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  • Zafar Khan
    Vatican Plans Muslim Meeting http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1199279281045&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout VATICAN CITY — A
    Message 1 of 530 , Jan 6, 2008
      Vatican Plans Muslim Meeting


      VATICAN CITY — A landmark meeting between Catholic
      officials and Muslim scholars that aims to spur
      dialogue between Christianity and Islam is planned to
      take place in Rome this spring, a senior Vatican
      official has said.
      "In a certain sense, (the meeting) can be defined as
      historic," the head of the Vatican's Pontifical
      Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal
      Jean-Louis Tauran , told the Vatican newspaper
      L'Osservatore Romano, Reuters reported Friday, January

      He said he expected an advanced group of three Muslim
      representatives in February or March to lay the
      groundwork for the meeting.

      Tauran said the agenda of the larger meeting would
      cover three main topics: respect for the dignity of
      each person, interreligious dialogue based on
      reciprocal understanding, and instruction of tolerance
      among the young.

      The meeting is the idea of Pope Benedict XVI as part
      of his official response to a Muslim initiative that
      urged for a candid dialogue with Christian clergymen

      In an open letter themed "A Common Word Between Us and
      You," 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Pope Benedict and
      other Christian leaders in October, saying "the very
      survival of the world itself" might depend on

      The Pope, who as head of the Catholic Church
      represents more than half the world's two billion
      Christians, responded in November by welcoming their
      call and inviting them to Rome.

      But some Muslim scholars from the Cairo-based Al-Azhar
      Al-Sharif, though welcoming the Vatican's response to
      the letter, have expressed their reservations about
      the meeting's venue.

      They said such meetings should take place in a Muslim
      country, arguing that the pontiff should reciprocate a
      visit by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz to the

      Muslim leaders back Livingstone as mayor

      · Statement of support for London incumbent
      · Rival Johnson criticises 'divide and rule' politics


      Prominent Muslim organisations and individuals have
      pledged to back Ken Livingstone as mayor of London,
      saying it is in the "best interest" of Muslims to vote
      for him in this year's elections on May 1.
      A statement, published today in full on the Guardian's
      website, praises Livingstone for his continued support
      of a multicultural society and for protecting Muslim
      communities against racism and Islamophobia.

      The 63 signatories include Mohammed Ali, the chief
      executive of the Islam Channel, which claims to have
      an audience of millions, Professor Tariq Ramadan and
      Dilwar Hussain from the London Muslim Centre, part of
      the East London Mosque.

      They said: "His stands and policies have constantly
      championed justice in the Middle East ... freedom for
      the Palestinians and withdrawal of occupying troops
      from Iraq; a rare trait of modern-day public figures.
      He has enhanced London's standing in the world and
      helped improve the lives of all of the city's
      "We pledge to continue our support for the mayor on
      all levels possible in order to secure his staying in
      office for a third term."

      Ihtisham Hibatullah from the British Muslim
      Initiative, which organised the statement, said
      Livingstone was doing more to help Muslim communities
      than other mayoral candidates. "He supports religious
      freedom. He's committed to developing skills of
      alienated communities and he's doing great work on
      social cohesion. These signatories are major players;
      they have reach and come the elections there will be a
      huge mobilisation of the Muslim vote."

      Livingstone's criticism of US and UK foreign policy
      has increased his popularity among Muslims and he has
      appeared at events such as IslamExpo, which attracts
      tens of thousands of people every year.

      The mayor welcomed the statement, saying that London's
      prosperity and good community relations were based on
      openness and tolerance. "The fundamental basis of
      London's openness and choice is that every Londoner
      should be able to live their life as they freely
      choose with the sole condition that they do not
      prevent others doing the same," he said.

