Police in France have arrested some 20 suspected Islamists in dawn raids, French media say. Several of the raids were in Toulouse, where gunman Mohamed Merah operated, but also took place in other cities.
Merah, who killed seven people in three separate attacks, was buried in Toulouse on Thursday after being killed in a shoot-out with police on 22 March. Police have been hunting possible accomplices but sources said there was no direct link with the raids. Merah's brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with aiding him and police are hunting a third man said to be involved in the theft of a scooter that Merah used in all the killings.
Merah's brother Abdelkader told police that when he helped his brother steal the Yamaha T-Max scooter used in the killings there was another person in the car. His identity has not been revealed. But on Thursday they discovered a stolen Renault Clio containing parts of the motorbike and the crash helmet used by Merah 80 miles (130km) from the council house in Toulouse where he was shot dead last week.
Another part of the investigation is the USB memory stick that was posted to the al-Jazeera TV channel containing the video he took of the killings. It was dropped in a post box in the Toulouse area on the day the siege of Merah's flat began, which means someone else posted it. If a third man is on the loose, it raises the possibility there is another active terrorist prepared to strike again
The raids were carried out by the domestic intelligence agency, the DCRI, with the help of the elite Raid police commando group, Agence France-Presse news agency reports.
Several of the raids were in Toulouse, particularly the Mirail quarter, sources told AFP. But there were also raids in Nantes, which is believed to be a centre for the Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) group, to which Merah had been linked by some French media. It is a Salafist group that was dissolved by the interior ministry in an earlier investigation.
Other arrests took place in Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Nice and Le Mans. Police sources told AFP that some weapons had been seized, including at least one Kalashnikov rifle.
A not entirely unexpected result. May the Islamics of my father-in-law's birthplace have much joy of this vile man, for the first few months. From The Telegraph
George Galloway scored a dramatic victory in the Bradford West by-election, securing a 10,000-plus majority in what he called a "massive rejection" of mainstream parties. Other parties who reject the mainstream find the electoral 'system' weighted agin them.
He claimed the result represented the "Bradford spring". "By the Grace of God we have won the most sensational victory in British political history," the maverick Respect candidate wrote on Twitter as votes were counted.
Respect swept from fifth place at the 2010 general election to a commanding victory for the ex-Labour anti-war campaigner against his former party on a swing of 36.59%. It was "the most sensational result in British by-election history bar none", he said on stage after being declared the victor with well over half the total votes.
As a jubilant Mr Galloway left the sports hall he was mobbed by his supporters and had to retreat back into the building. As he left again he was hoisted onto the shoulders of supporters as people chanted "Respect", while others said: "We love you George." Mr Galloway was carried around the side of the building as his supporters continued to chant and cheer.
Labour went into the contest - sparked by the resignation due to ill-health of Marsha Singh - the overwhelming favourites with bookmakers. Some had closed their books yesterday, however, after receiving a late flurry of large bets that Mr Galloway would cause a serious upset. This alone smacks of electoral corruption, endemic in areas with a high Muslim population. Marsha Singh always seemed like a decent man, but as a Sikh in an area becomeing increasingly, militantly, Islamic I am not surprised his health suffered.
As he did in the 2005 general election, when he dramatically swiped an east London seat from his former party, Mr Galloway targeted the votes of a large Asian community. Turnout in the poll was just over 50% - considered high for such a contest, especially in an urban area.
Mr Galloway told Sky News he had won a "big victory" - winning at least 50 per cent of the vote in some areas and doing well in areas without large Muslim populations.
Unlike after his 2005 election victory in Bethnal Green and Bow, where he had said he would serve only one term, he said he hoped to be MP for Bradford for the long term.
The newspapers are calling this a worrying defeat for Labour - it is more a worrying victory for Islam. Labour brought huge numbers of immigrants in to ensure a pool of permanent Labour voters; with the most vociferous immigrant group of all they are being out manouvered and we will all suffer. Galloway's legacy in Tower Hamlets is the installation of the Islamist, Respect party Mayor, Lutfur Rahman. Who knows what he will do to Bradford.
Sana’a—A bid to release a Swiss woman kidnapped in Yemen has suffered a blow after her abductors made excessive demands, including for Osama bin Laden’s widows to be freed, a tribal chief said Thursday. Al-Qaeda militants abducted the woman on March 14 from her home in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, where she had been teaching at a foreign language institute.
She was taken to far eastern Shabwa province. Tribal chief Ali Abdullah Zibari said, however, that mediation efforts had so far failed because of excessive demands placed by her captors, including the release of bin Laden’s widows held in Pakistan. Zibari said the Islamic extremists also demanded the release of several women held in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in return for the Swiss captive.
“Their initial demands for the release of (former Al-Qaeda chief) Osama bin Laden’s wives held in Pakistan were rejected by Yemeni officials last week,” Zibari told AFP, adding the group then placed new conditions for the Swiss woman’s return. “Now they’re demanding the release of 100 Al-Qaeda affiliated militants from Yemeni jails and 50 million euros (66 million dollars)... at which point the mediation efforts failed because of the prohibitive demands,” he said.
Zibari played a crucial role in the release last November of three French aid workers kidnapped by Al-Qaeda and held for five months. Shabwa province is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), which has expanded its influence in recent months, taking advantage of the political turmoil that has swept the country and forced the resignation of veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Kidnappings were common even before the uprising against Saleh’s rule that began last year. More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities. Almost all of those kidnapped were later freed unharmed.—AFP
The letter George Galloway sent to Bradford's Muslims
From Cranmer's Blog. I have believed him to be a Muslim for a long time, since his marriage to the niece of Yasser Arafat ( I think she was wifey No3 - his current squeeze is a mere possession of the right hand) if not before, and his alleged Catholicism to be taqyiia.
UNITED NATIONS, March 29 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday at a political deterioration in Yemen threatening a transition to democracy in the Middle East state where year-long protests ended former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.
Saleh was formally replaced last month when Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was elected under the terms of an agreement crafted by his Gulf neighbors, with U.S. and U.N. backing, that envisions elections in 2014. The military is to be restructured in the meantime.
But the year of protests against Saleh and fighting among Yemeni factions have allowed al Qaeda's regional wing to seize parts of south Yemen and Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels to carve out their own domain in the north.
"The Security Council expresses concern at the recent deterioration in cooperation among political actors and the risks this poses to the transition," the 15-nation panel said in a statement. "The Security Council expresses its strong concern about intensified terrorist attacks."
A split in the military has also led to fighting among rival units and threatened to tip into civil war in one of the poorest countries in the Arab world.
"The national reconciliation government is still facing grave challenges that hinder the implementation of its developmental and economic programs," Yemen's new U.N. ambassador, Jamal Abdullah al-Sallal, told the Security Council.
The council also said it noted "with concern that children continue to be recruited and used by armed groups and certain elements of the military and calls for continued national efforts to discourage the use and recruitment of child soldiers."
It said all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable, without mentioning Saleh specifically.
Asked by reporters if the council believed this should apply to Saleh, British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who holds the Security Council's rotating presidency this month, said: "We believe it should apply in all cases. I don't want to comment though on particular individuals in the case of Yemen."
Saleh was given immunity from prosecution under the deal reached for him to step down. The United Nations has said it is unable to recognize such immunity deals and human rights groups have sharply criticized Yemen's amnesty law.
The U.N. council called upon political actors in Yemen to remain committed to the political transition and constitutional order. It urged them to play a constructive role and reject violence.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are keen for the Gulf transition plan to work, fearing that a power vacuum in Yemen is giving Islamist militants space to thrive alongside a key crude shipping strait in the Red Sea.
Saleh's son and nephew have control of key units armed for "counter-terrorism" by the United States, which was the target of an abortive plot by the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda to blow up a U.S. airliner as it approached Detroit in 2009.
