News in Brief: Robert Fisk: For 10 years, we've lied to ourselves to avoid asking the one real question
- Robert Fisk: For 10 years, we've lied to ourselves to avoid asking the one real question
Saturday, 3 September 2011
By their books, ye shall know them.
I'm talking about the volumes, the libraries – nay, the very halls of literature – which the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001 have spawned. Many are spavined with pseudo-patriotism and self-regard, others rotten with the hopeless mythology of CIA/Mossad culprits, a few (from the Muslim world, alas) even referring to the killers as "boys", almost all avoiding the one thing which any cop looks for after a street crime: the motive.
Why so, I ask myself, after 10 years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, lies and hypocrisy and betrayal and sadistic torture by the Americans – our MI5 chaps just heard, understood, maybe looked, of course no touchy-touchy nonsense – and the Taliban? Have we managed to silence ourselves as well as the world with our own fears? Are we still not able to say those three sentences: The 19 murderers of 9/11 claimed they were Muslims. They came from a place called the Middle East. Is there a problem out there?
American publishers first went to war in 2001 with massive photo-memorial volumes. Their titles spoke for themselves: Above Hallowed Ground, So Others Might Live, Strong of Heart, What We Saw, The Final Frontier, A Fury for God, The Shadow of Swords... Seeing this stuff piled on newsstands across America, who could doubt that the US was going to go to war? And long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, another pile of tomes arrived to justify the war after the war. Most prominent among them was ex-CIA spook Kenneth Pollack's The Threatening Storm – and didn't we all remember Churchill's The Gathering Storm? – which, needless to say, compared the forthcoming battle against Saddam with the crisis faced by Britain and France in 1938.
There were two themes to this work by Pollack – "one of the world's leading experts on Iraq," the blurb told readers, among whom was Fareed Zakaria ("one of the most important books on American foreign policy in years," he drivelled) – the first of which was a detailed account of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction; none of which, as we know, actually existed. The second theme was the opportunity to sever the "linkage" between "the Iraq issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict".
The Palestinians, deprived of the support of powerful Iraq, went the narrative, would be further weakened in their struggle against Israeli occupation. Pollack referred to the Palestinians' "vicious terrorist campaign" – but without any criticism of Israel. He wrote of "weekly terrorist attacks followed by Israeli responses (sic)", the standard Israeli version of events. America's bias towards Israel was no more than an Arab "belief". Well, at least the egregious Pollack had worked out, in however slovenly a fashion, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had something to do with 9/11, even if Saddam had not.
In the years since, of course, we've been deluged with a rich literature of post-9/11 trauma, from the eloquent The Looming Tower of Lawrence Wright to the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose supporters have told us that the plane wreckage outside the Pentagon was dropped by a C-130, that the jets that hit the World Trade Centre were remotely guided, that United 93 was shot down by a US missile, etc. Given the secretive, obtuse and sometimes dishonest account presented by the White House – not to mention the initial hoodwinking of the official 9/11 commission staff – I am not surprised that millions of Americans believe some of this, let alone the biggest government lie: that Saddam was behind 9/11. Leon Panetta, the CIA's newly appointed autocrat, repeated this same lie in Baghdad only this year.
There have been movies, too. Flight 93 re-imagined what may (or may not) have happened aboard the plane which fell into a Pennsylvania wood. Another told a highly romanticised story, in which the New York authorities oddly managed to prevent almost all filming on the actual streets of the city. And now we're being deluged with TV specials, all of which have accepted the lie that 9/11 did actually change the world – it was the Bush/Blair repetition of this dangerous notion that allowed their thugs to indulge in murderous invasions and torture – without for a moment asking why the press and television went along with the idea. So far, not one of these programmes has mentioned the word "Israel" – and Brian Lapping's Thursday night ITV offering mentioned "Iraq" once, without explaining the degree to which 11 September 2001 provided the excuse for this 2003 war crime. How many died on 9/11? Almost 3,000. How many died in the Iraq war? Who cares?
Publication of the official 9/11 report – in 2004, but read the new edition of 2011 – is indeed worth study, if only for the realities it does present, although its opening sentences read more like those of a novel than of a government inquiry. "Tuesday ... dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States... For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta..." Were these guys, I ask myself, interns at Time magazine?
But I'm drawn to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan whose The Eleventh Day confronts what the West refused to face in the years that followed 9/11. "All the evidence ... indicates that Palestine was the factor that united the conspirators – at every level," they write. One of the organisers of the attack believed it would make Americans concentrate on "the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel". Palestine, the authors state, "was certainly the principal political grievance ... driving the young Arabs (who had lived) in Hamburg".
