Saturday, May 27, 2006

Iraqis Killed 'for Wearing Shorts'.

The coach of Iraq's tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.

Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.
Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts.
Other Iraqi athletes have been targeted in recent incidents.

In this case, according to accounts, the men dropped off laundry and were then stopped in their vehicle by gunmen.

Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.
"The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car," said the witness, who requested anonymity.

He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts.
Last week, 15 members of Iraq's taekwondo team were kidnapped between Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said a member of the Iraqi Olympic Committee. The kidnappers have demanded $100,000 for their release.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Copts Demonstrate at King Tut Exhibit.

Under the shadow of immense gold banners heralding the opening of the King Tut exhibit, dozens of Coptic Orthodox Church members from across the Chicago area gathered Thursday outside the Field Museum to protest religious discrimination against fellow Christians in Egypt.

Some demonstrators hoisted wooden staffs with crosses, while others wore crucifixes around their necks or carried American flags as they chanted: "We all stand tall, equality for all."The crowd of about 80 included members of the three area Coptic Orthodox churches: St. Mark in Burr Ridge, St. Mary in Palatine and St. George in Monee. With heavy media attention surrounding the Tut exhibit, the Coptic community saw an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in their homeland."We need to be recognized as people and we need to be heard," Atef MacKar said. "It is important to show that we are the Copts, we are sons and daughters of King Tut and we will not tolerate seeing our sisters and brothers persecuted in Egypt."MacKar, who lives in Downers Grove and attends St. Mark, said the protest was planned to coincide with the visit of an Egyptian delegation for the exhibit opening.

Protest leaders said their goal was to send a message to U.S. politicians that foreign aid to Egypt should be contingent on religious freedom and human rights.Another protester, Cameel Halim, said the rise of Islamic fundamentalism has worsened the situation for Egypt's Coptic community."I get sad when I visit Egypt now," he said. "The Copts have lost their pride. Spirit is down. They are isolated from society."

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in the city of Alexandria around A.D. 43. The Copts make up about 12 percent of Egypt's population of 77.5 million.Discrimination and human rights abuses against Coptic Christians remain widespread in Egypt, according to a report released this month by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Copts face societal intolerance, and Egyptian authorities have been accused of being lax in protecting their rights.No Christians serve as governors, presidents or deans of public universities, and very few Christians hold positions in the upper ranks of the security services and the armed forces, Coptic community leaders said.

A 14th Century law bars Christians not only from building new churches, they said, but also from performing necessary maintenance on structures without government approval.Recent violence in Coptic churches in Egypt has renewed fears of escalating religious strife. In April, a Muslim man was accused of knife attacks at three Coptic Christian churches in Alexandria that left one man dead and about a dozen others wounded. The incident unleashed three days of rioting on the same weekend Christians were observing Orthodox Palm Sunday.Anissa Essam Hassouna, an official with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and part of the Egyptian delegation visiting Chicago, said Thursday that the government has "neglected" the issue of how Copts are treated in Egypt but "is trying to do better.""This will continue to be a sensitive issue until a law comes out and says everyone has real rights," she said.

Another protester at the Field, Magdy Gergis, said he was unsure what effect the protest would have but hoped it would educate the public."At least the problem will be exposed to people," Gergis said. "At least we will show our sadness and suffering. Some people here in America have an idea of what is happening with the Copts. But since many of us still have family there, we live it and feel it every day."

Christians are Leaving the Middle East.

From the web site of Watani, the Egyptian weekly newspaper (

How many Christians are still living in the lands where Christianity was born? The data are random and are often mere ‘political figures.’ The statistics vary from simple to double according to the source; communities or governments. But everywhere, their numbers tend to be declining.

Recently, two warning signals flared-up: Iraq and Egypt. The reasons of the exile of the Christians of Iraq, who are mostly Assyro-Chadian, are obvious: the war and the chaos which followed. The Sunnis who attack the majority Shiites did not forget the Christians. Between 60,000 to 100,000, out of approximately 800,000, have left Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.In Egypt, the Copts, heirs to the very first Christians, are also tempted by the exile. Politically marginalized, and faced with difficulties when they want to build or enlarge a place of worship, they were alarmed by the success of 88 Moslem Brotherhood deputies in the legislative elections of December 2005, and also by the simultaneous attacks against three churches in Alexandria last April. They emigrate from the countryside, not only to the cities, but towards abroad. Beyond the aggressions, the reasons of their departures are complex: the land reform of Nasser and the demographic pressure undoubtedly play important roles.

