Saturday, April 5, 2008

Engaging Iran: Iran jilts EU again, refuses to halt enrichment

Those who insist on engagement with Iran should take note: been there, done that.
Iran rejects economic incentives to halt uranium enrichment
Tehran says it hopes to offer 'good news' regarding its nuclear program later this week as the country celebrates it National Day of Nuclear Technology, dismisses EU offer of benefits in exchange for termination of uranium enrichment efforts. 'The Islamic Republic doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights,' says government spokesman Gholam Elham
Associated Press
Published:  04.05.08, 17:35 / Israel News
Iran rejected recent European overtures to halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives, saying it will continue to expand, not halt, its nuclear program, the government spokesman told reporters Saturday.
The European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said last month that his bloc was open for further talks with Tehran to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions despite UN Security Council approval of a third round of sanctions.
''Iran does not trade its rights in return for incentives,'' government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. ''The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights.''
Though the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran last month for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the foreign ministers of the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, along with Germany, also pledged to enhance a 2006 package of political, security and economic incentives to Iran in return for a halt on uranium enrichment.
But Iran has refused, dismissing a third round of sanctions imposed March 3 as ''worthless'' and ''based on political motivations.''
Elham, however, said Iran will still talk to Europe about its nuclear program.
''Iran has always stated that the door to dialogue and interaction with the outside world, European or non-European is open,'' he told reporters, while making it clear that the six nations can't replace the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency in dealing with Iran's nuclear rights and obligations.
''Dialogue doesn't mean creating new institutions to replace legal bodies. We do not accept replacing the IAEA (with some countries which themselves possess nuclear weapons),'' he said.

'IAEA vindicated our program'
Iran has repeatedly said its right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was ''nonnegotiable.''
 The United States, the European Union, Israel and others suspect Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons. But Iran insists its program is aimed solely at producing nuclear energy.
Iran says a report released by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in February vindicated Iran's nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions.
The 11-page report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said all major past issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities had been fully resolved or are ''no longer outstanding at this stage,'' repeatedly saying the IAEA's findings are consistent with information available to the agency and explanations provided by Iran.
Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced machines reflecting a possible intention to speed up uranium enrichment.
One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground.

The location is significant, since the aboveground site at Natanz is for experimental work and the underground facility is the working enrichment plant.
Elham said the government hoped to offer ''good news'' to the nation on Iran's ''achievements'' on April 8, declared as the National Day of Nuclear Technology.
It refers to April 8, 2006 when Iran for the first time enriched uranium at Natanz.

Suicide bombing solution to marital difficulties - Americans, Egyptians in Mughniya terror cult worship

The American Franklin Lamb's wife was blown to bits by the Hezbollah, but he worships at the tomb of terror mastermind al-Mughniyeh. That man must've have had a very unhappy marriage. This is a MEMRI clip, and comes with a video. Read the book, see the movie.
Ami Isseroff

Sympathizers from Egypt and the US Make a Pilgrimage to Al-Mughniya's Tomb in Lebanon
Following are excerpts from TV reports on pilgrimages to the tomb of 'Imad Mughniya, which aired on Al-Manar TV on February-March 2008:
Aired on March 25, 2008
Reporter: Franklin Lamb, director of "Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East," has chosen the 40th day to the martyrdom of the commander Hajj 'Imad Mughniya to visit his pure tomb and place a flower wreath on it. Then he strolled around the garden, asking about each martyr, including the martyr Hadi Nasrallah and his comrades. Then he responded to American Charge d'Affaires Michele Sison, who expressed her disgust at Lamb's offer of condolence for Mughniya's martyrdom.
Franklin Lamb: I don't know her. I heard something about her complaint that I respect the resistance. I'm honored to be here. I believe that many Americans share my belief that the Lebanese resistance is our resistance too. Nobody should ask why I am here. The American ambassador should be asked why she isn't here to offer her apology and her respect to all Lebanese, because 85% of the Israeli weapons come [from the U.S.], in order to be used against the Lebanese resistance and the Lebanese people. I am honored to be in this venerable place, which contains the bodies of the resistance fighters. I believe that American public opinion has recently become familiar with the resistance and its background.
Reporter: It is well known that Franklin Lamb's wife was killed in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in the early 1980s, when she happened to be at the embassy, as part of her work in support of human rights in Lebanon. Despite this, he maintained his views and persisted in his support for the just cause of the Lebanese people's resistance. Moreover, he considers his wife to be one of the martyrs of the resistance.
Aired on February 28, 2008
Reporter: Since this is a visit of the prince of the convoy of martyrs, the garden is still teeming with visitors, who have been arriving day and night, from all persuasions and from all areas – old and young arrive in order to recite the Fatiha verse over the tomb of the martyr. Since Hajj 'Imad's martyrdom transcends the borders of the homeland, the garden received visitors from Arab countries. At the invitation of the Institute for International Studies, Egyptian Labor Party Secretary-General Magdi Ahmad Hussein came from Egypt to congratulate the father on his sons' martyrdom, and stressed that the martyrs are the models for this nation. The Egyptian delegation and the martyr's father held the following conversation:
Faiz, 'Imad Mughniya's father: All three sons are gone, Allah be praised. If I had more sons, I would sacrifice them too. I am willing to sacrifice more. I'm even willing to sacrifice myself. In any form of Jihad, I am willing to sacrifice myself.
Magdi Ahmad Hussein: He will plead on your behalf in Paradise.
Faiz Mughniya: Allah be praised.
Magdi Ahmad Hussein: You will go to Paradise and meet him there. They will plead on your behalf. The nation owes these sons a great deal. In their graves, they have a greater influence than they had in their lives. They give us inspiration. For every child who comes here – this is a school. He learns from this martyr.

