Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Inside the war

Joshua Sinai, The Washington Times (US: Washington DC)

"The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack" is a remarkably insightful and revealing look at how U.S. counterterrorism agencies and their top players conducted America's attacks on al Qaeda and its affiliates prior to and following September 11 ... Art Cummings, the FBI's Counterterrorism Division's deputy assistant director, explains that many of these operatives are not "religious fanatics," although "Islamic extremism was a factor. But a lot of these guys were young and adventure-seeking. A lot of them were pressured by their families to go check that box: They wanted the jihadi badge of honor." As a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo, who had gone to Afghanistan to fight, told Mr. Cummings, "I think about humanity, the ummah — the Islamic community that follows Mohammed. I'm coming here for you, to fight the broader cause, for Islam." There now exists a new variety of terrorist operatives, who Mr. Cummings describes as a combination of home-grown wannabes, "inspired by bin Laden rather than controlled by him," and professional terrorists. The former type is particularly worrisome because while they may not be as sophisticated as al Qaeda's seasoned operatives, to Mr. Cummings, they are "becoming more common," and therefore "exceedingly dangerous because they're willing to give up their personal safety and personal freedoms to go overseas to a foreign place, with people that are going to teach them how to become a terrorist, essentially. It's this convergence of capability and willingness that cause the person to be unbelievably dangerous."

A place of prayer or violence?

Abi Daruvalla, Expatica (Netherlands)

The El Tawheed mosque was bought about five years ago with a EUR 1.5 million loan from the Saudi Arabian charity Al Haramain, which has since been put on the United Nation's blacklist of organisations with al-Qaeda links. Amsterdam mayor said on Dutch TV that a report by the national security service (AIVD) into activities at the El Tawheed mosque - published earlier this year - had concluded there was nothing to gain by closing down the controversial mosque ... In fact, the El Tawheed mosque is mentioned on several occasions in the 2004 report by the Dutch security services into the influence of the radical Salafitism (sometimes also called Wahhabism) movement in the Netherlands. "The Netherlands has a number of mosque foundations with an outspoken Salafitist character. They have emerged from missions and financing from Saudi Arabia. The mosques involved are Stichting El Tawheed in Amsterdam..." The report concluded that the AIVD did not have evidence that mosques in Holland openly propagated jihad. But it did say that this form of orthodox Islam was very attractive to Muslim communities in the West, especially to young Muslims to whom it seemed to offer a simple solution for their identity problems.

Savage vs. CAIR: The battle over free speech

Cinnamon Stillwell, The San Francisco Chronicle (US: California)

CAIR expressed concern over a number of statements made by Savage on his Oct. 29 program that the group felt were anti-Muslim in nature. In response, CAIR, along with the newly formed Hate Hurts America Community and Interfaith Coalition, has attempted to mount a boycott aimed at advertisers on Savage's show. According to a Dec. 3 CAIR press release, a growing list of companies, including AutoZone, Citrix, TrustedID, JC Penney, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart, and AT&T, have joined the boycott. But rather than taking CAIR's boycott lying down, Savage is fighting back, in court .... The list of abhorrent statements made by CAIR officials, not to mention unethical tactics, ties to terrorism and Saudi funding, is so long that criticism can no longer be avoided by deflecting blame. Savage's lawsuit details a number of instances in which CAIR officials publicly supported terrorism, acted as apologists for or distorted facts around terrorist acts, and admitted to an Islamist agenda to dominate America. If experience is any indication, Savage's lawsuit may very well end up being settled out of court, as its unlikely CAIR will wish to call attention to these unsavory details. Such was the case when CAIR tried to sue Andrew Whitehead, the founder of the organization Anti-CAIR, in 2005 for libel.

MAS Freedom Welcomes Saudi King’s Pardon of ‘Qatif Girl’ But Reiterates the Need for Change

Aishah Schwartz, The American Muslim (US)

The Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Executive Director, Mahdi Bray, who previously proclaimed the sentencing as a “gross and cruel miscarriage of true justice”, today added, “While the pardon in the ‘Qatif Girl’ case is, indeed, good news, particularly on this, the first day of Hajj, the fact remains that a pardon does not overturn the verdict - which means that Judges within the Kingdom remain undeterred from making the same ruling in similar cases. “The fact that this story received international media attention does not mean that the next victim will be so lucky. Clearly, from a human rights standpoint, we must continue to press for real change - judicial change - before the Qatif Girl case becomes cold. Unless real change is seen as a result of this pardon, it is nothing more than eye-candy for the media. “Equally important, and not to be forgotten, is the fact that human rights activist and attorney for the rape victim, Abdul-Rahman Al-Lahem, had his license to practice law suspended in defending his client - yet another gross miscarriage of justice that remains to be rectified,” Bray concluded.

