1. EGYPT:88,000 Mosques, One Sermon
In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful
From : modernmuslim@...
To : binladen_94@...
Subject : EGYPT:88,000 Mosques, One Sermon
Date Saturday, August 02, 200319::35
Ad Deen un Nasiha
HADITH OF THE DAY: GOOD CHARACTER
A companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who led a delegation sent to teach people about Islam, said: "The last advice the (Prophet) gave me when I put my foot in the stirrup was, 'Make your character good for the people.'"
Al-Muwatta, Volume 47, Hadith 1
The Prophet also said: "I was sent to perfect good character."
Al-Muwatta, Volume 47, Hadith 8
Understanding the Prophet's Life
Very often it happens that a man is so weakened by his troubles that he becomes pitiful; or so strengthened by his successes that he becomes tyrannical. But the intelligent believer should not go astray, nor should he exceed the proper bounds; he should persevere in his practise of Islam in both adversity and prosperity.
No man, as long as he remains alive, will ever be wholly free of trial. This is simply the nature of things in this world. Suffering uncovers human frailties and literally pushes the reasonable person to his knees, so to speak, at Allah's door, in quest of relief and the mercy of his Lord. The true believer is expected to seek refuge in Allah in every trouble which befalls him, regardless of how insignificant it may seem. The Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, said:
"Let each of you turn to Allah in every troublesome matter; even when you are pained by the throng of your sandal, for even that is a trial."
"Remembrance & Prayer" - Muhammad Al-Ghazali, p. 91
88,000 Mosques, One Sermon
2. Fighting terrorism: Unjust, unwise, unAmerican
3. Liberia: Corpses at our doorstep
4. Let Iraqis rebuild their own country
88,000 Mosques, One Sermon
The same official sermon will be delivered in 88,000 mosques across Egypt from this week. The government move is a part of extensive new censorship, and penalization for mosques and preachers that do not toe the official line.
CAIRO, Jul 24 (IPS) - The same official sermon will be delivered in 88,000 mosques across Egypt from this week. The government move is a part of extensive new censorship, and penalization for mosques and preachers that do not toe the official line.
As of Friday this week, no preacher will be free to deliver his own sermon, according to a statement from the Awaqaf (religious endowments) ministry. Friday is the holy congregation day at mosques when preachers give their views on religious and political issues.
The sermon will now be written and distributed by officials from the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The regime has been fighting Islamic groups trying to topple his secular pro-Western rule for the past 15 years.
"Preachers who do not stick to the text (provided every Friday) would be deprived of bonuses and will be subject to an investigation by the legal affairs department at the ministry," according to the statement from the Awaqaf ministry.
The plan also provides for removing independent preachers and replacing them with imams paid for and appointed by the regime.
Preachers at all newly appropriated mosques will be asked to attend state-run religious indoctrination courses. Preachers will only be appointed after clearing an examination and passing a security test.
"Developing the content of Islamic speeches in mosques, especially those delivered during Friday's noon prayers, and improving the image of Muslims in and outside the country were among the major aims of this plan," says Awaqaf minister Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq.
Abdel Monem Abul Fotouh, a member of the guidance council of the Muslim Brotherhood says the move means that the security apparatus, and not a religious institution will run the mosques.
The campaign is "a part and parcel of the pressure the United States places on our regimes to try and limit the Islamic movement," he told IPS. "At the same time as the government and foreign countries are calling for economic liberalization and economic freedom, they want to place restrictions on freedom of expression and religious freedoms in mosques."
Under the authoritarian regime of Mubarak, mosques were among the few venues available for expressing views that do not conform to the official line. The government, increasingly intolerant of opposition, says mosques have become hotbeds for extremist views.
The government earlier stepped up its campaign against extremist groups and against independent Islamic preachers and schools after the September 11 attacks. It took over the management of thousands of mosques and Islamic centres, and placed them under the close watch of its intimidating security apparatus.
Mubarak has ruled Egypt with an iron fist under an emergency law since the assassination of former president Anwar Sadat at the hands of Islamic groups in October 1981. Mubarak's officials claim he has won his three seven-year election terms by 95 percent or more -- much like Saddam Hussein.
Mubarak has since thrown thousands of opponents behind bars, ordered summary military trials where there was little chance of receiving justice, and executed dozens of opponents.
He has been working particularly to control all Islamic outlets including the prestigious al-Azhar University, originally a bastion of Islamic learning.
The President appoints the Grand Imam of al-Azhar usually from the pro- government ranks of the preachers. The deans of Islamic colleges are handpicked by the government on the recommendations of the security apparatus.