The next generation - Israel in 2040

Israel at 60 is as prosperous and secure as it has ever been, but its future looks increasingly uncertain, says Gideon Lichfield (interviewed here). Can it resolve its problems in time?

THREE years ago, in a slim volume entitled "Epistle to an Israeli Jewish-Zionist Leader", Yehezkel Dror, a veteran Israeli political scientist, set out two contrasting visions of how his country might look in the year 2040.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Revenge for Mugniyah Could Ignite Conflict in North of Israel

Expecting retaliatory attack by Hizbullah for Imad Mugniyah's killing,
regional players – including Israel, Iran and Syria – boost
preparations for possible military confrontation on Israeli-Lebanese

Revenge for Mugniyah Could Ignite Conflict in North
Ron Ben-Yishai
Published: 04.03.08, 09:52 / Israel News,7340,L-3527123,00.html

Preparations on both the Syrian and the Israeli side for a possible
retaliation for Imad Mugniyah's killing have brought about a "cold
escalation" on the northern border that could lead to an open military

Since Hizbullah's leader's assassination in Damascus in February,
Syria and Israel have gradually boosted deployment on the ground,
while at the same time sending out covert and overt warnings to the
other side.

Arab news outlets recently reported that Syria has already started
reinforcing its forces on the Lebanese border, called up the reserves
for training and raised alertness of its missile, rocket and
anti-aircraft systems. Hizbullah has also boosted preparations for a
potential Israeli tank offensive, while making last-minute efforts to
have its heavy rocket systems north of the Litani River ready.

The recent escalation emanates from Israel's assessment that Hizbullah
– with the aid of Syria and Iran – is planning a big terror attack, or
a rocket and missile attack, as revenge for Mugniyah's death.
Officials also estimate the Syria might join forces with Hizbullah in
such an attack, to retaliate for Israel's strike on its alleged
nuclear facility last summer.

Meanwhile, Syria, Hizbullah and Iran are aware that such an attack
could lead to a "hard and disproportionate" Israeli response, which
Israeli officials have already threatened to deliver. Israel's enemies
believe that such a response would include a large-scale airstrike on
Lebanon and Syria that would help Israel rebuild its deterrence
following the Second Lebanon War.

Hamas to aid Hizbullah?

While revenge for Mugniyah is currently the most obvious cause for the
rising tension on the border, Israeli intelligence officials also
believe that if the IDF launches a wide-scale operation in Gaza, Iran
could instruct Hizbullah to aid Hamas by firing rockets at Israel.

A reverse scenario, in which Hamas launches rockets, missiles and
terror attacks on Israel in a bid to help Hizbullah in the north is
also plausible.

A third scenario that should be taken into account is that Syria may
take advantage of a retaliatory attack by Hizbullah, and a consequent
Israeli response, to regain its control over Lebanon and crown the
Shiite organization as the dominant political force in the country.

