News in Brief: Sony recalls game after music offends Muslims
- Sony recalls game after music offends Muslims
Allah is not a DJ
By Sylvie Barak: Tuesday, 21 October 2008, 8:12 AM
SONY IS POSTPONING the release of its long-awaited game LittleBigPlanet, due to concerns that a background song might be offensive to Muslim sensibilities.
Little Big Planet, originally scheduled for release on October 24th, was pulled faster than you can say “cartoons of the prophet Muhammed” from shops worldwide, as Muslim game forums fumed one of the background music tracks contained two sentences from the Koran.
The game, developed by Media Molecule, is supposed to be the biggest PS3 hit of the year, allowing players to build their own playground levels and then swap them with other players over the PlayStation Network, in a game about making games.
The “offensive” song in question is sung by a devout Muslim, freely available on Itunes and has never before drawn criticism. But Muslim gamers are apparently deeply offended and insist that mixing music and words from Islam's most holy text is not fair game.
The words include “kollo nafsin tha'ikatol mawt", or: 'Every soul shall have the taste of death' and "kollo man alaiha fan": 'All that is on earth will perish'.
Sony immediately fell to its knees and groveled in apology for any offence caused while sniveling that a versionof the game without the background song would be released next month.
It is not the first time that Sony has rubbed a religion up the wrong way, apologizing to the Church of England back in June 2007 for a violent game scene set inside Manchester Cathedral, but the game was not pulled or fixed.
Sony has no qualms about offending anyone else with violent or sexual scenes. Punching hookers in the face is fine, but completely innocuous background music is very, very bad.
Manzoor Moghal, a member of the Muslim Forum think-tank, told the BBC his organisation complimented Sony “for taking decisive action by withdrawing these games immediately, and releasing a version that is not offensive to Muslims".
Video game delayed by Muslim offence fears
The release of a video game hailed as the biggest in Sony PlayStation's history has been delayed amid fears that some background music could offend Muslims, it was revealed today.
LittleBigPlanet's release date was put back after it was discovered that one of the background music tracks to the game included expressions from the Koran.
It was reported that the game would be re-programmed without the offending song, a track by Mali-born singer Toumani Diabate.
A statement on the LittleBigPlanet website said: "We're sure that most of you have heard by now that one of the background music tracks that was licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Koran.
"We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologise for any offence this may have caused.
"We will begin shipping LittleBigPlanet to retail in North America the week of October 27."
The British-created game features a rag doll hero called Sackboy. Players can customise the toy and then control it to run and jump through a world designed to appeal to all ages.
The concept was developed by games designer Media Molecule, based in Guildford, Surrey, and allows players to design their own level in detail and share it with friends over the internet.
A statement on Media Molecule's website said they were "shell-shocked and gutted" by the delay.
"We learnt... that there is a lyric in one of the licensed tracks which some people may find offensive, and which slipped through the usual screening processes," it said.
"Obviously MM and Sony together took this very seriously. LBP should be enjoyable by all."
Stand by your phones to vote for the Preachers of Hate
In the name of everything that's great about Great Britain, how did it take this long for The X Factor to get its own terror plotline? Are you on top of this story? It's a fast-developing news event, so there's only time for the briefest of summaries before we get into the bad taste, fatwa-baiting stuff, but know this: Beirut-exiled Preacher of Hate™ Omar Bakri has sensationally sparked a terror alert on Britain's most apocalypse-hastening TV talent show.
The ranting bile-monger - it's quicker if we do it this way - has blasted Muslims who sell the show's charity single, which is being recorded in aid of injured British troops. Help for Heroes also does charity wristbands, and Omar has taken to a website to declare: "Some Muslims in Birmingham are wearing the armbands in support of British troops in Afghanistan. This is a form of muadaat [hatred] of the kuffar [infidels] against the Muslims . . . and it has dangerous implications." According to Omar, merely watching The X Factor is "a form of hatred". It certainly is during the audition rounds. He goes on to ban Muslims from associating with anyone who watches the show.
To clarify: our enemies are so fearsome that they spend their time blogging about The X Factor. And still we're losing the battle for hearts and minds. Can we please work harder to fix this?