      His courting of Muslim groups and leaders sparked
      controversy in 2004, when he invited Islamic scholar
      Yusuf al-Qaradawi to a conference about female
      students wearing hijab. Among his fiercest critics was
      gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who condemned
      the invitation because of al-Qaradawi's support for
      "female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the
      execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the
      destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide
      bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of
      rape victims who do not dress with sufficient

      His rival, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, said
      he was "not remotely worried" by the statement of
      support and warned against "divide and rule" politics.
      "When anything is signed by so-called community
      leaders I take it with a big pinch of salt," he said.
      "My grandfather was a Muslim and so was my
      great-grandfather. I am proud of my Muslim ancestry.
      But I want to talk about the interests of Londoners. I
      don't care what religion they are. I want to look
      after people from all communities."

      Giuliani Takes Distance from Muslim Jibe


      CAIRO — US Republican front-runner presidential
      hopeful Rudolph Giuliani has distanced himself from
      offensive remarks made by a campaign supporter against
      Muslims, the New York Post on Sunday, December 30.
      "Everyone knows my views. I expressed them the night
      of Sept. 11, 2001. These acts should never involve
      group blame," Giuliani said after a rally at his Iowa
      campaign headquarters Saturday

      He said Muslims are "good, decent" people, but he
      singled out a "small group . . . of Islamic terrorists
      who have perverted . . . a great religion."

      John Deady, volunteer co-chairman of New Hampshire
      Veterans for Rudy, resigned Friday, December 29, in
      the face of his inflammatory anti-Muslims remarks.

      Deady told Britain's The Guardian newspaper that
      Muslims need to be "chased back to their caves."

      "We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep
      pressing these people until we defeat or chase them
      back to their caves or in other words get rid of
      them," Deady said in a video interview posted
      Thursday, December 27.

      The then Giuliani campaigner later stood by his
      comments in another interview to the popular political
      blog Talking Points Memo (TPM).

      "We can't afford to say, 'We'll try diplomacy.' They
      don't respond to it. If you look into Islamic
      tradition, a treaty is only good for five years. We're
      not dealing with a rational mindset here. We're
      dealing with madmen."

      And he framed all Muslims.

      "I don't subscribe to the principle that there are
      good Muslims and bad Muslims," he told TPM. "They’re
      all Muslims."

      Mindful of bitter lessons from previous elections,
      American Muslim activists launched last month a
      "Voting is Power" campaign to mobilize Muslim voters
      to cast the ballots in next year's polls.

      The campaign is supported by Representative Keith
      Ellison, America's first Muslim congressman.

      The vote will coincide with the 2008 Senate elections,
      House of Representatives elections, gubernatorial, as
      well as many state and local elections.

      There are between six to seven million Muslims in the

      Malaysia Reverses "Allah" Ban


      CAIRO — The Malaysian government has reversed a ban
      imposed on the Malay-language section of the country's
      main Catholic newspaper, The Herald, after using the
      Arabic word "Allah" to refer to God, reported The Star
      on Monday, December 31.
      "With the letter, I’m certain that we can continue
      with the publication as well as the use of the word
      Allah," Herald's Editor Father Lawrence Andrew told
      The Star, referring to an Internal Security Ministry's
      permit that renewed the publishing of the Catholic

      "This letter places no restrictions whatsoever and
      includes the permit for all the languages, including
      the Bahasa Malaysia segment," he added.

      Print publications in Malaysia require a government
      permit renewed every year.

      The controversy thrust into the spotlight last week,
      when leaders of Malaysia's Roman Catholics, estimated
      at nearly 800,000, complained that authorities had
      refused to renew a publishing permit for articles
      written in Malay in their weekly.

      The Internal Security Ministry attributed the ban to
      The Herald's use of the word "Allah", which is
      forbidden to be used by non-Muslims in Malaysia,
      according to Catholic church officials.

      The move promoted the weekly and a Catholic church to
      lodge two lawsuits against the government, naming as
      defendant the internal security minister, a post held
      by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

      "Allah" is the Arabic word for God and means the same
      in Malay, Malaysia's national language.

      Catholics argue that their use of "Allah" is not
      something new. They have invoked the word for
      generations in prayers and during Malay mass.