Everywhere in the Near East, Christians are anxious. “For them, the future is invisible”, says Joseph Yacoub, professor of political science at the institute of the human rights in Lyon. “They live more and more in fear.” Their bitterness is all the more sharp, as many of them assert themselves to be as much Arab as the Moslems. Many have played political roles in Egypt before Nasser, and in the creation of the Pan-Arab parties like Baath, or the Palestinian movements.

Christians often affiliate with the Arab-Moslem nationalism: The Coptic pope Shenouda III prohibited his faithful from going to Jerusalem “as long as all the Moslems and all the Arabs were not able to go.” And Mgr Michel Sabbah, the first Palestinian patriarch in the Holy Land, denounces the Israeli occupation regularly. But they fear that such pledges are not enough any more. Already, under the pressure of Islamists, the Arab governments, including Egypt, have all, except for Lebanon, made references to the Shari’a in their Constitutions as “principal source” of legislation. Joseph Yacoub fears to see the discriminations being further accentuated wherever Islamists take power.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Palestinian Dreams of Returning to Israel Job.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, Tawfiq Saad sat in front of his house, drinking tea and watching his four children play in a small patch of land right across the house, which lies near the northern borders of the Gaza Strip, in the small town of Beit Lahiya. Suddenly, a thunderous sound echoed throughout the area, and clouds of smoke rose less than a hundred meters from where his house lies. The terrified children dashed to the house screaming. The youngest of them, five-year-old Najat, jumped into her father's arms and started crying. "This has been the way since two months now," said 42-year-old Saad. "Israeli army artillery keeps pounding the place whenever Palestinians fire locally made rockets at them." However, Saad admits that he does not blame the Israelis entirely for his children's suffering. He even says that he has talked to his neighbors in order to call on Palestinian militants not to fire rockets at Israel from their area. "They fire the rockets and flee, and leave us the civilian residents to bear the brunt. I don't believe [the Israelis] would bombard Gaza if the rockets stopped. We need to understand their motives," he explained.

Indeed, Saad's point of view is not common among Palestinians in this conflict-torn area, and it is unusual in light of his personal circumstances: Saad has been unemployed for about two years, and lives off food rations from benevolent organizations and from the odd jobs that he does for friends and relatives. Up until two years ago, Saad worked as a blacksmith at an Israeli-owned metal workshop near the Israeli town of Khadera. There, he earned more than $1,000 a month building metal fences, window bars and protection railings. He claims that Israelis came from as far as Tel Aviv to have their metal needs built by him. He remembers being called "the metal wizard". Saad recalled that in May 2004, as he was finishing up his work at the workshop, a suicide bombing took place. "I remember hearing that afternoon something on the radio about a suicide bombing in the town of Khadera, which is just 10 minutes away by car from the workshop I worked in. Suddenly, my [Israeli] boss, Yisrael, hurried inside and asked me to return to Gaza immediately." "He drove me alone to Erez Checkpoint [north of Gaza Strip], and asked the soldier there to expedite my entry procedures to Gaza," Saad recounted. "He told me he was afraid that Jewish settlers living near the workshop might want to retaliate against me because the suicide bomber was a Palestinian. He told me he'd call in a few days to let me know when I could return to work," he added. But two years later, Saad is still awaiting that call. Yisrael still rings him up often to check on him, and sometimes sends him money on Jewish holidays, but he never calls to offer back his old job. "Go and ask Yisrael about me. He'll tell you that I'm one of his best blacksmiths. He still says that to me on the phone. He tells me that work has not been the same since I left."

Nowadays, Saad's income has declined to virtually zero a month. He does not have enough money to build his own workshop. He has barely enough to support his family. "I can't start my own workshop because I've spent my savings building this house for my family," he said. "Even if I did build a workshop, then I would barely find customers willing to pay the prices I used to charge in Israel. There are thousands of other workshops that can do the same work for less money," he lamented. "But definitely not in the same quality as mine."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Iranian Students Fight Police.

Stone-throwing Iranian students fought police and Islamic vigilantes on Wednesday in protest against restrictions imposed by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, witnesses said.
Students who covered their faces with scarves lit fires outside dormitories through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, photographs showed. By dawn the streets were littered with hundreds of stones they had thrown.
Deputy Tehran Governor Abdollah Roshan told the ISNA students news agency 40 policemen and four students had been injured. He said the police had arrested six people.
Senior student leader Abdollah Momeni said up to 2,000 students had gathered for the protest over the expulsion of some students and the way authorities had been handling critics.
He added 20 had been seized by Islamic vigilantes who broke into the dormitories.
"The main reason for the objections in recent days goes back to the limitations imposed on universities and political students after the new government came to power," Momeni said.
Religious conservative Ahmadinejad was inaugurated in August.
"Some active students have been expelled and some students face mass summons before disciplinary committees. We are also objecting to recent dealings with critical professors such as Ramin Jahanbegloo," he added.
Iran earlier this month said it had arrested philosopher Jahanbegloo on charges of espionage. He specialized in liberal political philosophy and worked extensively on developing understanding between Iran and the West.
Other student witnesses said the crowd had chanted "Down with despotism" and hurled stones at police cars outside the dormitories, breaking their windows.
Iran's last major nationwide student demonstrations were in 2003, when hundreds of students were arrested

Revised Saudi Textbooks Still Demonize Christians, Jews,Non-Wahhabi Muslims and Other "Unbelievers".

Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom released a report analyzing a set of Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks in use during the current academic year in Islamic studies courses for elementaryand secondary students. The textbooks promote an ideology of hatred towards people, including Muslims, who do not subscribe to the Wahhabi sect of Islam.
The report, entitled Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance, was prepared by Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom in cooperation with the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

The report's findings contradict claims made repeatedly by senior Saudigovernment spokesmen that they have thoroughly revised their educational materials. Over a year ago, Saudi embassy spokesman Adel al-Jubeir stated:"We have reviewed our educational curriculums. We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths." The newSaudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, while on a nation-wide speaking tour earlier this year, asserted: "We eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system." Just last week, on May 18, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince SaudAl-Faisal stated that ".the whole system of education is being transformed from top to bottom. Textbooks are only one of the steps that have been takenby Saudi Arabia."

However, the report shows that these textbooks:

* Condemn and denigrate the majority of Sunni Muslims who do not follow the Wahhabi understanding of Islam, and call them deviants and descendants of polytheists.
* Condemn and denigrate Shiite and Sufi Muslims' beliefs and practices as heretical and call them "polytheists;"
* Command Muslims to "hate" Christians, Jews, "polytheists" and other"unbelievers," including non-Wahhabi Muslims, though, incongruously, not to treat them "unjustly";
* Teach the infamous forgeries, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,as historical fact;
* Teach other conspiracy theories accusing Freemasons, Lions Clubsand Rotary Clubs of plotting to undermine Muslims;
* Teach that "Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim]believers" and that "the clash" between the two realms is perpetual;
* Instruct students not to "greet," "befriend," "imitate," "showloyalty to," "be courteous to," or "respect" non-believers;
* Assert that the spread of Islam through jihad is a "religious duty;"
* Instruct that "fighting between Muslims and Jews" will continue until Judgment Day, and that the Muslims are promised victory over the Jewsin the end;
* Include a map of the Middle East that labels Israel within its pre-1967 borders as "Palestine: occupied 1948."

The Wahhabi sect of Islam is the foundation of the Saudi state's political ideology, and at the core of its educational curriculum. According to theSaudi embassy in Washington, the Saudi public school system has 25,000schools, educating some 5 million students. Saudi Arabia also runs academies in 19 world capitals, including one outside Washington in Alexandria,Virginia, that use some of these same religious texts. Moreover, SaudiArabia also distributes its religion texts around the world to some Islamic schools and madrassas that it does not directly operate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gadhafi's Video Clip.

Gadhafi insults Christians and Jews and attacks their bibles.


Islam will take over Europe without violent force within a few decades, said Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi in a speech aired on the Arab satellite network Al Jazeera.
"We have 50 million Muslims in Europe," Gadhafi said. "There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades."
If Turkey is added to the European Union, the Libyan leader said, Europe will have another 50 million Muslims.
He pointed out Albania, a Muslim-majority country, and Bosnia, which is half Muslim, already have entered the EU.
"Europe is in a predicament, and so is America," Gadhafi said. "They should agree to become Islamic in the course of time, or else declare war on the Muslims."
Gadhafi emphasized Muslims view Muhammad the prophet not only of the Arabs or Muslims but "of all people."
"He superseded all previous religions," Gadhafi said. "If Jesus were alive when Muhammad was sent, he would have followed him. All people must be Muslims."
He said Christians believe Muhammad is not their prophet because their holy texts "are forged and call for hatred."
"The so-called Old Testament and New Testament are neither Old Testament nor New Testament – because both testaments were superseded, and they are forged," he said. "They were written by hand hundreds of years after Jesus."
Gadhafi continued: "In the Bible there are things that are inappropriate for both Jesus and Moses. If we want to mend the state of humanity, and live in a global village, because of the globalization, we must search for the true Bible, because the Bible that exists today is a forgery. Today's Bible does not mention Muhammad, whereas our Lord's Bible mentions Muhammad repeatedly."
Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin reported in December 2003 Gadhafi provided al-Qaida with chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction before changing heart and agreeing to destroy his arms program.