The motivation for the attacks was "ducked" even by the official 9/11 report, say the authors. The commissioners had disagreed on this "issue" – cliché code word for "problem" – and its two most senior officials, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, were later to explain: "This was sensitive ground ...Commissioners who argued that al-Qa'ida was motivated by a religious ideology – and not by opposition to American policies – rejected mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... In their view, listing US support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qa'ida's opposition to the United States indicated that the United States should reassess that policy." And there you have it.
So what happened? The commissioners, Summers and Swan state, "settled on vague language that circumvented the issue of motive". There's a hint in the official report – but only in a footnote which, of course, few read. In other words, we still haven't told the truth about the crime which – we are supposed to believe – "changed the world for ever". Mind you, after watching Obama on his knees before Netanyahu last May, I'm really not surprised.
When the Israeli Prime Minister gets even the US Congress to grovel to him, the American people are not going to be told the answer to the most important and "sensitive" question of 9/11: why?
Inside Mexico's mud-hut mosque
About 500 indigenous Mayans, some linked to Zapatista rebels, converted to Islam and celebrate Eid by eating spicy food.
Chris Arsenault Last Modified: 30 Aug 2011 17:08
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico - On a dirty road past tourist shops, dreadlocked backpackers and Spanish-style catholic churches and just beside an abandoned mill inhabited by indigenous squatters, sits a mosque - built from a mud hut - and nestled in a corn field.
It is about as far from Mecca as one can get, but this is where Salvador Lopez Lopez comes to pray.
An indigenous Mayan, fluent in the local Tzotzil dialect, Lopez is one about 500 Muslims in Chiapas, Mexico's southern-most state.
And, like many stories in this state plagued by poverty, Lopez's journey to Islam began with a tragedy.
"I was trained as a traditional healer," Lopez says, sitting on a bench outside the mosque. Raised on a mix of catholic and indigenous beliefs, common for people in the area, Lopez was working with a family in his community of Chamula, outside of San Cristobal when calamity struck.
"First one of the daughters died, then the mother and later one of the sons. I went to the church all the time and prayed for them. But, I said to myself, 'I'm not praying well because they are all dying.'"
Chiapas ranks fourth from the bottom of Mexico's 31 states in terms of life expectancy, according to Physicians for Global Justice, and indigenous people are disproportionately likely to face an early grave.
As death stalked the people he was tasked to care for, Lopez hit the bottle. He drank hard. Then he converted to evangelical Protestantism.
An unfamiliar path to conversion
"The people in Chiapas who changed their religion to Islam, usually first converted to become evangelicals," says Cristian Santiago, an anthropologist in San Cristobal de las Casas who studies urban indigenous communities.
American evangelical churches started sending missionaries into Chiapas in the late 1970s, Santiago says, while Muslims - mostly converts from Europe - came on the scene in the 1990s.
Even after adopting his second religion, Lopez says he still could not find peace.
"The pastors told me to stop drinking and they gave me a bible, but my heart was not with it," he says.
As Lopez searched for answers, other groups were taking action. In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), a grassroots social movement, launched a rebellion in Chiapas, seizing six towns and demanding justice and respect for Mexico's long-neglected indigenous people.
"They want to take our land so that our feet have nothing to stand on. They want to take our history so that our word will be forgotten and die," said Subcomandante Marcos, a spokesman for the Zapatistas, speaking about Mexico's government and corporate elite. "They do not want us to be indigenous. They want us dead."
Those words, and the rebels' aims, appealed to Lopez. "Maybe those people know where god is," he thought, and set out to learn more about the Zapatistas, although during an interview he refused to talk about his relationship with the rebels, arguing that politics and religion must be kept separate.
A new faith
In 1996, the Zapatistas and Mexico's government were negotiating a peace deal, and activists from all over the world poured into Chiapas to bear witness. San Cristobal de las Casas buzzed with political activity.
At that time, Lopez was promoting a project to create an indigenous-run market in San Cristobal, so people could sell their farm products and crafts directly to consumers, without having to pay a middleman.
At a meeting, he encountered a Spanish Muslim, who offered to help out with the project.
"When the Spanish Muslims came, they opened many businesses, mostly carpentry shops, restaurants and greenhouses," says Santiago, the anthropologist. "And they started to give work to people who converted."
