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News in Brief: Priest won’t recant her fait h in Islam

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  • Zafar Khan
    Priest won’t recant her faith in Islam Wednesday, April 1, 2009 By Richard C. Dujardin Journal staff writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2009
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      Priest won’t recant her faith in Islam
      Wednesday, April 1, 2009
      By Richard C. Dujardin
      Journal staff writer

      http://www.projo.com/news/content/episcopal_muslim_priest_04-01-09_F3DT8I4_v15.36a8f35.html

      The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, the Episcopal priest who has been told by Rhode Island Bishop Geralyn Wolf that she had until the end of March to recant her faith in Islam or face expulsion from the Episcopal priesthood, said Tuesday she still has no intention of doing so and realizes that by dawn Wednesday she may no longer be a priest.

      Reached by phone as she was stepping into a language academy in Seattle where she has begun studying Arabic, Redding said she had spent part of Tuesday mourning her impending expulsion.

      “There is an acknowledged sadness, because if it were not for the limited vision of one particular bishop I still might have been able to function as a priest.”

      Although Redding has never ministered in Rhode Island since Bishop George N. Hunt, the then-bishop of Rhode Island, ordained her 25 years ago, she has remained, at least until now, under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island’s bishop because she has never changed her canonical residence.

      Bishop Wolf — who plans to release a statement on Wednesday — initially called Redding back from Seattle in 2007 after learning, at a bishop’s meeting, that Redding had converted to Islam while continuing to serve in the Olympia, Wash., diocese as an Episcopal priest. Redding’s unusual step did not seem to raise the ire of the then-bishop of Olympia, who called her move innovative.

      Bishop Wolf — who plans to issue a statement on Redding on Wednesday — said she became particularly concerned because Redding had publicly recited the Shahada, the statement of belief that is at the cornerstone of becoming a Muslim and that she was attending prayer services at a mosque in Seattle.

      Bishop Wolf has repeatedly insisted that such a melding of two faiths is impossible because of key differences between the two particularly on such things as belief in the incarnation and belief in Jesus as the only-begotten son of God. After initially placing Redding on a year-long suspension from priestly duties that lasted an additional two months to give her time to reconsider, she warned Redding in September that she had six months to recant or be deposed.

      On Tuesday, Redding said she still sees herself as both Muslim and Christian and sees no reason to change.

      “I am Muslim and I am a Christian and Episcopalian,” she said. “I will continue to follow the path that God has called me.”

      Redding said she fully expects that when she rises Wednesday sometime between dusk and dawn, she will recite the first of the five prayers that the faith requires Muslims to recite each day. She will also gather at the local mosque for community prayer services, and on the weekend, visit a local Episcopal parish for Christian worship.

      “I know that not all places are happy with my presence,” she said. “This is not about making people uncomfortable or making them feel their spaces are being violated. So I go to places where people recognize me as a Christian.”

      On Thursday, the day after her 25th anniversary of her ordination to the priesthood, Redding marked the anniversary with a book signing celebrating the publication of a new book, Out of Darkness Into Light, that she had co-authored, looking at the Koran from Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives. On Wednesday evening she is expected to be the subject of a profile on CNN.

      Ruth Meteer, communications officer for the Diocese of Rhode Island, said Bishop Wolf was waiting until the last minute to see if Redding changed her mind, and will release a statement on Wednesday.

      rdujardi@...
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      Israeli police kill armed Arab girl

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/04/20094412304477738.html

      Israeli border police have shot dead an armed 16-year-old Arab Israeli girl who they say opened fire on them.

      Israeli officials said the girl opened fire at a guard post at an Israeli base near Beersheva, in the Negev desert, on Saturday and was gunned down by police there.

      "Police shot and killed a young woman who opened fire with a gun at the entrance to a base," Major Moshe Finsi, an Israeli military officer, said.

      "When the sentinel blocked her from entering, she opened fire with a pistol after police demanded that she surrender. So the border police shot back."

      The girl, who was later identified as Basma Awal al-Nadri, a Bedouin high school student, had tried to enter the base and been stopped, Finsi said.

