"When you go swimming, it’s much healthier to keep your whole body completely covered, you know.” The Muslim lady behind the counter in my local pharmacy has recently started giving me advice like this. It’s kindly meant and I’m always glad to hear her views because she is one of the few people in west London where I live who talks to me.
The streets around Acton, which has been my home since 1996, have taken on a new identity. Most of the shops are now owned by Muslims and even the fish and chip shop and Indian takeaway are Halal. It seems that almost overnight it’s changed from Acton Vale into Acton Veil.
...because so many Muslims increasingly insist on emphasising their separateness, it feels as if they have taken over; my female neighbours flap past in full niqab, some so heavily veiled that I can’t see their eyes. I’ve made an effort to communicate by smiling deliberately at the ones I thought I was seeing out and about regularly, but this didn’t lead to conversation because they never look me in the face.
I recently went to the plainly named “Curtain Shop” and asked if they would put some up for me. Inside were a lot of elderly Muslim men. I was told that they don’t do that kind of work, and was back on the pavement within a few moments. I felt sure I had suffered discrimination and was bewildered as I had been there previously when the Muslim owners had been very friendly. Things have changed. I am living in a place where I am a stranger.
Nowadays, though, most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving. They have no interest in talking to me and rarely meet my gaze. I find this situation dismal. I miss banter, the hail fellow, well met chat about the weather, or what was on TV last night.
More worryingly, I feel that public spaces are becoming contested. One food store has recently installed a sign banning alcohol on the premises. Fair enough. But it also says: “No alcohol allowed on the streets near this shop.” I am no fan of street drinking, and rowdy behaviour and loutish individuals are an aspect of modern British ''culture’’ I hate. But I feel uneasy that this shopkeeper wants to control the streets outside his shop. I asked him what he meant by his notice but he just smiled at me wistfully.
Perhaps he and his fellow Muslims want to turn the area into another Tower Hamlets...
There are, of course, other Europeans in my area who may share my feelings but I’m not able to talk to them easily about this situation as they are mostly immigrants, too. At Christmas I spoke to an elderly white woman about the lack of parsnips in the local greengrocer, but she turned out to have no English and I was left grumbling to myself.
I, too, have decided to leave my area, following in the footsteps of so many of my neighbours. I don’t really want to go. I worked long and hard to get to London, to find a good job and buy a home and I’d like to stay here. But I’m a stranger on these streets and all the “good” areas, with safe streets, nice housing and pleasant cafés, are beyond my reach. I see London turning into a place almost exclusively for poor immigrants and the very rich.
It’s sad that I am moving not for a positive reason, but to escape something. I wonder whether I’ll tell the truth, if I’m asked. I can’t pretend that I’m worried about local schools, so perhaps I’ll say it’s for the chance of a conversation over the garden fence. But really I no longer need an excuse: mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all. Not racist. Realist!
Jane Kelly is consulting editor of the 'Salisbury Review’
Milton Keynes:Protest held outside cinema against â€˜Islamophobic filmâ€™
For non UK readers Milton Keynes is a 'New Town' in England, north of London not too far from Luton. It was originally noted for its clean but souless architecture, including novelty concrete cows. From the Milton Keynes Citizen.
ANGRY Muslims staged a protest against an allegedly Islamophobic film outside Cineworld last Saturday ...The group were protesting the UK release of the controversial Indian film Vishwaroopam, which is currently showing in British cinemas. The film has already been banned in two Indian regions and in Muslim countries in South East Asia amid controversy about the way it depicts Muslims as terrorists.
Campaigner Mustapha Zamaan felt the film fuelled negative views against Muslim people and should not be shown in British cinemas.
He said: “We know there’s a number of American films against Muslims but it’s a lot different in Indian culture, where they trust film actors like gods. This worship leads to films like this creating racial tension and that’s why it’s been banned in India. Ideally we want it pulled here too . . . this film is hate speech that portrays Muslims negatively.”
Vishwaroopam was first shown at Cineworld Milton Keynes last Friday and is due to run until Thursday.
From the Hindu, one of India's best read and most venerable newspapers
The delay in overturning the unjustifiable ban on Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam is beginning to appear every bit as unjustifiable. It is difficult to fathom the rationale behind the Madras High Court deferring its decision on the film’s screening. Earlier, the court had ruled the film cannot be shown in Tamil Nadu until January 28, by which time the judge hearing the case would see it for himself. Now that the special screening has been held, what basis can there possibly be for deferring the decision once again and asking Kamal Haasan to “negotiate the matter and sort the issue out amicably”? Courts exist principally to dispense justice, not to hand out advice which, in this case, seems entirely gratuitous.
There should have been no place for such temporising given the clear judicial precedents in such cases. It was only two years ago that the Supreme Court set aside the two-month ban on the Hindi film Aarakshan on the ground that States cannot proscribe films that have been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification on the mere apprehension that screening them may cause a law and order problem.
The ban on Vishwaroopam must be quashed and the police directed to provide adequate protection to theatres and moviegoers. While it is the right of the fringe Muslim groups who are offended, seemingly or otherwise, to protest against the film, any demonstration should be staged only peacefully. Anyone who threatens or takes recourse to violence deserves to be dealt with strictly and punitively.
Nigerian extremists have issued direct threats to France in retaliation for military action in Mali, the French consulate here said Monday, while warning its citizens against travel to northern Nigeria.
"A growing situation of insecurity is resulting from the intervention undertaken in Mali against the advance of terrorist groups," the advisory from the consulate said. "In retaliation, Nigerian terrorist groups have issued direct threats against France and French citizens."
The nature of the threats was unclear, and a French official declined to elaborate when contacted by AFP. The statement added that "in these conditions, the risks of attack and especially kidnapping are very serious. The area of (extremist) action is the north, but we cannot rule out that it can happen anywhere," a French diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "That is why we are raising the alert level."
There has also been intense speculation over links between extremists in Nigeria and northern Mali. Members of Boko Haram are said to have trained with Al-Qaeda's north African branch in northern Mali, but it is unclear whether further ties have been developed.
The Lancashire town of Eccles is named after a church -- or possibly a cake. But its latest fruitcake is in poor taste, and at this rate the town will need to change its name to Masjid. From the Manchester Evening News, with thanks to Esmerelda:
Eccles Cake Fruitcake
A mum-of-two has told how she was inspired to convert to Islam – after helping a victim of honour-based violence as part of her job in the police.
Police Community Support Officer Jayne Kemp, 28, decided to find out about the faith while helping a Muslim woman suffering domestic abuse.
The "domestic abuse", or in Islamic terms chastisement of the disobedient, should have told her all she needed to know.. A non-dozy-bint would have run a mile. But not Jayne.
After speaking to other Muslims on Twitter, she was inspired to give up her Catholic faith to fully convert last year and now lives a completely Islamic lifestyle.
She now goes out on her PCSO patrols in Eccles, Salford, wearing the traditional hijab headscarf and makes time up at the end of her shift to attend Friday prayers.
Jayne, single mum to a son, nine, and daughter, seven, formerly converted in a Shahada ceremony last April and now plans to change her name to Aminah.
A single mum? Muslim women have been stoned for less.
While her children spent Christmas Day at their dad’s so they could still celebrate, she went round to her mum’s – but had to cook her own dinner so it would be halal.
At least her mother didn't pander, unlike the police who let her wear her veil of servitude.
Jayne, who joined GMP in August 2009 and lives in south Manchester, said: “It started when I had a woman approach me at work who was experiencing honour-based violence.
“Where I work in Eccles there’s a big mosque and big Muslim population, so I thought I should find out more about it.
“I’d thought Islam was all about women being forced to slave away in the kitchen – but found out it was about being generous with your time, patient and respectful of others.
“As I looked into it I saw similarities with Catholicism and also values like looking after your neighbours and valuing the elderly that older people say younger people don’t have any more.
Older people like Umm Qirfa, the uppity woman ripped apart by camels? I think I'd prefer to be undervalued.
“I wasn’t looking for any religion at the time but for every question I got answered about Islam I just had five more – I think I fell in love with it.”
Jayne made the decision to tell colleagues she had converted when she wanted to start wearing a hijab to work – and says they have all been supportive.
