Saturday, May 06, 2006

Man remanded over cartoon protests.

A man charged with soliciting murder in connection with February's Muslim cartoon protests has been remanded in custody in London.

Abdul Muhid, 23, appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London. His next appearance will be at the Central Criminal Court on June 23.
He is one of six men charged over their alleged involvement in the London demonstrations against cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper in September.
Muhid stood up in the dock throughout the 30-minute hearing. Bearded, wearing robes and carrying some books, he spoke only to give his name, an address in Stoke Newington, north London, and his date of birth.
He is charged with two counts of soliciting to murder.
Four other men have already appeared in court charged with offences relating to the demonstration.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What it is like to be an Oriental wife of a Saudi.

"Worse still, people aren’t even embarrassed by their derogatory behavior."

One of my friends, a Saudi, announced that he was leaving the country. I must say I was a little taken aback by his sudden plans for departure because he was very successful, from a merchant family and appeared to have a bright future ahead of him.
“But I thought you loved it here?” I asked amazed at his decision.
“I did,” he replied sounding unconvinced by his own admission.
“Well then,” I said, “you’re being stupid. I think you’re too idealistic about what life in America is all about. And besides, you could do so well in your own country and supporting your own people.”
He sniggered at my optimism and finally apprised me of what it was that had made such a move essential.
“Lubna,” he began, “ever since I got married things haven’t been the same.”
I found this odd as he had tied the knot with the love of his life. They had met at university in the States and his wife was a smart beautiful Oriental woman whose uncle was the president of a Far Eastern country.
“Oh,” I sympathized. “These things happen, you know.”
“No. You have misunderstood. I am extremely happy. But I am just sick to death of the way we are treated as a couple. Whenever we go out, people here instinctively assume that I am with my servant! In restaurants they have attempted to seat her at a different table to the rest of us. I don’t need to tell you how some people here are accustomed to bringing their maids and drivers to dinner as glamorous accessories and then shoving them into a corner because they are not fit to share the same space as them.
“At the immigration she is always treated like a domestic helper and they love to question her rudely and act as if the status on her visa is a mistake. I mean how can someone with Oriental features aspire to the heights of marrying a Saudi? Surely they have given the maid the wrong visa? This kind of blatant disrespect is incredible.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you some of the stories. At a family wedding my wife was not even allowed into the main hall and ended up sitting in the section with the maids until one of my sisters went to fetch her. I am just finished dealing with this sort of rampant humiliation. Worse still, people aren’t even embarrassed by their derogatory behavior. They look at me as if I have issues. As if it’s fair game to treat my wife badly because she is Oriental. Even members of my own family treat her with a sort of indifference and find her presence hard to swallow.”
“That’s weird,” I said, “because your brother is married to a foreigner. It’s not exactly new to the system then is it?” I commented.
“Yes, but she is a pure white American. Come off it, Lubna. Whether you like it or not, a Katie from the great US of A is any day more preferable to any woman regardless if she happens to be from one of the top families of Asia,” he retorted in disgust.

The New Martyrs.

Richard Z. Chesboff, of the NY Daily News, writes about the suffering of Christians in Islamic countries.

