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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 21, 2010.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
And just where do you think you're putting those minarets you 'orrible little man?

I have not posted until now about this planning controversy in Camberley but I have been following it as it is a situation being repeated all over England. (less so Wales and Scotland, although they could be next)

14 years ago the Bengali Welfare Association in the town bought an old Victorian former school (St Gregory's) to use for their mosque. The building is in a conservation area and is listed. Now they have applied (and been granted) planning permission to knock the old building down and build what is described as a 'traditional' mosque with the dome and big minarets. Local people are outraged, both at the lost of the historic building and the likely increase of traffic etc from the new mosque. And, which they have to be careful articulating, the unease which the thought of dominating minarets gives them.
There was some sort of technical defect in the council decision so it is not yet final. The local MP, Michale Gove has declared his objections, for which the usual suspects have condemned him, as here in the Guardian.
Today the News of the World has an exclusive on the objections raised by the Ministry of Defence, which I hope will be taken seriously, in view of the close proximity of Sandhurst Military College where British Army officers are trained.
DEFENCE chiefs are fighting plans to build a giant mosque overlooking Britain's top military academy. They claim the new centre poses a security threat to budding Army officers at world-famous Sandhurst. 
The building would have a huge dome and two 100ft minarets towering over the soldiers' parade ground. Council chiefs have given the application the thumbs-up and will try to force it through next month.
But security experts have warned the mosque could become a magnet for radical Muslims if it goes ahead. Top brass have lodged an official objection backed by 7,000 residents who signed a petition. The minarets will be sited within 400 yards of the Royal Military Academy in Surrey. Senior royals, including the Queen, are regular visitors and princes Charles and Harry were commissioned there.
Local Muslims have been worshipping at a Victorian former school building for 14 years. But following a change of leadership three years ago, they have been campaigning to knock it down. Thats the worrying bit. For 11 years the locals were quietly happy in an old building that "doesn't face Mecca properly". Who are these new leaders? 
The move was given the go-ahead at a meeting of Surrey Heath planning committee but must be rubber-stamped by the full council next month
A security source said: "We have some concerns and have been checking links with known radical mosques in other areas and postings on websites. Police special branch has asked to brief the local council."
Campaign leader Alan Kirkland said: "A lot of people are questioning the size of the minarets which will overlook the whole of the academy." Local MEP Nigel Farage said: "I am appalled at such an idea. Many fear it could pose a grave security risk." A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Sandhurst has put in an objection on the grounds of security." 
Abdul Wasay Chowdhury, of the Bengali Welfare Association, said: "We have designed the new mosque very carefully to enhance the local area." Its a conservation area of historical and architectural interest - it doesn't need "enhancing".
Posted on 02/21/2010 2:04 AM by Esmerelda WEatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes
From The Sunday Telegraph. More detail than was contained in the article from The Local last year.
When she first arrived in Sweden after her rescue from a Nazi concentration camp, Judith Popinski was treated with great kindness. She raised a family in the city of Malmo, and for the next six decades lived happily in her adopted homeland - until last year.

In 2009, a chapel serving the city's 700-strong Jewish community was set ablaze. Jewish cemeteries were repeatedly desecrated, worshippers were abused on their way home from prayer, and "Hitler" was mockingly chanted in the streets by masked men.

"I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway," Mrs Popinski told The Sunday Telegraph. "This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now."

Malmo's Jews, however, do not just point the finger at bigoted Muslims and their fellow racists in the country's Neo-Nazi fringe. They also accuse Ilmar Reepalu, the Left-wing mayor who has been in power for 15 years, of failing to protect them.

Mr Reepalu, who is blamed for lax policing, is at the centre of a growing controversy for saying that what the Jews perceive as naked anti-Semitism is in fact just a sad, but understandable consequence of Israeli policy in the Middle East.

While his views are far from unusual on the European liberal-left, which is often accused of a pro-Palestinian bias, his Jewish critics say they encourage young Muslim hotheads to abuse and harass them.

The future looks so bleak that by one estimate, around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel, and more are preparing to go. The city's synagogue has guards and rocket-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

With its young people planning new lives elsewhere, the remaining Jewish households, many of whom are made up of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, fear they will soon be gone altogether. Mrs Popinski, an 86-year-old widow, said she has even encountered hostility when invited to talk about the Holocaust in schools.

"Muslim schoolchildren often ignore me now when I talk about my experiences in the camps," she said. "It is because of what their parents tell them about Jews. The hatreds of the Middle East have come to Malmo. Schools in Muslim areas of the city simply won't invite Holocaust survivors to speak any more."