She is now working with the Greater Manchester Muslim Police Association to design a regulation police hijab and tunic – as one has never been needed before in the force.
Jayne said: “I was worried about what my colleagues would think but they have been so understanding.
“People in Eccles have been great too – most don’t even mention it.
“If my children had struggled with me covering my hair I wouldn’t have done it.
In a Muslim country she would have had no option, and her children would have been forcibly converted, as happens in Egypt.
“They have both asked a lot about it but I would never push Islam on them and they will be brought up Catholic.
“I just hope by speaking out I can show it is OK for a Muslim woman to work in the police force and also change negative stereotypes about Islam.”
Oh, it is, Jayne. The police force is stuffed full of taqiyya-merchants. But next time you deal with "honour-based violence" treat the man of the house with more respect when he's exercising his Koran-given rights over his property. And don't even think about reverting to Catholicism -- no Eccles cakes for apostates,who must eat the bread of sorrow.
The other was a thoughtful rabbi living in Cincinnati.
As unlikely a pair as they seemed, Robert Frost and Victor E. Reichert built a close friendship focused on literature and philosophy that stretched over two decades.
Now, that friendship will be preserved and admired – as well as studied, by future generations – here in Buffalo, thanks to a donation by the rabbi’s son.
Jonathan F. Reichert, a retired physics professor who taught for three decades at the University at Buffalo, has donated to the university a voluminous cache of letters, inscribed books, manuscripts, voice recordings, photographs and other materials exchanged between his father and Frost over about 20 years.
Jonathan Reichert, when he was growing up, also knew Frost.
“I wanted the friendship of my father with Frost to be part of history,” said Reichert, 81. “Because I saw it. I know it changed Frost.”
The thousands of Frost-related items in the Reichert collection mean that UB will vault into a prominent position among archives and libraries that have Frost collections – one of the 20th century’s best-known and most beloved literary voices.
Frost died 50 years ago this month at age 88.
Previously, the Buffalo university had limited holdings on the New England-bred author – despite the fact that Frost visited UB for three days in 1927.
“Mr. Frost said that every good poem begins in a mood,” the Bee, a UB student newspaper, reported of one talk Frost gave to students at the time. “Then the mood finds the idea and the idea finds the words.”
Michael D. Basinski, curator of The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, is excited about the donation.
“This is a major acquisition for us,” Basinski said.
Basinski said the gift, which Reichert made final just a few weeks ago, has already attracted attention in the literary and poetry communities worldwide.
“It’s measured by the fact that the person who’s doing the collected Robert Frost letters is already on his way here,” Basinski said. “We have a delightful collection – it adds to the scholarly status of our college.”
“There are unique items here that are nowhere else.”
Frost, who was born in 1874, was already a well-known poet when he became friends with Reichert.
The rabbi was a generation younger than Frost, but the two connected after Reichert met Frost at a reading the poet gave in Cincinnati, said Jonathan Reichert, who lives in Buffalo. A friendship quickly blossomed.
“My father was absolutely star-struck with Frost, to some extent,” Reichert said.
But there was an everyday quality to their relationship as well.
“There was a lot of peer interaction,” Jonathan Reichert said. “I remember playing tennis with him. Dad said, ‘You’ve got to let him win.’
“And I said, ‘No, I won’t.’ ”
The relationship between Frost and Reichert was captured in a 1994 book, “The Poet and the Rabbi,” by Andrew Marks.
The new Frost collection is both varied and deep, said curators at the UB poetry and rare books repository in Capen Hall on the North Campus in Amherst.
Among the eye-catching items in the trove are books inscribed to Reichert family members from Frost, some of which contain personal messages or quotes from Frost’s poetry, and an array of more than 60 photographs of Frost, at various ceremonies and public events, but also in private, spending time with the Reicherts.
The family lived in Cincinnati and used a summer residence in Vermont that was near Frost’s home, curators at UB said.
The Reichert collection also features unusual and one-of-a-kind items – such as a 1946 recording of Frost delivering a sermon, at Reichert’s request, in the Rockdale Avenue Temple in Cincinnati.
The collection also includes about 600 newspaper clippings about Frost, a large assortment of magazines with Frost on the cover, and rare Frost chapbooks and holiday publications, curators said.
Among the other treasures are letters handwritten by Frost and answered by Reichert, often at length, as part of a correspondence that the men carried on, said James L. Maynard, associate curator of the poetry and rare books collection at UB.
“I sort of think of the two of them … as Wordsworth and Coleridge,” Maynard said. “They lived near each other. As for Frost, he could be taciturn.
“So much of their conversation was in person. We have just a handful of their letters.”
In one letter, Frost wrote to Reichert – in sprawling handwriting, on unlined paper – asking him a theological and philosophical question, about whether human beings can be acceptable in the sight of God. He writes a plaintive-sounding question, wondering if he has been conjuring bits of faith and philosophy in his own mind.
Reichert responded with a three-page typed letter – also in the UB collection – in which he laid out extensive literary and biblical reasons for faith.
“ ‘Here it is, the Bible is the authority,’ ” Basinski said, summarizing the letter. “ ‘You most assuredly have not been making it up.’ ”
Frost, said the curators, was a man eternally questing against the biggest conundrums and most basic questions of human existence.
“A classic American questioning mind about the nature of the spiritual, humans, life, God,” Basinski said.
“And,” added Maynard, “he was from New England, so there was a dark tinge to it, as well.”
The manner in which the rare materials found their way to UB is a story of attention to detail and personal relationships.
According to Jonathan Reichert, he had considered three locations for depositing the trove of Frost materials collected by his father.
Middlebury College was one, because Frost had a personal tie to that college; Amherst College, which has a library named for Frost, was the second.
Then there was UB, Jonathan Reichert’s own university. The younger Reichert had been a professor of physics for nearly 30 years, had won a top award for his teaching and had served as chairman of the Faculty Senate for a time.
What made the difference, Jonathan Reichert said, was that Basinski, the UB curator, made him an offer to come and spend time with him in his Buffalo home, sorting through the two decades worth of materials, identifying and cataloging the thousands of items.
“Mike was different from everybody else,” Jonathan Reichert said. “He was the only one of the archives who said, ‘I will come and work with you.’ My feeling is, if Mike took charge of it, it would get the attention it deserves.”
Victor Reichert also had a connection to UB, his son said. In the 1980s, Jonathan Reichert said, his father came to the university to deliver a series of talks in the English department, about religious and literary subjects.
“My father … was a real scholar,” said the son. “He was a man in love with literature.”
The older Reichert died in 1990, at age 93, his son said. His mother, Louise, died some time after, at 102. The trout factor
The creation of the new Frost collection at UB has allowed Jonathan Reichert to reminiscence about his own relationship with Frost, which lasted until the poet’s death in 1963.
He said he had one technique for getting to see the famous poet – who later in life had staff and assistants around him who could be protective – that never failed: trout.
“I knew Frost loved trout, so I would catch a bunch, … and I would go up and say, ‘I’ve got a bunch of trout, can I give them to Mr. Frost?’ ” recalled Jonathan Reichert.
The Arab Gulf States may not admit it publically, but a schism is slowly emerging between these countries in the wake of the rise of Islamist powers in the region. Qatar, on the one hand, has wholeheartedly endorsed the new Islamist powers of the Arab world in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have been skeptical at best. Although disagreements concerning external relations have previously emerged within the Gulf Cooperation Council states — for instance, some states have stronger ties with Iran than others would like to see — this is the first time that a member state has allied itself closely with a party that another member state accuses of undermining its system of government.
Qatar’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood are multi-pronged. On the media front, Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country’s most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what [even] prominent Middle East scholar [and sometime apologist for Islam when he ran Le Monde Diplomatique] Alain Gresh calls a “mouthpiece for the Brotherhood.” The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its “neutrality." Qatar has also been very generous with the income from its gas wealth. Qatar’s influential prime minister pledged that his country would not allow Egypt to go bankrupt. Doha has already transferred five billion dollars to Egypt to help it meet its financial obligations and prevent the pound from sliding further.
