qaeda member was injured and several fighters who fled were being pursued.
Brigadier-General Saleh al-Zawari, Yemen's deputy interior minister, told senior military officials that the interior ministry "will continue tracking down al-Qaeda terrorists and will continue its strikes against the group until it is totally eliminated".
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian passenger, was arrested last Friday on suspicion of trying to bring down the Northwest Airlines aircraft carrying 289 people.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden's group based in Yemen, claimed it was behind the attempt.
US investigators said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen.
Full report at: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2009/12/2009123101959676292.html
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli police say a teenager has been arrested in connection with the torching of a West Bank mosque earlier this month.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed on Thursday that a minor was being questioned in the attack, believed to have been the work of Jewish extremists.
Rosenfeld says undercover agents arrested the teen at a West Bank junction. He says it was the first arrest since the December 11 blaze, but had no further details.
Authorities suspect Jewish extremists carried out the attack in retaliation for a government-ordered slowdown in West Bank settlement construction.
The attackers burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, leaving Hebrew graffiti on the floor.
By Simon Rocker
The Muslim Council of Britain has protested to Foreign Secretary David Miliband over plans to change the law to prevent the arrest of Israeli politicians visiting Britain.
MCB general secretary Muhammad Abdul Bari wrote of the council’s “deep disappointment” and “grave concern” at the government’s position following former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s cancellation of a visit to Britain last month.
Accusing Mr Miliband of being “manifestly partisan”, he wrote: “You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law.
“This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East.”
Ms Livni pulled out of a JNF conference in London after learning that pro-Palestinian lawyers were about to obtain an arrest warrant from magistrates over alleged war crimes because of her involvement in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza a year ago.
Following furious reaction from Israel and Jewish organisations, Mr Miliband reiterated previous government commitment to change the law, saying that the current threat of arrest hampered diplomatic relations with Israel.
The Jewish Leadership Council sent him a legal submission from Lord Pannick, who recommended that arrest warrants in such cases should be issued only with the prior approval of the Attorney-General.
But Dr Bari wrote: “It is hard to imagine how we could escape the charge of hypocrisy from those all too eager to point out our vacillation on allowing the law to take its course in the case of those suspected of committing war crimes.
“We suggest that to understand the Muslim world better is to be aware of the deeply held view that our approach to states in the region is unequal and that our commitment to the observance of international law is ambivalent. Any change to the current procedures on universal jurisdiction and the right of magistrates to issue a warrant will only reinforce this view, with detrimental consequences.”
Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has tabled an early day motion in Parliament calling for a change in the law, as the current system was “detrimental to Britain’s foreign diplomatic relations”.
The Foreign Office said it would respond “in due course”.
Thu Dec 31, 2009
By Mohammed Abbas
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Little has been done to improve Iraq's impoverished city of Basra, but for one slum dweller, the fact that no more corpses are dumped outside his door means Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gets his vote.
Parliamentary elections are due on March 7, and as the young democracy enacts new laws to settle long-festering disputes over territory and Iraq's vast oil reserves, competition for a seat at the political table is expected to be fierce.
The mainly Shi'ite Muslim city of Basra is considered one barometer of voter sentiment in Iraq whose population is mostly Shi'ite, and a message of security peppered with nationalist appeals propelled Maliki's allies to power there in last January's local polls.
Given that the security situation has remained stable in Basra since then, the same message may work for Maliki again in March, but competitors could steal his thunder by copying elements of his campaign and highlighting the lack of progress in any fields but law and order.
Maliki's Dawa party heads a coalition that will face off against the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), the other main contender for the Shi'ite Arab vote, though both groups include other sects and ethnicities to garner broad nationalist appeal.
Iraq's first elections for a full term parliament were in 2005, two years after U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein, when millions showed ink-stained fingers to show they had voted in the country's first democratic elections in decades.
But after the ensuing years of sectarian bloodshed, widespread corruption and little progress in providing basic services, voter enthusiasm has ebbed and expectations are low.
"We haven't seen any difference ... Only security has improved. We used to have shots fired here all the time, but the killing has stopped. We used to get corpses dumped here," said Kadhim Ali, who lives in a breeze block shack in a Basra slum.
Most of Iraq's massive oil reserves are in the south near Basra, but the city has seen little benefit. Two boys encrusted with dirt crossed over an oil pipeline near the slum carrying sacks of drinks cans they had collected to sell for recycling.
Still, Basra residents say, it could be worse. The city had until last year been run by gangs and militias.
In one of the boldest moves of his leadership, Maliki ordered a military crackdown in March last year, restoring a sense of order to the city and wresting its control from thugs.
"The only tangible benefit is security. It's the most important thing before food, water and petrol, so I think people will vote for Maliki again," said Alaa al-Jalil, a teacher.
Full report at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-45087120091231?sp=true