Lopez and one of the Spanish Muslims began spending time together, discussing matters of faith over coffee.
"He taught me how to pray and all the different prayers," says Lopez, who can recite important parts of the Quran in Arabic and has a version of the holy book that is translated into Spanish.
"I learned that there is not god, there is only Allah and his prophet is Mohammed," says Lopez, who travelled to Mecca in 2002 with help from the Spaniards.
According to reports, most Spanish Muslim missionaries in Chiapas come from the Murabitun sect, a largely European group of converts to the Sufi strain of Islam. Some Islamic groups have been highly critical of the Murabitun and their interpretations of religious scriptures.
Shaykh Abdalqadir, a Scotsman and the group's apparent spiritual leader, is said to be an anti-capitalist who believes that Muslims should return to the traditions set out by the prophet Mohammed.
The idea of returning to a past era when life was better, and critiques of rent-seeking business practises, seems to resonate in Molina, the desperately poor community where the Lopez's mosque is located, on the outskirts of San Cristobal.
Land rights in a religious context
The area is considered an illegal settlement by municipal authorities, and residents do not have title to the land.
San Cristobal, with about 100,000 residents, has a long history of illegal settlements, says Cristian Santiago, the anthropologist.
People pushed out of rural communities for various reasons including personal or political disputes, land and water scarcity, or religious strife would try to settle in the city, Santiago says.
"Religious disputes [between Christian sects] proved to be an interesting way to take land away from some people," says Santiago. "Political dissidents in some [rural] communities in northern Chiapas were accused of being Protestants by local leaders. These people would be expelled, and local leaders would take their land."
In the 1970s, servants were the only indigenous people formally allowed to live in San Cristobal, Santiago says, "and they were heavily controlled". People who migrated to the city were not allowed to work in the formal economy, driving taxis or running their own market stalls, so they worked in the informal economy.
As their numbers swelled, they became a powerful political constituency, with politicians and non-indigenous residents worrying the situation could become explosive if a compromise was not reached.
"The local people [Mestizos or mixed race] realised the indigenous wouldn't accept the discrimination of the past," says Santiago.
Some indigenous squatter communities allied themselves to local political parties, swapping votes and a power base for support from institutional powers. Sometimes these communities would gain paved roads, electricity or even formal land title, depending on shifting political winds, Santiago says.
Other communities, including Molina, tried to chart an independent course. The community is allied to the Other Campaign, a plan launched by the Zapatistas in 2006 to build support from social movements around Mexico.
Lopez had supported the Zapatistas in the past, but he says he is not active with them today. Now, he is busy practising his new faith and running his shop, located across the street from the mosque.
During our interview an indigenous woman wearing traditional cloths, and a knitted cloth over her hair, asks Lopez if she can pay for her goods later. He agrees and writes her a slip.
There are similarities between traditional Mayan views and Islam, Lopez says.
"Muslims eat together. They put a big plate in the centre and everyone eats with their hands. My grandparents did that," he says.
"When I came to San Cristobal I started using forks because it is supposed to be cleaner. But that [idea] is political. We now eat from the same plate, the same as our culture did before." During Eid, local Muslims gather together in the mosque to eat "really spicy food", he says.
Changing religions can be a contentious matter, but Lopez says his family and most friends have learned to accept his choice, even if they found it strange at first. "Before I was a bit of a drunk, but I changed my life. Now I work and look after my family, nothing else."
You can follow with Chris Arsenault On Twitter: @AJEchris
Robert Fisk: Prosecuting war crimes? Be sure to read the small print
Saturday, 27 August 2011
It's good to see bad guys behind bars.
Especially if they're convicted. Justice is better than revenge. And justice must be done for the relatives of the victims as well as for the dead. Part two of the Mubarak trial this month was a case in point. Egyptians want to know exactly who ordered the killing of innocent demonstrators. Who was to blame? And since the buck stops – or is meant to stop – at the president's desk, how can Mubarak ultimately escape his just deserts? The same will apply to Gaddafi when – if? – we get him.
Ben Ali? Well, he'll stay, presumably, in his Saudi exile – which is anyway as near as you can get to a death sentence – since his in absentia trials in Tunis were travesties of justice. Bashar al-Assad? We shall see if we need him or not. Gaddafi? Probably better dead than sent to trial, because he would probably do a Milosevic, mock the court and die in custody. Please note that no tribunals have called for the princes and emirs of the Gulf, or the Plucky Little King of Jordan, or the weird President Bouteflika of Algeria and his henchmen, or the much creepier President of Iran, to be put on trial.