In exchange for its assistance, Al Ahram reports that Egypt’s new government gave Qatar a number of assurances, including “technical support” for the Syrian opposition, the rotation — possibly to a Qatari citizen — of the Arab League Secretary General post, and “Egyptian approval of Qatari nominees on behalf of the Arab group in several international and regional forums.” Egypt has also given Qatar a number of perks, such as excluding Qatari investments from laws governing foreign ownership.
While Saudi Arabia has also been generous with its assistance — the Kingdom granted Egypt $4 billion in assistance — it is still wary of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi skepticism stems mainly from two issues. The Brotherhood’s stance towards Saddam Hussein’s forces invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was seen by many in Saudi and other Gulf states as an endorsement of the aggression. This may also explain Kuwait’s cold shoulder treatment of the Brotherhood. The oil-rich Gulf state, whose sovereign wealth fund is estimated to reach $300 billion, hasn’t offered any meaningful aid to Egypt since the Brotherhood came to power. However, no Gulf official has been as public with voicing his distaste for the Brotherhood as the late Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Nayef, who was quoted as saying in 2002: “Without any hesitation I say it, that our problems, all of them, came from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.” The Saudis accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of “betraying” the Kingdom after it hosted their members who were persecuted during the Nasser era. While the UAE’s strict opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood stems from the country’s allegations that the group seeks to establish an “Islamist state in UAE.”
Although publically welcoming the Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia has privately been opposing them. I was informed by a source that was present at recent negotiations to form the Syrian opposition of the Saudi delegation’s strong rejection of any Brotherhood figure. Saudi’s financial assistance could be read as an attempt to keep relations relatively warm and not allow this most important of Arab states to drift into an Iranian orbit.
The UAE has publically taken the strictest position towards the Muslim Brotherhood and what it claims are the group’s activity on its territory. It has detained dozens of individuals it alleges are Brotherhood members, both citizens and more recently non-citizens. Looking back, the UAE was amongst the first countries to pledge aid to Egypt, as early as June 2011, in the form of $3 billion in small businesses and housing projects. However, none of that money has materialized, no doubt due to the deteriorating relations.
UAE-Qatar at opposite ends
The UAE and Qatar have accomplished an almost complete reversal of roles in relations with Egypt over the past two years. Egypt was a steadfast ally to the UAE under the previous Mubarak government, while relations with Qatar were cold at best. Following the ascent to power of the Brotherhood, Qatar was catapulted to the forefront of Egypt’s friends in the region. A case in point is the size of Qatari investments in Egypt prior to the revolution, which Egyptian government estimates put at a measly $260 million. On the other hand, the size of UAE investments in Egypt is estimated to be $5 billion, while trade is growing in double digits despite the spiraling of relations. Saudi investments in Egypt, probably the largest of any country, are estimated to be $12 billion. It is notable that Qatar announced plans to invest $18 billion in Egypt in the next five years.
On Mar. 5, 2012, Al Jazeera broadcast a show with Brotherhood televangelist Yousef Al-Qaradawi in which he warned the leadership of the UAE that they will be “facing the wrath of God” after a number of Syrians were deported to Egypt. The following day, the Emir of Qatar visited Abu Dhabi on an unannounced visit and is said to have reassured the UAE president of Qatar’s ties with its Gulf neighbor. That episode was never uploaded onto Al Jazeera’s website, but is available on YouTube. Al Qaradawi is amongst a group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders who immigrated to Qatar during the Nasser era and set up a branch in the Gulf state. In 1999, the Qatari chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood decided to dissolve its operations and by 2003 the dissolution was complete. In the same year, a series of meetings were held between the current Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the hopes that a similar deal could be reached for the UAE chapter. The deal stipulated that the UAE chapter of the Brotherhood, known as Al Islah and established in the 1970s, can continue operating within the UAE in exchange for ending its pledges of allegiance to the Supreme Guide and ceasing political activities. According to the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group agreed to stop recruiting members from the UAE armed forces and to cease offering allegiance as of 2003, although nothing was said about halting political activities. Relations between the Brotherhood and the UAE never recovered following the collapse of this deal that for some reason succeeded in Qatar, but not in the Emirates.
The Qatar-UAE-Egypt triangle has gone through different phases. In the mid-20th century, Dubai, the second emirate in the UAE, was the closest Gulf state to Qatar. Familial ties between both states translated into a common currency and strong economic ties. Following the Qatari coup d’état in 1996, in which the current Emir replaced his father who had good ties with Egypt, relations between Doha and Cairo deteriorated. Soon after, Qatar launched Al Jazeera, which hosted Egyptian and Saudi opposition for years until a thaw in relations took effect around 2008. Interestingly, Mubarak’s first visit in over a decade to Qatar took place only in November 2010, exactly two months before he fell from power.
Saudi and the UAE were also apprehensive of Qatar’s ties with Iran. These states were taken aback when Qatar invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend a meeting of the GCC in December 2007, making him the first Iranian leader to do so. Qatar’s attempts at smoothing relations with Iran are understandable in the light of both countries sharing the world’s biggest gas field. What is not so understandable is Qatar’s unwavering commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood to the degree that it may jeopardize relations with its neighboring Gulf States.
One Qatar-based researcher attributes the country’s active role to the Emir’s desire to “secure a legacy for himself,” while a soon to be published paper by a Princeton academic argues that Qatar sees the Brotherhood as a platform to exponentially increase its regional and global influence. There is no doubt that Qatar’s global significance has multiplied through piggybacking on Egypt’s stature and the regional influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
While the UAE has alienated Egypt’s new leaders, Qatar has alienated Egypt’s population. It is yet unclear which strategy will work in the medium-to-long term. Qatar has certainly scored points of influence over the UAE at present, but the same will not apply to Saudi. For Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the grand prize is no doubt the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with its massive wealth fund of $637 billion. The host of two of Islam’s three holiest sites in Mecca and Medina also includes over 1.5 million Egyptian immigrants. Ultimately, neither Qatar nor the UAE can ever replace the significance of Saudi Arabia for Egypt and its Muslim Brotherhood government.
Amidst the simmering disagreements between the wealthy Gulf states, it is important to consider what is best for Egypt. The country is facing major challenges including 4 million unemployed officially, tourism arrivals down by double-digit percentile points, underpaid doctors, over a million street children, poor infrastructure that results in the deaths of hundreds a year, and a variety of educational, environmental, social and other economic challenges. Egypt clearly needs all the friends it can get. No matter how honorable the Qatari Prime Minister’s intent to not let Egypt go bankrupt, the latter’s debts are far too large for it to be covered through Doha’s generosity. Egypt’s public debt is estimated at $224 billion, while Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, while growing rapidly, is estimated at $136 billion. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood needs foreign help to finance and implement its neo-liberal economic plans. This will include not only funding from Qatar, Saudi and the UAE, but also technical transfer from the latter to Egypt to help it tackle its various challenges.
Qatar rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood has drawn the ire not only of its Gulf’s neighbors, but also the Egyptian intelligentsia. News leaks about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood concessions to the Gulf peninsula state — along with the bypassing of diplomatic norms such as neglecting to notify the Egyptian ambassador to Doha about Qatar’s Prime Minister’s recent visit to Cairo — only exacerbates tension with non-Islamists in Egypt. The Qataris have had to deny claims of attempting to “dominate” Egypt, and rebut allegations that it is buying the Suez Canal, one of Egypt’s main sources of revenue. One must only visit social media pages of Egyptian activists and intellectuals to see their heavilynegative reaction to the warming of relations between the Brotherhood and Qatar, a phenomenon also reported widely in the Egyptian media. Local outlets have also been reporting on growing discontent within the Egyptian street over ties to Qatar, with one former Egyptian minister threatening to throw himself off a tower if the Brotherhood handed the Suez Canal to the Gulf state.
Concern in Qatar
On online private messages too, citizens of Qatar, traditionally a Salafi Wahhabi, state have been telling me of their discontent with the state policy towards the Brotherhood. I sought permission to publish parts of an email I received from a Qatari commenting on the state's close ties and financial aid to the Brotherhood:
“The problem is that the amount of aid isn't beneficial to any party except the MB. Egyptian aid from Qatar is now tied into the MB. The people of Egypt know this and it can create a problem later with the question of democracy.
