Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Report: Hill Must Fight Terror Funding

by Bryant Jordan from Military.com

To read the Congressional Research Service report is to wonder who is being held accountable in Saudi Arabia. "To date, U.S. officials have continued to express their disappointment with Saudi enforcement measures, particularly with a lack of public prosecutions for individuals accused of financing terrorism outside of the kingdom," say Christopher Blanchard and Alfred Prados, authors of the report ... As recently as August, lawmakers concluded that Saudi Arabia has an uneven record in the fight against terrorism, "especially with respect to terrorist financing," and directed the Bush administration to report back by early February with a long-term strategy on how the U.S. will work with Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism, "including through effective measures to prevent and prohibit the financing of terrorists by Saudi institutions and citizens."

Sweden cracks down on religious influences in schools

from AFP

Swedish Education Minister Jan Bjoerklund said religion could still be studied at school as a separate subject but other classes could in no way be influenced by religious convictions. For example, the origin of human life would have to be explained from a scientific point of view and not a religious one, he said. The Swedish government also plans to allocate additional funds to carry out controls on schools, sometimes unannounced ... Sweden has some 800 independent schools, both primary and secondary. According to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, about 10% of these schools have a religious profile. Bjoerklund said the initiative would help improve transparency about the financing of these schools. He cited the case of an independent Muslim school that had received financial aid from a fundamentalist Islamic organisation in Saudi Arabia.

Citizen Lab releases guide to bypassing Internet censors

by Jacqui Cheng from Ars Technica

Countries like China and North Korea are well-known Internet censors, but the issue is a global one that includes countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen, to name a few. In fact, according to the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, there are at least 25 countries worldwide that engage in Internet censorship practices. That's why the Canada-based Citizen Lab has published Everyone's Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide. The guide, a 31-page PDF, addresses a very general, non-technical audience. The Citizen Lab makes no secret of the fact that much of the advice contained within the guide can put both the user and the provider at risk, and that, depending on the laws within each country, many circumvention techniques can be illegal. Unfortunately, since the guide is written to such a wide, global audience, the Citizen Lab does not provide specific examples of laws or practices.

The Iconoclast

Salman Rushdie interviewed by Shikha Dalmia from Reason Online

Reason: You wrote an essay criticizing President Bush and other Western leaders for claiming after 9/11 that "this is not about Islam." In what way is this about Islam?

Rushdie: Well, you know, that was said for good reasons. It was said to minimize the backlash against Muslims. But just in terms of actual fact, it is absurd. It is not about football. The fact that it is about a particular idea of Islam that many Muslims would reject does not mean it is not about Islam. The Christian Coalition is still about Christianity, even if it's an idea of Christianity that many Christians might not go along with.

Reason: What they mean is that it is not about Islam properly understood. That it is about certain extreme followers of Islam who might not be interpreting the religion correctly.

Rushdie: Yes, but Wahhabi Islam is becoming very powerful these days. To say that it is not about Islam is to not take the world as it really is.

Saudi, Malaysian Firms in Talks to Build Power Plants in Iran

from Arab News

Talks with Saudi Arabia and Malaysia on establishment of two power plants in Fars and Zanjan provinces are under way, deputy head of Iran Power Development Company (IPDC), Mostafa Ali-Rabbani, announced here Saturday, IRNA news agency reported on Sunday, a copy of which was sent to Arab News. The power plants will be built on the build-own-operate (BOO) or build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, the English-language daily Tehran Times quoted him as saying. Ali-Rabbani termed it a novel strategy in the country’s energy sector. The official predicted a great presence of foreign and domestic private organizations in the projects in near future in line with enforcement of the Article 44 of the Constitution.

The folly of war with Iran

by Walter Rodgers from The Christian Science Monitor

While it seems clear that an American war with Iran might be in Israel's interest, it is not necessarily so. Some in Saudi Arabia might like to see rival Iran pummeled by the US military. But the US should not fight proxy wars for Saudi Arabia or Israel, and it's debatable if either would ultimately be safer in the long run after a US attack on Iran ... Both Moscow and Washington have made the same two policy errors in Southwest Asia in the past 30 years. They tried to occupy rigidly Muslim countries and reshape tribal Islamic societies, tailoring them to their respective Western ideologies. Both superpowers grossly misjudged the powerful hold religion has over Muslims, and they expected Afghans and Iraqis to embrace secular communism or Western democracy. The Russians failed, and America's prospects don't appear much better.

From the ashes of fundamentalism

by Sharif Nashashibi from The Guardian

Fundamentalism is taking the region to "a new catastrophe, the worst one," which is a Sunni-Shia war, said Elias Khoury, a Christian Lebanese novelist with an Islamic background - he used to go to church and read the Qur'an at the same time. He warned "our Israeli cousins" not to wish for such an outcome, for this would lead the region, including Israel, to self-destruction. The Arab media is among the victims of fundamentalism and dictatorship, according to Khoury. "The pan-Arab newspapers are Saudi, and the pan-Arab satellite TV stations are either Saudi or Qatari, which means that all the media is under the control of a fundamentalist ideology," he said. "And the media is under the service of regimes."