Friday, September 28, 2007

Charlie Rose interviews Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal

Transcript of the Charlie Rose Show from The International Herald Tribune

Q: You have said that the worst two things you can think about are, one, a nuclear Iran, and, two, an attack on Iran to prevent a nuclear Iran. Both bad options.
Saud al-Faisal: Indeed. And that is why we are at a quandary about this in the Middle East. They've promised that they are not going to build atomic weapons. We hope that it comes true ... because of the threat of conflict with atomic weapons, which is so destructive, but because of the fears that they would fall into the wrong hands, into terrorist hands.

Q: Same thing is true of Pakistan.
Saud al-Faisal: Everywhere. Remember, the original sin was in Israel and not in Pakistan. Once you turn a blind eye to proliferation, then you have let the genie out of the bottle. Everybody will -- you have created the incentive, because everybody is threatened by somebody who owns it. Because the incentive goes to whom? It is either somebody who wants to intimidate, or somebody who has a neighbor that is trying to intimidate him and wants to protect themselves.

Al-Qaeda's Forerunner

by Michael Young from Reason

Yaroslav Trofimov, journalist and author of The Siege of Mecca: "Al-Qaeda is really a global movement born out of a union between Saudi Wahhabi zeal, personified by Osama bin Laden, and the Egyptian jihadist tradition, personified by Ayman al-Zawahiri. These two currents came together in a joint operation for the first time in Mecca in 1979. Though Juhayman himself was a Saudi, the gunmen who followed him into the mosque came from dozens of countries—they even included converted African Americans. Most prominent among these foreigners were the Egyptians. They included personalities such as Mohammed Elias, a religious scholar who was one of the leaders of Egypt's Gamaat Islamiyya (Islamic Groups) and who had taught Islam to men like Zawahiri. There had been Islamic movements before, but this was the first transnational group carrying out an attack in modern times."

`Morality police' detains Ramadan fast-breakers in West Bank

from The Associated Press

New "morality police" has begun detaining Palestinians who eat or drink in public during the fasting month of Ramadan, a first in the West Bank where Muslim custom was always widely observed, but never before imposed. The 12-member squad with special red badges appears to be an attempt by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank government to challenge the claim of rival Hamas, the ruler of Gaza, to a monopoly on religious righteousness. Islamic custom demands that believers fast and refrain from self-indulgence between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan, which this year began Sept. 13. Across the Muslim world, the fast is largely observed, though in some countries compliance is voluntary and in others, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, it's strictly enforced.

Aceh deputy governor upbeat on sharia law

by Nani Afrida from The Jakarta Post

Deputy Governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Muhammad Nazar is upbeat regarding the implementation of sharia law in Aceh, denying it hindered reconstruction efforts and development in the region. "The ratio of Muslim and non-Muslim investors in Aceh is about 50:50. This underlines the fact that Aceh is open to anybody," said Nazar ... Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, chairman of the Agency of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias (BRR), said many heads of government and donor states and international businesspeople questioned the implementation of sharia law in Aceh when the province has been unable to help solve unemployment and poverty ... Rahmad Djailani, an activist from the Aceh People's Party, said "historically, sharia law involved political bribes from the military during Aceh's period of fierce conflict." Student Riqki Salam said Aceh had implemented a politicized sharia law. "Many things have been forcefully applied in the implementation of sharia law in Aceh."

Dentist guilty over Muslim veil row

from Dentistry

Dr Omer Butt was found to have discriminated against the woman, known as Mrs A, and received an admonition following a three-day disciplinary hearing of the General Dental Council in London. The Council’s professional conduct committee ruled that Dr Butt was guilty of telling Mrs A words to the effect that, in order to receive treatment from him, she needed to wear appropriate Islamic dress, and that he had told Mrs A that if she did not wear a Muslim headscarf she would need to register with another dentist. The patient, a non-practising Muslim, said she was ‘humiliated and upset’ after the encounter at the surgery in Bury, Greater Manchester, in April 2005 ... The dentist had denied the charges, but admitted he would ask Muslim women to cover up in accordance with Islamic law before he treated them. The hearing was told the dentist later quoted Islamic Sharia law on appropriate relationships between men and women.

Muslim Women in India Seek Secular Justice

by Aditi Bhaduri from The Pakistan Christian Post

Imrana, a 28-year-old mother of five from the village of Charthawal, was raped by her father-in-law while her husband was absent in June 2005. Even though India is a secular country, Muslim leaders insist on following Sharia, or Islamic law, in such personal affairs as marriage, divorce and inheritance. It was to this system of justice that Imrana first turned. The village council--composed of five male village elders--ruled that her marriage be dissolved because Imrana had become haram (sinful). The Darul ul Uloom Madrasa, an Islamic seminary with an influence among South Asian Muslims, upheld the verdict and issued a fatwa echoing the ruling ... Since Imrana's case became public, women`s groups across the country have organized protests, demonstrations and petitions. Under pressure, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which advocates for greater rights for Muslim women, began distancing itself from the ruling of the Sharia court and the fatwa-issuing Deoband seminary.

Nigeria: I Have No Grouse With Kure

by Aideloje Ojo from Abuja (The Daily Trust)

Q: Do you have interest in implementing Sharia in the state?
Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State: We have no problem with Sharia. I told people that if anybody should be interested in Sharia , I should be the one because I am a grand son of a Sharia Judge and a son of a Sharia Judge. I went to an Arabic school ... But we must not be hypocritical. I think we should be able to look at issues as they are. There are processes. If you have not put a matter in your manifesto, I think you should be bold enough not to run it on the people. So, as far as I am concerned, there is the Sharia commission in Niger state. There is the Liquor Control Commission in Niger State and they are all working. I have not seen the problem of any body saying he has been prevented from doing his work. I have seen people write nonsense because they want to pounce on other people. But I have not seen any body who said as a Sharia person, he has gone to do his work but he was not allowed to. I have not heard of anybody caught drinking alcohol. So what is the problem? Why should I go around shouting about Sharia?

Heidrick & Struggles survey shows Middle East must do more to bridge talent gap

from Maktoob.com

Saudi Arabia and Egypt rank in the bottom five of the Global Talent Index, a new 30-country survey conducted by leading executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles and the Economist Intelligence Unit. Worse still, their position in the table is forecast to remain static over the next five years ... 7 separate measures were used to assess each country: demographics, quality of compulsory education, quality of universities and business schools, quality of the environment to nurture talent, mobility and relative openness of the labour market, trends in foreign direct investment, and propensity to attract talent. The Index shows that it is not the size of the potential talent pool that matters but how it is nurtured. With its young and rapidly growing workforce, this is an important lesson for the Middle East."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saudi Asks Israel to Abandon Barrier as a Gesture to Arabs

by Helene Cooper from The New York Times

Israel should stop work on a security barrier in and along the West Bank and halt settlement activity there as a good-will gesture to assure Arab states that it is serious about comprehensive peace talks, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said yesterday. The minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, stopped short of making his demand a condition for Arab attendance at a planned Middle East peace conference. And he said that in recent days, he had become encouraged about the prospects for the conference, which the United States is to sponsor in November. But he would not promise that Saudi Arabia would attend, a major Israeli objective ... Prince Saud said that for any peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians to work, Hamas must be brought into another national unity government with Fatah. He said that if the international community had accepted the Palestinian national unity government in February, when Saudi Arabia brokered an accord establishing the government, Hamas might have eventually renounced violence against Israel. He called that "water under the bridge now," but added that Saudi Arabia still wanted to establish another national unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

Middle East corruption escalates

by Dylan Bowman from Arabian Business

In its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Transparency International ranked the degree of public sector corruption as perceived by business people and country analysts between zero and 10, with 10 being the least corrupt. The UAE (5.7) and Qatar (6.0) were judged the least corrupt countries in the region, being ranked 32nd and 34th respectively. Transparency International put Saudi Arabia as the most corrupt Gulf country in 79th position on a score of 3.4, while it judged Syria the Middle East nation with the highest level of corruption, giving the country as score of just 2.4 and placing it 138th. The least corrupt countries on the list were New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Sweden. The countries with the highest levels of corruption were Somalia and Myanmar. Transparency International said there is a strong correlation between corruption and poverty.