After the war, just as liberal Sweden took in Jews who survived the Holocaust as a humanitarian act, it also took in new waves of refugees from tyranny and conflicts in the Middle East. Muslims are now estimated to make up about a fifth of Malmo's population of nearly 300,000.

"This new hatred from a group 40,000-strong is focused on a small group of Jews," Mrs Popinski said, speaking in a sitting room filled with paintings and Persian carpets. Some Swedish politicians are letting them do it, including the mayor. Of course the Muslims have more votes than the Jews."

The worst incident was last year during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favour of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Arabs and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

"I haven't seen hatred like that for decades," Mrs Popinski said. "It reminded me of what I saw in my youth. Jews feel vulnerable here now."

The problem is becoming an embarrassment for the Social Democrats, the mayor's party. Their national leader Mona Sahlin - the woman who is likely to become the next prime minister after an election later this year - last week travelled to Malmo to meet Jewish leaders, which they took to be a sign that at last politicians are waking to their plight.

The mayor insisted to The Sunday Telegraph that he was opposed to anti-Semitism, but added: "I believe these are anti-Israel attacks, connected to the war in Gaza. We want Malmo to be cosmopolitan and safe for everybody and we have taken action. I have started a dialogue forum. There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo." Sounds to me like he wants rid of them?

One who has had enough is Marcus Eilenberg, a 32-year-old Malmo-born lawyer, who is moving to Israel in April with his young family. "Malmo has really changed in the past year," he said. "I am optimistic by nature, but I have no faith in a future here for my children. There is definitely a threat. It started during the Gaza war when Jewish demonstrators were attacked. It was a horrible feeling, being attacked in your own city. Just as bad was the realisation that we were not being protected by our own leaders." 

Mr Eilenberg said he and his wife considered moving to Stockholm where Jews feel safer than in Malmo. "But we decided not to because in five years time I think it will be just as bad there," he said. "This is happening all over Europe. I have cousins who are leaving their homes in Amsterdam and France for the same reason as me."

Posted on 02/21/2010 5:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Andrew C. McCarthy Profiled in NYTimes

Andy McCarthy kindly cross-posted his National Review work with us when we were just getting started and he was still free lance. We reviewed his book, Willful Blindness here. Benjamin Weiser writes:

He was the lead prosecutor 15 years ago in one of the country’s biggest terrorism trials: a group of men led by a blind Egyptian sheik had plotted to blow up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and other city landmarks.

“Are you ready to surrender the rule of law to the men in this courtroom?” the prosecutor, Andrew C. McCarthy, told the jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan in a closing argument. Ultimately, the 10 defendants were convicted.

But last Dec. 5, Mr. McCarthy, who is no longer in government, joined a group of speakers outside the same courthouse rallying against the Obama administration’s decision to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to Manhattan for a civilian trial.

“A war is a war,” Mr. McCarthy declared. “A war is not a crime, and you don’t bring your enemies to a courthouse.”

In the debate over how and where to prosecute Mr. Mohammed and other Sept. 11 cases, few critics of the Obama administration have been more fervent in their opposition than Mr. McCarthy, a 50-year-old lawyer from the Bronx who had built a reputation as one of the country’s formidable terrorism prosecutors.

Now he has a different reputation: harsh critic of the system in which he had his greatest legal triumph.

Mr. McCarthy has relentlessly attacked the administration for supporting civilian justice for terrorism suspects. He has criticized the military commissions system and called for creation of a national security court. After the arrest of the suspect in the Christmas bomb plot, he wrote, “Will Americans finally grasp how insane it is to regard counterterrorism as a law-enforcement project rather than a matter of national security?”

To his detractors, he is just another partisan commentator whose views can be easily dismissed. “When I read his stuff, I say, ‘Is he running for office, or does he want a show on Fox?’ ” said Joshua L. Dratel, a defense lawyer who has represented many terrorism defendants. “I can’t figure it out.”

But his supporters argue that his background distinguishes him from pundits on the left and the right. “It certainly adds credibility to what he has to say,” said Michael B. Mukasey, attorney general under President George W. Bush and also the presiding judge in the 1995 trial of the sheik.

Debra Burlingame, an organizer of the December rally, whose brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was the pilot of the hijacked plane that was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, said: “He’s done a lot of heavy lifting on our behalf. This fight gets very tiring, and Andy is one of those people that truly inspires and keeps me going.”