Grand Mosque Library offers pilgrims a rare peek into history
By BADEA ABU AL-NAJA | ARAB NEWS
Published: Aug 25, 2011 00:25 Updated: Aug 25, 2011 00:27
MAKKAH: The Grand Mosque library is considered one of the most important libraries in the world, its manager Muhammad Bajoudah said.
He did not know when exactly the library was established but he believed it to be before the year 160 AH, over 1,270 years ago.
“It is difficult to say when exactly the library was established but there are indications that the library existed during the era of Abbasid Caliph Al-Mahdi in the year 160 AH,” he said.
Bajoudah said Muslim caliphs, thinkers and rich men kept books that they had written in the library as well as copies of the Holy Qur'an that they had donated as wakf (endowment).
He recalled that there were two domes in the library during that historical era used for storing water and books, which were mostly copies of the Holy Qur'an and religious books.
Bajoudah said the library now has more than 100,000 books, 5,000 original manuscripts, 2,000 manuscripts in the form of photocopies and 3,000 manuscripts on microfilm.
He added that the library has 16 sections including an audio-visual department responsible for recording sermons and religious lessons delivered in the Grand Mosque. “We have a total of 101,958 CDs in various languages containing these lectures and lessons,” he said.
He said the library has a microfilm section that contains all rare manuscripts and these can be reproduced in a hard copy format for anyone interested in reading them.
Bajoudah said the library has a special section on the two holy mosques containing old and new photos, maps, books and documents. “Everything concerning the two holy mosques is found in this section,” he said.
The chief librarian said there is a special section for women that is open in the morning and evening, allowing women readers to easily obtain any data they may be looking for.
He said the library has an electronic division especially established for people with special needs to enable them to read rare books and manuscripts on CDs.
“There are more than 2,300 audio tapes and 700 readings of rare books for use by the visually impaired. Books are also produced for them in Braille,” he said.
He invited people of all nationalities to visit the library.
Vinegar contaminated with antifreeze kills Chinese Muslims at Ramadan meal
Investigators blame vinegar stored in former antifreeze barrels for mass food poisoning outbreak in Xinjiang region
Free from debt: Faithful Muslims live full life without paying any interest
Published: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011 7:05 p.m. MDT
By Hal Boyd, Deseret News
AKRON, OHIO — Sitting cross-legged in the prayer room at the Akron Masjid, surrounded by ornate Qurans and his fellow believers, Dr. Iftekhar Husain is all smiles.
Husain's countenance is marked by a peaceful serenity — a quietude bred in part from living free of "riba."
"Riba means interest in Islam, and it has been forbidden," says Husain, whose debt-free family is an anomaly in America, where the average household has, by some estimates, more than $15,000 in credit card debt and a mortgage of more than $150,000. "Several times it has been expressed that we should not take or pay riba."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained how hard it is to live riba-free in a nation so saturated with interest lending and borrowing. But he stressed that living riba-free doesn't mean business is closed for Muslims.
"Essentially you cannot make money with money in Islam," said Hooper. "But you can trade — after all, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a merchant— you just can't have interest."
Indeed, the Quran states explicitly: "Those who consume interest cannot stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, 'Trade is (just) like interest.' But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns to (dealing in interest or usury) — those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein."
With such a direct sanction against interest, Muslims find it difficult to participate in a western banking system based almost exclusively on interest lending and borrowing.
So how do Muslim-Americans get along without interest?
For starters, many Muslims "rent homes instead of taking out (interest-based) mortgages to buy them" says Husain, who rented for years until he could afford to purchase a home outright.
And what about the interest banks give in savings accounts?
Husain and Hooper both say they donate whatever interest they gain from banking accounts to charity — a practice that Hooper says is common among Muslim-Americans.
In addition to avoiding the western banking system through renting their homes until they can afford to buy and donating interest to charity, there is another way for Muslim-Americans to avoid interest. It's called "Riba Free" banking — a system of banking that is becoming increasingly popular, according to Yahia A. Rahman, the author of "The Art of Islamic Banking and Finance."
Their model works similar to a "rent to own" or "lease to own" purchase agreement. For example, if someone wants to purchase a home, the bank and the buyer jointly purchase the home and the buyer retains the home's title while the bank maintains a share of the property. The purchaser then agrees to buy the shares from the bank at an agreed upon price (based upon the home's rental rate) to be paid in monthly installments over a 30-year period.
