Thursday, August 23, 2007

Guantanamo Bay victims may get $132,000

by Geoffrey Bew from The Gulf Daily News

FIVE Bahrainis released from Guantanamo Bay may each soon receive a 50,000 Bahraini Dinar grant (US $132,500) from the government. MP Mohammed Khalid said it is crucial the men receive compensation for the suffering and torture they were forced to endure in the US prison camp and so they are able to financially support their families ... Juma Al Dossary, who has dual Bahraini-Saudi nationality, was also among a group of 16 Saudis freed and transferred to Riyadh last month. "Look at what the government of Saudi Arabia has given Juma - a car, monthly allowance, help to find a job and to get married." Mr Khalid, from Al Menbar block, said he plans to lobby the proposal among other MPs in the coming weeks to drum up support for the idea.

U.S. wants Islamic charity figure held as flight risk

from The Associated Press

Chris Cardani, the assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case, argued that Pirouz Sedaghaty, a native of Iran and a U.S. citizen, promoted a radical version of Islam based in Saudi Arabia known as Wahabbism, making him a danger because he could incite radical followers to acts of violence. He noted that Sedaghaty had returned to the United States on a duplicate U.S. passport, and had not surrendered his Iranian passport until he appeared in court Wednesday ... But Sedaghaty's lawyer, Larry Matasar, said Sedaghaty has always been a moderate and had steered away from the fundamentalist version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia .. Matasar also called an expert witness, As'ad AbuKhalil, a California State University professor who disputed the government's claim that Sedaghaty supported radical Islamic doctrine. AbuKhalil said Saudi wealth is used to promote Wahabbism worldwide by funding mosques and charities, and distributing a Saudi version of the Quran called the "nobel Quran" that has a more militant interpretation of its teachings.

Pakistan: the 'poor neighbour'

by William Dalrymple from the Mail & Guardian

Of the 162 million Pakistanis, 83 million adults of 15 years and above are illiterate. Among women the problem is worse still: 65% of all female adults are illiterate. The virtual collapse of government schooling has meant that many of the country's poorest people have no option but to place their children in the madrasa system, where they are guaranteed an ultra-conservative but free education, often subsidised by religious endowments provided by the Wahhabi Saudis. Altogether there are now an estimated 800,000 to one million students enrolled in Pakistan's madrasas. Though the link between the madrasas and al-Qaeda is often exaggerated, it is true that madrasa students have been closely involved in the rise of the Taliban and the growth of sectarian violence; it is also true that the education provided by many madrasas is often wholly inadequate to equip children for modern life in a civil society.

The president's options

by M B Naqvi from The News-International

There is a rising tide of Islamic extremism in Pakistan. The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is under serious threat. A new state appears to be rising, tentatively so far. The Islamic terrorists, the Taliban, are the same force battling the Nato forces in Afghanistan with the same ethnic characteristics. Ideologically and ethnically, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are Pushtoons who follow Pushtoonwali as well as an extremely austere Islam of the Wahabi or Salafi conception. This is a growing threat, not confined to NWFP ... The US has forced Musharraf to negotiate a deal with Benazir Bhutto's PPP. They are expected to provide a new political impetus to the American war on terror inside Pakistan. She and her party are supposed to be moderate Muslim modernist and adequately pragmatic (in the term's American usage). Can this idea succeed? It is more likely to boomerang and may actually force the pace of Talibanisation to become faster, thanks to its US provenance.

An Inside Look at France's Mosque Surveillance Program

by Pascale Combelles Siegel from The Jamestown Foundation

The Renseignements Généraux (RG), the French internal intelligence service, have been monitoring mosques, their clerics and their sermons since the mid-1990s. The section of the RG called Milieux Intégristes Violents (Violent Fundamentalist Environment) is in charge of monitoring and they have identified radical mosques in almost every corner of French territory, with the exception of four, predominantly rural, régions (Corse, Poitou-Charentes, Basse-Normandie and Limousin). Every Friday, sermons are collected through unidentified means, and they are centralized and analyzed. The RG use their analysis to determine which imams are preaching a radical Salafi brand of Islam, or if they are assisting terrorist activities by helping recruitment or granting material support to an operational network ... But Mosques do not constitute the only channel of religious radicalization in France. The internet, with numerous jihadi-friendly websites available in both Arabic and French, allows the dissemination of a radical Salafi discourse that preaches hatred of the West, rabid anti-Semitism and anti-French racism.

Blogging for democracy around the world

by Hamid Tehrani from Global Voices

In many ways, Saudi Arabia makes Iran seem very liberal. The Kingdom is a far more conservative place. Women can’t drive, work in shops, or drive. As a Westerner, it was virtually impossible for me to speak to Saudi women. But when it comes to the internet, the Saudis don’t imprison bloggers and censor lightly compared to the Islamic republic (my Guardian article expands on these points further.) I met a number of Saudi bloggers, including Saudi Jeans, who told me about the frustration of seeing their society moving so slowly towards political reform. The Iranian blogging scene is far more advanced than Saudi Arabia, and is far more integrated into society (though not in government bureaucracy, where the wheels move very slowly, indeed.)