Friday, November 30, 2007

West Boca doctor linked to al-Qaida gets 25 years in prison

from wire reports and The Sun-Sentinel (US: Florida)

For about six months in late 2003 Dr. Rafiq Sabir worked at Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade. Federal agents had begun tracking him in late 2002, monitoring his travel to Saudi Arabia, where he was employed at a military base hospital and documenting his phone conversations about joining al-Qaida. Authorities raided his home, in a gated community west of Boca Raton, in May 2005. Sabir insisted that co-defendant Tarik Shah had duped him into taking an oath with an FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida recruiter, never explaining that he was pledging loyalty to al-Qaida or its leader, Osama bin Laden. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska concluded Sabir perjured himself when he testified during trial that he did not understand the accent of the FBI agent during the pledging ceremony and did not realize al-Qaida was said or that references to an Osama were about bin Laden. The judge also said there was "no reason to believe that this defendant has abandoned any criminal intentions."

Betrayal Revealed

by Melissa Bailey from New Haven Independent (US: Connecticut)

Recorded conversations procured through Jameel Chrisman’s undercover work are at the center of the pre-trial hearing. The purpose of this week’s hearing is for U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Kravitz to decide whether or not to add the hours of recorded conversations as evidence in an expected trial against former U.S. Navy soldier Hassan Abu-Jihaad (a.k.a Paul R. Hall). The suspect, 31, is facing up to 25 years in prison after being indicted by a grand jury on terrorism and espionage charges. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges ... Chrisman told the court how he sent Abu-Jihaad Salafi books “to try to gain his trust.” He tried to get Abu-Jihaad to commit to buying assault rifles for an alleged plot the three had been crafting to attack a military barracks in San Diego. Abu-Jihaad agreed to commit “financial and logistical” help, but never paid the money or took the plans to actionable specificity. Abu-Jihaad has admitted to sending emails to London-based Azzam Publications, including one about the USS Cole, but his attorneys counters that “he didn’t admit he told secrets.” They pointed to places in the transcripts where Abu-Jihaad denies wrongful activity, saying “I ain’t no jihadi.”

In the name of God: the Saudi rape victim's tale

from The Belfast Telegraph (UK: Northern Ireland)

The "Qatif girl" recounted her ordeal to Human Rights Watch: "I had a relationship with someone on the phone. We were both 16. I had never seen him before. He threatened to tell my family about the relationship. Because of the threats and fear, I agreed to give him a photo of myself." A few months later, after she had been married to another man, she became concerned that the photograph might be misused and asked the boy to return it. He accepted on the condition that she would meet him and go for a drive with him. However, when they were driving towards her home a second car stopped in front of them. She and her companion were taken to a secluded spot where they were both raped, many times ... In the hours that followed her attackers told the girl they knew she was married. "The fifth one took a photo of me like this. I tried to cover my face but they didn't let me." Despite the prosecution's requests for the maximum penalty for the rapists, the Qatif court sentenced four of them to between one and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. They were convicted of kidnapping, apparently because prosecutors could not prove rape. The images recorded on the mobile phone were presented in court but ignored by the judges, according to her lawyer.

Violence Against Women Is Still a Problem

by Abeer Mishkhas from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

We cannot but see the irony of the day against the backdrop of the continuing coverage of the Qatif girl and how her story has turned from a clear case of rape to a bigger and wider one that at its core includes terrible violence ... It has been interesting to follow the online comments from readers and members of the public about the case. A shift in perspective has become very clear; now there are voices asking for stoning and some are asking for death — for the girl of course. Some readers have blamed the media for defaming the girl’s reputation by asking for more information on the case; some others have accused the press of tarnishing the Kingdom’s image abroad ... It is easy to explain since the official statements made it clear that the girl was breaking a rigid social law. What gave the girl the final blow were details about her appearance and the insinuation that she was breaking a moral law. That evidently was enough to cloud the eyes of the public with prejudice and it was but a single step from there to thinking that she violated a social taboo and so she deserved what she got. And we are celebrating the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women. Here I drop my pen.

Two Cases Shed Light on Floggings in Muslim World

by Russell Goldman from ABC News (US: New York)

Lashing is a common penalty under Wahabi interpretations of sharia law, the Islamic religious laws that underpin the legal systems in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. For some crimes, the Koran specifies the number of lashes required. But for most crimes, the sentence is at the discretion of the judge hearing the case. Not everyone agrees that the Koran condones the flogging of women, however. "There is nothing in the Koran -- that is there is no Koranic justification -- for sentencing the Qatif woman to flogging," said Yvonne Haddad, an Islamic history professor at Georgetown University. "Flogging has not been used in all places at all times throughout the Islamic world. In the places where it continues to exist it is steeped more in local tradition than Islam. The practice varies from place to place. Pakistan has a flogging law, as does Iran. Most of the Gulf countries, especially those influenced by Wahabiism have flogging," she said.

Truth monopoly, anyone?

from The Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

In Indonesia, the claim to truth is increasingly being monopolized by a group of Islamic fundamentalists and conservatives, ironically, in collaboration with the state ... This weekend, a group of people, aided by officials, forced the closure of a Roman Catholic church in the West Jakarta district of Tambora, on the pretext that it did not have the necessary permission from the people in the neighborhood. The premise had been used as a church for the last 40 years with no problems. There have been many other attacks on churches around the country that have gone unreported. This week, the government prevented an Islamic scholar from Egypt from delivering a series of lectures and sharing his knowledge at a gathering in the East Java town of Malang, only because his understanding of the Koran was considered to be too different from that fundamentalist Muslim scholars ... If we allow this to happen without a single word of protest, we can expect more bans against lectures by Islamic scholars and more attacks on people of other faiths that do not conform to the conservatives' notion of truth. At stake is not only our freedom and the pluralistic nature of this nation, but truth itself.

We Welcome Our New Overlords From Asia

by Rob Cornelius from The State Journal (US: West Virginia)

The next few decades will be about what folks are calling resource nationalism ... the sort of issues that used to result in an occasional war. As much coal for steel as West Virginia sells to Asia, what's to keep a big foreign government from throwing down a paltry few billion dollars to snap up Consol (CNX) or the newly formed Patriot Coal (PCX). In the long term, even the most expensive to operate union mines in Appalachia will seem like a bargain to someone whose national energy need is great enough. Understand that the biggest oil and energy companies on Earth aren't really Exxon (XOM) or Marathon (MRO), but state owned and run entities like Saudi Aramco, PetroChina (PTR) and Russia's Gazprom (OGZPF). They aren't necessarily as concerned about short-term profit as long-term economic development and nation-building of their own. America is more concerned about taxing big oil, while other governments are doing their best to acquire it and subsidize the costs for their own citizens ... It's already being done in small doses. The Chinese and Saudis have bought into western Canadian energy companies like Husky and would love to lock up a long term spot in the oil sands there. It was thought last week the Chinese might make a run at Rio Tinto (RTP), one of the largest iron and aluminum producers in the world and the second biggest miner of western coal in the U.S.

Citi of Arabia

from The Wall Street Journal (US: New York)

No one should be under any illusions that Abu Dhabi's $7.5 billion investment in Citigroup is a normal commercial transaction. It comes from a sovereign wealth fund controlled by a foreign government, which has political as much as business interests; from an Arab government that has a troubling history with American banking laws; and it offers a Middle Eastern entree into the U.S. financial system that since 9/11 plays a pivotal role in the war on terror ... Everyone should also admit that this investment means that Arab interests will now have inordinate sway over America's largest bank. Abu Dhabi's 4.9% stake combined with the 3.9% stake of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal makes them the bank's dominant shareholders, and who knows how many other smaller holdings are in Middle Eastern hands. The small Gulf states may be governed separately from Saudi Arabia, but they are closely linked by geography, family ties, and national interests. For purposes of political influence, they often behave as part of the same tribe.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Arabs seek distancing religion from terror

from UPI

A Cairo meeting of the Arab Justice Ministers Council Wednesday denounced terrorism [NOTE: also denounced in 2006, 2005, 2004] and called for a study on distancing it from Islam. The one-day meeting concluded with a call to form a study group on establishing an Arab anti-terrorism studies center, Kuwait's KUNA news agency reported. A group statement said it was critical to differentiate between terrorism and people's right to resist aggression and occupation. The group also urged Arab states that haven't changed their legislation and ratified it in accord with the Arab Anti-Terrorism Agreement to get it done quickly, the report said. Saudi Arabia has raised the issue at the U.N. General Assembly of establishing an international anti-terrorism center, which the ministers called on member states to support, KUNA said.