Two views of Fitna the movie: A Donnybrook


Tom Carew's Israel News article on Fitna, the Geert Wilder's movie, cautioned against accepting the premise of the movie at face value and insisting that all Muslims are Jihadist fanatics. Hugh Fitzgerald has attacked Carew:
All those tom-carews of this world have been attacking Fitna because they wish to retain the support, as they see it, of some "moderate" Muslims, which "moderate" Muslims are simultaneously our "allies" in "this struggle." But why? Shouldn't they too wish Infidels to be apprised of what is in the Qur'an and, indeed, in other canonical texts of Islam? Isn't that the best way to ensure that Infidels will cease to assume the posture of the "pre-emptive cringe" -- in J. B. Kelly's phrase -- and, in recognizing what is wrong with those texts, be firmer and therefore more steadfast in dealing with what Tom Carew devoutly hopes and wishes to believe is merely the "bad" version of Islam as opposed to the "good" one about which he, Tom Carew of Dublin, is knowledgeable, and which he, Tom Carew of Dublin, finds so impressive and its existence so comforting?
That's about the mildest part of Fitzgerald's text. Fitzgerald goes on to confute Tom Carew with the likes of Esposito and other publicists for Islamism. The rest of the attack is here. A veritable Donnybrook in the liveliest tradition.
My own comments on Fitna are in Religious hatred: the movie. Carew is right. Regardless of what it says or does not say in the Quran, the main point is that Wilders' movie is a reactionary political statement that is intended to stir up primitive prejudices against all Muslims in Europe. Widlers is entitled to his opinion, and his opinion is not that Jihadism should be fought and prohibited, but that all Muslims should be expelled from Europe. Wilders is preaching a doctrine that is philosophically about as evil as Jihadism, though he doesn't seem to advocate violence. The movie is designed to attract converts to that cause. "Fitna the movie" is not fit for human consumption.
Below is Tom Carew's response.
Ami Isseroff

Comment from Tom Carew re views of  Hugh Fitzgerald:

There is not now, and never was in the past, any such fixed entity as **Islam itself**.  Neither Islam-as-understood, nor Islam-as-lived.

And I can only wonder whether Hugh Fitzgerald has spent half as much time pondering and evaluating the actual writings of non-toxic Muslims, some of whom I instance, or on the brave role of many current Muslim defenders of freedom, as he has dwelling on a plethora of secondary literature from commentators on the originals, who mostly concentrate on the toxic stream.

Just as Judaism, or its Brooklyn or Israeli versions, are certainly not reducible to, or identifiable with,  the toxic ideology of the maverick mass murderer, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, slaughtering 29 worshipers in the Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque on Feb 25, 1994, nor is Christianity reducible to the Inquisition or the Crusades. The Judaism I admire is that of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising in 1943, the Sobibor and Auschwitz Revolts, the  Jewish Legion  [under Irish Col John Henry Patterson ] in WW I, and the  Jewish Brigade in WW II, or the profound philosophy of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, while the assassin of PM, Lt-Gen  Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, is no reason to reject or dismiss the entire Jewish people or tradition.

The toxic appeasement by many, indeed by most Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops in Nazi Germany, or of Nazi Austrian, Bishop Alois Hudal, or Croatian Ustashe fascist Rev Dr. Krunoslav Dragonovic, both based in Rome and notorious for organising the flight of fugitive Nazi war-criminals to South America,  contrasts with the Christian martyrs, like Protestant Pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and WW I veteran
 Paul Schneider, or Roman Catholic Dean Bernhard Lichtenberg of St Hedwigs Cathedral in Berlin, who died in Dachau Camp, and Jesuit Alfred Delp or Rev Karl Leisner, or with those clergy aiding escaped anti-fascists, persecuted Jews or Allied Prisoners of War [ like Scottish Presbyterian **Tartan Pimpernel** Rev Donald Caskie or executed Catholic Abbe Pierre Carpentier in France, or Irish Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty and 18 more clerics in his network in Rome ]. The voices and courageous witness that have become influential and been rightly honored, have been those of the resisters, not the collaborators, or the craven appeasers.

Responding to Geert Wilders

By Mona Eltahawy ***


NEW YORK — As soon as I heard that right wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders' anti-Islam film had been uploaded onto an internet site, I did what any self-respecting Muslim would do: I clicked on the link and prepared to be offended. 


Talk about anti-climax! What happened, Geert? Like a magpie stringing cheap trinkets together, "Fitna" is a cut-and-paste affair. It tries to pass itself off as precious insight. It isn't.


It's not breaking news that Muslim radicals have abused the Quran to justify their violence. Just like Wilders, they cherry-pick their verses from the Muslim holy book to make their bloody point.


Most of us Muslims have long urged that we leave behind these verses referring to a very different time and place — just as most Christians and Jews have moved on from verses in their holy texts that extremists still use to justify violence, slavery, and misogyny. 


Wilders has the right to make whatever film he wants. I defend his freedom of speech. It protects my freedom too. I would much rather err on the side of freedom than on the side of restraint, as Islamic countries recently did at the U.N. Human Rights Council. 


