"The outcry over Sayeeda Warsiís speech on Islamophobia last week cannot be understood without a clear grasp of the balance of power within the coalition government. There are two factions, and the strongest can loosely be described as neoconservative. This faction remains an unconditional supporter of the United States of America, continues to defend the Iraq invasion, powerfully admires and in some cases worships Tony Blair, and automatically takes the side of Israel in the middle east...
It is not too late for the prime minister to consider whether he has drawn the dividing line in the wrong place, to reconsider his definition of extremist, and to ask whether some of the most blinkered and dangerous extremists are not to be found within the ranks of his own government."
Chris Elliot cites Ted Honderich on Palestinian struggle [31st Jan 2011]
"The papers show just how far Palestinian Authority negotiators were prepared to go to gain an agreement. Hovering over all the coverage is the length and scale of the conflict. The Palestine papers and what they might mean washed through the pages of the Guardian, including the letters pages. One letter ñ from the eminent philosopher Ted Honderich ñ proposed the 'moral right' of the Palestinians to adopt terrorism as a strategy.
It said: 'The revelations in detail of the intransigent greed, the escape from decency, of Israeli governments in negotiation with our selected leaders of the Palestinians Ö provide a further part of Ö an overwhelming argument for [the proposition] that the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism. The latter Ö is the taking from the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last one-fifth of their historic homeland. Terrorism, as in this case, can as exactly be self-defence, a freedom struggle, martyrdom, the conclusion of an argument based on true humanity, etc'."
"I wonder whether the Chilcot inquiry (Report, 29 January) will require Tony Blair to answer a question or two about the so-called ricin plot. On 5 January 2003, anti-terror police removed suspect items from a bedsit in Wood Green. On 7 January scientists at Porton Down ruled out the presence of ricin or any other deadly chemical in these items. Many of us would like to know, therefore, why it was that on that same day, the home secretary and the health secretary issued a statement on the discovery of ricin, and why the NHS issued advice that the public should not panic. We should also like to know why, on 8 January 2003, the media broke lurid stories about the discovery of ricin and a 'deadly London terror plot'. And why, on 5 February, Colin Powell held up a phial in the UN security council, while he gave the 'UK ricin plot' as a reason to go to war with Iraq.
And more generally we should like to know why, if there had never been any ricin, four innocent men had to languish in jail for two years before a jury trial acquitted them to walk free as innocent men, even though the prosecution had spent £20m on trying to establish their guilt. And finally, why were these innocent men rearrested and subjected to the appalling practice of special bail conditions, which are the same as control orders, under which one of them suffers 20-hour curfew to this day. These draconian powers have not been altered one iota by this week's deceitful rebranding. The corrosive effect of lies at the top has blurred the distinction between right and wrong for far too long. Chilcot has the opportunity to restore a moral compass for the future; dare we hope it will rise to this challenge?"
The CIA's complicated relationship with Egypt [30th Jan 2011]
Jeff Stein writes in the Washington Post, "...The CIAís double-vision in Egypt, of course, was no different than in any other 'friendly' country. But the partnership with its Cairo counterpart intensified in the mid-1990s with the swelling threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
...Omar Suleiman negotiated directly with top [CIA] officials on the renditions, Jane Mayer wrote in 'Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.'
Edward S. Walker, the American ambassador in Cairo at the time, described Suleiman as 'very bright, very realistic' according to the account of Mayer and others. The envoy said that Suleiman was aware of the flap potential of 'some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on.' ...When Mubarak goes down, in other words, Suleiman won't be going with him. 'I think thatís right,' Walker said. As for the CIA, 'Theyíre going to want to make sure that they have continuing access, that the relationship between the intelligence agencies is strong and survives this, so we can use it in the future'."
"Thousands of Tunisians welcomed home today an Islamist leader whose return from 22 years of exile indicated that his party may emerge as a major force in Tunisia after the ousting of the president.
The reception for Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, at Tunis airport was the biggest showing by the Islamist movement in two decades, during which thousands of them were jailed or exiled by Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali."
"The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred metres away, Hosni Mubarak's black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak's own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship."
Fox News anchorman Glen Beck's strategy for demonisation
Beck's demonisation of a French intellectual typifies how neo-cons on both sides of the Atlantic resort to decade-old texts and rip them out of context to score new points - much like the demonisation of Qutb or Maudoodi. Paul Harris writes in the Observer:
"For the past three weeks Beck has relentlessly targeted [French left-wing activist Frances] Piven via his television and radio shows as a threat to the American way of life, seizing on an essay that she and her late husband wrote in 1966 as a sort of blueprint for bringing down the American economy. Called The Weight of the Poor, it advocated signing up so many poor people for welfare payments that the cost would force the government to bring in a policy of a guaranteed income. For Piven, a committed voice of the left, known in academic circles but little recognised outside them, it was just one publication in a lifetime dedicated to political activism and theorising.
