These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 28, 2012.
Friday, 28 December 2012
Saudi detains dozens for â€œplotting to celebrate Christmasâ€�
From the English language edition of the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar
Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said.
The raid is the latest in a string of religious crackdowns against residents perceived to threaten the country's strict religious code.
The host of the alleged Christmas gathering is reported to be an Asian diplomat whose guests included 41 Christians, as well as two Saudi Arabian and Egyptian Muslims. The host and the two Muslims were said to be “severely intoxicated.”
The guests were said to have been referred to the "respective authorities." It is unclear whether or not they have been released since.
The kingdom, which only recognizes Islamic faith and practice, has in the past banned public Christmas celebrations, but is ambiguous about festivities staged in private quarters.
Saudi Arabia's head mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Abdullah had previously condemned “invitations to Christmas or wedding celebrations.”
A member of the Higher Council of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed al-Othaimin recently prohibited sending holiday wishes to "heretics" on Christmas or other religious Christian holidays.
Posted on 12/28/2012 3:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 December 2012
BREAKING NEWS: Study Confirms Natural Disasters Make People Unhappy
Portentousness is the means by which cliché, the banal and the obvious are turned into technicality or wisdom, or both. An editorial in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association titled “Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics, Potential Aftermath, and Response” illustrates this very well. One expects a medical journal to contain information that is not common knowledge or available to everyone on the most minimal reflection; it is therefore tempting, though a logical error, for authors to suppose that if what they have written is published in such a medical journal, it ipso facto contains such information.
The editorial in question makes statements such as “The mental health effects of any given disaster are related to the intensity of exposure to the event. Sustaining personal injury and experiencing the injury or death of a loved one in the disaster are particularly potent predictors of psychological impairment.” In other words those who suffer more suffer more. The editorial continues, “Research has also indicated that disaster-related displacement, relocation, and loss of property and personal finances are risk factors for mental health problems…”
I don’t suppose this will come as any great surprise, let alone shock, to readers. I will overlook the rather strange locution “loss of personal finances” – one continues to have personal finances even in bankruptcy. But how vital is research that tells us that people who are displaced and lose their possessions are likely to be unhappy for a long time? Until such research was done, did anyone for a moment doubt that losing your home, becoming a refugee, having your wife or child killed in front of you. etc., was a potent cause of misery? Have we so lost our common humanity that we need “research” to tell us this, or that such misery may be long-lasting?
The editorial continues, “the mental health effects of disaster are not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and may include general distress, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.” As this is written, it implies that general distress and anxiety are in themselves psychiatric disorders, that the person who is (say) distressed at the loss of his home is in some way psychiatrically disturbed. This is indeed odd; I would put it rather the other way round, that the person who is not in the least distressed at the loss of his home is likely to be psychiatrically disturbed. An undistressed murderer is a much more chilling individual to meet than one who is distressed.
Perhaps what the authors meant (one certainly hopes that what they meant) was the following: “the psychological effects of disaster are not limited to PTSD and other psychiatric disorders, but include general distress and anxiety.” But this is not what they wrote; and one suspects that their imprecision of language is a reflection of their imprecision of thought.
Let us continue briefly on this via dolorosa of cliché. The authors tells us: “Notably, the mental effects after a disaster vary across the exposed population.” But an assertion of fact in whose contradiction no one would for a moment believe is not worth making. When you have nothing to say, say nothing. It is hardly surprising that the authors’ prescriptions should make Ellen Wheeler Wilcox seem hard-edged and cynical by comparison: promoting a sense of safety, calming anxiety, increasing collective efficacy, encouraging social support, and instilling hope.
Actually, another editorial in the same edition of the Journal provides us with a clue as to its subtext, as literary theorists would call it. The other editorial is about the forthcoming reduction in federal funding for medical research. The author quotes Winston Churchill’s favourite Chinese ideogaph, that for crisis, which he maintained contained simultaneously the notion of disaster and opportunity. For the entrepreneurs of psychopathology, disasters are an opportunity, none better in fact.