At City Hall, a Welcome Mat for Id al-Fitr
By Anne Barnard
Girls with blond braids circled boys in jewel-colored Slavic costumes in a Bosnian folk dance. A man from the Ivory Coast, in a blue robe and skullcap, sang a haunting melody. An Egyptian dancer whirled in circles, his upper body serene, his bright red skirt wafting outward as he spun, his feet tapping madly beneath it.
All were Muslim New Yorkers, performing the other night at the annual celebration of the Muslim holiday Id al-Fitr at the City Council chamber in New York’s City Hall. Above them, time-darkened ceiling panels spelled out ideals of American government: “Equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion — Jefferson.”
Across the hall, an overflow crowd was still giving City Hall a piece of its mind over the mayor’s proposal to change the election law to let him run for a third term.
“This is your room,” said City Councilman John Liu, of Queens, who, along with his colleague Robert Jackson of Manhattan, the Council’s lone Muslim, sponsors the event, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast, give to charity and focus on the suffering of others.
The aim of the event, last Friday night, was to let Muslims — many of them new immigrants who felt besieged after Sept. 11, 2001 — know that they are welcome in City Hall.
“In the context of New York City politics, that’s controversial,” said John Choe, Mr. Liu’s chief of staff. Although the program is nothing if not patriotic — this year four children from the Sadanang Worldwide Music Center, which teaches Indian classical music in Sunnyside, Queens, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” — he said it always attracted hate mail.
But for the audience — and the Pakistani television reporter who said was covering it to show his country that “Americans love Muslims” — it was a time to learn about other Muslims’ languages and traditions, and to love New York, Muslim and otherwise.
Malik Sakhawat Hussein, a Pakistani-born imam in a white turban, boomed out a staccato Valentine to the city: “New York is the most tolerant, the most patient! I am proud to be a New Yorker, and I feel more compassion and more warmth in New York City!”
Cyber-attack theory as al-Qaida websites close
• Analysts suspect western intelligence agencies
• Propaganda groups blame technical problems
Websites being used to disseminate propaganda by al-Qaida appear to have come under systematic cyber-attack, forcing the closure of three for well over a month and fuelling speculation that governments are targeting them in a shadowy new front in the "war on terror".
Al-Ekhlas, al-Buraq and al-Firdaws, all linked to al-Fajr - the media distribution arm of al-Qaida - have been down since just before September 11, when the broadcast of a video commemorating the 2001 attacks was inexplicably delayed.
All have suffered occasional disruption but this is the longest period they have been out of action. Al-Fajr blamed technical problems and denied that the sites had fallen "into the hands of the enemy".
Yet suspicions of a deliberate disruption campaign have been fuelled by the fact that a fourth website, al-Hesbah, continues to operate unimpeded, with several experts suggesting it may be being used by Saudi intelligence to monitor and entrap jihadi militants.
But the episode remains shrouded in mystery. All four sites posted material produced by as-Sahhab, al-Qaida's slick media production arm - mostly video clips of "martyrdom operations" in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere - as well as statements by Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Access to the sites is typically password-protected and they have different levels of entry: the most public are statements issued by al-Qaida-linked groups as far afield as Uzbekistan and Algeria. There are also member-only forums where participants use pseudonyms.
All are monitored by academics who study jihadi groups and presumably by Arab and western intelligence agencies.
Two of the sites suffered problems in June but then resumed normal service. "I think what happened in June was a trial run for what took place in September," said William McCants, a consultant at West Point military academy who runs the Jihadica.com website.
Raw sewage threat to booming Dubai
Down on the beach next to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and the fishing harbour there's a stink: raw sewage is flowing into the sea close to prime tourist beaches.
The putrid problem is caused by the illegal dumping of untreated sewage in Dubai's inland storm drain network, as the city's rapid growth outstrips its infrastructure.
At Dubai's only sewage treatment plant there are long queues and serious delays.
Truck drivers who are paid by the lorry load to collect waste from the city's septic tanks wait for several hours to dispose of their foul cargo legally.
There simply is not the capacity to deal with all the human waste the city dwellers produce.