      Graffiti praises 'hero' Saddam
      By Sabah al-Bazi and Ghazwan al-Jubouri
      Published: 31 December 2007


      Black graffiti lauding Saddam Hussein appeared
      overnight in his home town and small groups of
      mourners turned out at his grave yesterday, the first
      anniversary of the former Iraqi leader's execution.

      "There is no life without the sun and no dignity
      without Saddam," read one painted slogan in his home
      town, Tikrit, north of Baghdad. "Paradise for the hero
      Saddam," read another.

      The graffiti appeared on buildings including the
      town's police station and its agriculture and
      electricity directorates.

      Saddam was hanged for crimes against humanity in a
      rushed execution criticised by the international
      community. Fellow Sunni Arabs were also angered by
      illicitly filmed footage that showed Shi'ite officials
      taunting him on the gallows.

      In Awja, the village near Tikrit that is Saddam's
      birthplace and his final resting place, Reuters
      Television filmed men, women and children crowding
      around his flower-covered tomb in a hall attached to a

      Seven poets recited poetry praising Saddam near his
      grave, and a group of about 25 men sat talking about
      life under Saddam and how Iraq had changed since his

      "A year has passed since the death of the leader but
      no positive changes have taken place. Things are worse
      - we are ruled by Iran and America. The leader has
      been killed to satisfy Iran," said Adnan Jassim, 38,
      from Tikrit.

      At the time of Saddam's execution Iraq was racked by
      sectarian violence that pushed the country to the
      brink of civil war. One year on, violence has dropped
      sharply, in part because of a new counter-insurgency
      strategy adopted by US forces and a rebellion by Sunni
      tribes against al Qaeda.

      France breaks off talks with Syria
      By Maamoun Youssef, Associated Press Writer
      Published: 31 December 2007


      France is cutting off talks with Syria until Damascus
      shows its willingness to let Lebanon elect a new
      president, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said

      Lebanon's Western-backed government and pro-Syrian
      opposition have been unable to break a deadlock over
      filling the presidential post, empty for a month, and
      many Western countries have accused Damascus of
      interfering in the process — a claim Syria denies.

      "I will not have any more contact with the Syrians
      until ... we have received proof of Syria's intention
      to let Lebanon designate a president of consensus,"
      said Sarkozy at a press conference in Cairo after
      meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

      France, Lebanon's former colonial ruler, has led the
      international effort to mediate between feuding
      Lebanese politicians and has consistently implored the
      Syrians to cooperate.

      Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal called
      Sarkozy's comments "surprising," telling Syrian state
      television that Damascus was "working with France to
      reach an agreement on a president who represents all

      The French president spoke with Syrian President
      Bashar Assad as recently as the beginning of December
      to urge him to "facilitate" the election in Lebanon.

      Sarkozy sent his chief of staff, Claude Gueant, to
      Damascus in early November, and Foreign Minister
      Bernard Kouchner met his Syrian counterpart Walid
      al-Moallem earlier that month on the sidelines of an
      Iraq conference in Turkey.

      "France has taken the responsibility of talking with
      Syria," said Sarkozy. "One must recognize today that
      we cannot wait any longer, Syria must stop talking and
      now must act."

      Syria has denied meddling with the election and has
      accused the French of working too closely with the US,
      which Damascus claims is trying to manipulate the
      Lebanese political process for its own interests — an
      accusation Washington denies.

      Sarkozy also called on Israel to halt construction in
      Jewish settlements as a gesture to push forward peace
      negotiations with the Palestinians.

      "I have said on several occasions ... that it is the
      moment for the Israelis to make some gestures that
      would show that peace is possible — including a freeze
      on the implantation of colonies," Sarkozy said.

      Sarkozy met Mubarak in the last days of a personal
      vacation the French president has taken in Egypt the
      past week. Later yesterday, Sarkozy toured the
      pyramids with his girlfriend, supermodel-turned-singer
      Carla Bruni.

      Lebanon has been without a president since November
      23, when pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down without
      a successor. Opposition boycotts have thwarted
      attempts to choose a president by preventing a
      two-thirds quorum in parliament.