Huckabee blasts Saudis

from The Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says consumers are financing both sides in the war on terror because of the actions of a key U.S. ally: Saudi Arabia. Speaking on CNN's Late Edition, the former Arkansas governor says the country has become enslaved by Saudi oil and every time Americans buy gas, they are making the Saudis -- quote - "filthy, obscenely rich." He calls the situation embarrassing and says the money that goes to Saudi Arabia ends up funding religious schools "that train terrorists." Huckabee also criticized the Bush administration for its muted response to the sentencing of a woman in a Saudi court. The woman had been gang-raped but was convicted of being in the car of a man who was not a relative and sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes.

Saudi religious police cleared of fatal beating

from AFP (France)

The court in Riyadh "acquitted the two members of the Commission (for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) of the charge of being directly responsible for the death of Suleiman al-Huraisi, for lack of sufficient evidence," the commission's lawyer Yussef al-Nuqaidan told AFP. Religious police, commonly known as Muttawa, enforce a strict Islamic moral code in Saudi Arabia. They stormed the home of the 28-year-old man in the capital after they suspected him of distributing alcohol, which is banned in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom. Nuqaidan said the court cleared the two defendants because "the testimonies of the witnesses brought by the plaintiff, who is the dead man's brother, are not credible." ... The lawyer said the court also dismissed a forensic report stating that the victim was badly beaten, because "while no one denies that beating was the cause of death, the question is: who beat who?" During the raid, "the (dead) man and many members of his family, who were carrying big knives and sharp instruments, resisted the Commission members, and things got confused." Hence, it is not possible to state categorically that Huraisi's beating by the religious police, "which was aimed at controlling him," was the cause of death, Nuqaidan said.

Over 1,500 Extremists Freed After Repenting

from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

According to Muhammad Al-Nujaimi, a member of the Counseling Committee and professor of comparative jurisprudence at the King Fahd Security College, the Counseling Committee was established by Prince Muhammad ibn Naif assistant, minister of interior for security affairs, in 2004 ... The suspects were largely confused about the meaning of jihad, which led to their believing in committing blind violence. They also viewed that the present Muslim rulers, scholars and public were infidels, and therefore demanded the establishment of a single Islamic state, said Al-Nujaimi. After several graded sessions with the committee, and having been convinced of their misguided vision, they renounced their erroneous ideologies, including the concept of driving out all infidels from the Arabian Peninsula,” he said. The committee first evaluates the personality and the ideological crisis suffered by the suspect, and then decides on how to clean his mind of the mistaken impressions, said Al-Nujaimi. he committee in the later stages of counseling holds several sessions on the concept of obedience to a ruler, loyalty, conditions for baiat (declaration of allegiance to a ruler) and the mistaken concept of murder and violence without guilt.

Saudi authorities alarmed by 3,000 runaway girls

translated by Sonia Farid from Al Arabiya (UAE)

The Saudi Ministries of Interior and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, are conducting a study on runaway girls, press reports said Wednesday. The move comes as the number of girls who ran away from their families hit 3,000, according to Saudi newspaper Okaz. Other local papers have reported that 850 of the runaways were under the age of 14. Psychiatrist Mohei Abdullah Al-Qurani, who heads the psychotherapy center in the southwestern governorate of Baljorashi, attributes the girls' behavior to the absence of devout religiosity and to family problems. According to Qurani, the solution is to raise children in accordance with Islamic principles and constantly monitor their behavior and circle of friends ... The social affairs director in the Mecca Region, Ihsan Tayeb, warned in earlier press statements that a lack of monitoring and negligence on the part of parents are the main reasons behind the phenomenon.

HRC: Kingdom to Change Sponsorship Law Soon

by Raid Qusti from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

“There is an initiative to begin studies (into a system) where private companies will import foreign labor… Communication, hence, would be between citizens, who are in need of foreign labor, and these private companies,” HRC President Turki Al-Sudairi said in an interview with Arab News, the first ever by a Saudi daily. Al-Sudairi said he supports the change in law, which would bring an end to the existence of sponsors. “I support it. I think it would be better and easier for laborers and for the country,” he said ... The top HRC official said that the Ministry of Labor said that incidents of Saudi sponsors mistreating foreign laborers in the Kingdom, as highlighted by foreign organizations, do not mean mistreatment is rampant or widespread. “If things were as bad as foreign organizations say, then why would people be anxious to come here to work? They would run away. What is true is the contrary that the general atmosphere of work here is good,” he said. Al-Sudairi ... The HRC official noted that many reports on Saudi Arabia by international human rights organizations were exaggerated and contained many misconceptions. He particularly mentioned a US State Department for Religious Freedom report on Saudi Arabia. “It is obvious that the original status of this country, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the land of the Two Holy Mosques, is not clear to them,” he said, adding that the Kingdom’s religious nature could not be compared to other countries in terms of building public places of worship such as churches ... Regarding the negative aspects mentioned in some reports by international human rights bodies, the HRC official said that the Saudi human rights body “would seek to correct whatever is untrue in the reports.”

Turbulent times in 'nowhere land'

by Simon Tisdall from The Guardian (UK)

Azerbaijan's importance to Washington and the EU as a producer and conduit of Caspian oil and gas, as a Nato-friendly ally bordering Iran, and as a foil to Vladimir Putin's Russia overshadows human rights and democracy concerns. And Aliyev's secular government, presiding over a majority Muslim nation, also skilfully plays on US "war on terror" fears. It made much this month of alleged plots by Wahhabi extremists to attack the American and British embassies and possibly blow up the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline ... This is the region that author Thomas de Waal has dubbed "Nowhere Land", caught between the Black and Caspian seas, Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam, authoritarianism and democracy - and alternately neglected and exploited by the great powers. "The US and Europe have plenty of agendas in these countries ... but show no evidence of having an overall strategy or a vision for the region's future," De Waal wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Serbia's Wahhabis to Stand Trial

from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (Serbia)

The trial of about a dozen Wahhabis will start on January 14, said Maja Kovacevic-Tomic, a spokeswoman for the prosecution. The group arrested earlier this year in the Sandzak region of western Serbia has been charged with allegedly plotting to kill Muamer Zukorlic, a top Islamic cleric, and with planning attacks on a police station in Novi Pazar and on targets in the capital, Belgrade. Zukorlic told Balkan Insight he had been receiving death threats in the past, mainly over his mobile phone ... “We knew that these threats were coming from the Wahhabis because they were publicly saying such things,” Zukorlic said. The members of the Sandzak-based Wahhabi group were arrested in March following clashes with the police ... The Saudi-based movement claims it is seeking to restore a pure and original form of Islam. That has put it at odds with the traditional version of the faith practised in the Sandzak, a region which has a Muslim majority, and with Zukorlic in particular.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Urgent Call for Help from a Saudi Mother: Saudi Police and Wahhabi Judges deny her Maternal Rights

from (US: Washington DC)

In a letter sent to Aafaq, Shouk Alshammary said that her life and the life of her infant daughter are in jeopardy. Shouk is the daughter of Saudi human rights activist Sheikh Mekhlef bin Daham Alshammary, one of the sheikhs of the Shammar tribe. In her letter to Aafaq she recounts how she was mistreated by her husband and his family. They deprived her of her two-month old infant daughter; they beat and tortured her, with knives and electricity, and by deprivation of food, drink and health care, to prevent her from disclosing information she had about the killing of a woman in which members of her husband's family were involved. They forced her to sign and stamp documents that she had not read with the prints of her hands. When she sought relief, and the return of her infant in the court of the city of Hafr Al-Batin, she found that she was the victim of conspiracies among judges of the court, who were spiteful toward her father, Sheikh Mekhlef, because of his association with Shi'ite clerics ... She still has not had her infant daughter returned to her, and the case has been appealed to the Appellate Court in Riyadh. She fears for her own physical and mental health, and the health of her infant.