First published in PJ Media.
Posted on 12/28/2012 5:09 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Friday, 28 December 2012
That Mosque In Ã‰pinay-sur-Seine
Bataille pour le contrôle de la mosquée d'Épinay-sur-Seine
La mosquée d'Épinay-sur-Seine en octobre dernier. Crédits photo : MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP
Depuis plusieurs mois, deux associations se disputent la gestion du lieu de culte musulman d'Épinay-sur-Seine, du coup menacé de fermeture. L'électricité a été fermée et l'eau vient d'être coupée.
Il y a du rififi aux portes d'une mosquée de Seine-Saint-Denis. Depuis plusieurs mois, deux associations se disputent la gestion du lieu de culte musulman d'Épinay-sur-Seine, qui pourrait, du coup, fermer ses portes. Depuis novembre, les lieux n'ont plus d'électricité et, depuis quelques jours, c'est l'eau qui a été coupée.
Cette situation est liée à un contexte pour le moins électrique entre deux structures qui veulent chacune avoir la main sur la mosquée. Il y a d'un côté l'Organisme de gestion de la mosquée d'Épinay (OGME), émanation de la Grande Mosquée de Paris, et, de l'autre, l'Union des associations musulmanes d'Épinay-sur-Seine (UAME). La première est officiellement chargée de la gestion à la suite d'une convention passée avec la mairie, propriétaire des locaux. Pour son responsable, Aïssa Nakkes, les fidèles en sont là aujourd'hui à cause de cette autre structure qui veut lui ravir le pouvoir. «Ils sont seulement une quinzaine de personnes», dit-il. Et ce petit groupe qui, lui, prétend regrouper 500 personnes, joue les grains de sable en déposant des recours, en manifestant dans la rue. L'UAME est même accusée d'organiser des collectes parallèles aux portes de la mosquée pour récupérer les dons des fidèles. «En une année, ils ont obtenu 160.000 euros! Or on s'acquitte des charges avec l'argent des fidèles», se désole Aïssa Nakkes.
«On nous accuse de tous les maux»
Du coup, les factures d'électricité n'ont pas été payées, à hauteur de 74.000 euros. EDF a donc fini par couper le courant, obligeant le maire de la ville, Hervé Chevreau (DVD), à réagir. Car qui dit absence d'électricité, dit absence de chauffage et risque de gel pouvant endommager les canalisations. Par précaution, l'édile a donc coupé l'eau, il y a quelques jours. Les fidèles qui priaient déjà dans le noir sont donc aussi privés de l'usage des sanitaires.
Cette situation qui, dit-elle, pénalise les musulmans pratiquants est liée à l'attitude du maire, selon l'OGME. «Il intervient dans la gestion de la mosquée. Il refuse l'imam que l'on soutient. Les fidèles devraient choisir leur représentant. «Notre combat est un combat pour la liberté de culte. C'est tout ce que l'on demande», rectifie son responsable, Nabil Abdellaoui. Une accusation que conteste l'élu, qui réfute toute ingérence dans les affaires religieuses. Mais Nabil Abdellaoui persiste: «Hier, on était des gens bien. Aujourd'hui, on nous taxe d'intégristes, de salafistes! L'imam que l'on soutient et qui est depuis quinze ans sur la ville est soudain taxé de prêcher un islam archaïque. On nous traite de violents, on nous accuse de tous les maux, même d'organiser des quêtes parallèles, alors que c'est une autre association qui le fait!», dit-il.
Ce sont les fidèles qui, les premiers, devraient faire les frais de cette «querelle de minarets». La commission de sécurité, qui devrait prochainement passer, ne pourra, à l'évidence, faire autrement que de fermer les lieux, devenus trop dangereux.