      Lawmakers on both sides have agreed to back Army
      Commander General Michel Suleiman as a compromise
      candidate, but parliament must first amend the
      constitution to allow a sitting military chief to
      become president.
    • Zafar Khan
      Allah s name in Kashmir Sky http://www.islamawareness.net/Miracles/miracle_allah_sky.html ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ West Embraces Sham
      Message 530 of 530 , Feb 3, 2008
        Allah's name in Kashmir Sky


        West Embraces "Sham" Democracies


        CAIRO — Europe and the United States increasingly
        tolerate autocrats posing as democrats in countries
        such as Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and Russia out of
        pure self-interest, Human Rights Watch said on
        Thursday, January 31.
        "It's now too easy for autocrats to get away with
        mounting a sham democracy," Kenneth Roth, the HRW
        executive director, said in a press release.

        "By allowing autocrats to pose as democrats, without
        demanding they uphold the civil and political rights
        that make democracy meaningful, the US, the EU and
        other influential democracies risk undermining human
        rights worldwide."

        The watchdog's World Report 2008 said the US and
        Europe do not press governments on the key human
        rights issues that make democracy function such as a
        free press, peaceful assembly and a functioning civil

        It separately reviewed rights situations in more than
        75 countries, identifying many troubling cases such as
        atrocities in Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic
        of Congo, Ethiopia's Ogaden region, Iraq, Somalia, Sri
        Lanka, and Sudan's Darfur region.

        The report voiced concern at closed societies or
        severe repression in Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea,
        Libya, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

        It accused the Bush administration of failing to push
        for all governments to respect human rights.

        "The Bush administration has spoken of its commitment
        to democracy abroad but often kept silent about the
        need for all governments to respect human rights."

        In 2003, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, Bush
        advocated democracy in the Middle East in a series of
        bold statements and speeches.

        But the reform tone died down as Washington was
        getting deeper and deeper into the Iraq quagmire,
        needing the help of repressive regimes in the region.

        In 2005, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
        again played the democracy tune, vowing support for
        "the democratic aspirations of all people."

        Little has changed since then.

        Israeli Embassy in Mauritania Attacked


        NOUAKCHOTT — Gunmen opened fire on the Israeli embassy
        in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott early Friday,
        February 1, wounding five people, amid growing public
        anger at the stifling Israeli blockade of the Gaza

        "At 2:20 this morning, there was shooting at the
        Israeli embassy in Nouakchott," Israeli ambassador
        Boaz Bismuth told Reuters.

        "It only happened a few hours ago, but a shooting on a
        foreign embassy is a very serious incident."

        Bismuth said all the embassy staff, Israeli and
        Mauritanian, are safe.

        Witnesses said six men wearing boubous – long flowing
        African gowns – and turbans got out of a vehicle and
        walked towards a restaurant near the embassy.

        After a few minutes "they said loudly in Arabic 'let's
        go' then shouted 'Allah Akbar' (God is Greatest) and
        opened fire" at the embassy, said one witness, who was
        at the restaurant when the attack took place.

        Footage showed the embassy undamaged, but there were
        three bullet holes in the windscreen of a vehicle
        parked outside.

        The gunmen also sprayed bullets at a nightclub about
        50 meters (yards) from the embassy on the same street.

        Five people, including a French woman, were injured in
        the two attacks.

        Friday's attack also came just weeks after the 2008
        Lisbon-Dakar rally, which was due to have passed
        through Mauritania, was cancelled due to a security
        alarm caused by two December attacks claimed by

        Al-Qaeda's North African branch claimed responsibility
        for the killings last month of a number of Mauritanian
        soldiers and four French tourists.

        Public Anger

        The attack comes as pressure increases within
        Mauritania against the presence of an Israeli embassy

        The president of the national assembly, Messaoud Ould
        Boulkheir, called Sunday for the country to
        "reconsider" its "shameful" relations with Tel Aviv
        following its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

        It was up to parliamentary "deputies and the
        Mauritanian people to urge the government to
        reconsider the shameful ties with an entity that kills
        our brothers, occupies their land and keeps them under
        the blockade," Ould Boulkheir told the National
        Assembly earlier this week.

        "Gaza is aching at the massacres of its sons and at
        the blockade," he told the opening of a special
        parliamentary session, referring to Israel's total
        lockdown since January 17 of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

        Ould Boulkheir, who is constitutionally the most
        powerful man in the west African country after the
        head of state and Senate president, became the first
        senior politician publicly and officially to question
        relations established with Israel in 1999, under the
        regime of Maaouiya Ould Taya.

        The speaker is the leader of the Progressive Popular
        Alliance, now in power, which has always called for
        Mauritania to break off those ties sealed with the
        Hebrew state, in solidarity with the Palestinians.

        Domestically, the government of President Sidi Ould
        Cheikh Abdallahi has pursued a policy of freeing up
        the press and working for reconcilation among the
        traditional rulers and the black African population.

        Last week, leaders of parties in an increasingly
        active opposition and some allied with the government
        sent a letter to Abdallahi calling on him to sever
        relations with Israel.

        US Army Suicides Spike


        WASHINGTON — The number of US army soldiers committing
        suicides after deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan
        continued to spike in 2007, hitting levels not seen in
        more than a quarter century, army data has shown.

        "We are perturbed by the rise despite all of our
        efforts," Colonel Elsbeth Ritchie, psychiatric
        consultant to the army's surgeon general, told Agence
        France-Presse (AFP).

        Ritchie was part of a team that reviewed suicide
        prevention efforts in Iraq in October after Lieutenant
        General Raymond Odierno raised concerned about
        suicides among deployed soldiers.

        Data released by the army Thursday, January 31, show
        the numbers of suicides and attempted suicides spiked
        in 2007 with 89 confirmed suicides and another 32
        deaths awaiting confirmation as suicides.

        In 2006, 102 active duty soldiers committed suicide,
        almost double the number in 2001.

        According to the figures, more than 2,000 soldiers
        tried to take their own lives or injure themselves in
        2006, compared to about 375 in 2002.

        Most suicides are young males between the ages of 18
        and 24, but the army experts are also starting to see
        higher numbers of suicides among older soldiers and

        Ritchie said 11 female soldiers killed themselves in
        2006. "That's the highest number of females we've ever
        seen," she said.

        Conflict spells disaster for whole of East Africa


        Kenya's political meltdown is threatening its economic
        lifeline to Somalia and other neighbouring countries
        and disrupting the supply of desperately needed relief

        The economies of landlocked states such as Uganda,
        Rwanda and Burundi, which rely on Kenya's trade links
        via its Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, are already
        being hit by the effects of the unrest.

        Goods are piling up in Mombasa amid fears of blockages
        along the main road to Nairobi. Other arteries
        including the roads from the capital to the western
        city of Kisumu and the highway between Nakuru and
        Eldoret have also been blocked. Guillermo Bettocci,
        the Somalia representative of the UN High Commissioner
        for Refugees, expressed concern about the cancellation
        of flights at Nairobi airport, which is used to fly
        out supplies to Somalia.

        He described the situation in Somalia, where fierce
        fighting has resumed between Islamic fighters and
        Ethiopian forces sent to prop up a transitional
        government, as "the world's worst humanitarian
        disaster" which he said had now overtaken Darfur in
        terms of a humanitarian emergency. A total of one
        million people have been displaced inside Somalia by
        the conflict, including 250,000 in Mogadishu alone.

        One of Bin Laden's top six aides is killed in
        suspected US strike

        · Abu al-Libi dies in attack on Pakistan compound
        · Leader of Afghan militants targeted Cheney last year


        senior al-Qaida figure in Afghanistan, described by
        Western officials as one of Osama bin Laden's top six
        lieutenants, has been killed, it was reported
        Abu Laith al-Libi was "martyred along with a group of
        his brothers on the territory of Islamic Pakistan"
        according to a statement on Ikhlaas.org, a website
        that often posts communiques from Islamists in
        Afghanistan and Iraq.