Christianity Returning to Arabian Gulf

by Jenny Coutinho from Mangalorean

The 100,000 Catholics in Qatar have been for the last 20 years seeking permission to build a church, and in 2006 land on the outskirts of the capital Doha was donated by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The construction of Christian Church was earlier opposed by the Wahabi majority who saw them as an extension of the Holy Land. The church will not have a spire or freestanding cross, like most of the churches here in the Arabian Gulf. Christians are forbidden by the Dhimmi laws to display crosses. The government permits freedom of worship to the Christian but prohibits conversions. Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Arabia under whose region comes countries ranging from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, to Saudi Arabia, is looking after the development of the Qatar Church project. In Saudi Arabia, where the holy city of Mecca is located an estimated million expatiates Catholics can be found.

Anti-al Qaeda base envisioned

by Willis Witter from The Washington Times

"Suppose you have here [in the United States] a base to counter al Qaeda in the war of ideas?" exiled Egyptian cleric Ahmed Subhy Mansour asked during a recent luncheon at The Washington Times. "You could convince a large number — millions of silent Muslims. We can convince them very easily that the real enemy is not the United States. It is not Israel. The real enemy is the dictators in the Muslim world and the culture of the Wahhabis and Muslim Brotherhood," he said, referring to the dominant arbiters of Islamic orthodoxy in Saudi Arabia and Egypt respectively. "Killing people just because they are not Muslims, they have a Hadith for this. To kill a Muslim like me after accusing him to be an 'apostate," they have a Hadith for this. To persecute the Jews, they have a Hadith for this. "All this is garbage. It has nothing to do with Islam. It contradicts more than one-fourth of the Koranic verses," Sheik Mansour said ... in May and June, Egyptian authorities arrested five leaders of his movement, including his brother, on charges of "insulting Islam" and began investigations of 15 others, with the intent, he said, to destroy the entire movement.

Assessing the Six Year Hunt for Osama bin Laden

by Michael Scheuer from Terrorism Focus

Based on the region's history and informed speculation, the northeastern Afghan areas of Konar province and Nuristan and the adjacent Bajaur Agency in Pakistan lend themselves far better to bin Laden's security needs ... The Konar-Nuristan-Bajaur Agency area also has been a region on which Salafi missionaries from Saudi Arabia and other Arabian peninsula states have focused their proselytizing efforts for several decades. Saudi fighters were allowed by the population to train in the region during the war against the USSR, and today it stands as one of the most—and perhaps the most—Salafi area in South Asia. As a Salafi himself, bin Laden would be sure to find the area both welcoming and religiously comfortable. This shared Salafism, moreover, would add another measure of security for bin Laden as his co-religionists are unlikely to cooperate with those seeking his apprehension.

Fight tyranny, Bush says

by William Douglas from McClatchy Newspapers

Bush said the United States was doing its part for human rights by imposing new sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where tens of thousands of demonstrators are currently in the streets protesting. "Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear," Bush said. The president also had sharp words for Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Syria, Zimbabwe and Sudan for having "brutal regimes" that "deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration" of Human Rights." And he noted that the long "cruel" rule of an ailing Fidel Castro in Cuba "is nearing its end." "The Cuban people are ready for their freedom," Bush said. The president, however, omitted any reference to repressive regimes allied with his war on terrorism, including Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China.

Monk if you love freedom

from The Christian Science Monitor

Revered for self-sacrifice, Buddhist monks in Burma are standing up to the guns of a selfish regime. The protests also serve as a reminder of religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy ... Not all religious movements lead to democracy. The ruthlessness of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the social power of the Wahhabi clergy in Saudi Arabia, and the claim to rule by Iran's clerics reveal a type of Islam that imposes religious values by dictate rather than by the kind of mutual respect that breeds democracy. In Iraq, Sunni fears of domination by the majority Shiites have stymied efforts to form a united, democratic government. But any democracy relies on the majority caring enough to have laws that protect minority interests. That way, the minority won't simply opt out of democracy. That's a value straight from the golden rule.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To the extreme

by Joshua Sinai from The Washington Times

The threat radical Islamists pose is not merely terrorist warfare but cultural warfare, as well. What makes their cultural aggression dangerous is that it is directed against Western values as well as mainstream Muslim tendencies. Salafi Islam id their primary religious identity and it is anti-modern and nihilistic ... In Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism, Neil J. Kressel, a professor of psychology at William Paterson University, incisively addresses these issues. What are the characteristics of religious beliefs that lead to extremist militancy and terrorism? According to Mr. Kressel, such beliefs assert that non-believers are destined for eternal damnation, non-believers are hated by God, non-believers must not blaspheme against God, faith should be spread by military means, people cannot freely convert out of their religion, non-believers are not allowed to live in geographical locations controlled by members of the dominant religion, any method is justified if it is used to implement God's will, and God prefers men to women, with women living in a subjugated role

Happy Birthday, Saudi Arabia

by Mona Eltahawy from Middle East Online

The nation of Saudi Arabia is 77 years old -- richer and more internationally prominent than ever. But there are still many rights denied to women ... When my family moved from the UK to Saudi Arabia in 1982, my mother -- a physician who like my father had just earned her Ph.D. from a British university -- said she felt she had been rendered a cripple by her inability to drive in what can only be described as gender apartheid. While wealthier women who can afford to hire drivers can circumvent the driving ban’s restriction on their mobility, no amount of money shields them from the requirement that women produce a male guardian’s permission to do the most basic things, including traveling and receiving medical care. The personal costs of speaking out have always been high. The women who staged the first public challenge to the driving ban in 1990 were denounced as whores in mosque sermons, were banned from working for two years and had their passports temporarily confiscated.

Normalizing Evil

by Phyllis Chesler from Israel Insider

Like Hitler, Amadinejad must be totally defeated and eliminated. We are only talking to ourselves, making ourselves feel "better," superior perhaps, when we "talk" to tyrants using fine words only. We are essentially delaying taking necessary action against Iran whether that action includes arresting and trying Amadinejad as a war criminal; vigorously supporting the millions of Iranians who wish to vote him and the other mullahs out of office; sending black ops into Iran over and over again to do the equivalent of what Israel did on September 6th in Syria; launching an all-out war against Iran, which, together with Saudi Arabia, comprise the largest state sponsors of terrorism in the world.