After dark some drivers are taking a shortcut and dumping their loads straight into manholes meant only for rainwater.
The result is raw sewage flowing directly into the once-clear blue sea of the Gulf - right next to prime swimming beaches.
This is bad news for a city which depends on the tourists who flock to its shores.
'Within the standard'
The city's municipality has already closed one beach and says it is trying to catch the culprits.
It has imposed fines of up to $25,000 and threatened to confiscate tankers if the dumping persists.
"The municipality has tracked and caught drivers - many over the last few days," said Mohammed Abdul Rahman Hassan, Head of the Marine and Environmental Protection Section at Dubai Municipality.
The municipality maintains that its latest test results show samples of the water are "within the standard".
"Samples were taken from three locations - the harbour, near the outfall and on the beach," explains Mr Hassan. "It is safe according to our report - within the safe limit."
But independent tests arranged by the sailing club show the water to be highly contaminated with bacteria and the human faeces floating in the sea.
"Our tests show the water is not safe," said Keith Mutch, General Manager at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.
"We have had to cancel sailing lessons until further notice - until there is a clean bill of health."
So far there has been no contamination found near the city's five-star hotel strip but that is just a short distance along the beach and if the research done by the Sailing Club is anything to go by the pollution could get worse.
"I have been out in the middle of the night following these tanker drivers," said Mr Mutch. "We know what they are doing, and we know that they are doing it because there is a huge wait at the sewerage plant. This contamination is definitely happening elsewhere in the city."
Only one storm water outlet is currently open but when the first rain comes to Dubai this winter other parts of the system, including those near the smart hotels will also need to be used.
No-one yet knows exactly what those pipes might contain but everyone is hoping that something can be done before there is a need to find out.
'Muslim' shouldn't be a slur
Excuse me, but when did the words "Muslim" and "Arab" become acceptable epithets?
I'm not a Muslim, and perhaps I was slow to see this coming. Four months ago, I blithely advised a group at a local mosque not to obsess over the anti-Muslim undertones of the presidential campaign. At that point, Barack Obama was defending his Christian bona fides against "accusations" of "being a Muslim" (as if it had suddenly become a Class-D felony), but was doing so without condemning the implicit slurs against Islam, Muslims and Arabs.
In a "don't worry, be happy" tone, I breezily noted that although the stoking of racial fear and xenophobia was a cherished tradition of American politics, I really didn't think that this time around the candidates would permit the wholesale slander of Islam or Muslims.
Apparently, I was wrong. The undertones have become screaming overtones. And it is past time to object.
If it wasn't clear before, it became crystal clear last week in the aftermath of Republican rallies. Fomenting fear to shore up drooping support, Republicans sadly used heated demagoguery about "palling around with terrorists," about "Barack Hussein Obama" and about how Obama doesn't "see America like you and I," words that mixed subliminally to conflate "terror" with "Muslim" and to whip crowds into xenophobic anger. After his enraged supporters were recorded uttering death threats and racial slurs, McCain was forced on several occasions to try to tamp down the anger in the audience and to defend his opponent.
That was a good step one -- until McCain blew it. A woman stood up in the audience and said that she just couldn't trust Obama because, as she put it, "he's an Arab." McCain shook his head, took the microphone and said: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."
Crowd foils ostrich record attempt
Maybe it looked too delicious to resist or perhaps the hours of waiting had simply provoked appetites beyond control.
Whatever the reason, Iran's eccentric bid to set a world record for making the biggest-ever ostrich sandwich ended when the evidence was eaten by the hungry watching crowds.
Organisers were trying to enter the Guinness World Records by producing a 1,500-metre-long (4,921ft) sandwich containing one tonne of ostrich meat.
More than 1,000 cooks laboured from early morning in Tehran's Mellat park to assemble the monster sandwich. But as soon as their task was completed, popular enthusiasm overwhelmed the need for attention to detail as crowds began devouring the snack before its measurements could be verified.
Chaotic scenes ensued as the sandwich was gobbled up, leaving Guinness representatives who were present unsure if a new standard had been set.
With local and international media on hand, organisers hope footage will be accepted as proof that the previous record of 1,378 metres, set in Italy in May, has been broken. "We still think the sandwich will be recorded because of all the evidence we will send them," organiser Parvin Shariati said.