        Libi's death may be linked to what is suspected to be
        a US missile strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan
        region earlier this week, in which 12 people - several
        Arabs and central Asians, as well as local Taliban
        members - are believed to have died. Locals told
        reporters that they heard US Predator drones flying in
        the area shortly before the explosion at a compound,
        and a Pakistani daily newspaper, The News, reported
        that the attack was targeted at Libi and another
        senior figure, Obaidah al Masri.

        Pakistani officials said they had "no information"
        indicating that Libi was dead, but the Associated
        Press quoted a "knowledgeable western official"
        confirming the death: "It appears that Al-Libi has met
        his demise."

        Letters: British Muslims
        Muslims should not be surprised at backlash against


        Robert Fisk: The curious case of the forged biography

        When Robert Fisk heard that his life of Saddam Hussein
        was selling well, one thing bothered him: he had never
        written one. His investigation took him to the
        murkiest corners of Cairo


        It arrived for me in Beirut under plain cover, a brown
        envelope containing a small, glossy paperback in
        Arabic, accompanied by a note from an Egyptian friend.
        "Robert!" it began. "Did you really write this?"

        The front cover bore a photograph of Saddam Hussein in
        the dock in Baghdad, the left side of his head in
        colour, the right side bleached out, wearing a black
        sports jacket but with no tie, holding a Koran in his
        right hand. "Saddam Hussein," the cover said in huge
        letters. "From Birth to Martyrdom." And then there was
        the author's name – in beautiful, calligraphic
        typeface and in gold in the top, right-hand corner.
        "By Robert Fisk."

        So there it was, 272 paperback pages on the life and
        times of the Hitler of Baghdad and selling very well
        in the Egyptian capital. "We all suspect a well-known
        man here," she added. "His name is Magdi Chukri."

        Needless to say, I noticed one or two problems with
        this book. It took a very lenient view of the
        brutality of Saddam, it didn't seem to care much about
        the gassed civilians of Halabja – and it was full of
        the kind of purple passages which I loathe. "After the
        American rejection of the Iraqi weapons report to the
        UN," 'Robert Fisk' wrote, "the beating of war drums
        turned into a cacophony..."

        Danish library plans to house cartoons of prophet

        · Controversial works will be secure, says spokeswoman
        · Muslim society vows to ignore 'provocation'

        Robert Tait
        Wednesday January 30, 2008
        The Guardian


        Denmark's national library is to risk re-opening an
        international political storm by housing the cartoon
        images of the prophet Muhammad that provoked violent
        convulsions throughout the Islamic world two years
        The royal library in Copenhagen - founded in the 17th
        century by King Frederik III and home to many historic
        treasures - has declared the drawings to be of
        historic value and is trying to acquire them for
        "preservation purposes".

        The library, widely acknowledged as the most
        significant in Scandinavia, has agreed to take
        possession of the caricatures on behalf of the museum
        of Danish cartoon art, a spokesman told the Art

        UK lacks counter-terror policy, says Musharraf

        · Pakistani president hits back at British critics
        · Your Islamist militants are home-grown, Brown told


        Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, claimed
        yesterday that Britain lacked a long-term
        counter-terrorist strategy and argued that Islamist
        extremism was a home-grown problem for Britain rather
        than his country's responsibility.
        Speaking before meeting Gordon Brown in Downing
        Street, and in response to persistent British
        criticism of his record on counter-terrorism,
        Musharraf set out the shortcomings he sees in the UK's
        efforts to deal with militant young Muslims, pointing
        out that all the July 7 2005 bombers were born in the

        "We have adopted a five-point strategy. You need to
        adopt a similar strategy to curb this kind of tendency
        in youngsters, who tend to become terrorists, because
        merely getting hold of them and punishing them legally
        does not solve the problem or get to the root of the
        problem," he said.
        He listed the five elements of Pakistan's
        counter-terrorist strategy: curbing the propagation of
        extremism in mosques; restricting the publication of
        extremist literature; banning extremist organisations;
        stopping the teaching of militant Islam in schools;
        and bringing madrasas (religious schools) into the

        Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Why is racial abuse now
        considered acceptable?