It's one of today's most compelling news stories, yet it's all but ignored by most of the international media. I'm talking about the growing persecution of Christian minorities in the Islamic world.
It briefly made headlines last month when machete-armed Egyptian fanatics attacked worshipers in three Coptic churches in Alexandria and murdered one aged man at prayer. Then of course, there was March - when an Afghan man escaped a death sentence for the "crime" of converting to Christianity.
But how many people heard about the recent arrest and jailing in Saudi Arabia of a group of Filipino guest workers for holding Christian prayer services in the privacy of their home? Or who knows about the three Sunday School teachers charged in Indonesia last year with the crime of "Christianization" and summarily sentenced to three years in prison?
The story is similar wherever Sharia - orthodox Islamic law - reigns supreme. From Pakistan to Darfur, Christians have become regular targets for Islamic gangs who shoot at worshipers, then torch their houses of worship.
Even in Islamic countries not strictly run by Sharia law, pressures mount on local Christians to leave the homes they've known for centuries. Iraq's Christian sects, among the oldest Christian communities anywhere in the world, have been directly targeted by terrorist bombs, and Christians are now high on the list of those fleeing Iraq's sectarian strife. Thirty years ago, Lebanon was 60% Christian. Since then, an estimated 3.5 million Christians have emigrated, reducing the country's Christian population percentage to barely 25%. And in the Palestinian territories, direct and indirect pressures have also led to an increasing Christian exodus. One striking result: Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and once a predominantly Christian Arab community now has an overwhelming Muslim majority.
Few people seem prepared to connect the dots. Some American evangelical groups like the Washington-based International Christian Concern try to raise the alarm. And America's Copts, especially those based in the New York area, actively lobby against the legal and social discrimination that face their Egyptian co-religionists. Yet most mainstream church groups seem to ignore the threat.
During certain periods, Islamic countries did allow "the peoples of the book" to live in relative peace among them. But the rise of Islamic extremism is silencing even voices of limited tolerance. More than 800,000 Jews were forced to flee the Islamic world between 1948 and 1955. Unless there is an outcry against the new wave of discrimination now facing Christians, these ancient communities are also doomed to disappear.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

US body criticizes religious freedom in allies.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its annual report to Congress and President George W. Bush's administration, harshly criticized three key U.S. allies -- Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt -- for their poor performance on religious rights.
The commission designated 11 countries as being "of particular concern" because of extreme religious persecution: Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Another seven states were placed on a watch list because of serious violations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Created by Congress in 1998 to ensure that religious freedom became a central goal of U.S. foreign policy, the commission raised the alarm about the situation in Iran and Afghanistan.
"The situations in Afghanistan and Iraq serve to underscore the precarious state of this fundamental freedom," commission chairman Michael Cromartie wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a letter accompanying the report.
In Afghanistan, the report said, conditions for freedom of religion of non-Muslims had become particularly problematic in the past year, compounded by flaws in the new Afghan constitution, which does not contain clear protections for religious minorities.
"Religious extremism, even in official circles, is an increasing threat to democratic consolidation in Afghanistan," the report said.
In Iraq, the commission was deeply concerned by sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims and targeted attacks on secular Muslims, religious minorities and women.
"There has been an ongoing stream of violence and extremism in Iraq driven by religious intolerance," the report said.

On Saudi Arabia, the commission concluded that "freedom of religion does not exist" as the government banned all forms of religious expression except its own interpretation of Sunni Islam and continued to finance "extreme religious intolerance and hatred" around the world.
The commission criticized the Bush administration for failing to punish Saudi Arabia for violations listed in last year's report and urged it to take action this year.
China, a major U.S. trade partner, conducted "severe and pervasive violations of religious freedom and related religious rights," according to the report.
Iran's record deteriorated in the past year, the report said, citing Iran's treatment of members of the Bahai faith and Jews.
The performance of Pakistan, an ally in the "war on terror," improved its efforts to protect minorities but still fell short, the report said.
In Egypt, "discrimination, intolerance and other human rights violations affect a broad spectrum of religious groups," including Coptic Christians, Bahais, Jews and members of minority Muslim communities.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Terrorists "New Look".

The Egyptian weekly “Al Ahaly” reported on its web site that, according to security sources in Egypt, the terrorists who recently carried out the attacks in Dahab have all been recruited after the attacks on Sharm El Sheikh in 2005.

The report states that the leadership of the Islamist group have ordered their new members to remove all signs of being religious, including shaving their beards, and not appearing in any way as fanatic Moslems. The leader of the terrorist cell that carried out the Dahab explosions, a person with the name of Attallah El Sewerky has shaved his beard immediately after joining the group, and then left to be trained by the militant section in a farm near the town of El Areesh in Sinai. When he came back, he had a completely new look. Security sources said that members of the new terrorist cells wear jeans, smoke cigarettes, and mix with tourists in a way not showing any signs of “being religious”. These tactics are completely different from those employed by el Quada, which adds to the difficulties facing the security forces.The same sources have said that the terrorist organization of “Tawheed and Geehad” that is responsible for the Sinai attacks has widely recruited members from the governorates of Ismailia, Mersa Metrouh, North, and South Sinai. More than 100 persons have joined, forming about 20 cells.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Saudi Prince Accused of Drug Smuggling Avoids Prosecution.