While the model, outlined in Rahman's book, was originally conceived for Muslims, he is now trying to promote it to a broader market.
"We are a faith-based, socially responsible organization that serves all people of all faiths and backgrounds," said Rahman, the founder of LARIBA and The Bank of Whittier, two riba-free lending and banking institutions. "We define riba the same way it is defined in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Quran: lending money at an interest rate. And we believe money is not for rent, money is not for hire."
Rahman explains that Islamic riba-free banking is similar to the "building and loan" banking conducted by George Bailey, the character played by James Stewart in the film "It's a Wonderful Life."
Business continues to boom for Rahman, but back at the Akron Masjid in Ohio, few have heard of LARIBA and others are only vaguely familiar with the specifics of Islamic banking. Most of them are getting along just fine without lending or borrowing.
As Husain prepares to leave the Masjid, he pulls out the car keys to an expensive luxury vehicle.
It's a car Husain purchased in full — no loans or debt. That alone, he says, is reason enough to keep smiling.
Turkey continues bombing of Kurdish rebels
Warplanes bomb areas of northern Iraq for third night following killing of nine soldiers by fighters in Cukurca.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2011 13:11
Why Turkey is bombing the PKK
Turkey's military operations against Kurdish separatists are a legitimate act of self-defense, according to analyst.
Mustafa Akyol Last Modified: 04 Sep 2011 14:09
On the night of August 17, several Turkish military jets bombed the Qandil mountains in Northern Iraq. Their target was the headquarters and the training camps of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which is a terrorist group according not just to Ankara but also Washington and most European capitals. Since then, strikes have continued intermittently, and word has it now that the Turkish government is also planning a ground operation against the PKK.
Criticisms have been raised in the face of this anti-terrorist campaign. Some PKK sympathisers in Turkey condemned the attacks and attempted to organise “human shields” to protect PKK bases. The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government argued that Turkish air strikes hit not just PKK militants but also seven civilians, although the charge has been denied by the Turkish military. Yet, due to this alleged collateral damage, some commentators draw parallels between Turkey and the Israeli incursions in Gaza to which Turkey strongly objects. Hence a tongue-in-cheek critique read, “Turkey Commits War Crimes in Iraq: Where’s Goldstone?,” while another one called for “a flotilla in support of the Kurds”.
But what is really happening in North Iraq? And why Ankara is doing it?
A troubled history
In a sense, this is simply the latest round of the almost 30-year-old conflict between the Turkish security forces and the PKK. But, in another sense, things are different this time, for the Turkish approach to its “Kurdish problem” has changed significantly in recent years.
To begin with, one has to acknowledge that Turkey has a shameful history with regards to its Kurdish citizens. The republic, which was founded in 1923 from the remains of the more pluralist Ottoman Empire, decided to forcefully assimilate its Kurds, which make up some 15 per cent of its population. Hence, from the mid-1920s, the Kurdish language was banned and Kurds were declared “of the Turkish stock”, or, in a later version, “mountain Turks” who forgot who they were. The successive Kurdish rebels who protested these official policies were brutally suppressed, making Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast an ever-“sensitive” region.
The PKK, which launched a guerilla war against the state in 1984, was partly a reaction to this authoritarian legacy of the Turkish state. But the PKK, with a blend of ethnic nationalism and orthodox Marxism-Leninism, was even more authoritarian, which was evident in the violence it unleashed even on the Kurds who refused to support its cause. Over the years, many such “traitor” Kurds, along with their families, were massacred by the PKK. PKK fighters attacked Turkish civilians as well, such as teachers in the region whom they saw as “agents of Turkish cultural imperialism”.
The conflict between the PKK and state forces reached its peak in mid-90s, during which both sides committed various atrocities. It is now regrettably accepted in Turkey that the gendarme and the police committed thousands of extra-judicial killings during that massive anti-insurgency campaign, which achieved a temporal success in 1999 with the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is still in a special Turkish prison.
A new beginning
A new era began in Turkey in 2002, when the Justice and Development Party (JDP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power. AKP’s vision not only differed from the official definition of secularism but also the official definition of national identity. In 2003, the AKP government introduced EU-encouraged legal reforms that lifted most of the bans on the Kurdish language. In 2005, when the PKK announced the end of its years-long cease-fire, Prime Minister Erdogan, in a speech in predominantly Kurdish Diyarbakir, acknowledged the “Kurdish question” in which “the state has made mistakes”. He also began speaking of a more pluralist Turkey, in which not everybody was Turkish, but Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Circassian, and other ethnic identities were bonded through citizenship.