The coming three-way partition of Iraq

by Charles Krauthammer from The Kankakee Daily Journal

Iraq is being partitioned -- and, like everything else in Iraq today, it is happening from the ground up. 1. The Sunni provinces. The essence of our deal with the Anbar tribes and those in Diyala, Salahuddin and elsewhere is this: You end the insurgency and drive out al-Qaeda and we assist you in arming and policing yourselves. We'd like you to have an official relationship with the Maliki government, but we're not waiting on Baghdad. 2. The Shiite south. This week the British pulled out of Basra, retired to their air base and essentially left the southern Shiites to their own devices -- meaning domination by the Shiite militias now fighting each other for control. 3. The Kurdish north. Kurdistan has been independent in all but name for a decade and a half ... The Iraqi state may be a shell, but it is a necessary one because de jure partition into separate states would invite military intervention by the neighbors -- Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Israel Lobby's Pull Pales Next to Evil Saudi Input

by Youssef Ibrahim from The New York Sun

To be sure, maybe a handful of Saudis have dual citizenship, but a genuine lobby they do not make. But the noise made on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and inside the White House on behalf of the desert kingdom can be deafening ... What gives? The mighty Saudi lobby is made up of concentric circles that emanate from a Saudi Embassy in Washington that acts as a checking account. The dollars flow to Saudi-funded mosques and theological enterprises, to America's academic institutions, which are panting for Saudi dollars, to the American oil and arms industries, and to Arab-Americans in need. Whether those communities of interest have any familial, social, or immigrant ties to Saudi Arabia is totally beside the point. This is how a lobby is built from the top down.

Tension between Sunnis, Shiites emerging in USA

By Cathy Lynn Grossman from USA Today

Shiite mosques and businesses in the Detroit area were vandalized in January, and a Shiite restaurant owner said he'd received a threatening call mentioning his sect. Meanwhile, a small Sunni group known as the Islamic Thinkers Society has gone online to urge its followers to "avoid" contact with a range of Islamic studies scholars and theologians, several at U.S. colleges. Muslim Student Associations on a few campuses, such as Rutgers University and the University of Michigan at Dearborn, have disagreed so vehemently over which sect could lead prayers that students sometimes have refused to pray together ... Muslim sociologist Eboo Patel does note assimilation is happening. "The bulk of the American Muslim community is overwhelmingly young, under age 40. And they are experiencing a huge momentum toward 'big-tent Islam.' " Salim Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is a Shiite who married to a Sunni who calls himself "Sushi." Once a glib nickname for children of intermarried couples, it has become popular shorthand for Muslims who blur sectarian lines.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shariyah Review Bureau wins CBB green light

from the Gulf Daily News

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) yesterday announced it has granted a licence to the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB), a provider of independent services related to Sharia review and compliance. SRB, which will operate under the 'Ancillary Service' licence category, is the first entity of its kind to be licensed by the CBB ... SRB's chairman is well-known Sharia scholar and member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, Dr Mohammed Ali El Gari. Dr El Gari, who is director of the Centre for Research in Islamic Economics at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, also sits on the Sharia supervisory boards of a number of Islamic financial institutions. Other shareholders are prominent bankers from the region ... SRB chief executive Yasir Dahlawi described his firm as a specialised entity, which provides external Sharia review services to Islamic financial institutions. "We aim to provide high quality opinions that are practical and compatible with the principles of the Islamic Sharia," he said.

Saudi-Qatar dispute resolved

from The News

Saudi Arabia and its tiny Gulf neighbour Qatar have reached a settlement to their years-long dispute following a summit, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Monday. Under the deal, Riyadh will send its envoy back to Doha by the end of the year and will allow Qatar-based Al Jazeera television to open an office in the Saudi capital, Al Jarida said, quoting Arab and Qatari sources. In return, Qatar has agreed to a Saudi demand that Al Jazeera stop "undermining" and "campaigning" against the desert kingdom, the daily quoted the sources as saying. Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Doha in 2002 when Al Jazeera aired a debate in which participants strongly criticised the Saudi royal family, and the two neighbours often snipe at each other through their respective media. But in a bid to ease tensions, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani held talks with Saudi King Abdullah in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Saturday during a brief visit.

Yemen Inks Nuclear Power Plants Deal

by Fagr Qassim Ali from The Associated Press

"The energy issue is a very important issue, and it is the main force that drives our developments," said Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujur at a ceremony after the signing of the agreement with Houston-based Powered Corporation. Yemen's plan to build plants to generate 5,000 megawatts of energy follows similar announcements made by other Arab Gulf and Middle East countries to develop peaceful nuclear energy programs. Bahran said the project will also attract foreign investment and bring Yemen closer to meeting the requirements needed for a full membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The association of energy-rich Arab states in the Persian Gulf includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. The GCC as well as Jordan, Egypt and Turkey in recent months have announced that they were interested in developing peaceful nuclear programs.

Saudi Religious Police Attacked by Girls

by Sultan al-Kholaif from Asharq Al-Awsat

Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province Dr. Mohamed bin Marshood al-Marshood, told Asharq Al Awsat that two of the Commission's employees were verbally insulted and attacked by two inappropriately-dressed females, in the old market in Prince Bandar street, an area usually crowded with shoppers during the month of Ramadan. According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to "politely" advice and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing. Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them. The two females were then escorted to the police station where they apologized for the attack, were cautioned and then released.

Dual Loyalties Book Review: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Poilcy

by Leslie H. Gelb from The New York Times

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt's book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, is an extended version of their highly controversial article of a year ago. I believe that the authors are mostly wrong, as well as dangerously misleading, but they are raising fundamental, gut-check issues about American security and who controls policy .... As part of their incomplete picture, they minimize the lobbying influence of the Saudis and the oil companies. The Saudis, along with the Egyptians, have been significant voices in Washington, arguing for a Palestinian state. Moreover, if Mearsheimer and Walt had asked policy participants over the years, they would have been told that the Saudis are the single most potent regional voice in American policy toward the gulf. And Riyadh, at least as much as Jerusalem, has been urging Washington to confront Iran. As for the oil companies, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Iraq war has added tens of billions to their coffers.

Deconstructing Iraq's Sunni armed groups

by Muhammad Abu Rumman from The Daily Star

First, Jihadist Salafism, which is an extension of Al-Qaeda. This bloc consists primarily of the Islamic State of Iraq and is close to Ansar al-Sunna as well. Second, nationalist Salafism, which observers believe toes the Saudi Salafist line and receives material and moral support from abroad. The groups in the Jihad and Reform Front belong to this bloc. Third, the Muslim Brotherhood trend, mainly Hamas-Iraq and the Resistance Islamic Front. Observers believe it is associated with the Islamic Party, which participates in politics within the Iraqi Accord parliamentary bloc. And fourth, the nationalist Islamist trend, including the Jihad and Change Front groups (such as the 1920 Revolution Brigades and Al-Rashideen Army). This bloc is ideologically close to the Brotherhood trend and is considered an extension of the Association of Muslim Scholars, the leading group of Iraqi Sunni clerics. Political and military struggles among armed Sunni factions are likely to persist for some time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saudis free one of nine reformists

from AFP

Saudi Arabia has freed reformist lawyer Issam Basrawi, one of nine advocates of an Islam-based constitutional monarchy held without trial for more than seven months, a fellow activist said on Friday. His release came one week after activists said they had petitioned King Abdullah calling for all nine reformists to be freed. The petition signed by 135 activists urged the king to free the nine men or to ensure that they get a public trial. The interior ministry attributed the arrests in early February to their alleged involvement in terror funding, but the petition said the nine had been mulling the formation of an Islamic political party. Political parties are banned in Saudi Arabia, which has no elected legislature -- only a consultative council appointed by the monarch.

Waltham Forest (UK): 'Books of hate' in our libraries

by Jonathan Bunn from Your Local Guardian

Research by think-tank the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) found works by fundamentalist scholars who call for violence against anyone who does not follow their interpretation of Islam. The report, Hate on the State, claims the borough's libraries stock 70 books by Abu Ala Maududi, the founder of .Jamaat-e-Islami, which it describes as the main Islamist group in Pakistan. The CSC also found 20 books by Dilwar Hussain Sayeedi, one of the leaders of the Bangladeshi branch of Jamaat-e-Islami. The report claims he has compared Hindus to excrement and defended attacks on the minority Ahmadi community by his supporters ... CSC says it found four copies of Islamic Guidelines for Social and Individual Reform by Muhammad bin Jamil Zino, who is described as one of the most virulent Wahhabi clerics.