State-controlled media has reduced its religious programming to less than five percent. The shows that remain are devoted to non-political issues like the pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and personal matters.
The regime has also targeted the non-violent but outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic movement in Egypt. For nearly 15 years, Mubarak's security apparatus hunted down members of the group, who often come from the middle classes. Dozens have been jailed after military trials, and others detained for months without trial.
"The decision to move private mosques into the hands of the government was based on recommendations by the security," says Mohammed Morsi, an Egyptian journalist with al-Gomohoria daily.
But some critics say that confining the space for religious freedom could backfire as it may drive people into the arms of non-official religious groups. Critics say also that the government needs to take the deteriorating economic situation into account in order to fight extremism. Young men turn to violence not because they go to mosques but due to official atrocities and the poor economy. Egyptians have traditionally been averse to official mosques, and distrusted official messages. It is not clear how they will react to the new plan. (END)
2. Fighting terrorism: Unjust, unwise, un-American
America's plan to set up military commissions for the trials of terrorist suspects is a big mistake
YOU are taken prisoner in Afghanistan, bound and gagged, flown to the other side of the world and then imprisoned for months in solitary confinement punctuated by interrogations during which you have no legal advice. Finally, you are told what is to be your fate: a trial before a panel of military officers. Your defence lawyer will also be a military officer, and anything you say to him can be recorded. Your trial might be held in secret. You might not be told all the evidence against you. You might be sentenced to death. If you are convicted, you can appeal, but only to yet another panel of military officers. Your ultimate right of appeal is not to a judge but to politicians who have already called everyone in the prison where you are held �killers� and the �worst of the worst�. Even if you are acquitted, or if your appeal against conviction succeeds, you might not go free. Instead you could be returned to your cell and held indefinitely as an �enemy combatant�.
Sad to say that is America's latest innovation in its war against terrorism: justice by �military commission�. Over-reaction to the scourge of terrorism is nothing new, even in established democracies. The British �interned� Catholics in Northern Ireland without trial; Israel still bulldozes the homes of families of suicide bombers. Given the barbarism of September 11th, it is not surprising that America should demand retribution�particularly against people caught fighting for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
This newspaper firmly supported George Bush's battles against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We also believe that in some areas, such as domestic intelligence gathering (see article), his government should nudge the line between liberty and security towards the latter. But the military commissions the Bush administration has set up to try al-Qaeda suspects are still wrong�illiberal, unjust and likely to be counter-productive for the war against terrorism.
A question of integrity
The day before America's Independence Day celebrations last week, the Pentagon quietly announced that Mr Bush had identified six �enemy combatants� as eligible for trials before military commissions, which are to be set up outside America's civilian and military court systems. The Pentagon did not release the names of the accused, or any charges against them, but the families of two British prisoners and one Australian held at the American naval base at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay were told by their governments that their sons were among the six deemed eligible for trial.
The Australian government's failure to protest about this has caused protests (see article). British ministers have expressed �strong reservations� about the commissions. In the past, they have asked for British citizens caught in Afghanistan to be sent home for trial in British courts�just as Mr Bush allowed John Walker Lindh, a (white, middle-class Californian) member of the Taliban, to be tried in American courts.
American officials insist that the commissions will provide fair trials. The regulations published by the Pentagon stipulate that the accused will be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that he cannot be compelled to testify against himself, and that the trials should be open to the press and public if possible.
The problem is that every procedural privilege the defendant is awarded in the regulations is provisional, a gift of the panel which is judging him. The regulations explicitly deny him any enforceable rights of the sort that criminal defendants won as long ago as the Middle Ages. Moreover, the planned commissions lack the one element indispensable to any genuinely fair proceeding�an independent judiciary, both for the trial itself and for any appeal against a conviction. The military officers sitting as judges belong to a single chain of command reporting to the secretary of defence and the president, who will designate any accused for trial before the commissions and will also hear any final appeals. For years, America has rightly condemned the use of similar military courts in other countries for denying due process.
Why dispense with such basic rules of justice? Mr Bush's officials say they must balance the demand for fair trials with the need to gather intelligence to fend off further terrorist attacks. Nobody denies that fighting terrorism puts justice systems under extraordinary strain. But this dilemma has frequently been faced by others without resorting to military trials. The established procedure is to pass special anti-terrorism laws, altering trial rules somewhat to handle terrorist cases, but not abandoning established court systems, and trying to retain the basic rights of those accused as far as possible. Britain and Spain have done this. There is no reason why America's own civilian courts, which have successfully tried plenty of domestic and foreign terrorists (including Mr Lindh), could not be adapted to this purpose.