Posted on 12/28/2012 5:17 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 December 2012
The Afghan Security Forces, Too, Don't Trust The Afghan Security Forces
From The New York Times:
December 28, 2012
Betrayed While Asleep, Afghan Police Die at Hands of Their Countrymen
KABUL, Afghanistan — A wave of betrayal has left at least 17 Afghan policemen dead in the past 10 days — all killed in their sleep, at the hands of those close to them.
Early Thursday morning, an Afghan policeman unlocked the door of the check post where he was stationed in Oruzgan Province and let in his friends from the Taliban, who helped him attack his sleeping colleagues with knives and guns, eventually killing four and wounding eight.
On Sunday, a local police commander in a remote northern province, Jawzjan, shot to death, in their beds, five men under his command and fled to join the Taliban.
And on Dec. 18, a teenager, apparently being kept for sexual purposes by an Afghan border police commander in southern Kandahar Province, drugged the commander and the other 10 policemen at the post to put them to sleep, and then shot them all; eight died.
In the crisis that has risen in the past year over insider killings, in which Afghan security forces turn on their allies, the toll has been even heavier for the Afghans themselves — at least 86 in a count by The New York Times this year, and the full toll is likely to be higher — than it has been for American and other NATO forces, which have lost at least 62 so far, the latest in Kabul on Monday.
Unlike most insider attacks against foreign forces, known as “green on blue” killings, most of the attacks between Afghans, “green on green,” have been clear cases of either infiltration by Taliban insurgents or turncoat attacks. As with the three recent attacks, they have fallen most heavily on police units, and they have followed a familiar pattern: the Taliban either infiltrate someone into a unit, or win over someone already in a unit, who then kills his comrades in their sleep. Frequently, the victims are first poisoned or drugged at dinner.
“I tell my cook not to allow any police officer in the kitchen,” said Taaj Mohammad, a commander of a border police check post near the one in Kandahar that was attacked on Dec. 18. “This kind of incident really creates mistrust among comrades, which is not good. Now we don’t trust anyone, even those who spent years in the post.”
The most recent of the green-on-green betrayals took place on Thursday about 3 a.m., in the town of Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan. According to Fareed Ayal, a spokesman for the provincial police chief, a police officer named Hayat Khan, who had been in regular touch with the Taliban for religious guidance, waited until the other officers at his check post fell asleep and then called Taliban fighters by cellphone and let them in. First the attackers stabbed the one officer who was on watch, but he raised the alarm in time to awaken some of the police officers.
In the ensuing firefight, four policemen were killed and eight wounded, while Mr. Khan and his Taliban confederates managed to escape, according to Mr. Ayal’s account.
In the attack on Sunday, in Jawzjan Province, the victims were all part of an Afghan Local Police unit whose commander had previous connections with the Taliban. Such local police units, strongly supported as part of American policy in Afghanistan, undergo training, and community leaders and elders offer guarantees that the units have no further insurgent ties.
Gen. Abdul Aziz Ghairat of the Jawzjan Provincial Police said that the commander who had killed the men in their sleep, Dur Mohammad, had fled but that his relatives and a community elder who vouched for him had been detained and were being interrogated.
In some green-on-green cases, personal grievances may drive the attackers to throw in their lot with the Taliban.
That is apparently what happened in the case of Noor Agha, a young man who the police say killed eight border security police officers in their check post on the border near Spinbaldak, the major crossing point between Kandahar and Pakistan, on Dec. 18.
The police said that Mr. Agha, whose age was unclear but whom police sources described as “still beardless,” had been the involuntary companion of the border police commander at that check post, Agha Amire, for several years. Other police commanders who knew both said there was clearly an “improper relationship” between the two.
While not saying so explicitly, they were suggesting that Mr. Amire was using Mr. Agha in the commonplace practice known as bacha baazi, in which powerful Afghan commanders frequently keep young boys as personal servants, dancers and sex slaves.
The practice was outlawed during Taliban times but has never gone away, and even some provincial governors and other top officials openly keep bacha baazi harems. The practice was noted in the latest United States State Department’s annual human rights report, but the report said “credible statistics were difficult to acquire as the subject was a source of shame.”
