News in Brief: Fury in Austria at anti-mosque game
- Fury in Austria at anti-mosque game
Far-right party launches online video that allows players to shoot down minarets and muezzins.
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2010 17:19
A far-right party in Austria has sparked outrage by launching an online video game which allows players to shoot down minarets and muezzins calling for prayer.
The game, called "Moschee Baba", or "Bye Bye Mosque", gives players 60 seconds to collect points by placing a target over cartoon mosques, minarets and Muslims and click a "Stop" sign.
It is being used by the Freedom Party (FPOe), which has a link to the game on its website, to encourage voters to elect Gerhard Kurzmann, the party's candidate in the picturesque region of Styria.
"Game Over. Styria is now full of minarets and mosques!" it says at the end of a session, before inviting players to vote for Kurzmann on September 26, when local elections are being held.
The website then invites viewers to take part in a survey which asks them whether the construction of minarets and mosques should be banned in Austria, and whether Muslims should sign a declaration in which they accept that the law takes precedence over the Quran.
According to the Austria Press Agency there are no mosques with minarets in Styria, where 1.6 per cent of the population is Muslim, and only four such buildings in the entire country.
Anas Schakfeh, the leader of Austria's Islamic community, has described the game as "tasteless and incomprehensible".
"This is religious hatred and xenophobia beyond comparison," he told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
Austria's Social Democrats and Green Party have joined the Islamic community in condemning the video.
"The FPOe is targeting minarets that don't even exist," Werner Kogler, the Green candidate in Styria, said.
The game also appears to have divided the FPOe camp, with its deputy, Manfred Haimbuchner, quoted as saying the party should "seek attention with substance, not with constant provocations".
However Herbert Kickl, the party secretary, defended the game saying it did not involve any real shooting, but rather "the pushing of a stop-button to halt a bad political decision."
The Islamic community and the Green party filed complaints for incitement of hatred and degrading of a religion on Wednesday, which can be punished with prison sentences of up to two years.
Prosecutors in Graz, the capital of Styria, have launched an inquiry and will decide whether to take the game off the Internet.
Islamic buildings and dress have sparked debates in many European countries recently, with French and Belgian MPs voting to outlaw the niqab, and Swiss voters backing a ban on building minarets.
Austria's Freedom Party wants a special vote on banning mosques with minarets and Islamic face veils.
Heinz-Christian Strache, its leader, has said he wants to see anti-Muslim protests similar to those in New York over the building of a Muslim cultural centre near the World Trade Center site.
The debate isn’t just coming from the right. In Germany central banker Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democrat, has provoked uproar for saying that Muslim immigrants undermine German society, refuse to assimilate, and sponge off the state. He has also said “all Jews share a particular gene” angering people across the German community.
The Freedom Party said its “Bye bye Mosque” game was in part in reaction to Sarrazin’s comments saying they would prefer to have “Sarrazin rather than muezzin,” in Austria. Freedom wants to “deal with a situation which has already long been widespread in Europe,” Kurzmann said. He said young people needed to be informed about the problem.
With its catchy slogans and youthful leader, the Freedom Party enjoys strong support from young people in Austria, polling 17.5 percent of the vote at a national level in 2008.
Israeli spies wooing U.S. Muslims, sources say
The CIA took an internal poll not long ago about friendly foreign intelligence agencies.
The question, mostly directed to employees of the clandestine service branch, was: Which are the best allies among friendly spy services, in terms of liaison with the CIA, and which are the worst? In other words, who acts like, well, friends?
“Israel came in dead last,” a recently retired CIA official told me the other day.
Not only that, he added, throwing up his hands and rising from his chair, “the Israelis are number three, with China number one and Russia number two,” in terms of how aggressive they are in their operations on U.S. soil.
Israel’s undercover operations here, including missions to steal U.S. secrets, are hardly a secret at the FBI, CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. From time to time, in fact, the FBI has called Israeli officials on the carpet to complain about a particularly brazen effort to collect classified or other sensitive information, in particular U.S. technical and industrial secrets.
The most notorious operation employed Jonathan Pollard, the naval intelligence analyst convicted in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison for stealing tens of thousands of classified documents for Israel.
One of Israel’s major interests, of course, is keeping track of Muslims who might be allied with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, or Iran-backed Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.
As tensions with Iran escalate, according to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, “Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as in operating against critics.”
