Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mosques being 'hijacked'

from Asian Image

A new report by the Policy Exchange entitled, The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting Britain's mosques, says most of the extremist literature is published and distributed by agencies linked to the Saudi Arabian government. The report is the most comprehensive academic survey of its kind ever produced in the UK and is based on a year-long investigation into the availability of extremist literature in more than a hundred mosques and Islamic centres. Some of the most high-profile and prestigious mosques in Britain are among the worst offenders; in many of them, it is openly available. Pamphlets, books and leaflets obtained from mosques and Islamic centres contain an assortment of shocking statements including: "Jihad against a tyrant, oppressors, people of bid'ah Muslim innovators, or wrongdoers. This type of jihad is best done through force if possible."; "The Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the Muslim."; and "Whoever changes his religion, kill him." ... Anthony Browne, Director of Policy Exchange said, "The fact that the Saudi regime is producing extremist propaganda and targeting it at British Muslims must also be challenged by our own government."

Oil matters more than my suffering, says torture victim

by Alan Weston from The Liverpool Echo

Torture victim Les Walker last night spoke of his anger over the “red carpet treatment” being given to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on his state visit to Britain. Mr Walker claims he was tortured to make him confess to a series of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to 12 years but was freed along with three other British captives after they were pardoned in August 2003 ... Mr Walker, 61, said: “I still get flashbacks and nightmares over the torture I endured in Saudi Arabia ... I have been physically and mentally unable to work since I came back and I now live off benefits.” Last year Mr Walker, along with the three other former captives, failed in their bid to sue Saudi officials. They are now bringing their case to the European Court of Human Rights, but they may have to wait at least another two years. Mr Walker added: “We shall continue to fight, as long as torture is going on.”

Our World: Laura Bush's embrace of tyranny

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

For people around the world, the U.S. is not merely a country, or a superpower, but a symbol of human freedom. Consequently, the way that American officials behave is rarely taken at face value. Rather, their behavior is interpreted and reinterpreted by friend and foe alike. So the symbolic message from the First Lady's visit to the Persian Gulf to promote breast cancer awareness was a deeply disturbing one ... When Mrs. Bush went to Saudi Arabia she donned an abaya herself and had her picture taken with other abaya-clad women -- symbolically accepting the legitimacy of the system that subjugates women. Understanding this, conservative media outlets in the US criticized her angrily ... Sunday morning, Mrs. Bush sought to answer her critics in an interview with Fox News. Unfortunately, her remarks compounded the damage. Mrs. Bush said, "These women do not see covering as some sort of subjugation of women, this group of women that I was with. That's their culture. That's their tradition. That's a religious choice of theirs." It is true that this is their culture. And it is also their tradition. But it is not their choice.

‘We Want Rights Not Concessions’

by Khaled Almaeena from Arab News

King Abdullah said yesterday that Arabs want their legitimate rights, rather than concessions from Israel. “We don’t want concessions. We are people with rights and we demand our rights,” the king told the BBC when asked whether he expected any Israeli concessions in order to reach a Middle East peace settlement. Saudi Ambassador Prince Muhammad emphasized that the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Arab territories was inevitable to achieve peace ... In the interview, King Abdullah also spoke about the political, social and economic reforms taking place in the Kingdom and the growing role of Saudi women in society. “Islam has given the most rights to women in the world and they are strong and important participants in our society,” he said when asked about the condition of women in Saudi Arabia. He also said the Kingdom would not deviate from its Islamic faith and solid principles while making progress in worldly affairs.

Egypt launches nuclear power programme

from AFP

The most populous Arab country now joins Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have all announced peaceful nuclear ambitions. "It's a right for all Arabs," said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a 2006 Arab summit in Riyadh. Egyptian Electriciy Minister Hassan Younes then said that Egypt wanted to build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant at Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast to the east of Alexandria at a cost 1.5 billion dollars - requiring foreign investment ... When asked on Monday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, "I don't know a lot about it. In general, we are supportive of countries pursuing civil nuclear energy. It's clean burning. It provides electricity in a clean-burning and affordable way for citizens." ... Egypt and Syria in September urged the IAEA to pass a resolution condemning Israel for possessing nuclear weapons. Cairo and other Muslim capitals see Israel as the main nuclear threat in the region, while the West views Iran as the greatest threat to peace.

Seismic shift

by Shakir Husain from The News

From my own personal experiences as an entrepreneur who meets a lot of young people who are fresh out of university, the only thing which is clear is their spark. But the educational institutions from which they graduate are failing to provide them with key “real” world skills. There are exceptions, but on the whole they are coming from a flawed primary and secondary educational system based on rote learning. This saps any critical thinking skills that a child possesses, which is hardly the basis for innovation or critical analysis in later years ... What we need are teachers and professors not huge concrete buildings and “mega” projects. If we are to roll back the increasing influence of madressahs churning out half-baked madaris with little academic knowledge, creating intelligent and free thinking young minds should be the priority of the day. This century is about science and knowledge, and Pakistan will have to overhaul its education system to be able to stay relevant.

Madrasas and Charges of ‘Terrorism’: Interview with Maulana Salman Nadwi

Maulana Salman Hussaini Nadvi interviewed by Yoginder Sikand from The American Muslim

[NOTE: This is a glimpse into the mind of a Muslim skeptical of the West]

There is no doubt that much of this has to do with the powerful Zionist lobby in America. Today, America is in the grasp of the pro-Zionist lobby, which controls its current administration, its politics, its economics and its media. America has consistently backed Israeli aggression and has always vetoed any UN resolutions that are critical of Israel. This, and the greed for cheap West Asian oil, accounts largely for the anti-madrasa propaganda emanating from America. To add to this is the power of the right-wing pro-Zionist Christian lobby, which dreams of the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ, who they believe will establish a global Christian empire with his capital in Jerusalem. Obviously, in the current context, the only forces that can stand up to and resist this religious aggression and these hegemonic designs of America and Israel are the Muslims. The ulema of the madrasas, who are well-versed with the history of the Muslims and of Islam, play a crucial role in shaping the mentality of the Muslim masses and to give them a certain direction. America knows that this class of people can effectively mobilize opposition to its imperialistic policies and designs, and so it is seeking to undermine them. In order to legitimize its imperialist aggression against many Muslim countries, it constantly claims that the ulema are ‘terrorists’, ‘extremists’, ‘obscurantists’, and so on. Often, these anti-Muslim forces commit certain heinous crimes through their paid agents and place the blame on the ulema or on madrasa students. This is part of their larger strategy of seeking to delegitimise the ulema so as to weaken resistance to Western and Zionist imperialism.

British resolve stronger than American Will

by R Hampton

A new report by the centre-right Policy Exchange (UK) entitled, The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting Britain's mosques, says most of the extremist literature is published and distributed by agencies linked to the Saudi Arabian government. Anthony Browne, Director of Policy Exchange said, "The fact that the Saudi regime is producing extremist propaganda and targeting it at British Muslims must also be challenged by our own government."

Meanwhile Nick Griffin, the British National Party chairman, is on a U.S. speaking tour presenting a speech titled "Terror and Western Civilisation." He says the House of Saud financed the radicals and that that a free society and the radical Muslim community are incompatible.

On the other end of the spectrum, Labour leftwinger John McDonnell questioned: "Why is it that in the same breath the prime minister condemns the lack of democracy in Burma and the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, but remains silent when it comes to the Saudi dictatorship?" And Vince Cable, acting Liberal Democrat leader, greeted the Saudi royalty with an angry demonstration by the British public. Even the BBC presented the documentary Clash of Worlds that linked India's Deobandi Muslims to Osama bin Laden, Wahhabism, and extremists from around the world.

Such pointed criticism comes as the Saudi King and his five-jet entourage are staying at Buckingham Palace to work out trade negotiations with the Prime Minister. At least the King had the good sense to tell the Wahhabi clerics back home to be on their best behavior (no ursing-cay the ews-jay).