      Search for explosives

      Police used robots to inspect the body of the girl for explosives.

      "She was carrying a backpack, raising suspicions that she was planning a suicide mission. But it turned out she was not carrying explosives," he said.

      No guards were wounded in the incident.

      The shooting occurred several hours after Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian fighters near the border fence with the Gaza Strip.

      Israeli security forces said they entered several hundred meters into northern Gaza after spotting several fighters advancing towards the border. They also said an explosive device was found in the area.

      Palestinian medics said they recovered two bodies and brought them to a hospital.

      The Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Front Committees each claimed one of the slain men as members of their respective groups.

      Despite a tenuous ceasefire achieved since Israel ended the 22-day war in Gaza, sporadic attacks have sparked fears that larger clashes may develop between Israel and Palestinian fighters.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Islam and Future in Oman Conference

      http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1237705850368&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

      MUSCAT — A galaxy of renowned Muslim scholars and intellectuals are discussing in the Omani capital Muscat on Saturday, April 4, how Islamic law can cope with the future.
      "Man is not created for fun," Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalili, mufti of the Sultanate of Oman, told the opening of an international seminar on Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) and the Future.

      "Man is entrusted with a heavy task that the earth and the heavens declared inability to shoulder.

      "We, therefore, have to well-educate ourselves in order to carry out our duty."

      The seminar brings together scholars and intellectuals from 14 countries from around the world.

      The meeting, which runs till Tuesday, April 7, is attended by high-level officials from the Sultanate of Oman and is being hosted in Sultan Qaboos grand mosque.

      Thirty-six papers and studies will be presented and discussed during the 4-day seminar by prominent scholars, academicians and experts from different parts of the Muslim world.

      Key participants include Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalilit, Prof. Wahbah Az-Zuhaiyi, President of the Syrian Scholars League and Prof. Muhammad K. Imam.

      Well-qualified

      Organizers say the meeting aims at laying down the foundations of the so-called fiqh at-tawqu ` (Fiqh of Expectations) that will deal with future expectations and plans and rules regulating them.

      "The seminar draws the attention of Muslim scholars to the necessity of bearing in mind the future expectations when issuing legal rulings that would affect the future," Khalid Musharrafi, the head of the Media Department at the Omani Ministry of Endowments, told IOL.

      "While looking for the future, scholars should not ignore the fixed rules that Shari`ah came with."

      Dr. Az-Zuhayli agrees.

      "A well-qualified scholar should be aware of the surrounding circumstances and changeable conditions," he said.

      "They should consider the future and its implications."

      The meeting will also discuss solutions to the deepening global financial crisis.

      "The seminar will discuss five papers related to the financial issue," Musharrafi told IOL.

      "One of the submitted papers does focus on the practical solutions for solving the global financial problems."
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Indonesia Polls Test Islamic Parties

      http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1237705862577&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

      JAKARTA — The general elections are a critical test for Islamic parties which have been loosing ground to nationalist and secular parties in the world's most populous Muslim country.
      "To attract the people, an Islamic party must be able to identify their basic needs, not only feed them with jargons of Shari`ah," Dr. Muhammad Sohibul Imam, central board member of the Islamic-rooted Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), told IslamOnline.net.

      Some 171 million registered voters will go to the ballot boxes on April 9 to elect members of both chambers of parliament in the third general elections since the fall of the Suharto.

      More than 38 parties, including seven Islamic parties, are contesting the polls, hoping to prove their relevance and gain enough votes to have a political clout.

      "People don’t care for Islamic parties, they don’t care about Shari`ah," says Muhammad, the incumbent research and technology minister.
      "Whoever can meet their basic needs, people will choose."

      The PKS is closely associated with Islamic teachings, but according to it leadership it does not promote the mandatory implementation of Shari`ah.

      It is known for its public opposition to political corruption, a stance that was a major factor in the party’s increased success in 2004.

      It won 7.2 percent votes in the last election and has 45 out of 550 seats in parliament.

      Only parties that achieve the electoral threshold of 2.5 percent of the cast votes or get at least 4.3 million voters will be awarded seats in the parliament.

      Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation with a population of 220 million, around 85 percent of them follows Islam.

      It is categorized as the most democratic country in Southeast Asia.

      Relevance

      While some Islamic parties are changing tactics to be more appealing, others are sticking to the usual rhetoric to court conservative voters.
      "Ulamas must be involved in ruling the country," Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Ulemas National Awakening Party (PKNU), told IOL.

      PKNU is hoping to make enough gains to earn a bigger role in the country's politics.

      But according to a survey by the Indonesian Survey Body (LSI), the PKS and the United Development Party (PPP) will be the only two Islamic parties to make it to the new legislature.

      Ma’ruf, the PKNU leader, notes that Islamic parties lost ground in the 1970s, when Suharto dictated pluralism-religious to be the only ideology adopted by political parties.

      "Since then, ulamas and Muslim prominent figures have been reluctant to involve in politics because Suharto did not allow using Islam as an ideology of any party."

      Ma’ruf says his PKNU was established in a bid to bring back the golden age of Islamic parties marred by secular values.

      But many politicians argue that PKNU, like other Islamic parties, will come up empty-handed.

      "As we know sectarian parties never reached significant votes, so I don’t think it’s still relevant," Pramono Anung, secretary general of the nationalist-leftist Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), told IOL.

      Feery Mursyidan Baldan, deputy chairman of the secular Golkar Party of Vice President Yusuf Kalla, agrees.

      "Religious parties are not an issue anymore," he told IOL.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Former Chechen rebel 'assassinated'

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/03/20093311022159147.html

      Emirati authorities have detained a Russian national in connection with the killing of a former Chechen rebel leader, a police official says.

      Russian media reports said Sulim Yamadayev died on Monday, two days after he was shot in a midday attack outside the seaside residential complex where he lived in Dubai.

      Major-General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's police chief, told the Reuters news agency that police are investigating the incident and have a suspect in custody.

      "Nevertheless, the case is clear and there is no confusion over what happened. An organised criminal group was behind the assassination."

      Tamim also rejected Russian media reports that said Yamadayev had survived the attack.

      "He was shot and died instantly on the scene."

      Longtime rivals

      Yamadayev was a Chechen rebel who switched allegiances in the Chechen conflict and became a decorated Russian officer.

      A longtime rival of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader, Yamadayev had challenged Kadyrov for control of Chechen security forces.

      "We hope that law enforcement agencies will find the killer," Ali Karimov, a spokesman for President Kadyrov in the Chechen capital, Grozny, said.

      Karimov did not elaborate on the incident.

      Yamadayev left Russia after his brother, Ruslan, was shot and killed in central Moscow last September.

      Russia has waged a brutal war against Chechen separatists since the 1990s.

      The violence began when a former Soviet air force officer seized power and declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      Russia eventually allowed former rebels who switched sides to take over the local Chechen government.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Israel dismisses Annapolis deal

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/04/200941123925371818.html

      Israel's new foreign minister has said that the government is not bound by the agreement reached at the Annapolis conference in the US in 2007, which provides for a Palestinian state.

      Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, made the remarks at a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry on Wednesday, the day after a new broad coalition government was sworn in.

      "There is one document that obligates us - and that's not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity," he said.

      "The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did parliament."

      Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, agreed with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, at the Annapolis conference to further "the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine".

      Lieberman said that Israel would, instead, follow the course set out in the so-called "road map", which made the creationg of Palestinian state contingent on the Palestinians halting violence against Israel.

      In Annapolis, Israelis and Palestinians tried to get past this issue by pledging to address "final status" issues that would resolve decades of conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state on lands currently occupied by Israel.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Bashir in S Arabia despite warrant

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/04/2009419028264831.html

      Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's president, is visiting Saudi Arabia on the latest leg of a foreign tour despite an international arrest warrant against him for alleged abuses in Sudan's Darfur region.

      The visit on Wednesday is the fifth to a foreign country by al-Bashir since the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

      Bashir flew to Saudi Arabia after a summit of Arab and Latin American leaders in neighbouring Qatar, Sudanese television and state radio said.