Terror funds in Dalal Street?

from The Times of India

Intelligence agencies like the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) have alerted the government and the Securities & Exchange Board of India (Sebi) about investments by Khalid bin Mahfouz — a prominent Saudi businessman alleged to have links with Osama bin Laden — in Indian companies through the stock market ... Khalid first came under the scanner following strong suspicion that he was siphoning off money from the National Commercial Bank and transferring it to trusts engaged in funding terror outfits. Khalid was also a director of BCCI International. The cicumstances leading to the shuttering of BCCI, which had allegedly become the conduit for Pakistan’s ISI as well as crime syndicates, had raised suspicion of diversion of funds ... the assessment of intelligence agencies has been backed up by independent investigations by the US which has, post-9/11, moved aggressively to choke the flow of funds to terrorists. An international vigil is on against Saudi-based Islamic charities.

The Campaign for Women's Right to Drive in Saudi Arabia Is Just the Beginning

from Aafaq via MEMRI

Saudi Feminist Wajeha Al-Huweidar: "This League [of Demanders of Women's Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia] emerged from an association that is still in the process of formation, called The Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia ... Among the issues that have been raised, and that are of the utmost importance, are: representation for women in shari'a courts; setting a [minimum] age for girls' marriages; allowing women to take care of their own affairs in government agencies and allowing them to enter government buildings; protecting women from domestic violence, such as physical or verbal violence, or keeping her from studies, work, or marriage, or forcing her to divorce … We need laws to protect women from these aggressions and violations of their rights as human beings.

Nobel laureates to strengthen Saudi science

by Wagdy Sawahel from SciDev.Net

King Saud University (KSU) has launched a Nobel laureates programme to help strengthen the science and technology sector in Saudi Arabia. The eleven Nobel Prize laureates are five scientists from the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry (Gunter Blobel, David Gross, Louis Ignarro, Anthony Leggett and Richard Schrock) as well as six economists, including Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh ... They will also sit on science policy committees, providing advice for setting up sustainable development programmes as well as help to mobilise support for research and development centres and start-up companies in the university.

How not to help 'moderates'

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

Aside from the Siniora government's inherent inability to assert its control over the entire country by defeating Hizbullah and its sponsors, the government's regional supporters have never been interested in a confrontation with Hizbullah or Iran and Syria. Specifically, the Siniora government's primary supporter in the Arab world - the Saudi government - has consistently encouraged it to reach an accommodation with Hizbullah rather than fight it. When the Saudi view is contrasted with the consistent Iranian and Syrian goal of dominating Lebanon through Hizbullah, it is clear that the political victory of the anti-Syrian and Iranian forces in 2005 was insufficient to defeat Hizbullah or free Lebanon from the influence of Syria and Iran. It is, after all, impossible to accommodate an opponent charged with destroying you.

Islam exerts growing influence on Kyrgyz politics

by Tolkun Namatbaeva from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Bishkek-based political analyst Natalya Shadrova said state officials must remember that Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, and should not dabble in religion or woo faith organisations for populist reasons ... Since it became independent in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has seen an explosion in the number of mosques from just 39 to about 2,500. Shadrova is insistent that politicians should not use their public positions to build mosques. Doing this is, she said, tantamount to buying votes ... Alymbekov does not agree that the country faces the threat of a religious revolution. "There's nothing wrong with it if that's what every individual wants, but if it's imposed, there will be conflicts," he said. Bakir-Uluu dismissed such concerns as scaremongering, saying, "There is no need to fear religion or religious people. You should fear those who do not believe, who fear neither God nor the Devil."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why We Should Not Arm Saudi Arabia

by Gamaliel Isaac from American Thinker

Saudi influence leads to immoral and self destructive U.S. policy. In 1994, after a State Department official had the audacity to say at a press conference that the United States had "serious concerns about human rights" in Saudi Arabia, the Clinton Administration apologized to Riyadh. An investigation by journalist Joel Mowbray. revealed that several of the perpetrators of 9/11 would not have been able to enter the country without special U.S. immigration favors toward the Saudis ... The main argument given by the Bush Administration for arming Saudi Arabia is that we need to strengthen Saudi Arabia vis-a-vis Iran because Iran is on the verge of mass producing nuclear weapons. What is ignored in this argument is that the Saudis pose a nuclear threat as well. Saudi money funded Pakistan's nuclear program. Pakistani nuclear technology helped make Iran the nuclear threat it has become, and Saudis, with Pakistani help, are developing their own nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia joins UN atomic agency board

from AFP

Saudi Arabia and other US allies were among 11 countries named to the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors on Thursday. This could make things easier for the United States on the IAEA board, which rules on Iranian compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), diplomats said. The United States is worried the deal could help Iran avoid new UN Security Council sanctions for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a process that makes nuclear power reactor fuel but also atom bomb material. Its members are Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russian, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States.

Saudi prince plays down pledge to create political party

from The Daily Star

Media reports suggested that Prince Talal bin Abdel-Aziz's plan to form a political party was not well received inside the family and that it may have been triggered by a fight he had with his brothers over certain privileges. It was not clear whether Thursday's statement came as a result of pressure from Talal's powerful brothers. The prince said he issued it to respond to queries he received from the media and Arab citizens ... In his statement, Talal stressed that his sense of belonging to his family is so deep that "if anyone sprinkles the family with water, I will strike him with fire." The prince said he brought up the issue of political parties "for the sake of discussion only, and we have conditioned it on the king's approval. If he rejects it, we will obey," said Talal. Talal has called for reforms in the past, including the election of an assembly to enact legislation, question officials and protect public wealth. He has also called on the kingdom's powerful Wahhabi religious establishment to make changes, including on women's rights ... Talal is believed to be closer to King Abdullah than the rest of his brothers.

U.S. loses ground as Afghanistan erodes

by James Rupert from Newsday

The government and its foreign backers have failed to establish schools, clinics, police forces and other services to meet even basic needs of people scattered in Nuristan's roughly 300 mountain villages ... While the government operates almost no schools in Nuristan, the Saudi-based World Muslim League and other Arab religious foundations pay salaries for hundreds of mullahs, missionaries and madrassa teachers, said Abdulhai Warshan, a Nuristani journalist for the Afghan service of Voice of America radio. This Islamist network has been rooting itself in every district of Nuristan since the 1980s, when Arabs (and the U.S. government) helped fund the Afghan guerrilla war. With Nuristanis increasingly eager to educate their children, and without government schools, "the Arab madrassas have offered free religious teaching" according to the Saudis' fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine, Warshan said. For a quarter-century, "it has been the only way ordinary people could educate their sons, and now Wahhabism and extremism have penetrated our area."

Reading Islam's holy book

by Eric Walberg from Al-Ahram Weekly

In 1989, Saudi Arabia's Ar-Rajhi banking company financed the US-based Amana Corporation's project to revise the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation to reflect an interpretation more in line with Wahhabi thought. Ar-Rahji offered the resulting version free to mosques, schools, and libraries throughout the world. The footnoted commentary about Jews raised hackles in Zionist circles, and in April 2002 the Los Angeles school district banned its use at local schools; however, Yusuf Ali's translation has not suffered and is still #8321 at Amazon. In Pakistan, India and Indonesia, where copyright laws are ignored and cheap editions are snapped up by the huge English-reading Muslim population...