At the urging of Egypt and Pakistan — hardly bastions of freedoms of any kind — the council adopted a measure that added monitoring religious prejudice to the duties of a U.N. free speech expert. Now, as well as reporting on repressive governments' restriction of free speech, the U.N. investigator will report acts of "racial or religious discrimination" that constitute "abuse of the right of freedom of expression."


Continued at: A Responsible Response to Geert Wilders


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Alhomayed: Don't Withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative

It is not certain what the Arab peace initiative is, or how Israel could meet the terms of this initiative, so why really, are the Arabs surprised that no progress has been made in implementing it, and what is the point of withdrawing such a wonderful and meaningless propaganda device?
Ami Isseroff
Beware Of Tampering With The Arab Peace Initiative
By Tariq Alhomayed
In Asharq Alawsat (Pan Arab), Opinion
April 2, 2008

In its closing statement, the Damascus Summit called for the re-assessment of the peace strategy with Israel, furthermore setting the coming May as the latest deadline. This formula appears to be the middle ground in terms of the demands that were proposed during the summit with regards to the reconsideration of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Doesn't "reassessing the peace strategy" – if that may be deemed a diplomatic expression – imply that the other option is war? And which among the Arab states is ready to declare war on Israel today?

The problem with this rhetoric is that it raises the expectations of Arab public opinion – however; it is not accompanied by any real action. Moreover, it grants Israel an opportunity it already wants; which is that the concerned parties cancel their initiative and spare Israel international embarrassment.

Another point of equal importance is: Are some parties in the Arab world aware, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that the cancellation or disruption of the peace initiative is greater and more dangerous then the justifications put forward?

Tampering with the Arab initiative would be the equivalent opening up a Pandora's Box. Following the nullification of the Arab initiative, as a response to Israel's apathy or hostility, it would open the door for Egypt to demand to void its peace agreement with Israel, which would mean a war between Egypt and Israel. This matter has been raised in all the crises that have provoked Arab public opinion.

Consequently, Jordan will also demand to cancel its peace agreement with Israel, which would also mean war between Jordan and Israel. And the same applies to the Palestinian Authority (PA) – in fact, it is what Hamas specifically demands; Hamas which is backed by Syria and Iran. Therefore, the final outcome will be the prevalence of chaos that will result in changing the status quo of the entire region.

And it would not just end there; in the perpetuation of chaos with the intention of exploiting it, we will find that the situation will reach of the point of demanding the revision of the Lebanese Taif Agreement. The indicators for that exist and have been proposed.
The problem with the Arab world lies in the moderate states' reluctance to confront the instigators of crises at a time when greedy states do not hesitate to stir up chaos so as to dominate the region and push things to the limit. That way they can reshuffle their cards and cash in on the new centers of power that have entered the games in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.

The moderate states' hesitation when it comes to confrontation is understandable – considering the heavy price to be paid; however the question remains: Is there another solution?

Nullifying or disrupting the Arab initiative is a new trap set for the moderate Arab states; instead of trying to unify the Palestinian ranks and striving to resolve the Lebanese presidential crisis, we find them immersed in a game of one-upmanship over the reassessment of the Arab initiative.

What is strange is the Arabs are being asked to reconsider the Arab peace initiative, which was proposed in 2002 on the grounds that it has amounted to nothing, whereas no one dares to demand that Syria reconsider its ceasefire agreement with Israel over the Golan Heights when the agreement was signed over 30 years ago [1974]. And in those years the Golan has still not been liberated!

Hamas insults to Jews, do not promote peace

Tuesday April 1, 2008
from The New York Times

GAZA — In the Katib Wilayat mosque one recent Friday, the imam was discussing the wiliness of the Jew.

"Jews are a people who cannot be trusted," Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas told the faithful. "They have been traitors to all agreements — go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing. Look what they are doing to us."

At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the "Crusaders," or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He referred to Jews as "the brothers of apes and pigs," while the Hamas television station, Al Aksa, praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine is free of Jewish control.

Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for talking to Israel and the United States; its children's programs praise "martyrdom," teach what it calls the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation over Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

U.K. Shelves Plan to Cut Force in Iraq After Fighting

April 1 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown shelved a plan to withdraw more British soldiers from Iraq after violence flared in Basra, where the U.K. has responsibility for security.

The U.K. will maintain a contingent of about 4,000 troops at the airbase outside the southern Iraqi city instead of reducing it to 2,500, as announced in October, Defense Secretary Des Browne said today in Parliament.

The withdrawal was derailed last week when Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent his army into Basra to crack down on Shiite militias, killing hundreds of people. That forced U.S. and British forces to provide air and artillery support.