Perhaps to deflect the heated criticism, King Abdullah asserted that his government had warned the British of the 2005 London bombings, but that his advice went unheeded. But even this tactic backfired as MI5 issued an immediate denial claiming the intel was too vague to be actionable. So it appears that our British allies have found the will to use their big brass ones - at least rhetorically - to pursue the one-half of the War on Terror left unchallenged by the current White House administration.

[NOTE: Due to an error on my part, Wednesday's stories will not be posted until 1:00pm EST]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dialogue Crucial to Counter Violence, Says Analyst

by Ebtihal Mubarak from Arab News

Hamza Al-Mezaini, a lecturer at the King Saud University and a columnist for an Arabic newspaper, spoke on Tuesday to an audience at the Jeddah Literary Club in a public lecture entitled “Extremism Roots: Reasons and Solutions.” ... He listed incidents from recent history — not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region — that has contributed in fermenting extremism. One was the conflict between progressives and conservatives in the 1950s across the Middle East, which led to many Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt and Syria moving to the Kingdom. He said that after that came the attack on the Grand Mosque in Makkah in 1979 after which hidden intentions of extremism clearly appeared on the surface and pervaded its agenda publicly in Saudi Arabia. “After that extremists tried and succeeded to enforce the concept of jihad in textbooks in schools,” said Al-Mezaini.

France backs off Saudi fighter sale

from Reuters

France is no longer pushing Saudi Arabia to buy Rafale fighters now that the kingdom has purchased Typhoon jets from Britain ... During a visit to the Kingdom on Sunday, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said Saudi investment in strategic French industries was welcome. "EADS already has UAE and Qatari funds in its capital. So there is no reason for such investments not to be made in French or European firms as long as it's in the interest of the company." he said. Qatar Investment Authority has an indirect ownership in EADS through shareholdings in Lagardere and a Dubai fund. EADS is part of the BAE-led consortium building the Eurofighter aircraft and the parent company of commercial airliner Airbus ... When asked about the bid by Riyadh and fellow Gulf Arabs to start a peaceful nuclear energy programme, Morin said "France considers itself open to this."

Saudi king's state visit to Britain faces protests and boycotts

by Ian Black from The Guardian

Vince Cable, the acting Liberal Democrat leader, announced yesterday that he would boycott the rare visit because of the Saudi record on human rights, including its maltreatment of British citizens. Other groups plan protests over weapons sales, the kingdom's human rights abuses and its homophobic laws. King Abdullah, 82, came to the throne two years ago. He has reformist instincts, but progress in the kingdom has been halting. Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East and the UK is its second biggest foreign investor. The Guardian and BBC reported that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, now the king's national security adviser, received secret payments of £1bn. The prince will also be staying at Buckingham Palace ... Labour leftwinger John McDonnell said: "Why is it that in the same breath the prime minister condemns the lack of democracy in Burma and the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, but remains silent when it comes to the Saudi dictatorship?"

Randeep Ramesh in New Delhi

by Randeep Ramesh from The Guardian

The BBC documentary Clash of Worlds came under attack from one of India's largest Islamic groups for linking their movement, Deobandism, to Osama bin Laden and "extremist" Muslim groups around the world ... Clerics in Delhi have also been incensed that their creed has been termed an Indian version of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi school, seen as a hardline, revivalist form of Islam. Charles Allen, a historian and one of the documentary's presenters, said: "I don't feel bad about condemning Deobandism. In India it set the Muslim cause back by a couple of centuries by turning its back on the west. In Pakistan and Afghanistan it has helped to promote extremism, intolerance and violence, and in Britain today it is helping to drive a wedge between Muslim and Muslim and between British Muslims and the rest of Britain."

Beaten, Locked Up for Refusing to Be a Maid

by Ebtihal Mubarak and Ronald Concha from Arab News

A 37-year-old Filipino beautician is being treated at a hospital in Jeddah for serious injuries she suffered after falling from a building while trying to escape alleged maltreatment from her employer. Myrna Salvador was admitted to Dr. Baksh Hospital after suffering a fractured spine and hip. Despite Salvador’s condition, her employer, Malika Al-Otaibi, told her driver to take Salvador to a police station and have her deported. “Fortunately, her husband took pity and insisted that I be brought to a hospital instead,” Salvador told Arab News ... Al-Otaibi had asked Salvador to sign a new contract stating she would work as a maid despite being hired as a beautician as stated by her contract authenticated by the Saudi Embassy in Manila and the Philippine Overseas Employment Office (POEA). Al-Otaibi reportedly became angry and beat her up in front of her children and others.

Saudi panel refuses to fix minimum wage for foreign maids

by Habib Shaikh from The Khaleej Times

Saad Al-Baddah, chairman of the National Recruitment Committee, said it would not take any decision on minimum salaries until the problems of maids running away after signing their contracts to work illegally (often for higher salaries) and of maids being sent back as they lack adequate skills to fulfill their duties, are resolved ... Earlier this year, the Philippines declared that maids would not be granted permission to work as overseas Filipino workers unless they were granted a minimum wage of $400 a month. In return the Filipino government pledged to increase training and skills of what it terms household service workers (HSWs) prior to their departure. Baddah rejected the Philippine move and said recruiters should simply look elsewhere.

Domestics hired from Nepal and Vietnam

by Mariam Al Hakeem from Gulf News

Following the recent obstacles of recruiting housemaids from Indonesia and the Philippines , Saudi Arabia is now looking for other options.Recruitment of housemaids from Nepal and Vietnam is what local recruitment offices are currently involved in ... Earlier, the Indonesian authorities, in a move to improve the conditions of housemaids working in the Kingdom, asked among other conditions, for the increase of monthly salaries of housemaids. In the past, recruitment advertisements were dominated by Indonesia and the Philippines.

Iranian dissident Mina Ahadi wins Secularist of the Year prize

from the National Secular Society

Richard Dawkins says that it is “the awakening of women” that will solve the problem of “the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression”. His remarks came while praising Mina Ahadi, winner of this year’s NSS Irwin Prize for “Secularist of the Year” ... She formed the Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany early this year to help people renounce Islam and religion should they so wish. Dawkins continued, “This brilliant idea has now been replicated in several other European countries, including in Britain by our own Maryam Namazie. Undeterred by the inevitable death threats, Mina has pressed on, determined as ever to protect women from the ravages of Islam. Apostasy, of course, is forbidden in Islam and in some Islamist states it carries the death penalty – including in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

Face-Veil: Mistaking Social Customs for Religious Rules

by Maha Al-Hujailan from Arab News

Saudi women have been burdened with several social customs imposed on them as though they were inviolable religious injunctions. Islam, apparently, is not the only factor shaping the Saudi social life, as many outsiders or even some within the Saudi society itself are inclined to assume. It is closely tied to the local customs and traditions ... Women of conservative or tribal families conceal their faces as though they are observing an indisputable religious rule. Any one who dares to challenge the practice would be punished psychologically and at times even physically. While Islamic law permits a man to look at a woman when he is seeking a spouse, some Saudi families deny this right, resulting in bizarre situations such as a bridegroom being unable to identify his bride.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Suit: Bandar used bribe to build Aspen estate

by Brent Gardner-Smith from The Aspen Daily News

The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 19 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the City of Harper Woods Employees Retirement System, targets the board of directors of BAE Systems plc, a British defense contractor. It names Bandar as a key defendant. Prince Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005 before being named to a top security and defense position in the Saudi government ... The arms deal that Bandar helped negotiate involved the Saudis providing Britain with up to 600,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, British Aerospace, now part of BAE Systems, provided the Saudis with fighter jets, training jets, helicopters and technology. As part of the deal, BAE apparently provided $2 billion over the years to an account at the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., that Bandar had access to. It has been previously reported that Bandar is said to have used funds from the account to fund his travels as ambassador, but the lawsuit is the first time it has been alleged that Bandar may have used BAE funds to build his $135 million Starwood estate. Earlier this year, both Bandar and BAE issued statements strongly denying any wrongdoing.