      "President of the republic Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir has arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah [an Islamic pilgrimage]," the state-run television channel reported.

      Bashir could face arrest should he travel to countries that are signatories to the ICC and so far he has only visited countries that are not members of the court.

      He had been in Qatar since Sunday, when he arrived in the capital, Doha, in order to attend an Arab League summit.

      The United Nations has said that at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur since 2003, when Arab fighters alleged to have the support of the government started fighting black Africans living there.

      Khartoum has played down the UN estimates, saying that 10,000 people have died in Darfur since hostilities started.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Hazel Blears faces libel action for attack on leading Muslim

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/apr/04/hazel-blears-libel-action-mcb

      A leader of Britain's largest Muslim organisation is threatening to sue Hazel Blears, the secretary of state for communities, after she accused him of calling for violence against Jewish communities and British troops.

      In what is being described by members of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) as a crisis in relations between the Muslim community and the government, lawyers acting for its deputy secretary general have accused Blears of adopting "an extraordinary and malicious interpretation" of a declaration he signed this year.

      The standoff originated last week when Blears demanded the resignation of Dr Daud Abdullah following his participation in the global anti-aggression conference in Istanbul, stating that the declaration "calls for violence against troops and Jewish communities".

      Abdullah rejected the claims, repeated by Blears on several occasions, including in a letter to the Guardian, stating that they were "entirely untrue".

      Abdullah said: "I do not advocate attacks on any religious community. Both I and the MCB have done everything possible to de-escalate the crisis ... we have explained all our concerns and have met with parliamentarians to move on. But the government has tried to publicly humiliate me ... I felt obliged to defend myself in a legal manner against these serious and defamatory allegations."

      However, a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government defended its actions, saying: "We have been in dialogue with the MCB since 6 March seeking clarification of the actions taken by Dr Abdullah in relation to the serious issues raised by the articles in the Istanbul declaration.

      "We are concerned with those articles which appear to call for violence and Dr Abdullah's repeated unwillingness to distance himself from those articles specifically."

      Blears's statement has sparked outrage across the religious and political divide, while a letter in the Guardian last week, signed by figures including Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn, urged the government to "end its attack on Dr Abdullah and reinstate its relations with the MCB".

      Abdullah's lawyers have told Blears that unless she issues a retraction and apology by 15 April they will issue proceedings for libel.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Robert Fisk’s World: Now I've really lived. I've gone on a movie set and shouted 'Action!'

      http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fiskrsquos-world-now-ive-really-lived-ive-gone-on-a-movie-set-and-shouted-action-1662259.html
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      Sudan's al-Bashir attends Arab meet

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/03/2009329134128968517.html

      Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has arrived in Qatar on the eve of an Arab League summit, defying an arrest warrant issued against him for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

      Al-Bashir was greeted on a red carpet at the international airport in Doha, the Qatari capital, by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, on Sunday before the pair had coffee with Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League.

      Al-Bashir's arrival had been the most eagerly anticipated of the delegates attending the two-day conference, after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest three weeks ago.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      AK party fails to sweep Turkey poll

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/03/20093300385479554.html

      Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has won local elections but fallen short of a sweeping victory that the prime minister was aiming for.

      Tayyip Recep Erdogan's AK party won 39 per cent of Sunday's vote, far less than the 47 per cent it had secured during last year's parliamentary elections, state-run television reported on Monday.

      The result, yet to be confirmed by Turkey's election board, signals a significant slide in support for the AK party since it swept to power in 2002.

      Erdogan said the result was "a fresh vote of confidence" in his party, but admitted he was not satisfied with the figures.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Shifting sands in the Arab world

      http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/03/20093298526756694.html

      As disagreements between Arab leaders come to the fore before this week's Arab League summit, the emergence of new key players in the region presents fresh challenges for traditional Arab powers.

      Following reports that six heads of Arab states - including Egypt - will not attend the Arab League summit in Doha this week, it appears the proverbial saying about Arabs' agreement on disagreement, and more specifically that of their leaders, still holds.

