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Archive for October 2009

French immigration official: ‘No burqas in the street’

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PARIS (AP) — France’s immigration minister has proposed a debate on French “national identity,” saying it should not include face-covering Muslim veils such as the burqa.

Eric Besson says “the burqa runs counter to national values.” Speaking on LCI television Sunday, he said, “for me, no burqas in the street.”

A French parliamentary commission is holding six months of discussions on the wearing of face- and body-covering veils, and some politicians have suggested a ban.

Besson suggested a public debate on France’s “national identity,” a concept likely to rankle immigrants’ and minority rights groups.

Besson also defended a government decision to send illegal Afghan immigrants back to Kabul on charter flights last week.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 26, 2009 at 5:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Violent clashes erupt at Jerusalem’s holiest site

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By MATTI FRIEDMAN (AP) – 9 hours ago

A Palestinian youth marks a V sign during clashes with Israeli policemen in the Arab neighborhood of Ras Al Amud in east Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009. Israeli forces stormed the Jerusalem’s holiest shrine, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, Sunday, firing stun grenades to disperse hundreds of Palestinian protesters who were pelting them with stones. (AP

JERUSALEM — Israeli police firing stun grenades faced off Sunday against masked Palestinian protesters hurling stones and plastic chairs outside the Holy Land’s most volatile shrine, where past violence has escalated into prolonged conflict.

A wall of Israeli riot police behind plexiglass shields marched toward young men covering their faces with T-shirts and scarves, sending many of them running for cover into the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the Islamic structures in the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

They remained holed up in the mosque with police outside for several hours until dispersing before nightfall. Eighteen protesters were arrested, and no serious injuries were reported. But even mild troubles at the disputed compound in Jerusalem’s Old City can quickly ignite widespread unrest, and police remained on high alert.

“Jerusalem is a red line that Israel should not cross,” said Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh, condemning the Israeli police action.

A visit to the site in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, then an Israeli opposition leader and later prime minister, helped ignite deadly clashes that escalated into violence that engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories for several years.

Sunday’s disturbances were rooted in calls from Muslim leaders for their followers to protect the Islamic sites from what they said were Israeli plots to damage them or let Jews pray in the compound. There was no evidence to support either claim.

Palestinians are also angry about stalled peace talks and ongoing Israeli construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas they want for a future state. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 26, 2009 at 5:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Radovan Karadzic genocide trial begins at UN tribunal

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• Ex-Bosnian Serb leader to face 11 war crimes charges
• Boycott threat could delay complex trial for months

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic attends a hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague August 29Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic attends a hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Photographer: Valerie Kuypers/Reuters

Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader seen as the mastermind of the worst ethnic pogroms in Europe in the post-war era, goes on trial today in what may be the last big case of the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

Arrested last year in Serbia under a false identity after 13 years as a fugitive, Karadzic has been indicted on two counts of genocide, the gravest charges possible, for allegedly overseeing the mass murder and deportation of tens of thousands of Bosnia’s Muslims in the north-west of the country in 1992 and at Srebrenica in the north-east in 1995.

He faces a further nine charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 44-month Serbian siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in 1992-95, and for taking more than 200 UN peacekeepers hostage in 1995 as an insurance policy against Nato bombing raids.

Fifteen years into the operations of the tribunal, the Karadzic trial is shaping up to be its most important and one of its last. But it looks likely to get off to a frustrating and demoralising start with the accused boycotting the proceedings in The Hague. The presiding judge, O-Gon Kwon of South Korea, faces a dilemma over how to deal with a recalcitrant defendant who has long argued he is immune from prosecution because of a deal allegedly struck with Richard Holbrooke, then the US Balkan envoy, after the war ended in 1995. Karadzic also insists on conducting his own defence and declared last week he would not be in court because he needs more time to prepare. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 26, 2009 at 4:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Beyonce vs. Egypt and Sharia Law

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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Islamist MP slams govt for approving “naked” singer

Beyonce gig violates Sharia law: Egypt MP

Tickets to see bootylicious Beyonce in concert at a Red Sea resort have reached $400 (File)
DUBAI (Al Arabiya)Two weeks before American superstar Beyonce Knowles is scheduled to hold her first ever concert in Egypt, an Islamist MP publically blasted the government for accepting to host the event and accused the government of violating Sharia law.

The bootylicious pop diva is set for a government-approved gig at the Red Sea resort of Port Ghalib, irking Muslim Brotherhood member Hamdi Hassan, who slammed the government for allowing a singer “who appears naked in her clips” to perform, which he said would spread vice.

“The government is trying to make people indulge in sin and licentiousness to cover up the other crimes it is committing against them,” Hassan said in a parliament session.

Hassan highlighted what he called government double standards for refusing to allow an Islamic band that sings religious songs for children to enter the country.

This is not the first time Western pop diva’s have irked Egyptian conservatives.

Last year Egypt cleric Khaled al-Gindi decried a performance by hip-shaking sensation Shakira and likened her profession to prostitution but stressed he was sure she was a “nice person.”

During Shakira’s performance at the Pyramids Plateau Cairo grinded to a halt but organizers sought to avoid the same logistical nightmare with Beyonce’s concert and will hold it at a Red Sea resort forcing people to fork out for a five-star hotel and plane ticket.

The price for a ticket to see Beyonce has reached $400.

Hassan’s public outcry comes at a time when the outlawed brotherhood is facing numerous problems with the government and is seen by analysts as a way to make a statement rather than enforce a ban on the concert, since the government does not generally bow to Muslim Brotherhood demands.

Beyonce, who will perform in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi on Thursday, has also irked conservatives in Malaysia, where she is due to perform in November.

Malaysian conservatives were initially calling for her concert to be canceled but were satisfied when the singer vowed to wear “decent clothes” on stage.


(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 26, 2009 at 4:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

New “Who Speaks for Islam?” TV series about media images via Link TV kicks off this weekend

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Link TV

“Muslims on Screen”

A new series called “Who Speaks for Islam?” will kick off Saturday on Link TV (also available to be screened online at linktv.org/whospeaksforislam) and it features a particularly relevant second episode titled “Muslims on Screen,” with interviews and clips of television series that have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to portray Muslims.

Hosted by PBS’s Ray Suarez, the panel discussion has its kick-off segment, “What A Billion Muslims Really Think” on Sunday at 7 p.m. (PT) and repeating Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. If you get DirecTV (channel 375) or Dish (channel 9410), you can see it as it airs, or you can use The Chronicle’s updated online TV page to see if the series is available on your cable carrier. Barring that, you can watch it online at the above link for Link TV.

While the first hour is more of your standard NPR fare about exploring big picture issues of Islamic views, culture, attitudes, etc., the second installment, “Muslims on Screen” is more relevant for TV viewers and it might also have a greater impact on whether the issues brought up in the first hour are ever truly understand by Americans, since television remains the most powerful medium on the planet.

Suarez does a fine job in the first hour of moderating the flow of the discussion between Dalia Mogahed (who co-authored “Who Speaks for Islam?”) and Reza Aslan (author of “How to Win A Cosmic War” and Middle East analyst for CBS News). But he seems to really get into the idea of both progress and lessons learned in the second installment, which features “24” executive producer Howard Gordon; screenwriter Kamran Pasha (“Sleeper Cell,” “Kings”); actor and comedian Maz Jobrani (“Better Off Ted,” “The Interpreter,” the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour) and Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the hit Canadian comedy “Little Mosque on the Prairie”). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Saudi female TV journalist gets 60 lashes

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By Asma Alsharif

RIYADH, Oct 24 (Reuters) – A Saudi court sentenced a female journalist to 60 lashes in a case brought after a Lebanese television channel she worked for aired the sex confession of a Saudi man, the reporter and a lawyer said.

Rosana, 22, who did not want her full name disclosed, said a court in Jeddah convicted her on Saturday on grounds that the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) she worked for did not have proper authorisation to operate in the Islamic kingdom.

The ruling follows the sentencing by the same court of Mazen Abdul-Awad to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes earlier in October after he appeared on an LBC show and talked about his sexual exploits.

The show has sparked a public outcry in the U.S. ally, one of the world’s most conservative countries where clerics have wide-ranging influence and control.

“I had nothing to do with Mazen Abdul-Jawad’s show. The verdict was just because I cooperated with LBC,” the female journalist told Reuters.

LBC is a popular channel in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most conservative societies, and many Saudis tune into its Western-style entertainment programmes and talk shows.

“I was not aware (that LBC was unlicenced) but in the end this is the verdict and I accept it. I don’t want to appeal,” Rosana said.

The court could not be reached, while a spokesman for the information ministry in Riyadh declined to comment.

“This is the first case in which a journalist was tried at a court of summary jurisdiction for an offence relating to the nature of his or her profession,” said Sulaiman al-Jumaie, a lawyer who defended Abdul-Jawad.

Saudi authorities closed the LBC offices after the show was aired. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is a shareholder in LBC.

Abdul-Jawad, a divorced father of four, was arrested in August after discussing his premarital sexual encounters on LBC’s “In Bold Red” programme.

Judges, who are clerics of Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabi school of Islam, have wide powers of discretion and can issue sentences according to their interpretation of Islamic law, which critics said has led to some arbitrary rulings.

King Abdullah has begun to reform education and the judiciary in recent years, partly to discourage Islamic militancy but he faces resistance from clerics.

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

Written by Wajahat Ali

October 25, 2009 at 8:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Israeli drive to prevent Jewish girls dating Arabs

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Jonathan Cook, Foreign Correspondent


–>NAZARETH // A local authority in Israel has announced that it is establishing a special team of youth counsellors and psychologists whose job it will be to identify young Jewish women who are dating Arab men and “rescue” them.


The move by the municipality of Petah Tikva, a city close to Tel Aviv, is the latest in a series of separate – and little discussed – initiatives from official bodies, rabbis, private organisations and groups of Israeli residents to try to prevent interracial dating and marriage.

In a related development, the Israeli media reported this month that residents of Pisgat Zeev, a large Jewish settlement in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, had formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop Arab men from mixing with local Jewish girls.

Hostility to intimate relationships developing across Israel’s ethnic divide is shared by many Israeli Jews, who regard such behaviour as a threat to the state’s Jewishness. One of the few polls on the subject, in 2007, found that more than half of Israeli Jews believed intermarriage should be equated with “national treason”.

Since the state’s founding in 1948, analysts have noted, a series of legal and administrative measures have been taken by Israel to limit the possibilities of close links developing between Jewish and Arab citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population.

Largely segregated communities and separate education systems mean that there are few opportunities for young Arabs and Jews to become familiarised with each other. Even in the handful of “mixed cities”, Arab residents are usually confined to separate neighbourhoods.

In addition, civil marriage is banned in Israel, meaning that in the small number of cases where Jews and Arabs want to wed, they can do so only by leaving the country for a ceremony abroad. The marriage is recognised on the couple’s return.

Dr Yuval Yonay, a sociologist at Haifa University, said the number of interracial marriages was “too small to be studied”. “Separation between Jews and Arabs is so ingrained in Israeli society, it is surprising that anyone manages to escape these central controls.”

The team in Petah Tikva, a Jewish city of 200,000 residents, was created in direct response to news that two Jewish girls, aged 17 and 19, were accompanying a group of young Arab men when they allegedly beat a Jewish man, Leonard Karp, to death last month on a Tel Aviv beach. The older girl was from Petah Tikva.

The girls’ involvement with the Arab youths has revived general concern that a once-firm taboo against interracial dating is beginning to erode among some young people.

In sentiments widely shared, Mr Hakak, a spokesman for Petah Tikva municipality, said “Russian girls”, young Jewish women whose parents arrived in Israel over the past two decades, since the former Soviet Union collapsed, were particularly vulnerable to the attention of Arab men.

Dr Yonay said Russian women were less closed to the idea of relationships with Arab men because they “did not undergo the religious and Zionist education” to which more established Israeli Jews were subject.

Mr Hakak said the municipality had created a hotline that parents and friends of the Jewish women could use to inform on them.

“We can’t tell the girls what to do but we can send a psychologist to their home to offer them and their parents advice,” he said.

Motti Zaft, the deputy mayor, told the Ynet website that the municipality was also cracking down on city homeowners who illegally subdivide apartments to rent them cheaply to single Arab men looking for work in the Tel Aviv area. He estimated that several hundred Arab men had moved into the city as a result.

Petah Tikva’s hostility to Arab men mixing with local Jewish women is shared by other communities.

In Pisgat Zeev, a settlement of 40,000 Jews, some 35 Jewish men are reported to belong to a patrol known as “Fire for Judaism” that tries to stop interracial dating.

Unusually for a settlement, Pisgat Zeev has attracted a tiny but growing population of Arab families, both from East Jerusalem and from inside Israel. Because Pisgat Zeev sits within Jerusalem’s municipal borders, Arabs with Israeli residency rights can live there as long as Jewish settlers are willing to rent to them.

One member, who identified himself as Moshe to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, said: “Our goal is to be in contact with these girls and try to explain to them the dangers of what they’re getting themselves into. In the last 10 years, 60 girls from Pisgat Zeev have gone into [Palestinian] villages [in the West Bank]. And most of them aren’t heard from after that.”

He denied that violence or threats were used against Arab men.
Last year, the municipality of Kiryat Gat, a town of 50,000 Jews in southern Israel, launched a programme in schools to warn Jewish girls of the dangers of dating local Bedouin men. The girls were shown a video titled Sleeping with the Enemy, which describes mixed couples as an “unnatural phenomenon”.

Haim Shalom, head of the municipality’s welfare department, is filmed saying: “The girls, in their innocence, go with the exploitative Arab.”

In 2004, posters sprang up all over the northern town of Safed warning Jewish women that dating Arab men would lead to “beatings, hard drugs, prostitution and crime”.
Safed’s chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, told a local newspaper that the “seducing” of Jewish girls was “another form of war” by Arab men.

Both Kiryat Gat and Safed’s campaigns were supported by a religious organisation called Yad L’achim, which runs an anti-assimilation team publicly dedicated to “saving” Jewish women.

According to its website, the organisation receives more than 100 calls a month about Jewish women living with Arab men, both in Israel and the West Bank. It launches “military-like rescues [of the women] from hostile Arab villages” in co-ordination with the police and army.

“The Jewish soul is a precious, all-too-rare resource, and we are not prepared to give up on even a single one,” says the website.


Written by Wajahat Ali

October 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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