British nationalist speaks at Texas A&M

by Travis Robinson from The Batt

British politician Nick Griffin, a proponent of closed-border policies and an anti-immigration leader, outlined the causes of what he said was the Islamization of Europe and how to stop it. "The Quran is the ultimate law in a Muslim society. You cannot have free speech, scientific inquiry and rule of men," Griffin said. "The liberal elite of Western Europe has surrendered, doesn't care to defend the values that the radical Muslims want to tear down." ... Not all who attended were in agreement, such as Ahmad El-Guindy, a visiting assistant professor from the department of mathematics. "For me, the main problem with [Griffin's] talk was that it was full of misinformation. I believe in free speech but I also believe in not spreading false information. If you take enough things out of context you can make any community sound hateful," he said during a question and answer session with Griffin.

Foreign funds raise concern: SEC chief

by Marcy Gordon from Business Week

Countries with sovereign wealth funds invited to a G-7 "outreach dinner" last Friday in Washington were: China, Korea, Kuwait, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates ... The Abu Dhabi fund recently bought 7.5% of the management operations of the U.S. private-equity firm, Carlyle Group. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the rise of sovereign wealth funds, along with that of government-owned companies that are publicly traded, "call into question the adequacy of our enforcement and regulatory regime." There is an "inherent conflict of interest that arises when government is both the regulator and the regulated," he said, and the opportunity for political corruption increases when individuals with government authority also possess massive commercial power.

Investor plans Sharia bourse

from The Gulf Daily News

Kuwait's Investment Dar, the Islamic investor that bought into British car-maker Aston Martin, said yesterday it had applied for permission to open a stock market that complies with Sharia. The exchange would be open to Kuwaiti and foreign companies that follow Islamic rules to cater for growing demand from the world's 1.2 billion Muslims for investments that comply with their beliefs. "There is always a premium paid for those kind of companies," Investment Dar's chairman Adnan Al Musallam said. "It's a big market. Islamic financial institutions manage more than $800bn, according to the Islamic Development Bank.

Our World: Shari'a-friendly investments

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

Shari'a finance became a significant factor in the Muslim world in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. The first Shari'a-compliant banks were established in 1975 with the opening of the Saudi-controlled Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Bank of Dubai. Today the International Monetary Fund estimates that there are some 300 Shari'a-compliant banks operating in some 75 countries ... Only certain Islamic entities are entitled to issue religious rulings or fatwas that can recognize investments as Shari'a-compliant. These entities include the Fiqh Academy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, which is associated with the Saudi-dominated Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); the European Council for Fatwa Research, and the Fatwa Council of North America. All of these entities are associated with the radical pro-jihadist Wahabi and Salafi schools of Islam adhered to by groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas.

World's first Syariah-compliant hotel brand launched

by Nor Faridah Rashid from The New Straits Times

Dubai-based hospitality group Almulla has launched the world’s first Syariah-compliant hotel brand portfolio to accommodate demand from Muslim and non-Muslim travellers. The hotel group plans to have 30 properties by the end of 2008 with Malaysia being one of its targeted destinations. The group’s overall strategy is to reach 150 hotels by 2013 with expected total investment of over US$2 billion (US$1 = RM3.40), and is looking forward to setting up operations in Europe with 15 deluxe hotels, to be followed by 25 business hotels in “the second European wave”.... The group also said that all properties operating under the brands will respect and abide by Syariah principles and will not sell alcohol. It will serve only halal prepared food, as interpreted by Syariah laws and the Syariah supervisory board.

Malaysia Aims For Stronger Trade Linkages With OIC Countries

from Bernama

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) aims to create stronger trade linkages between Malaysia and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries, its chairman Tan Sri Halim Mohammad said Monday. According to Halim, the services sector offers good potential for collaboration among companies in OIC countries. These would include construction, education, healthcare, franchise, information and communications technology (ICT), and printing and publishing services, he said. He added that the top five markets in OIC countries for Malaysia's construction services last year were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Sudan.

Gulf property deals pass US$ 1 trillion

by Richard High from KHL's World Construction Week

Oil rich Arabian Gulf countries have started work on more than US$ 1 trillion worth of real estate projects as they spend windfall energy-export revenues on malls, office towers and theme parks, according to the latest report on the region’s construction and real estate sector by Dubai-based research & consultancy Proleads ... Such expenditure has only been possible thanks to the historically high price of oil, which have quadrupled since 2002 to a record high of US$ 90 a barrel. On the back of this the region’s governments are investing their money to reduce their reliance on energy exports by developing tourism, financial services and key industries. According to Proleads’ estimate the largest project in the six countries, the King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, which has tripled in size to 168 million m2, is worth US$ 120 billion.

GCC invests US$ 115 billion in manufacturing sector

from MENAFN Press

According to research company Proleads, the total value of all non-oil and gas industrial projects in the region currently exceeds US$ 115 billion. Already a major manufacturer, Saudi Arabia has an estimated total value of active industrial projects well in excess of US$ 50 billion. The Kingdom has started to accelerate the growth of its industrial base with numerous industrial zones being created. The latest, King Abdullah Economic City, is now being developed, outside of the Red Sea port of Jeddah, at an initial investment of US$ 26.6 billion.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UN Human Rights Committee considers report of Algeria

from the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Explaining why activities leading to conversion from Islam to another religion had become criminal offences, the delegation said that Islam was the official religion of the Algeria. It was practised by more than 99% of the population. Having noted the exploitation of certain difficulties persons were facing to spread doubt in their faith and to seduce them into other religions, measures such as this one had been implemented to invite anyone preaching a religion to respect the law ... a UN official noted that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allowed freedom of religion, but it was clear that the sharia law did not ... The Algerian delegation, which presented the report, included members of the Algerian Permanent Mission in Geneva; the Ministries of Justice, Communication, Health, National Solidarity, Foreign Affairs, and the Interior; the Gendarmerie Nationale; and the National Security Service.

Top Egyptian Islamist defends political platform

by Alaa Shahine and Jonathan Wright from Reuters

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest opposition group, will not abandon its position that women and non-Muslims are ineligible to hold the presidency of the country, the group's deputy leader said on Thursday. That position has alarmed secular activists and even some Islamists, who say it contradicts the group's repeated statements in favour of equal rights for all Egyptians. The programme places a major emphasis on sharia, Islamic law, and tries to apply Islamic principles to all aspects of life, from politics to foreign investment and education ... Egypt is dominated by Sunni Muslims. The constitution has no restrictions on who can be president but it says sharia is the main source of legislation. The article sparked comparisons between the Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Shi'ite religious leaders have the final say on state matters.

Giuliani Front-Runner Among GOP Jewish Donors

by Beth Young from The Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The former New York City mayor significantly outpaced fellow GOP hopefuls John McCain and Mitt Romney in raising money from the 60 board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "I think a lot of New Yorkers like his tough stand on terrorism and his tough stance with regard to Iran getting nukes," said Morrie Amitay, a former executive director of AIPAC and now a vice president at JINSA ... His tough talk on Iran also earned long applause. "I guarantee you," he said, "we will never find out what they will do with nuclear weapons because they’re not going to get them." One audience member, Jeremy Kohn, praised Giuliani for his role in returning a $10 million charitable donation to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Giuliani "was the most decisive and toughest. He’s not afraid to offend people. He’s not afraid to stand up to them," Kohn said.

The U.S. Dilemma Over Pakistan

by Joseph Puder from The Philadelphia Bulletin

Fair elections are one of the features of a functioning democracy but not the decisive factor in creating a democratic society. Building democratic institutions - a civil society and establishing the rule-of law - should precede any elections, especially in nations with a tradition of extremism and violence. The Palestinians are a case in point. The Bush administration encouraged the participation of Hamas in a fair election that resulted in bringing them to power and creating a terrorist entity. Hamas, originally the Gazan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, openly seeks the destruction of Israel. Both Tehran's fanatical Shiite ayatollahs and Riyadh's Sunni Wahhabis are supporting and mentoring Hamas, and it is unlikely that Hamas government will develop into a democratic society or will allow open, free elections in the future.