For Beck, however, Piven is a direct threat to the US. In show after show, the rightwing commentator has demonised Piven and framed her as part of a decades-old conspiracy to take over the country that culminated in the election of President Barack Obama. Beck's heated language has provoked a tidal wave of death threats against both Piven and her academic colleagues at the City University of New York."
Noami Klein on the Goldstone Report book [28 Jan 2011]
"One of the people I met in Gaza was Ibrahim Moammar, chair of the National Society for Democracy and Law. He could barely contain his disbelief that the crimes he had witnessed had not sparked an international legal response. 'Israel needs to face war crimes trials,' he said. He is right, of course. In a just world, the testimonies collected by Richard Goldstone and now published in book form would not merely raise our consciousness; they would be submitted as evidence."
Moscow's 'pay back' time for Caucasian atrocities [27th Jan 2011]
"Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, told The Independent yesterday that attacks like Monday's suicide bombing at a Moscow airport were 'payback' for Russia's policies in the North Caucasus, as he compared the country to a 'crocodile ready to swallow you up'."
Simon Tisdall: "This month's Tunisian uprising highlighted the way Brussels and leading EU states that backed the regime, such as France, deliberately ignored or culpably failed to appreciate the seriousness of the human rights abuses, corruption and hardship endured by the Tunisian people over many years.
This myopia extends, too, to the poverty and repression suffered by the peoples of other Arab regimes such as Algeria, Egypt and Jordan which, however, are judged to be EU-friendly and therefore seem not to be too harshly scrutinised. Little wonder, then, that when it comes to more powerfully abusive states such as China and Russia, the EU's record on advancing the human rights agenda is even more lamentable.
UK Stop & Search Law revised [The Guardian, 27th Jan 2011]
"Stop and Search under section 44, concerning arbitrary stop-and-search for counter-terrorism purposes, gives way to a more tightly drawn power, allowing counter-terror stop-and-search at a specific place linked to a specific threat, to run up to 14 days instead of 28."
Condoleezza Rice: send Palestinian refugees to South America [24 Jan 2011]
The Guardian reports, "Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration's secretary of state, wanted to settle displaced Palestinians in Argentina and Chile as an alternative to letting them return to former homes in Israel and the occupied territories. Rice made the proposal in a June 2008 meeting with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin...'Maybe we will be able to find countries that can contribute in kind. Chile, Argentina, etc (ie, give land)'."
Professor Rose later observed in a letter to the Guardian [27th Jan 2011]: "ews emigrating to Israel in the 1940s were told they were a people without land moving to a land without people. Thus Europe solved its Jewish problem by exporting it to the Middle East. Condoleeza Rice proposed to solve Israel's Palestinian problem by exporting Palestinians to the Andes (Report, 26 January). Another land without people for a people without a land?"
The Guardian reports, "The intelligence papers highlight the far-reaching official British involvement in building up the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and recently has focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.
Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who also worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led 'counter-insurgency surge' against Hamas ñ which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.
Madeleine Bunting writes in The Guardian, "..Challenging decline became the defining political role for both Thatcher and Blair; they both used the City and the armed forces to claim that Britain punched above its weight. New details keep seeping out of the ignominious fallout of that strategy; reports last week of the US military success in Sangin, Helmand, after they took over from the British are another blow to a military reputation damaged in southern Iraq.
But the really striking characteristic of declinology is how it is used to advance other agendas. It is a way of injecting urgency, grabbing attention for another cause. And it can get very nasty. For example, many analyses of Europe's decline put the continent's Muslim minorities centre stage, cast in the role of 'enemy within', outbreeding 'natives', bringing down standards of education and corroding cultural traditions. Declinology in Germany and France has become toxically entangled with Islamophobia."
Palestinian Authority - utterly disconnected from their peoples' real interests
From The Guardian: "The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees - including 'the intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority'; 'the central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories'; 'how Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza'."
The coalition Government's Secretary of State Chris Huhne has suggested that the police "invented" the threat posed by green campaigners to justify ongoing resources. Have the law enforcement agencies not similarly over-played terrorism plots in a bid (ii) to aggrandise not just bigger budgets but greater powers and (ii) to satisfy politians' needs so that there is the right public climate before some policy speech - remember the 'tanks at Heathrow' charade and Blair's Iraq speech? Note too the theme of the Institute of Race Relations' meeting on 27th January 2011: "Ricin! the inside story of the plot that never was".
In 2006, then Shadow Foreign Secretary Hague was on the receiving end of an ear-bashing and subject to threats from Lord Kalms, a major Tory donor and member of the CFI, after he used the word 'disproportionate' about Israelís 2006 attack on Lebanon. Learning the lesson, the D word was studiously avoided by PM Gordon Brown when Israel executed Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 against Gaza. Now one Israeli tank commander, remembers being told the night before the operation that the entry into Gaza was to be 'disproportionate'. Once into Gaza, he said his orders were unambiguous: 'The order was very clear that if a car came within 200 metres of me I could simply shoot at it. Shoot a shell at it.'