Time to resurrect the Arab peace plan
If moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are to be kept alive for the next US president, promoting a neglected Arab peace initiative could help
Ian Black, Middle East editor guardian.co.uk, Saturday October 18 2008 00.10 BST
In late July, when Barack Obama toured the Middle East, he met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for a private briefing on the state of the world's most intractable conflict - a major priority for the next occupant of the Oval Office.
Abbas revealed later that when he told the Democratic candidate about the Arab peace initiative - offering Israel normal relations with all 22 Arab countries in exchange for a Palestinian state - Obama's (clearly private) response was unambiguous: "The Israelis must be crazy not to accept that."
It's a telling anecdote that is highly relevant as Arabs and Israelis await the outcome of the US election and ponder how - or whether - their faltering peace process can be sustained or revived once a new administration is in place. After eight disastrous years of George Bush, and zero hopes for an 11th-hour negotiating breakthrough between Palestinians and Israelis, there is a real thirst for change in Washington.
And it is also high time, some argue, to revisit that Arab initiative not because it can by itself resolve those knotty bilateral issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees - but because it could help persuade sceptical Israelis that there are benefits and a place for them in the wider Middle East.
Kosovo state inevitable, says Nobel laureate
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor The Guardian, Saturday October 18 2008
Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president awarded the Nobel peace prize for his mediation in Kosovo and a string of other conflicts around the world, said yesterday that Serbia would have no option but to accept the new Balkan state.
In his first interview with a British newspaper since being named Nobel laureate last week, Ahtisaari shrugged off the apparent setback to his work in Kosovo inflicted when Serbia succeeded in having its declaration of independence referred to the international court of justice.
The 71-year old also argued that it did not matter that the former Serbian province had been recognised so far by only 51 of the world's 192 countries. That was less important than the economic clout of the nations that did recognise Kosovo, including the US and most of western Europe.
"It really doesn't matter if Paraguay hasn't recognised," Ahtisaari said. "Well over 65% of the wealth of the world has recognised. That matters."
Dhaka, Islamic Parties in Faceoff
By Ferdous Ahmad, IOL Correspondent
Wed. Oct. 15, 2008
DHAKA — A new election law banning parties with a religious identity from contesting the upcoming general polls is putting the army-backed government and Islamic parties on a collision course.
"Islamic parties don’t accept this amendment," Rezaul Karim, Ameer of the Islamic Constitution Movement, an Islamic political party, told IslamOnline.net.
"The people of Bangladesh don’t accept any type of anti-Islamic electoral law."
The caretaker government amended earlier this week the Representation of People Order (RPO), a set of electoral rules first introduced in 1972.
Under the amended PRO, any kind of religious, race, language or caste-based political party shall not be qualified to register for the parliamentary polls scheduled for December to restore democracy to the country.
This sent shockwaves among Islamic-rooted political groups in the predominantly-Muslim nation.
Political leaders and activists were united in rejecting the anti-religion rule as discriminatory.
Major parties, including the former ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), are demanding the cancelation of the amendment.
Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim majority country, has been under a state of emergency since January 2007.
The army-backed government argues that emergency rules -- including a ban on public political rallies -- are needed to prevent violence.
Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's biggest religion-based political party, has already filed a writ petition before the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the new RPO.
"The RPO Ordinance-2008 goes against the spirit of Bangladesh’s constitution," Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, former cabinet minister and Secretary-General of Jammat-e-Islami, told IOL.
"This amendment is contradictory to the constitution," agreed Maulana Mohammad Ishaque, Ameer of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, another Islamic party.
"This is a whimsical decision of the government."
Since Bangladesh, previously known as East Pakistan, won independence in 1971, people were allowed to follow religion-based politics.
Under Article 38 of the constitution, any party can be based on religious ideology.
"Barring religion-based political parties is not right," Prof. Ataur Rahman, political analyst and senior teacher at Dhaka University, told IOL.
"This amendment is not justified and should be modified."
Rahman notes that in many world countries, Muslim or non-Muslim, faith-based political parties exist and sometimes dominate the political scene.