        On the day my beloved son was born at the John
        Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Margaret Thatcher gave a
        speech on how her kith and kin felt rather "swamped"
        by alien cultures and peoples. My child was branded –
        rejected, I felt – as he took his first breath. I
        never forgave the Iron Lady for inciting animosity
        against us.

        This Wednesday the boy, now a barrister, turns 30. His
        Britain is dynamic, diverse and – in spite of old and
        new fissures – remarkably at ease with itself, as is
        he. Though discrimination blocks talent and top jobs
        still go to white, clubbable chaps, opportunities have
        been prised open and a meritocracy operates in many
        professions. There is nowhere else I would choose to

        And yet, and yet, I see a return to some of the
        attitudes personified by Thatcher and Enoch Powell,
        cultural protectionists who wanted England to be their
        England and only theirs once again. There are also
        ominous signs that racial intolerance is breaking out,
        even among the usually civil middle classes. It is
        hugely upsetting that we blacks and Asians
        increasingly experience spit-in-your-face racism, even
        in London, the city made by strangers.

        Last Monday, I was speaking at an Evening
        Standard/YouGovStone public debate on what we wanted
        from the London Mayor. We were at Cadogan Hall in
        smart Sloane Square. The audience– many well-heeled –
        was lively and keen, a good sign of political
        engagement. Such debates can get fiery and that makes
        them real and exciting. Other panellists were Michael
        Eboda, the ex-editor of The Voice newspaper, the
        prolific and weighty columnist Simon Jenkins, and
        Boris Johnson. All went spiffingly well until I said
        we needed time-limited, affirmative action in
        recruitment and promotion for key institutions such as
        the police forces.

        In Northern Ireland, affirmative action has
        transformed the police force so it reflects the
        Catholic/Protestant population. Mr Eboda then directly
        interrogated Mr Johnson on some of his insulting
        assertions about black people. The Tory MP first
        huffed and puffed and then blew out a timid apology.
        Neither Mr Eboda nor I were rude or aggressive, yet we
        seemed to stir some pretty revolting feelings in a
        number of ladies and gents attending. There was much
        unruly shouting. I was called a "cunt" and told to go
        back to Uganda. Mr Eboda was also racially abused, as
        was anybody else, black and white, who stood up to the
        posh hooligans. Members of the Black Police Federation
        later told me they were actually afraid of the mob
        malevolence. Five years ago, few readers resorted to
        ugly, racist abuse. Now hundreds mug me via email.

        Talk to Al-Qaeda: French Expert


        PARIS — A French expert in terrorism and Islamic
        militancy is calling for a dialogue with Osama bin
        Laden's Al-Qaeda organization to refute its
        "unrealistic" ideologies as the security option has
        proved a "fiasco."
        "In talking to Al-Qaeda and its leaders, I'm sure we
        are able to counter their ideology with facts on the
        ground," Anne Giudicelli told IslamOnline.net in an

        "This will be the first step to face Al-Qaeda."

        Giudicelli, a former anti-terror adviser to the French
        Foreign Ministry, said a quite dialogue with Al-Qaeda
        leaders could help convince them that their ideas,
        like enforcing Shari`ah in European societies, simply
        do not work.

        "An in-depth dialogue will enable us convince Al-Qaeda
        leaders that their ideology is inapplicable and

        Giudicelli regretted European rejection of bin Laden's
        truce offer in 2004 in the aftermath of the deadly
        Madrid bombings claimed by his network.

        Artificial Life Under Fire


        WASHINGTON — An announcement by controversial US
        scientist Craig Venter of taking a major step toward
        creating the first ever artificial life form by
        synthetically reproducing the DNA of a bacteria has
        aroused heated scientific debate over the ethics of
        the lab trial and its success rates.
        "Venter is not God," Helen Wallace, a biologist and
        spokeswoman for GeneWatch UK, told Agence
        France-Presse (AFP).