This week in Miami, while two drug defendants face a jury of their peers, one of their alleged co-conspirators remains safe and sound. The defendants are charged in a drug conspiracy case that involved the smuggling of two tons of cocaine from Colombia to France.
U.S. and French investigators say Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shalaan, a member of the Saudi royal family, used his private 727 jet to smuggle drugs from South America to Le Borget airport outside of Paris. Under the rules of diplomatic immunity, when the prince landed at the airport in his private jet, his entourage received little or no inspection, a French official said.
The prince is now under indictment in the United States and France, but he remains in Saudi Arabia, a royal fugitive, protected by his powerful family, according to U.S. drug agents.
Doris Mangeri Salazar, a real estate agent from Coral Gables, Fla., who is described as the prince's former girlfriend, and her friend Ivan Lopez Vanegas, 49, are on trial in Miami. A Swiss banker alleged to have been the money launderer in the drug trafficking scheme has been indicted but is in Spain, which refuses to extradite him.
'No Doubt Whatsoever'
There is an outstanding international arrest warrant for the prince, but there is little law enforcement can do because neither the United States nor France has an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.
According to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Miami, Joe Kilmer, the investigation yielded plenty of evidence of the prince's participation in the crime ring. "We feel there's no doubt whatsoever that the prince had every bit of knowledge as to what he was involved with," he said.
The Saudi government has not made the prince available for questioning, according to U.S. agents, and has done little to cooperate with the investigation. The Saudi government has not made any official comment on the case.
The former special agent in charge of the Miami office of the DEA, Tom Raffanello, said that he does not expect any further cooperation from the Saudis.

Authorities say the value of the smuggled cocaine was $36 million and that some of the drug money was moved through a Swiss bank in Geneva that was owned by the prince himself.
Police in France say that the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, even threatened to cancel a $6 billion contract with a French company over the case. The details of the alleged threat were sent in a diplomatic cable from the French ambassador in Riyadh.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Al-Arian Sentenced for Aiding Terrorists.

A judge sentenced former professor Sami Al-Arian on Monday to another year and a half in prison before he will be deported in his terrorism conspiracy case.
Al-Arian, 48, was sentenced to four years and nine months, but he will get credit for the three years and three months he already has served while being held before and after his trial.
His lawyer, Linda Moreno, asked the judge to release her client now, but the judge refused and called Al-Arian "a master manipulator."
Al-Arian signed a plea agreement April 14 in which he admitted providing support to members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a State Department-designated terrorist group responsible for hundreds of deaths in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The former University of South Florida computer engineering professor took the plea deal despite a jury failing to convict him of any of the 17 charges against him after a six-month trial last year. As part of the plea agreement, Al-Arian admitted to being associated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the late 1980s and providing "services" for the group, which included filing for immigration benefits for key members, hiding the identities of those men and lying about his involvement

Three Killed in Sinai.

Sinai Bedouins attack Police.

Egyptian police on Sunday shot dead three men suspected of belonging to a group of Sinai Bedouin who killed 18 people in the Red Sea resort of Dahab last week, police sources said.
A police patrol came across two of the men in the Mount Hilal area of northeastern Sinai. The men threw two hand grenades at them but the grenades did not explode, they said.
Police opened fire in response and killed them both.
In a separate incident, police killed another suspected member of the group in a gunbattle in the Mount Maghara area to the west. Police captured four suspects and were pursuing others hiding in a mountainous area of northern Sinai some 270 km (170 miles) from Dahab, the police sources said.
The Egyptian government has blamed the mysterious group of Sinai Bedouin, which had its origins in the Mediterranean town of El Arish, for four other bombings at resorts on the Sinai coast and in northern Sinai over the past four years.
Two men blew themselves up on Wednesday in separate attacks on a multinational peace force and a police station in northern Sinai.
Shortly after the Dahab blasts last Monday police said they had formally detained at least 10 people and taken in about 70 local Bedouin for questioning.