Through a spokesman, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined to comment about Mr. McCarthy. When asked about him during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, Mr. Holder replied that he was there “to talk about facts and evidence, real American values, and not the kinds of polemics that he seems prone to.”

“I’m not worried about Mr. McCarthy,” Mr. Holder said.

You should be, Mr. Holder, you should be.

Posted on 02/21/2010 6:53 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 21 February 2010
How did they know?

Seven years ago my aunt and uncle, in their eighties, died within a week of each other. A double funeral, in the church where a couple got married, must be unusual, but for them it could not have been more appropriate. They were kind, unassuming, self-contained, and devoted - all the more so for having no children.

Today I opened the Times Literary Supplement and found their epitaph:

Here lye two Bodyes happy in their kinds
the rich Apparel of two noble minds
All blessings they familiarly did know
Wch either earth or Heaven could bestowe.
The first deceased, He for a little try’d
to live without her, likt it not & dy’de.
They had noe children, whence we truly say
the good of all their offspringe in them laye.
ffor they ingross’d thir Heyres right. & did prove
their owne Inheritors in Grace, in love.
Neither to others nor to themselves a trouble
Whose solues are one, & yet reward is double.

The lines:

The first deceased, He for a little try’d
to live without her, likt it not & dy’de.

are, as TLS writer James Doelman points out, almost flippant, but I think none the worse for it. I can well imagine my uncle saying something like "Sod this, love, I'm coming too."

What's strange is that my aunt and uncle's epitaph was written, by George Herbert, more than three hundred years before they were born. Come to think of it, much of what is true about us was written before we were born.

How did they know? And do we know anything future generations don't, or is it too early to say?

Posted on 02/21/2010 7:49 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Bomb thrown at Cairo synagogue
A man hurled a suitcase containing a makeshift bomb at Cairo's main downtown synagogue (Shaar Hashamayim, or the Gate of Heaven, built in 1899 in a style evoking ancient Egyptian temples) in the early hours Sunday morning, but there were no injuries or damage, police said.
According to the police report, a man entered a hotel located on the fourth floor of a building across from the synagogue at around 3 a.m. and as he was checking in, abruptly threw his suitcase out the window. The case contained four containers of gasoline each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb, said police, who speculated the man may have panicked. The bag, which also contained clothes, cotton strips, matches and a lighter, fell onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel and briefly caught fire before being extinguished. There were no injuries and no damage to the historic synagogue.
Egypt's once thriving Jewish community largely left the country 50 years ago during hostilities between Egypt and Israel, but a number of heavily guarded synagogues remain. The downtown synagogue, Egypt's largest, is the only one still conducting services for the Jewish high holidays, which are sometimes attended by Israeli diplomats. Egypt's Jewish community, which dates back millennia and in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly.
Since an Islamist insurgency based in southern Egypt was quashed in the 1990s, there have been few organized terrorist attacks in Egypt's Nile valley and the capital Cairo. There have, however, in a number of amateurish attempts to target foreigners over the years.
Posted on 02/21/2010 8:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
By the left, quick march

David Thompson on the self-justification of left-leaning academics:

Professor Surber feels undervalued by the base calculus of the market and clearly he’s essential to the working of the world. How can it be that doctors and engineers are thought more valuable more than him, a professor of philosophy? Society must be transformed to correct this abomination. To illustrate the magnitude of the injustice at hand, the professor shifts from resentment to self-congratulation:

A second reason that liberal-arts professors tend to be politically liberal is that they have very likely studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics.

Studies that must – simply must - lead one to the higher plains of the left. Note the implicit conceit that non-leftist outlooks lead to simplistic conclusions, unlike those who turn by default to the state and its enlargement.


 The academic left is of course renowned for its rigour and impartiality, its open-minded enquiry, and a willingness to engage  honestly with challenging ideas

 And there’s another, incidental issue to ponder. It perhaps has some relevance to the aforementioned complexity. In many arts subjects, especially those tethered only loosely to evidence, logic or practical verification, there’s often pressure to avoid the obvious and prosaic, even when the obvious and prosaic is true. The obligation to be unobvious, if only for the benefit of one’s academic peers, may help explain the more fanciful assertions from some practitioners of the liberal arts. Consider, for instance, Duke’s professor miriam cooke, who refuses to capitalise her name, thus drawing attention to her egalitarian radicalism and immense creativity. Professor cooke’s subtlety of mind is evident in her claim that the oppression and misogyny found in the Islamic world is actually the fault of globalisation and Western colonialism, despite the effects predating their alleged causes by several centuries. Professor cooke also tells us that “polygamy can be liberating and empowering” – a statement that may strike readers as somewhat dubious. It does, however, meet the key criteria of being both edgy and unobvious.