Many southerners complain that northerners have discriminated against them and usurped their resources. Most of Yemen's fast-declining oil reserves are in the south. The central government has denied there was any discrimination against the south.
Yemeni factions, including separatists who want to reinstate a southern state which united with the north in 1990, have been invited to a national dialogue ahead of a parliamentary poll.
The Security Council also urged all parties in Yemen to allow unimpeded safe access for humanitarian aid.
"The Security Council notes the formidable economic and social challenges confronting Yemen, which have left many Yemenis in acute need of humanitarian assistance," it said.
The Yemeni envoy said 8 million people were in urgent need of aid and that their lives were "in jeopardy."
"During the last year and as a result of the unstable political situation in Yemen and terrorist attacks we have witnessed this has adversely affected the humanitarian situation," Sallal said.
In Libya, After Qaddafy, A Sense Of National Purpose
From The Washington Post:
Dozens killed in violence in Libya’s south
By Borzou Daragahi
BEIRUT — Dozens of people have reportedly been killed in violence between communities in southern Libya over the past several days, underscoring the country’s volatility since the downfall last year of its longtime autocratic leader, Moammar Gaddafi.
Official news media reported late Wednesday that more than 50 people had been killed and 150 injured in clashes between rival armed groups in the main southern city of Sabha, which lies 105 miles from Libya’s Murzuk oil fields.
By Thursday, officials and a witness said, calm had been restored, with the central government in Tripoli dispatching nearly 3,000 troops by land and air to reestablish order. A meeting of tribal elders had also helped to restore calm.
“Now the situation is quiet,” said Fadi Esmali, a freelance journalist in Sabha who was reached by telephone. “I can hear the air force planes overhead bringing in more soldiers.”
The causes of the clashes, which pitted Arabs against Tabu tribesmen, remained murky. Some reports cited a dispute over a motor vehicle that had gone out of control. But Esmali said the violence had deeper roots in tensions between the two communities.
The Tabu, with ties to neighboring Chad, had threatened to break away from Libya over perceived discrimination by the country’s new leaders.
“If the need arises, we will demand international intervention and seek to establish a state, like South Sudan,” Issa Abdul Majid Mansour, leader of the Tabu Salvation Front, declared on Wednesday, according to the English-language Libya Herald.
The Tabu tribesmen were subject to forced evictions and travel restrictions under Gaddafi. But many Libyans who supported the 2011 revolutionary war say they suspect them of having supported the former government. Gaddafi imported hundreds of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa during his failed efforts to quell the uprising.
Esmali said, however, that the latest tensions had arisen over how $4 million recently allocated by the interim Transitional National Council would be distributed among various constituencies in Sabha.
“They fight for money, not for any other reason,” he said.
Many observers say they worry that tensions could flare up again. Both sides in the fight are holding captives.
TRIPOLI, Libya — Fighters from the town of Zintan stormed into and shot up the luxury hotel that is the de facto base for members of Libya’s ruling Transitional National Council over the weekend, days after members of the council acknowledged that a rival militia from Misurata had kidnapped and briefly detained two of its members last week.
The abduction and the hotel attack are new blows to the public prestige of the council, once a symbol of hope for the revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Since his ouster, the council has been criticized for failing to control the freewheeling militias that sprang up as the government collapsed. Brigades from Zintan and Misurata are still a major presence in the capital. Fighters from Zintan have been in control of the airport; fighters from Misurata, the seaport.
In recent interviews, members of the transitional council said that fighters from Misurata had kidnapped two council members, Salem Il Bahlil and Ali Tawfiq Alshtewi, because the officials were suspected of having ties to the former government, although the precise reasons for the abduction could not be determined. They were released after more senior figures from Misurata intervened, the members said.
“More than half of power is the projection of power,” Ali Tarhuni, the former interim oil minister and deputy prime minister, said of the kidnappings, and the transitional council’s projection of power “has been chipped away.”
The members who had been detained could not be reached for comment.
The attack on the hotel, the Rixos, began after a billing dispute, but it has nonetheless struck a chord here, in part because the hotel itself has come to represent popular resentment of both the council and the militia fighters.
The Rixos is Tripoli’s finest hotel, where rooms cost more than $200 a night. Before the revolution it was a favored spot for the Qaddafi elite. Now, instead of pro-Qaddafi officials, visitors can often find members of the transitional council chatting at its coffee bar over $5 cappuccinos — about seven times the normal price here.
Fighters from Zintan have been at the Rixos, too. The fighters secured the property and, apparently, at least one moved in.
Hotel employees said the dispute began Saturday after the hotel asked the Zintan fighter to settle an unpaid bill. News reports said it dated to September.
Angry fighters from Zintan burst into the lobby on Saturday, firing guns at the ceiling. Although no one was harmed, all the guests left for their safety, said Saqer al-Enezi, a hotel clerk. “They did not feel secure,” he said, “but I am a brave heart.”
By Sunday, he said, guards working for the transitional government were protecting the grounds, although the guests had not returned. Mr. Enezi said he believed that the hotel would reopen on Monday. “Everything is fine,” he said. “You are welcome to stay here, although there is no food right now.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — Asma W., 36, ran away from her husband after he beat her, threw boiling water on her, gave her a sexually transmitted disease and announced that he would marry his mistress.
Fawzia, 15, took refuge with a family that drugged her and forced her into prostitution.
Farah G., 16, fell in love with her friend’s brother and eloped with him.
Gulpari M., 16, was kidnapped off the street by a stalker who decided he wanted to marry her; she turned him in to the first policeman she saw.
All of these women and girls were jailed, joining hundreds of imprisoned Afghan women convicted of so-called moral crimes — often based on the testimony of their own abusers.
They were some of the case studies cited in a report released on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed 58 women and girls in prison and found that more than half of them were there for acts that in most countries would not be considered crimes.
Many of them were locked up simply for running away, which is not a crime even under the Afghan penal code, Human Rights Watch said. The group called on the Afghan government to release about 400 women and girls imprisoned for similar accusations.
Saida T., 16, was separated from her brother in a crowd, and accused of having had sex outside of marriage, a crime in Afghanistan. A vaginal test proved she was a virgin, so she was accused of running away instead, and jailed.
The group said that Afghanistan’s model new legislation to protect women, the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which President Hamid Karzai enacted in 2009, had done little to end traditional practices like baad — giving away daughters to settle family scores — as well as forced and under-age marriages, and violent abuse by close relatives.
“The majority of the women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report appear to have been victims of acts criminalized under the E.V.A.W. law, although those who had committed these crimes were rarely arrested, prosecuted, or convicted,” the report said.
It cited the case of one young woman who fled her home after her husband stabbed her in the head, arms and chest with a screwdriver. The prosecutor said her injuries were not severe enough to charge the husband, because she had not died.
“While the women and girls who flee abuse often end up incarcerated, the men responsible for the domestic violence and forced marriages causing flight almost always enjoy impunity from prosecution,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, criticized what it said was Mr. Karzai’s mixed record on women’s rights. Early this month he issued a decree that women who flee their homes to marry someone of their own choosing should be pardoned, but he also signed off this month on a recent declaration by the country’s highest religious authority, the Ulema Council, which has alarmed women’s rights advocates.
The Ulema Council said that women were secondary to men, should never travel without male chaperons and should neither work nor study if it meant mixing with men.
“Ten years after the fall of Taliban rule, abuses against women and girls are widespread, and redress limited or nonexistent,” the report said. “It is a sad irony that Afghanistan’s relatively scarce resources for criminal justice are being used to prosecute and incarcerate women and girls for actions that should never be crimes, while impunity reigns for most perpetrators of serious human rights violations and violence against women and girls.”
Human Rights Watch’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, who was in Kabul to release the report, met with Afghan justice officials to discuss the findings. “The government seems to be defending the ‘running away’ prosecutions because that’s what’s always been done, but the defense is weak and, I sense, vulnerable,” he said. “I’m optimistic that we might be able to end this particular persecution of women victims.”