Campus Double Standards

from The New York Sun

The professors of the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University say they are in favor of "the free exchange of ideas" and against "ideological and political tests," but among the signers of the petition are two scholars, Everett Mendelsohn and J. Lorand Matory of Harvard University, who led the fight to oust Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers, for his sins of speaking out in favor of America and Israel. They say they are against "outside groups seeking to influence what is taught," but they raise not a peep against the tens of millions of dollars pouring into American universities from Saudi princes and Persian Gulf governments that are hostile to Israel.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week Day 2

by Nonie Darwish from Front Page Magazine

A Muslim woman in Florida insists on covering her face for a driver’s license, cab drivers in Minnesota refuse to take passengers carrying wine from the duty-free shop, the 6 flying Imams who scared everyone on the airplane and are now suing. And lately demands for special faucets at the level of the feet of for Muslim kids in American schools to Wada “wash” before praying. I have lived in the Middle East for 30 years and have never seen special faucets for Wada in schools or universities, except in mosques. This only exists in Saudi Arabia. The deception is phenomenal. Islamists are pushing Wahabi Saudi values in America; values that I have never even seen in Egypt. I have not come to America to become a Wahabi Saudi ... Religion, any religion, must adapt to the universal concept of Human Rights, freedom of choice of one’s religion, equal rights of women and minorities. As Arab Americans what are we going to do about it?

Saudi-Iranian Work Group To Discuss Security Cooperation

from Al-Riyadh via MEMRI

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abd Al-'Aziz said, following a meeting in Kuwait with the interior ministers of countries neighboring Iraq, that he had met with his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi to discuss Saudi-Iranian security cooperation, particularly in fighting terrorism. He said that a Saudi-Iranian work group was expected to meet soon to further this cooperation.

Tehran hosts Int’l Conference on Islamic Finance

from The Tehran Times

Attended by a host of domestic and foreign officials and experts, the get-together aimed to explore avenues to use huge financial resources of Muslim states, to introduce policies on Islamic finance, to hold training courses for managers, and to share achievements and experiences of industrial organizations ... Hong Kong’s chief executive said on Oct. 10 the city would look to emulate Malaysia and Singapore as a center for Islamic finance, in an effort to grab a slice of the thriving market.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spanish Judge Indicts 22 for Terror

by Harold Heckle from The Associated Press

National Court judge Baltasar Garzon charged 18 of the suspects with belonging to a terrorist organization, the other four were accused of collaborating with it. The cell's mission was to send potential fighters to Iraq "so they might join in terrorist activity sponsored and directed by al-Qaida," Garzon said. One of those arrested, Moroccan Omar Nakhcha, 24, was also charged with helping some of those involved in the 2004 Madrid train bombings to escape from justice. The bombings killed 191 people and wounded 1,800.

Somalia PM visits Ethiopia, insurgents attack Mogadishu

from Garowe Online

Prime Minister Gedi will hold talks with senior Ethiopian and African Union officials who aided the interim Somali government last January by deploying troops to oust Islamic Courts rulers from Mogadishu. Meanwhile, insurgent attacks continue in Mogadishu where at least 7 civilians died today after a roadside bomb missed a police patrol and hit a minibus carrying 23 passengers. No group has claimed responsibility, but the capital has been targeted by Islamist fighters attempting to overthrowing the interim government... Mortars rained down on Mogadishu port Mortars rained down on Mogadishu port where African Union (AU) peacekeepers from Uganda stand guard. Al-Shabaab, the Islamists' militant youth wing, claimed responsibility. Witnesses and port employees said at least 6 mortar shells slammed into parts of the airport. Other mortars hit surrounding neighborhoods. Two civilians, a mother and her daughter, died inside their home when a shell rammed into the roof. Medical contacts at three Mogadishu hospitals said six people were admitted overnight with wounds.

Terror suspects 'funded attacks'

by Mohammed Alsam from The Gulf Daily News

Two Bahraini terror suspects are thought to have joined the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and are accused of receiving weapons and explosives training. The pair are being tried in Bahrain's High Criminal Court along with three other men - two Bahrainis and a Qatari - who have been charged with providing them financial support. All four Bahrainis are accused of joining and co-operating with a terrorist group based abroad and supporting terrorist acts against a foreign country ... High Criminal Court Judge Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa rejected a bail request and ordered them to remain in police custody. The brother of the Bahraini still at large was among those who attended the hearing and claimed he was innocent. "We have not seen anything in my brother's behaviour and this is an injustice," he told the GDN. "There was a project in Saudi Arabia 20 years ago and that office was encouraging young men to go to Afghanistan to carry out humanitarian work. Now these people are being chased and punished for going to Afghanistan."

While Pakistan Burns

by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross from The Weekly Standard

Prompted by assassination attempts against Musharraf, Pakistan's military mounted a campaign to flush al Qaeda out of the tribal areas--but it suffered so many losses that by September 2006 Musharraf felt he had no option but to deal with his would-be killers. His solution was the Waziristan accords, peace agreements that essentially ceded North and South Waziristan to the Taliban and al Qaeda ... This leaves us with the present alarming picture: relative security for al Qaeda's senior leadership, greater instability in Afghanistan, a steady flow of skilled terrorists coming out of training camps, and a systemic risk of catastrophic attack reminiscent of the risk we faced before 9/11. This occurs against the backdrop of Musharraf's political impotence. Despite his electoral victory in October, Islamic extremists have sworn to topple him from power, and his clumsy handling of conflicts with his supreme court has destroyed his already dwindling support among liberal elites.

No Euphoria Yet

by Charles R. Kesler from The Claremont Institute

Many of the 9/11 terrorists and most of the killers who struck in London and on the continent lived not under Middle Eastern tyranny but enjoying all the comforts and freedoms of Western liberal democracy. Their actions were not protests against tyranny but against that democracy. If they resented the West for supporting their home countries' unsavory regimes, they did so mostly because they despised those regimes as apostate or heretical, i.e., less complete religious tyrannies than they preferred. When out of disgust with misgovernment terrorists do arise, one would expect them to strike, in the first place, their own hated regime. In vowing no more 9/11s, however, Americans are concerned not with terrorists killing Saudis or Egyptians but with Saudi and Egyptian terrorists killing Americans. They were, and are, enabled to kill Americans because their perverted regimes deflect and co-opt their anger, channeling it against us through various missionary and terrorist networks around the globe kept in business for just such purposes. This fact might indeed be grounds for "draining the swamps," if we knew how to or could do that. But it is also grounds for a much simpler strategy. Give the tyrants a choice: keep your alligators in your own swamp, or we will feed you to them.

A Conversation with Saudi Businessman Amr Khashoggi

from Saudi-US Relations Information Service

Everyone acknowledges there is a real threat from violent extremists and that threat exists whether you are in New York City, Madrid, London, Beirut, Baghdad or Riyadh or anywhere else. However, I cannot accept world leaders advancing their own agendas under the banner of the “war on terrorism” at any cost. One country cannot bomb another country to smithereens just because you want to kill a few terrorists. Have you looked at the statistics coming out of Iraq? There are American casualties to be sure, but there are 10 or 20 times those numbers of casualties among Iraqis many of whom are innocent men and women and children. The whole security infrastructure of Iraq was totally demolished and rendered ineffective, so I cannot see how the United States expects to win the peace. Winning the war is easy, but it has a heavy price to pay both in human and physical capital. Now we hear of an imminent threat to invade and bomb Iran. No thanks; we would rather deal with the Iranians through our own diplomatic and civil means and channels. You have not won in Iraq or in Afghanistan. What makes you think you can win in Syria or Iran?