The night of the attack, Mr. Agha offered to make a special dinner for the police at the check post and invited two friends to attend. He and his friends put drugs in the food and then shot everyone there, including Mr. Amire, and the three attackers escaped across the border to join Taliban insurgents in Pakistan, according to a police official. Mr. Agha’s family, who lived in Arghandab district, a former Taliban stronghold near Kandahar city, fled their home, leaving behind livestock and personal possessions, according to police officials and relatives of the commander.
Although a police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity put the toll at eight dead and three wounded in that episode, officially, the Kandahar Province police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, said only four had been killed and three wounded. General Raziq also denied that there had been a young boy involved in drugging the food.
The wave of killings over the past year has police officers all over Afghanistan watching what they eat, and sleeping uneasily.
“We make sure that nobody gets the chance to poison the food,” said Sharif Agha, 26, a police sergeant who commands a small outpost in Khost city, in eastern Afghanistan. The ten officers there take turns helping the cook and make sure at least two people are in the kitchen at all times. At night, a third guard is assigned to watch the two guards normally on duty.
“I don’t know about the rest of the guys,” Sergeant Agha said, “but I have not slept properly over the past few months.”
Posted on 12/28/2012 9:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 December 2012
In Mali: "This Is In The Koran. That's Why We Do It."
From The New York Times:
December 28, 2012
Islamists’ Harsh Justice Is on the Rise in North Mali
BAMAKO, Mali — Moctar Touré was strapped to a chair, blindfolded, his right hand bound tight to the armrest with a rubber tube. A doctor came and administered a shot. Then Mr. Touré’s own brother wielded a knife, the kind used to slaughter sheep, and methodically carried out the sentence.
“I myself cut off my brother’s hand,” said Aliou Touré, a police chief in the Islamist-held north of this divided nation. “We had no choice but to practice the justice of God.”
Such amputations are designed to shock — residents are often summoned to watch — and even as the world makes plans to recapture northern Mali by force, the Islamists who control it show no qualms about carrying them out.
After the United Nations Security Council authorized a military campaign to retake the region last week, Islamists in Gao, Mr. Touré’s town, cut the hands off two more people accused of being thieves the very next day, a leading local official said, describing it as a brazen response to the United Nations resolution. Then the Islamists, undeterred by the international threats against them, warned reporters that eight others “will soon share the same fate.”
This harsh application of Shariah law, with people accused of being thieves sometimes having their feet amputated as well, has occurred at least 14 times since the Islamist takeover last spring, not including the recent vow of more to come, according to Human Rights Watch and independent observers.
But those are just the known cases, and dozens of other residents have been publicly flogged with camel-hair whips or tree branches for offenses like smoking, or even for playing music on the radio. Several were whipped in Gao on Monday for smoking in public, an official said, while others said that anything other than Koranic verses were proscribed as cellphone ringtones. A jaunty tune is punishable by flogging.
At least one case of the most severe punishment — stoning to death — was carried out in the town of Aguelhok in July against a couple accused of having children out of wedlock.
Trials are often rudimentary. A dozen or so jihadi judges sitting in a circle on floor mats pronounce judgment, according to former Malian officials in the north. Hearings, judgment and sentence are usually carried out rapidly, on the same day.
“They do it among themselves, in closed session,” said Abdou Sidibé, a parliamentary deputy from Gao, now in exile here in the capital, Bamako. “These people who have come among us have imposed their justice,” he said. “It comes from nowhere.”[if it comes "from nowhere" then why does this form of justice correspond so exactly to what the Taliban did in Afghanistan, or what other True Believers in Islam have done elsewhere? It comes from the Qur'an and Hadith, taken straight up and not on the rocks, that is undiluted by time and practical accommodation].
The jihadists are even attempting to sell the former criminal courts building in Gao, Mr. Sidibé said, because they no longer have any use for it. In Timbuktu, justice is dispensed from a room in a former hotel.
