Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Specter, Wyden Introduce Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2007

by Senators Arlen Specter and Ron Wyden (US)

The legislation calls on Saudi Arabia to immediately and unconditionally:

  • permanently close all organizations in Saudi Arabia that fund, train, incite, encourage, or in any way aid and abet terrorism anywhere in the world;
  • end all funding for offshore terrorist organizations;
  • block all funding from private Saudi citizens and entities to Saudi-based or offshore terror organizations, and;
  • provide complete, unrestricted, and unobstructed cooperation to the United States in the investigation of terror groups and individuals.
The Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2007 also contains a reporting requirement that the President of the United States certify to Congress when Saudi Arabia is in compliance with the actions listed above. Absent this certification, the Secretary of State must report to Congress describing Saudi Arabia’s progress towards achieving the four objectives. “We cannot be successful in the Global War on Terrorism by ignoring the problem Saudi Arabia presents to our security,” Specter said. “If we want Saudi Arabia to be a real partner in counterterrorism, we must stop giving the Saudi government a free pass. Most countries that fail to take action against terrorist financiers are not given the chance to sign a $20 billion arms deal with the United States,” said Wyden.

Lawmakers rip into Yahoo over testimony on dissident arrest

by Grant Gross from PC World (US)

While Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, called Yahoo's cooperation with China "repugnant," Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, said Congress should look at its own actions in supporting repressive regimes. Congress pours hundreds of millions of dollars in aid into Pakistan, which this week is cracking down on protesters, Wexler noted. The U.S. government has close ties with Saudi Arabia, and it has encouraged U.S. companies to do business in China, he added. "There's a level of complicity, yes with Yahoo, but also with this government," he said. "I would respectfully suggest that if we delve into these issues ... let's talk about the role of the United States government and whether we legitimately do or do not inhibit freedom or democracy."

Woman presumed dead returns home after 13 years

by Kapila Somaratne from The Daily News, (Sri Lanka)

N.G. Mallika, a middle aged woman who was presumed dead by her family, returned home after 13 years in Saudi Arabia working as a house maid. "Now I am 51 years. I had to undergo many difficulties and could not correspondent with the family as all my documents including the passport was destroyed by one of the landowners. I was in house arrest for several years. I escaped from that house having worked here for several years without payment and complained to the embassy. They summoned the land owner and held an inquiry. The officials forced her to pay all the dues. She paid Rs. 1.6 million [US$ 14,555] to me." Mallika thanked the Foreign Employment Bureau for helping her return home.

Region's Pakistanis divided

by Stephen Magagnini and Dorothy Korber from The Sacramento Bee

The crisis tearing Pakistan apart is playing out in Northern California's Pakistani communities, where leaders Monday debated whether President Pervez Musharraf is a dictator gone mad or a pragmatist trying to maintain order. Irfan Haq, a businessman with a Ph.D. in economics and leader among Sacramento's 2,000 Pakistani Americans, said Musharraf is better than those who came before him – and that the declaration of emergency rule may be a necessary evil on Pakistan's rocky road to a pro-American democracy ... "the roots of radicalism were planted when 4 million Afghan refugees came after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." Along with the Afghans – pro-Taliban who stocked many of Pakistan's madrassas, or religious schools – came Wahhabi Saudis sympathetic to al-Qaida, Haq said ... Zak Vera is a Davis doctor whose father, a political scientist, taught democracy in Pakistan. Until literacy comes to the people, Vera contends, Pakistan, like other poor Third World countries, "is not ready for democracy." Vera and his wife, Shereen, provide scholarships and sewing machines to poor Pakistani villages on humanitarian missions.

Tunisian opposition forms strategy for next elections

by Jamel Arfaoui from Magharebia (Tunisia)

Tunisia's Ettajdid (Renewal) Movement hosted a seminar on October 28th in which a number of leftist parties, political figures and progressive organisations explored the possibility of forming a unified front in the 2009 presidential and legislative elections. According to Ettajdid Secretary-General Ahmed Brahim, this is the first meeting of its kind to be allowed by Tunisian authorities in a public place ... Salah Zghidi, founding member of the Association for the Defence of Secularism in Tunisia, attacked opposition newspapers for failing to criticise what he described as religious extremism propagated by "the giant of oil television channels that destroys the brains of our youth", in reference to religious satellite channels funded by Saudi Arabia. Zeghidi stressed the need to confront religious intolerance and to spread the culture of democracy among the people.

Minnesotan Somali Declares Candidacy for Somalia’s Premiership

by Swallehe Msuya from Mshale (Somalia)

Abdurahman Ali Osman, a peace-activist and businessman in Minnesota, has announced plans to go back to his native Somalia to vie for the vacant post of Prime Minister following the resignation of Ali Mohamed Gedi. Osman said he had friends in diplomatic circles of the US, UN and neighboring countries who desired Somalia to be stable and peaceful ... On Islamic Courts, Osman said they had a positive role to play as long as “they apply the Sharia (Islamic law) to work in the interest of the people in the true Islamic spirit.” The Islamic Courts have to agree to deal with Ethiopian forces now on the ground to prevent things “going out of hand again,” he said ... Osman’s pragmatism, he said, would allow him to strengthen ties with international organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference which started in Somalia in 1967, the African Union and the United Nations.

How and Why to Support Religion Overseas

by Scott M. Thomas from Foreign Policy In Focus (US)

Any kind of foreign aid to promote democracy or development is a type of foreign intervention in another country. These kinds of interventions by their very nature are disruptive, and raise unavoidable questions about the values, power, stability, and social change in these societies, and do so in ways that also often lead to concerns over international security. The US, for example, has intervened in Mali as part of the Pentagon’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorist Initiative. This has encouraged young, reformist, Muslim intellectuals, often trained in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, to take leadership roles in new, Islamic, community-based organizations. They are intent on spreading what they considered to be a purer, less Malian, less indigenous form of Islam – hardly what the United States intended. A virtue-ethics approach must therefore link inter-faith relations and community development. It offers the only possible constructive, long-term way to handle the disruptions of social change caused by development.

Building set to start on Saudi-funded Mosque

from The Local (Sweden)

The new mosque, to be built in the Hisingen area, will include a 25-metre minaret. When the building is completed in 2009 it will bring to an end more than fifteen years of waiting for the city's Muslims. The government of Saudi Arabia has contributed 44 million kronor of the 50 million kronor cost of building the mosque ... The ultra-conservative Wahabi brand of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia has meant that some liberal Muslims in Gothenburg have been sceptical towards accepting Saudi money. But Mohammed insisted that the Saudi authorities would not have control over the running of the mosque. "They have not made any demands. Also, it was not them who sought us out - we went to them." Mohammed said that the only requirements from the Saudis were that the mosque should be "welcoming to Muslims and non-Muslims."