Saudi Arabia bans Forbes issue over king's wealth

from Reuters

"The reason was a two-page report on the wealth of 15 ruling dynasties, seven of which are Arab," Refaat Jaafar, managing editor of Dubai-based Forbes Arabia, told Reuters. "This sort of ban is counterproductive." He said the Saudi distribution company was told about the ban on Tuesday. "Instead of ripping out the pages of the report, the authorities decided to ban the magazine altogether," said one government official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Officials at the information ministry could not immediately comment on the ban ... Saudi authorities have ordered columns by Khalid al-Dakhil, a prominent Saudi analyst and university lecturer, to be ripped out of Forbes Arabia twice so far this year.

'It's OK for Saudi women not to drive'

by Eman Mohammed from Gulf News

The issue of Saudi women and driving triggered a heated debate at the New Arab Women's Forum in Dubai. Nawal Al Shalhoub, wife of the Saudi Consul General in Dubai, said during a panel discussion about women and public affairs that she did not think it necessary for Saudi women to drive as they have full rights. "Women don't have to drive in Saudi Arabia because they are used to having drivers or can always be driven by family members," she said. Nawal, who has lived in Dubai for 10 years and drives her own car, says it is OK for her not to drive in Saudi Arabia. Nadine Al Bedair, a Saudi presenter and producer of Al Hurra TV, who was in the audience at the Emirates Towers, responded: "She doesn't have the right to speak on behalf of all Saudi women who don't have any social or political rights. It's humiliating to say that."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Six arrested in French investigation of alleged Iraq recruitment network

from The Associated Press

The six were aged 25 to 45 and were close to six people arrested in February, two of whom were arrested in Syria and expelled to France, the officials said. They have all since been placed under investigation in the case. According to a scenario described by the prosecutor's office at the time, the recruits were initially sent to Egypt to learn Arabic and teachings of Salafists "in the most radical schools." Via a cell implanted in Saudi Arabia and linked to al-Qaida, the recruits then were put in touch with a network in Syria that took them to Iraq "to commit terrorist acts, notably suicide attacks."

Export democracy with care

by Lee Hamiltion from the Indianapolis Star

Calls for democratic reform often conflict with defending other national interests. Pro-democracy rhetoric is seen as threatening by many of our autocratic allies. Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), and King Abdullah (Saudi Arabia) are undemocratic leaders and partners, and our unwavering support for them undermines our commitment to advancing liberty and exposes us to charges of hypocrisy. The U.S. may need to maintain these alliances while simultaneously encouraging gradual and pragmatic reform. Thus, we must improve our efforts to promote democracy.

Talking with Terrorists: Part 2

Aaron Klein interviewed by Gerald Korson from Catholic Online

Q: You mention in your book the terrorists have described to you what life in the United States would be like if their brand of Islam takes over. What did they say?

Klein: They explain how women would have to have their heads covered, and they couldn't hold certain kinds of jobs. Thet would not allow new churches or synagogues to be built under Islamic sharia law. Existing churches and synagogues can do no new construction and they can't be loud. No alcohol will be served in the Islamic states. Non-Muslims – and obviously there are a lot of non-Muslims in America – would have to pay a special "protection tax," called jisyah, just to live in the Muslim state of America. By the way, that "protection tax" is not something they just made up. They also told me about American music, culture, movies – these will all be shut down ... They think Britney Spears represents American women. They basically see Britney as our daughters.

Cairo's Litigious Cleric

by Mariam Fam from The Wall Street Journal

Yusuf El-Badry -- religious scholar, former parliamentarian and onetime mosque preacher in Patterson, New Jersey -- is using Egypt's courts to promote his strict interpretation of Islam. He has become a courtroom celebrity, appearing regularly on Egyptian and Arabic satellite TV shows, and some see him as a defender of Islam ... He is currently seeking to reverse Egypt's ban on on female circumcision that came after the high-profile death of a 14-year-old girl undergoing the procedure. "The decision to criminalize circumcision means criminalizing something from Islam," he bellowed in court. Mr. El-Badry won international fame when he spearheaded a case against Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid, a university professor he accused of heresy and apostasy. The judge ruled in his favor and ordered the professor to divorce his non-Muslim wife, but Mr. Abu Zeid and his wife fled to the Netherlands.

Egyptian Actor Attacked for Film With Israeli as Saddam Hussein

by Daniel Williams from Bloomberg

A made-for-TV Saddam Hussein film, being produced by the BBC and HBO, features an Israeli in the role of Saddam Hussein. Consequently, Egyptian actor Amr Waked (who plays Hussein Kamel) will be investigated, claimed actors union head Ashraf Zaki. "The union opposes normalization with Israel." Waked said, "I understand their political statement, but this is not an Israeli movie. I don't think this is about being anti-Jewish. It's politics." He said he opposes Israel's policies toward the Palestinians ... The actors union also sidelined a proposed showing of the Israeli movie, The Band's Visit, at next month's Cairo International Film Festival. Palestinians are in the cast, but the union threatened to boycott the festival. "It's out of the question that an Israeli film plays here," said Soheir Abdel Kader, the event's vice president.

Moussa: No more Arab concessions in talks for Mideast peace

from Mathaba and Xinhua

Arab League (AL) Secretary General Amr Moussa said Sunday that Arabs have made enough concessions and there will be no more Arab concessions in talks for Mideast peace, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported. He explained that the Arab stance has been made clear through its peace initiative, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, the international Quartet and all other parties concerned. "Arabs have made enough concessions. The door to concessions has been closed," he stressed ... Meanwhile, he criticized Israel for having no specific position on the Mideast peace, which has led to an imbalance and the present ambiguity over the conference.

Time for Britain to speak up

by Christoph Wilcke from The Guardian

Saudi Arabia's strategic and commercial importance to the UK has until now silenced criticism the kingdom's internal affairs by British leaders. Earlier this year the UK government dropped its enquiry into fraud in the al-Yamamah arms sale to Saudi Arabia by BAE citing potential damage to the UK's "national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East." ... When pressed, UK officials say there has been progress on political reform in Saudi Arabia over recent years. However, reform has been more cosmetic than real. The media is more outspoken, but no law or court protects journalists fired or imprisoned for their work. Women are more visible in public life, but still carry a yellow card with their male guardian's permission for travel. The government even allowed Human Rights Watch researchers into the country last year for the first time, but then blocked access to prisons and courts.

The African front

by Melanie Phillips from The Spectator

Viewing world conflict through a Middle East-centric prism which means it concludes falsely that Israel is the cause of Islamic rage and the reason why the west is under attack, Britain seems to know nothing about the march of the Islamists across south east Asia and Africa which are steadily being radicalised to the cause of holy war. From time to time, Britain wakes from its stupor and waxes indignant from its armchair about Darfur where it dimly perceives a lot of people are being killed. It does not register the fact that a desperate and losing struggle is being waged across Africa against Islamists who are cutting a murderous and enslaving swathe across that continent, persecuting and murdering Christians and other faiths, converting them to Islam at gunpoint and threatening to turn much of Africa into an enormous troop carrier for the armies of the jihad against the free world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Abdullah to receive frosty welcome

by Jonathan Isaby from The Telegraph

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is making a state visit to Britain at the end of this month, but he won't receive a warm welcome from every quarter. More than a dozen MPs, led by Labour Left-winger John McDonnell, have proposed a parliamentary motion condemning [King Abdullah's] administration as "a barbaric regime" and they intend making their feelings clear during the visit: the one-time Labour leadership hopeful and his cohorts will be picketing the Saudi embassy in London on Oct 31. "Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive societies on earth, with no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions," says McDonnell.