Many of the amputation victims have now drifted down to Bamako, in the south, which despite suffering from its own political volatility has become a haven for tens of thousands fleeing harsh conditions in the north, including the forced recruitment of child soldiers by the Islamists.
Moctar Touré, 25, and Souleymane Traoré, 25, both spoke haltingly and stared into the distance, remembering life before the moments that turned their worlds upside down and made them, as they felt, useless. They gently cradled the rounded stumps that now serve as arms, wondering what would come next.
The two young men had been truck drivers before Gao was overrun last spring. Both were accused of stealing guns; both said they merely acted out of patriotic feeling for the now-divided Malian state, with the intention of helping it regain the north.
In September, Mr. Traoré said, he was summoned from his jail cell after three months of a brutal prison term in which he was often fed nothing. Acquaintances had denounced him to the Islamist police; he was stealing the extremists’ weapons at night, he said, and burying them in the sand by the Niger River.
As ten other prisoners watched, he was ordered to sit in a chair, and his arms were tightly bound to it. With a razor, one of his jailers traced a circle on his forearm. “It pains me to even think about it,” he said, looking down, cradling his head in his remaining hand.
Mr. Touré’s brother, Aliou, the police chief, sawed off his hand. It took three minutes. Mr. Traoré said he passed out.
“I said nothing. I let them do it,” he said.
Moctar Touré had his hand amputated several weeks later. He said it took 30 minutes, though he fainted in the process, awakening in the hospital bed where the Islamists had placed him afterward.
Mr. Touré said his brother had insisted that the sentence be carried out.
“They asked my own brother three times if that was the sentence,” Mr. Touré said. “He’s the commissioner of police in Gao, and he wants to die a martyr,” Mr. Touré said quietly. “He joined up with the Islamists when they came to Gao.”
Aliou Touré, reached by telephone in the Sahara, said the decision was a simple one.
“He stole nine times,” he said of his brother. “He’s my own brother. God told us to do it. God created my brother. God created me. You must read the Koran to see that what I say is true. This is in the Koran. That’s why we do it.”
Moctar Touré had a different story. The Islamists had pressed him into joining their militia, he said, but the training was brutal and Mr. Touré quit. One day they saw him carrying some guns, and they accused him of wanting to subvert the new order. He was jailed.
Sweat streamed down Mr. Touré’s forehead as he recalled the terrible memories, sitting on a bench at a busy bus station here, 600 miles from Gao.
The Islamists had called out five prisoners that morning; four were to be witnesses. They took them all to an unused customs post at the edge of Gao, and Mr. Touré was ordered to wash himself. The Islamists told him what his sentence was to be.
“I was helpless,” he said. “I was completely tied up.”
Now, Mr. Touré spends his days hanging out at the bus station near a cousin’s house. Mr. Traoré hopes to learn a new trade, given that “I can’t be a driver anymore,” he said.
Mr. Touré, for his part, is in despair. “I have no idea what I am going to do,” he said. “I’m completely lost. Night and day, I ask myself, ‘What is going to happen?’ Nobody has helped me.”
The people in Gao have protested the amputations several times, according to Human Rights Watch, even halting them once by throwing stones at the Islamic police and blocking the entrance to the main square.
“To come to Gao and inflict these sentences they call Islamic, [as, in fact, they are, but its Muslim victims cannot admit that to themselves] ] I say it is illegal,” said Abderrahmane Oumarou, a communal councilor there, reached by telephone after last week’s amputations.
As for the Islamists’ justice, “I don’t give credit to their accusations,” Mr. Oumarou said. “You can’t replace Malian justice.”
Mr. Oumarou said the Islamists had been busy lately writing “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” in Arabic on the former Malian administrative buildings in Gao.
“Their accusations are false,” he said. “They said weapons were stolen. But these are lies.”
Posted on 12/28/2012 10:12 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald