Friday, July 18, 2008

Islamist fundamentalism on the move in Yemen

Well, we can't be against protecting virtue and fighting vice, can't we?
Ami Isseroff

Abdul Majid Al-Zindani, Sadiq Al-Ahmar, Hussein Al-Ahmar and company prepare to address the crowd of 6,000 who gathered to hear about the new "Authority for Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice." YT photo by Almigdad Mojalli
SANA'A, July 15 — A meeting hosted by Sheikh Abdul Majid Al-Zindani announced on Tuesday that it intends to create a new para-governmental authority to comb the streets and root out anything in society that the committee deems to be a vice, including co-education in schools and universities and television series played during the month of Ramadan.
The newly-created Authority for Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice said they will work side-by-side with the concerned governmental authorities. Members said they plan that the authority will be responsible for finding offenders who are promoting vice and report them to the police, who will then decide what to do with them. The group said that it would be the Yemeni police force who would decide whether or not to punish those caught by the authority.
However, the government released a statement the same day as Al-Zindani's meeting saying that only the government should concern itself with citizens' freedom, and no other institution can give or take away rights. Likewise, various political opposition parties launched an intense campaign against the authority since hearing of its plans in May.
"The authority was supposed to be composed of 25 clerics and five ministers," said Hamoud Al-Tharehi, the Supreme Committee member from the Islah Islamic Party. However, during the meeting, it was decided that the authority will instead consist of 42 clerics alone. "We reconsidered the issue and decided to restrict the authority to the Yemeni Clerics Association," added Al-Tharehi, pointing out that cooperation between clerics and governmental authorities might be difficult and lead to more problems.
Abdul Majid Al-Zindani, the head of Al-Iman University and a controversial figure in Islam as well as in Yemen, reaffirmed that the security forces would really be the ones protecting virtue and fighting vice. "Our only medium of change is the word, but the act is left for the state," said Al-Zindani.
Al-Zindani also said that the authority will ask the government to close any workplace spreading vices like serving alcohol and permitting prostitution. "We will never be silent towards any place, wherever it is," he added.
Al-Tharehi stated that the authority would specifically target private institutions frequented by the wealthy. He said that those are the institutions that smuggle children and promote prostitution.
Al-Tharehi denied that the authority had any hand in recent restaurant closures, but praised those who were responsible.
"The individuals who closed the restaurants don't belong to the authority, but they have good faith," said Al-Tharehi. "Also, there are individuals in Hodeidah who have good faith and individuals in Aden who have good faith," he mentioned in reference to the vigilante anti-vice squads in those cities that seemingly spontaneously cropped up in the last year.
The Yemeni clerics who will make up the new anti-vice authority released a statement of their own, expressing shock at the spread of vices in the country. They said these vices included bringing Arab and foreign female singers and dancers to Yemen for performances, opening nightclubs, broadcasting or holding fashion shows, mixed-sex dancing and pornographic channels in some hotels.
The statement also condemned broadcasting certain television series that play during Ramadan, which they said contradicts with morals during the holy month.
Yet another vice in the eyes of the authority, according to its published statement, is sending female students away to study in foreign countries without companions from their families. The authority said it also considered co-education in schools and universities to be a vice.
In another statement, members of the authority condemned what it called "the press campaign" against the Authority of Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice, accusing the press of encouraging the building of churches and an overall increased "Christianization" in Yemen. The statement also accused the media of insulting and satirizing verses from the Holy Quran, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and Islamic clerics in general. It added that the press was a herald for vice and pornography.
The meeting's attendees numbered around 6,000 people, consisting of tribal sheiks, clerics and Members of Parliament (MPs). However, the meeting didn't involve any academics, government representatives or women. Female journalists, including one from the Yemen Times, were turned away from the meeting and told leave. Al-Zindani claimed in the meeting that he had sent 100 invited to academics, but none responded.
Most of the attendees were wearing traditional Yemeni garments including the thobe and the jambiya and the overwhelming majority had long beards.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poisoned Oranges (1978)

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Poisoned Oranges (1978):

Today's Golden Oldie Cartoon (featuring PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in his signature sunglasses and two day-old beard) was published on February 2, 1978. It was done in reaction to the announcement that had just been made by Palestinian "spokesmen" that they had injected exported Israel oranges in Europe with mercury. Five Dutch children fell ill, having eaten the poisoned fruit. Within days, mercury-injected oranges and lemons turned up in West Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The poisoning by the Palestinians was done in Rotterdam where the oranges and lemons were being repackaged for sale in European stores. No children were killed in the Palestinian "action".