Press praise, blogger anger over Saudi rape girl pardon

Agence France-Presse (France)

The royal pardon was "fresh proof of the wisdom and mercy of the father of the nation," wrote Al-Watan newspaper's columnist Abdullah al-Almi. "It is a victory for justice... and for the defense of human rights and an affirmation of female dignity." Several newspapers gave prominent coverage to comments by the victim's husband hailing the "noble gesture" of the king ... But reaction on websites dedicated to carrying uncensored commentary on the kingdom's affairs was far more critical. "This is a flagrant US interference in our internal affairs," said one anonymous blogger on the site Another blogger who gave his name as Abdullah Zaqil said: "The state should have shown more confidence in the judiciary. "The internationalization of this case has had negative repercussions that only a fool or a hypocrite could ignore or pretend to ignore." A third blogger, signing in as Abu Lujain Ibrahim, asked: "Was this woman pardoned in accordance with Islamic law or as a result of foreign pressure? Are we the masters of our own policies or are they controlled by the foreign media?"

Iraq Press Roundup

Hiba Dawood, UPI

The Association of Muslim Scholars'Al Basaer newspaper said Tuesday it is important to analyze the declaration of intent between the United States and Iraq, which it called a declaration of bad intentions. The Saudi-based paper said any misuse of the law for the benefit of the occupiers, whether by the Security Council or others, will not deceive the people of Iraq who are against the occupation. It said that when the occupiers deal with the saying "Those who are not with me, are against me," they drive people to be against them ... "Two groups are present in the Iraqi street: one that refuses the occupation with the help of the tribesmen and the other group that is represented by a gathering of those involved in the crippled political process and unable to even serve the occupiers' interests." It also said that the White House was protecting those "seated on their chairs," revealing the absence of Iraqi sovereignty. "Those who can't protect themselves are illegible to sign a security agreement ... The Iraqi people won't approve it because it marginalizes the will of the people," it said.

‘Mahram Not Reachable’ Keeps Them Worried

Syed Faisal Ali, Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

One of the preconditions for a woman, regardless of her age, to perform Haj is that she be accompanied by her mahram (a male relative such as a father, son, brother or husband). However, every year, many women come from distant countries to perform Haj without mahram. They pay hefty sums to their travel agents to arrange a “mahram”. This practice is prevalent in many parts of the globe but is especially common in South Asian countries. The “arranged mahram” then abandons the woman halfway through Haj and thus she finds herself in trouble and difficulties ... One Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia website says: “Women traveling without mahram and wishing to perform Haj with a group, must be over 45 years of age. The leader of the group must be recognized by an Islamic association and his wife must accompany the group on the same journey and the group must not have less than five women.” It further says that women under the age of 45 must be accompanied by a mahram and provide a certificate from the authority concerned. The mahram should not be younger than 15. It is the responsibility of female Haj applicants to specify clearly the legitimate mahram accompanying them on the application form. Islamic scholars generally try to persuade women not to come for Haj without a proper mahram.

India's Brokers plan Shari'ah funds

Priya Nadkarni, Business Standard (India)

A slew of Indian brokerages including Mangal Keshav and Parsoli Corporation, which have recently sold equity to Gulf-based investors, are raising money through Shari’ah funds for investments in Indian stock markets. The Indian markets will witness a strong flow of petro-dollars in 2008, following up on the stake buys by several Gulf-based financial institutions this year ... “The potential in the Gulf countries is tremendous. Hardly any money has come into India till now. This, coupled with the fact that there are more Shari’ah compliant companies in India compared with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, makes India an attractive destination,” said Zafar Sareshwala, chief executive officer, Parsoli Corporation ... BankMuscat also has plans to raise a $250 million Shari’ah-compliant India-specific fund. An executive from BankMuscat had said that the money would be raised primarily from Oman and Dubai. “Having started operations in Saudi Arabia, we will also look at the possibility of raising money from this market,” he said. The new fund would be managed by Mangal Keshav.

Clinton Library Got Funds From Abroad

John Solomon, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post

The royal family of Saudi Arabia gave the Clinton facility in Little Rock about $10 million, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush, according to people directly familiar with the contributions ... In addition, a handful of Middle Eastern business executives and officials also gave at least $1 million each, according to the interviews. They include Saudi businessmen Abdullah al-Dabbagh, Nasser al-Rashid and Walid Juffali, as well as Issam Fares, a U.S. citizen who previously served as deputy prime minister of Lebanon ... Bush's large foreign donors include Kuwait, Japan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The family of Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, contributed $1 million or more. Carter's donors include the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.