“There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab-American communities and have falsely represented themselves as ‘U.S. intelligence,’ ” Giraldi wrote recently in American Conservative magazine.
“Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate. It’s referred to as a ‘false flag’ operation.”
Giraldi’s piece continued, “Mossad officers sought to recruit Arab-Americans as sources willing to inform on their associates and neighbors. The approaches, which took place in New York and New Jersey, were reportedly handled clumsily, making the targets of the operation suspicious.”
“These Arab-Americans turned down the requests for cooperation,” Giraldi added,”and some of the contacts were eventually reported to the FBI, which has determined that at least two of the Mossad officers are, ironically, Israeli Arabs operating out of Israel’s mission to the United Nations in New York under cover as consular assistants.”
“Oh, sure, they do that,” the other former CIA official said, waving a dismissing hand, when I asked about Giraldi’s story. “They’re all over the place.”
The FBI did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
But a retired senior FBI counterintelligence official told SpyTalk, "They have always been extremely aggressive, and seem to feel they can operate whenever and wherever they want, in spite of being called on the carpet more than any other country by probably a factor of three times as often."
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, which routinely denies accounts of Mossad operations on U.S. soil, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The former CIA official, who discussed such sensitive matters only on the condition of anonymity, echoed the views of other U.S. intelligence sources I’ve talked to over the years about Israeli operations in the United States.
They don’t begrudge the Jewish state’s interest in keeping track of its potential or real enemies, including here -- indeed, they often say Israel is America’s best friend in the Middle East.
Which, they say, makes Mossad’s impersonation of U.S. intelligence agents all the more galling.
By Jeff Stein | September 2, 2010; 1:58 PM ET
Bahrain dissidents face charges
Accusations against 23 Shia suspects include forming 'terror network' aimed at toppling Gulf state's government.
Angela Merkel calls for banker's sacking over remarks on Jews and Muslims
German chancellor calls on Bundesbank to sack board member Thilo Sarrazin
Mark Tran and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 August 2010 13.28 BST
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, today called on Germany's central bank to dismiss one of its board members over comments he made on Jews and immigrants.
Thilo Sarrazin said that "all Jews share the same gene" and Muslim immigrants in Europe were unwilling to integrate or incapable of integrating into western societies.
Jewish and Muslim communities have condemned the 65-year-old's remarks, which were made before the launch of his book, Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab – or Germany Abolishes Itself – today.
Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, reiterated the chancellor's call for the Bundesbank to consider Sarrazin's future.
"These are comments that only damage and don't help integration in this country, which is a national duty," Seibert said at a government news conference.
Last year, Sarrazin – who previously served as the regional finance minister for Berlin – told a magazine: "I do not need to accept anyone who lives on handouts from a state that it rejects, is not adequately concerned about the education of their children and constantly produces new little headscarf-clad girls."
He later apologised for those remarks. However, he would be well aware that Germany has taken a hard line against antisemitic remarks since the Holocaust, and that many of Germany's immigrants have complained about racist remarks and xenophobic behaviour.
Several German MPs demanded that Sarrazin step down from his post as board member at the Bundesbank and resign his party membership of the left-leaning Social Democrats, but he has refused to do so.
"The board will discuss this issue at a special meeting," a Bundesbank official said. A statement will be released after the meeting, which is due to take place later today .
The Bundesbank board can recommend that the German president, Christian Wulff, dismisses Sarrazin if they consider that he has breached the central bank's internal code of ethics.
Boy, 11, shot dead by police in Kashmir rioting
Anti-Indian protests provoked police in Kashmir to fire into the crowd, killing boy and injuring 15 others
Police opened fire at rock-throwing Kashmiris today, killing an 11-year-old boy and sparking violent street protests by thousands of people. At least 22 were wounded in India's portion of the troubled Himalayan region.
More than 60 people have died in anti-India demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protesters in the disputed state since June. Anger against Indian rule runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan. Both nations claim the state in its entirety.
Today's incident took place in the southern town of Anantnag, where hundreds of residents held protests. Security forces fired teargas and gunshots. The 11-year-old boy was killed and 15 people were injured in the shooting, a police officer said.
As the news of the young boy's death spread, thousands in neighbouring towns and villages held angry street protests, forcing government forces to retreat from the area.
Fierce clashes between government forces and the protesters also erupted in the neighbouring town of Pulwama, police said. Local people attacked a police station with rocks, forcing government forces to fire guns to quell the protest. At least two people were critically wounded in the firing, the officer said.
