Monday, December 17, 2007

Mortars rock Mogadishu as death toll rises to 19


Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies fought Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu for a second day on Friday. A government official said the Islamist rebels had joined forces with thousands of foreign jihadists. At least 19 people have been killed by violence in the past 24 hours, including a mortar strike on the capital's busy Bakara Market that left mutilated bodies piled in pools of blood. Many Somalis say the insurgents -- remnants of a hardline sharia court groups chased out of the city a year ago -- have become increasingly confident in recent months while an interim government has been hobbled by infighting. "Foreign Islamist elements from Afghanistan, Chechnya and some Arab nations have arrived (in October and November). There are around 4,500 foreign terrorists in the country," said Sheikh Qasim Ibrahim Nur, a director at the Security Ministry. "Eighty percent of the country is at risk, and I can say terrorist activities in Somalia are at their maximum level."

Nigerian Church Struggles to Survive in Muslim-run State

Obed Minchakpu, Christian News Today (US: Ohio)

Barrister Haruna Isa Dederi, Kano state information commissioner, declined to comment on the onslaught on Rev. Zoaka’s church by the government and other Islamic agents. A Christian source in Nigeria told Compass that persecution “is becoming high” in all 44 local government areas of the state. “It is a dream of every single local government area in the state to wipe away Christians and Christianity,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “All the traditional rulers who are used by the government to execute sharia [Islamic law] in all the areas are Muslims with the same mission. Shedding of blood of Christians and destruction of their worship places are among the atrocities that are used to achieve this grand plan.”

Putin Opens Mecca Path for Muslims

Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times (US: New York)

The government is nevertheless concerned that its citizens could be exposed to extremist forms of Islam while on the hajj, and some analysts, including Evgeny Y. Satanovskiy, president of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in Moscow, say that government assistance to the pilgrims belies attempts to track their activities.“We know that Saudi Arabia invests in the propaganda of the Saudi Arabian-style Islam, the Wahhabi-style/ Islam, much more than the whole Soviet Union for the whole Soviet history spent on the propaganda of the Communist ideology,” Mr. Satanovskiy said. Most Muslims — with the exception of some extremists in the North Caucasus — are highly integrated into Russian soci\iety, and many government officials and Muslim leaders worry that an influx of more conservative or even radical Islamic beliefs from places like Saudi Arabia could whip up discord. The Russian press has reported recently that many security service personnel are among this year’s pilgrims, evidence, some say, of a government effort to supervise Russian citizens while they are in Saudi Arabia. Officials and hajj organizers have denied that this is the case.

Obama: Saudi Arabia fosters human rights violations

Jason Clayworth, The Des Moines Register (US: Iowa)

Barack Obama pointed to a situation in which a 19-year-old gang rape victim in the country was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated man. “The human rights record sometimes in Saudi Arabia is not one that we should align ourselves with.” Obama told the audience that such close ties with Middle East countries is “mortgaging some of our future” because it has weakened the value of the U.S. dollar as well as helping to finance terrorist activities. “We can’t keep on sending billions of dollars every single month to Saudi Arabia because, number one, that money is often finding its way into activities that are contrary to our long-term interest,” Obama said. “There’s no doubt that some of the financing of terrorism as come from these areas.”

Why Black American Muslims Don’t Stand For Justice - Part 5

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, The American Muslim

After twenty years of the immigrants’ controlling the Islamic agenda in America, by the year 2000 Blackamericans had clearly taken the “back seat” when it came to community issues. Having taken up this knotty and controversial question of why “Blackamerican Muslims don’t stand for justice”, we’ve learned that one of the most important factors in our failure to develop and maintain a community activist, social justice tradition has been the overwhelming dominance and influence of the immigrant Muslim community ... One popular salafi speaker - who is Blackamerican - even wrote a series in which he told his followers that - AS A RELIGIOUS POINT - the Arabs are Superior to the rest of the Ummah. He mentioned in this series that one of his teachers threatened that anyone who disbelieved in this noxious doctrine would be classified as a ‘deviant’. And the others under him readily accepted this without question despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary in Islam. It is no wonder we began to hear Blacks in the community say of Blackamerican Muslims that we have gotten off the back of the bus to get on the back of the camel. It was precisely this kind of indoctrination that passed as teaching that only exacerbated the inferiority complex that Blackamericans already had.

A Return to Tradition

Jay Tolson, U.S. News & World Report (US: Washington DC)

The state of traditionalism in Islam is more difficult to capture. On one hand, more young Muslims are embracing outward symbols of their devotion—women wearing head scarves, men growing beards. Many are also more observant of the duties of the faith, whether saying the five daily prayers or fasting during Ramadan. But it is hard to say whether all of this signals a return to traditional Islam or the embrace of a highly puritanical reformist Islam associated with Wahhabi and Salafist teachings—teachings that many Islamic scholars find contrary to the deeper traditions of the faith. Indeed, Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, and some Islamic scholars in America argue that an informed understanding of sharia (Islamic law) is the best antidote to extremism and fundamentalism. The uncertainty, of course, is whether their views will find a wider following among contemporary Muslims.

One Last Thing | America's oil obsession may need a gas tax

Jonathan Last, The Philadelphia Inquirer (US: Pennsylvania)

On the most general level, oil is the reason America must care about the Middle East. If we didn't need oil, then America could treat the Middle East with the same sort of neglect we do Africa. (Not to say such neglect would be morally justifiable, only that it would be logistically feasible. Our neglect of Darfur and Rwanda, while reprehensible, hasn't caused us any tangible harm.) Instead, we are invested in a troublesome, hostile region and worse, we are funding "friends" who are enemies in deed. We call Saudi Arabia a friend, but its aims pose at least as much of a long-term threat as those of Saddam's Iraq and the mullahs' (not Ahmadinejad's) Iran. The money we spend on oil flows into Saudi coffers and then off to various Wahhabi radicals. To take just one example, Saudi money feeds the Wahhabi proselytization that has turned Europe into a cultural powder keg. The most pernicious effect of our Middle Eastern oil addiction is that it retards the region's political development, keeping it mired in despotism and instability. Oil revenues in Gulf states make taxation there largely unnecessary.