Sharia shame

by Peter Worthington from The Toronto Sun (Canada)

What is there to say about a woman in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison after being abducted and gang-raped by seven men? ... The trouble for the likes of America, Britain and Canada, all of whom are equally appalled at this case, is that Saudi Arabia is supposedly a friend, an ally, and therefore immune from harsh criticism or retaliation. Canada's previous government chose to believe the Saudis when Bill Sampson was framed for murder, tortured and sentenced to death in 2000, before being released 31 months later. The shame of that still lingers ... Saudi Arabia, of course, survives via the double-standard. It produces terrorists (the 9/11 sky-jackers), and has spread jihadists and Islamic extremists around the world. It is a financier of international terrorism, yet we are afraid if we criticize, they'll jack up the price of oil. Looking beyond the 200 lashes to a gang-raped Saudi woman, if there were less tolerance by the civilized world for barbaric behaviour, and if more discretion were exercised on which countries we called friends, perhaps the money supply would dry up and terrorism would revert to being a local or domestic phenomenon, not an international plague. One can't be sure, but what is certain is that our present attitude encourages rather than curtails outrages and barbarism.

Annihilation of Infidels

from The British National Party (UK)

The protracted war in Iraq and other policies of the Bush administration sends a schizophrenic message to the Islamic world. The Bush administration opposes Wahabis, al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. But it supports Saudi Arabia, the source of the Wahabi doctrine. It supports Sunni Pakistan, calling it a key ally against war on terror and opposes Sunni Taliban, which is the creation of Pakistani intelligence services. It opposes the Iranian regime of Shiite ayatollahs, and at the same time it supports the Iraqi Shiite-led government. The administration opposes Sunnis in Iraq and supports Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Kuwait. This administration’s myopia minimizes the effectiveness of our military making it incapable of distinguishing a friend from a foe. Bush is guilty of conducting a defensive war. He wants to protect the United States from terrorists, but fails to understand that terrorists are the product of their philosophical views and he fails to attack their philosophy, which is Universal Jihad. The progenitors of universal jihad are Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — the true axis of evil. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not our allies; they are our enemies. These outlaw nations must be demilitarized, secularized and democratized. That should be the goal of our “war on terror.“

American Statecraft and the Iraq War

by Angelo M. Codevilla from The Claremont Institute (US: California)

The U.S. government knew well enough that nearly all of those shooting at U.S. soldiers were Sunni Arabs, usually attached to Saddam's Ba'ath party, who were using foreign Wahabi suicide bombers — usually Saudis — as ordnance. Nevertheless, its response to the Sunni insurgency has been to try to co-opt it by arming and empowering those Sunni Ba'athist military figures who promise somehow to temper attacks on Americans. This purchase of truces as if there were no tomorrow was the hallmark of General David Petraeus's 2003 command in Mosul. It was the thinking behind turning Fallujah over to a Ba'athist general in 2004, who, in turn, made it into the insurrection's citadel. It is also, alas, the thinking behind the plan for extricating U.S. forces while maintaining a veneer of success that Petraeus was sent to execute in 2007, especially in Anbar province ... Whatever tactical victories the surge may bring, it is a formula for strategic defeat. Refusing to choose sides, the U.S. armed forces end up the enemy of all—and, surely worst of all, feared by none.

'Our' dictator gets away with it

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online (Hong Kong)

Former star cricketer and Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan, was arrested by hardcore fundamentalist Jama'at-e-Islami (JI) students at the University of Punjab campus in Lahore and then handed over to Musharraf's police. Even though JI was also against Musharraf's emergency - it wanted at least the restoration of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry plus free and fair elections - the JI cannot stand a secularist like Khan ... Before his arrest, Khan pointed out how during eight years under Musharraf, only 1.8% of the country's gross domestic product was spent on education. Khan also stressed how "Pakistan has the worst social indicators in South Asia", according to the UN Human Development Index. "Even Burma [Myanmar] is ahead. On the other hand in 2006, Pakistan spent US$ 5.1 billion on arms" ... As for JI's criticism of Musharraf, it wants Islamic canon law applied in the whole of Pakistan. The JI's leader, Qazi Husain Ahmad – who is also the leader of the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e Amal - the Islamic Action Council coalition of Islamic parties), was fiercely opposed to the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. The MMA holds 20% of Parliament and two key provinces of Pakistan's five: the ultra-tribal North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan.

What is the real cost of education? Or the lack of it?

by Debnath Guharoy from The Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

Every freedom-loving nation in the world needs to recognize Indonesia's capability to influence the Islamic world, its voice of moderation and its commitment to democracy and religious tolerance. After all, this is the world's single-largest Moslem population. Anyone who knows Indonesians knows they are among the most laid-back, tolerant and courteous people ... Taking note of Wahabi money flowing into Indonesian madrassas, it is praiseworthy the Australian government is helping build 2000 schools around the country that will teach a secular curriculum. Palestinian children being taught in school to hate Jews cannot be good for world peace. Nor can the billion dollars a day spent on keeping the American military machine well oiled. Imagine the power of half that money, if spent on educating under-privileged children around the world, every day. Anyone who really wants to fight a war on terror needs to help spread the word of peace. What will help the world do that better and faster is an army of well-paid teachers, not well-armed soldiers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Algeria: close Al-Qaeda ring leader followers, ready to surrender

by A. Oussam and K. Sonia, translated by Hakim. A from Echorouk Online (Algeria)

According to corroborating sources, the elimination of the right- hand man of the “Islamic Maghreb Al Qaeda” ring leader, Abdelmalek Droudkel killed by Algerian security forces, reshuffled the cards inside this organization, and resulted in a severe hemorrhage of its elements ... Leaked news revealed deep dissentions appeared to daylight among close followers of the ring leader known, Abu Mousaab Abdelouaddoud, refusing any kind of dialogue and standing firm on their position meaning no to ( dialogue, reconciliation, solidarity). Experts in anti-terrorist struggle stated that these hard-liners were behind the last terror attacks that hit “Kabylia” regions recently such as the spectacular “tour de force” in the quiet town of Yakouren where a gendarmerie barracks was targeted by the barbarous hordes. The same experts added that it is quite likely that “Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb” will proceed to, a series of executions against “rebellious” elements within its organization, who expressed their will to depart from terror activities and join the reconciliation ranks. This unexpected U-Turn in this organization is essentially due to the refusal of a lot of terrorists to commit kamikaze attacks against innocent civilians following the latest “Fatwa” issued by repentant prominent figures who denounced such acts.

'I deny the allegations made against me'

by Dawn Walton from The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Sohail Qureshi, a 24-year-old University of Calgary computer-science graduate, was was held in an Afghan prison for five months this year but never charged with any terror-related crimes. In an e-mail exchange - the only way he would agree to talk - he explained the challenge of abiding by Islamic values in Calgary, "[Muslims] are ruled in their everyday lives by secular, democratic law, which is in opposition to the values of Islamic sharia." He talks about Islam as historically being "spread by the sword." He urges the removal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and other Muslim lands. He lauds the period when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. He speaks of the Western world, even some members of the Muslim world, as being "brainwashed" by the so-called war on terror ... Qureshi's father spoke to local imam Sheik Alaa Elsayed about his son's extreme religious views, including an announced intention to become a jihadist in Afghanistan. The imam, in turn, reminded the young man the Koran prohibited such actions. "I told him I had an obligation to notify the authorities, because I don't want to be an accomplice, nor did I want it to go further than this." Sohail Qureshi said the imam is spreading false interpretations of the Koran. "The reason is because he and others following his path wish to please the Christians and Jews by creating an image of Islam and Muslims which they will accept, instead of trying to please Allah by spreading the true Message of Islam."