It's all in the translation

by Leslie Scrivener from The Toronto Star

Chapter four, verse 34, with its prescriptions for managing "rebellious" women, is one the most controversial sections in the Qur'an. Here are three English translations - the first, by American scholar Laleh Bakhtiar, takes a woman's point of view, the second is a traditional interpretation from Saudi Arabia, and the third is generally regarded as a "progressive" translation by Muhammad Asad, who was a convert to Islam and esteemed for his efforts to illuminate Islam for the West:

But those whose resistance you fear, then admonish them and abandon them in their sleeping place then go away from them; and if they obey you, surely not look for any way against them; truly God is Lofty, Great.
The Sublime Quran, translated by Laleh Bakhtiar

As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.
The Noble Quran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance

And for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them (first); then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!
The Message of the Qur'an, translated by Muhammad Asad

Saudis need time to complete review of textbooks

from AFP

Saudi Arabia wants a couple of years to complete a review of its school textbooks criticized for religious intolerance, the US State Department said Friday. Saudi Arabia has been on the State Department's religious freedom blacklist for the last three years but Washington granted the Middle East ally a reprieve last year and discussed steps to promote religious freedom and tolerance. But the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom charged in a report this week, following a fact-finding mission to the country, that there was little transparency in the textbook revision process and "intolerant and inflammatory elements" remained in the books. The panel is appointed by the US president and Congress leaders.

Saudi Arabia: Embassy Spokesmen Refutes Religious Textbooks Criticisms

by Talhah Jibril from Asharq Al-Awsat

Dr Abdul-Muhsin Ilyas, deputy director of the Saudi Media Office, told Asharq Al-Awsat, "I can absolutely confirm that all textbooks at the academy do not include contents that offend any religion. We extend an open invitation to all US and non-US media to visit the academy, verify the validity of this, and closely examine the subjects that are taught and also the books used by the students ... Abdul-Rahman al-Ghafuli, director of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Va, told Asharq Al-Awsat, "We teach US curricula." One of the members of the academy has alleged that they [commission members] tried to obtain information about textbooks through Saudi government agencies, but they were unable to do so. Al-Ghafuli said that some of the materials, which are considered to be the subject of debate in the United States, have been removed.

Criticism of the Religious Discourse in Saudi Arabia

by Y. Admon from MEMRI

Khaled Al-Ghanami from Al-Watan wrote: "Until recently, people [in Saudi Arabia] did not know much about the issue of heresy and did not delve into it, while today everyone is exploring this important subject in depth... Why? Because we speak so much of heresy - in books, research, pamphlets, and sermons preached in mosques... [Heresy] is an ill that is spreading and [becoming] an all-encompassing evil that will aggravate the problem [of terrorism], and will never lead to its solution."

Sa'ud Al-Balawi from Al-Watan wrote: "The root of the problem is that the religious discourse claims that it alone can deliver the public from its problems and crises, while in reality it amounts to nothing but pompous language and offers no feasible solutions. In addition, it fails before most of the political and non-political crises that have occurred and are still occurring in Islam."

The Uproar of a Council Member

by Jamil Thiyabi from Al-Hayat

Doctor Abdullah Al-Tuweirky wrote in the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan two consecutive articles that he entitled "Media Accountability Law." The media have the right to monitor the performance of state apparatuses, to highlight positive behavior and to expose negativities in the hope of achieving reform. This is as long as reporting does not offend or threaten the regime, the constitution, or the nation's faith, security and stability. This right is equally protected for the TV series "Tash Ma Tash" or any other honest work of art.

Nigeria: Jigawa Seeks Aid to Fund Education

by Taiwo Olawale from This Day

Professor Ruqqaya Ahmad Rufa'i, the state commissioner of education disclosed that the Jigawa state government first approached U.N. agencies with the problems in the education sector. A delegation led by Governor Sule Lamido then visited Saudi Arabia to discuss the problems with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO). "We made presentations on the problems facing the sector and highlighted the areas where we need urgent intervention", she said ... Already, she disclosed, the ministry of education has completed about eight different proposals worth about $12 million (U.S.) for IDB intervention.

Bush Penalizes Countries for Trafficking

by Anne Gearan and Ben Feller from The Associated Press

President Bush on Thursday punished two perennial adversaries - Myanmar and Cuba - for alleged "human trafficking," the forced labor and prostitution that the United States calls a modern-day form of slavery. He approved partial punishment, in the form of financial sanctions, against Iran and other nations where the United States holds out hope that limited cultural or educational outreach may deter abuses ... Countries on the list are subject to sanctions for not doing enough to stop the yearly flow of some 800,000 people across international borders for the sex trade and other forms of forced and indentured labor. About 80% of those people are female, and up to half of them are children. Bush waived all sanctions against eight countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - all on the same grounds that doing so would serve the United States' strategic interests with these countries.

Fighting jihad by following the money

by Laina Farhat-Holzman from The Santa Cruz Sentinel

Almost immediately after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States began to "follow the money" - to see who was financing jihad and how it was being transmitted. This started a long process that is still ongoing, but it has encountered many roadblocks. One of these roadblocks is a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who has either sued or threatened to sue 36 writers who have fingered him as a major financier of Islamist mayhem. He has taken them on in British courts because England has libel laws that favor individual rights over public rights ... This is an issue that ought to be protected by congressional reinforcement of the First Amendment with a new statute prohibiting enforcement of foreign libel judgments in the U.S., whenever American authors and publishers report responsibility on terror-related and other national security threats.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Done the Math

by R Hampton from Red State

More than six years have lapsed since "the day the world changed," and today President George W. Bush issued the following Memorandum for the Secretary of State

I hereby certify that Saudi Arabia is cooperating with efforts to combat international terrorism and that the proposed assistance will help facilitate that effort, and hereby waive the application of such sections. You are authorized and directed to report this certification to the Congress and publish it in the Federal Register.
This proclamation comes less than 24 hours after the The US Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized Saudi Arabia for a lack of religious freedom and for schools that promote religious extremism. Even more concerning was the commission's call to close the Islamic Saudi Academy in northern Virginia.
The commission's report says the academy hews closely to the curriculum used at Saudi schools, which they criticize for promoting hatred of and intolerance against Jews, Christians and Shiite Muslims. "Significant concerns remain about whether what is being taught at the ISA promotes religious intolerance and may adversely affect the interests of the United States."
Now I'm far from the first to observe that long-term sucess in the Long War is, depressingly, unlikely using a bipolar (and I would say delusional) strategy. Yet some hawks look at the ledger, add up the positives and negatives, and sheepishly protest that a pro-Saudi policy has bottom-line value. Resigning ourselves to Saudi Arabia's support of militant, extremist Wahhabi islam, however, is nothing short of sabotage.

That is what prompted me to blog a daily accounting of our deadly dependency on the enablers of Islamofascism. In the face of such overwhelming evidence -- over 800 stories logged since April -- I can not imagine the War on Terror can continue without a serious re-think. Problem is, the Bush Administration has done the math and concluded, in error, that a pro-Saudi policy in the correct answer.

Globalization With Arab Characteristics

by Marcus Noland and Howard Pack from YaleGlobal

In a poll recently conducted by Zogby International in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, majorities in four of the six countries supported governing business by sharia law, with pluralities in all six agreeing that sharia required further interpretation to enable businesses in the Muslim world to integrate into the global economy. This could be interpreted as a basis for adapting local values to the demands of globalization ... but the Washington Consensus it is not. Another poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that while popular attitudes in the Middle East do not appear to be "anti-market," as some have alleged, they are not particularly supportive of the process of globalization on existing terms. The issue is how to square efficiency with the values and aspirations of local communities. The demographic pressures the region faces to productively employ its young people raise the stakes even higher.

Naftoil Saudi Arabia Signs Multi Billion Dollar Oil Exploration Contract With Mauritania

from Naftoil Saudi Arabia S.A.

Naftoil Saudi Arabia S.A. a privately-owned Saudi petroleum company, has teamed up with Gulf Regal Corporation (a company with interests in both America and UK) to sign an outline memorandum of understanding that secures drilling, exploration, and development rights in two high-prospect blocks in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania ... This will represent a huge increase in refined output and turn Mauritania into a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Naftoil Saudi Arabia S.A. is in early-stage discussions with a leading Chinese player who will act as a partner in building and operating this new refinery. The initial year-one investment is expected to be in excess of 3 billion US dollars.