He cited the examples of India's largest political party the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and many Christian-based parties in the West.
"Now there are many religion-based political parties in the world including the US and many European countries," concurs Prof. Emaz Uddin Ahmed, a noted political scientist and former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University.
"The existence of politics without religion is impossible and unreasonable."
Virgin Shark Got Pregnant in Virginia Aquarium
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists using DNA testing have confirmed the second-known instance of "virgin birth" in a shark -- a female Atlantic blacktip shark named Tidbit that produced a baby without a male shark.
The shark came to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach not long after being born in the wild and lived there for eight years with no males of the same species, said Beth Firchau, the aquarium's curator of fishes.
The 5-foot (1.5-meter) shark died after being removed from the tank for a veterinary examination, and a subsequent necropsy revealed that Tidbit was carrying a fully developed shark pup nearly ready to be born, Firchau said.
Demian Chapman, a shark scientist with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York state, performed DNA testing that showed the pup had no father. Virgin birth such as this is known as parthenogenesis.
A year ago, Chapman used genetic testing to confirm that a hammerhead shark at a zoo in Omaha gave birth to a pup in 2002, also after parthenogenesis.
"It tells us that the original case we documented last year was not some fluke of nature. This is something that might be more common than we think it is, and widespread among sharks," Chapman said in a telephone interview.
Parthenogenesis also has been documented in Komodo dragons, snakes, birds, fish and amphibians, Chapman said.
It occurs when a baby is conceived without male sperm fertilizing the female's eggs. In the type of parthenogenesis seen in sharks, the mother's chromosomes split during egg development.
How the sharks do it is unclear. Chapman said they may use a hormone to trigger eggs to develop in this manner in the absence of males. Or perhaps if eggs remain unfertilized with no males around, a certain fraction develop into embryos.
"It's a finding that kind of rewrites the textbooks a little," Chapman said. "It just goes to show how the ocean keeps its secrets very well. And the sharks in particular."
"Of course, sharks are being killed at such a rate that unless we do something to stop that, we're not even going to learn all their secrets before they're gone," Chapman added.
The findings appear in the Journal of Fish Biology.
'We need 30,000 more soldiers to beat Taliban,' says general
Exclusive: General Sir David Richards, who will today be named as the British Army's new head, appeals for a dramatic 'surge' in Afghanistan
One-Dollar UN Girls
By Caglar Dolek
Researcher - Turkey
“In certain villages bordering conflict zones, young girls have admitted that armed men come in at night – these girls are used as sex workers – they are not allowed to protest – they are not allowed to lock their doors and the whole community tolerates this because these armed men protect the community – so it is a trade-off.” (The Report of International Committee of the Red Cross, 2005)
The above stated observation of the International Committee of the Red Cross clearly demonstrates how the UN peacekeeping operations fundamentally lack a gender dimension which would ensure, and secure women’s human rights in conflict zones. In cases like Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, Congo and many others, the acts of sexual abuse by the UN peacekeepers have been reported causing serious debates on the contradictory nature of peacekeeping operations.
The present study tries to critically evaluate the ‘gender dimension’ of the UN peacekeeping in order to uncover the contradictory nature of the UN operations. For that aim, this paper aims:
• Firstly, to provide an insight into the transforming nature of conflict in the post-Cold War era, that has ‘necessitated’ a novel approach to the peacekeeping operations.
• Secondly, the paper makes a critical analysis of the peacekeeping operations with special emphasis on the problem of sexual exploitation of women and children by the peacekeepers. Arguing that the peacekeeping should have a ‘gender dimension’, the paper scrutinizes in the third part the formal and institutional mechanisms of the UN to address the issue.
• Then, the paper ends up with the argument that without a gendered approach to peace operations and with the endurance of patriarchal codes of subordination, the UN operations are likely to remain as the ‘perpetuators’ of the human rights violations in the conflict-torn countries, rather than the other way around.