PESHAWAR: Dr Shakil Afridi, a government surgeon who helped the CIA uncover Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, was sacked by the health department of Thursday, amid calls for him to face treason charges.
“The government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has issued a notification of dismissal of Dr Shakeel Afridi,” provincial health secretary Ashfaq Khan told reporters.
The notification stated that Afridi had been terminated under the Efficiency & Disciplinary (E&D) Rules guideline for being involved in anti-state activities.
Seventeen other health officials, who worked on the same fake vaccination program set up by the CIA in a bid to confirm the al Qaeda chief was living in Abbottabad, have already been sacked from their government posts, he added. Fifteen lady health workers were dismissed last August, and a woman doctor and an assistant coordinator were sacked on March 17.
Afridi, who worked for years as a government surgeon in Khyber Agency, is currently in police custody, while the panel investigating the Bin Laden raid has recommended that Afridi be put on trial for treason.
In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Afridi had aided US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify Bin Laden’s presence, and expressed concern about Pakistan’s treatment of him.
“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan,” Panetta said while appearing in CBS television’s “60 Minutes” programme.
“For them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.”
Panetta said he believed someone in authority in Pakistan knew where Bin Laden was hiding and as a result Islamabad was not warned about the raid.
The government has pleaded ignorance regarding Bin Laden’s whereabouts and said the raid was a violation of its sovereignty. The operation severely damaged relations with the US, which have struggled to recover and are currently under parliamentary review.
British newspaper The Guardian reported last July that the CIA set up a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad in the hope of obtaining DNA samples from the house where they suspected Bin Laden was living. Afridi had been recruited by the agency in the elaborate scheme to verify if those living in the house were Bin Laden and his family, under the pretext of vaccinating the residents for polio. US intelligence was not 100% certain that the al Qaeda chief was living in the Abbottabad house when President Barack Obama gave the approval for Navy SEALs to raid the compound on May 2.
Algeria, Fifty Years After: Will People Finally Dare To Say Everything?
Algérie, France : enfin oser tout dire ?
Rédigé par Martine Gozlan - Marianne le Vendredi 30 Mars 2012
Un demi-siècle après les accords d’Evian du 19 mars 1962, osera t-on enfin tout dire sur cette histoire tragique entre l’Algérie et la France ? Des deux côtés de la Méditerranée, les mémoires cheminent, de génération en génération, toujours inguérissables. De grands témoins des deux rives se souviendront, se parleront, en affrontant le passé et le présent, au rendez-vous de Marseille, dans le décor du Théâtre de la Criée, ce week-end, pour le colloque organisé par Marianne, en collaboration avec le quotidien arabophone algérien El Khabar et France-Inter.
(Alger : vie quotidienne pendant la guerre d'Algérie - DALMAS/SIPA)
Voilà une histoire, une histoire double, qui n’en finit pas de hanter ceux qui furent ses acteurs, ses victimes ou ses vainqueurs. Autour de la guerre d’Algérie, cinquante ans après, point de silence et point de trêve. Au contraire, de génération en génération, le fleuve de mots, d’émotions, de réflexes encore à fleur de peau, peau de chagrin, continue à couler comme les larmes et le sang ineffaçable. Du côté algérien, le manteau de gloire dans lequel se drape l’histoire nationale algérienne, et dont l’éternelle invocation permet d’occulter un présent blessé ; du côté français, le masque fragile de la fausse sérénité qui cache le manque - celui d’un pays auquel appartenait le million d’exilés pieds-noirs - les hontes (la torture) les trahisons (les harkis) et l’absence de tout dialogue autre que conflictuel sur la question entre Alger et Paris. Amère Méditerranée qui, entre les deux rives, charrie toujours ses vaisseaux-fantôme au cruel soleil qui nous interdit l’oubli.
C’est au bord de cette mer de mots, cette mère de maux, que Marianne, ces vendredi 30, samedi 31 mars et dimanche 1er avril, au théâtre de la Criée, fait le pari d’une rencontre improbable entre les grands témoins d’aujourd’hui et d’hier, Algériens et Français. Pour écouter, échanger, réfléchir autour de cette relation qui constitue à la fois un divorce et un lien, le choix de Marseille s’est imposé de lui-même.
Ville franco-algérienne qui a accueilli les exils et métissé les cultures, ce sera aussi la capitale européenne de la culture en 2013. Nulle part mieux qu’à Marseille se croisent, s’affrontent ou se fertilisent les réalités et les imaginaires de tous ceux dont les racines, proches ou lointaines, se trouvent en Algérie. Pour des débats qui reviendront autant sur les blessures et les tabous de l’histoire que sur leurs reflet dans les identités d’aujourd’hui, notre assemblée devait se dérouler au bord de cette « Grande Bleue », réverbération flottante, tour à tour lumineuse et tragique des différents arrachements.
Mémoire algérienne, mémoire harkie, mémoire pied-noir, mémoire juive: ce qui fit et perpétue encore la douleur sera raconté, examiné, discuté au cours de nos échanges. Les enlèvements d’Européens à Oran, en juillet 1962, leur assassinat en toute impunité et sans que la police française sorte de ses casernes… Les massacres de Harkis en Algérie et leur abandon atroce par l’armée de la République dont ils étaient pourtant les supplétifs et les enfants… La fascination autant que le rejet de la langue française qui servit à désigner, dans une guerre plus proche, celle de l’intégrisme, les victimes algériennes francophones des Groupes islamiques armés, ancêtres d’Al Qaida au Maghreb Islamique.
Osera-t-on tout dire ? Nous ne sommes pas assez présomptueux pour croire que la parole se libèrera dans sa totalité. D’ailleurs, il faut des digues. Les historiens – Benjamin Stora, Sylvie Thénault, Jean-Jacques Jordi, Pascal Blanchard- seront là pour les construire. Au moins, verra-t-on à Marseille des hommes et des femmes que rien ne rassemble et qui ne se seraient sans doute jamais rencontrés si nous ne les avions conviés à la même tribune. C’est ainsi que le secrétaire général du FLN, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, représentant personnel du président Bouteflika, sera présent en même temps que Raphaël Draï, auteur en 2001 d’une magnifique « Lettre ouverte au président Bouteflika sur le retour des pieds-noirs en Algérie » (éditions Michalon). A l’époque, l’éventualité d’un voyage d’Enrico Macias en Algérie, très attendue par la population de sa ville natale, Constantine, avait été combattue et annulée par le clan le plus conservateur du FLN, précisément incarné par Abdelaziz Belkhadem !
De même, la venue de Zohra Drif, responsable de l’attentat du Milk Bar et aujourd’hui sénatrice, devenue un haut personnage de l’Etat algérien, pose directement la question de la violence et du terrorisme. Elle en débattra avec Bernard-Henri Lévy. Mais il se trouvera à Marseille une personne dont le destin est à lui seul une question et une réponse à Mme Drif : Danielle Michel-Chich, mutilée à vie dans l’attentat à l’âge de 5 ans et qui y a perdu sa grand-mère. Auteur d’une superbe
« Lettre à Zohra D. » (Flammarion), elle sera là aussi. Sans que nous préjugions de ce qu’elle dira…ou taira, tant le contexte est âpre.
Dire, écrire, c’est vivre et revivre. Faire revivre : le défi magnifique de Michel Onfray au prisme de sa réhabilitation d’Albert Camus, si obstinément rejeté par le discours officiel algérien. Notre ami Onfray dialoguera avec Jacques Julliard (Jean Daniel étant indisponible), tandis que les journalistes qui couvrirent la guerre rouvriront leurs carnets. Guy Sitbon, Jacques Julliard qui, lui, était alors officier, et s’opposa à la torture. Jean-François Kahn a retrouvé ses notes à lui, terribles, tenues entre mars et juillet 1962. Il a, cette semaine, raconté dans Marianne « les derniers jours de l’Algérie française ».