Earlier police opened fire in Srinagar after people in Indian Kashmir's main city attacked them with stones, injuring five people.
However, Hanief Ahmed, a local resident, said the shooting was unprovoked. Officers targeted a group of men playing a board game on the street, he said. "There was no protest and police fired at them without any reason," Ahmed said.
Hundreds of people defied a curfew in Srinagar to demonstrate against the shooting, chanting "Go India! Go back" and "We want freedom." Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.
The demonstrations that started in June are reminiscent of the late 1980s when protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict that has killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians. The latest unrest against Indian authority shows no signs of abating – despite the deployment of thousands of troops.
Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has questioned crowd-control tactics employed by security forces in Kashmir and ordered officials to use non-lethal measures to control demonstrations.
Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims peacefully protested against Indian rule at several other places in the region after noon prayers at mosques. The protesters reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to form a separate country or merge with Pakistan.
Islamist rebels launch deadly attack on Chechen president's village
At least 19 people including five civilians die as insurgents strike against pro-Moscow leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Israeli actors refuse to take the stage in settlement theatre
Five leading Israeli theatres were facing a mounting political row yesterday after a pledge by 60 of the country's most prominent actors, writers and directors to boycott the companies' planned performances in a Jewish West Bank settlement.
The companies triggered the protest by planning a programme of performances to mark the opening of a new £6.4m cultural centre in the West Bank settlement of Ariel later this year.
The protest – which was condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – includes Yousef Sweid and Rami Heuberger, two of Israel's best known actors, as well as its most venerated living playwright, Joshua Sobol, whose Holocaust work Ghetto won the Evening Standard Play of the Year award when Nicolas Hytner directed it at London's National Theatre in 1989.
Their petition, sent to Israel's Likud Culture Minister, Limor Livnat, expressed "dismay" at the theatres' decision to perform in the settlement's new auditorium and served notice that the artists will refuse to perform in any settlements. Calling on Israeli theatres to "pursue their prolific activity" within the "green line" that marked its border until the 1967 Six Day War, it says that to do otherwise would "strengthen the settlement enterprise." .
Mr Sobol told the liberal daily Haaretz, which first revealed the theatres' plans, that he hoped the petititon would shake up the Israeli public and promot a change of heart by the theatre managements. "There was a lethargy in recent years," the playwright said. "People somehow became indifferent to the many existential issues in Israel, and this may revive public debate."
Ariel, a settlement of around 20,000 people, is deep inside the West Bank and its new cultural centre is close to completion after being built in fits and starts over the past 20 years. The theatre's manager, Ariel Turgeman, has insisted that the company's contracts do not allow them to cancel performances in such circumstances.
The settlements will be at the heart of new direct negotiations brokered by US President Barack Obama due to open at the White House this week. They are regarded by most of the international community, including Britain, as illegal under international law.
Fighters killed in North Caucasus
Wikileaks posts classified CIA memo
Secret report asks what would happen if countries view US as "exporter of terrorism".
Egyptians prepare for life after Mubarak
Their President of 29 years is very ill. But with no nominated successor, an uncertain future awaits, writes Robert Fisk in Cairo
Blockade of Spain enclave suspended
Moroccan activists suspend protests over alleged brutality by police in Melilla.
Activists in Morocco who have twice stopped food shipments into a Spanish enclave to protest against alleged abuses by border police have agreed to suspend their demonstrations until September.
The deal to end the action during the Islamic month of Ramadan means a temporary end to the on-and-off commercial blockade of Melilla, a city of 70,000 people in North Africa, which Morocco calls "occupied" territory.
Yusef Kaddur, the president of an association of Muslim merchants in Melilla, said the blockades could resume if the problems that triggered it, alleged brutality and racism by Spanish border police against Moroccans entering Melilla, flare up again.
The activists accepted the merchants' view that Melilla's citizens should not suffer from a problem that must be addressed by the governments of Spain and Morocco, he said.
Lorries were briefly prevented from crossing into Melilla overnight on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, no fish, fruit or vegetables came in as drivers apparently bowed to protesters' demands and did not make deliveries.
Kaddur said the demonstrations were only hurting the enclave, as well as Moroccans who live nearby and depend on the area for their livelihoods.
Bomber strikes Iraqi army recruits
At least 57 people killed in suicide attack near recruitment office in Baghdad.