Since the 2001 attacks, the Bush administration has avoided America's own courts repeatedly. Soon after the attacks, Mr Bush issued his executive order permitting military commissions outside the purview of the courts. Since then, his administration has imprisoned some 680 people at Guantanamo Bay precisely because it believed that the naval base, held on a perpetual lease, is outside the reach of anyone's courts, including America's. It has also claimed the right to arrest American citizens, even on American soil, as �enemy combatants� and to imprison them without charge until the war on terrorism is over. Appeals by civil libertarians to America's court system have been resisted at every stage.
Mr Bush could have asked Congress to pass new anti-terrorism laws. Instead, he is setting up a shadow court system outside the reach of either Congress or America's judiciary, and answerable only to himself. Such a system is the antithesis of the rule of law which the United States was founded to uphold. In a speech on July 4th, Mr Bush rightly noted that American ideals have been a beacon of hope to others around the world. In compromising those ideals in this matter, Mr Bush is not only dismaying America's friends but also blunting one of America's most powerful weapons against terrorism.
3. Liberia: Corpses at our doorstep
The Baltimore Sun
Friday, July 25, 2003
THE PHOTOS of corpses in the streets of Liberia's capital and news reports with those words so familiar in the New World Order - "warlord," "civil war," "warring tribes" - prompt a gut response in both the U.S. public and U.S. government, "Let's get in the helicopters and just get the heck out." The easiest, obvious policy is to let Liberia die.
Those words, which I wrote to the U.S. State Department eight years ago, could have been written today. All that's changed since then is the name of the president and the names of the dead.
In 1995, at the request of prominent Liberians, I took an unofficial delegation to convey that nation's plea to provide material and U.S. Marines to support a peacekeeping force from other West African states. Then, as now, visions of another Somalia, of another Black Hawk Down, led to our government's deadly hesitation.
This week, as mortar shells burst inside refugee centers, Liberians dropped the bodies of their parents, friends and one headless child at the doorstep of the American Embassy - a ghoulish but apt protest. They are the grim reminders of our culpability in the killings, which goes much deeper than the Clinton and Bush administrations' policy of benign neglect.
Reporters never fail to mention that former American slaves founded Liberia, yet have passed over more recent history: The administration of Ronald Reagan armed the first berserker to seize power in Liberia, setting in motion the current civil war.
Liberia enjoyed a century and a half of democracy and prosperity until 1980, when a low-ranking officer in the presidential guard, Samuel K. Doe, murdered the president, executed the nation's entire Cabinet and declared himself ruler. Within months, the newly inaugurated Ronald Reagan locked down Mr. Doe's hold on power by showering him with $500 million in taxpayer dollars, the most aid granted any African nation.
In return for this largesse, Liberia's first dictator made his nation the U.S. government's African spearhead in the Cold War, a counter to Moammar Gadhafi of Libya and the Russians and Cubans advancing in Angola.
America's cash funded Mr. Doe's war of misery, atrocity and attrition against rival gangsters ("warlords" is far too grand a name for the greed-driven thugs that vie for the spoils of control). Today, the Cold War and President Reagan are gone; so is Mr. Doe, who was hacked into pieces in the presidential mansion. But the bloody residue of the use of Liberia as our foreign policy pawn remains.
Liberia is no Somalia. As I wrote in 1995, "The shooters and looters are not organized armies but roving gangs of notorious bullies who flee at the first show of strength. Therefore, a properly armed and supported African peacekeeping force can take guns out of the hands of the teen-agers that make up much of the ganglord's 'troops.'"
One of the criminals claiming power is the nominal president, Charles Taylor, who invaded Liberia in 1989 with 125 mercenaries after his escape from a Massachusetts prison. Technically, he was elected to office. However, Mr. Taylor's technique of armed campaigning - with the implicit slogan, "Vote for me or I'll kill you" - hardly grants legitimacy to this jailbird's authority.
There is, of course, a real danger in U.S. intervention: the Iraqi-fication of a humanitarian policing mission.
In Iraq, America's first viceroy in Baghdad, retired Gen. Jay Garner, was replaced by President Bush. I suspect his error was to announce Iraqis could hold elections within 90 days of the end of hostilities. His successor has postponed elections until next year or the year after. Mr. Garner had a military man's instinct that "liberation" begins, after three months, to look like colonial reoccupation - and the cost of that shift can be counted up in body bags for U.S. soldiers.
In Liberia as in Iraq, we should be wary of the temptation to overstay our welcome. Liberia is close enough to Nigeria for the Bush administration to smell the oil. The French have moved troops into the nearby Ivory Coast, and Britain has reasserted authority over Sierra Leone.