...Muhammad Taqiyuddin Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan published their Explanatory English Translation of the Holy Quran in Chicago in 1977. Now the most widely disseminated Quran in Islamic bookstores and Sunni mosques throughout the English-speaking world, again with Saudi backing (approved by both the University of Medina and the Saudi Dar al-Ifta), this new translation is meant to replace the Abdullah Yusuf Ali edition. In the Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2005), Mohammed Khaleel dismisses the commentaries of Ibn Kathir and Al-Bukhari as being "medievalists who knew nothing of modern concepts of pluralism", and also blasts Hilali's translation as "a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic."

Web Chat to Give Insight About American Muslims

by Sarah Abdullah from Arab News

The web chat will feature Seema Matin, a public diplomacy officer for the US Department of State. Matin will discuss what life is like in America for Muslim women, who choose to wear the hijab, and how she and others are marking the festive season. Matin’s focus as a public diplomacy officer is on Muslim outreach efforts. Currently working for Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, Matin has been recognized for her contributions to one of Hughes’ “War of Ideas” initiatives, which focuses on countering ideological support for terrorism.

Tirana on the Mississippi

by Christopher Orlet from The American Spectator

Albania is Europe's only predominately Muslim country, with a population that is about 50% Sunni Muslim and 20% Bektashi (a tolerant, alcohol-guzzling Sufi sect) ... There is a line from a poem by Pashko Vasa (1825-1892) that has become something of a modern proverb: "Churches and mosques you shall not heed / The religion of Albanians is Albanism," or as one Albanian-American put it to me, "Religion and Albania do not belong in the same sentence." Unlike peoples elsewhere Albanians see themselves as Albanians first and Muslim or Christian a distant second. Hopefully this will not change, but as one young Albanian wrote me, the formerly sleepy villages and towns of Albania are today crowded with Christian revivalists and Wahhabi recruiters flush with cash and a sincere hope of reviving their brand of jihad. So far radical Islam has met with little success. Apparently some religious leaders will not be satisfied until Albania is a rat's nest of sectarian discord. Here at the Arber no one is throwing his money around, and perhaps because of this every one gets along fine. Besides its fine cuisine, Albania has a great deal to offer the rest of the world.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

GCC Against Iran Sanctions: Attiyah

by P.K. Abdul Ghafour from Arab News

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council yesterday reiterated its stance on reaching a negotiated settlement to the standoff between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program and opposed plans to impose sanctions on Tehran. “GCC states don’t want to see any brotherly or friendly country subjected to sanctions,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the group, in reference to Iran. “The GCC wants a peaceful dialogue to resolve all the problems liable to affect international security and stability.” He said the GCC was studying prospects of signing a free-trade agreement with Iran. “The last foreign ministers’ meeting in Riyadh asked a committee comprising economy and trade ministers to discuss the Iranian proposal on setting up a free-trade zone,” he added.

The Right of Women to Watch Sports Events

by Abeer Mishkhas from Arab News

In a situation truly the first of its kind, a 12-year-old girl managed to disrupt a football match in Al-Ahsa several days ago. The unprecedented presence of the alien “girl” was enough to trigger a long debate between the referees and the security guards concerning what should be done about the invader. After 36 minutes of discussions, the security guards asked the girl to leave the stadium ... It is a simple incident but it sheds light on an issue that has become one of the main concerns of Saudi society. I am speaking about a woman’s right to have a full normal life, one in which she is allowed to play sports and enjoy them. This is a very sore point for many women who would enjoy participating in sports but are prevented from doing so unless they go to private clubs — and even there the range is limited. This also brings us back to the illogical and twisted reasoning that has placed a ban on sports and physical education in girls’ schools.

Saudi rights activists demand recognition

by Lynne Roberts from Arabian Business

Saudi rights activists have urged the government to approve a human rights society set up four years ago ... Groups, including human rights watchdogs, should be allowed to operate "outside the control of government institutions," the statement said. The Shura Council has been looking into draft legislation which would grant the group, which advocates an Islam-based constitutional monarchy, recognition for over a year, it claimed. Two founders of the group were detained in Februrary along with seven other activists on suspicion of involvement in terror funding, and have since been held without trial. Appeals for their release have grown, with activists petitioning King Abdullah to intervene.

Saudi households turn to Nepalese domestic help

by Mariam Al Hakeem from Gulf News

The country has decided to recruit housemaids from Nepal following long delays and difficulties in getting housemaids from Indonesia and the Philippines ... The Indonesian and Philippines authorities, in a move to improve conditions of housemaids from these countries working in the kingdom, asked among other conditions, an increase in monthly salary of housemaids. The Philippines government has put tough recruitment conditions, including doubling of the monthly salary for every housemaid to 1,500 riyals (about Dh1,469) ... The chairman of the national recruitment committee at the Council of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CSCCI), Sa'ad Al Baddah, expects between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese housemaids to arrive in Saudi Arabia every month.

Algiers Concerned over Extremists’ 'Abuse' of Mosques

from The Media Line

The local media reported that extremists recently caused a commotion in a mosque in Skikda, in eastern Algeria, when they prevented an imam, a Muslim religious leader, from leading the prayers. The assailants, a group of Salafi youth, appointed one of their own to lead the prayers, the London-based Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi reported ... Another report in Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi quoted the mother of a youth, who carried out a suicide bombing in Algeria on September 8. She believed the bomber was provoked by radical Islamist ideas disseminated at Labroufal mosque in the capital, and she blamed the mosque’s imam for her son’s actions. The imam is known for his hard-line sermons, which often call on listeners to fight in Iraq and drive out the Americans, the paper reported. The mosque is also thought to be a recruitment point for young Algerian youth who wish to fight in Iraq.

Fears of dollar collapse as Saudis take fright

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph

"This is a very dangerous situation for the dollar," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas. "Saudi Arabia has $800bn (£400bn) in their future generation fund, and the entire region has $3,500bn under management. They face an inflationary threat and do not want to import an interest rate policy set for the recessionary conditions in the United States," he said ... As a close ally of the US, Riyadh has so far tried to stick to the peg, but the link is now destabilising its own economy. The Fed's dramatic half point cut to 4.75% yesterday has already caused a plunge in the world dollar index to a fifteen year low, touching with weakest level ever against the mighty euro at just under $1.40. There is now a growing danger that global investors will start to shun the US bond markets ... For Saudi Arabia, the dollar peg has clearly become a liability. Inflation has risen to 4% and the M3 broad money supply is surging at 22%. The pressures are even worse in other parts of the Gulf. The United Arab Emirates now faces inflation of 9.3%, a 20-year high. In Qatar it has reached 13%.

Call To Follow Muslim Way Of Business

by Hadthiah PD Hazair from The Brunei Times

Speaking to The Brunei Times, an officer at the Sultan Sharif Ali Mosque in Kampung Sengkurong urged business owners not to neglect the compulsory daily prayers ... Business operators should not be afraid to lose 10 minutes of their time to be close to Allah, the officer said. Shop owners as well as market vendors in Brunei should perhaps follow business norms in Saudi Arabia where shops close for less than an hour to give both business owners and employees alike to perform the obligatory solat ... The charging of interest is central to businesses in Western nations, but this is forbidden under Syariah law. Business owners must refrain from charging interest especially when managing instalment purchases, the officer said. Islam considers its ummah who conduct business in accordance to the sanctity of its regulations as jihads.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

“U.S. Relations with Saudi Arabia: Oil, Anxiety, and Ambivalence”

from the Project on Middle East Democracy

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) questioned if Saudi Arabia is really an ally in the War on Terror, and he credited the Bush Administration for encouraging some reforms in Saudi Arabia. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) expressed concern about the funding for terrorism and the high number of terrorists that have come out of Saudi Arabia ... In his testimony, Mr. Lee S. Wolosky (Partner, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP) pointed out that Saudi Arabia has not made [enough] significant and necessary changes, and that Saudi Arabia continues to export Wahabism that furthers Islamic extremism. Rep. Rohrabacher argued that there needs to be significant changes in Saudi Arabia before any arms deal. He also asked if the US should take action against Saudi Arabia if we have evidence that the regime is “turning a blind eye.” on terrorist activities in the kingdom.