Qatar's diplomacy is at some level now delegitimized by their aid being tied to a party. Qatar aids parties that, in return, they influence. Rather than being a respectable third party, Qatar has now interjected itself in Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian politics, for better or worse.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are a bit different because now they can help in future situations without question (or as much controversy) on how objective they can be. While Qatar has a stake in the MB, the success of the MB means more influence for Qatar."
Doha’s Brotherhood gamble
Clearly Qatar is taking a giant leap of faith with the Brotherhood, something it is not unknown to do before when it built ties simultaneously with Hamas and Israel, Iran and the US, the Taliban and the West. This time Qatar will be hoping that its Muslim Brotherhood allies succeed in their political and economic project and, since it is so heavily invested in them, they may also hope that their hold on power lasts for some time. Qatar will also, at minimum, expect Egypt’s Brotherhood to be a loyal friend in return, although many who have dealt with the Brotherhood may advise Doha to read about the group’s record of keeping promises and alliances when they are no longer beneficial. Consider for an instant a scenario in which Saudi Arabia presents Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood with a choice of expanding its relations with the Kingdom in exchange for an easing of ties with the Qataris. It probably won’t be a difficult decision for the Brotherhood to make.
Qatar, after all, presents the Brotherhood with two major assets. First, the country’s Al Jazeera satellite channel which — although no longer popular in Egypt following the advent of numerous local channels — still enjoys substantial regional viewership from which the network can continue to propagate the Brotherhood’s message. [this description would apparently surprise Al Gore] Second, Qatar is today the Muslim Brotherhood’s banker and personal financier, bankrolling its budget and investing heavily in the group’s projects. However, Qatar’s vast per-capita wealth pales in comparison to Islamic heavyweight Saudi Arabia’s several hundred billion dollars in assets and investable funds. Whatever diplomatic and regional weight Qatar and Al Jazeera can offer the Brotherhood could easily be matched by Saudi Arabia’s much larger media and diplomatic network. Meanwhile, the UAE and Saudi will continue to wonder what exactly Qatar wants from the Brotherhood as they see their smaller Gulf neighbor fully immerse itself in the Brotherhood’s challenges, hopes and ambitions.
It would indeed be ironic if the Brotherhood, having been nurtured and supported by Qatar so carefully, turns its back on the state in the coming few years. Ironic perhaps, but not unlikely.
In Timbuktu, Fanatical Arabisant Muslims Take Their Revegne On "Black Malians"
Les manuscrits de Tombouctou, victimes des islamistes et de la corruption
LE MONDE |
Par Philippe Bernard
Les islamistes qui occupaient la ville mythique du nord du Mali depuis avril n'ont pas seulement tenté d'asservir les populations. Ils s'en sont probablement pris aux plus précieux témoignages de leur culture ancestrale. Les manuscrits de Tombouctou, ces dizaines de milliers de documents témoignant du foisonnement intellectuel de l'Afrique précoloniale depuis le XIIe siècle, auraient aussi fait les frais de leur passage. Plusieurs témoignages cités affirment que des bâtiments les abritant auraient été détruits par les forces d'occupation, avant qu'elles ne quittent la ville, chassées par l'avancée des soldats français et maliens. "Les rebelles ont mis le feu à l'institut Ahmed-Baba créé récemment par les Sud-Africains (...). Cela s'est produit il y a quatre jours", a déclaré, lundi 28 janvier, Halle Ousmane, maire de Tombouctou qui, réfugié à Bamako, dit en avoir été informé par son chargé de communication, mais ignorer l'étendue des dégâts.
"Si cela se confirmait, ce serait une catastrophe pour le patrimoine du Mali, une perte immense pour l'histoire de la littérature mondiale et de l'Afrique de l'Ouest d'avant la colonisation", réagit Bruce Hall, professeur d'histoire à l'université américaine de Duke, interrogé par Le Monde. Spécialiste du Sahel, M. Hall a dépouillé pendant des années des manuscrits à Tombouctou pour nourrir son dernier livre consacré aux relations entre Noirs et Arabes en Afrique de l'Ouest de 1600 à 1960 . Sur les 200 000 pièces d'archives répertoriées dans la région de la boucle du fleuve Niger, 25 000 à 30 000 sont conservées à Tombouctou par l'Institut national Ahmed-Baba, du nom d'un homme de lettres du XVIe siècle. Des milliers d'autres restent la propriété de familles de la ville qui les archivent avec un soin variable.
CORRUPTION ET TRAFICS
Ces documents, des papiers mais aussi des peaux de chameau ou de mouton, portent des écrits en arabe ou en peul de nature religieuse, juridique, poétique ou scientifique qui témoignent de la richesse, de l'ancienneté et de l'ouverture de la culture soufie, l'islam local. "C'est la forme d'islam que les occupants actuels veulent détruire, souligne Bruce Hall. Mais cela m'étonnerait qu'ils aient pris le temps de les lire. S'ils ont détruit des manuscrits, c'est sans doute plutôt pour se venger des Maliens noirs ou des organisations occidentales qui ont protesté contre le saccage par eux des mausolées religieux."
L'historien espère que "ce n'est pas vrai", soulignant que les manuscrits de Tombouctou sont devenus un véritable business : on a grossi leur nombre ou brandi la menace de leur disparition pour obtenir des crédits ou nourrir des trafics. Il précise que le nouveau bâtiment de l'Institut Ahmed-Baba inauguré en 2009 ne contenait en réalité pas de documents précieux, le directeur ayant refusé de les y transférer afin d'obtenir davantage d'aides.
Certains manuscrits ont été cachés à Bamako, voire à Paris. D'autres, à Tombouctou, se trouvent en réalité dans l'ancien siège de l'Institut, au sud de la ville. Pour le chercheur, "s'ils ont mis à sac ce vieux bâtiment, c'est une catastrophe".
Mais selon lui, la destruction de ces archives, ou la menace continuelle qui pèse sur elles, souligne un autre scandale : "Des millions de dollars ont été dépensés depuis dix ans pour les sauver en les numérisant, notamment par l'Unesco et des fondations américaines. Presque rien n'a été réalisé. Et ce qui a été numérisé est seulement conservé sur des ordinateurs à Tombouctou !", fulmine-t-il.
A entendre M. Hall, la corruption malienne n'est pas seule en cause. "L'argent a disparu au Mali, mais aussi dans les mains de pseudo-experts occidentaux qui ont beaucoup discouru et peu agi." Dans cette affaire, conclut l'universitaire, "personne n'a les mains propres".
WASHINGTON - A top Iranian cleric has warned the U.S. and specifically the city of Washington to prepare for retaliation in response to a terror attack in western Pakistan that killed 103 people.
Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a senior Iranian religious leader, claims the Jan. 10 massacre of Shiite Muslims in Quetta, Pakistan, was financed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
According to Iran's state-run Fars News Agency, Shirazi said on Jan. 16, "Today this crime was committed in Quetta, Pakistan, and tomorrow it will be Washington's, London's, Egypt's and even Saudi Arabia's turn."
Experts say it is not clear if the threat is real or empty, but it should be taken seriously considering the long-standing hostile relations between the U.S. and Iran.
Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes there is a shadow war going on between the U.S. and Iran over Iran's nuclear program.
"The U.S. has acknowledged sending drones over Iranian territory, and there's very credible reason to think that the U.S. is responsible for computer viruses. The U.S. has acknowledged sabotaging some of Iran's nuclear equipment. No one is quite sure who's responsible for what," he said.
There are examples of Iranian aggression as well, including "the gentleman who pleaded guilty, for instance, to an Iranian-organized plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, here in Washington, D.C., and there's also credible reason to think that Iran has been behind cyberattacks on U.S. banks in recent months," Clawson said.
On Sept. 29, 2011, Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen living in Texas and holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, was arrested at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and charged with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador at a popular Georgetown restaurant.
U.S. investigators also determined that the Iranian plot involved a plan to blow up the Israeli Embassy.
In the past, the Iranian government has been known to cultivate and associate with organizations capable of devastating operations such as the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Suicide bombers detonated truck bombs that killed 241 American servicemen including 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. Sixty Americans were injured.
Hezbollah, according to U.S. intelligence experts, which carried out that attack, has long been one of Iran's key proxies for covert activity. But Clawson says Iran's covert skills are slipping.