``The conditions have changed and the military advice has changed,'' Browne said. ``It is prudent that we pause any further reductions.''

By backing away from the pullout, Brown is bowing to criticism made when his plans were announced Oct. 8. At the time, opposition lawmakers questioned the utility of keeping such a small British contingent in Iraq after sending 46,000 soldiers there at the time of the invasion five years ago.

Today the opposition Conservative Party accused the Labour government of seeking political gain by announcing the withdrawal last year.

``The government has been caught too often on the overoptimistic end of the spectrum,'' Conservative defense spokesman Liam Fox said. ``I hope that the government has now learned not to play party politics with projected numbers.''

Iran Incites Cold War With U.S. in Lebanon Stalemate

April 1 (Bloomberg) -- When David Welch, the U.S. State Department's top Middle East envoy, wakes each morning, he asks himself, ``Is everything OK over there?''

``Over there'' is Lebanon, caught in a political stalemate that is putting American officials and much of the Arab world on edge. During six months of paralysis in electing a Lebanese president, Iranian and Syrian support for the Shiite Muslim party, Hezbollah, has flourished while the U.S. has tried to keep its Sunni ally, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, from being ousted.

In this contest is the danger that Lebanon may turn into a full-fledged battleground in the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Iran, which is allied with Syria to derail Lebanon's fragile democracy.

The possibility of bloodshed within Lebanon's sensitive patchwork of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians recalls the civil war that savaged Beirut from 1975 to 1990, killing thousands of Lebanese and hundreds of Americans, too.

Syria and Hezbollah ``are all Iranian cards in the cold war with the U.S.,'' Mouafac Harb, a Beirut-based Lebanese-American political consultant, said in a Washington interview.

Russian disinformation about US attack on Iran: dangerous game


Periodically, we are victimized by headlines that insist that the United States is about to attack Iran. The attack has been in preparation for a long time. Here's Seymour Hersh predicting the attack in 2005. Seymour Hersh reported again that it was about to go down in the New Yorker on April 17, 2006. There's another such story here from February 2007. Here's a story from March 29, 2007, that insists that an attack is imminent. And here's another, closer to he source of the "information" - Russian intelligence. The indefatigable Hersh was at it again in October of 2007, with the same arguments and rumors. And the Russians are back at it again too. Now, almost a year to the day after the last Russian-inspired Iran attack fiction, they have once again published "intelligence" about U.S. military moves that are supposedly preparatory to an attack on Iran.

Incredible as it may seem, there are still those who take these rumors seriously. Hersh has a perfect record as a journalist: he has been wrong every time, and he is wrong now. There was no US attack on Iran, and there won't be one in the near future. Likewise, the Russian intelligence is clearly disinformation.

In a better regulated world, a "journalist" like Hersh would be selling used cars by now or writing scripts for Star Gate episodes, professions more suited to a man of his protean imagination, so unfettered by reality. The Russian "intelligence" sources would be treated as what they are as well. Imagine if the little boy who cried "wolf" got people to come running every single time, though there was never any wolf!

More here: Playing with fire: United States attack on Iran canard

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wilders Film Aims to Block Dialogue: WAMY

Wilders Film Aims to Block Dialogue: WAMY
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News
RIYADH, 31 March 2008 — The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) has denounced Thursday's screening of an anti-Qur'an film by a rightwing MP in the Netherlands and called on international bodies to prevent people from insulting religions.
"These kinds of attacks by so-called sane European politicians and scholars will lead to very serious repercussions, pushing mankind to a situation of chaos and conflict," said Dr. Saleh S. Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of WAMY.
"WAMY will hold talks with Nicolaas Beets, Dutch ambassador, and drawing his government's attention to this sensitive issue," he added.
Anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders posted the 15-minute film, entitled "Fitna," Arabic for strife, on the Internet, attracting strong condemnations from across the Islamic world. The film follows the republishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Danish newspapers.
"It is a new fitna, a new obstacle to block any sensible dialogue between religions. It is high time that the West moves quickly to control the damage. They don't understand how much Muslims love and respect their Prophet (pbuh)," said Al-Wohaibi.
"If we do something against Christianity or target Christian interests in retaliation, the Netherlands, Europe and the whole world would object. But Islam does not teach that, it advocates peace and co-existence," said Al-Wohaibi.
"I am afraid that the Western world has failed to understand the severity of the problem," he said, adding that people, such as Wilders, are trying to create conflict. He added that Wilders is being provocative with no knowledge of religions and human values, and that his antics have created problems for the Dutch government.
Speaking about whether dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews would help reconcile differences, Al-Wohaibi said, "I have my own reservations. Muslims are serious but the other parties are not. They are not committed. They want to hold dialogue, just for the sake of it and for Muslims' consumption."
Last week, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah announced plans to hold a conference of all major religions — a project that had been previously discussed with Pope Benedict XVI.
Meanwhile, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has again condemned the Dutch film, saying it aims to discriminate against Muslims and stir enmity against them. "The film is being screened despite opposition from the international community and the Dutch government," the OIC said in a statement. It also renewed its demand that the UN must enact a code of ethics to prohibit such provocative moves.