Cultural Relations

from the Saudi Gazette via Crossroads Arabia

Counselor Dr. Eissa Bin Abdullah Al-Eissa denied having rejected the application of a number of female students to travel with their uncles or one of their relatives. Al-Eissa said so long as the requirements have been met, any rejection by the ministry would be unwarranted. …A number of female students, however, are worried that the kinship documents requirement might prevent them from taking advantage of the scholarship opportunities. The father’s death or his inability to travel with her daughter has become a big problem, one student said. “I was denied a student visa by the US Embassy because it’s my brother who’s coming with me,” she said. “I lost the opportunity.”

Counting Jihadis

Walid Phares interviewed by Hugh Hewitt from Townhall.com

Hugh Hewitt: Now I’m really baiting the hook for the longer conversation after I’ve absorbed your new book, The War Of Ideas. But is it possible to turn the Salafist edge back on itself? Is it possible to win that war of ideas? Or just do we have to wait and watch it run its very destructive and horrible course?
Walid Phares: No, absolutely, we can begin the war or ideas. At this…we have not. And then we can, with time, turn the tide and win it. But we have not even began the real steps such as discussing it openly in Congress, have the right legislation for it, and have huge funding that is going in all directions, but not in the right directions, that is to fund the NGO’s, women’s movements, students movements, and all the intellectuals who in the Arab and Muslim world, including in the Diaspora, are completely anti-Salafist, pro-democracy. We have not begun to talk to them.

The Royal Treatment: Saudi Involvement in Iraq Overlooked

by Dahr Jamail from Foreign Policy In Focus

Sureya Sayadi, a 46-year-old Kurdish American woman who in California, fled Kirkuk after the 1991 war with her family. Now she works with an international NGO that assists Kurdish orphans and victims of honor killings. "Islamists, from Saudi Arabia, are offering money to young Kurds, visiting their schools, marrying Kurdish girls and taking them back to the kingdom." Sayadi tells me, "Kurds have always been quite secular, none of us practiced the hijab but now Kurdish women are being forced to do this. There is segregation of men and women. People in sheer desperation and hope for aid are turning more fundamentalist ... Kurdish girls assisted by Sayadi's NGO have revealed that Saudi Islamists are pressuring Kurdish women to adopt a fundamentalist ideology in exchange for free religious studies in Kurdish universities.

How Mecca Uprising Helped Give Birth to al Qaeda

by Yaroslav Trofimov from his new book from The Siege of Mecca

In the late 1970s, hundreds of black radicals -- including some former Black Panthers -- flocked to Saudi-funded Islamic academies in the U.S., and in the kingdom itself. A handful followed Juhayman al Uteybi into the Grand Mosque in November 1979, putting to use the skills of urban guerrilla warfare that they had learned at home ... The American Embassy became aware of such participation in the Mecca uprising by at least two African-American converts only on Dec. 8, 1979, four days after Saudi security forces finally overran the sacred compound. This embarrassing information had been kept under wraps by the American and Saudi governments alike.

Forging a Common Front Against the Totalitarian Mind: A Case Study in Religious Demonization

by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane from The American Muslim

The demonic hatred among the extremists bred inevitably by the heresy known as Wahhabism. This is officially promoted in the world’s most unjust and un-Islamic society, known as Saudi Arabia. The present Saudi leader, Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, is struggling mightily to overcome this bizarre culture in the symbolic heartland of Islam. He can succeed, however, only if he is supported by the world body of Muslims, the umma, including Muslims in America. American Muslims will be the principal victims of failure to unite in boldly and firmly exposing the heretical nature of the Wahhabi declaration of war against every human right and against even the very concept of human dignity. American Muslims must overcome their defensive stance of “Don’t blame me” and join the critics of Muslim extremism in condemning religious totalitarianism and working to root it out from mosques and Islamic schools.

Low chance of success

by Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom (ret) from the Institute for National Security Studies, Israel

Saudi Arabia – which helped formulate the Arab peace initiative – has thus far avoided any commitment to participate in the the November meeting/conference. Saudi Arabia shuns any direct, public contact with Israel and leaves that “dirty work” to Egypt and Jordan, states that already have peace treaties with Israel, so Saudi participation in the meeting would constitute a deviation from this policy and show readiness to take a more visible role. Given the difficulties in reaching pre-meeting agreement and the problematic question of the attendees, it is not surprising that both Israel and the United States are now trying to lower expectations.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Southern German Towns Become Hub of Jihadism

by Roland Ströbele from World Politics Review

The 28-year-old Fritz Gelowicz is supposed even to have been the ringleader of the group, which is accused of planning bomb attacks on the Frankfurt Airport and the U.S. military base in Ramstein ... Fritz had often met with the Egyptian Dr. Yehia Yousif in his townhouse in the Neu-Ulm neighborhood of Ludwigsfeld. During a raid on the house, the police discovered materials that could be used for making bombs. Shortly before the Multi-Kultur-Haus was shut down, Dr. Yousif went into hiding. The police suspect that he is currently in Saudi Arabia. His son, Omar, was found to be in possession of handwritten instructions on how to ambush a military convoy. He claimed to have copied them from the Internet. Investigators, however, believe Omar Yousif received combat training in a Palestinian camp ... Over the years, a large number of religious fanatics and other "key and conspicuous persons" in the Islamist scene have settled in the area of Ulm/Neu-Ulm, where, from the banks of the Danube, they have continued to play a leading role in the international terrorist network.

Africa's rebels take to tranquil Eritrea capital

by Jack Kimball from Reuters

From Sudan to Somalia, insurgents have descended on tranquil Asmara, some looking to overthrow governments, some looking for change, but all seeing Eritrea as a home-from-home. The Red Sea state seems to be saying it's rebel-friendly, willing to take on world powers like the United States for having policies which Eritrea says are anathema to the region. Eritrea's own rebels-turned-rulers have long, historic ties with many groups around Africa. Most Eritrean fighters travelled on Somali passports during their independence struggle, and many refugees took shelter in neighbouring Sudan. But some in the West, including Washington which is threatening to put Asmara on its terrorism list, accuse Eritrea of not just hosting but also arming groups and thus destabilising one of the world's most fragile regions. In more than a decade following independence, analysts say that Eritrea has tried to assert itself as a major regional power, getting involved in conflicts in such faraway places as eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Somalia: president Yusuf signs treaty with traditional elders

from the Shabelle Media Network Somalia

The top leaders of Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) signed treaty with some of the delegates of the recently wrap up national reconciliation conference in Mogadishu. The agreement took place in the palace of king Abdalla the son of Abdi Aziz ... President Yusuf requested for a combination of Arabs and African troops to be deployed in Somalia to replace the current foreign forces on the ground. The Saudi news agency said the UN will manage the requested forces by president Yusuf ... The Saudi king emphasized that his government is very ready to support the TFG if unity among the opposing parties is reached.

Afghanistan is a "litmus test" for NATO: Gates

from AFP

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates appeared to be alluding to the contradiction in US policy between a stated aim of promoting democracy in the Middle East and its support for monarchies and authoritarian regimes. Faced with what it sees as a looming threat from Iran, the United States has shifted in recent months to strengthening military and security ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states. In Iraq, the US military is attempting to forge a separate peace with former Sunni insurgents over the resistance of a Shiite-dominated government that came to power in US-backed elections. "We must be realists and recognise that the institutions that underpin an enduring free society can only take root over time," Gates said.