It would be in the following year (1979) that Samir Kuntar (what the press would call a Palestinian "activist" or perhaps "fighter") kidnapped an Israeli and his 4-year old daughter. He dragged them to the beach where he shot and killed the father in front of the little girl so that it "would be the last thing she ever saw". He then "smashed the child's head on a rock with the butt of his rifle".

The story is retold by an Egyptian Blogger. You can read it here.

Yesterday, Samir Kuntar was released from prison return for the remains of murdered Israeli soldiers.

Kuntar is now being turned into a hero across the Arab World ...and was referred to by the Western Media as "Israel's longest-held prisoner".


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Zionist plot? Saudis offer Russia billions to break with Tehran

Supporters of Iran like to create the impression that only Zionists want to isolate the Iranian regime. It is not so. Iran is perceived as a clear and present danger by most of the Gulf (Arabian Gulf or Persian Gulf) countries.
Ami Isseroff
Saudis offer Moscow billions to break with Tehran: report
Agence France-Presse - 16 July, 2008

Saudi Arabia has offered to buy Russian arms worth 2.4 billion dollars (1.5 billion euros) if Moscow stops supporting Iran, a Russian newspaper reported Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.

"The kingdom's government advised Moscow to cut back its cooperation with Tehran, and in exchange it held out the prospect of profitable contracts with Saudi Arabia," the daily business newspaper Kommersant wrote.

A spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied the report.

"Any claims that military-technical cooperation between Russia and Saudi
Arabia is in any way linked to Russian-Iranian dialogue are inappropriate and do not correspond to reality," the Interfax news agency quoted Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

The newspaper report came one day after Putin met with the general secretary of Saudi Arabia's Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Citing sources in Russia's defence industry, the newspaper said Saudi Arabia was ready to buy at least 100 BMP-3 combat vehicles, 150 T-90 tanks and 160 Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35 helicopters.

Kommersant put the total value of the equipment at about 2.4 billion dollars.

Moscow has opposed stiffer international sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is civilian in nature.

Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia -- a traditional US ally -- have warmed considerably in recent years.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mona: A Bahai Martyr