Young Brothers in Cyberspace

by Marc Lynch from MERIP (US: Washington, DC)

One troubled, reform-minded Society of Muslim Brothers’ member claimed in an interview that reformist bloggers make up only about 15% of the youth. The rest are mostly salafis from the provinces with little interest in politics. Such salafi youth care more deeply about the expression of faith and austere personal behavior, and seem to hold much more conservative social and political views. Their relations with Coptic Christians have often been tense, especially in Alexandria and in the south, in stark distinction to the more forthcoming attitudes of the bloggers. Where the bloggers think nothing of discussing movies or music, the salafis cultivate a spartan aesthetic that radiates disdain for popular culture. And despite the urban-rural presentation of the divide by many of the blogger-activists, the retrograde cultural politics of the salafists can be seen at the universities ... The bloggers of the Muslim Brothers represent a growing intellectual and political force within the movement that could, over time, help tip it in a reformist direction. But they face considerable challenges: a leadership wary of change, a regime increasingly prone to arresting troublesome Internet activists, and a salafi counter-trend that could well take the Muslim Brothers in another direction entirely.

The Media and Youth in the Arab World

by Fouad Al-Obaid from The Kuwait Times (Kuwait)

Today, restraints are barring the youth from getting married at a young age, pushing of the average marriage age to the mid-twenties at least. Without going into details, the question that society should ask itself is; can we seriously expect that people will remain virgins till their mid-twenties? ... The evolution of the notions of boyfriend and girlfriend is a bizarre phenomenon of double standards in the region. I had a conversation with friends where it was asked? "What would you do if you discovered that your wife had a previous relationship?" The unanimously answer was divorce her, because her actions belittled the husband and tarnished his honor. But when asked, "How would you feel if you saw one of your ex's married?" Many replied it would be awkward but inconsequential because, after all, a man carries his past regardless and in no way can he be blamed when the girl accepted his advances! ... I think we need to look at things the way they are and craft a brave new world for our youth. Failing to do so will only but create a huge base of disciples who would choose a road between two extremes; join the ranks of the Salafi extremist and would work towards destruction, or become revolutionaries that will lead to a complete and utter fragmentation of our collective Arab societies where people will say what they mean and as galvanized youths will take protests to the streets.

In The Name Of Allah

from The Times of India (India)

It is impractical to expect countries which subscribe to liberal and secular values to stop doing business with Saudi Arabia. But it is imperative that they — this includes India — condemn such outrageous instances. This is not just an internal Saudi affair. The Saudi interpretation of Islam sets a retrogressive example for the rest of the Muslim world. Already, the kingdom funds madrassas and mosques globally as part of its agenda to popularise the ultraconservative Wahhabi branch of Islam. Above all, it is important that moderate Muslim voices from the Muslim as well as secular world speak out against those who hijack Islam and distort its teachings to serve their own interests. A primitive attitudes towards human rights — as evidenced in this case — is a stigma not just on Saudi Arabia but also on the entire Islamic world at large.

Azerbaijan arrests last member of radical Wahhabi group plotting attack on US embassy

from Azeri-Press Agency (Azerbaijan)

Bakhtiyar Orujov admitted attacking Lukoil filling station, plotting a terror attack on the US embassy in Azerbaijan, stealing ammunition from the military unit to release their “religious brothers”, who planned to commit terrorist actions in our country, but were neutralized by National Security Ministry and are now held in Gobustan jail of Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Service. All the members of the 11-men armed group, accused of committing grave crimes were neutralized ... On October 27, secret agents carried out an operation in suburban Baku when several members were arrested and another who put up armed resistance was killed. On October 30, Bakhtiyar Orujov along with fellow members Kamran Asadov and Farid Jabbarov robbed a Lukoil filling station in Baku and fired at employees. They were later arrested on November 9 with Vugar Aliyev and Elshan Mammadov.

The anti-jihadi debate

from The Spectator (UK)

There was a riveting discussion in London yesterday evening, hosted by the Centre for Social Cohesion, between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ed Husain. Both of these courageous people have been warning the world about the dangers of Islamic extremism, but there is a crucial division between them. Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP who has lived in fear since speaking, violent and indistinct from poltical Islamism. Ed HusainM, who chronicled his embrace and subsequent repudiation of Islamic extremism in his book "The Islamist", believes the Islamic world can and must have a ‘renaissance’ in which it rediscovers its own religious traditions of peaceful co-existence which have been all but buried by the recent dominance of Wahabbism and other extremist interpretations ... I find Ed Husain’s arguments more persuasive. Although last night Ayaan Hirsi Ali acknowledged the distinction between Muslims and Islam and accepted that Muslims can achieve reform, the logic of her position is surely that there can be no space for Muslims like Ed Husain. But we know that there are and always have been Muslim individuals and communities who live peaceful and unthreatening lives and derive only spiritual sustenance from their faith ... It is vital that both Ed Husain and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, along with both Muslims and ex-Muslims who take their lives in their hands to fight this fearsome threat that we all face, are properly supported, promoted and protected -- and actually listened to. We have a duty towards such people no less than towards dissidents in the former Soviet Union.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If Sudan Wants Peace it has to Prepare for War?

by James Okuk from The Sudan Tribune (Sudan)

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi in the beginning of 2005, the government of the Sudan had neglected the ‘Holy Warriors’ (Mujahidin) known as the Popular Defence Force (Dafaa El Shabi) because they were not needed in peace time. But during the current partnership crisis between the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), the President of the Republic of the Sudan, H.E. Mr. AL-Bashir went public and told all Dafaa El Shabi warriors to report back in preparation for defence of Islam and sovereignty of the Sudan. He assured them that this was not for waging war against Southern Sudan but rather for the protection of the CPA ... I am sure that the Arab Northerners are not going to defeat Southerners if war broke out. The feeling of hatred for the Jallaba (Arab Northerners) has already taken roots within the Southerners and it is going to be suicide and genocide for both sides this time if they took the war option ... I wish and hope the radical elements within both the SPLM and NCP will listen to the conscience of peace within them and spare the Sudan from war, disintegration and destruction.

Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim

by Andrew Hammond from Reuters

"The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism ... The system allows appeals without resort to the media," said Tuesday's statement issued on the official news agency SPA. It berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the "charges were proven" against the woman. It also repeated the judges' attack against the victim's lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, saying he had "spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations". Lahem was not available for comment. New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on King Abdullah, who last month announced plans to overhaul the system, to drop all charges against the woman ... The ruling provoked rare criticism from the United States, which is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland next week. A US State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that "most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens."

Focus on the Saudi-US Relationship

from Saudi-US Relations Information Service (US: Tennessee)

Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan: Deals like the [$20 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia] obviously deserve scrutiny and Congress is entitled to exercise that scrutiny. But it would be very shortsighted of Congress to deny Saudi Arabia the capacity to defend itself, particularly in the midst of this gathering threat. Clearly the Saudis are going to buy arms somewhere and if it’s not from the Untied States then it will be from some other source. I think it is to our advantage to maintain interoperability with them in weapon systems. It would also obviously involve the presence of advisors and trainers and others who will follow through on providing this equipment ... The US-Saudi relationship is the best it has been in seven or eight years. There is an increasing sense of mutuality of interests. We both want the same outcomes throughout the Middle East. We have varying views on how to get to those goals, but I think the end point is something we agree on. So I am pretty upbeat right now on where the relationship is at this stage.