"Hezbollah in Lebanon was once called the A-team of terrorists. Their skills seem to have significantly atrophied in recent years," he said.
But even if Iran's capacity to retaliate against attacks on its nuclear program facilities or other interests is in decline, there are motivations for them to lash out.
"People have been sabotaging the Iranian nuclear program for years, at least four Iranian scientists have been assassinated on the streets of Tehran and it's widely believed that those assassinations were orchestrated by Israel. There have been cyber-attacks against the Iranian nuclear program by the U.S. and Israel," says George Perkovich, vice president for studies and director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"I don't think it's a threat (from Shirazi) that needs to be taken that seriously," Perkovich says, adding that he can understand why Iranians may blame the U.S. because of the growth of attacks in Quetta against Shiites and the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Defense witnesses will appear live from Pakistan via video hookup in a Miami courtroom during the trial of a Muslim cleric accused of financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola approved the unusual testimony in the case of 77-year-old imam Hafiz Khan. The five witnesses will be questioned beginning Feb. 11 at an Islamabad hotel, and jurors will watch on courtroom TV screens. Scola said Tuesday the arrangement is costing $130,000.
Khan is on trial for allegedly funneling at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group. Khan insists the money was for innocent purposes.
Khan's attorney wants Scola to allow six other witnesses to testify from Pakistan. The judge did not immediately rule but seemed inclined to approve the request.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/29/v-print/3206311/live-testimony-from-pakistan-in.html#storylink=cpy
Here is one Muslim cleric, in one trial. Just the testimony by some witnesses for the defense will cost $135,000. How much do you think is the total cost of this: the investigation by the FBI, the time of the police who arrested him, the cost of the trial, including the salary of the judge, court officers, and the defense lawyers paid for by the state? A million dollars? Two million?
And if he is sentenced, say, to ten years, that will cost the state another half-million dollars
This is just one tiny trial, for one Muslim fanatic. Multiply these fantastic sums, all over the Western world, for the investigations and trials and jail, for so many Muslim would-be terrorists. Now add in the tremendous cost for increased security all over the Western world, made necessary by the large-scale presence of Muslims. Now add in the cost to the educational systems, the disruption in the teaching of a Western curriculum to those who do not accvept that curriculum, the cost of meeting (or not meeting) all of the demands made, incessantly, by Musilms for special provisions -- footbaths in public institutions, special prayer rooms, special womens-only hours at swimming pools, and so on. Add it all up. How expensive, how unpleasant, how dangerous to our security. Why is it put up with? Why are people so afraid to ask for the obvious: that their governments halt all Muslim immigration, and do whatever it takes to encourage self-deportation, and if that doesn't work, trying other, more forceful methods. There is no need to make the Western world "friendly" to those whose faith inculcates hatred for all non-Muslims. What's the point? What is the Western world trying to prove?
Malian soldiers are stationed at the entrance of of Gao, Northern Mali, Monday Jan. 28, 2013. French and Malian troops held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao on Sunday as their force also pressed toward Timbuktu, another stronghold of Islamic extremists in northern Mali, officials said. The sign , a reminder of Islamic extremists, reads " Al Hesbah, together for the pleasure of God almighty and the struggle against sins." Photo: AP
GAO, Mali (AP) — It was payback time Tuesday in the newly liberated town of Gao in Mali, with residents hunting down and beating suspected Islamist extremists who had not fled with their brothers-in-arms as Malian and French military forces closed in and retook the town.
Malian troops bundled the men into an army truck, their hands bound behind their backs. For the better part of a year, the al-Qaida-linked extremists had banned music, insisted women cover themselves and began carrying out public executions and amputations in the towns of northern Mali that they controlled.
Now the Islamists' control of the cities has slipped, with the provincial capitals of Gao and Timbuktu coming back under government authority in quick succession with the arrival of French and Malian troops. They also may have lost control of a third key city, Kidal.
France, the former colonial ruler, began sending in troops, helicopters and warplanes on Jan. 11 to turn the tide after the armed Islamists began encroaching on the south, toward the capital. French and Malian troops seized Gao during the weekend, welcomed by joyous crowds. They took Timbuktu on Monday. The Islamists gave up both cities and retreated into the desert.
But not all of them left.
Members of a youth militia, the Gao Patrolmen, went house to house hunting down suspected Islamic extremists in Gao. Abdul Karim Samba, spokesman for the group, said men were scouring the town for remnants of the extremist Islamist group known as the Movement for Unity and Oneness of the Jihad, or MUJAO.
"They are the Islamists who have gone into their homes to hide, so we've been rounding them up to hand them to the military," he told The Associated Press. Troops from Chad, one of the African nations sending soldiers to help restore Malian government control over the whole country, patrolled the streets, and French soldiers joined overnight patrols. The city market was slowly returning to normal.
On Tuesday, Tuareg fighters from a secular rebel group said they were now in charge of Kidal, located some 270 kilometers (170 miles) to the northeast.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad — Azawad is the Tuareg's name for their homeland — appears to have taken advantage of the French-led military offensive to assert themselves in Kidal. Phone lines were down there, making it difficult to independently confirm the group's claim. The loss of Kidal would mean the Islamists no longer control any of the northern provincial capitals that they had seized last April.
On its website, the NMLA said it is ready to work with French troops and fight terror organizations. However, it said it would refuse to allow Malian soldiers in Kidal and the other towns under its control in northeastern Mali, following allegations that the troops killed civilians suspected of having links to the Islamists.
Timbuktu Mayor Ousmane Halle said Tuesday he hopes to return home in the next 48 hours from the capital but that the Islamists had destroyed part of the airport's runway before leaving, making it hard for planes to land.
Halle had a message for Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of the extremist group, Ansar Dine, which imposed strict Shariah law in Timbuktu last year and forced thousands to flee in fear.
"In one of the meetings I had with Iyad Ag Ghali, he told me that the whole world knows he is the master of Timbuktu. But today it's me that is the mayor of Timbuktu, and he is on the run like an animal," Halle told AP.
To help battle the Islamists in their desert hideouts, a U.S. military official says the Pentagon is considering setting up a drone base in northwest Africa to increase intelligence collection.
The official says the U.S. signed an agreement Monday that would set the rules for greater American military presence in Mali's neighbor to the east, Niger, which would be the most likely location for any new drone base. The official in Washington spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decision has been made.
African and Western nations on Tuesday pledged more than $450 million to fund an African-led military force to continue the fight against the Islamist extremists in Mali. The promises of money and equipment were made in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa at a conference held by the African Union, which said $960 million is needed to fund the Mali campaign.
The French military operation has so far met little resistance though experts warn it will be harder to hold on to the towns than it was to recapture them from the Islamists.
France's defense minister said the job was not yet done.
"The operations are not finished, and we need to work alongside African troops and Malian troops until they take over," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Qatargate, Or How A Rich Little City-State Buys And Bribes Its Way Onto The World Stage
Ce "Qatargate" qui ébranle la FIFA
Le Monde.fr avec AFP |
L'enquête s'étale sur seize pages. Elle n'offre pas de révélations fracassantes, mais propose une mise à nu circonstanciée, et solidement étayée, du fonctionnement "d'une instance pourrie de l'intérieur par des années de tripatouillages". Une instance qui n'est autre que la Fédération internationale de football (FIFA), que l'hebdomadaire France Football (édition du 29 janvier) épingle lors d'un dossier consacré à l'attribution au Qatar de la Coupe du monde 2022. Un choix qui cacherait corruption et arrangements, et qui pourrait être la goutte d'eau faisant déborder le vase marécageux où trempe la FIFA.
En lettres blanches sur fond noir, l'hebdomadaire dénonce le "Qatargate", et cette désignation "qui dégage une odeur de scandale qui oblige à se poser la seule question qui vaille : ce vote doit-il être annulé ?". Pour appuyer sa démonstration, France Football cite d'emblée un mail interne à la FIFA dans lequel le secrétaire général de l'institution Jérôme Valcke déclare : "Ils ont acheté le Mondial 2022". Un message que l'expéditeur a ensuite mis sur le compte de la méprise, et de la plaisanterie mal interprêtée. L'hebdomadaire cite également le SuisseGuido Tognoni, exclu de la FIFA en 2003, qui estime qu'il "existe de forts soupçons de compromissions" autour des membres de la Fédération qui ont voté le 2 décembre 2010 pour le Qatar, dont la candidature était portée par un budget colossal de 33,75 millions d'euros.