A Marseille, évoquer l’hier ne lui fera pas oublier le présent. La nécessité de lutter pour cette cause dont la seule arme est le stylo et la camera : la liberté de la presse. Aux côtés de Kahn, on entendra Omar Belhouchet, directeur du quotidien El Watan, qui survécut à un attentat islamiste pendant la décennie sanglante que connut l’Algérie entre 1992 et 2000.
L’Algérie : toutes ses violences s’entrechoquent. Le ressassement du passé fait-il de sa mémoire un frein pour le présent ? Des filles de harkis, Dalila Kerchouche et Fatima Besnaci-Lancou évoqueront la tragédie de leurs pères. Saïd Sadi, député d’Alger, fondateur du seul parti laïc algérien, le Rassemblement pour la Culture et la démocratie, rappellera les causes de l’impasse algérienne actuelle et fournira des pistes pour d’autres lendemains alors que les élections législatives doivent se tenir le 10 mai prochain en Algérie.
A l’heure des printemps arabes, quel sera l’avenir de ce pays façonné par « la culture de guerre », comme l’explore dans ses travaux l’historien Benjamin Stora( à Marseille avec son collègue Abdelmajid Merdaci) ? Le passé obscurcit de son éclat noir l’azur d’Alger la blanche, Alger la jeune, Alger la frustrée, Alger la féminine blessée. Les Algériennes ont porté et portent leur part d’ombre. Cette ombre qui s’étend, les enferme, les ravage. Et elles se battent, les Algériennes, comme les Tunisiennes et toutes celles des terres d’Islam, nous racontera Wassyla Tamzali, écrivain, avocate, auteur d’étonnantes « Histoires minuscules des révolutions arabes »( éditions Chèvre-feuille étoilée), traversées par la violence faite aux femmes et la sexualité brimée.
Peut-on imaginer des individus autonomes, libérés de la dictature du sacré après d’être libérés de celle des tyrans, en terre d’Islam ? A l’heure où le parti islamiste au pouvoir à Tunis a été contraint de renoncer à inscrire la Charia dans la future Constitution, la cinéaste Nadia el Fani, auteur( menacée de mort) du document « Laïcité, Inch Allah » témoignera à Marseille. Quand y aura-t-il compatibilité entre identité individuelle et identité musulmane ? Ceux qui se sont choisi comme célèbre pseudonyme Mahmoud Hussein, les écrivains Adel Rifaat et Bahgat Elnadi, auteurs de passionnantes « Sira », les vies de Mahomet, en débattront avec Malik Ait Aoudia, le correspondant de Marianne à Alger et réalisateur avec Séverine Labat de « Autopsie d’une tragédie » consacrée à la tragédie islamiste dans son pays. L’islamisme va-t-il triompher politiquement dans moins de deux mois en Algérie ?
Impossible de citer tous ceux que les participants et ceux qui pouront regarder les débats, retranscrits en direct sur le site de Marianne2 pourront rencontrer. Le programme figure dans le journal de cette semaine et surtout ici même où vous êtes nombreux à vous être inscrits. On nous dira qu’il est polyphonique, que les débats ne s’orientent pas vers un même axe, que nous n’avons pas choisi une symphonie mais des dizaines de gammes : c’est que cette histoire, notre histoire algéro-française, ressemble aux nuances contraires des aubes et des crépuscules sur les eaux mêlées, emmêlées, de la Méditerranée.
Fisk's tendentious embellishments of stories, his making up of whole incidents, his false attributions, his many claims of writing from a place when he was hundreds or thousands of miles away, has been known by many people for years -- known, for example,even to me, many thousands of miles from where Fisk publishes his consistently mendacious stories. His anti-Israel venom is so well known, that it is a particular pleasure to see colleagues who could not possibly be described as being supporters of israel, and who were in many cases once deep admirers of Fisk, be the ones to do the fisking.
John Malkovich, the actor, film and play director, fashion designer, and idiosyncratic connoisseur of common sense, publicly declared nearly a decade ago that he would like to smash Robert Fisk in the mouth. Who would not wish to do the same?
Here is one report on Fisk, this by Jamie Dettmer:
Bob Fisk Outed
Hugh Pope’s memoir on his reporting in the Middle East, Dining with al-Qaeda, is, as they say, a must-read. The former Wall Street Journal and UPI correspondent — he is now at the International Crisis Group — was rated highly by his peers. His pragmatic thinking and rejection of neat ideological ways of looking at things in the region enriched his journalism, which was trustworthy and informative, even for those like me who had stints covering the region.
But not all his former peers in the Middle East UK press corp will be delighted to read what Pope has to say about journalistic ethics — mainly Bob Fisk, the London Independent‘s longtime Middle East correspondent. Robert was notorious as a reporter who sailed way over the other side of the wind when it came to facts, attributions and even datelines. His departure from The Times to the Independent many years ago prompted few tears and little effort from the editorial management at The Times to dissuade him from leaving. The Independent has given Fisk star billing ever since and one can only hope that its new owner will re-think his role at the paper.
In the second chapter of his memoir, Pope doesn’t pull his punches about Fisk, a journalist he had worshipped when starting out in the business. He goes into great detail about a front-page report Fisk filed in April 1991, in which he “reported” that British Royal Marines and American Special Forces had “cocked their weapons in confrontation with Turkish troops” on Turkey’s south-eastern border after the Turks had gone on a “rampage of looting”.
According to Fisk, the Turkish soldiers had taken “blankets, sheets and food” from frightened Kurdish refugees. In fact, as Pope shows with eye-witness recollections, nothing of the sort happened — all some of the Turks had done amounted to nothing more than petty pilfering. There was no near armed confrontation.
The story as filed by Fisk prompted outrage in Ankara, and the Turkish government ordered Pope out of the country — he was stringing for the Independent among others at the time. He was allowed to remain only when he agreed to stop filing for the British paper. In his memoir, Pope re-visits the episode, partly prompted by reading in a later book by Fisk further embellishments. Fisk changes his third-person report to the first-person and according to him he flew into the area in the back passenger seat of an Apache helicopter with CIA agents who were also US embassy guards!
Again an actual eye-witness, a former British army doctor, questions the whole episode and disputes the confrontation and the rampage. Oh, and another problem, the Apache doesn’t have a back passenger seat, where Fisk claims to have sat. Pope list other massive holes in Fisk’s reporting of this episode.
Why does Fish get away with it? It has been common knowledge for years among British and American reporters that Bob can just make things up or lift other’s work without attribution and embellish it. I recall him doing it to me on a story in Kuwait about the killings of Palestinians at the hands of Kuwaitis following the liberation of the emirate. I remember also the time Fisk filed a datelined Cairo story about a riot there when he was in fact at the time in Cyprus.
Pope’s theory on this — why Bob gets away with it — is that fellow members of the press corp don’t like to dish the dirt on their colleagues. “The one time I decided to let it be known that a fellow reporter was cheating and passing off others’ work as his own, it was I who became the odd man out, an informer with a chip on my shoulder, and standing joke,” he writes. He notes also that “editors are reluctant to challenge established writers.”
In the case of Fisk, I think, there was also a genuine sadness that Bob did this, an embarrassment and one undeserving of a journalist who had done some great and brave reporting in the 1980s in Northern Ireland and in his early and dangerous years in Beirut.
Robert Fisk: feeling the fury of former colleagues
Robert Fisk, the Independent’s stridently anti-Zionist Middle East correspondent, is busy dodging bullets from his fellow foreign correspondents after suggesting that “the newsrooms of London and Washington didn’t have quite the same enthusiasm to get their folk into Gaza as they did to get them into Homs”.