‘New Generation of Peacekeeping’
The United Nations officially came into being on 24 October 1945, having the fundamental purpose to maintain international peace and security. Such a purpose is summarized in Article 1(1) of the UN Charter, which states that the primary aim of the UN is:
“to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”
Generally speaking, the UN performs this duty through three different, but closely interlinked, ways and/or processes:
• Peaceful settlement
• Collective security
Peacekeeping has experienced a radical transformation both in terms of purpose and nature especially since the end of the Cold War. This transformation has been largely conditioned by the alteration of the traditional notion of sovereignty in the wake of the new categories of conflicts experienced in many developing countries.
This transformation was first reflected in the policies of the UN in early 1990s, with a document called ‘An Agenda for Peace’ prepared by the Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. The document opened a new phase in the UN peacekeeping operations by making a novel definition of sovereignty, and by altering the nature of peacekeeping.
‘An Agenda for Peace’ provided that there emerged novel types of conflicts ranging from ethnic clashes to the humanitarian disasters with the end of the Cold War. Rather than the inter-state security matters, it was observed, the internal problems of the individual countries have become the major concerns for security.
Moreover, the report made it clear that an approach based on the traditional notion of sovereignty, as centered on the nation state, was not sufficient to resolve the problems arising in the form of humanitarian disasters. It was argued that the judicial sovereignty, which had been the basis of the international system for centuries, was no longer justifiable in the wake of severe human rights violations committed by ‘sovereign’ states in their domestic affairs. Then, the notion of empirical sovereignty was advocated in order to emphasize the point that the individual state should now act in accordance with the basic standards of human rights as recognized in the international treaties and documents.
This transformation in fact indicated a radical alteration of the philosophy of intervention by the UN. Prior to this time, the UN peacekeeping operations had been conducted in accordance with the provisions provided by the Chapter VI of the UN Charter, entitled as the Pacific Settlement of Disputes. During the Cold War, the UN conducted various peacekeeping operations but with the aim of containing the conflict within its geographical context. Otherwise, in an environment of Cold War, the small-scale conflicts might cause many serious ones in the international arena with the natural exacerbation of the ideological rivalry.
Based on such a rationale, the UN peacekeeping functioned as the buffer zone between the conflicting parties, engaged in non-use of force (with the exception of self-defense) and required the consent of the parties to the conflict. That is, because the post-1945 settlement greatly embraced the notions of non-intervention and sovereign equality as embodied in the domestic jurisdiction clause of Article 2(7) of the UN Charter, the UN peacekeeping operations did not carry out any acts inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the sovereignty.
However, as discussed above, the end of Cold War brought a fundamental transformation of the peace operations under the mandate of the UN. This transformation has gradually brought the peacekeeping operations under the umbrella of the Chapter VII of the Charter. With reference to that chapter, the peace operations were then conducted without the consent of host countries, and large-scale military forces were employed. One of the earliest examples was the First Gulf War justified by the US-led international forces on the grounds of ‘humanitarian intervention’. Then, the examples multiplied from Somalia to Bosnia to Rwanda in the 1990s.
Speaking in terms of the rationale behind the ‘new generation of peacekeeping’ operations, the notion of human rights played a central role behind all these operations. However, as discussed in the next section, the UN peacekeepers in time turned out to be the ‘perpetuators’ of the human rights violations because of the ‘gender-blind’ understanding of the peacekeeping.
Here, the discussions over this transformation have naturally focused on quite diverse aspects of the issue. Some would argue that the moral responsibility to protect has conditioned the transformation of the rationale behind the UN peacekeeping operations. However, those, including me, argue that this assertive type of interventionism, as emerged in the 1990s, were the mere reflections of the post-1989 constitution of the world order and functioned in the interests of the US as the uncontested hegemon. Because the present paper particularly focuses on the issue of human rights violations committed by the UN peacekeepers, the above discussion is left outside the frontiers of this paper. However, for a critical analysis of the discourse of humanitarianism (with special focus on Africa), please see Caglar Dolek, ‘US Hegemony, Failed State and War on Terrorism: Implications for Africa?’, March 2008.
This paper is republished with the kind permission of Caglar Dolek, which was originally publisehed in the Turkish Weekly. The author may be reached through caglar_dolek@...
Shiite Remark Personal Opinion: Qaradawi
By Ali Al-Halawani, Hany Ramadan, IOL Staff
Tue. Oct. 14, 2008
DOHA — Prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi affirmed on Tuesday, October 14, that his recent remarks over attempts to spread Shiite teachings in Sunni countries reflect his personal opinion.
He stressed that the remarks were not made in his capacity as president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) or on IUMS's behalf.
"The delay in clarifying a Shari`ah-related issue that is urgently needed and is time-related is not permitted under any circumstances," Qaradawi told a meeting of the IUMS Board of Trustees Tuesday.
Qaradawi warned last month of attempts by some Shiite groups and organizations to spread the Shiite school of thought in some Sunni-majority countries.
Members of the IUMS Board of Trustees will release a statement on the issue at the conclusion of their two-day meeting in Doha.
The meeting is attended by IUMS Deputy Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, IUMS Deputy Chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah and IUMS Secretary General Dr. Mohammad Salim Al-Awwa.
Also attending is a galaxy of prominent Muslim scholars from around the world including Dr. Ali Al-Qura Daghi, Dr. Esam Al-Bashir, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda and many others.
Al-Awwa refuted claims that the IUMS Board of Trustees would be electing a replacement for Qaradawi.
"Claims that the IUMS Board of Trustees would discuss in any way electing a new chairman instead of prominent Sheikh Qaradawi are baseless," he stressed in a statement.
The Dublin-based IUMS was launched in July, 2004, in the British capital as an independent body and a reference for all Muslims worldwide.
"Sheikh Qaradawi has been unanimously elected by IUMS members as chairman for a term that expires in 2010," Al-Awwa said.
Fisk 'shocked' by US failure to debate conflict in Israel
By Amol Rajan
Monday, 13 October 2008
A feisty debate between Robert Fisk and the author Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman brought The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival to a close on a high note last night.
The absence of a debate on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the US presidential elections was "shocking", Fisk told a packed hall at Blenheim Palace, the grand 18th-century home in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, which hosted the festival.
"America must pull its military forces out of Iraq and the Middle East, leaving the peoples of the region to decide their own future," said Fisk, an author and Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He said the US and its allies had "built a new Iron Curtain from the ice cap to the equator", and added that the result of the elections on 4 November "would not make the slightest bit of difference in the Middle East".
"America's uncritical support for Israel is going to continue," he said.
Professor Freedman, of King's College, London, however, provided stiff resistance, arguing that the United States must play a constructive role in the region and around the globe.
The debate was one of a series of discussions with leading figures from the worlds of literature, the arts and politics that have engrossed audiences since the festival began last week.
Only a few hours before Fisk and Professor Freedman's appearance, the acclaimed historian, Simon Schama, spoke to The Independent columnist Deborah Orr about his new book The American Future: A History, which accompanies a current BBC series.
Hundreds watched Schama lament the collapse of American self-confidence under George Bush. The historian, who spent much of his career at Oxford but is now based at Columbia University in New York, made no attempt to hide his view that the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, could help renew the ideals that inspired the birth of the American nation.
Speaking in the splendour of the palace Orangery, Schama described Mr Bush as a "comical little front man" for what ought to be considered the "Cheney administration".
Schama also derided the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, for running a divisive campaign that would backfire in states that didn't already support him.
And he said that vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's comment at a rally last week that Mr Obama "is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America" had racist undertones that made it "morally repellent". It was, Schama said, "code for depicting Obama as the Other".
In one of the early highlights of the festival, the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, took to the stage on Friday in an apparent attempt to cast himself as the heir to Tony Blair. In an interview with Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of The Independent, Mr Cameron, who celebrated his 42nd birthday last Thursday, declared: "I'm a very straightforward person."
The comment invoked Mr Blair's assertion that he was "a pretty straight kind of guy".
Other prominent speakers to draw large crowds included the typically forthright war correspondents Martin Bell and Ann Leslie, novelists Elizabeth Jane Howard and P D James, 85 and 88 respectively, and two Independent columnists: novelist Howard Jacobson and chef Mark Hix.
Dame Ann, promoting an autobiography which includes compelling details about her time on the front line, issued a hurried apology after uttering a four letter expletive in Woodstock's Church of St Mary Magdalene.