Saudi Prince: Extremism Is Tool of Destruction

Monday 31 March 2008 (23 Rabi` al-Awwal 1429)  
Extremism Is Tool of Destruction: Salman
Ali Hawash, Arab News
MAKKAH, 31 March 2008 — Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah has awarded an honorary doctorate degree in arts to Riyadh Governor Prince Salman, who is also the chairman of the King Abdul Aziz Museum, in appreciation for his contributions to knowledge and support for scholars.
The degree was conferred on the prince by Umm Al-Qura President Dr. Adnan Wazzan during the opening of a seminar on the life and achievements of King Abdul Aziz.
At the event Prince Salman announced the museum's plan to open its first Makkah branch, which will be called the Center for Makkah History. He gave a detailed presentation on the life and achievements of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia.
The governor also launched an encyclopedia project on Haj and the two holy mosques, which is being supported by the museum, the Haj Research Institute, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, the Haj Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry.
Prince Salman emphasized King Abdul Aziz's efforts to stabilize the Arabian Peninsula, saying that he brought together warring tribes and regional powers to build a modern state based on the Qur'an and Sunnah, and not on Arab nationalism.
Prince Salman described religious extremists as "the main enemies of the Saudi state," saying that they have become tools of destruction and terrorism. He also said the Islamic faith has always urged its followers to be moderate.
He said King Abdul Aziz was a religious man, who epitomized Islamic and humanitarian values. "He organized annual meetings of the family and described the basic principles of the Saudi state and asked them to treat people nicely, take care of the poor and needy, and protect human rights," the prince said.
"When we were children, the king used to follow up matters related to our prayers and studies, and we used to perform the compulsory prayers with him. Those of us who did not pray on time were locked in a special room and my aunt Princess Noura used to intercede for us."
Prince Salman also pointed out that the generosity with which King Abdul Aziz dealt with those who opposed him as well as those who fought with him during his unification drive. "Some of these opponents were given high positions later," he added.
He said justice was the hallmark of the king's personality. "One day an old woman from Makkah came to his palace and complained about a matter relating to inheritance. She said there was nobody to defend her case. The king then told the woman that he would take up her case at the Jeddah court," the prince said.
King Abdul Aziz also told a contractor building his palace not to ask his employees to work more than four hours during the day in Ramadan and that they would be paid their full salary. "At the time of an economic crisis during World War II, the king set up camps, kitchens, bakeries and charities all over the Kingdom to meet food requirements of ordinary people.
Prince Salman said his father had given utmost importance to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. "He gave them top priority and allocated more money and time for their affairs. He also helped pilgrims to perform Haj and Umrah in a secure atmosphere." He said.
King Abdul Aziz promoted public participation in national affairs by setting up the Shoura Council and other elected bodies in Makkah. He also established the first official newspaper, Umm Al-Qura, in 1343 AH (1924), which is based in Makkah.
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former ambassador to the United States; Prince Sultan ibn Salman, secretary-general of the Supreme Commission for Tourism; Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Salman, assistant minister for petroleum affairs at the Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals; Prince Faisal ibn Salman, chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group; and other princes and top ranking officials also attended the event.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A pity that this happens

German Jews sever ties with pope

The German tabloid Bild splashed its broadsheet with "We Are the Pope" to announce the selection of the Bavarian-born Joseph Ratzinger as the successor to Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI joins his hands on his popemobile, during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Photo: AP [file] , AP

Three years later, the feel-good headline has turned into a disappointment for many Catholics and Jews. A theological row over the pope's decision to use a rare Latin prayer for Good Friday, which urges Jews to convert to Catholicism, has prompted the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, to sever relations with the Catholic Church.

"As long as Pope Benedict does not return to the previous wording, I assume that there will not be any further dialogue [such as we had] in the past," said Knobloch.

The Vatican press office in Rome could not be reached for comment on Sunday.



Israel to Remove West Bank Roadblocks, Ease Travel

I hope that one consequence of issuing entrance permits to Israel will not mean terrorist attacks.