        Hamilton Smith, from the J.Craig Venter Institute, in
        the study published Thursday in Science magazine, that
        through a five-year research effort showed that
        building large genomes is now feasible so that
        important applications such as biofuels can be

        The move is seen as the penultimate stage in the
        endeavor to create an artificial life in the form of a
        bacteria based entirely on a man-made DNA genome.

        The research has been carried out at the laboratories
        of Venter, who has hailed artificial life forms as a
        potential remedy to illness and global warming.

        The chromosome which Venter and his team has created
        is known as Mycoplasma laboratorium and, in the final
        step of the process, will be transplanted into a
        living cell where it should "take control,"
        effectively becoming a new life form.

        The bacteria, which causes certain sexually
        transmitted diseases, has one of the least complex DNA
        structures of any life form, composed of just 580
        genes. In contrast, the human genome has some 30,000.

        Beirut Blast Kills Senior Officer


        BEIRUT —A senior intelligence officer was killed with
        three other people in a car bombing in the Lebanese
        capital, Beirut, on Friday, January 25, in the second
        bombing targeting an official at the security and
        military establishments in as many as days.
        "Captain Wissam Eid, a member of the Internal Security
        Forces, and his bodyguard were killed in the blast," a
        security official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

        Desert state channels oil wealth into world's first
        sustainable city
        Lord Foster designs car-free, solar-powered project
        for 50,000 people


        In an expanse of grey rock and dust in one of the
        harshest environments on earth, the United Arab
        Emirates is about to build what is being described as
        the world's first sustainable city, designed by
        British architect Lord Foster.

        The site is far from promising. Miles from a polluted
        sea, a fierce sun raises temperatures to 50C (120F) in
        the summer, and there is no fresh water, no soil and
        no animals. But tens of billions of petro-dollars will
        be poured into these seven square kilometres of desert
        on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

        Called Masdar - "the source" in Arabic - the walled
        city is intended to house 50,000 people and 1,500
        businesses. It will have no cars and be
        self-sufficient in renewable energy, the majority of
        which will be solar energy.

        The formal unveiling of the desert eco-city will be
        made today at a summit on future energy sources in Abu
        Dhabi, attended by the UK business secretary, John
        Hutton, and Prince Andrew.

        "It's extremely ambitious," said Gerard Evenden,
        senior partner in Lord Foster's architecture practice
        in London, which has had a team working on the design
        for nine months. "We were invited to design a
        zero-carbon city. In this harsh place we needed to
        look back at history and see how ancient settlements
        had adapted to their environments." The buildings will
        huddle together as in a casbah, and will be cooled by
        wind towers which will collect the desert's breezes
        and flush out hot air. No building will be more than
        five storeys high; the city is to be oriented
        north-east to south-west to give the optimum balance
        of sunlight and shade.

        'To impose democracy from outside is inherently

        Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, tells Simon
        Tisdall in a rare interview that western policy in the
        region is ill-informed and at times arrogant


        Western countries should stop trying to browbeat
        Kenya's warring political leaders into submission and
        do more in practical terms to prevent poverty, lack of
        opportunity, and Islamist terrorism from further
        destabilising the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia's prime
        minister, Meles Zenawi, has told the Guardian.
        "The threat of western sanctions as a response to the
        current crisis in Kenya is very, very misguided,"
        Meles said. "If it is presumed that the Kenyans will
        democratise in order to eat the peanuts of development
        assistance from the European Union, for example, it
        would be a big mistake."

        Placing pressure on resources to influence the
        post-election process, which has degenerated into
        violence amid claims of government-engineered fraud,
        would not work and could be counter-productive, he

        "What it does do is give the impression that Africans
        democratise in response to development assistance and
        all you have to do is close the taps and they will sit
        up and behave like proper schoolchildren. That is very
        unfortunate and quite demeaning."
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