Ericsson takes down flags in Iraq

from The Local, Sweden

Telecoms giant Ericsson has taken steps to reduce its visibility in the Middle East following Saturday's threat by al-Qaeda in Iraq to target major Swedish companies if Sweden does not apologize for the publication in several newspapers of a caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In a statement calling for the liquidation of cartoonist Lars Vilks and newspaper editor Ulf Johansson, the groups purported leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi also specified a number of Swedish firms as potential targets. "We know how to force you to apologize. If you do not, expect us to strike the businesses of your major firms like Ericsson, Scania, Volvo, IKEA and Electrolux."

Six Years after September 11: A 9-11 Commission Progress Report

by Michael Hurley and Chris Kojm from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Hurley: Since September 11, al-Qaeda has changed considerably. Control is now decentralized, but the group's core is resilient. It is able to recruit many new members every year, especially through the estimated 5,500 websites worldwide urging violent jihad. Al-Qaeda has transformed both its organization and its membership by recruiting more women and members of the educated elite (e.g., doctors). This means that the West no longer has a workable profile of an al-Qaeda operative. The United States is not adapting quickly enough to react to al-Qaeda's changing face. For example, the bulk of the U.S. defense budget goes to items such as aircraft carriers, which are not tactically useful in the war on terror. The United States should spend more on intelligence and programs that are aimed at reducing radicalization in the Middle East.

Saudi Religious Police Embrace Bluetooth Technology

by Turki Al-Saheil from Asharq Al-Awsat

Test launch of the "Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth" at one of the Riyadh's large shopping centers aims to send a number of awareness messages to youths visiting the shopping center from both genders. Dr Abdullah al-Shithri, head of the Riyadh Branch, said, "We are not against Bluetooth technology. Rather, we are against the misuse of any kind of technology ... Since the introduction of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in 2004, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made several attempts to curb what it considers "the negative and immoral utilization of Bluetooth technology in violation of the Islamic Shariaa." However, these attempts have failed in preventing the technology from finding its way into the hands of Saudi Arabia youths ... A study conducted in the Al-Qasim region (northeast of Riyadh) reveals that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has intercepted 500 Bluetooth messages. The study adds that 90% of these messages were sexual in nature.

Teaching Terror

by Nina Shea from National Review

Saudi officials continue to aver that the educational curriculum has been reformed, just as they have ever since 9/11. In what has become an annual ritual, the State Department takes Saudi avowals on faith, giving assurances of Saudi educational reform, though (in spite of many requests to do so) it has not yet, independently and comprehensively, reviewed the educational texts. And, of course, this year is no different. On September 14, the State Department's religious-freedom ambassador stated: "[I]n the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah called for increased religious tolerance, and the government took steps to remove intolerant references toward other religious groups from educational materials." While the State Department's assessment is possibly technically accurate, the Saudi state curriculum continues to require a complete overhaul. It does not help Saudi reformers - or American security - to gloss over this fact.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Foreign Policy Failure

by R Hampton from Wahaudi

I'm compelled to introduce today's first story with a brief accounting of the US State Department's negligent handling of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:
2003 - U.S. official: Saudi repression not 'severe'
2004 - U.S. State Department finally adds Saudi Arabia to list of religious liberty violators
2005 - US Delays Decision on Religion Sanctions on Saudi Arabia
2006 - State Department softens language on Saudi religious freedom
and now...

US Religion Report Faults Iraq, China But Commends Vietnam and Saudi Arabia

by David Gollust fromVOA News

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford said the past year saw progress against religion-based discrimination in a diverse list of countries including Saudi Arabia ... The U.S. envoy said the Saudi Arabian government, which officially recognizes only the Wahabi branch of Sunni Islam, has undertaken to curb incitement against other faiths and allows at least private observances of non-sanctioned religions ... Eight countries - China, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan - were designated as "Countries of Particular Concern" by Secretary Rice late last year. A revised list is expected to be issued in November based on the new report. The delay is intended to give countries facing the designation and possible U.S. sanctions an opportunity to undertake reforms.

Annotate This... President Bush's Sept 13 Speech to the Nation on Iraq

by Stephen Zunes and Erik Leaver from Foreign Policy In Focus

President Bush: "If we were to be driven out of Iraq…Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply."

Zunes and Leaver: Sunni extremists -- in the form of the Wahhabi-dominated kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- already control a key part of the global energy supply with little objections from the Bush administration, which sells billions of dollars of armaments and security assistance annually to that misogynist family dictatorship. And, in case less-acceptable extremists should end up in control of Iraq, the international community could simply refuse to buy the oil, as was done during part of Saddam Hussein's reign, without a serious negative impact on global markets.

Osamanomics and the greens

by Chan Akya from The Asia Times

There are economic reasons for Osama and his ilk to support the campaign against liberal capitalism, too. In another article, I wrote the following: Secular societies "work" because underlying economic organization allows them - indeed forces them - to separate religion from state. It is here that radical Islam fails to make the case. When removed from its agrarian or military origins and plonked into the modern world requiring frequent interactions with other communities, competitive industries and innovative thinking, it is secular countries that outrun their unilateralist counterparts. The difference between the economic performance of South Asian states highlights this view, and emphatically so. As an example, Wahhabi notions of restricting the economic participation of women simply do not work in resource-poor states.

Muslim world's hope - and ours - in culture war

by Mona Charen from Creators Syndicate

Gus Dur has asked members of his group to protect Christian churches from Islamist attacks, and they have done so, at the risk of their lives. He and LibforAll co-founder C. Holland Taylor, an American former telecom entrepreneur who speaks fluent Indonesian and is very familiar with Islam, have launched what they hope will be a worldwide effort to counter radical Islam by enlisting moderate Muslims ... Taylor believes passionately that we can affect the internal war now being waged for the soul of Islam. Admittedly, the extremists have a big head start. The Saudis have spent roughly $70 billion over the past 30 years to propagate their Wahhabi form of Islam (Question: What do you call an imam in a Mercedes? Answer: a Wahhabi.) And the threat the jihadists pose is dire for the Muslim world and for the West. On the other hand, of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, 85 to 90 percent are traditional, non-radical believers.

Third time unlucky

by Dyab Abou Jahjah from Al-Ahram Weekly

The war of July/August 2006 was a direct attempt to disarm Hizbullah by military force and we all know how that ended. Another attempt was the introduction into Lebanon of Sunni Salafi jihadis who were supposed to clash with the Shia Hizbullah, dragging it into a sectarian civil war and away from its role of facing Israel and weakening it militarily, but also making it lose its wider Arab credentials ... But the plans of the American and some Arab secret services to create a clash between Sunni jihadis and Hizbullah also did not go as desired. The group known as Fatah Al-Islam (FAI) started pursuing its own agenda instead of complying with that of their financers. It developed its own version of Al-Qaeda and had the illusion of creating an Islamic mini-state in the north of Lebanon where the Salafi movement is widely represented ... Many voices are demanding a full investigation to know the reality of what happened and who was involved in financing and supporting Fatah Al-Islam.

RAND on Saudi Arabia and ‘Ungoverned Territories’

by John F Burgess from Crossroads Arabia and RAND

The linked report (a 398-page PDF document) is comprehensive. Unfortunately, the section on the Arabian Peninsula is based on research conducted in 2005. I find that the two-year gap between then and now is an important one that should be filled ASAP. It misses both attacks and countermeasures, thus presenting an incomplete picture.