For more about the hanging of the Bahai school teachers, and a picture of Mona and the other victims, see Persecution of the Bahai in Iran.
Thursday, 10 July 2008 
She is called the Angel of Iran, because she lived her short life angelically. The demonic Islamist Mullahs, true to their nature, couldn't bear an angel in their midst. On June 18, 1983, they hanged the young woman, barely past childhood, for refusing to renounce her belief: the belief in love, justice, and equality for all children of God.
Her name was Mona, a 17-year old Baha'i Character School (Sunday school) teacher. Her pupils loved the indescribably gentle loving teacher who taught them to grow up as exemplary humans with hearts brimming with the love of God, all his people and his creation.
One day the Mullahs' agents came to her house while the young school-girl was studying for her next day English exam. The savage Islamists had another much tougher exam in mind for her to be administered in the horrific prison of the Mullahs. They were certain that they could break the frail young woman under pressure and torture; that they could make her recant her faith and adopt their bigoted creed.
Our great Zoroaster, the luminous ancient prophet of Persia, spoke of the ongoing battle between the forces of good under Ahuramazda—God, and the forces of evil directed by Ahriman—the Satan. Zoroaster warned us not to fall for the enticements or be deceived by the machinations of Ahriman. He further informed us that evil can be recognized by the deeds of its people; people who would oppose the precepts of Ahuramazda.
And the child-woman Mona was seen by the Islamist clergy as a threat to their very demonic precepts and practices. They felt compelled to either convert her to their creed of darkness or extinguish her young life.
Mona, the young teacher, deeply loved children and believed that they had to be brought up as champion workers for Ahuramazda.
Baha'is claim that the founder of their religion, Baha'u'llah , is the reappearance of the spirit of Zoroaster; that Zoroaster's triad teachings of Good Thoughts, Good Speech, and Good Behavior are elaborated in greater details by Baha'u'llah.
Mona's lessons for the children, a detailed exposition of Zoroaster's teachings, are summarized in the passage below by Baha'u'llah.
"Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, and a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility."
Ten Baha'i women of Shiraz, Iran were among the many Baha'is who were arrested by the Islamists for their faith. The young Mona was one of them. These women endured months of endless abuse in the prison of the Mullahs, yet every one of them refused under threat of death to recant their faith of love.
The heartless Mullahs finally decided to make good on their threat and hanged these magnificent human beings, one-by-one. The Angel of Iran was the last to be hanged for she wished to pray for each woman as she was hanged. When Mona's turn came, she kissed the noose and placed it around her own neck with prayers on her lips.
The savage Islamists hanged the magnificent child-woman Mona after a long period of tortuous imprisonment. By killing her, the agents of Ahriman aimed to kill love. But assuredly they can never kill love. They only kill the lover.
Oh, you earthly angels!
You immigrating birds,
Whose only adornment
Is a bed of white feathers!
The innocent children of Iran,
Are wearing your white glowing robe,
And have left the memories of life,
To others! 
I see the poor black swallows,
Flying over the ruins of our city!
I see overflowing pain,
With the hearts of every Persian!

My heart stops palpitating!
My breath starts to dry up!
My faith simply fades away,
And my bed falls silent.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lebanon Needs A Peace Treaty With Israel

Lebanon Needs A Peace Treaty With Israel
By: Elias Bejjani


On Wednesday July 9th of this year, national news agencies reported that the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora had refused without any declared justifications, an Italian peace initiative presented to him by Italy's Ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Gabriel Kekya. News reports stated that the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who was on an official visit to Israel, had asked his country's ambassador in Beirut to inform Mr. Saniora that he is willing to seriously mediate peace talks between Lebanon and Israel.

Mr. Saniora, bizarrely and for unexplained reasons, had also rejected on the tenth of last June, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's call for bilateral peace negotiations with Lebanon. Saniora rationalized his refusal by alleging that the outstanding issues between Lebanon and Israel are all governed by UN Resolutions including that of the Sheba Farms and in such, there is nothing to talk about. Olmert's call came a month after unveiling the ongoing indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel under Turkish auspices.

Lebanon's emotional and ignorant stance of stubbornly refusing peace talks with Israel is no longer acceptable, nor logical or justifiable.

One wonders why or what prevents Lebanon from doing what every other major Arabic country has done in initiating contact for purposes of peace with Israel. What could be especially said of Baathist Syria'?

Lebanon needs to remove its hesitation and relieve itself from the yoke of the 'Jamal Abdel Nasser Complex' and bury once and for all the stigmatizing Arab anti-Israeli phobia. Like it or not, Israel is a reality like the rest of the Middle East countries, and will remain so for many years to come.

While Lebanon's leadership is obviously afraid from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and other Fundamentalist Arab regimes and Islamic armed militias, and accordingly keeps on avoiding any kind of peace talks with the Israelis, we find that those same countries and organizations are actively talking with the Israelis on many levels and on numerous issues!

The foremost runner in this context is Syria who adopts two completely contradicting stances. Overtly, and of course rhetorically, Syria tells its people and the Arabs that Israel is the enemy and should be dealt with accordingly, while covertly it is begging the Israelis for a peace treaty. During the past thirty years and without any sort of fear or embarrassment, Syria has never retreated from negotiating with the Jewish state either directly or through mediators. The latest series of talks are still ongoing via Turkey.

Many Syrian officials are even bragging about the extensive progress they have made in their negotiations with the Israelis and are calling on the US, the 'Great Satan' (as they and their allies the Iranians like to call it), and France to sponsor the whole process and assume full partnership in it.