Journalist James Traub paints a bitter sweet picture of the indefatigable Turkish Foreign Minister: "One of Davutogluís greatest diplomatic achievements was the creation of a visa-free zone linking Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, thus reconstituting part of the old Ottoman space. The four countries have agreed to move toward free trade, as well as free passage, among themselves. As part of the zero-problems policy, Turkey moved to resolve longstanding tensions with Cyprus and Armenia and, more successfully, with Greece and Syria. Turkeyís decades of suppression of Kurdish demands for autonomy put it at odds with the new government of Iraqi Kurdistan, which sheltered Kurdish resistance fighters. But the Erdo?gan government reached out to Kurdistan, Americaís strongest ally in the region. Relations with the Bush administration had been rocky since 2003, when Turkeyís Parliament voted against permitting U.S. forces to enter Iraq through southeastern Turkey. But by now the U.S. was eager to use Turkey as a force for regional stability. The rapprochement with Kurdistan thus smoothed relations with Washington and made Turkey a major player in Iraqi affairs. Turkish firms gained a dominant position not only in Kurdistan but also, increasingly, throughout Iraq. And Iraqi Kurdish leaders had cracked down on the rebels. It was a diplomatic trifecta.
But Davutogluís vision extended far beyond securing the neighborhood for Turkish commerce.
Islamist movement at forefront of Tunisia's protests [22nd Jan 2011]
The British broadsheets have up to now tried to present the Nahda Party and its exiled leader Shaikh Rachid Ghanoushi as marginal to the removal of the Tunisian dictator. Now the story line is changing, as evident in this piece by Damien McElroy of the Daily Telegraph: "Al-Nadha is lead by the London-based exile Rachid Ghannouchi who has said that he will return to the country as soon as the threat of life in prison is lifted. Mr Ghannouchi has the best claims to an electoral following in Tunisia after the disintegration of the ruling party. He has wide core support at the country's universities and his followers secured 17 per cent in 1989's election ñ an unrivalled following in Tunisia's rigged electoral system." What Traub does not like is Turkey standing up to Israel and seeking fair treatment for Iran: quoting International Crisis Group's Hugh Pope, "The truth is that for all his profound knowledge of the history of civilizations, Davutoglu misread the depth of feeling in the U.S. about both Israel and Iran 'They think theyíre more important than Israel'."
A leaked US embassy cable showed that the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), responsible for hundreds of murders, received British training in 'investigative interviewing techniques'. It has emerged that British authorities passed information about British nationals to the groupówhile they were held at a secret interrogation centre where inmates have died under torture. Gulam Mustafa, from Birmingham, was beaten and tortured with electric shocks."
Peter Odorne on Baroness Warsi's speech [21st Jan 2011]
"Muslims are fair game in British public culture. Polly Toynbee, of The Guardian, is regarded as Britainís most politically correct columnist. 'I am an Islamophobe and proud of it,' she once wrote. These sentiments were echoed by the rather less politically correct polemicist Rod Liddle: 'Islamophobia: count me in.' Letís imagine for one moment that Toynbee had written instead: 'I am an anti-semite and proud of it.' She would at once have been barred from mainstream journalism because anti-semitism is rightly regarded as a noxious, evil creed. With Islam, by contrast, any insult is tolerated...What she [Baroness Warsi] said yesterday has desperately needed saying by a mainstream politician for a very long time. I know this because, over the past few years, I have visited many Muslim communities and spoken to scores of Muslim leaders."
The Muslim Council of Britain welcomes the intervention of Minister without Portfolio & Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi, for drawing attention to the very real scourge of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. ..Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB noted, "We particularly welcome Baroness Warsiís acknowledgement of the role the media plays in this process of normalising Islamophobia, as well as the counter-productiveness of categorisations such as 'moderate' and 'extremist' Muslims. Islamophobia is the number one concern of all Muslims in this country, illustrated recently by an internal survey of issues conducted by the MCB of its affiliates who prioritised rising anti-Muslim hatred as the biggest concern for the community. Responsibility also rests with our political leadership because unfortunately the language often used with reference to Muslims is feeding into stigmatisation of one section of our societyî.
Arch Neo-Con on Tunisia [20th Jan 2011]
Zalmay Khalilzad [ who was recruited by Paul Wolfowitz to serve on the Reagan administration's State Department policy planning staff, member of the Bush foreign policy team from 2000, when he headed the Bush-Cheney Defense Department transition team; adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then shifted to the National Security Council, where he worked under Rice; served as presidential envoy to Afghanistan; then in late 2002 'special presidential envoy and ambassador at large for the free Iraqis'; in 2003,ambassador to Afghanistan, a post he held until 2005, when he took over as ambassador to Iraq] now has the gall to comment on what Tunisians should do.