L'enquête dénoue les fils des multiples réseaux d'influences qui sous-tendent la tentaculaire organisation internationale, soulignant que l'opacité a toujours été de mise. "La marge est étroite, presque invisible, entre collusion d'intérêts et corruption", explique France Football, alors que Luc Dayan, actuel président du RC Lens et proche des autorités du Qatar, rappelle que "les Qataris n'ont fait qu'appliquer des méthodes historiques dans ce milieu. Les insuffisances et les incohérences des modes de gouvernance du sport sont en permanence exploitées".
GRONDONA, TEXEIRA... ET SARKOZY
Le Qatar se serait ainsi appuyé sur de puissants relais, comme le président de la Fédération asiatique Mohammed Bin Hammam, définitivement radié à vie en décembre dernier, le président de la Fédération argentine et vice-président de la FIFA Julio Grondona ou l'ex-président de la Fédération brésilienne (CBF) Ricardo Texeira, qui a démissionné en mars du comité de la FIFA et de la CBF sur fond d'accusations de corruption.
L'hebdomadaire évoque également "une réunion secrète" au Palais de l'Elysée, le 23 novembre 2010, une dizaine de jours avant le vote de la FIFA, entre le président de la République Nicolas Sarkozy, le prince du Qatar, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, Michel Platini, président de l'UEFA, et Sébastien Bazin, représentant de Colony Capital, à l'époque propriétaire du PSG. "Au cours de cette réunion, écrit le journal, il a tour à tour été question du rachat du PSG par les Qataris (devenu effectif en juin 2011), d'une montée de leur actionnariat au sein du groupe Lagardère, de la création d'une chaîne de sport (la future BeIn sport) pour concurrencer Canal + - que Sarkozy voulait fragiliser -, le tout en échange d'une promesse : que Platini (président de l'UEFA) ne donne pas sa voix aux Etats-Unis, comme il l'avait envisagé, mais au Qatar".
Un récit contre lequel s'est élevé Michel Platini. "Croire que mon choix se serait porté sur Qatar 2022 en échange d'arrangements entre l'Etat français et le Qatar n'est que pure spéculation et n'engage que ceux qui écrivent ces mensonges, a assuré le Français dans un communiqué transmis mardi à l'AFP. Je ne m'interdis pas d'attaquer en justice toute personne qui mettra en doute mon intégrité dans ce vote". "J'ai fait mon choix en toute indépendance, en suivant une logique simple (...) : l'ouverture à des pays qui n'ont encore jamais organisé de grands événements sportifs. (...) Dans le même souci de transparence, c'est moi qui avais également révélé aux médias que quelques semaines avant le vote j'avais été convié par Nicolas Sarkozy à un dîner", précise encore Platini après avoir rappelé qu'il avait en toute "transparence" révélé lui-même son vote.
"LES PLUS HAUTS STANDARDS D'ÉTHIQUE"
Interrogés par France Football, les organisateurs du Mondial 2022 ont déclaré : "Nous avons obtenu l'organisation du Mondial 2022 en respectant du début à la fin les plus hauts standards d'éthique et de morale, tels qu'ils étaient définis dans les règlements et le cahier des charges". La FIFA se refuse de son côté à tout commentaire, préférant rappeler que sa commission d'éthique avait affirmé jeudi dernier qu'elle avait "l'intention de mener une enquête approfondie" sur les "allégations concernant des événements survenus dans le cadre de la procédure d'attribution des Coupes du monde 2018 (à la Russie) et 2022".
Une commission d'éthique qui pourrait bénéficier de la nomination à sa tête, le 12 juillet 2012, de l'Américain Michael Garcia, ancien procureur fédéral, spécialisé, entre autres, dans les questions de criminalité financière, et vice-président d'Interpol pour l'Amérique de 2003 à 2006. La présence de Michael Garcia représente, selon France Football, "une petite révolution rendue nécessaire par une succession de constats accablants." En attendant la grande ?
In Mali, Blacks Now Attacking Arab Shops In Revenge
For the black Africans, even the Muslim black Africans, know that Islam undiluted by local culture, is the real Islam, the Islam that has always been the vehicle for Arab supremacism and that is forced upon them by outsiders, that is by Arabs, with their deployment of money, weaponry, and fanatical imams. It was Arabs -- Egyptian pilots in MIGS -- who strafed amd killed tens of thousands of Ibo villagers during the Biafra war, in order to keep fellow Musllms on top. It is Saudi Arabia that is currently financing fanatical imams in Niger, and has been for a dozen years. It is other Arabs, too, including those in Qatar who supplied the weapons in LIbya not to secular, but to fanatical Muslim, opponents of Qaddafy. It was the Sudanese Arabs, or those who think of themselves as Arabs, who not only killed 2.5 million Christian black Africans in the southern Sudan, but also killed 400,000 black African Muslims in Darfur, and drove out even more. For the Arabs, the "Umma" means, in the end, Arab rule, Arab supremacism. And the black Africans, as they see this working out in practice, and come to realize that the real Islam, following Muhammad, has no place for music, may more and more abandon Islam, or at least abandon any pretense of support for Arabs anywhere. And that should start with the attitude of black African Muslims in France, toward the Arabs living there.
After the fall of Timbuktu, 'a time of revenge'
Looters in Timbuktu broke into shops owned by ethnic Arabs and Tuareg Tuesday, a day after French and Malian troops gained control of the historic northern Malian city amid simmering ethnic tensions in the region.
A day after French and Malian troops gained control of Timbuktu from rebels, tensions were rising in the historic northern Malian city as hundreds of people broke into shops owned by ethnic Arabs and Tuareg on Tuesday in a backlash against perceived collaborators.
“After Timbuktu fell yesterday, the situation is now very different,” said FRANCE 24’s Matthieu Mabin, reporting from the centre of Timbuktu. “It’s a time of revenge here and we can see people – everybody, children, old men, women – attacking Arab shops in a misguided idea that those shops were linked to Islamist fighters, which is absolutely not true in many cases.”
According to Mabin, French and Malian troops around the city were stretched thin.
“At the moment, most of the Malian troops and all of the French troops are around the city to secure the battlefield,” said Mabin. “The war is not over around the region of Timbuktu. Hundreds of pickups [bearing rebels] left the city a few days ago. Some left just yesterday [Monday] morning. So, the Malian and French troops are very busy at the moment securing the area around the city.”
Human rights concerns mount
A vast, multi-ethnic West African nation, Mali is home to a variety of ethnic groups, including the Tuaregs and other ethnic groups of North African Berber origins, which comprise about 10 per cent of Mali's total population of 14 million.
Signs of a backlash against the Tuareg and other lighter skinned groups – commonly called Arabs – were evident nearly 10 months ago in the capital of Bamako shortly after northern Mali fell to a motley mix of Tuareg and Islamist rebels.
In the wake of the French-led military intervention this month, there have been concerns of human rights abuses by the poorly trained Malian military.
Earlier this week, FRANCE 24’s Mehdi Chebil documented a case of Malian soldiers targeting an elderly man mistakenly assumed to have Islamist links in the central Malian city of Diabaly.
The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) is currently investigating cases of alleged summary executions by Malian soldiers of individuals believed to have links with the Ansar Dine Islamist group
But in a sign of the difficulties facing troops trying to secure northern Mali, Mabin noted that in some Timbuktu shops, he saw “some ammunition and weapons” being removed by Malian troops.
It was not known if the weapons confiscated from the Arab-owned shops were used or stored by Islamist militants.
International community issues pledges for Mali
The tensions in Timbuktu came as French President François Hollande called on African troops to be on the forefront of the mission to secure northern Mali.
“It is time for the Africans to take over,” Hollande told a news conference in Paris on Monday.
Hollande’s call came a day before an international donors conference opened at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday.
According to a senior AU official, attending nations pledged $455.5 million for the United Nations-authorised, African-led Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). The AU says AFISMA requires an initial budget of $461 million.