March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Israel agreed today to remove about 50 roadblocks in the West Bank, reduce waiting time at checkpoints and issue more entrance permits for Palestinian workers.

``The two parties have agreed to a set of steps that constitute a very good start to improving movement and access, improving potential economic prospects for Palestinians,'' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Jerusalem.

Rice -- in Israel for her second time in a month -- is trying a new peacemaking approach inaugurated at the U.S.- sponsored Annapolis conference in November. The plan is to persuade Israel to improve living conditions in the West Bank and train Palestinian security forces while the sides work out the details of a final peace agreement.



Salah Choudhury: The Man Islamists Cannot Silence

The Man Islamists Cannot Silence
Sunday, March 30, 2008 - By: Benkin, Richard
He fired the first salvo in 2003 and has been sticking his thumb in Islamist eyes ever since.  Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury describes himself as a "Muslim Zionist."  He is unabashedly pro-US, pro-Israel, and anti-Islamist.  More importantly, he remains all of that from within the Muslim world, which he refuses to leave.  I have fielded any number of asylum requests for him, and he declined them all.  "Retreat is not in my vocabulary," he says, for he believes that if he were to leave his country, his credibility would be gone, and Islamists would claim victory; a satisfaction he refuses to give them.  "Bangladesh is my country," he says.  "Let the radicals leave!"

Since 2003, we have fought not only a battle of ideas but also a battle of wills with our adversaries; and the skirmishes never end.  Shoaib has been imprisoned and tortured.  He has been beaten, and Islamists bombed his newspaper before they and their cronies in the ruling party seized the premises.  All of this happened after Shoaib published articles that exposed the rising strength of Islamist radicals in Bangladesh, urged relations with Israel, and advocated genuine interfaith dialogue based on religious equality.

In November of that year, he was about to board a plane for Bangkok and then Israel (there are no direct flights between Dhaka and Tel Aviv), agents grabbed him.  Eventually, they charged him with sedition, treason, and blasphemy, which are capital offenses and could send Shoaib to the gallows. 

In 2005, however, after an intense seventeen month campaign for his freedom, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) took on his case.  He summoned then Bangladeshi Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury to his Washington office, and the three of us had a sometimes acrimonious, always difficult, hours-long meeting.  As Kirk (a member of the House Appropriations Committee) describes it, we had a "full and frank discussion," after which Dhaka agreed to free Shoaib Choudhury.

Our elation was short-lived, however, when Shamsher Chowdhury clarified that Shoaib would be freed on bail even though the ambassador had just admitted that there was no substance to the charges.  To be sure, we had won the most important point: Shoaib would be free.  Still, I looked up and said, "Not good enough.  It's an old and tired ruse used by tyrants," I continued.  "Free the dissident but keep the charges pending in order to silence him."  And so we argued some more until Chowdhury relented and agreed that Dhaka would drop the charges not long after Shoaib's release.

That was three years ago.  The charges remain, even though numerous Bangladeshi officials have made the same admission as the ambassador; that the charges are baseless and are maintained only to placate the country's radical Islamists.  Bangladesh's population is about 88 percent Muslim, a figure that is growing constantly, especially as Hindus are being ethnically cleansed from that country, falling from 18 to nine percent of the population.  Although radical Islamists affiliated with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations represent only a small proportion of the population, they have infiltrated and taken charge of almost every major institution in Bangladesh from education and banking to police and the judiciary.

For months, both sides had settled into a sort of stasis until this past fall when the Bangladeshis tried illegally to revoke Shoaib's bail and send him back to prison.  The fact that we continued to frustrate these attempts could have had something to do with what happened next.  On the evening of March 18, as Shoaib sat at his desk working on another edition of his newspaper, Weekly Blitz, a large contingent of armed goons from the government's paramilitary squad -- the hated and feared Rapid Action Battalion or RAB -- burst into his office.  They ordered all employees out, seized Shoaib's means of contacting the outside, and began "interrogating" him. 

Fortunately, his driver quickly alerted Shoaib's brother, Sohail, who telephoned me in the United States.  Shoaib's life was in very real danger, so we determined on an immediate course of action.  Sohail called Luke Zahner, Second Secretary at the US Embassy in Dhaka, and a long time supporter of Shoaib's.  Zahner, who had previously helped set up USAID's elections support program in Iraq, notified U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Geeta Pasi.

I telephoned Kirk's office and described the events unfolding in Dhaka and their life-and-death nature to Andria Hoffman, who is Kirk's point person on the Choudhury case.  "These [RAB] are bad people.  I know them, and you don't even want them as friends, let alone be on their bad side.  They're the kind of group where people sometimes go into their custody and 'disappear.'" 