He writes in the Financial Times: "...So what should the US and Europe do? Statements by Mr Obama and others in praise of Tunisiaís reformers have been positive first steps. Now they must work with Tunisian liberals, both inside and outside the country ñ first to prevent chaos, then to ensure fair competition and that Islamists, and current ruling parties, do not outmanoeuvre the moderates. Elections must then follow, although the timing and preparations for the vote must reflect lessons learnt from other recent elections in the region.
More broadly, a new freedom agenda for the region must be articulated. This should emphasise our shared interest in promoting liberal democracy, meaning elected governments that respect the fundamental rights of their citizens. To that end, ties with dissidents, exiles and internal reformers should be strengthened.
The west should also openly pressure other authoritarian regimes to liberalise, acting as a midwife for democratic reform. In countries in which Islamist movements are better organised than liberal ones, the west should focus on developing moderate civil society groups, parties and institutions rather than calling for snap elections. Most importantly, our distribution of foreign aid should reflect and advance these priorities. Regimes and reformers throughout the region are taking note of events in Tunisia. The US and Europe must act quickly.So what should the US and Europe do? Statements by Mr Obama and others in praise of Tunisiaís reformers have been positive first steps. Now they must work with Tunisian liberals, both inside and outside the country ñ first to prevent chaos, then to ensure fair competition and that Islamists, and current ruling parties, do not outmanoeuvre the moderates. Elections must then follow, although the timing and preparations for the vote must reflect lessons learnt from other recent elections in the region."
In the wake of revelations of a police deep cover spy Mark Kennedy who infiltrated environmental groups and had affairs 'to preserve his cover', the Guardian reports that "The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has already announced an investigation into Nottinghamshire police over allegations it suppressed secret surveillance tapes ñ recorded by Kennedy ñ that would have exonerated six activists police tried to prosecute."
Rachid Ghannoushi's interview - the Financial Times, 18th January 2011
FT: This is all new for Tunisians, the end of the Ben Ali era. How can you make a very strong break today from the system, when there is nothing to replace it? Donít you need this type of transition period?
RG: Basing the transition on the (current) constitution to build a democratic system is a futile attempt to build democracy from dictatorship because only God can bring out life from death. We cannot bring out a democratic system out of this corrupt, dictatorial system. We have to put an end to the authoritarian system and start a new one. Basing this transition on Article 56 or 57 is a continuation of the old system. The constitution was a tyranny, the state was reduced to one man, who had in his hands the executive, judicial and legislative powers and was not accountable to anyone. How can such a constitution point towards building a democratic system, even as a starting point.
The first step of building a democratic system is to build a democratic constitution. For this we need a founding council for rebuilding the state, one in which political parties, the trade unions and the civil society join. This council will rebuild the democratic constitution and will be the basis for building the democratic system.
FT: But who will decide who takes part? Ben Ali controlled so much as you know but now that heís gone, political parties that are there are very weak, trade unions are weak, who will bring people together?
RG: Who made this revolution? It is the people who made this revolution.This revolution was not made by an angry, out-of-control mob. There are 250, 000 university graduates who are in fact the basis for this revolution. It is not angry, uneducated people. They were the base of this revolution with their creative ways of using the internet and other media. As to the trade unions, itís true that their leadership has been subservient (to the regime) but the regional union headquarters were the centre of the protests and they led the revolution.
The lawyers also led the main protest marches and these are important bodies which were later joined by the opposition towards the end. There are still important civil society institutions, lawyers, trade unions, political parties, the representative bodies of unemployed graduates and it is them who (could potentially) support the constitutional council. What we see is that they are not present in this (current) transition.
FT: Are you in contact with the other leaders in the opposition? Have you been consulting with them?
RG: We as a member of the October 18 movement which we founded in 2005 and it brings together parties and civil society institutions, including Nejib Chebbi from the Progressive Democratic Party, the Tunisian Communist Workers Party, and the Conference for the Republic and other human rights organisations. This was founded in 2005 for one simple demand: to call for freedom of expression and association for everyone and for recognising the rights of all parties.
Later when we developed this coalition, to elaborate this joint intellectual basis we produced several papers which all members of this movement agree on and embrace. The first was a paper on philosophical pluralism. There is no limit to pluralism except not embracing violence, and giving the rights to anyone to found the party.
The second was the rights of women because the government used to always say to frighten people away that (the Islamists) will take away the rights of women. Then we had to reassure others in this coalition who were being accused of working with the Islamists. And we all recognise, we accept the personal status code and will not cancel it or refuse it. Indeed we had expressed this since 1988 on 17 July where I made a statement in which I recognised the personal status code.
