Thursday, December 6, 2007

Harty's downfall

by Joel Mowbray from The Washington Times (US: Washington DC)

As head of consular affairs at the State Department, Maura Harty oversaw passports, administration of embassies and consulates, and, most important, visas. It was in visa policy where she continued the path blazed by her predecessor, Mary Ryan, who had made it easier than ever in countries around the world for foreigners to receive visas — often in contravention of the law. Though visa policy receives little congressional scrutiny, it is a critical component of border security. All 19 of the September 11 terrorists came here on valid temporary visas — despite the fact that at least 15 of the terrorists did not qualify for one under the law. The terrorists didn't acquire visas through skill or fraud; they simply took advantage of a system rigged to approve almost every Saudi national who wished to come to the United States — a practice that plainly violated the law. Congress years ago required that all applicants be presumed ineligible until they prove their own eligibility — an intentionally high bar to clear. This provision, however, was turned on its head by Mrs. Ryan, then by Miss Harty ... Rather than tighten visa procedures, Miss Harty oversaw a relaxing of the rules in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. Even Saudi Arabiaapproval rates for visa applicants remained stunningly high.

British imam's daughter under police protection after converting to Christianity

by Ruth Gledhill from The Times (UK)

The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago. Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage. The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life ... "It is representative of some Muslims. I know the Koran says that anyone who goes away from Islam should be killed as an apostate so in some ways my family are following the Koran. They are following Islam to the word. But I do not think every Muslim would actually act on that." Earlier this year, a Policy Exchange study found that 36% of British Muslims aged between 16 and 24 believed those who converted to another religion should be punished by death.

Hospital staff told to make sure Muslim patients' beds face Mecca five times a day

by Gwyneth Rees from The Daily Mail (UK)

Nurses are being encouraged to spend valuable time turning around the beds of Muslim patients up to five times a day - so they can face Mecca. In a bid to promote cultural understanding, they are also expected to provide patients with running water so they can wash before prayer. And then, of course, they are required to turn the beds back around to return the wards to normality. The measures are being pursued by Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust to ensure Muslim patients have a "more comfortable stay in hospital". Hundreds of staff have attended tax-payer-funded workshops with Muslim GPs and ethnic-minority support groups on how best to help patients. If the measure is deemed "practically possible" and does not impinge on other patients, then it should be carried out. And if it is not practical, nurses are encouraged to find them a bed that faces Mecca permanently. But an experienced nurse at Dewsbury and District Hospital in Yorkshire where the ideas are being tested, has blasted the scheme. She said: "It would be easier to create Muslim-only wards with every bed facing Mecca than deal with this."

‘Qatif Girl’ Lawyer May Get License Back Next Week

by Ebtihal Mubarak from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

“In the Qatif Girl case they are accusing me of contacting the Human Rights Commission and the justice minister. This is absurd. I’m a Saudi lawyer. My authoritative source is the minister. Why am I blamed for contacting him?” said Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem. The prosecutor’s summons also lists an objection that Al-Lahem represented the rape victim after the case was closed and a final judgment was made ... “If I was wrong in contacting the minister then why did the Higher Court looked at the case in the first place?” said Al-Lahem. The prosecutor is also accusing Al-Lahem of giving statements to the local media while representing the forcefully-divorced couple. “Al-Lahem accused the judges of depending on custom, not Shariah in issuing their verdict when divorcing the couple,” the summons said, quoting a TV interview.

Saudi Arabia’s media strategy

by Vijaya Cherian from Arabian Business (UAE)

Dr. Riyadh Najm: We are the first in the Arab world and in the Middle East to adopt digital terrestrial transmission. That means all of our four radio and four TV programmes can be transmitted terrestrially apart from being broadcast via satellite ... This is one way of securing safe content to the conservative Saudi population ... We do realise the need for carefully deregulating audio-visual media in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the MOCI is putting together the regulations to have some private channels broadcast from KSA. In 10 years, we believe there will be more openness in the media and more private channels will be allowed to broadcast out of KSA starting with FM radio. This will happen within a framework that is acceptable to the population, providing them with alternatives to content that are reaching them by satellite and new forms of media.

The Two Faces of Salafism in Azerbaijan

by Anar Valiyev from The Jamestown Foundation (US: Washington, DC)

It is very unlikely that non-militant Salafis would organize strong political organizations for several reasons. First of all, Salafis worldwide, and in Azerbaijan particularly, believe that Muslims should not engage in Western activities like conventional politics. Secondly, the Azerbaijan government would hardly allow Salafis to get organized at any level. Nevertheless, radical militant Salafis would continue to present a threat to the secular statehood of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the majority of the public and Azerbaijan’s law enforcement agencies do not see much difference between radical and peaceful Salafis. In many cases peaceful adherents of Salafism are oppressed, arrested or forced to shave beards. Such actions and continued oppression could drastically change the situation, leading to peaceful Salafis feeling the need to organize or join radical groups in order to resist police brutality and persecution. That, in turn, could lead to a new wave of opposition between Salafis and government, the outcome of which is hard to predict.

Man Dupes Naïve Misyar Hopefuls

from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

A Saudi man took advantage of the high demand for misyar brides and duped three men out of more than SR75,000, the daily Al-Riyadh reported yesterday. In Saudi Arabia, misyar works like this: A woman basically agrees in a binding Islamic marriage contract to be set up with certain material provisions (an apartment, a car, etc.) in exchange for living with a married man. She may also forgo any pre-nuptial demands, but since she doesn’t get a dowry or access to other material support she usually asks for something. Usually the more attractive and younger the woman, the more leverage she has in getting material positions. In this case, three different men asked the man for his daughter’s hand in marriage and instead of approving one prospective groom, the man accepted all three proposals. After he had the money, the man fled to an unknown location and conveniently changed all of his contact numbers.

Time to take tough decisions

by Arthur MacDonald from The Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, global director of Dow Jones Islamic indices Rushdi Siddiqui said the industry would have to attract investors from outside the Islamic community to reach its true potential. "We have to decide whether the industry can move forward with strict Sharia-compliant screens on investment products or whether we should have parallel products based on ethical investment," he said ... "Islamic finance is not just for Muslims, it is for everyone who believes in this way of investing." He said that while the Islamic finance industry was growing strongly there was still not enough supply of products. This gap could be crossed by attracting global fund managers and hedge funds into investing in Islamic products like sukuk, he said. "Western finance will come into the industry because Islamic finance is seen as a good investment vehicle," he added.

Islamic finance certificate launched

from Reuters

Fuelled by oil, the worldwide Islamic finance sector is growing by 15 to 20% a year but needs more specialists, an accounting body said on Wednesday, launching the first global qualification in the field. The London-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) said the industry was worth between 150 and 250 billion pounds ($300-500 billion) and that its rapid growth had fuelled a need for both Muslim and non-Muslim financial experts to boost their knowledge. "We would like to establish a minimum global standard, to basically have consistency across a range of issues," CIMA director of education Robert Jelly told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch in London. "This is the first step. It is not a religious product - it is a corporate product with a religious component." In the long term, CIMA wants to set up both a diploma and perhaps a Master's degree in conjunction with a university.