Yet none of this impressed the PKK, and its implicit political representatives in the Turkish parliament, as their demands focussed not on more rights for Kurds, but on more concessions for the group, such as the release of Öcalan and the amnesty for all terror convicts and suspects. In 2009, the AKP government signaled that it could accept some of these demands by launching a process called “the Democratic Opening”. Despite widespread suspicion among its voter base, and accusations of “high treason” from opposition parties, the Erdogan government opened a 24-hour state TV in Kurdish, lifted remaining bans on the language, and even welcomed a group of PKK guerrillas to Turkey as the first step of a “peace process”.
However, the PKK remained not just unsatisfied but also growingly irritated for a specific reason: AKP’s “democratic opening” was not enough to satisfy the PKK, but it was enough to win many Kurds, making the AKP the most popular party among them. (Pro-PKK parties have never won more than 6 per cent of the votes, while the rest of the Kurdish vote, some 10 per cent, has gone overwhelmingly to the AKP in all elections since 2002.) This made the AKP, the most Kurdish-friendly mainstream political party in Turkish history, the greatest target of the PKK. No wonder more than a hundred AKP bureaus in the Kurdish southeast were attacked by PKK militants and supporters during the election campaign of 2011.
Scores killed in Pakistan mosque blast
At least 48 people killed after suicide bomber targets place of worship in main town of Khyber Agency.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2011 20:04
Filipino Muslim rebels to disown radical commander
By JIM GOMEZ | AP
Published: Aug 17, 2011 12:37 Updated: Aug 18, 2011 19:42
MANILA: The largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines has given a radical commander with hundreds of fighters a final warning to stop a mutiny or face expulsion, which would expose his breakaway force to possible military assaults.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s central committee plans to issue a resolution in the near future declaring Ameril Umbra Kato is no longer a member unless he returns to its fold, which is an unlikely prospect after he rejected calls for him to rejoin, the group’s vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar said Wednesday.
Philippine officials have expressed concern over the infighting in the 11,000-strong Moro rebel group, which they say cast doubts on its ability to enforce any future accord from years long peace talks brokered by Malaysia.
The guerrillas have said the uprising by Kato, who used to head one of their largest and most battle-tested rebel commands, was an internal problem they were trying to defuse and asked the military not to attack him while they tried to woo him and his armed men back.
Jaafar said an expulsion will mean Kato is no longer covered by preliminary agreements the rebel group has forged with the government, including a truce that shields rebels from military assaults.
“Personally, I already consider him and his men a lost command,” Jaafar told The Associated Press. “When the resolution is issued very soon, he’ll be officially declared outside the group, fighting without any cause.”
Kato, who has a breakaway force of between 200 to 300 fighters, resigned from the Moro rebel group last December, saying he was already too old. He, however, later formed a rebel faction called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that refused to recognize the current rebel leadership, Jaafar said.
Kato has also opposed the main rebel group’s peace talks with the Philippine government and called for jihad, or holy war, for a separate Muslim state.
After rejecting the Muslim rebel group’s peaceful overtures for months, Kato angered Muslim rebel leaders recently when he allowed one of his breakaway commanders to attack another commander with the main guerrilla group over an old land feud, rebel spokesman Von Al Haq said.
The weeklong clashes between the two commanders killed at least 14 combatants and displaced more than 3,000 villagers in Datu Piang town in southern Maguindanao Province last week, the military said.
“That was the final straw,” Al Haq said. “He sent in reinforcements to his commander while we were trying to solve the land dispute by dialogue.”
More than 120,000 people have died in the decades long conflict for Muslim self-rule in the country’s south, homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines. A cease-fire between the military and the main Moro rebel group, which dropped their demand for independence last year, has largely held.
75-day dates festival kicks off in Qassim
By MD AL-HARBI | ARAB NEWS
Published: Aug 18, 2011 00:58 Updated: Aug 18, 2011 23:02
BURAIDAH: The world’s largest dates festival officially kicks off in this central Saudi city of Qassim on Thursday when products of more than 6 million date palms in the province will be displayed. Average daily sales during the 75-day festival may reach SR25 million.
Prince Faisal bin Mishaal, deputy governor of Qassim, will declare the festival officially open on Thursday. More than 200,000 tons of dates valued at SR2.5 billion will be made available for customers from the Kingdom and neighboring countries to buy.
