Monday, September 24, 2007

Saudis free one of nine reformists

from AFP

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

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

by Jonathan Bunn from Your Local Guardian

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

Terror funds in Dalal Street?

from The Times of India

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

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

from Aafaq via MEMRI

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

Nobel laureates to strengthen Saudi science

by Wagdy Sawahel from SciDev.Net

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

How not to help 'moderates'

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

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

Islam exerts growing influence on Kyrgyz politics

by Tolkun Namatbaeva from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

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