Oil price nears new record as OPEC loses control

by Alan Shipman from Finance Week (UK)

Saudi support for a lower price is motivated by fear that present levels will cause a stalling of growth in the US, Europe and Japan. This, and the direct impact on higher prices on big emerging-market oil importers like China, India and South Korea could send the world into recession, ultimately shrinking OPEC’s market and leaving its members poorer than if they had moderated prices earlier. The Saudis also have strong political reasons for insulating western allies, especially the US and UK, against high oil prices and the consequent strength of rogue states like Venezuela and Iran. From Riyadh, as from Washington, the high-price policy favoured by Caracas and Teheran looks like a strategy to exert neo-imperial authority over the west, and over mineral-poor emerging economies like Cuba, Bolivia and Tanzania. But the Saudis are on the defensive against other OPEC members who now oppose its economic strategy for oil as much as the Wahhabi brand of Islam that has always caused tensions elsewhere in the Gulf. The Saudi government has had to concede the rise towards $100/barrel partly to counter demands within the organisation for a switch away from the dollar, whose ongoing depreciation would have meant a steady drop in income unless the dollar price kept rising.

A review of Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A. Q. Khan, and the Rise of Proliferation Networks

by Zia Mian from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (US: Illinois)

Washington imposed sanctions on Pakistan in April 1979. Nine months later, the United States offered to waive the sanctions and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid to Pakistan. This was to grow into two multibillion dollar aid packages and was only part of a much larger U.S. effort that would involve Saudi Arabia, other oil-rich Arab countries, Western Europe, and China. Why did nonproliferation suddenly lose its value? Washington decided that Khan and the Pakistani Bomb were less important than confronting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It mattered even less that Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator intent on creating an Islamic state. This remained the judgment for 10 years. By then, the damage was done: Pakistan had the Bomb, and a generation had been schooled in radical Islam and jihad. It was only when the Soviets left Afghanistan that Washington rediscovered Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and again imposed sanctions. These and other sanctions on Pakistan were lifted as part of the effort to gain Pakistan's support for the U.S. attack on Afghanistan in 2001. Billions of dollars of military and economic aid again flowed to Pakistan.

The Israeli Perspective

by Andrew Miller from Harvard Political Review (US: Massachusetts)

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Itamar Rabinovich: Bush is perceived to be a very good friend and a massive supporter of Israel. This came as somewhat of a surprise, because the Bush family doesn’t necessarily resonate with that. I think that his father’s administration ended up being a very positive administration for Israel, although there was quite a bit of friction between the administration and the Israeli government at the time. Normally, if you said the name “Bush” to an Israeli, he would immediately respond with “Texas, oil, Saudi Arabia,” but wouldn’t immediately link it with cordial sentiments for Israel. George W. Bush is different because he is embedded in the Christian right. He’s a born-again. I think he wavered, just on the eve of September 11 attacks, under Saudi pressure. However, September 11 and Arafat’s misguided response to it implanted him very firmly upon Israel’s side. So he’s been perceived as a cordial friend of Israel. Yet not everything your friends do necessarily works for you. I think that the jury’s still out on what the long-term effects of the war in Iraq are going to be for Israeli interests.

Japan Developing Yen For Islamic Finance

by Shu-Ching Jean Chen from Forbes (US: New York)

On Monday, the first real estate transaction compliant with Islamic law was struck in Japan, with the asset manager Atlas Partners Japan partnering with Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank to buy three office buildings in Tokyo for 4.38 billion yen ($40 million). The buildings that Atlas and Boubyan bought on Monday were vetted thoroughly according to the standards of Islamic finance, which bars tenants such as interest-taking financial institutions, restaurants that serve alcohol or pork, hotels, cinemas and record companies, and businesses that deal with arms, animal genetic engineering or pornography. The transaction follows a decision in September by the country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, to deepen its knowledge about Islamic finance by joining the Islamic Financial Services Board, an international standard-setting body, as an observer ... At the end of last year, Japan’s largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, forged an alliance with Malaysia's CIMB Group to provide Islamic financial investment banking services. Daiwa, Japan’s second-largest securities broker announced in August that it would list a Sharia-compliant exchange-traded fund in Singapore.

Hong Kong’s SFC approves first retail Islamic fund

by Rita Raagas De Ramos from (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong’s Securities & Futures Commission (SFC) has authorized the territory’s first Islamic fund for sale to retail investors, the Hang Seng Islamic China Index Fund. The Hang Seng Islamic China Index Fund is expected to be based on the Dow Jones Islamic Market (DJIM) China/Hong Kong Titans Index, which was licensed to Hang Seng Bank last month and is the latest addition to the DJIM index series. That index tracks 30 of the largest Shariah-compliant companies whose primary operations are in China and Hong Kong but trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange. To be included in the DJIM China/Hong Kong Titans Index, stocks must pass industry and financial ratio screens for Shariah compliance. Excluded are companies that are involved in alcohol, defense/weapons, entertainment, financial services, pork-related products and tobacco. Also excluded are companies for which the following financial ratios are 33% or more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nigeria: Human Trafficking - a View From Edo State

by Atika Balal from The Daily Trust (Nigeria)

Besides prostitution, marriage, and forced labour, some of these victims of human trafficking in Nigeria are used for rituals, begging and even for organ transplantation or money laundering. While most trafficking into the commercial sex trade involves young adult women, minors including some children under 16 are also exploited. Recent research from Armenia notes a high demand for girls from the age of 15 in some of the Gulf States (the most common destination countries for those trafficked from Central Asia); where after this age girls are considered adults ... Surprisingly, even the solemn Muslim pilgrimage has been turned to an avenue for trafficking, by some unscrupulous persons. Hussaina Ibrahim and Idris Aminu were both charged for trafficking from Kano to Saudi Arabia, organizing illegal foreign travels and debt bondage. Their victims were promised good jobs in Saudi Arabia, but were later introduced to prostitution.

Muslims to draft proposals on domestic relations

by Madinah Tebajjukira and Chris Kiwawulo from The New Vision (Uganda)

Joseph Kakooza, the chairman of the Uganda Law Reform Commission, said “The law on the Muslim domestic relations will be formulated to implement the provision of Article 129 of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of Khadhi courts to handle Muslim matters related to marriage, inheritance and guardianship of children.” Kakooza said he communicated the Government’s position to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council on Monday. The council spokesperson, Hajji Nsereko Mutumba, said a committee, led by the director of Sharia, Sheik Rajab Kakooza, had been appointed to prepare their proposals. “We want to have Muslim family issues solved in Khadhi courts and not in secular courts as proposed in the Bill,” he said. Dorah Byamukama, a human rights activist, advised that the proposal by the Muslims caters for the principles of marriage like age and equality.

Police action over TV film 'undermined free speech'

by Adam Sherwin from The Times (UK)

West Midlands Police rejected calls to take action against the preachers for stirring up racial hatred. Instead, they pursued a complaint against the film-makers of Channel 4 "Undercover Mosque", accusing them of undermining community relations. But Ofcom, the media watchdog, threw out the police complaints. It found that the programme had “accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context”. Ofcom said: “Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity.” Ofcom rejected all 364 complaints received from viewers, saying that they appeared to be part of a campaign. A complaint from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the programme treated it unfairly was also rejected. Don Foster, media spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “This whole case raises serious questions about West Midlands Police and the CPS in what appears to be an attempt to censor television, stifle investigative journalism and inhibit open debate.”

Reader's views: Gulf maid abuse

from BBC News (UK)

Sarook, a Sri Lanakan in Saudi Arabia: I work as a recruitment agent in Saudi Arabia, finding domestic servants for Saudi nationals. I place mainly Sri Lankans and Indonesians. To be honest, I advise people not to seek employment in Gulf countries - especially women ... One or two house maids report to the office every day complaining about ill treatment. They complain about not being paid, not being allowed to contact their family, not being given proper food, long hours and sexual abuse from their employers. If we discover clients are treating maids badly we blacklist them - and we have blacklisted many.