      If Arabs finally do agree on certain questions this week, however, even with the increasingly low expectations that these summits now generate, dreams of Arab unity on the major issues are unattainable under the present circumstances.

      Deteriorating relations between several regional powers have been dubbed the Cold War, but with so much hot air, fiery speeches and proxy fights, it has been anything but cold.

      On the most thorny issues, two main camps face each other, with several undecided others fluttering in-between, trying not to alienate any of the countries on either side.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      A missed opportunity
      Muslim organisations are asked to tackle 'extremist' influence on the young but denied the support to do so

      Muhammad Khan The Guardian, Tuesday 31 March 2009

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/31/shools-uk-security-terrorism

      This month, the children's minister, Beverley Hughes, announced that 41 youth projects are to share £180m of funding from the myplace project, which aims to transform youth facilities across the country. This is the biggest investment in such facilities since the Albemarle report in the 1960s, and the government should be congratulated. A range of organisations have been awarded funding of up to £5m each, including local authorities, trusts, sports clubs and YMCAs.

      Youth facilities operate as the "front room" in young people's lives - a place to call their own where they can meet up with old friends and make new ones. They contribute to personal growth, a myriad of developmental experiences, and learning. It is about much more than taking young people off the street, or providing what communities secretary Hazel Blears - in a pointed reference to the vulnerability of young Muslims to extremist recruitment and messages - called "non-governed spaces".

      Evolved

      Youth centres as we know them today have evolved over decades in response to changes in young people's needs, a rapidly changing youth culture, and shifting socioeconomic contexts. Their development has been informed by academic research, community engagement, local and national policy, and the voices, activities and aspirations of young people. They have developed out of a variety of ideological and practical motives, spiritual and temporal.

      They started as perfect intentions and imperfect solutions, but the belief in the role they can play in making the experience of youth less painful and more rewarding has sustained their support and development. Importantly, they created a space in which young people do not fall victim to the rites of passage of their age as they test the boundaries of the world around them.

      This development of function and role is reflected in the YMCA. Established in 1844 with the aim of substituting a dangerous life on the streets with food, shelter, and Bible study and prayer, it has grown to become an international organisation providing a range of valuable services for young people. The YMCA, as its website attests, still has "a strong Christian ethos which is reflected in a genuine motivation to serve others and to share the love and care shown by Jesus in His life here on earth". A commitment which, as the recent advertisement for a head of development at the Redditch YMCA demonstrates, is also reflected in its recruitment of staff: "Applicants must have a personal commitment to the Christian faith and be able to promote the Christian ethos of the YMCA..."
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      10 terms not to use with Muslims
      There's a big difference between what we say and what they hear.
      By Chris Seiple
      from the March 28, 2009 edition

      http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0328/p09s01-coop.html

      Arlington, Va. - In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.

      I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not. If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.

      As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.
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      Hazel Blears faces libel action for attack on leading Muslim
      Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent The Guardian, Saturday 4 April 2009

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/apr/04/hazel-blears-libel-action-mcb

      A leader of Britain's largest Muslim organisation is threatening to sue Hazel Blears, the secretary of state for communities, after she accused him of calling for violence against Jewish communities and British troops.

      In what is being described by members of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) as a crisis in relations between the Muslim community and the government, lawyers acting for its deputy secretary general have accused Blears of adopting "an extraordinary and malicious interpretation" of a declaration he signed this year.

      The standoff originated last week when Blears demanded the resignation of Dr Daud Abdullah following his participation in the global anti-aggression conference in Istanbul, stating that the declaration "calls for violence against troops and Jewish communities".

      Abdullah rejected the claims, repeated by Blears on several occasions, including in a letter to the Guardian, stating that they were "entirely untrue".

      Abdullah said: "I do not advocate attacks on any religious community. Both I and the MCB have done everything possible to de-escalate the crisis ... we have explained all our concerns and have met with parliamentarians to move on. But the government has tried to publicly humiliate me ... I felt obliged to defend myself in a legal manner against these serious and defamatory allegations."
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Bashir in S Arabia despite warrant

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/04/2009419028264831.html

      Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's president, is visiting Saudi Arabia on the latest leg of a foreign tour despite an international arrest warrant against him for alleged abuses in Sudan's Darfur region.