Former colleagues of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, both killed by the Syrians, have been venting their fury against Fisk on a private Facebook page. Many of their comments expand on a remark made in the Guardian by Ian Black, the paper’s diplomatic editor, who was reviewing the memoirs of Hugh Pope, a distinguished Middle East correspondent, which strongly criticise Fisk’s style of reporting. According to Black, Pope was “not the first journalist to wonder with envy and irritation how Fisk ‘managed to get an amazing sounding story from a dull day’.” Black was choosing his words carefully (as am I) but read between the lines.
Private Eye has rounded up the allegations made against Fisk, which you can read here. Hugh Pope and Ian Black are unusual in airing this controversy on the record; another public critic of Fisk is the Times’s former war correspondent Jamie Dettmer, whose website is utterly scathing about Fisk’s colourful reportage. Now that, thanks to the Eye, we know what other colleagues have been saying in a private online discussion, Fisk is in a tight spot – as is the Independent, former employer of Johann Hari.
So I rang Fisk to ask what he made of all these claims, which would be devastating to the career of a reporter who, unlike him, didn’t enjoy cult status as the most ferocious and dogged journalistic critic of Israel. (Fisk’s account of Lebanon at war, Pity the Nation, runs to 727 pages.)
I asked Fisk why a number of his former colleagues were accusing him of – to put it politely – embellishing stories. He said: “I do not make stories up, full stop. This is being put together in order to harass me and possibly The Independent.”
What about Ian Black’s innuendo? “I’m very surprised that he wrote that. I’m amazed to see that he wrote that review [of Hugh Pope’s book].”
But it isn’t just Black: it’s foreign correspondents from various publications who have encountered Fisk over the years. How could he explain their criticisms? “Colleagues will malign you if you’re a moderately successful journalist,” said Fisk.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a foreign correspondent – but I know many of them, and in my experience they don’t “malign” each other in private email forums and certainly not on the record. The case of Fisk is a remarkable one, and matters appear to be coming to a head.
More on this subject later. I’m trying to get to the bottom of another row involving Fisk – one that hasn’t been publicly aired.
“Fortunately, Hugh, you're quite wrong in asserting that the British Foreign Office controls the BBC World Service. It is true that the service is funded by a Foreign Office "grant-in-aid", but this emphatically does not translate into control or influence over programming. Speaking as someone with many years' close involvement (all in the past now) with the World Service news and current affairs operation, I can tell you that the Foreign Office has NO effect on the editorial output. None. In senior operational positions, I never received or even heard of any instruction or opinion concerning content coming from the Foreign Office, nor was ever ordered to add or omit or slant anything because of what the Foreign Office did or did not want. (Indeed, in a long journalistic career I have never received any instruction from anyone to slant anything.) Notwithstanding perceived or actual examples of bias, BBC World Service journalists do strive very hard for objectivity…" -- from a reader
The reader above describes what he assures us is his long experience with the BBC World Service, his deep familiarity with its workings (how high was he? Who did he know?) that the Foreign Office has, despite being the funder of the BBC Service, no “control” and not even any “influence” over what the BBC World Service does.
Let's start with the idea that the Foreign Office is itself a perfectly objective promoter of British interests, rightly conceived, in the Middle East. The "Arabist" view of the Middle East, one which has long characterized the Foreign Office (and the State Department, come to think of it, at least since the days of Loy Henderson), starts with a general contempt for the wogs who more or less begin at Calais, but mingled with that contempt there are two countervailing forces: the romance of the desert, whether emblemized by Freya Stark in the Hadramaut, or Capt. Shakespear in Arabia, or later Wilfred Thesiger crossing the Empty Quarter. And along with the vast desert spaces and sky above (fill in here, printer, the apostrophes to that Arabian sky ad libitum), there is the denizen of that desert, ringing the changes on Rousseau, that leathery-skinned bedouin, with his noble Arabian horse, or the noble camel, and possibly even hawk on hand (fill in the details here, again ad libitum).
The attitude of many of those who served in the administration of the Mandate for Palestine, and who at every step refused to fulfill the solemn terms of that Mandate, with its palpable antisemitism, merely reflected that of the Foreign Office and, of course, not a few who held power in England.
As Mandatory power, Great Britain had solemnly committed itself both to facilitating "Jewish immigration" into Mandatory Palestine and "encouraging close Jewish settlement on the land." The British did neither. With a few honorable exceptions -- Wyndham Deedes in London, John Henry Patterson, Col. Meinertzhagen (one of whose ruses played such an important role in misleading the Turks about British intentions, and formed the model for the later "Man-Who-Never-Was" trick on the Germans of Ewen Montagu), and of course the incomparable Orde Wingate, there was almost a total lack of sympathy for the Jews who found their sole refuge, through the 30s, in Mandatory Palestine, which was essentially sealed off toward the end of that decade. How many Jews might have been saved had Mandatory Palestine been open to them? The ports of Rumania remained unfrozen year round, and were open through the war -- how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million, might have been saved if Great Britain had simply lived up to, had tried to fulfill, the express terms of the Mandate?
Part of the problem can be located in what recent scholarship has identified as one important impetus to Empire: the role of the colonial lands as places where middle-class or even lower-class Englishmen could enjoy a distinct rise in status and power, so many of whom who were so impressed with the local color of Arab notables (those Nashashibis and Husseinis), and so repelled by those Jews from Eastern Europe who offered no local color, but instead were in some cases suspiciously egalitarian (read: Bolshevik) (we're not talking about the days of Sir Reader Bullard, are we?) could not see Islam as a permanent problem. Instead, they found all kinds of nice things there, from the splendid chaps of the Arab Legion whom Glubb Pasha and Alec Kirkbride trained (and that attitude was on view at the memorial service for King Hussein, with Prince Charles and others mightily impressed with the plucky little king, the Good Arab, Our Sort, full of long-in-the-tooth Lawrentian silliness, as if Richard Aldington had never put paid to the mythomane's nonsense). About the Foreign Office, this is fairly clear -- ask J. B. Kelly, ask Bernard Lewis, ask P. J. Vatikiotis, ask -- if she is still alive -- A. K. S. Lambton, ask the ghost of Elie Kedourie if it can be found.
Now we are asked to believe that the Foreign Office has “no control” and “no influence” over the BBC World Service which it funds. But how does the reader know this? He would have to be at the very top of the heap, to know whether or not this was true. And what does he mean by “control” or “influence”? It is not a question of a list of topics to be covered, or not covered. It is enough to give an idea of what the Foreign Office would want.
Let’s offer a hypothetical. Does he think that if some people high up in the BBC wanted in the period 1967-1971 to critically analyze the recent appearance, and the content, of the phrase “the Palestinian people,” if the BBC had bothered to point out that not once did any Arab diplomat or spokesman use the phrase prior to 1967, and that it was not a bit strange to refer in North Africa to “Arabs and Berbers” and strange to refer, in Iraq, to “Arabs and Kurds” but then, when it came to exactly one place, Israel and the territories that were by the terms of the mandate to have been part of the territory specifically allocated for the Mandate for Palestine, that is for the establishment of the Jewish National Home, and that were not won in the war of 1948-49 but were won in the war of June 1967, to speak and write not of “Arabs and Jews” (on the model of “Arabs and Berbers” and “Arabs and Kurds”) but of "Jews (or Israelis) and ‘Palestinians’.” Now suppose the BBC World Service had wanted to do this, malgre the wishes of the Foreign Office and its long-established policy, grown still more self-defeating and dangerous to Great Britain with time, of appeasement of the Arabs.
Is it your contention that the BBC World Service could have done so, and there would have been not a peep from the Foreign Office? Do you really think that when one mentions getting direction from the Foreign Office, or being greatly “influenced” by the Foreign Office, actual written commands are necessary? Don’t be silly.