The pledges came from African nations such as Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Gambia, as well as developed countries such as the US, Japan, Germany and the UK.
In terms of force deployments, there are currently around 3,500 French troops and 1,900 African soldiers - including Chadians and troops from Niger - deployed alongside the Malian army. In total, some 8,000 African soldiers are expected, but their deployment has been hampered by funding and logistical problems.
Speaking in Addis Ababa Tuesday, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, noted that the situation in Mali requires a “fast and efficient” response because it “threatens Mali, the region, the continent and beyond”.
All eyes on Kidal
Click on map to enlarge
Meanwhile in Timbuktu, order was somewhat restored by Tuesday afternoon when Malian troops finally moved in.
Electricity had not returned and residents said there was no water supply since water-pumps were not working. The telephone network has also not been in service over the past few days and there were still food shortages.
With Timbuktu controlled by French and Malian forces, the north-eastern city of Kidal is the last major northern Malian city still under rebel control.
Rebels from a Tuareg separatist group have told FRANCE 24 that they are in control of the city and are ready to negotiate with French troops. However, the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) said it would not allow Malian soldiers into Kidal, underscoring the political challenges that continue to confront Mali.
Former Associate Calls Morsi a 'Master of Disguise'
By Dieter Bednarz and Volkhard Windfuhr in Cairo
Is Mohammed Morsi a peacebroker or a virulent anti-Semite? A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has known Morsi for 13 years, believes that behind the Egyptian president's veneer of goodwill towards Israel lies a deep-seated hatred.
Mohammed Morsi can be very sympathetic, even toward Jews, as evidenced by an extremely friendly letter the Egyptian president sent to Israel last October. The president had personally written the letter of accreditation, for his new ambassador in Tel Aviv, to his counterpart Shimon Peres, whom he addressed as a "Dear Friend." In the letter, Morsi clearly invoked the "good relations" that "fortunately exist between our countries," and pledged to "preserve and strengthen" them.
The government in Jerusalem had not expected such warm words from a president who had emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood. Unsure whether they were perhaps the victims of a forgery, the Israelis published the letter. But Cairo confirmed that it was indeed genuine, and Jerusalem reacted with relief. The Jewish state had lost a reliable partner with the ouster of Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak, and now there was hope that perhaps Morsi would not confirm all of Israel's fears.
But the Egyptian president, who is visiting Berlin this week and will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a champion of Israel, appears to be a man with two faces. He is conciliatory as Egypt's leader, saying that he wants to be the "president of all Egyptians," even though only about a quarter of the country's 50 million eligible voters voted for him. And, of course, he insists that his country will fulfill all of its obligations from the Mubarak era, including both the peace treaty with Israel and a policy of close cooperation with the United States.
In mid-January, however, Western diplomats and politicians saw a very different Mohammed Morsi, a man filled with hate for the "Zionist entity," the term Islamists use for the Jewish state. An almost three-year-old video, published by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), depicts an Islamist who is practically foaming at the mouth, as he rants about the Israelis in an interview with an Arab network. Speaking in a deep and firm voice, he calls them "bloodsuckers" and "warmongers," and says that there can be no peace with these "descendants of apes and pigs."
It was apparently more than just a regrettable moment of madness for Morsi, claims a prominent former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. After all, he says, the current president served as general inspector of the Muslim Brotherhood for years, which put him in charge of the group's online service. That service includes quotes about Israelis and Jews that testify to the same hatred as the lapses in the video.
Despite outrage internationally and at the White House over the video, Morsi was unperturbed by the furor over his remarks. In the end, his spokesman said that Morsi's words had been taken out of context, but offered no further explanation or apology. When SPIEGEL reporters appeared at the presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis last week after having received approval for an interview with Morsi, they were turned away.
To comprehend the Egyptian president and grasp how the Muslim Brotherhood shapes its members, it helps to speak with men who knew Morsi during his time with the Islamist organization -- and who also have the courage to speak openly about the group. Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, 38, talks about how dangerous this can be. Last October, after he had spoken about quitting the Brotherhood to Egyptian newspapers and in TV appearances, masked men opened fire on Sharnoubi's car with submachine guns.
For Sharnoubi, a lanky man, keeping a constant eye out for suspicious characters has become second nature. He takes a cautious look around as he walks into the Café Riche in downtown Cairo, and when he sits down, he makes sure that he has a good view of the entire establishment. He orders tea, rolls himself a cigarette and then tells the story of his time with the Muslim Brotherhood and the current president, to whom he derisively refers as "doctor."
When they first met in 2000, both men were already successful. Sharnoubi, the son of an imam in the Nile delta, joined the Brotherhood at 13. He eventually advanced within the regimented organization to become a member of its information committee. Morsi, for his part, had made it into the Egyptian parliament. Because members of the Muslim Brotherhood were not allowed to run for political office under Mubarak, Morsi masqueraded as an "independent." The two men had had "a lot of contact with each other" to further their goal of spreading the Brotherhood's message as widely as possible, says Sharnoubi.
For information expert Sharnoubi, Morsi was "a typical man from the country, a fellah with peasant origins who quickly integrated himself into the machine." At the time, claims Sharnoubi, Morsi was "downright submissive to the Brotherhood's leadership." Morsi was apparently completely opposed to the Brotherhood becoming more open, as Sharnoubi had advocated. "He fought against any internal democratization."
It seemed "inconceivable" to Sharnoubi that Morsi's group would one day assume power in Egypt. In fact, he says, he would have "found it even less likely" that Morsi, a modest member of parliament, would become president. Even in the highest government position, Morsi cannot have shed the Brotherhood's mission like an old suit, says Sharnoubi. "A man like Morsi, with such deep convictions, can't do that. If we hear anything else from him, it'll be a pretense." He explains that Morsi owes his survival under autocrat Mubarak to this "talent for assimilation," and that he is a "master of disguise."
There is too much at stake now, says Sharnoubi. There are the aid payments from Europe and the United States, which Egypt's ailing economy urgently needs. And Morsi himself also needs the West's goodwill. If there is a "power struggle with democratically minded forces," he says, the president will depend on intercession from Washington, Brussels and Berlin.
Sharnoubi wasn't surprised by the Morsi hate video. "Agitation against the Israelis is in keeping with the way Morsi thinks. For the Morsi I know, any cooperation with Israel is a serious sin, a crime." Morsi's choice of words is also nothing new, says Sharnoubi. As proof, he opens his black laptop and shows us evidence of the former Muslim Brotherhood member's true sentiments.
Indeed, the video gaffes do not appear to be a one-time occurrence. In 2004 Morsi, then a member of the Egyptian parliament, allegedly raged against the "descendants of apes and pigs," saying that there could be "no peace" with them. The remarks were made at a time when Israeli soldiers had accidentally shot and killed three Egyptian police officers. The source of the quote can hardly be suspected of incorrectly quoting fellow Brotherhood members: Ichwan Online, the Islamist organization's website.
Few people are as familiar with the contents of that website as Sharnoubi, who was the its editor-in-chief until 2011. The current president became the general inspector of the organization in 2007, says Sharnoubi. In this capacity, Morsi would have been partly responsible for the anti-Jewish propaganda on the website, which featured the "banner of jihad" at the time and saw "Jews and Zionists as archenemies." The threats are attributed to the undisputed leader of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badi. According to the website, Badi's creed is: "Resistance is the only solution against Zionist-American arrogance and tyranny."
It was under the editorship of Sharnoubi, who stresses that he condemns the "Israeli government's settlement policy," that Morsi gave a self-promoting interview in May 2009. Referring to the Israelis, the current president said: "They all have the same nature. They are equally shaped by shrewdness, deception and hate." He added that their only objectives are "killing, aggression and subjugation."
Former fellow Muslim Brotherhood member Sharnoubi expects "no words of regret, at least not sincere ones," for his offensive remarks in the scandalous film. Anti-Israeli rhetoric, he says, is a "cornerstone of the Brotherhood's ideology."
Sharnoubi assumes that cordial moves like the letter to Peres have only one goal: "To secure and expand the dominance of the Brotherhood." Only recently, the president issued a decree that gave him absolute powers, and Morsi currently controls all three branches of government. "He has secured more power than his predecessor Mubarak ever had."