      The visit on Wednesday is the fifth to a foreign country by al-Bashir since the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

      Bashir flew to Saudi Arabia after a summit of Arab and Latin American leaders in neighbouring Qatar, Sudanese television and state radio said.

      "President of the republic Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir has arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah [an Islamic pilgrimage]," the state-run television channel reported.

      Bashir could face arrest should he travel to countries that are signatories to the ICC and so far he has only visited countries that are not members of the court.

      He had been in Qatar since Sunday, when he arrived in the capital, Doha, in order to attend an Arab League summit.

      The United Nations has said that at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur since 2003, when Arab fighters alleged to have the support of the government started fighting black Africans living there.

      Khartoum has played down the UN estimates, saying that 10,000 people have died in Darfur since hostilities started.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Israel dismisses Annapolis deal

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/04/200941123925371818.html

      Israel's new foreign minister has said that the government is not bound by the agreement reached at the Annapolis conference in the US in 2007, which provides for a Palestinian state.

      Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, made the remarks at a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry on Wednesday, the day after a new broad coalition government was sworn in.

      "There is one document that obligates us - and that's not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity," he said.

      "The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did parliament."

      Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, agreed with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, at the Annapolis conference to further "the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine".

      Lieberman said that Israel would, instead, follow the course set out in the so-called "road map", which made the creationg of Palestinian state contingent on the Palestinians halting violence against Israel.

      In Annapolis, Israelis and Palestinians tried to get past this issue by pledging to address "final status" issues that would resolve decades of conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state on lands currently occupied by Israel.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Former Chechen rebel 'assassinated'

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/03/20093311022159147.html

      Emirati authorities have detained a Russian national in connection with the killing of a former Chechen rebel leader, a police official says.

      Russian media reports said Sulim Yamadayev died on Monday, two days after he was shot in a midday attack outside the seaside residential complex where he lived in Dubai.

      Major-General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's police chief, told the Reuters news agency that police are investigating the incident and have a suspect in custody.

      "Nevertheless, the case is clear and there is no confusion over what happened. An organised criminal group was behind the assassination."

      Tamim also rejected Russian media reports that said Yamadayev had survived the attack.

      "He was shot and died instantly on the scene."

      Longtime rivals

      Yamadayev was a Chechen rebel who switched allegiances in the Chechen conflict and became a decorated Russian officer.

      A longtime rival of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader, Yamadayev had challenged Kadyrov for control of Chechen security forces.

      "We hope that law enforcement agencies will find the killer," Ali Karimov, a spokesman for President Kadyrov in the Chechen capital, Grozny, said.

      Karimov did not elaborate on the incident.

      Yamadayev left Russia after his brother, Ruslan, was shot and killed in central Moscow last September.

      Russia has waged a brutal war against Chechen separatists since the 1990s.

      The violence began when a former Soviet air force officer seized power and declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      Russia eventually allowed former rebels who switched sides to take over the local Chechen government.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      'The concept of unity is obsolete'

      http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/03/200931912375780947.html

      As Arab leaders gather in Qatar for the 21st summit of the League of Arab States, many in the region say the organisation may have outlived its usefulness.

      From Egypt to Bahrain, young Arabs tell Al Jazeera they have seen its influence on regional affairs wane since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

      They say they are worried the league is unable to address the concerns and aspirations of Arabs.
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      Arab leaders snub al-Bashir warrant

      http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/03/2009330175846714662.html
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      After 650 years, the wisdom of the Alhambra is revealed

      Granada's fortress-palace built by Spain's medieval Moorish rulers, has always fascinated visitors. But what messages do its intricately carved walls hold – poetry, philosophy or piety? Elizabeth Nash reports


      Tuesday, 31 March 2009

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/after-650-years-the-wisdom-of-the-alhambra-is-revealed-1658050.html


      Visitors to the Alhambra fortress-palace in Granada have for centuries fallen into a reverie before its intricately carved medieval walls, wondering at the meaning of the Arabic inscriptions that adorn them from floor to ceiling. The script that winds round the filigree arches and pillared courtyards is so stylised that it's often difficult to disentangle words from images, and few can decipher the classical Arabic in which they are written.


      Now, the carvings have been logged and translated, finally answering the question that has perplexed generations of visitors to Europe's jewel of Muslim architecture: "What are these walls telling me?"

      Researchers have produced an interactive DVD that decodes, dates and identifies 3,116 of some 10,000 inscriptions carved on the building that symbolises centuries of Muslim rule in Spain and is today the country's top tourist landmark.

      "There's perhaps nowhere else in the world where gazing upon walls, columns and fountains is an exercise so similar to turning the pages of a book of poems," says Juan Castilla, from the School of Arabic Studies at Spain's Higher Scientific Research Council, whose team produced this still-incomplete guide.

      Arabic artisans, supervised by poets employed in the 14th-century court of King Yusuf I, drew up the decorative plans and planned the spaces where verses – original, or copied – were to be engraved.

      So, what do these words say? "There aren't as many as we thought," Dr Castilla confessed. Inscriptions of poetry and verses from the Koran that have inspired generations represent only a minimum percentage of the texts that adorn the Alhambra's walls, despite the mistaken belief that they are smothered in writings of this kind, he said, presenting his study in Madrid.

      Instead the motto of the Nazrid dynasty – "There is no victor but Allah" – is repeated hundreds of times on walls, arches and columns. Isolated words like "happiness" or "blessing" recur, seen as divine expressions protecting the monarch or governor honoured in each palace or courtyard. Aphorisms abound: "Rejoice in good fortune, because Allah helps you," and "Be sparse in words and you will go in peace."

      Researchers built upon studies begun 500 years ago by the conquerors of the Nazrid dynasty, who ruled the kingdom of Al Andalus and created this fabulous pile. The Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella ruthlessly purged Muslims from Spain after 1492, but they were sufficiently curious about their vanquished enemy's heritage, or impressed by the Alhambra's unique beauty, to order specialist translators to study the inscriptions that cover every nook and cranny.

      For centuries scholars spent half their life, and ruined their eyesight, scrutinising the messages embedded in the geometric tiles or finely carved in the stonework. Among them are verses by the acclaimed Islamic poets Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn Zamrak, some of which describe the place where they appear, such as the Hall of the Two Sisters, which represents a garden: "Moreover we do not know of any other garden/more pleasant in its freshness, more fragrant in its surroundings,/or sweeter in the gathering of its fruits..." wrote Ibn Zamrak.

      The ceiling represented heaven: "The hands of the Pleiades will spend the night invoking/God's protection in their favour and they will awaken to/the gentle blowing of the breeze./ In here is a cupola which by its height becomes lost from/sight..." the poet wrote.

      Until now, however, efforts to transcribe such verses have revealed only a fraction of the material. With modern technology, including a 3D laser scanner, "we have achieved not so much a discovery as an exhaustive labour that seeks to register all the inscriptions," said Dr Castilla. At the touch of a mouse, everyone from the specialist to the idly curious can now learn the meaning of the ancient words, see exactly where they are located, and how often they are repeated on the walls.

      The form of script is also described: angular kufic, whose uprights sprout into decorative foliage, or intertwine; curlicue cursive; or a mixture of forms. In a culture that banned human images, the form as well as the content of the calligraphy was designed to exalt temporal and heavenly rulers.

      Kufic is used for quotations from the Koran, which tend to be high up on the walls, while the poetry is nearer the ground – further from heaven, scholars say – in elaborately cursive script.

      The DVD takes you on a virtual tour of all the writings, with details (in Spanish only, so far) of when and how each was created. This first volume covers the citadel-palace of Comares. The Palace of Lions, with its renowned courtyard and fountain, follows later this year. The guide is due to be completed, and reissued in one compilation DVD by 2010.
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