Thursday, December 25, 2008

Iran's Ahmadinejad to give alternative Christmas message

December 24, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Jewish groups were up in arms today when it was revealed that Channel 4's "alternative" Christmas Day broadcast is to be delivered by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad's speech will go out at 7.15pm, four hours after the Queen's traditional Christmas Day message is broadcast on the main channels. His message is a spiritual one but includes some more nakedly political elements - including the implicit claim that if Jesus Christ were alive today, he would oppose US hegemony.

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," Mr Ahmadinejad will say in a speech to be shown in Farsi with English subtitles.

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over. If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime."

It is no the first time that the broadcaster has courted controversy since Quentin Crisp delivered Channel 4's first alternative Christmas message in 1993. In 2006 a fully-veiled British-born Muslim woman used the message to attack Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, for his criticism of the niqab (face veil) earlier the same year.

Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, said Mr Ahmadinejad's message should be treated with caution. The Iranian President has repeatedly called the Holocaust a "myth" and called for the annihilation of Israel.

Mr Smith said: "Many of his political and historical views are very dangerous and do not uphold the views in his message. I think this benign message is deception. People need to be alert to the fact that this is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Henry Grunwald QC, president of the Board of Deputies, added: "The appearance on our television screens of a man whose prejudices are so well-documented and who has openly called for the eradication of another member country of the United Nations is an affront to decency.

"To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust. Whatever he may say in his 'message', his words on other occasions and his actions towards minority groups in Iran should have disqualified him from filling this television spot."

But Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, defended the choice. "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential," she said. "As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

A Channel 4 spokesman said that the message was filmed in Iran but it was kept top secret in case it fell through at the last minute. The message will be broadcast several hours after the Queen's to avoid any implications of equivalence between the monarch and the Iranian leader.

Britain and Iran have rocky relations, particularly over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

In October, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, warned of a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran was allowed to press ahead unchecked with a uranium enrichment programme.

In response, Tehran accused Miliband, who is Jewish, of having "strong ties with Zionists".

Relations between the two countries hit a low last year when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in disputed waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq. The troops were released safely nearly two weeks later after a televised meeting with Mr Ahmadinejad.

The Queen is to use this year's broadcast to acknowledge the impact of the credit crunch on many families as recession starts to bite.

"Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many," she will say, emphasing the need for cutbacks. "Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and naturally give rise to feelings of insecurity."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ahmadinejad fidlles while Iranians starve

Iranian president's fiscal policies come under attack by opposition claiming he depleted Islamic Republic's reserve fund, meant to help needy
Gil Feiler, Doron Peskin
Published:  12.24.08, 15:36 / Israel Money 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.
Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.
The Iranian president's promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country's poor – somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons' status.
According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to "irresponsibly and illegally" squander $140 billion. The blame, added the repot, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which – according to his criticizers – is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.
Moreover, many of the Iranians who voted him in office are feeling betrayed, faced with mounting financial distress. "Contrary to Ahmadinejad's claims, his policies have only increased poverty and hardship; and the financial gaps have widened since he came to power," said the report in Saramiya.
20 million Iranians living under poverty line

Hussein Ra'afer, advisor to the Iranian minister of Welfare and Social Security, was quoted as saying that according to the ministry's data, about a third of the Iranians – 20 million people – live under the poverty line, and the government "is not doing anything about the unemployment and drug problems."
Iran's inflation rate is also increasing rapidly, hitting 29.4% in September.
The social gaps are particularly evident between the country's north and it south: The south is mostly occupied by the Sunni minority, who live in poverty; while northern Iran is where the Shiite majority lives, and where wealth and luxury can be found. "It is as if there are two countries in Iran," said an Iranian analyst.
Financial experts in Iran are not oblivious to the crisis: earlier in December, a group of them sent a letter to Ahmadinejad in which they harshly criticized his financial policies. "The government's economic policies," said the letter, "is taking a heavy toll on a country in crisis."
Dr. Gil Feiler is founder and managing director of Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. , and Doron Peskin is head of research

Egypt: Al-Azhar approves woman's Quran interpretation (Tafseer)

Tafseer (exegesis) is a very important component of Muslim religious life. For the first time, the conservative Al-Azhar university, prestigious center of Sunni Muslim authority on theology, has approved a tafseer written by a woman. Famous tafseers have been written by ibn Kaseer (Kathir) and by Abul Ala Maududi,
Egypt clerics back woman's Koran 
The highest authority of Sunni Islam, al-Azhar University in Cairo, says it has approved the first interpretation of the Koran by a woman.
A senior cleric told an Egyptian daily that the new book respected established tradition, adding that gender was irrelevant to interpretation.
Liberal Muslim women have been critical of established interpretations, saying they are patriarchal.
The author says she wanted to make Koran accessible for the young.
Sheikh Ali Abdelbaqi Mitwali told the daily al-Masri al-Youm that al-Azhar has approved the interpretation (tafseer) submitted by Kariman Hamza, a former broadcaster.
Sheikh Mitwali said there was no such thing as a "male" or "female" reading of the holy book and that "what mattered for us was that the interpretation was in line with the text of the sacred Koran and that it did not contradict the rulings of Sharia".
Ms Hamza - who is a former presenter of religious programmes on radio - said she was delighted by al-Azhar's decision.
She said she wanted to write a book that simplified and clarified the Koran for the young and that she had no commercial motive.
Books in Egypt dealing with the Koran or Islamic tradition have to secure the approval of al-Azhar before publication.

Monday, December 22, 2008

and now the rest of the story the shoe thrower

Exclusive: Who Was Behind the Jihad by the Shoe – and Why?

Dr. Walid Phares

As I observed the immediate aftermath of the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad, I noted that the most striking effect occurred among the Western public, and particularly within the United States. Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves again, seven years later, "why do they hate us?" missing one more time the fact that this particular violent expression, far from being a unique emotional reaction by one individual, is part of a war of ideas; it is a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region. In short, this was another form of Jihadism, one I am coining now as a Jihad by the Shoe (Jihad bil Hizaa). Here is why.
Western Awe of So-Called Arab Reaction
The main question on anchors' minds and lips reflected the shock and awe felt by many Americans. It wasn't really about the Iraqi journalist … targeting President Bush with his two leather "missiles"… for in liberal democracies, the scene of flying eggs, pies or liquid in the direction of politicians, legislators, Prime Ministers or Presidents is part of the political culture. Even obscene gestures and words are frequently uttered against leaders; this behavior comes with the package of democratic freedoms. It ends up usually with a sensational picture on the front page, as a joke on TV's late night shows, and/or it can come with some minor legal consequences.  
But the shoe bombing of President Bush stunned Western commentators for another reason: the seemingly vast outpouring of support the thrower received in the region. In the absence of sound expert analysis as to the meaning of the colorful reporting on Arab channels, and as many Western media went overboard in their guilt-ridden commentaries, the public was left alone to figure this out. Obviously their conclusion was that "whatever we do for them, they will continue to hate us."
That's exactly the gist of almost every question I was asked by the media: "After all we've done for them, freed them from Saddam, lost three thousand American men and women and spent billions of dollars, they made a hero of a shoe thrower against our President." While the unease in America and in many Western countries is legitimate, the cause of their frustration, not the shoe thrower, should be blamed: as before, the public was very poorly served by its media and academia. The public simply wasn't told – with accuracy - what actually unfolded in that incident, which was another battle in the ongoing War of Ideas, aimed at defeating the will of the free world. Here is how:  
The Shoe Thrower
According to Arab commentators, Iraqi journalist Muntazar al Zaidi, who launched his two shoes against U.S. President George Bush while calling him "dog", is a controversial militant. Dr. Abdel Khaliq Hussein, writing in Elaph accused al Zaidi of being a "friend of the terrorists." Furthermore, along with other analysts, Hussein said the "shoe thrower" used to know about the "terrorist attacks before they took place and managed to be at the location beforehand." These are serious accusations against a person who was made into an icon of "Arab pride" by the Jihadi media machine. Furthermore, Hussein wrote that al Zaidi fabricated his abduction story last year to get "maximum publicity." One can see a pattern here. Maybe President Bush's instincts were right.
In the daily al Shaq al Awsat, another observer wrote that al Zaidi is a Sadrist. Others disagree and describe him as radical opportunist. Nidal Neaissi, also writing in Elaph, reminded his readers of an historical precedent in Bedouin history: a well known greedy man, Abi Qassem al Tamburi was always trying to get rid of his shoe by throwing it against well known people, attracting the support (and more) of their enemies. Too many comments about the so-called "shoe hero" have appeared in the Arab media - unread in the West - leaving us with one conclusion. The man had a plan for his shoe: a major show. And it worked. 
The Force behind the Shoe Thrower
It gets better when you investigate the organization paying his salary and expenses. Al Baghdadiya TV, based in Cairo, is owned by another controversial figure in the murky world of Middle Eastern media: Abdel Hussein Shaaban, an Iraqi Shia from Najaf and ex-Communist. According to Iraqi opposition sources based in London, Shaaban was an operative for Saddam, tasked with discrediting the Baathist leader's critics around the world. Obviously it comes with payroll, according to the same sources.
But more recent accusations leveled by media experts in the region claim that al Baghdadiya TV, like dozens of other recipients, are getting significant funding from the Iranian regime. Military expert W. Thomas Smith, Jr., writing in World Defense Review has described the huge propaganda operation unleashed by Tehran directly, and via its network in Beirut, to "influence" Arab and Western media and to direct them against the regime's foes.
Blasting George Bush, and more importantly his project of "spreading Democracy", is high on Iran's list but also on many other regimes' agendas. An article by Ali Al Gharash titled "Shoes Terrify Regimes Now" shows that a consensus exists within the region's establishment to demolish the image of the man who dared (despite the failure of U.S. bureaucracy) to "do it," that is to tear down their wall of radical ideologies. The shoe thrower was clearly on a mission to do just that by striking at the "head" of the enemy with his pair of shoes.  
The Making of a Jihadi Hero
Minutes after the incident took place and was captured by the media feed and aired worldwide, a snowball flurry of releases, special shows with commentators - gathered too fast for the circumstance - were on the airwaves. Interestingly al Baghdadiya TV issued – faster than the speed of light - a long press release calling for struggle. Minutes after, a vast magma of satellite channel sympathizers of Jihadism, and of sites virulently anti-democracy, exploded with incitement and calls for mobilization - and some were even as provocative as characterizing the ballistic exercise by al Zaidi as an "act of Jihad."
Within six hours, the airwaves in the region were invaded by the "shoe Jihad."  Within 12 hours, friendly voices beaming from Western networks joined the orchestra in aggrandizing the matter. "A shoe in the Arab culture is the worst epithet one can use, it expresses so deep an anger," blasted one of the oldest international media out of Europe. More seasoning was added on this side of the Atlantic. "Analysts" for mainstream networks - most of whom can't speak the language - began lecturing the stunned public on the "lessons to be learned and on the pain felt in those lands at the sight of President Bush." And the framing continued on. By the second day, both the Arab satellite cohorts and the "specialists" on "how to understand the region" were breaking to the world the grandiose news: a new hero was born in the Muslim world, the shoe thrower. Give it a few weeks and Hollywood will buy the story and make a movie out of it. Give it a year and it will be taught as a course by our academic cinema. 
The West is Dragged to Confusion
Within Western democracies, informational confusion reigns: this is "Bushophobia" claim the most sophisticated. It is impossible, after all the Coalition has done to free Iraqis from Saddam, that demonstrators are chanting for the shoe thrower. Others, less confident in the ability of the region's peoples to accept democracy and to be thankful to the liberators, began a psychological withdrawal: let them live under dictatorships for they don't deserve better, said many talk show hosts.
When a Western response like this happens, connoisseurs of Jihadi tactics know that the "shoe Jihad" worked impeccably. It spread doubts in the heads of Westerners, particularly among Americans, so that few will support a U.S. President in the future if he asks for sacrifices to "bring change" to the region. The combined propaganda machine of the Baathists, Salafists, Khomeinists and other authoritarians scored a major coup in a job lasting only 48 hours: they forced a confused West to believe that the region is utterly opposed to liberal democracy. Consequently, the next White House and other chanceries across the Atlantic need to learn from the shoe attack: do not intervene in Darfur; do not pressure the Iranian regime; do not help Lebanon against Hezbollah and let go of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.   
Pro-Democracy Voices Lash Out
But the critics of the "Shoe Jihad"were as fast as the petro-dollar machine in reacting. Indeed, and unlike what most Westerners were swift to conclude, pro-democracy voices were loud and clear: from Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and across the Arab world, and particularly from Iraq, journalists, bloggers, talk show hosts, teachers and artists blasted the Jihadi comedy and rejected the "unholy shoeing." For each email on al Jazeera supportive of the insult, another email landed on liberal web sites and editorial rooms. How the incident was reported in the Middle East depended on who stood behind which medium. Sadly, if the funders were petro-regimes, the "Shoe Jihad" won. The other side's volume was too low to be broadcast throughout the world. International media, incorporating the West's global apology syndrome, obviously showcased the "partisans of the shoe" rather than those who were embarrassed by it.      
A War of Ideas
The West was left to see only what it was allowed to watch: a repeat of previous cycles in the War of Ideas. Viewers in New York and Paris can see the angry protesters of the Danish Cartoons and Guantanamo and the insulting of a U.S. President; but they cannot see the men and women who wish to shoe bomb their own dictators and oppressors. Sometimes the public has a mere glimpse of the other side: when Saddam's statue was toppled and beaten with shoes for few hours, and when a million people demanded the Assad regime to take their boots off of Lebanon's soil.
Meanwhile, the battle for minds and hearts rages relentlessly - a confrontation so far won by those who wage Jihad by all means, as they say. This time, it was by the shoe. Contributing Editor Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Iran's Plans - Judge for yourself

According to Ayatollah Rafsanjani:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a true follower of Islam and the Holy Quran and therefore is not in favor of war and conflict anywhere in the world, Rafsanjani added.

Rejecting the idea that Iran is determined to physically transfer its Islamic Revolution to other parts of the world, he stressed that the idea means that the way of thinking of the Islamic Revolution that is its anti-arrogance approach should be transferred to other countries.
According to Grand Ayatollah and Marj al Taqlid Rohollah Khomeini:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.

But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.

Islam says: kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]?

Islam say: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?

Islam says: kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?

Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors!

There are hundreds of other ayat [Qur'anic verses] and ahadith urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.(Qom 1986. (Originally published in Qom in 1942 and reprinted in Teheran in 1980 and 1983). Translated  by Iranian journalist and Khomeini critic Amir Taheri, from: Holy Terror, London 1987, p.226-7.] )

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