Dr Sharma, Indian national in Saudi Arabia: I often treat household help brought to the clinic by their sponsors [employers]. They usually start by complaining of routine physical ailments, but after a little gentle questioning, one by one they talk about being abused sexually by the men in the family. Getting beaten and working 18 hours a day is almost routine. I am a Bengali-speaking Indian, so the Bangladeshi maids speak quite personally to me. There is no way we can do anything about it. Saudi Arabia is the most starkly racist place you can have. If an expat is involved in an accident with a Saudi, the Saudi can never be wrong.

Artists too frightened to tackle radical Islam

by Ben Hoyle from The Times (UK)

Across Europe there is growing evidence that freedom of expression has been curtailed by fear of religious fundamentalism. French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker is in hiding after calling the Koran a “book of extraordinary violence” in Le Figaro in 2006; Spanish villages near Valencia have abandoned a centuries-old tradition of burning effigies of Muhammad to mark the reconquest of Spain, against the Moors; and an opera house in Berlin banned a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo because it depicted the beheading of Muhammad (as well as Jesus and other spiritual leaders). In Britain, Tim Marlow, director of exhibitions at White Cube - the London gallery, said, "It’s something that’s there but very few people have explicitly admitted. Institutions, museums and galleries are probably doing most of the censorship. I would be lying if I said of course we would show something like the Danish cartoons. I think there are genuine reasons for concern."

Saudi envoy asks Canada to do more for Mideast peace

by Don Butler from The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

Because of its history of peacekeeping, its lack of colonial history and its support for developing nations, "everyone really looks at Canada with respect and admiration," Saudi Ambassador Abdulaziz Al-Sowayegh said during an unusually frank address at Carleton University. He said the most important thing Canada could do is support the implementation of UN resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including demands for Israeli's withdrawal to its 1967 borders. "That, as we see it, would solve all the problems of the region once and for all," he said ... Resolving that conflict, he said, would stop "extremists on both sides" from exploiting it "to advance their distorted ideologies." Though Saudi Arabia has been accused of supporting militant Islam, Mr. Al-Sowayegh said the Saudi leadership considers the fight against terrorism "a continuing struggle that we must win.

Why does Israel need recognition as a Jewish State?

by Jeff Jacoby from israelinsider (Israel)

In advance of the Annapolis conference, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the other day that he expects the Palestinian Authority to finally acknowledge Israel's existence as a Jewish state. If the more than 55 countries that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference are entitled to recognition as Muslim states, and if the 22 members of the Arab League are universally accepted as Arab states, why should anyone balk at acknowledging Israel as the world's lone Jewish state? Yet Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian Authority negotiator, said on Monday that Palestinians would refuse to recognize Israel's Jewish identity because "it is not acceptable for a country to link its national character to a specific religion." ... The flag of Saudi Arabia features the shahada -- the Islamic declaration of faith; the Islamic phrase Allahu Akbar (Allah is great") appears 22 times on the Iranian flag. And then there is Erekat's own Palestinian Authority, whose Basic Law provides in Article 4 that "Islam is the official religion in Palestine."

White House faces battle over arms sales to Saudis for first time in 17 years

from World (US: Virginia)

Opponents of the Saudi arms deal have focused on the White House agreement to sell the Joint Direct Attack Munitions. A letter signed by nearly a third of the 535 members of Congress warned the administration that the JDAM sale was dangerous to Israel. Other components of the Saudi deal were expected to include the PAC-3 missile defense system or upgrades, the Littoral Combat Ship and advanced aircraft systems. Officials said Riyad was considering the purchase of 12 LCS platforms. This would mark Congress' first battle with the White House over a Saudi arms deal since 1990. In that year, the House persuaded the administration of then-President George H.W. Bush to reduce a $20 billion defense package to $7.3 billion and remove the airborne early-warning and control aircraft and the KE-3 tanker aircraft.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Insurgents attack Ugandan troops in Somali capital

by Aweys Yusuf from Reuters

Islamist rebels firing grenades attacked Ugandan peacekeepers early on Saturday in Mogadishu and briefly entered their base, but a spokesman for the African Union force said it suffered no casualties. The overnight raid, which set off a 90-minute battle, took place two days after a fugitive Islamist commander believed to be al Qaeda's man in the Somali capital ordered his fighters to target the Ugandans and kill their officers. About 1,600 Ugandan soldiers have been in the city since March to support a fragile interim government backed by the West, the United Nations and regional power Ethiopia. The local authorities and their Ethiopian military allies have faced an Iraq-style insurgency of roadside bombings and political killings since the start of the year when they drove a hardline sharia courts group out of the capital ... Islamist commander Aden Hashi Ayro, in hiding since the Islamists were routed in January, accused Ethiopia and Uganda of invading and said all other African troops sent to Somalia would face holy war.

Hezbollah Rebuilds South Beirut

by Bassem Mroue from The Associated Press

The muslim militant group Hezbollah has launched a massive project to rebuild south Beirut, devastated in last year's war with Israel - and it's paying for much of the construction with international donor funds that were meant to strengthen its top rival, the Lebanese government. Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government has been distributing the funds as compensation to families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli bombardment so they can build anew. The money going into the government's family compensation program comes mainly from Islamic and Arab nations, chief among them Saudi Arabia - a strong supporter of Saniora and opponent of Hezbollah - which has given $570 million, said Sanaa al-Jack, government spokeswoman for relief and reconstruction projects ... A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said his country has "nothing to do with how the government distributes the money." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Social dislocation feeds Maldives Islamism

by Praveen Swami from The Hindu

According to a 2006 United Nations Children’s Education Fund report, NGOs have estimated that there are some 8,000 drug users in the islands of Maldives, with atotal population is just some 300,000. Islamist groups have been quick to cash in on the discontent, offering the rigours of religious practice as a cure for the strains of cultural and economic change. “Many parents,” says Male journalist Ahmed Nazim Sattar, “are delighted that their wards turn to religious groups, since it keeps them away from drugs and gangs. Very few understand where this journey might take their children.” Bookstores selling the Islamist vision to new recruits have proliferated. Perhaps more important than ideology, Islamist groups are able to provide new recruits tangible material inducements. Traditional elites on the island Male — in the main merchants and traders — have proved energetic sponsors of Islamist networks, hoping to regain the political influence they have lost to the new rich. Young Islamists are offered jobs, loans to start up businesses, and access to commercial networks that stretch into India and Pakistan.

Shi’a and the Shortage of Sheep: More Perspective on Gang-Rape in Saudi Arabia

by Faruq ‘Abd al Haqq from The American Muslim (US)

When I studied in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago, I was told by the other students not to talk to the seven students who were packed into a dormitory room designed for one person. When I asked why, they whispered, “Because they do not have souls.” This intrigued me, because I had never met humanoids without souls. I asked, “Do you mean that they are monkeys, or apes, or baboons, or orangutans that merely look like human beings?” The other students were confused by my question, because apparently they had never thought about it before. Finally they replied with what for them was the simple answer that cut off all questioning: “They are Shi’a!” [NOTE: the 19 year old rape victim is a Shia muslim]

Factors That Stifle Saudi Women’s Creativity

by Maha Al-Hujailan from Al Arabiya

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Saudi women’s success is restricted to literary fields that don’t involve so much creativity. Their success in applied sciences is still very rare. In fact, conservative men in closed societies are still skeptical of the achievements of women in scientific and related fields. You find them discouraging their daughters from studying natural sciences. Some men refuse to marry women who work in such jobs ... If we want a bigger number of creative Saudi women in different fields of life, it is not enough that we provide them with education and work. Most important, we need to force society into discarding certain fears and worries about women’s participation in businesses and other nontraditional areas. How can we expect a Saudi woman to be creative in medicine and sciences when society tells her that she’s neither a good mother nor a good wife because of the nature of her work?