And what if, some thirty years ago, the BBC World Service had begun to discuss the looming energy crisis. What if it had had programs not only about the need, at once, to start through tax policy to wean the oil-consuming world off of oil? What if that infuriated Saudi Arabia, as it no doubt would, and that the Saudis, who can get away with murder (see the BAE scandal, and the miscarriage or rather suppression of British justice, and the accompanying clumsy attempt at insabbiamento, or covering up)? Do you think the World Service would have dared to carry such a program?
One more example. Do you think the coverage of Islam, the understanding of the tenets of Islam, of the canonical texts of Islam – Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira – have been furthered at all by the BBC World Service? Has the BBC World Service gone into those texts? Has it ever mentioned the Calcutta Qur’an Petition? Has there been any coverage of the persecution and murder of Hindus, over the past thirty-five years, in Bangladesh and Pakistan itself? Any coverage of the 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits pushed out of Kashmir by the Muslims? How good has the coverage been, on the BBC, of Muslim attacks on Christians in Pakistan? In the Moluccas? What, of the information carefully collected by the Barnabas Fund on the persecution, and murder, of Christians in Muslim countries, has made it onto the BBC World Service? And do you think, that if it did, a country whose political class is both beholden, in many cases, financially to the Saudis and other rich Arabs (for god’s sake, everyone knows this, and everyone knows who is doing it), would have a Foreign Office that would for one second allow any home truths to be told about Islam?
You know perfectly well that the BBC employs a huge number of Muslims. You know perfectly well that they watch like a hawk their colleagues, and monitor the programs. You know perfectly well that many of their colleagues are afraid to get on the wrong side of them, and that those colleagues, in any case, are not representative of every point of view, but rather a very limited group, raised on The Guardian and at times The Independent, prepared to believe Robert Fisk and his ilk, and completely unaware of the context of Islam that makes the permanent war against Israel, a Lesser Jihad that has received exaggerated attention, attention that has done nothing to enlighten Western audiences either about the fact that the conflict admits of no solution because Israel as an Infidel state, especially as an Infidel state on land once part of Dar al-Islam, simply in the end must go, and the only quarrel nowadays is between the Slow Jihadists, who want to use diplomacy, and as much economic pressure and intermittent terrorism as they can get away with, to push Israel back into a condition of maximum insecurity, and then cause it to disappear, and the Fast Jihadists, who want the military assault now, and also are less corrupt than the Slow Jihadists (Hamas is less corrupt than Fatah), and so are less keen to have the tap of foreign aid from Infidels, that disguised Jizyah, turned on again if it means uttering a few meaningless phrases to satisfy those Infidel governments, straining at the bit to turn that tap on themselves.
This steady stillicide of venom directed at Israel has had its effect, and is having it still. Anti-Israel feeling, and antisemitism of the most recognizable and deadly kind, feed off each other and are mutually reinforcing. The BBC’s role in the demonization of Israel, in the cruel misrepresentation or ignoring of its case, in its legal, historic, and moral aspects, is unforgivable, and should not be forgiven.
And there is a consequence not only for Israel, but for Great Britain itself. Had the BBC long ago begun to present the war on Israel as being prompted by the tenets of Islam, had it begun long ago to study Islam and its inculcated division of the world between Believer and Infidel, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, with a permanent state of war (but not necessarily warfare) existing between the two, had it not with such alacrity taken up the “Palestinian people” theme, and developed it, as the Arabs wished, into this absurd “two tiny peoples, each struggling for their homeland” business when it has always been a case of the vast Arab people, and not only the Arabs but most of the Muslims (a few exceptions were Kemalist Turkey, where Islam was constrained, and Iran under the “secular” Shah – and many Turks and Persians have, historically, despised the Arabs and wished to distinguish themselves from them, not having themselves in the eyes of the world be identified with them). Had it done all this, it is possible that thirty years ago, when there was still time, the invasion of Great Britain by Pakistani and other Muslims might have been halted, might never have reached the dangerous proportions it has reached. The ruling classes in Great Britain romanticized the desert Arabs (those Bedouin) and the Good Arabs (plucky little King Hussein of Jordan), and never acquired either the understanding, or the sympathy, that they should have had with their fellow non-Muslims, the representatives of advanced Western society, the Jews of Israel.
And what this did is harm Israel, and keep the British public unwary for too long, about the nature, and menace, of Islam. And the BBC World Service, and the BBC itself, are still in the hands of people such as John Simpson – and I note the reader takes no issue with the facts I have presented about Simpson’s appalling enthusiasm for the antisemitic conspiracy-novel “The Cyanide Conspiracy,” nor does he take issue with the others mentioned, the ready tear of Barbara Plett, the nonstop pro-PLO propoganda of Orla Guerin, and tutti quanti.
Finally, anyone who assures us that “Notwithstanding perceived or actual examples of bias, BBC World Service journalists do strive very hard for objectivity” is someone I refuse to take seriously.
Marching orders are not necessary for the BBC World Service. Its ruling class need only understand what it is that the Foreign Office attitude is in such a matter as the Arab war on Israel, or on the matter of Islam, and make sure that it does nothing to contradict that unstated but clear party line. And of course when such people with the worldview of John Simpson, or Barbara Plett, or Orla Guerin, or a hundred others, are hired, people who already are all over Bush House and all share, to one degree or another, the same views, force-fed them by certain newspapers (The Guardian, The Independent), and they all think what one another think, and in the pre-existing mental pathologies that not all, but so many of them share, the two most important are a genteel anti-Americanism and a not-so-genteel antisemitism that finds what some allow themselves to believe is a socially acceptable, immune-to-criticism outlet in a vicious miscomprehension and misrepresentation of Israel (the Poet Laureate of this group is Tom Paulin, and along with The Guardian and The Independent the London Review of Books places a secondary role. No real analysis of the history of the Middle East, of the history of the Jews in that Middle East, of the history of the way in which Islam appropriated not only the stories and main figures in the two prior monotheisms, but staked a claim to the city holy to both those faiths in an act not of religious but rather political or geopolitical triumphalism, no attention paid to what the League of Nations thought it was doing, intended to do, when it planned four mandates – one of the Arabs, one for the Kurds, one for the Armenians, and one for the Jews – and how the intended beneficiaries of the Mandate for Palestine, the Jews, were betrayed from the get-go by the Great-Power maneuvering, and cruel indifference to the rights, and the fate of the Jews, by the Mandatory Authority, Great Britain.
As promoters and defenders of Muslims and of Arabs, the BBC World Service has done damage to others aside from the Israelis and, given the reinforcement of antisemitism by anti-Israel views, to Jews elsewhere. It has been largely indifferent to the Berbers of North Africa, or to the Kurds of Iraq. During the Lebanese Civil War, the BBC formulaically employed the epithet “right-wing” before the word “Christian” so that its listeners never understood what Lebanon was, a refuge over 1350 years, for Christians, especially the indigenous Maronites who were established before the Arabs arrived with Islam. The BBC has never shown an interest in, or sympathy for, any non-Arab Muslim, or non-Muslim people – and there are many – in what that same BBC describes, quite incorrectly, as the “Arab World.” That the Middle East and North Africa were, after World War II, thought of as “the Arab World” is a tribute to the propagandists of Aramco (see J. B. Kelly’s celebrated article,, “Of Valuable Oil and Worthless Policies,” in the July 1979 Encounter). It is not something that the BBC, much less any government, ought to have picked up and repeated.
The BBC, and the BBC World Service, have a lot to answer for.
And anyone who assures us that “Notwithstanding perceived or actual examples of bias, BBC World Service journalists do strive very hard for objectivity” is not someone, after all that I have heard spouting from BBC speakers and speakerines, whom I would trust on the subject.
Amira Hass should to a better job of vetting the facts handed to her by Palestinian Christian leaders, because sometimes, these folks simply do not provide factual information to their supporters.