 Meanwhile, Professor Surber’s self-regard continues to tumesce.

It is because we liberal-arts professors... have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition that so many of us are liberals.

In short, if you haven’t reached a similarly leftwing conclusion, you haven’t achieved sufficient complexity and nuance in your thinking, you peasant. Luckily, we can count on Professor Surber and his peers to guide us to the light, such is their benign magnificence. They may be cruelly underpaid and underappreciated, but by God they’re better than us and they will save us from ourselves.

Not all professors of arts subjects are badly paid. If they toe the line on Islam and diversity, they can be very well paid if all sources of remuneration are taken into account.

Posted on 02/21/2010 8:17 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Scoff not

Are you a person who makes fun of one or more other persons? Then - verily - it will be the worse for you. A dire, if convoluted, warning against tomfoolery from today's hadith, which comes to us courtesy of Al-Bayhaqi's "Shu'ab with an isnad, which is hasan and mursal":

Verily those people that make fun of people - for them a gate of Jannah will be opened. It will be said to them: Come (and enter). That person will come with all of his anguish and depression - but when he gets close, the gate will be closed in his face. Then another gate (to Jannah) will be opened and it will be said: Come (and enter). So that person comes with all of his anguish and depression. But when he gets close, the gate will be closed in his face. This will keep happening to him until it gets to the point where it will be said to someone: Come (and enter), and he will not come out of despair from ever entering paradise."

"Until it gets to the point where it will be said to someone ... " is rather less than pithy. I prefer the "shoelace of fire".

Posted on 02/21/2010 8:37 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Buona Notte!

Excerpts from an AP story: 

"President Hamid Karzai urged NATO to do more to protect civilians during combat operations to secure Marjah, a southern Taliban stronghold and scene of the biggest allied ground assault of the eight-year war.

NATO forces have repeatedly said they want to prevent civilian casualties but acknowledged that it is not always possible. On Saturday, the alliance said its troops killed another civilian in the Marjah area, bringing the civilian death toll from the operation to at least 16.

Addressing the opening session of the Afghan parliament in Kabul, Karzai held up a picture of an 8-year-old girl who lost 12 relatives in a NATO rocket attack during the second day of the Marjah assault, which began Feb. 13.

Karzai said NATO had made progress in reducing civilian casualties and thanked the top commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for "standing with us honestly in this effort." But Karzai said more needed to be done to protect civilians caught up in the fighting.

"We need to reach the point where there are no civilian casualties," Karzai said. "Our effort and our criticism will continue until we reach that goal."

Posted on 02/21/2010 9:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Musical Interlude: Fancy Our Meeting (Jack Buchanan, Elsie Randolph)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/21/2010 9:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Kuwaiti Professor Abdallah Al-Nafisi And His Audience Savor The Prospect Of Mass Death

Watch, and listen, to a clip captured by that indispensable organization, MEMRI, right here.

Posted on 02/21/2010 10:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Salman Rushdie Expresses What Should Be Universal Contempt For Amnesty International

February 21, 2010

Salman Rushdie's statement on Amnesty International

"Amnesty International has done its reputation incalculable damage by allying itself with Moazzam Begg and his group Cageprisoners, and holding them up as human rights advocates. It looks very much as if Amnesty's leadership is suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy, and has lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong. It has greatly compounded its error by suspending the redoubtable Gita Sahgal for the crime of going public with her concerns. Gita Sahgal is a woman of immense integrity and distinction and I am personally grateful to her for the courageous stands she made at the time of the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses, as a leading member of the groups Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. It is people like Gita Sahgal who are the true voices of the human rights movement; Amnesty and Begg have revealed, by their statements and actions, that they deserve our contempt."

Posted on 02/21/2010 10:05 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Saudi Wife (Advanced Edition)

Watch here.

Posted on 02/21/2010 11:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Minaretting madness II

Frantzman adds that 'the mosque and its minaret are symbols of power...even in more obscure locations, the building of minarets has served as an expression of power and influence".
From Dumbledore's Army's comment to this post.

Shoreditch Church isn't obscure - its famous for its part in the rhyme Oranges and Lemons. Its famous for its architecture by George Dance the elder, a contemporary of Hawksmoor and Wren. It's also where numerous of my ancestors (and those thousands of other people too) were baptised, married and buried.