Another paper was on the freedom of conscience, to address the allegations that Islamists will be using the punishment for apostasy and will kill people for what they believe. The paper recognised that Tunisians have the freedom to believe in anything, to leave or embrace any faith, as faith is a personal matter. On the basis of these papers the coalition moved from no longer being a short-term political coalition, but a social project for society.
For the Tunisia that we are working for, one in which women enjoy equality, people can establish and join any party and they have the freedom to believe any faith.
Tunisians must dismantle the monster Ben Ali built
Soumaya Ghannoushi writes in The Guardian, "The phenomenon called 'Ben Ali' was in reality an amalgam of internal violence, deception and flagrant foreign support. For years his backers armed him and gave him political cover to suffocate his people. A good student of the IMF, a guarantor of 'stability' and a brave warrior against 'Islamic fundamentalism', Ben Ali's Tunisia was a shining example of 'modernisation' and success. With his demise, a model of stability which is bought at the price of a crushed people can no longer be easily defended or propagated."
Now that the masses have overthrown the old tyrant by a heroic uprising, the western governments are falling over themselves in their haste to call for democracy. President Sarkozy said he stood side-by-side with the citizens of Tunisia, his country's former protectorate. Nicolas Sarkozy has raised cynicism to an art form. If there was a Nobel Prize for hypocrisy, he would undoubtedly win it. In April 28, 2008 he declared during one of his trips to Tunisia: "Your country is engaged in the promotion of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms ..." A few months later, the IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn, said in Tunis in late 2008 that Tunisia, the Ben Ali regime was "the best model for many emerging countries.î
It is Britain's unprecedented police powers - often only known to the senior ranks - that are coming to the fore with revelations on infiltration of environmental groups. One of the undercover whistle-blowers states that he knew personally of 15 other officers hidden within green groups during his time undercover from 2003 to 2009: " My superior officer told me on more than one occasion, particularly during the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005, that information I was providing was going directly to Tony Blair's desk."
"The unprecedented scale of undercover operations used by police to monitor Britain's political protest movements was laid bare last night after a third police spy was identified by the Guardian. News of the existence of the 44-year-old male officer comes as regulators prepare two separate official inquiries into the activities of this hitherto secret police surveillance network."
A memoir by a top former Turkish intelligence official claims that a worldwide moderate Islamic movement based in Pennsylvania has been providing cover for the CIA since the mid-1990s. The memoir, roughly rendered in English as ìWitness to Revolution and Near Anarchy,î by retired Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes, says the religious-tolerance movement, led by an influential former Turkish imam by the name of Fethullah Gulen, has 600 schools and 4 million followers around the world.
Hindu holy man Aseemanand in custody over India blasts [13th Jan 2011]
An Indian court has remanded in custody a Hindu holy man accused of a string of bomb attacks previously thought to be the work of Muslim militants. Swami Aseemanand allegedly admitted to placing bombs on a train to Pakistan, at a Sufi shrine and at a mosque. He has also allegedly confessed to carrying out two assaults on the southern Indian town of Malegaon, which has a large Muslim population....
With UK National Census Day approaching [27th March 2011] Jody McIntyre raises valid concerns: "In December 2008, the government quietly awarded the £150m contract to collect and securely handle the 2011 census data to Lockheed Martin, the second-largest arms manufacturer in the world. It makes bombs, bomber jets and has run most of the US military's intelligence gathering and interrogation, including at Guant·namo Bay, where it operated through subsidiary companies. Nice people to be doing business with....As a US-owned company, under the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, Lockheed Martin can be forced to hand over any private data in its possession to the US government and/or the CIA. It doesn't make the government's promises to keep our data safe sound quite so reassuring."
Muted response to Tunisia' movement for accountable government [13th Jan 2011]
US diplomats viewed President Ben Ali's regime as a 'mafia' venture and 'organised corruption' [Wikileaks]. Yet is a regime that has the succour of France and other powers, because if democratic forces came to the fore, their influence would diminish. France is the leading investor in Tunisia. Civil protests in the Ukraine and elsewhere are given sympathetic descriptions such as 'orange revolution' - but not if these are aimed at a Western-backed dictators. Al Jazeera reports, "The rare unrest in tightly controlled Tunisia was unleashed by the suicide of a 26-year-old graduate who set himself on fire on December 17 after police prevented him from selling fruit and vegetables to make a living."
What makes Arizona's killer just a loner, not a terrorist? [Mehdi Hasan, 13th Jan 2011]
"...Isn't the firing of a bullet into the head of an elected politician in a public place covered by any, or all, of those three criteria? Or does the suspect have to have an Arabic name to be classed as a terrorist these days? Imagine, for a moment, that the shooter outside the Tucson Safeway last Saturday had been a Muslim. Does anyone doubt that accusations of homegrown terrorism, links to al-Qaida and vast Islamist conspiracies wouldn't have come thick and fast?