Hoffman got to Kirk, and they set up an emergency command center in his Longworth Building office.  I then called three other legislators who have been especially supportive of Shoaib:  Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA).  Their staffs -- who had frequently worked with me on Shoaib's case -- said they would take action and coordinate further with Kirk's office. 

That done, I telephoned Bangladesh's DC embassy and told them the following:  "If I don't receive a telephone call confirming that Shoaib has been released unharmed and soon, you're going to have a s**t storm like you've never even imagined." Within a short time, the embassy received calls from all four members of Congress mentioned above, as well as several others who they got involved.  Hoffman called the Embassy's political secretary, Sheikh Mohammed Belal on his personal cell phone, demanding action.

Cut to Bangladesh.  After holding Shoaib for about an hour an a half, an RAB officer said (and I am paraphrasing here), 'Oh look, it appears he has some illegal drugs in his desk drawer.'  Now, I have known Shoaib as a brother for years, and we have spent a lot of time together.  The man is simply not involved in any way with drugs.  Moreover, he and I have spoken on many occasions of the paramount importance of his remaining  "squeaky clean" in every way so as not to give his enemies an excuse to further persecute him.  According to Sohail Choudhury, the evidence had to be planted, a tactic that RAB has been known to use rather liberally.  No matter; they blindfolded Shoaib and took him to a "detention center" within RAB's office in the capital.  According to Shoaib, the officers continued the verbal assault non-stop.  They threatened him specifically and journalists in general for their criticism of the current military-backed government.  They repeatedly called Shoaib a "Zionist spy and agent of the Jews."

At one point, Shoaib reminded them that they were violating a US Congressional Resolution that calls for an end to this sort of harassment, something with which the government said it would comply.  House Resolution 64, authored by Kirk and co-sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) calls on the Bangladeshis to drop all charges against Shoaib and end all harassment of him and his family. It passed last year by an overwhelmingly 409-1 margin.  Their response was a string of expletives about the United States and the value of its resolutions. 

As they approached the three hour mark, things were turning even nastier.  RAB officers told Shoaib that he could expect a steady diet of this, or even worse, unless he began working for them; something that he called "ridiculous."  Then the phone rang.  The officers told Shoaib that the call came from "a high government official" ordering them to let him go.  He phoned Sohail and asked him to bring him home. 

Before they allowed them to go, however, Shoaib's captors forced the pair to sign an affidavit giving RAB the power to enter their home or business at any time and for any reason; although it should be added that it had no warrant or other sort of order when its men broke into his newspaper earlier.  As such, Shoaib remains in danger, especially as his legal status remains equivocal at best.

Although Shoaib was released unharmed, the action represents a serious escalation of the government's and its Islamist cronies' attempt to silence this courageous journalist who now counts supporters on every continent.  Equally important, we have learned over the years that they do these things periodically to probe us and test our resolve.  They want to know if we are going to react or note.  They want to know if we still are ready to defend Shoaib and other anti-Islamists or if we have lost interest. 

Unfortunately, they started this false persecution on the assumption that no one would care what happened to Shoaib, and many in the government still believe that we Americans have little resolve -- and actually have told me that.  And so they go after us.  Our enemies count on this and point to success when they hear proposals to make concessions in Israel or to pull up stakes in Iraq and elsewhere.  If we don't respond, and respond with strength, they'll continue persecuting Shoaib and others like him.

Because, in fact, the stakes go beyond even the fate of this hero.  Muslim editors from Pakistan to Indonesia (and even the United States) have told us that Muslims throughout Asia are watching this case.  They want to know if it is possible to stand against the radicals and prevail -- without running to the safety of the West, as they put it.  If Shoaib prevails, they will be emboldened to act similarly.  If we let him go down -- and that is exactly how they will see it -- they will remain silent.

When Shoaib was in prison, his brother told me that people all over the world who need a champion to save them from oppression look only one place, the United States; not to Europe; not to tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Fidel Castro who claim to be freedom fighters; and not to terrorist like Osama Bin Laden.  When we stand with Shoaib, we reinforce their belief in us.

In the meantime, Shoaib Choudhury refuses to be silent, especially he says given all the support he received.  Two days after his abuse at RAB's hands, he published another edition of Weekly Blitz.  Two of its headline articles were "RAB Cocoon of Terror" and "They want to Appease Islamists."  He is our ally; he is my brother; he is the bravest man I know.  He is the man whom Islamists cannot silence.