I was in the area last month and again last week. I had a better look at the Suleymaniye Mosque about a quarter of a mile up Kingsland Road. I couldn't work out whether the minaret is higher than the spire of St Leonards or was it just the slope of the hill and perspective giving that effect. According to the construction website Skyscraper News the minaret is 236ft high. The spire of St Leonards is 192ft.

I don't know how often the twin balconies of the minaret are used. Even if the call to pray isn't made at the moment the doors at the back indicate that this is not intended to be a purely symbolic mosque. This is a functional structure. The photographs below show what I mean.

The minaret viewed from Whiston Road to the east. Notable amongst my pictures of London for not being a wet miserable day.

Shoreditch Church viewed from Calvert Avenue.

The view from the bridge over the Regents Canal looking south down Kingsland Road. Readers of Samuel Pepys' diary may recall he enjoyed several outings to Kingsland as it was then called.

Posted on 02/21/2010 11:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Muslims hit out at 'travesty' of convictions under terrorism laws
SYDNEY'S Muslim community leaders last night condemned authorities over the conviction of five men under terrorism laws, describing their sentencing as a "travesty of justice".
Senior Muslim figures, including 10 imams and 20 community leaders, met privately at Lakemba Mosque before releasing a statement to The Australian late last night demanding police produce the evidence proving the criminal "intentions" of the men."Until we see the real evidence, we believe that the reason for the arrests and convictions is that these young men expressed or hold opinions that contradict Australia's foreign policy towards majority Muslim countries," the statement said.
Outside the mosque after the meeting, a group of young men pumped their fists in the air and accused ASIO of being "dogs".
The five offenders, convicted in the country's largest terrorism trial, last week received heavy jail terms, ranging from 23 to 28 years for plotting violent jihad on Australian soil.
The meeting was attended by Taj Din al-Hilali, formerly Australia's most senior cleric.  Last night's statement urged Australian Muslims "not to be afraid of being targeted" for their religion and promised the community would look after the families of those jailed.
Posted on 02/21/2010 1:13 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Saudi Wife - at Home and at Work

I strongly recommend this video, linked by Hugh, on a Saudi wife at home:

There is a sequel, on the Saudi wife at work: 

This woman is intelligent, as is the female doctor featured in the second clip, but how unthinkingly they accept and defend Islamic restrictions. Yes, the women are working and, in a narrow way, educated, but their freedom starts and stops at the shopping mall.

There is a paradox - a small one but worth noting. Considering how obsessed this society is with segregating the sexes, it is bizarre that women are forbidden to drive but allowed to be alone with a male chauffeur. An explanation I heard (from a Canadian nurse who worked, briefly, in Jeddah) was that the immigrant drivers, Fillipino or Indian, are not regarded as human, and so the rule against mixing is waived.

Posted on 02/21/2010 2:06 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Child Brides In Yemen
YEMEN: “I’d rather die than go back to him”

Photo: Annasofie Flamand/IRIN
Aisha was 10 years old when she was married. Today, two years later, she is still hoping for a divorce
SANAA, 21 February 2010 (IRIN) - It was every little girl’s dream - she was to get a new dress, jewellery, sweets and a party for all her friends.

What 10-year-old Aisha* did not know was that after the wedding party she would have to leave school, move to a village far from her parents’ home, cook and clean all day, and have sex with her older husband.

“He took out a special sheet and laid me down on it,” Aisha told IRIN, wringing her small plump hands. “After it, I started bleeding. It was so painful that I was crying and shouting, and since then I have seen him as death.”

After a week of fighting off her husband every night, Aisha’s father was called. He had received 200,000 Yemeni Rial (US$1,000) for his daughter in `shart’, a Yemeni dowry, which he could not pay back.

“My Dad made a cup of tea and put some pills in it, which he gave me. The pills made me feel dizzy,” said Aisha. “My Dad told me to sleep with my husband, or he would kill me, but I refused.”

Instead Aisha broke a glass bottle over her head in a desperate attempt to stay awake. “My Dad hit me badly. I was bleeding from my mouth and nose,” she said.

After spending a few months in her husband’s home, where she said he would regularly drug her and beat her, Aisha managed to escape. Now, two years later, aged 12, she is unable to divorce him.