(from the report) The Saudis responded to the ideological challenge of Khomeinism by seeking to bolster their religious legitimacy. They tightened religious observances at home and, of greater consequence, stepped up the propagation of the official Wahhabi ideology abroad. The Saudi effort to co-opt extremists has not prevented, and may have accelerated, the rise of a neo-Salafi jihadist movement, a more virulent brand of extremists seeking to overthrow “apostate” regimes in the region that currently constitutes the most serious threat to stability on the peninsula.

Austria's 'Jihad by Telecommute'

by Yassin Musharbash from Spiegel Online

All three of the arrested are Muslims and Austrian citizens, though not converts, and all were unemployed. They are second-generation immigrants from the Arab world. They are accused of having been involved in the production of a video published on the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), homepage on March 11 that showed a disguised Arabic-speaking spokesperson threatening attacks in Germany and Austria if those countries did not withdraw their soldiers from Afghanistan ... Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna's Jewish community, warned on Wednesday that the number of al-Qaida sympathizers in Austria has seen "massive growth" in recent months. A planned mosque in the state of Carinthia may be blocked if far-right politician Jörg Haider, the state's governor, is successful in his attempt to get the permits revoked by changing building laws, claiming that the mosque would disturb the "image of the place" and that "Western culture must be protected."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Prison Library Purge

by Michael Gerson from The Washington Post

The immediate effect of the new policy has been to decimate prison libraries collected over decades. A policy directed at jihadist literature has, for example, resulted in the removal of three-quarters of the Jewish books at the Otisville Prison in New York ... Few would dispute that prison security and the prevention of terrorism are compelling state interests. Convicted terrorists such as Richard Reid and Jose Padilla seem to have been radicalized while doing time for previous offenses. Subversive Wahhabi literature in American prisons is a threat as real as a smuggled knife ... By all means, the Bureau of Prisons should weed out hate-filled literature in prisons. But it needs to remember that the enemy is radicalism, not religion.

The General in Our Labyrinth

by Michael Young from Reason

Arab nationalism, instead of uniting Arabs in a single state, mainly dissolved into brutal authoritarianism and factionalism, with the Syrian and Iraqi branches of the Baath Party having fought most bitterly against each other between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Similarly, the Saudi ambition of spreading Wahhabism through the funding of mosques and educational institutions backfired, so that the most dangerous threats to the monarchy today are the violent Islamist groups it fostered and sustained for so long ... The Bush administration has abandoned the democratization goal, showing perhaps that it never seriously cared about it in the first place. But that shouldn't undermine a deeper truth. The only grand project that can ever really work in the Middle East is democratization, because only democracy won't leave behind bitter losers. But the Arab world may yet be a long way away from that enlightened step, despite what the optimists—present company included—believe. That Petraeus never mentioned democracy shows that he's integrating into the region.

Visions of Osama bin Laden

From The Economist

British intelligence agencies, which once thought that al-Qaeda had been so broken up that little was left but its brand name, have also revised their view. Most of the actual or attempted attacks in Britain appear to have direct links back to al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Other European governments are alarmed by the rebranding of Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French initials GSPC) as al-Qaeda's branch in the Maghreb. It has so far concentrated on attacking symbols of the Algerian state and foreign workers. If it exploits links to the large North African diaspora in Europe, targets there may be next. Al-Qaeda's ideology, if not the movement itself, has become more globalised ... Much of al-Qaeda's propaganda, as well as its military training manuals, are spread through a large network of jihadist websites. Muslims anywhere can become radicalised and join the fight, with little or no involvement from al-Qaeda's leaders.

Inspired by the Nazis

by Suzanne Fields for The Washington Times

A major figure connecting Nazi and Islamist ideologies was Amin al-Husseini, a self-styled "grand mufti" of Jerusalem who fomented riots against the Jews in the 1920s and ordered the murder of any Muslim who traded with Jewish settlers. Adolf Eichmann visited him in Palestine in the 1930s; he was a friend of Heinrich Himmler. He was a guest of Hitler in Berlin from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945 and directed the Muslim SS in the Balkans. He was responsible for stopping the Bulgarian government from releasing thousands of Bulgarian Jewish children to travel to Palestine. "It was he," says historian Paul Johnson, "who first recruited Wahabi fanatics from Saudi Arabia, transforming them into killers of Jews — another tradition that continues to this day." What's important about the Nazi-Islamist connection is the way it inspires terrorists today. It's fashionable to say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, but that's misleading. In its charter, the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, which has morphed into the terrorist organization Hamas, enshrines conspiracy theories which blame the Jews for everything from the French Revolution to the Communist revolution.

Laugh till you protest: how satire is at the forefront of TV revolution

by Declan Walsh from The Guardian

This year's events have sorely tested the limits of Gen Musharraf's liberalism. Faced with a barrage of criticism, he tried clumsy press control measures, but it was too late ... Now the government exerts influence on the stations with more subtle techniques. According to several sources, ministers threaten to hurt owners' other business interests, arm-twist cable operators, and issue "advice" to individual journalists. Many in the media admit self-censorship over subjects such as army finances, the war in Waziristan and the nationalist revolt in Baluchistan. On Monday intelligence officials badly beat up two journalists trying to cover Mr Sharif's deportation from Islamabad airport. A day later the government ordered stations to tone down criticism of Saudi Arabia, which helped spirit the former prime minister into exile. Most complied.

the EU took its boldest step

from Journal of Turkish Weekly

The EU remains – for now – relatively uncontaminated by America’s disintegrating reputation in the Middle East. But the Union could see its reputation worsen if it allows its commitment to Lebanon to become part of the emerging US strategy of isolating Iran by hardening today’s regional Sunni-Shia divisions. To avoid this fate, the EU’s commitment in Lebanon needs to be supplemented with a nuanced political strategy that seeks to avoid isolating Lebanon’s long suppressed Shia population. The threats emanating from the Middle East are diverse: regional conflicts, totalitarian religious ideologies (mainly led by Shia Iran and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia), terrorism, nuclear armament programs, obstacles to modernization, and unstable regimes. All of these affect Lebanon, and are aggravated by the country’s own peculiar socio-political dynamics – i.e., its Maronite, Sunni, and Shia divisions.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Saudi Hits Back

from Gulf Daily News

Saudi Arabia yesterday dismissed a US claim that it was not doing enough to fight terrorism. Such public criticism does not tally with what US officials say in private, said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. "We hear every now and then that the kingdom does not do enough. But "when we meet with officials, they thank us for our efforts to combat terrorism. They describe the programme we are implementing as one of the most effective on the international scene to confront terrorism, be it on the security or material fronts." He was responding to a question about remarks by the US Treasury's top anti-terrorism official, Stuart Levey, who chided Saudi Arabia for not prosecuting the bankrollers of terrorist groups. The undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence told the US television network ABC that not a single individual identified by the US or the UN as a terror financier had been prosecuted by Saudi Arabia. "We are surprised, but we can only repeat that we are exerting every possible effort," Prince Saud said.

U.S.: Saudis Still Filling Al Qaeda's Coffers

by Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, and Maddy Sauer from ABC News: The Blotter

"If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia," Stuart Levey, the under secretary of the Treasury in charge of tracking terror financing, told ABC News. Despite some efforts as a U.S. ally in the war on terror, Levey says Saudi Arabia has dropped the ball. Not one person identified by the United States and the United Nations as a terror financier has been prosecuted by the Saudis, Levey says. "When the evidence is clear that these individuals have funded terrorist organizations, and knowingly done so, then that should be prosecuted and treated as real terrorism because it is," Levey says.