West Asia foreign direct investment hits $60 billion

from Gulf Daily News

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the 14 economies of West Asia surged by 44% last year to an unprecedented $, an annual survey of investment trends reveals. Saudi Arabia was the second largest FDI target, receiving $18 billion, an increase of 51%. World Investment Report 2007 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD) attributes the increase to the region's strong economic growth and improved business climate and to high oil prices, which have been attracting increasing amounts of FDI to oil and gas and related industries. In light of the region's high GDP growth and ongoing economic reforms, the upward trend in inward FDI to West Asia is likely to continue, the report said.

G7 meeting 'to discuss wealth fund transparency'

from Gulf Daily News

"I expect the G7 to discuss how those sovereign funds are different from private funds in terms of transparency to the market," Japan's Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga said. "It is hard to know what they really do, so I think there will be various opinions about them (at the G7)." Sovereign wealth funds are expected to be discussed in detail during an G7 "outreach" dinner session on Friday, which invites senior officials from China, South Korea, Kuwait, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE - countries that operate those funds. According to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), SWFs control between $1.9 trillion and $2.9 trillion in global wealth, outstripping hedge funds. Morgan Stanley estimates their assets could rise to $12 trillion by 2015, roughly the size of the US economy.

GCC’s Luxury Automotive Sector Boosted By Increasing Numbers Of Millionaires Living In The Gulf

from CAR Magazine, Middle East

Analysts recently reported that there are about 68,000 millionaires currently residing in the UAE, and more than 89,000 in Saudi Arabia, according to the 11th annual World Wealth Report, and the region’s continued economic boom is contributing significantly to the growth of the luxury car sector throughout the Gulf. “We are witnessing a marked increase in ‘aspirational’ buying across the region’s automotive market this year. The accumulation of private wealth is contributing to the demand for luxury car ownership, making the UAE and wider GCC a newly emerging hub for high-end cars and four-wheel drives,” said Shahzad Sheikh, Editor of CAR magazine.

Rupali Bank shares soar 57%

from The Bangladesh Daily Star

The share price in Rupali Bank on the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) yesterday soared by 57.26%, on the latest news that the state-run bank's future owner Prince Bandar will finalise the deal with the government next month. According to the press reports, Saudi prince's adviser Frank Peters visited Rupali Bank on October 9 and assured the bank management that the prince will finish the Sales-Purchase Agreement (SPA). The government that owned 93.6% shares of Rupali Bank had decided to sell the stakes at the suggestions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which conditioned their loans with the country's banking sector reforms. In March of 2005, the government assigned the Privatisation Commission to sell the bank.

Paying the price of relying on foes

from the British National Party

OPEC, the organisation of twelve oil producing countries agreed to raise production by 500,000 barrels a day in September, but analysts suggest this increase is insufficient to halt soaring prices. A handful of oil exporters which includes some volatile and unstable regimes such as Nigeria, Angola, Libya and Venezuela as well as Islamic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia can hold the rest of the world to ransom, including the UK, because of our over reliance and total dependence on the black stuff ... Until we have a government which takes the issue of energy security seriously and which has the ambition and vision to embark on a radical restructuring of our society to survive and prosper in a post-oil world, we will have to pay the price of being dependent on our enemies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saudi School in US Faces Closure

by Barbara Ferguson from Arab News

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has released a report that criticizes what it calls a lack of religious freedom in Saudi society. The report also says Saudi schools promote religious extremism. The report specifically urges Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to engage Saudi Arabia about the Islamic school outside Washington, which may violate US law because of evidence it is run by the Saudi Embassy in the United States. It said that Saudi Arabia has failed to take substantial steps to promote religious tolerance, despite assurances from the Bush administration that the Kingdom has made progress on reforms, the US watchdog said yesterday ... The commission criticized the United States for failing to move US-Saudi relations beyond what it said were pragmatic concerns about Middle East politics and oil during successive US administrations. “Many observers contend that, even now, the US does not want to jeopardize important bilateral security and economic ties by pushing for political and human rights reforms,” the report said.

An Islamic Nuclear Race?

by Peter Glover from Energy Tribune

A. F. Alhajji, professor of energy economics at Ohio Northern University and expert on Middle East energy markets, says; "The recent economic boom in the Gulf brought its own problems: higher income, growing populations, increased numbers of expatriates…and expansion of petrochemicals has increased the demand for electricity to unprecedented levels." ... Since September 2006, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, U.A.E., Morocco and Jordan each announced plans to obtain nuclear energy “for peaceful purposes.” In addition, Algeria signed with Russia and Libya signed with France in deals for nuclear development/cooperation. While the threat from electricity shortages is genuine, King Abdullah of Jordan intimated why so many states in the region are pursuing nuclear. “The rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the region,” he said in early 2007. Thus, it appears that the Middle East’s nuclear surge is being fueled by both economic expediency and sectarian fear.

Seek common ground to dry up oil reliance

by Cal Thomas from Tribune Media Services

Might it be possible for the Church of Global Warming crowd and the Church of Free Enterprise to come together for the common purpose of reducing our reliance on foreign oil? CGW fundamentalists would get what they want - a reduced carbon footprint and supposedly lower global temperatures (go ahead and let them believe it) - while CFE parishioners would rejoice that Saudi Arabia's hold on us (not to mention its use of our money to underwrite terrorism) could be broken. If we would launch an energy independence program with the intensity of a Marshall Plan for Europe, or a man-on-the-moon project, to liberate ourselves from the petroleum despots by developing synthetic fuels and finding new energy sources closer to home - especially nuclear power - we could strike a blow against the Islamofascists more damaging than bombs and bullets. This will require leadership at the highest level, and it will require a conservative of sufficient stature not to be labeled a compromiser or a fool. Anyone out there who meets the test? And would Al Gore bring his legions with him to the table?

Promoting Arab Democracy (or Not): What the Past Should Tell Us about the Future (Part I)

by J. Scott Carpenter from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The issue of democratization in Arab countries will persist regardless of who is the next U.S. president. For policymakers, therefore, the question has become one of tactics, not strategy. If the United States gives up on the democracy agenda, it will be forced to choose between increasingly decrepit autocrats and antidemocratic Islamists. Such a decision would also undermine U.S. credibility among those who have begun to trust the United States. Washington needs partners in the battle of ideas, and if those who are willing to fight do not believe that America stands by what it says, they will give up. Finally, abandoning democracy promotion would be the equivalent of waving the white flag in the battle of ideas. Holding up a standard of managed autocracy is not motivational -- sooner or later people will demand real change. Hopefully, the United States will be on the right side of history when that change occurs.

Asymmetry In The War On Terror

by Mark Steyn from The Evening Bulletin

The most successful example of globalization is not Starbucks or McDonald's but Wahhabism, an obscure backwater variant of Islam practiced by a few Bedouin deadbeats that Saudi oil wealth has now exported to every corner of the earth - to Waziristan, Indonesia, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Toronto, Portland, Dearborn and Falls Church ... So many of the administration's present problems derive from a squeamishness about ideological confrontation that any effective "Long Telegram" would have to address. When the president declared a "war on terror," cynics understood that he had no particular interest in the IRA or the Tamil Tigers but that he was constrained from identifying the real enemy in any meaningful sense: In the fall of 2001, a war on Islamic this or Islamo that would have caused too many problems with Gen. Musharraf and the House of Saud and other chaps he wanted to keep on side.