No child protection

Photo: Annasofie Flamand/IRIN
Shada Mohammed Nasser, a lawyer at the High Court in Sanaa, talking to the parents of a child bride outside court

A bill passed in parliament in February 2009 setting the minimum age for marriage at 17 was rejected by the Islamic Sharia Codification Committee which said it was un-Islamic, according to local women’s rights organizations.

So, for now, there is no law protecting children against early marriages in Yemen.

”I don’t call it marriage, but rape,” said Shada Mohammed Nasser, a lawyer at the High Court in Sanaa. She has represented several child bride divorce cases in court, but admits she has lost most of them. Only a handful of child brides have successfully managed to divorce their husbands.

“The law on marriage stipulates that a girl should not sleep with her husband until she is mature,” said Nasser, which according to the law is the age of 15. “But the law is not enforced.”

A girl can be married at just nine, but cannot legally seek a divorce until she is 15 or older. The money paid by the husband for his “wife” is a further obstacle to divorce, while the case can only be heard in a court in the governorate where the marriage took place.

“Usually the marriage will have been signed in the husband’s governorate and the judges may look more favourably on their own kinsmen,” said Nasser. “Many judges are governed by arcane views on women.”

Just under half of Yemeni girls, 48 percent, are married before they turn 18, according to the Washington DC-based International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW). This is classified as underage, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In some governorates as many as half of all girls under the age of 15 are married, according to an unpublished study from 2007 on early marriage by Sanaa University’s Gender Development Research and Study Centre. 

Yemen has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

A glimmer of hope?

Photo: Annasofie Flamand/IRIN
Former child bride Nojood made head lines worldwide when at the age of nine she was granted a divorce. Today she lives with her father (left) and rest of her family

"The greatest problem facing Yemeni women today is child marriages," said Wafa Ahmad Ali from the Yemeni Women’s Union, which has long campaigned for a raise in the minimum age of marriage.

"These early marriages rob the girl of the right to a normal childhood and education. The girls are forced to have children before their bodies are fully grown instead of going to school and playing with other children," she said.

However, Minister for Human Rights Huda al-Ban told IRIN that President Saleh had recently agreed to put forward - for discussion in parliament in May - the bill with 17 as the minimum marrying age. “If the bill is successful it could be passed as a law in September,” she said.

While politicians wrangle in parliament, young girls like Aisha are caught up in a violent world of adults which they are too young to understand, let alone escape.

”These are our traditions,” said Aisha’s father. However, he admits that Aisha might have been too young for marriage. Though she now has a lawyer, Aisha cannot divorce until the two men who control her (her father and husband) agree on how much money each will receive.

What Aisha wants is clear: “I’d rather die than go back to him,” she said, wiping a tear from behind her veil.

Posted on 02/21/2010 4:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Saudi women to be allowed to argue cases in court

Talking of Saudi women, here is some progress. From the BBC:

Saudi Arabia is planning to bring in a new law to allow women lawyers to argue cases in court for the first time.

Justice Minister Mohammed al-Eissa said the law was part of King Abdullah's plan to develop the legal system.

The law - to be issued "in the coming days" - would allow women to appear in court on family-related cases, including divorce and child custody.

At the moment, they can only work behind the scenes in government and court offices.

The new legislation will also allow Saudi women to complete certain procedures without the presence of a witness.

"In accordance with the new law, women will be able to complete their preliminary procedures with notaries by just presenting their IDs," said Ministry of Justice official Osama al-Mirdas, according to Arab News.

Under a system of male guardianship, Saudi Arabian women are required to be kept separate from men they are not related to.

All are veiled to a greater or lesser degree in public, they are not allowed to drive, and women under 45 must receive permission from a male when they travel.

Opportunities for education and employment are also dependent on male guardianship.

But a number of steps have been taken to ease restrictions - for instance women are now allowed to stay in hotels unaccompanied.

Last year, a senior cleric was removed after criticising a new mixed-sex science and technology university.

The cleric, Sheikh Saad al-Shethry, had described the mixing of sexes in any university as evil and a great sin.

I can believe that many Saudi women are better educated than the men. After all, they will not have had the distractions of a social life. But unless they, and the men, repudiate Islam, all such reforms will be temporary. Thirty or forty years ago Egypt, Iran and even Afghanistan seemed to be liberalising. Look at them now.

Posted on 02/21/2010 4:48 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Three Sikhs beheaded by Taliban in Pakistan
NEW DELHI: In what threatens to cast a shadow on the upcoming Indo-Pakistan talks scheduled for February 25, three Sikh youths were beheaded by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) region after they allegedly refused to convert to Islam. Their severed heads were dumped at a gurudwara in Peshawar. 