“We expect a 20 percent increase in supply during the festival,” said Khaled Al-Naqidan, CEO of the festival. He said the event would create 3,000 jobs for Saudis.
The Buraidah municipality has completed preparations for the festival by readying an area of 27,000 sq. meters, which can accommodate 2,000 trucks and cold-storage vehicles.
“This year the loading and unloading work has been restricted to Saudi youths, who have been provided with the necessary equipment to do their work efficiently,” the CEO said.
The Buraidah date market operates around the clock, receiving clients from different parts of the Kingdom as well as from neighboring Gulf and Arab countries. The Kuwaitis and Emiratis are considered the biggest clients from the Gulf, followed by Jordanian traders, a market analyst said.
The festival offers more than 35 varieties of dates, mostly produced in Qassim farms. The prices vary between SR25 and SR400 per kilogram, depending on the variety and quality. The sukkari (sweet) type attracts the largest number of customers.
The festival has attracted Saudi youths from different parts of the country, as they have learned from friends who worked for previous festivals that it is a good opportunity to make extra money.
“The management of the festival has provided carts for youths interested in selling dates during the event,” said Mansour Al-Mushaiti, director of the date market.
Muhammad Al-Buraidi, a university student, said many youths in Buraidah were interested in working during the festival. Some of them work as agents for auctioning cartons of dates. They invite customers to offer their prices and those who offer the largest price win the deal.
According to one market analyst, at least 20 new agents appear in the market every year. They get a commission of 7 percent of the deal from farmers. Only Saudis are allowed to work as agents.
A variety of programs will be held on the sidelines of the festival. Visitors will also be taken on a tour of date farms in Buraidah.
Somali children struggle in famine-struck Mogadishu
By William Davies (AFP) – Aug 11, 2011
MOGADISHU — In drought-ravaged Somalia where food is scarce, three-year-old Ibrahim is so severely malnourished he weighs less than eight kilos (18 pounds), about the same as an eight-month-old baby.
"My child is very sick, he's had a fever, vomiting and got diarrhoea," said his mother Rukyo Abdullahi, sitting worriedly by her tiny son's bedside, his skin stretched tight against his small bones.
"He was given some medicine from a local pharmacy, but as soon as he took it, he got worse -- the blood drained away from his face."
Abdullahi fled with Ibrahim into the famine-hit Somali capital last week, risking violence in one of the world's most dangerous cities in a desperate effort to save her son's life.
"I don't have any money to support my family," the tired looking mother added sadly, waving away the flies that buzz above her crying child.
She trekked some 50 kilometres (30 miles) on foot into the war-torn city with her feeble child, who also has measles.
Brought to Mogadishu's Banadir hospital, Ibrahim is struggling to survive. Too weak to eat, doctors are fitting him with a feeding tube through his nose.
Conflict-ridden Somalia is the hardest hit by an extreme drought affecting 12 million people across the Horn of Africa.
The United Nations has officially declared famine in Somalia for the first time this century, including in Mogadishu and four southern regions.
In the past two months, some 100,000 people have fled into Mogadishu, seeking food, water and shelter.
Hard working doctors are struggling to cope, offering what little they can with their basic facilities.
The UN's food monitoring unit has described Somalia as facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world and Africa's worst food security crisis since the country's 1991-1992 famine.
Doctor Lulu Mohamed, head of paediatrics at the hospital, said the situation is the worst she has seen since 1992.
That was the year after then president Siad Barre was toppled from power, and Somalia spiralled into the bloody conflict that has engulfed it ever since.
"Since then we haven't seen this overwhelming number of malnourished children -- and the death rate is increasing," Mohamed said.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels, who had controlled around half of Mogadishu, abandoned their positions in a surprise withdrawal at the weekend.
But clashes have continued between rebel remnants and African Union-backed government troops.
8 ways of approaching the Quran with purity of intention
8/15/2011 - Religious - Article Ref: IC1012-4374
By: Khurram Murad
1 Read the Quran with no purpose other than to receive guidance from your Lord, to come nearer to Him, and to seek His good pleasure.
What you get from the Quran depends on what you come to it for. Your intention and purpose is crucial. Certainly the Quran has come to guide you, but you may also go astray by reading it should you approach it for impure purposes and wrong motives.
Thereby He causes many to go astray, and thereby He guides many; but thereby He causes none to go astray save the iniquitous (al-Baqarah 2:26).
The Quran is the word of God; it therefore requires as much exclusiveness of intention and purity of purpose as does worshipping and serving Him.