In her recent response to an op-ed by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren about the status of Christians in the Middle East, Hass quotes a letter signed by 80 prominent Palestinian Christians who state the following:
"The exaggerated growth of the Christian population in Israel that Mr. Oren claims is due primarily to the immigration of Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from the Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union."
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Here are the facts from the Statistical Abstract of Israel.
One: There were 34,000 Christians living in Israel in 1949.
Two: At the end of 2009, there were approximately 152,000 Christians living in Israel. (An increase of 346 percent!)
Three: At the end of 2009, there were approximately 122,000 Arab Christians living in Israel.
Just looking at these numbers reveals that the increase in the population of Christians in Israel is due primarily to the growth in the Arab Christian (and not Russian) community.
Even if every one of the non-Arab Christians came from Russia, the growth in this community would still be dwarfed by the growth of the Arab Christian community in Israel.
In other words, Hass got played by the Palestinian Christian leaders.
Ironically enough, Hass's article is titled "Christian Palestinians: Israel 'manipulating facts' by claiming we are welcome."
Antiquity washes away the immediacy of historical pain and injustice. Our ability to feel suffering is indexed directly to its epoch: the more remote, the more detached we are. Museums play on this—pander to this—and to our forgetfulness. History is softened, elided, or erased. Reality is too harsh; beauty numbs our compassion and critical mind.
The Last Jews of LibyaDavid Gerbi, Foreign Policy. Gerbi, a Libyan Jewish exile in Rome, saw the Arab Spring as a chance, finally, to rebuild a crumbling Tripoli synagogue. He hoped too soon. SAVE
The Jews of IslamBernard Lewis, Princeton University Press. In one stereotype, past Muslim-Jewish relations look like America, only better; in the other, they look like Hitler's Germany, only worse. Both have elements of truth. SAVE
The engine of Islam was Arab imperialism. Indeed, the new galleries bear the name of the conquerors—"Arab" lands—and identify the conquered only by their locations. The first exhibit makes the point clearly, if unintentionally: It is a display of Qur'ans, announcing the putative unity of Islam and its (capitalized) Prophet. If not quite treated as divine revelation, Islam is depicted as appearing out of nowhere. Only a visitor coming straight from the neighboring Ancient Near Eastern galleries will have a sense of Islam's historical origins.
Exhibit labels in the Arab Lands galleries say Islamic power "arose" in the former Roman and Byzantine empires. Countries "came under the rule" of Islamic governors. Islamic dynasties "established themselves" or "took control" of various places. Sometimes Islamic forces "ousted" or "wrested control" from one another. The euphemisms deliberately mask the nature of Islam's spread. Islamic sources themselves more forthrightly call it conquest.
The nameless inhabitants of these worlds are Muslim. There is no mention of the multitudes of cultures destroyed, subsumed, and reduced to minority status. Mamluks are described as "elite soldiers of slave origins"—obscuring the fact that slaves, taken as prisoners or given up as children, formed the backbone of most Muslim armies. The Islamic conquest of India, in which millions of Hindus perished, is described as "the arrival of the Muslim rulers." The word "Christian" appears perhaps six times in the exhibition halls.
The word "Jew" appears once, and "Jewish" three times—all, predictably, in connection with Spain. One display allows that Seville once had a "sizeable Jewish population" and Toledo at least ten synagogues. Even those mentions are sullied by mendacious elision. On display is the Sefer Musre Hafilosophim, a Hebrew translation of ibn Ishaq's Maxims of the Philosophers, which contains fragments from Greek philosophers. It is described as "one of the numerous ancient works that survive due to the ambitious program of translation into Arabic sponsored by Abbasid caliphs." Nowhere is it admitted that preserving tiny fragments of a deliberately destroyed civilization is hardly "ambitious." Nowhere is it said that the manuscript is written in Hebrew.
The objects themselves are astonishingly beautiful and diverse. There are tiles, screens, bowls, ewers, carpets, carved ceilings, boxes, helmets, and swords of every imaginable variety. The lushness of glazes that cannot be captured in photographs and the indescribably detailed craftsmanship are nearly overwhelming. The density of design, whether on a remote ceiling tile or a prosaic box, reflects an immensity of effort devoted to covering empty spaces. Voids are a source of horror; they must be filled, even if what fills them carries no intrinsic ideas. Arabesques and geometric designs have their intended lulling effect on the visitor.
The objects presented come solely from palaces and mosques. This is a typical conceit of museums. Also typical is the extent to which the galleries reduce history to artistic motifs that swirl, combine, or influence one another through "creative reciprocal exchanges," entirely independent of people. There are elaborate discussions of techniques for glazing, glassmaking, enameling, and metal-working—but none about the people who practiced them. Indeed, people of any sort are almost invisible. Part of the reason lies in religious prohibitions against depicting the human form (although enough are scattered throughout to show that such restrictions were hardly uniform). Only Mughal paintings and illustrated pages from Persian and Afghan books—representing places far from the "Arab Lands"—show humans. Even here, the people are both literally and, somehow, figuratively tiny.
History, peoples, the fabric of life, even the underpinnings of the arts and crafts themselves are cast away. The result will be seen as reflecting deep spiritual beauty and repose. In fact, it is glorious decoration evincing human desolation and emptiness.
Fortunately, a temporary exhibition now at the Met shows some of what was deliberately left out and lost. The inartfully-titled "Byzantium and Islam, Age of Transition" has the advantage of starting with Orthodox, Coptic, and Syriac Christians, as well as Jews. In the "Arab Lands" galleries, the human figure is largely absent; but Byzantine Christians reveled in both human images and words.
The 7th-century silver plates from Constantinople depicting David and Saul and the carved ivories of the 7th- or 8th-century "Grado Chair," showing St. Mark, the Nativity, the wedding at Cana, and other scenes, render the human figure as yet another glory of God. From the delicate, Gospel-bearing gold lettering of the 6th-century Codex Sinopsensis to the letters on papyrus and silk recording the purchase of textiles, words served not just pious but prosaic purposes. The palimpsest of the 6th-century Hebrew poet Yannai over Aquila of Sinope's earlier Greek translation of II Kings exemplifies the layering of cultures. The 1st- and 3rd-century synagogue mosaics from Lif in Tunisia speak to an ancient Mediterranean Jewish experience, now extinguished.
Reliquaries, pilgrim tokens, and silk clothing, along with boxes, bowls, buckets, and lamps from diverse communities of the Mediterranean and the Near East, are among the items of daily life displayed, not yet reduced to "motifs" by conquest or museum conventions. Only with the arrival of Islam, in the exhibit as in history, do princely goods and architectural fragments take over. Words and images disappear, leaving only Qur'an pages and more empty decoration.
When the temporary exhibit is dispersed, the "Arab Lands" galleries will remain—vivid imperial decoration, tiny marginal manuscript figures, and no one in between.
He has different views than most of the national Muslim advocacy groups featured in the media, and for that, Islamist groups have worked to keep Zuhdi Jasser from gaining traction in the national debate over religion and extremism.
He has been smeared as an Uncle Tom, a clown and even a "sock puppet" for anti-Muslim forces. So when it was announced Monday that Jasser had been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Islamists frothed with hyperbolic excess.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the appointment "farcical" and urged supporters to sign a petition protesting the move. An "action alert" mailed to its listserv also steered supporters to the petition, "calling on community members and people of conscience to sign a petition for" Jasser's ouster.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council directed its Twitter followers to the petition, too, copying its claim that "Zuhdi Jasser Does Not Belong on the USCIRF." In a separate action alert, MPAC urged supporters to protest to their elected officials, calling the appointment "an affront to all Muslims."
Jasser is a Muslim. It's doubtful the move is an affront to him.
A group called the Muslim Peace Coalition issued a statement similarly calling supporters to protest the appointment, calling it "a huge insult to the American Muslims and it will have consequences in terms of demonizing Muslims abroad ... This is a guy who has made a living advocating to curb religious liberties for Muslims RIGHT HERE in the US. The contradiction and hypocrisy of this action could not be more underscored."