The Sikh youths — identified as Jaspal Singh, Sarabjit Singh and Baronat Singh — had gone to realise the money owed to them by some people in the FATA region adjoining Afghanistan, when they were abducted by the Taliban militia. They were allegedly told by the Taliban to embrace Islam or face death. When the Sikh youth refused, their heads were chopped and sent to the Bhai Joga Singh Gurudwara in Peshawar. 
The Indian government has taken serious note of this and is in touch with the high commission in Islamabad. "This incident is shocking. We are looking into it," a source said. 

The miniscule Sikh community in NWFP and Afghanistan has been under pressure from the Taliban to embrace Islam, official sources said. The Taliban, during their reign in Afghanistan, had imposed jiziya -- a religious tax -- on all minorities, mostly Hindus and Sikhs. They were made to wear a piece of yellow cloth on their breast pocket to identify themselves. 
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Centre had been “callous” in not putting diplomatic pressure in time to get the abducted Sikhs released. Condemning the incident, he said this showed how minorities are treated in Pakistan.
Posted on 02/21/2010 5:02 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Musical Interlude: I'm Sittin' On Top Of The World (Al Jolson)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/21/2010 5:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Cinematic Interlude: Richard III (Ian McKellen)

Watch, and listen,  here.

Posted on 02/21/2010 5:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Musical interlude: Down by the Salley Gardens

Posted on 02/21/2010 7:39 PM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Egyptian Alaa Al-Aswani Puts His Confusions And More On Display

Alaa Al-Aswani has been billed as a "moderate." 

He wants something he calls "democracy" (using, of course, a non-Arabic word), and claims there is no conflict between Islam and democracy though devout Muslims claim there is. In Western democracies, the political legitimacy of a government depends on whether it fulfills the will expressed by the people; in modern times, this has developed out of social contract theory -- Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau. In Islam, however, the political legitimacy of any government depends only on whether or not it carries out the will expressed by Allah in the Qur'an (as glossed further by the Sunna, that is the Hadith and Sira). Surely Alaa al-Aswani knows that. But he simply cannot allow himself to recognize this, and to admit it -- sadly, wanly, reluctantly, perhaps -- but still admit it. And having said initially that he would support the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) being allowed to participate in elections "as long as they would be willing to give up power if they lost an election," he then proceeds to say that the Muslim Brotherhood would never give up power, that is not its nature. He appears incapable of recognizing his own contradictions.

Finally, he ends by noting that the Camp David Accords "brought nothing to Egypt." It is hard to fathom this. Egypt received, from Israel, the entire Sinai, together with $16 billion dollars (1978 dollars) in infrastructure -  airfileds, oil fields, the resort at Sharm el-Sheik that now brings in so much money. Egypt "received nothing"? It is, rather, Israel that received the "cold peace" instead of what Egypt had promised -- a peace in which the Egyptian government promised to undertake measures, such as a halt to all hostile propaganda, that the Israelis hoped would make a mere treaty between governments into something more durable. 

Note, by the way, how Alaa Al-Aswani refers to the Camp David Accords bringing peace "temporarily." 

For those who do not know him, Alaa Al-Aswani is regarded as one of the more enlightened Egyptians. He is the author of "The Yacoubian Building," which summons up the ancien regime, and a world that was not so hideously Islamic, a world where Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Jews helped make Cairo and Alexandria far more interesting than they became after Nasser booted out, and seized the property, of those Greeks, those Italians, those Armenians, those Jews.

And none of them will ever return. Why should they? 

Alaa Al-Aswani is someone who does not understand his own reality, does not even understand what it is, quite, he's saying. And he's reputed to be among the very best.


Posted on 02/21/2010 7:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Janet Napolitano: "A Problem That Needs To Be Drilled Down And Analyzed"

Homeland chief: Domestic extremism is top concern

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 21, 2010


WASHINGTON -- Americans who turn to terrorism and plot against the U.S. are now as big a concern as international terrorists, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday.

The government is just starting to confront this reality and does not have a good handle on how to prevent someone from becoming a violent extremist, she said.

In the last year, Napolitano said, she's witnessed a movement from international extremism to domestic extremism - cases in which Americans radicalized and decided to plot attacks against the country.

"What really is it that draws a young person being raised in the United States to want to go and be at a camp in Yemen and then come back to the United States with the idea of committing harm within the United States?" Napolitano asked without citing specific cases. "Where in that person's formulation is there an opportunity to break that cycle?"