Yesterday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who side by side with the Israelis attended the 43-nation Union for the Mediterranean summit in Paris, told Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera that Damascus would establish "normal" relations with the Jewish state, including the opening of embassies.

It is worth mentioning that last year in April, Syrian-American negotiator Ibrahim Suleiman, who is a very close friend to the Syrian ruling Al Assad Family visited Israel and gave a speech publicly in its Knesset. He called on the Israelis to engage with the Baathist Syrians into a negotiating process in a bid to sign a peace treaty between the two countries. Reports that came from Israel during his visit stated that he offered the Israelis Syrian promises and guarantees that once the peace treaty is reached Syria will disarm and dismantle all the terrorist and fundamentalist Islamic organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas. In return, Syria was asking for Israeli, and American guarantees that the Assad ruling Family and its Baath Party will be helped and supported to remain in powe

We can not fail to point out that the assassination of the notorious Hezbollah terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh on February 13th of 2008 in the centre of the Syrian capital had been considered by many respected international observers as a Syrian blood message to both USA and Israel that said: Secure our control and ruling powers over Syria and in return we shall eliminate all the organizations and elements that bothers you.

The Lebanese people have the right to know why their government is refusing to talk peace with the Israelis while keeping a blind eye on Hezbollah's on going negotiations with the Jewish State under the German and UN auspices. Hezbollah's Secretary General admitted in one his fiery speeches last month that his group is negotiating with the Israelis through the UN who assigned a German mediator for this task.

It is also worth mentioning that a deal for exchanging body remains and prisoners between Hezbollah and Israel was sealed a few days ago and will be implemented later this week. The Lebanese government did not have any role in this deal and all its negotiating authorities were bluntly confiscated by Hezbollah.

The Lebanese people have the right to know why their government is refusing to talk with the Israelis, while the Palestinians themselves became full partners with the Israelis after the "Oslo Accord" and had accepted the right of Israeli's existence and renounced their armed struggle against it.

The Lebanese people have the right to know whether the rulers of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, the Arab Gulf states and other members of the Arab League are all traitors because they have either forged peace accords with Israel or have established diplomatic, trade and intelligence relations with its government.

The Lebanese people have the right to know why Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinians, all the Arab and Muslim countries, the Iranians and every other country and individual on this earth are allowed to talk with the Israelis while the legitimate Lebanese authorities are singled out and forbidden from doing so.

The painful and shocking reality is that Lebanon is to remain the final battle ground and an attractive arena for all Arab armed extremists, terrorists and fundamentalist groups as is the situation now with Hezbollah, the armed Iranian militia that has erected a state inside the Lebanese state and is on its way to topple the whole Lebanese regime and erect an Iranian one in its place. It has been devouring Lebanese institutions day after day while the whole world is watching and doing nothing.

No, this official Lebanese position is not more acceptable under any pretext, and there must be an immediate end put to it!

Lebanon's officials and its sovereign religious and political leaders have a legal and national obligation towards their fellow Lebanese citizens. They ought to put on the table all the reasons and elements that force them to keep Lebanon alienated from the Middle East process.

In case they are all helpless and threatened by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah they have to publicly admit these intimidating obstacles and officially call on the UN, the Arab League and free world countries to take over and face militarily the axis of evil powers as was the situation in Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq and other African countries.

We call on the Lebanese officials and religious and political leadership in general especially President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Saniora in particular, to stop squawking like parrots their "Dhimmitude" rhetorical and humiliating slogan that says: Lebanon will be the last Arab country to negotiate with Israel and sign a peace treaty with it, because in fact Lebanon is the only country in the entire Middle East that is still holding itself hostage in this bizarre and unrealistic anti-Israel futile position.

Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iran: bluffing or not?

It’s not just that he Iranians were faking photos. American experts have now concluded that they may well have fired only one rocket (and multiplied the shot) and that it may have been a Shahab II, about ten years out of date and capable of reaching only about 750 miles. Iranian society is still one in which exaggeration, bluff, and subterfuge go a long way. It’s hard to speak in standard Farsi without using all manner of honorifics and polite phrases (chashm-e shoma, may I be your eye; qurban-e shoma, may I be your sacrifice, Jenab-e ali, your excellency etc.). Ahmadinezhad is a master of cirumlocution. I don’t doubt his intentions when he says they will wipe Iran off the face of the map (echoing, as that does, Ayatollah Khomeini); but I’m very unsure of the immediacy of that, particularly if they don’t really have the capacity even to try.