Compare and contrast the response to the shooting of Giffords to the stabbing of the Labour MP Stephen Timms in his constituency surgery last May. The investigation into his Muslim attacker, Roshonara Choudhry, was conducted by Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command. The Guardian described the stabbing as "the first terrorist attack to injure someone on the UK mainland since 7 July 2005"....
The state's pedlars of fear [Simon Jenkins, 12th Jan 2011]
"Only those who have tarried in the foggy corridors of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan police can have any notion of the Orwellian extravagance of these places. Agencies, units and groups cruise shark-like round the feet of terrified Home Office ministers. Their staffs, expenses, overtime and accommodation are crammed into London's Scotland Yard and Tintagel House. If challenged, they incant their motto: "We keep you safe."..... A culture of perpetual fear has become so ingrained in government that nobody dares question any spending to which the word security can be attached. Last month these same agencies gave Britons their annual Christmas present, a day of planted headlines screaming, "al-Qaida threat to Christmas shopping".....
While much bigger nations have lacked the bottle to preserve their citizens' rights - for example Pakistan's acquiescence in handing over its citizens to the US - Iceland is exemplary. The Financial Times reports: "the US ambassador to Reykjavik has been summoned to explain why the US justice department asked Twitter, the social networking site, for private data on Birgitta Jonsdottir, a parliamentarian and freedom of information activist."
Mary Sieghart warns of Fox News: "Fox News claims to be 'fair and balanced' in its coverage of politics, a slogan that draws a bitter laugh from anyone who isn't a staunch Republican. The station is about as fair and balanced as the Daily Mail. And this bias has a lamentable effect on the state of American political discourse." Murdoch is now lobbying in the UK to allow in US practices, having gained much prestige by generous financial contributions to pay for the Pope's UK visit.
UK Undercover surveillance/sting of environmental groups [The Guardian, 10th Jan 2011]
Six environmental activists who faced charges of trying to take over a power station today called for an inquiry into the role of an undercover police officer, who is accused of helping to plan and pay for the invasion...The home secretary, Theresa May, has been called to give a statement to parliament after evidence emerged suggesting he turned agent provocateur. Kennedy, who has quit the Met and is living abroad, has told friends he regrets the operation, which he described as "wrong".
Jack Straw and British-Pakistani criminality [Source: Tariq Khattak, Media-Tribe, 8th Jan 2011]
Yvonne Ridley writes, "Has an open season of hate been declared on the Pakistani community in Britain?...Using the same obscene politics of race ñ which cost neighbouring ex-MP Phil Woolas his seat ñ Jack Straw launched what I can only describe as a hateful blast on the Pakistani community in Britain. The former UK foreign and home secretary accused some Pakistani men of seeing white girls as 'easy meat' for sexual abuse. In a speech which could have come from the pages of a BNP election leaflet, the Blackburn MP talked of a 'specific problem' involving Pakistani men and called
on the community to be 'more open' about the issue. All of this only days before a crucial by-election in Britain in a constituency where the predominant minority community hails from Pakistan...And if this is such a serious problem in the Pakistani communities, why on earth is Straw just raising it now? Why did he not raise it a decade ago, 20 years ago or even two years ago with the senior leaders in Blackburnís Pakistani community? Why now? The reason is simple ñ there is a by-election down the road in Oldham..."
Kenan Malik's baggage [Source: Washington Post, 6th Jan 2011]
Kenan Malik has recently published 'From Fatwa to Jehad - the Rushdie Affair and its Aftermath'. Reviewing in the Washington Post, Maureen Freely notes of him: "the Indian-born son of a Hindu mother and a Muslim father" - background that cannot make him a disinterested commentator on Islamophobia - which he rubbishes as an example of Muslim 'victimhood'. It may not be Muslims who need to sit on the psychologist's couch.
Human cruelty: Control Orders [Source: Independent, 7th Jan 2011]
The British law lords had ruled that the regime of control orders - where a suspect is not given sufficient information about the allegations against him and held in a form of internal exile - was against European human rights law. The political masters under pressure from the security agencies have stalled. Cerie Bullivant was subject to the control regime: "I grew up ñ maybe naively - thinking the Brits were the good guys, thinking we went around saving countries going through hardship and bringing democracy to the world. That belief has been severely shaken by living through something you would only expect in a totalitarian dictatorship".
Muslim discourse in Politics [Source: The Guardian, 6th Jan 2011]
Pankaj Mishra writes about the patronising "grandiloquent psychologising" of the contemporary Muslim condition by those who expect the Muslim world to follow the same steps as Englightenment-blessed Europe. But the "expectation that societies entering the modern world will and should grow less religious has always rested on the narrow experience of a tiny minority of Europeans". He adds, "Cheer-led by western leaders, Turkey's Kemal Ataturk and Persia's Shah Pahlavi imposed brutal regimes of modernisation and secularisation on their populations. Their successors have presided over a popular revival of Muslim self-consciousness and self-assertion... to see Islamic discourse in mass politics as a vicious anachronism is to see very little".