One case is that of Najibullah Zazi, the Denver airport driver who has been charged with plotting to use explosives to attack the U.S.

Born in Afghanistan, Zazi had lived in the U.S. since he was 14 years old. In recent years, prosecutors say, he traveled overseas to receive training from al-Qaida.

Speaking to governors who are in Washington for their annual conference, Napolitano said this problem is one that needs to be drilled down and analyzed.

Napolitano was in a wheelchair Sunday because she broke her ankle playing tennis a few weeks ago, a Homeland Security official said.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's homeland security adviser, echoed Napolitano's concerns about violent extremism Sunday.

Countering violent extremism is not just a federal issue, Brennan told the governors; it's something that needs to be addressed as a nation.

The White House hosted a meeting to discuss these issues Friday, Brennan said.

"There needs to be community engagement," he said.

Brennan pointed to a case from late last year when five young Pakistani men living in Northern Virginia traveled to Pakistan seeking training from al-Qaida.

The FBI learned of the missing men from their families. After the men disappeared in late November, their families, members of the local Muslim community, sought help from a non-governmental organization, which put them in touch with the FBI.

"It's that engagement with those local communities that's going to be the critically important mechanism to detect that radicalization even before they depart," Brennan said.

The government has been engaged in this sort of outreach for years. Homeland Security officials have periodic meetings with Muslim communities. And FBI agents in certain parts of the country regularly reach out to Muslim communities and leaders.

© 2010 The Associated Pr

Posted on 02/21/2010 9:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Another One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Radical Muslim leader has past in swinging London

As part of the bohemian scene in swinging sixties London, Ian Dallas inspired Eric Clapton to write Layla and counted George Harrison and Edith Piaf among his friends.

Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi : Radical Muslim leader has past in swinging London
Ian Dallas converted to Islam and took the name Abdalqadir

Born into a landowning clan in Ayr, south-west Scotland, he had left the family estate for London and quickly fell in with a host of stars after writing and directing a series of television hits.

He directed a play starring Albert Finney, wrote versions of the classics Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair for the BBC and even acted in the Federico Fellini classic .

But these days Mr Dallas is famed for very different reasons as the leader of an extreme Islamic group with thousands of followers across the world.

He has called for Britain to be run by a Muslim council and likened the war in Afghanistan to the Holocaust.

During the Sixties, he became increasingly disillusioned with his London life and began exploring Islam. In 1967 he met Shaykh Abdalkarim Daudi in Fes, Morocco, converted to Islam and took the name Abdalqadir.

He spent years travelling north Africa, learning from various leading Muslim scholars before founding the orthodox Murabitun Worldwide Movement in the early 1980s.

It now has more than 10,000 committed followers across the world – spread from Denmark to Indonesia – and thousands more who support the movement.

Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, as he is now known, believes the Islam world will conquer the "Jewish dominated" West with an hardline interpretation of Islamic law.

"(Israel) knows that without its massive defence subsidy from the USA it could not last one financial year," he states.

Abdalqadir's teachings range from the claim that movies and football "degrade the proletariat" to calls for Middle Eastern-style monarchical rule in Britain supported by a moral body of Muslims.

Now based in Cape Town, Abdalqadir, 79, claims Western governments stage terrorist acts to detract from the fact that capitalism has failed. He says both Richard Reid – the "shoe bomber" who tried to blow up a plane in 2001 – and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the man behind the attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day – were both "planted" by the CIA.

"It is time for the enslaved billions of our world today to fear no more the exploding shoes and underpants of the idiot agents of capitalism and to learn what Islam really is," he states.

He says Britain is on "the edge of terminal decline and it is the "British Muslim population that alone can revitalise this ancient realm."

However, before his conversion to Islam, Abdalqadir led a bohemian life in London. He studied at Rada and wrote and directed The Face of Love starring Albert Finney which was also made into a television play.

A host of writing credits followed, including Conrad's Secret Agent, starring Sir Alan Bates. He lived in Tite Street, Chelsea – Oscar's Wilde's London address and a fashionable location for artists and writers.

Dallas was friends with both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, who he gave a copy of the ancient Persian Sufi parable of Layla – the story of a princess who was married to the wrong man. It struck a chord with his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison.

Abdalqadir has not been back to Scotland for ten years, but is still in touch with several friends and family in Ayr who are, according to his media manager, very supportive of what he is doing.

Posted on 02/21/2010 9:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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