All the same, I am really sceptical about either the US or Israel starting a war. Iran is too big, too varied in terrain (mountains, desert, poor road and rail infrastructure, unstable borders) to make it a safe place for a ground war. The country has a large population of over 70,000,000, much of it concentrated in and around Tehran, and a standing army, navy, and air force of 420,000, with pasdaran contingents of around 125,000. However, the voluntary militias of the Basij have a claimed membership of over 12 million, with some 3 million combat ready. In addition, they can call on the Lebanese Hizbullah, Iraqi Shi’i forces including the Jaysh al-Mahdi, and volunteers from the jihadi world, including many with combat experience from Chechnya, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

If I were a commander, I would not want to take troops into that situation, especially since Iraq and Afghanistan are still undecided. The result would be disaster with not even a WMD to show for it.

An air war would be easier to fight, especially since the Iranian Air Force has never recovered in materiel or personnel from the purge that took place in 1979. They would not offer any real resistance to combined US and Israeli forces. But bombing nuclear installations would leave the Iranian armed forces intact (but for the IRIAF), and the consequences could be just as bad if they retaliated in Iraq or cut through northern Iraq (the Kurdish part) and across Syria to attack Israel.

At the same time, stopping them with diplomacy won’t work either. If the world community can’t get its act together to remove Robert Mugabe from his stolen presidency, how much harder it will be to act against a country that has some of the world’s largest oil resources, at a time when shortages of oil are having severe domestic effects in the West.

Some very good compromises have been offered, to allow Iran to build nuclear facilities to be used for internal energy applications, but they have all been turned down. Their talk about centrifuges may just be more bluff (some say they may only have 900, not the 3000 they claim. I still believe they intend to have a nuclear bomb of some kind and that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would nuke Israel (probably just Tel Aviv and maybe Haifa, but not Jerusalem, which would lose them Muslim support) and use Hizbullah to finish off what remained with rockets or even a ground assault.

None of us has a crystal ball, which means any decision about what to do to prevent this eventuality has to be based on very careful thinking about outcomes. But that is the situation as I now see it. Can anyone see a way to move forward?

Joint Communique with Mr. Bashar Al Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic

Published on 12-07-08 at 20:34
Joint Communique with Mr. Bashar Al Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic
Original in French

The President of the French Republic, Mr. Nicolas SARKOZY, and the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Bashar Al Assad, carried out a wide-ranging review, referring to bilateral issues of regional and international interest.

In the light of positive regional developments, the two Presidents agreed on a work plan to ensure the revival of bilateral relations, with a common goal of strengthening political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries, particularly in the liguistic, education and  academic domains. .

In this context, the French President will visit Syria at the invitation of President Bashar Al Assad, before mid-September 2008.

This visit will be prepared by a trip to Paris of  Deputy Prime Minister DARDARI, 21 and 22 July and a visit to Damascus of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bernard Kouchner.

Both Presidents emphasized the importance of the Syrian-Israeli peace process and noted the progress already made in the indirect talks held between Syria and Israel under the auspices of Turkey.

The Syrian President said that he hoped that France, with the USA, can make its full contribution to a future peace agreement between Israel and Syria in the phase of direct negotiation as in the implementation of the agreement, including security arrangements as may be necessary. The French President  noted the availability of France to respond to any request to that effect, if the parties were interest.

The two presidents reiterated their full support for the Doha agreement. The French President welcomed the strong determination of the President of Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, after the formation of a Lebanese government of national unity .

The French President, on behalf of the Presidency of the European Council,
will initiate the appropriate procedures for signing the association agreement between the EU and Syria, and the launch of the ratification process as soon as possible.

The two countries will cooperate in an active manner to ensure the success of the Mediterranean Union.