GCC Business leaders criticise education

by Robert Ditcham from Gulf News

Leading figures at some of the Gulf’s top companies and institutions say the majority of job candidates emerge from high education lacking the skills and risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit needed in the cut-throat world of private sector employment. "The education system is not producing what the economy needs," Mutlaq Al Morished, VP of Corporate Finance at Saudi Arabian petrochemicals manufacturer Sabic, said during the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum. The need for a talented workforce is not restricted to white collar. The national population of countries such as Saudi Arabia should take jobs such as painters, welders, machinists, rather than relying on foreign labour, said Al Morished ... Despite its oil wealth, the MENA region has a 12%-15% unemployment rate and will see its population double to more than 820 million by 2050.

Middle East and Africa to fuel Cisco's future growth

by Wael Mahdi from

De Simone, a former vice president of GE and Lucent technology, said that Cisco has big plans for Saudi Arabia, its major market in the Middle East, as the country is becoming a major hub for the company. Part of this investment will go to expand the existing Cisco Systems Networking Academy program by establishing a "Netversity" in Saudi Arabia that Cisco will use for training students from all over the Middle East ... The creation of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Innovation Center in Saudi Arabia will help Cisco to shorten the gab of qualified business managers. In addition, Cisco is supporting King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the School of Government in Dubai to develop more skills in the region. Cisco is the world's biggest maker of the switches and routers that direct internet traffic.

Siraj Capital eyes $250 mln U.S. Islamic bond sale

from Reuters

Saudi Arabian-owned investment bank Siraj Capital said on Sunday it is in final negotiations to arrange a $250 million Islamic bond sale for a U.S.-based company. The deal would be the second Islamic bond sale, or sukuk, for a U.S. entity after the $165 million sukuk sold by Texas-based East Cameron Gas Co earlier this year ... "It is for an oil and gas company operating in South America and listed on the New York stock exchange," Bey said, declining to identify the firm. The funds would be used to partly finance exploration, Bey said. "The credit crunch has forced CFOs of firms in the U.S. to look for alternative finance vehicles," said Bey. "A sukuk can do that and taps into the high liquidity in this region." The majority of investors in the East Cameron transaction were New York-based hedge funds looking at diversifying their capital market portfolios, Bey said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Leftovers: November 11 - 17, 2007

Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ali Al-Timimi
by Ross E. Getman from Blogger News (US)
Last week FBI Director Mueller gave a speech in which he warned against the need to guard against spies at universities, who for example, may have access to pre-patent, pre-classification biochemistry information ... the Wall Street Journal reported that a senior U.S. law-enforcement official said the interrogation of [Saud Memon] yielded intelligence that Memon was aiding al Qaeda to develop anthrax strains.

Why Mareb is seen as a haven for Al Qaeda
by Nasser Arrabyee from The Yemen Observer (Yemen)
Sheikh Abu Hassan al-Sulaimani, who runs a Salafi teaching centre, said that very naïve young people carry out bombings and suicide operations and sabotage acts. The process begins when they start calling others kafirs (infidels). “They judge that the rulers and society are kafirs (infidels),” he said in reference to young people who think wrongly that they will get happy life with beautiful girls (hur al-ein) in paradise as soon as they die in a suicide bombing.

Record number of Chinese Muslims to make Mecca pilgrimage
by Jiang Yuxia from Xinhua (China)
A record 10,700 Chinese Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Association of China (IAC) said here on Wednesday. China has more than 20 million Muslims, mainly living in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ganshu, Ningxia, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia and Henan. Starting in 1985, nearly 100,000 Muslims have fulfilled their pilgrimages.

Hotels in Saudi expecting more pilgrims
from AME Info (UAE)
Saudi Arabia's Rezidor Hotel Group is anticipating greater participation in the religious tourism market, Malaysia Sun reported. Tourist numbers are expected to grow by about 20% annually over the next decade. The Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the world's fastest growing hotel companies and it plans to open three new properties in the holy cities by 2010.

Worker Rights Society Denied Permission
by Lulwa Shalhoub from Arab New (Saudi Arabia)
Anees Al-Ansari, founder and president of the Saudi Society of Labor, received a telephone call last week from the Ministry of Labor informing him that the organization had been denied permission, as there are already other bodies that play a similar role. “I was very disappointed to know that we were rejected. It isn’t like we live in an ideal society with no employment problems.”

Democracy Without Liberty Is Not the Answer
by Marvin Olasky from TownHall (US: Virginia)
Foreign policy realism should not mean accepting dictatorships as inevitable. Instead we need to use all instruments available to promote religious and intellectual liberty. This will be a difficult process, but we have no alternative, for dictatorship means disaster for Muslim countries and more terrorism throughout the world -- and so does democracy without liberty.

Cisco Shareholders Shelve Human Rights Resolution
by Richard Martin from InformationWeek (US: New York)
A shareholder resolution calling on Cisco Systems to actively ensure that its technology sold overseas is not used to censor Internet content was rejected on Thursday. Just over half of the Cisco shareholders voted against the proposal, 28.5% voted for the proposal and 21% abstained. A similar proposal last year received support from 20% of the shareholders.

Teens in D.C. for lobbying lessons
from JTA (US: NY)
Some 300 Jewish high school students are in Washington to learn to lobby. They met with their representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss Iran, the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis and keeping U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia from being used to attack America or its allies.

Students Warned of Problems in US Visa Renewal During Winter Break
by Raid Qusti from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)
In 2006, 11,000 visas were issued to Saudi students in comparison to 4,539 in 2001. The rise in the number of Saudi students is attributed to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which provides government-paid scholarships to high school graduates, university graduates, as well those seeking higher education in foreign universities.

November 14, 2007 Press Briefing by Dana Perino
from The White House (US)
There is an element there that -- of extremists, especially in the Northwestern Territories, that tries to infiltrate these areas where they have been filled with despair. Part of the support that we give to Pakistan is to help lift these people up out of poverty so that they can reject extremism and terrorism ... We believe the best way for Pakistan to have a stable and prosperous future is to fully establish democracy. And that's going to take some time.

'Open' Saudi Arabia falls short of billing
by Claudia Cattaneo from The Financial Post (Canada)
As the host of the Third OPEC Summit, the Saudis recruited global PR firm Hill & Knowlton to hold Western-style press conferences to get their message across in Arabic and English. Reporters who were promised unprecedented access, complained that the effort falls short of the billing. Photography of oil facilities remains barred while organizers could not guarantee interviews with key OPEC officials.

UK Chancellor Hosts High Level Group On City Competitiveness
from Mondo Visione (UK)
Kitty Ussher announced the launch of the consultation on the potential for the Government to become an issuer of wholesale sterling denominated Sharia'a- compliant investment certificates or 'sukuk' ... The joint Treasury - Debt Management Office consultation document on sukuk issuance, launched today, seeks views on the advantages, disadvantages and risks of the Government becoming an issuer of Islamic financial instruments.

Saudi Pak Bank purchase deal likely in two weeks
from The Peninsula (Qatar)
A consortium including Japan's Nomura Holdings and Bank Muscat could sign a deal within two weeks to buy a majority stake in Pakistan's Saudi Pak Bank for as much as $218m. As no new banking licences are being issued, except for Islamic banking, foreigners must buy their way into the market. The consortium, led by Pakistani financier Shaukat Tarin, also includes International Finance Corp (IFC), the World Bank's private sector arm.

U.A.E. May Peg to Currency Basket, Al-Suwaidi Says
by Seyoon Kim and Matthew Brown from Bloomberg (US: NY)
Gulf Arab states include the emirates and Saudi Arabia, which together earn more than $1.2 billion a day from oil sales. A move away from the dollar may see the countries' sovereign wealth funds, which hold an estimated $2 trillion, diversify their holdings. "It's not my prediction but everybody is expecting that the U.S. dollar will go down further," al-Suwaidi said today. "It will trigger a review."