Sharnoubi's vision of a future Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood is horrifying. "They will infiltrate all areas of our society: government offices and ministries, schools and universities, as well as the police and the military. They will eliminate their enemies."
Isn't he exaggerating?
"Not in the least," says Sharnoubi, noting that the Brotherhood is already infiltrating the security apparatus. "The Brotherhood will never give up its power without a fight."
When he leaves the café, Sharnoubi looks toward Tahrir Square, where there is no end to the turmoil. Last Friday, once again, there was rioting and there were clashes between Morsi opponents and the police, and some were killed or injured. For Sharnoubi, this is "merely a small foretaste of an imminent popular uprising."
Some In Egypt Might Want To Help Themselves To Libyan Oil
From The Gulf News (Bahrain):
Jan. 30, 2013
Reconciliation cannot wait
By Karim Mezran
The famous Egyptian analyst and writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal recently revived an old theory in an interview on Egyptian television: Egypt can claim a right to the fertile and oil-rich lands of the eastern Libyan provinces since millions of Egyptians are descended from Libyan tribes that once lived on the Egyptian-Libyan border. Heikal also implied that reclaiming these historically Egyptian lands might help Egypt address its dire economic problems.
Following these comments Lebanese newspaper Al Diyar published a controversial article quoting Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil acknowledging the validity of Heikal's theory. The Egyptian newspaper Dostour immediately published a denial from Qandil claiming he never made such remarks. The story should have died there, but Libyan domestic politics and rivalries would not allow that to happen.
In an effort to challenge Mohamed Magariaf (head of Libya's General National Congress, or GNC) former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril gave undue credit to the Al Diyar report. Jibril's intent was to cause embarrassment to Magariaf, his top political adversary, and he even suggested that failing to respond would be tantamount to forfeiting Libyan sovereignty. Some might argue that Jibril and his allies were implying that the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood was colluding with its Egyptian counterpart on the supposed land deal, which would be a major boon to the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
However, the entire dispute is moot: the Egyptian Prime Minister never said anything to corroborate Heikal's theory. Given the current fragility of Libyan institutions and the deteriorating security situation, even minor conflicts have the potential to become explosive if not addressed, especially at a time when politicians are focused intently on positioning themselves for a future role in government. As out of touch as Heikal's claim may sound, it is likely that Jibril responded publicly because he knew that the issue of Egyptian claims to Libyan land would resonate with Libyans. Currently hundreds of thousands of Libyans many of whom sympathise with the former regime are living in Egypt, and fearing retaliation, refuse to return home without a national reconciliation process.
Many of these post-revolution political refugees have ties to the Egyptian state apparatus and could, however unlikely, utilise tribal networks in the Sahara to stake Egyptian claims over the eastern Libyan provinces. One such example is Ahmed Qaddaf Al Dam, a cousin of Gadaffi and a former adviser on Libya-Egypt relations in the decades before the fall of Gadaffi and Mubarak; he is considered one of the most influential Qaddafians, and a man who some believe could lead such a campaign.
The importance of defusing tension among exiled Libyans cannot be understated. More than one million Libyan political refugees are estimated to be living in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. This number accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the total Libyan population, a number which makes it practically impossible for the country to move forward, achieve stability, and remain united if these Libyans in exile are not brought into the fold and convinced they have a stake in the country's future.
Thus far the GNC has avoided meaningful national reconciliation and, instead, proposed a divisive political isolation law. The law's broad exclusion is reminiscent of Gadaffi's tactics of alienation and can potentially turn even the most moderate political opponent into a diehard enemy of the state; this would prove fatal for Libya's transition to a pluralistic system.
Powerful forces are at work to destabilise the Libyan transition, most notably, former members of the Gadaffi regime and sympathisers who have taken refuge across Libya's borders. What catalyses many of these forces is a sense of dispossession and the impulse for revenge. A healthy process of national reconciliation would help to weaken the consensus among these forces on the need to thwart the Libyan transition. Moreover, national reconciliation would constitute a major step forward in the realisation of a stable, open, and democratic Libyan polity.
The Egyptian president's trip to Berlin is an opportunity for the West to call him out on worrisome trends.
When video footage from 2010 of then-Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi calling Jews "the descendants of apes and pigs" surfaced two weeks ago, it properly focused international attention on the Brotherhood's bigoted ideology. Morsi's comments, after all, are just the tip of the iceberg for the Brotherhood, which has long argued that Egyptian Christians should be barred from running for president, and which recently pushed through a new constitution that denies religious rights to Baha'is and Shiites.
Given that the Muslim Brotherhood is now Egypt's ruling party and Morsi is Egypt's president, the international community must challenge the Brotherhood on its many hatreds to ensure that they are never acted upon. In this vein, Morsi's visit to Germany on Wednesday represents an important opportunity to force him to recant perhaps the vilest example of the Brotherhood's intolerance: its denial of the Holocaust.
Ironically, Morsi's visit will come only days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which the German government first established in 1996 and the United Nations later recognized in 2005 to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Although the purpose of Holocaust Remembrance Day is to raise awareness of genocides to prevent them from being repeated, the Muslim Brotherhood used the occasion in 2010 to argue that the Holocaust is "the largest swindling operation in history."
According to the Brotherhood, American intelligence agencies invented the Holocaust "myth" during World War II "to destroy the image of their German opponents" and "to justify a massive war of destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers." In its revisionist history, the Brotherhood further accused "world Zionists and Israel" of using the Holocaust for "the political and financial blackmail of Germany and other Eastern European countries," claiming that reparations "didn't go to the Holocaust victims or their heirs, but to the Israeli war treasury in the greatest funding operation for the real Holocaust against the Palestinian people." Finally, the Brotherhood invented statistics to argue that many fewer than six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. "The German census established that the number of German Jews ranged from 600-700,000 and half-a-million remained when the war ended," according to the Brotherhood's Holocaust history, "And this doesn't include the Jews who died because of natural death, road accidents, and as victims of Allied air raids."
While many dismiss Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's Holocaust revisionism as offensive rhetoric with little bearing on policy, that is not how Egypt's non-Islamist opposition sees it. When all liberal and Christian members withdrew from the Brotherhood-dominated constitution-writing assembly in November, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei explained to Der Spiegel, "We all fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will pass a document with Islamist undertones that marginalizes the rights of women and religious minorities. Who sits in this group? One person, who wants to ban music, because it's allegedly against Sharia law; another, who denies the Holocaust; another, who openly condemns democracy." In other words, the Brotherhood's hateful denial of genocide is the proverbial canary in the coalmine -- an important signal of its deeply intolerant nature that may foreshadow disaster for Egypt's religious minorities domestically, as well as for the future of regional peace.
Indeed, during its first year as Egypt's new ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood has stoked sectarian tensions repeatedly by blaming Egypt's declining fortunes on its Christian minority. For example, following a January 15 train crash that left 19 dead and over 100 injured, a Brotherhood youth Facebook page emphasized that the train operator was Christian, and proceeded to list other train accidents that involved Christian drivers. Similarly, the Brotherhood has tarred its opponents by posting images of opposition leaders standing with prominent Christians on Facebook and accusing a prominent Christian businessman of trying to launch a coup. And during the chaotic protests of the past few days, the Brotherhood's official website accused Christians of leading "Black Bloc," an anonymous group that has been clashed violently with police.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has stated repeatedly that it intends to end the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. In this vein, the Brotherhood's legal committee announced in November that it was drafting legislation to unilaterally amend the treaty, and a top Brotherhood foreign policy official told a closed salon that Morsi was "cancelling normalization with the Zionist entity gradually." Most alarmingly, in recent months, the Supreme Guide twice called on Muslims to launch a "holy jihad" for Jerusalem.
Given Germany's central role in combating Holocaust denial as a mechanism for preaching tolerance, it should not forgo the opportunity to press Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues on their hateful views. Morsi, after all, is coming to Europe hat-in-hand, asking for billions of dollars to bail out Egypt's struggling economy. German officials and media should therefore expect Morsi to behave like a responsible leader who understands the painful realities of history, and not like a hateful ideologue that seeks to revise it. By forcing him to choose now, Germany might be able to divert Egypt from its current trajectory towards intolerance and conflict.