It was not sufficient to have served as White House bureau chief or dean of the White House Correspondents Association. When she spoke up for the injustice done to Palestinians by Israeli ethnic cleansing, she became persona non grata overnight. Danny Schechter provides an insightful assessment of the campaign against her by the likes of the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre - the latter placing her on their top-ten list of anti-Semites after angry remarks she made about Israel. Thomas states, "You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive". She believes the Israel lobby controls the discourse on Israel. She cited, as an example, CNN firing a veteran editor in Lebanon for praising a popular cleric for his support for woman after he died. (CNN had no problems hiring Wolf Blitzer, a former executive director of AIPAC.)
Human Rights statement
Source: FT, 29th Dec 2010
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani has drawn a red line on Ahmadi-Nejad regime's cavalier disregard for human rights, that have violated deeply held Islamic values for human dignity. Najmeh Bozorgmehr reporting for the Financial Times quoted Ayatollah Khorasani as stating, "Confessions of prisoners have no validity and if a judge uses confessions for issuing verdicts that judge is no longer qualified". She adds, "his statement is not only a religious decree that his followers must obey but a warning from the countryís most senior cleric to politicians that Qomís religious establishment should not be ignored."
Ramzy Baroud writes, "Today merely half of Iraq's Christians are still living in the country, when compared to the 1987 census which listed 1.4 million Iraqi Christians. The number, following the most recent killings which resulted from Iraqi forces storming the church and exchanging fire with the kidnappers, is dwindling rapidly. The plight of Iraqi Christians seems very similar to that of Palestinian Christians, whose numbers have plummeted and continue to fall following the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. The Palestinian Christian diaspora was a direct outcome of the Israeli occupation and the original takeover of historical Palestine in 1948. The Israeli government sees no difference between a Palestinian Christian and a Palestinian Muslim.
But none of this was deemed worthy of discussion in much of the Western media, perhaps because it risked hurting the sensibility of the Israeli occupier. In contrast, the troubling news coming from Iraq can now be manipulated by presenting the suffering of Christians as an offshoot of a larger conflict between Islamic militants and Christian communities in Iraq.
The fact is that Iraqi society has long been known for its tolerance and acceptance of minorities. There were days when no one used such references as Shiite, Sunni and Christians; there was one Iraq and one Iraqi people. This has completely changed, for part of the strategy following the invasion of Iraq was to emphasise and manipulate the ethnic and religious demarcation of the country, creating insurmountable divides. Without a centralised power to guide and channel the collective responses of the Iraqi people, all hell broke loose. Masked men with convenient militant names but no identities disappeared as quickly as they popped up to wreak havoc in the country. The communal trust that held together the fabric of Iraqi society during the hardest of times dissolved. Utter chaos and mistrust took over, and the rest is history."
Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney embodies amorality: he sanctioned the use of torture and is implicated in financial corruption. The Nigerian anti-corruption watchdog has imposed a $250 million fine on energy giant Halliburton in an out-of-court settlement, thus taking its former CEO Cheney off the hook of bribery charges. After the occupation of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq's petroleum industry. According to audits, "corrupton ran wild". http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/28-1
Related link http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/28-1
US Drone Attacks Are No Laughing Matter, Mr. Obama
Mehdi Hasan writes "The cold-blooded killing of Pakistani civilians in a push-button, PlayStation-style drone war is not just immoral and perhaps illegal, it is futile and self-defeating from a security point of view. Take Faisal Shahzad, the so-called Times Square bomber. One of the first things the Pakistani-born US citizen said upon his arrest was: 'How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan.' Asked by the judge at his trial as to how he could justify planting a bomb near innocent women and children, Shahzad responded by saying that US drone strikes 'don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody.' But the innocent victims of America's secret drone war have become "unpeople", in the words of the historian Mark Curtis". http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/29-7
New Look for Mecca: Gargantuan and Gaudy
When Abdul Aziz ibn Saud and his Ikhwan Nejdi militia entered the Hejaz in 1924 the Muslim world was aghast at the zealots' destruction of venerated sites and shrines. If there had not been protests and delegations, they would have pulled down the green dome of the Prophet's mosque in Medina. However they succeeded in demolishing Masjid Qubba and hosts of other historical sites. The quid pro quo was a safer and more comfortable pilgrimage for the world's Muslims, compared to the disorder of Sherif Husein's time. Now, 86 years later the zealotary has combined with big business: Mecca is rapidly becoming a theme park: "It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim worldís holiest site, a kitsch rendition of Londonís Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islamís architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on " writes Nicolai Ouroussoff in the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/arts/design/30mecca.html?emc=eta1
The Trans-Atlantic Islamophobic Alliance
Max Blumenthal's article The Great Islamophobic Crusade reveals the links between a network of neocon pro-Israeli lobbyists and the demonisation of Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic. The 'David Projet' was launched to defame pro-Palestinian activism amongst students, with its Director also active in opposing the construction of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Pamela Geller, who campaigned against Imam Rauf's NY centre, has "close alliances with leading Islamophobes from Europe" issuing "statements of support for the English Defense League". Blumenthal considers this network to be "obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America. Its apparatus spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans. It reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror and urging the U.S. and various European powers to emulate its heavy-handed methods." http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/149256/right-wing_money-fed_campaign_escalates_latent_9-11_paranoia_into_anti-muslim_hysteria/?page=entire
Related link http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/christina-patterson/christina-patterson-how-i-was-smeared-as-an-antisemite-2167310.html
English Law related to Muslim Law
Dr Haniffa Razik's recently completed PhD at the University of London on 'Islamic Legal Methodology in terms of Objectives of Law - a comparative analysis' builds on Professor Kamali's work to show that the notion of Maqasid Shariah formed part of Muslim thinking from the time of Caliph Abu Bakr. The notion of Equity in English Common Law owes much to this intellectual tradition - in fact Equity as a concept followed 1000 years after the notion of istihsan. Now other dependencies have been picked up in a report by Mukul Devichand for the BBC, in which he observes, "in London's historic 'Inns of Court', barristers practise law in the shadow of the distinctive medieval Temple Church. But does English law really owe a debt to Muslim law? For some scholars, a historical connection to Islam is a 'missing link' that explains why English common law is so different from classical Roman legal systems that hold sway across much of the rest of Europe."
Remembering Gaza 2009
Haider Eid, Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza's al-Aqsa University writes: "Last week marked the second anniversary of the horror inflicted on the people of the Gaza Strip. Nothing has changed! Gaza has returned to its pre-invasion state of siege, confronted with the usual international indifference. Two years after the Israeli assault that lasted 22 long days and dark nights, during which its brave people were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world, Gaza no longer makes the news. Its people die slowly, its children are malnourished, its water contaminated, and yet it is deprived even of a word of sympathy from the President the United States and the leaders of Europe." http://www.zcommunications.org/gaza-two-years-after-the-horror-by-haidar-eid
Racism in Britain
The 'Prospect'-contributing litterati would have us believe that racism is no longer an issue in Britain. The well-assimilated head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips has even stated that institutional racism is dead (apparently leading to the resignation of three EHRC board members). Munira Mirza, formerly of Policy Exchange and who now works at the GLA,is confident that racist comments are by and large "innocent", and that bizarely legislation such as the Race Relation Act can only serve to exacerbate racism! So it is in this light that Oliver Wright makes an important contribution to the debate: "Black applicants have less than a one in a 100 chance of being recruited to Britain's Civil Service fast track...black students are less than two-thirds as likely to get an upper-second or first as white students and last week it emerged that 21 Oxford and colleges made no offers to black students last year..."
The Wikileaks of Yesterday: The Sykes-Picot Agreement
In December 1917, when the Bolsheviks came to power, they released details of the hitherto secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in which Britain and France agreed to partition the Ottoman Arab provinces amongst themselves, notwithstanding the Sherif-McMahon Agreement or Lawrence of Arabia's promises. The historian James Renton reflects on the impact this made at the time, in exposing Sherif Hussein of Mecca's gullibility and draws parallels with Wikileaks: "the real threat to US power in the long-term is not the freedom of Julian Assange; it is the stubborn attempt to conduct foreign policy as if we still lived in the 19th century world of imperialism and great power politics. As the British started to discover ninety years ago, those days are over."
Why is Jonathan Pollard back in the News?
Obamaís call for a halt in the illegal settlements will be dismissively regarded by the tail that wags the dog - a spy serving a US prison sentence, Jonathan Pollard, is the bargaining chip. Since October 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu has mentioned Pollard six times in meetings with Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Israel lobby in Washington has also mounted a letter-writing campaign on Pollardís behalf. From 1981-1985, Pollard took more than one million documents for copying by his Israeli handler. At his trial, Pollard claimed he wasn't stealing from the US; he was stealing secrets for Israel. The secrets were then apparently shipped to Soviet Union ñ as a quid pro quo for granting visas to Jewish scientists and other ÈmigrÈs. Pollardís controller, Rafi Eitan, has remained persona non grata in the US. http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/articles/middle-east/1878-why-is-israeli-spy-jonathan-pollard-back-in-the-news
Related link http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/23/opinion/la-ed-pollard-20101023