Airbus A380 gets first VIP client
from (UK)
Airbus has identified the customer for the first VIP A380 aircraft (the ‘Flying Palace’) as Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud -- founder of diversified private investment firm Kingdom Holding Company which concentrates on activities in the banking, hotel, and real estate sectors. He already owns a private Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

Maserati to set up regional office in Dubai
by Robert Ditcham from Gulf News (UAE)
Overall, the GCC represents some 5.5% of global Maserati sales, up from 3.5%-4% in 2006. The region's share is expected to climb to 7% in 2008. "The future is also to grow our business in countries like Saudi Arabia where we have huge potential, but have still to prove ourselves," area manager Umberto Maria Cini.

Friday, November 16, 2007

US unleashes six bloggers in assault on Islamist propaganda

by Dan Goodin from The Register (UK)

On Thursday, Duncan MacInnes, of the State Department's bureau of international information programs, told a congressional subcommittee that government spinmeisters are on the case. "We are currently in the process of expanding the original team of two Arabic bloggers to six, while also adding one Urdu and two Farsi (Persian) linguists," MacInnes said in prepared remarks submitted to the House Armed Services Committee's panel of terrorism. "We are also exploring how we can use the applicability of our mission of new cyber-technologies such as Second Life and cell phone games to further advance our mission." He said an Arabic website used to counter violent extremism attracts more than 200,000 visitors per month from countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Morocco. A separate Persian site, he said, "has been highly successful," averaging 42,000 users per week.

Youth Despair of Decent Future in Kosovo

by Sokol Ferizi from BIRN (Serbia)

Statistics produced by the World Health Organisation in 2001 show higher rates of drug abuse among Kosovo’s youth than in Western Europe, while local health workers back this up with daily anecdotes. Other young Kosovars find an outlet for their frustrations in hard-line religion. “If it were not for Islam, I would go away from Kosovo right now,” says Armend, returning from Friday prayers at a local mosque ... Since the war, Islam has grown in importance in Kosovo, especially among young people. A revival began a few years ago, when Arab organisations brought in food and clothes in the wake of the 1999 conflict, and granted scholarships to Far Eastern or Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. While most young people still lead a secular lifestyle, the number of devout Muslims has seen a marked increase. More girls are wearing headscarves, and young men can be seen in short trousers and long beards.

The Delay of Justice

by Abeer Mishkhas from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

There is a never-ending flow of news about incredible Saudi court rulings. The latest involved a groom being sentenced to lashing and prison for entering the wedding hall with his bride. For those who are unfamiliar with the customs of Saudi weddings, the couple march together into the women’s only area where photographs are taken and then, in most cases, the groom then leaves and the bride remains with her female relatives and friends. In this case, however, a woman was offended that the groom had come into the women’s area and complained to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The commission called the groom the next day to inform him of his crime. He was subsequently sentenced on the basis of a complaint from one woman without having a chance to tell his side of the story. The accusation was made and he was sentenced. That was that. What is involved here are our social traditions and customs so we may well ask how such a case ended up in court as a criminal offense. The latest reforms to the Saudi legal system promise much needed changes as soon as they are implemented. The establishment of a Supreme Court is welcome news and it should mean that in such cases as Fatima’s and the Qatif girl’s solutions will be found that will restore peace to their lives and reassure others that justice is above all and is neither delayed nor denied.

Sarkozy wants everyone to have nuclear power - French nuclear power

by Katrin Bennhold from The International Herald Times (US: New York)

After signing a memorandum of understanding with Libya in the summer, French president Nicolas Sarkozy struck a preliminary cooperation accord with Morocco last month. Diplomats say he is planning to discuss nuclear power during trips to Algeria in December and Saudi Arabia in January. Between them, state-controlled nuclear power giant Areva and Electricité de France are also talking to Jordan, the UAE, Turkey, Yemen, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Regional cooperation on nuclear power is a pillar of the president's diplomatic pet project - a Mediterranean Union gathering countries in North Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe into a bloc. Sarkozy voiced the challenge quite starkly in a speech from Aug. 27. "Preventing a confrontation between Islam and the West is helping Muslim countries, as France proposes, to access the energy of the future: nuclear power." Failure to do so, he warned, would lead to "an explosion of terrorism." ... "The Saudis are terrified of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and will almost certainly try to acquire nuclear weapons, too," said Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Advisory Board in President George W. Bush's first term who is now a resident fellow at AEI. "We need to do a lot of work on safeguards before we start building reactors in countries where the risk of proliferation is high."

Muslim World benefits from Iran Saudi ties, Saudi official

from IRNA (Iran)

Saudi Prosecutor General Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Fahd Abdullah said here Wednesday that close ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be to the benefit of Muslim World. The Saudi official made the remarks in a meeting with Iran's Ambassador to Riyadh Muhammad Hosseini ... "We are happy to see that Iran's governing rules are based on Islamic Sharia," he said. The Iranian ambassador, for his part, referred to the plots hatched by the enemies of Islam who try to cause rift among Islamic countries and called the need for exchange of views and cooperation between officials the two states to thwart their plots. "Fortunately, despite the malevolent elements trying to harm ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, cooperation is developing," he said ... The first three-day assembly of judiciary chiefs of the Islamic countries will be held in Tehran on December 14.

Government puts arms exports to Pakistan on hold

from swissinfo (Switzerland)

For the third time in less than a year the government had been asked to change its decision to authorise the Swiss firm Oerlikon Contraves to sell the Pakistani army 21 Skyguard anti-aircraft defence batteries valued at SFr136 million ($120 million). Six have already been delivered. Swiss law bans the sale of war materiel to crisis regions. Neither Oerlikon Contraves, nor its German parent company Rheinmetall would comment on the government decision Wednesday ... Andreas Gross, a parliamentarian from the centre-left Social Democratic Party and founder of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, says the current law provides for avoiding the sale of arms to crisis regions as long as one respects the spirit and not the letter of the law. This however is not always the case, admitted leftwing figures who recently criticised the government for selling arms not only to Pakistan but also to Saudi Arabia.

Bush Urged To Place Rules On $20B Saudi Arms Sale

by Eli Lake from The New York Sun (US)

Pressure is mounting from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress -- Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Rep. Christopher Carney (D-PA), are circulating a letter calling on the White House to "guarantee to Congress' satisfaction that selling JDAMs to Saudi Arabia will not harm U.S. forces or our democratic ally Israel." The letter from Congress, set to be sent to Mr. Bush on Friday, comes during a week in which the State Department formally notified Congress of the weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. Some House members, led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), have already announced that they will oppose the $20 billion sale ... Mr. Kirk said yesterday that he was concerned that Mr. Bush could be making the same mistake with Saudi Arabia that President Carter made when he sold F–14 Tomcat Fighter Jets to the shah of Iran in 1977 and 1978. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, those fighters were aimed at the U.S. Navy. "Over the long haul, unless you see a stable democracy, you have got to contemplate the prospect of a government changing. You want to make sure any advanced weapons you provide cannot represent a danger to Americans in uniform."

Israel moves to curb any changes to Jerusalem

By Isabel Kershner from The New York Times (US)

The newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday that, before the Annapolis meetings, Israel will announce a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and declare its willingness to dismantle illegal West Bank settlements. Such a move could help persuade Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, to attend the meeting. Saudi officials have indicated that they would be more likely to attend if Israel first shows signs of what they see as serious intent. The Jerusalem bill, put forth by more than 20 rightist and religious lawmakers, has a long way to go before it becomes law.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Saudi lawyer reports harassment after defending rape victim

from AFP (France)

Abdurrahman al-Lahem (Abdul Rahman al-Lahem), A Saudi lawyer and human rights activist, said that the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif banned him from handling the rape case and confiscated his lawyer's licence because he challenged the verdict. Last year, the court in Al-Qatif sentenced six Saudi men accused of raping the woman to between one and five years in jail while sentencing the woman to 90 lashes. Lahem appealed the ruling at the Higher Judicial Council, which ordered a retrial. The court toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison in a new ruling on Wednesday. But it also sentenced the woman to six months in jail and 200 lashes ... The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's minority Shiite community, to which the woman belongs. The accused are Sunnis, the dominant community in the Gulf country which applies a rigorous Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism. He said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."