Jasser joining the USCIRF board is "like appointing David Duke as chair of NAACP," wrote Fida Mohammed on the petition page.
The federally-funded commission is tasked with monitoring and advocating "for religious freedom abroad wherever that right is being abused."
Jasser, an Arizona physician and Navy veteran, founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, advocating the separation of mosque and state and taking on Islamist groups he sees as working to slowly inculcate religious practice and dogma into public policy. The United States offers Muslims the greatest freedom to practice their faith because it maintains the separation.
In contrast, "The theocratic 'Islamic' regimes of the Middle East and some Muslim majority nations use Islam as a way to control Muslim populations, not to glorify God as they portend," the AIFD web page says. "The purest practice of Islam is one in which Muslims have complete freedom to accept or reject any of the tenants or laws of the faith no different than we enjoy as Americans in this Constitutional republic."
But those contesting his appointment cast Jasser as an opponent of religious liberty. His sin? Disagreeing with them while accepting funding from conservative sources, supporting law enforcement counter-terror efforts and publicly criticizing the proposed Ground Zero mosque.
"How can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a 'commissioner' to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?" aweb page featuring the petition says.
With the appointment, the USCIRF "is telling the American Muslim community and Americans of conscience, 'we are happy to insult your intelligence by pretending not to know the link between Zuhdi and some of the most vile anti-Muslim funders and entities in the country, and that we do not mind the contradiction between having him preach to the world about religious liberties while simultaneously advocating to curb YOUR liberties in THIS country,'" CAIR-Chicago Director Ahmed Rehab wrote on the petition site.
Writer Reza Aslan, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, posted a link to the petition on his Twitter feed, dismissing Jasser as "Glenn Beck's favorite Muslim." CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper echoed Rehan when he claimed Jasser has no credibility among Muslim Americans. "He has long been viewed by American Muslims and the colleagues in the civil liberties community as a mere sock puppet for Islam haters and an enabler of Islamophobia."
In an interview, Jasser said his views are being grossly distorted. Though he opposed the proposed Ground Zero mosque, his record and that of his family has been in helping build mosques in Wisconsin and Arizona. In none of the releases and Twitter posts issued this week is Jasser quoted saying anything against religious liberty or Muslims.
"If I'm such a Muslim hater, they can't find one quote from Zuhdi Jasser?" he asked. "It's like something out of Pravda or the Syrian media."
Disagreement with the national groups automatically triggers a backlash and accusations of bigotry, Ahmed said, all emanating from "monstrous organizations that want to drown out diversity."
Jasser has repeatedly taken on CAIR and its positions. In response, CAIR has tried to diminish his views, arguing he runs a small operation with a modest following. That was the line CAIR Governmental Affairs Director Corey Saylor took last March in criticizing Jasser's appearance before a House committee hearing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community.
Jasser, Saylor said, "is not representative of the mainstream Muslim community and not connected to the activities of the Muslim community to one – cooperate with law enforcement, and two – secure the civil liberties of our community."
One might say the same about CAIR. A survey released last summer by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center found just over 10 percent support for CAIR among Muslim Americans. CAIR's true following is difficult to gauge. In June 2007, the Washington Timesreported that CAIR membership had plummeted 90 percent since 2001.
The group failed to file tax returns in the past three years which would show the amount of revenue from membership fees. That move prompted the IRS to strip CAIR of its tax exempt status last spring.
"This proves that they operate under the assumption that they represent all Muslims by virtue of calling themselves 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' in their names," Jasser said. "And if anybody disagrees with the cause of their existence, which is Islamism, they somehow are anti-Muslim."
His appointment stands to threaten that monopoly the Islamist groups wish to maintain. Jasser believes quieter lobbying has been used against him in the past with mixed results. Last July, groups opposed his appearance at a briefing on the uprising in Syria, where Jasser's family came from. One Islamist group tried to remove him from the panel, telling a congressional office it "would give him too much credibility." Jasser participated in the briefing.
But later in the summer, Jasser appeared to be sailing toward confirmation for a White House appointment to the State Department's Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He cleared all the background checks and the vetting process, but the appointment was rescinded at the 11th hour without explanation.
Despite the "scorched earth attack" against him, Jasser said he is eager to start work with the USCIRF advocating for religious freedom for all faiths, including Muslims living under dictatorship and other repressive conditions.
The campaign against him is meaningless. There is no mechanism to undo the appointment, so it appears to be all about tainting his image. "I'm not surprised," Jasser said. "They lie and deceive about my work on a daily basis."
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Youssef Al-Qaradaoui était attendu comme le messie au congrès annuel de l'Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF). Cette mouvance sous tutelle idéologique des Frères musulmans a considérablement élargi son audience depuis sa reconnaissance institutionnelle par Nicolas Sarkozy au sein du Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM). Leur mentor vient régulièrement en France. Ce ne sera pas le cas cette année. En raison du contexte dramatique et de l'alerte publique lancée par le journaliste Mohamed Sifaoui. Sous pression, les autorités françaises ont dû le déclarer persona non grata.
Est-il, comme le décrit le communiqué de l'UOIF, un "homme de paix et de tolérance", ou bien un prédicateur incitant à la haine ? Il suffit d'écouter son émission sur la chaîne Al-Jazira ou de lire ses livres pour se faire une idée. De fatwa en consigne, Youssef Al-Qaradaoui justifie de battre sa femme si elle se montre insoumise, admet que l'on puisse brûler les homosexuels pour "épurer la société islamique de ces êtres nocifs", et autorise les attentats kamikazes.
Il est convaincu que le "seul dialogue avec les juifs passe par le sabre et le fusil" et se félicite qu'Hitler ait su les "remettre à leur place". Avant de poursuivre : "C'était un châtiment divin. Si Allah veut, la prochaine fois, ce sera par la main des croyants (musulmans)." Il se montre tout aussi impitoyable envers les "ennemis de l'islam" et autorise à les "tuer". Autant dire que Mohamed Merah aurait approuvé.
Malgré ces sermons, des journalistes et des chercheurs complaisants qualifient parfois le téléprédicateur de "centre en islam", voire de "juste milieu". Ce qui dénote une vision pour le moins paternaliste et caricaturale de la religion musulmane.
A moins qu'elle ne témoigne d'une forme de bienveillance envers son parrain : le Qatar, avec qui l'UMP, des politiques français et des investisseurs entretiennent les meilleures relations. Le petit émirat s'y connaît en lobbying, mais il présente surtout l'avantage d'offrir un partenaire arabe indispensable lorsque la France et les Etats-Unis souhaitent défaire - à juste titre - des tyrans comme Mouammar Kadhafi ou Bachar Al-Assad. D'où l'ambiguïté, complexe à décrypter, du rôle joué par le Qatar.
D'un côté, il contribue au "printemps arabe" et à la démocratisation, nécessaire pour que les théocrates cessent d'apparaître comme la seule alternative possible aux dictateurs.
De l'autre, il finance les mouvements islamistes capables de profiter de cette démocratisation. Non pas les salafistes les plus caricaturaux (plutôt financés par des mécènes wahhabites), mais les plus stratèges. Comme le Front islamique du salut (FIS) algérien ou Ennahda en Tunisie.
Ces derniers ne veulent pas imposer la charia comme loi civile par la force, mais convaincre de cette nécessité, après avoir gagné la bataille culturelle contre la sécularisation. Reste que ce plan en "étapes" - credo des Frères musulmans - passe par le combat contre les musulmans laïques. Aucun calcul de "realpolitik" ne devrait conduire à les abandonner.
Ne parlons pas de l'islam de France, où rien ne justifie de considérer M. Qaradaoui et ses amis de l'UOIF comme un "juste milieu". A moins de vouloirfaire le jeu de l'intégrisme sous prétexte de lutter contre le djihadisme.