2 Do not read it merely for intellectual pursuit and pleasure; even though you must apply your intellect to the full to the task of understanding the Quran. So many people spend a lifetime in studying the language, style, history, geography, law and ethics of the Quran, and yet their lives remain untouched by its message. The Quran frequently refers to people who have knowledge but do not derive benefit from it.
3 Nor should you come to the Quran with the fixed intention of finding support for your own views, notions and doctrines. For if you do, you may, then, hear an echo of your own voice in it, and not that of God. It is this approach to the understanding and interpreting of the Quran that the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has condemned.
4 Nothing could be more unfortunate than to use the Quran to secure, for your own person, worldly things such as name, esteem, status, fame or money. You may get them, but you will surely be bartering away a priceless treasure for nothing, indeed even incurring eternal loss and ruin.
5 [Do not limit the Quran to just healing of bodily afflictions, psychological peace, and deliverance from poverty.] You may also derive other lesser benefits, from the words of the Quran, such as the healing of bodily afflictions, psychological peace, and deliverance from poverty. There is no bar to having these, but, again, they should not become the be all and end all that you seek from the Quran nor the goal of your niyyah. For in achieving these you may lose a whole ocean that could have been yours.
Erdogan: The strongest man in Turkey
ISTANBUL: Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has an unspoken pact with the Turkish electorate: he delivers rapid economic growth, jobs and money, and voters let him shape what kind of democracy this Muslim nation of 74 million people becomes. So far, the deal has served him well.
Erdogan has overseen a near tripling of per capita income in the last decade. That has helped blunt misgivings over the way he deals with dissent, and allowed him to subordinate Turkey’s powerful military, which has long seen itself as guardian of the country’s secular soul. Last year he used a plebiscite on constitutional reform to break the cliques in the judiciary, another bastion of Turkey’s secular old guard.
The prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), socially conservative and successor to a banned Islamist party, won a third term with 50 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in June thanks largely to the success of its pro-growth free-market policies.
“Erdogan realizes he will be in power as long as the country prospers,” Umit Ozlale, an economics professor at TOBB University in Ankara said. “When the economy is on track he handles other challenges from the military, judiciary or from the bureaucracy more easily.”
At the same time, many Turks have a sneaking feeling that the prime minister’s road to democracy will always lead to his own party. With the economic boom now wobbling and the resignation on July 29 of the country’s four most senior generals, tensions at the heart of Erdogan’s Turkey are becoming harder to ignore.
“The fear amongst many of the (AKP’s) critics in Turkey is that the party is now overly dominant with fewer checks and balances given its controls all the main levers of the state,” said Timothy Ash, an analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland.
200-year-old Kiswa on display in Abu Dhabi
By ARAB NEWS
Published: Aug 8, 2011 00:23 Updated: Aug 8, 2011 00:23
ABU DHABI: A Kiswa exhibition will be open to the public at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi throughout the whole month of Ramadan.
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) announced on Sunday that it had brought a historic 200-year-old Kiswa (covering of Holy Kaaba) to the UAE to mark the holy month this year.
This initiative aims to educate the UAE community about Islamic art and showcases an important icon of Islamic history.
The displayed Kiswa was commissioned by Sultan Selim III (1789-1807 AD) in the Hijri year 1219 (1804-05 AD) and is historically important as it is the last Kiswa to be produced in the colorful and rich design of the imperial Ottoman Turks.
The Kiswa is considered among the most sacred of Islamic artifacts as it covers the holy Kaaba to which Muslims all over the world turn for prayers.
Muslims began draping the Kaaba in the ninth Hijri year (630 AD). This tradition has continued until today with the Kiswa being replaced every year.
It was customary to change the Kiswa, Hizam, and Burqa annually on the 25th day of the month of Dhul Qaada. The plain black cloth was cut up in pieces and given as presents to dignitaries performing the annual pilgrimage.
Visitors and viewers can also get their pictures taken with the Kiswa on the spot for free in the evening. They can also enter a draw for a weekend’s stay for two at the Emirates Palace.
“It is a great honor to be able to present this Kiswa to people of the UAE. We are delighted to serve our community during the holy month and allow them to view a piece of our history,” said Tirad Mahmoud, CEO of ADIB.
“We are giving back to our community in the month of giving and living the spirit of Ramadan while attempting to bridge the gap between different cultures. A visit to view the Kiswa promises to be a memorable experience for all and lends special importance to their fasting spirits.”