Saudi Arabia: Blogging Continues to Gain Momentum

by Abdul Ilah al Khalifi from Asharq Al-Awsat

Despite the fact that blogging remains relatively new to the kingdom, the number of weblogs based out of Saudi Arabia is estimated to be over 1,000, launched by both men and women, according to members of The Official Community for Saudi Bloggers (OCSAB). Basem al Sallum, one of the kingdom's pioneering bloggers, expects blogging to become a valuable source of information, in addition to providing a large platform that will nurture literary, scientific, and cultural creative works ... Dr. Suliman Merdad, deputy governor of Kingdom’s Communication and Information Technology Commission, stated that the CITC does not monitor blogs, but that “blogs are subject to the same treatment as websites; they are blocked when they contain objectionable material such as pornography in particular, and other things in general, and things that go against the established principles of our religion and national regulations.”

Hillary's Mystery Money Men

by Russ Baker and Adam Federman from The Nation

Throughout their political careers, Bill and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly associated with people whose objectives seemed a million miles from "a place called Hope." Among these Alan Quasha and his menagerie--including Saudi frontmen, a foreign dictator, figures with intelligence ties and a maze of companies and offshore funds--stand out. "That Hillary Clinton's campaign is involved with this particular cast of characters should give people pause," says John Moscow, a former Manhattan prosecutor. In the late 1980s and early '90s he led the investigation of the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) global financial empire--a bank whose prominent shareholders included members of the Harken board. "Too many of the same names from earlier troubling circumstances suggests a lack of control over who she is dealing with," says Moscow, "or a policy of dealing with anyone who can pay."

GE finances SABIC's $9.2 billion acquisition of GE Plastics

by Jeff Wilson and Ned Reynolds from GE Commercial Finance Corporate Lending

GE Commercial Finance Corporate Lending today announced it served as co-administrative agent in a $9.2 billion financing for SABIC Innovative Plastics Holding B.V. The facility included $7.7 billion of senior secured debt and $1.5 billion in senior notes. The financing was used to support the acquisition of GE’s Plastics business by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) ... “The petrochemical and plastics industries have experienced a solid upturn during the last three years, and companies like SABIC are strategically investing to create a global growth platform and serve global demand,” said Deepak Ghosh, chemicals and plastics industry leader for GE Corporate Lending. “With more than $4 billion invested in the sector, we’re focused on this market and the trends impacting it.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hatred of U.S. drives al-Qaida recruiting

by Robert Windrem and Richard Engel from NBC News

When asked if the war in Iraq created a recruiting tool for al-Qaida, making the pool of jihadists deeper, Adm. Scott Redd who heads the National Counterterrorism Center, responded: "In the short term, that is ... that is probably true. But the question is — you’ve got to look at this, I believe, in the long-term strategic deal. And that’s — that remains to be seen." Not all U.S. officials agree with the president’s top counterterrorism advisors, Fran Townsend and Redd. Asked if the war in Iraq made his job harder, New York police commissioner Ray Kelly expressed no doubt whatsoever. "I think there is no question about it that the war in Iraq has been a catalyst, has brought together people who perhaps otherwise be bent on attracting U.S. interest, not only overseas but over here as well," he said. Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East expert with the CIA, says the administration cannot admit its mistake and agrees that Iraq has made things much worse.

Saudi terrorists rich and driven by revenge

by Karen Kissane from The Age

Most Saudi Arabian terrorists are middle-class or rich and show no signs of psychological problems, according to Bahraini researcher Hadyah Mohammed Fathalla, who studied 45 "mujahideen" arrested or wanted by Saudi authorities for terrorist activity. Ms Fathalla used al-Qaeda documents and videos, as well as interviews, to build a profile of its members in Saudi. The men were not recruited but sought out the organisation. Their overriding motivation was to defend the Islamic community of believers, she said ... Victoria Police deputy commander Kieran Walshe told the conference that the first method of counter-terrorism should be primary prevention: stopping the radicalism and extremism from developing. "This requires intensive and good community policing," he said.

Mena expected to buy over 350 defence vessels in 10 years


Manufacturers and suppliers of a wide range of maritime defence systems and equipments will showcase their products at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX 2008). They include maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters missile and control system, mines and counter measurers, submarines & submersibles, torpedoes and underwater weapons and systems ... The official website of the DIMDEX quoted global Naval Analysts and Advisors that 18 countries in the region, including Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, are projected to buy 249 Patrol Vessels, 30 Fast Attack Craft (FACs), 22 Submarines, 16 Frigates and 21 Corvettes. AMI International has projected an estimated market size of $17b in the region.

Mauritania: First Arrests of Al-Qa'ida Suspects

by Yaniv Berman from The Media Line

The Mauritanian security forces arrested seven people in the last two days, all suspected of affiliation with the Algerian-based Al-Qa'ida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (QOIM - previously known as GSPC), the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported. Local security sources say that information received from the Moroccan and Spanish intelligence agencies as well as their own investigations into the seven suspects indicate that QOIM agents have been infiltrating Mauritania through the Algerian border, aiming at executing terror attacks against Western interests in the country. In the past few months the Mauritanian regime has been threatened by Al-Qa'ida second-in-command, Ayman A-Zawahiri. Mauritania is among three Muslim countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel ... The recent arrests, however, are the first detentions of local Mauritanians, who are accused of affiliation with QOIM, a diplomatic source in Nouakchott told The Media Line.

Iran's al-Qaida dilemma

by Meir Javedanfar and Alex Vatanka from The Jerusalem Post

Hojjatoleslam Hesham Seimori, the resident mid-ranking Shi'ite cleric at the Fateme Zahra mosque in the Iranian city of Ahvaz near the Iraqi border, was known for his anti-Saudi and anti-Wahabi preaching and as a staunch defender of policies propagated by the Shi'ite theocratic regime in Teheran. In June 24, 2007, unidentified gunmen shot him dead outside his house. Three days later, as Seimori's family and friends gathered in his mosque to mourn his passing, they found CDs scattered around the building. The CDs contained a stark warning from al-Qaida stating that Iran should stop its support of Iraq's Shi'ites, and that it would otherwise be considered as a legitimate target for Sunni jihadists ... there is no evidence to suggest that Iraq-based Sunni militants perpetrated Seimori's killing. It is also very possible that the CDs were produced by a homegrown activist cell which has deliberately set out to antagonize the Iranian regime. Nevertheless, Teheran cannot entirely dismiss the threat of Sunni jihadists to its national security.

Culture Briefs: Knowing the enemy

by Ariel Cohen from Policy Review

"Western democracies and their political and military leaders do not fully comprehend the multifaceted threats represented by radical Muslim nonstate actors. In this, they violate the most famous dictum of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategic genius of 2,500 years ago: 'If you know yourself and understand your opponent, you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict.' ... "The Bush administration lost valuable time before it finally defined radical Islam as the premier national security threat in October 2005. Initially in the post-9/11 period, the president targeted 'evildoers' and "terrorism' as the enemy. Moreover, Islam was declared a 'religion of peace' and Saudi Arabia, which has spent the last 30 years spreading its Wahhabi/Salafi gospel, was labeled as 'our friend.' Unsurprisingly, the nation and the military were somewhat disoriented."

American Muslims Protest at Saudi Embassy to Denounce Terrorism

from via PRNewswire

Al-Baqee is organizing American Muslims to march against a fatwa (creed) issued by Wahhabi Mufties (religious figures) calling for the destruction of Holy Shrines in Iraq and Syria. The protest will be in front of The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. from 1-4 p.m. on Monday October 22, 2007 ... Similar calls for destruction are responsible for the bombings of the Al-Askariyya Shrine in Samarra, Iraq twice last year, in which hundreds of civilians were killed. Such radicalism is present in Saudi Arabia and is also responsible for the destruction of the Jannat-ul-Baqee cemetery in Madina, Saudi Arabia on April 21, 1925, where several companions and family members of the Prophet are buried ... Al-Baqee calls upon the Saudi Govt. for the restoration and preservation of Islamic Holy Sites (i.e. Jannat-ul-Baqee) and encourages Saudi government to use its influence to restrain Wahhabi rhetoric that is fueling much destruction around the world.