It is easy to imagine humanitarian intervention taking an ugly turn, with America again using Liberia as puppet, this time in a tussle over control of African resources. But the greatest difference between other nations where our troops have landed and Liberia is that in Liberia we are welcome.
And we are obligated. We rushed in to fund the killings, now we must go in to end it. Until then, the Liberians will pile the corpses at our doorstep to remind us of the blood on our hands.
Copyright � 2003, The Baltimore Sun
4. Let Iraqis rebuild their own country
WAfter the 1991 war, we had Iraq's oil industry back on its feet within weeks. Now, the Americans are having to import petrol
Friday August 1, 2003
Iraq, which was, until the first Gulf war, the second-largest oil-exporting country, is now importing petrol for the first time in 60 years. Iraqis are now paying exorbitant prices for a commodity that only a few months ago was cheaper than bottled water.
This is, of course, far from being the only cause of distress to an already mentally and physically battered population. Nearly four months after the war ended, services are appalling. The electricity supply is intermittent, and there is a serious water shortage. With temperatures up to 50C, this is an intolerable situation.
In 1991, after the first Gulf war, although electricity generating stations, water purification plants and telecommunications were almost totally destroyed, the Iraqis - despite sanctions - worked hard to rebuild them.
At the time I was chief executive of Iraq's North Oil Company, as the Iraq Petroleum company was called after nationalisation in 1972. In the six weeks that the offensive lasted, and in the chaos that followed, the oil installations were extensively bombed and looted. The computer centre, telephone exchanges, workshops, laboratories and company stores had been wrecked, and technical drawings destroyed. The powerhouse, water-processing plants, degassing and pumping stations had all been damaged. All the offices had been trashed: paperwork had been burned, and every removable item taken. Even the washbasins and taps, electrical sockets and lights had been removed from the walls. Of 586 light vehicles, only six remained.
On April 2 1991, I received a hastily scribbled note from the minister of oil in Baghdad. NOC had to produce, by April 15, 200,000 barrels a day of crude oil and pump it to Baiji refinery in order to supply petrol to the Iraqi people to celebrate Saddam's birthday on April 28. To have questioned the order would have been dangerous; failure would incur punishment. But that was not my primary motivation: in my view, the provision of petrol was a service to the Iraqi people. It would mitigate their hardship.
So I called our first postwar board meeting; it was held sitting outside my office, as there was no furniture. The morale of the company's 10,000 staff was abysmal; on top of enduring bombing and looting, they had had no water, fuel or wages since the war started. I decided to spend the first week boosting morale, not with fine words and patriotic speeches, but through tangible improvements to the life of our employees.
The priorities were obvious: nothing could be done without electricity to operate the water pumps, telephone exchanges and so on. But, first and foremost, the men needed money, so it was announced that any employee who arrived at the company gates would receive five dinars daily on top of his wages. There was no money in Kirkuk as the banks had been looted, so I sent the finance manager to the central bank in Baghdad to bring back 3m dinars, an enormous sum then. Word quickly spread and the next day several hundred men reported to work. In a few days the workforce was back to normal.
I formed many committees, each under a highly capable man to whom I gave sheets of paper, blank apart from my signature. One of our problems was lack of transport: cars were allocated for four hours at a time. Shortage of petrol was another headache: before the war I had hidden a 40,000-litre petrol tanker in the hills west of Kirkuk, and in order to produce petrol before this ran out we managed to revive an old refinery column, which had last been operated in the 1950s. The quality was bad, but it met our need for fuel.
On April 4, the head of electrical engineering told me that, by the end of the day, he would be able to operate one of the turbines. Shortly after sunset, there was jubilation in the 3,000 oil company houses as their electricity came on, and the streetlights went on. The sight of these areas, lit up after nearly three months of darkness, raised the spirits of the town. The next morning water reached the houses, and people streamed out of their houses to visit relatives, bathe and wash clothes.
In that first week, we were also assessing how to go about the repairs. Before pumping the crude oil to the refineries, we had to recommission a degassing station. Then impurities had to be removed by heating. The works were so extensively damaged that we decided to use a cold-stripping plant. The nearest one was beside Shurau degassing station, so this site was ideal for both operations. We also needed pipelines to connect all parts of the system, which meant a great deal of repair and re-routing. The same specialised people who had worked on the services were carrying out these repairs.
The morale of the men was rising and they tackled the rebuilding with enthusiasm. It rose even higher when, after sunset on day five, we lit the flare of the degassing station. The red glow in the Kirkuk sky, which had been missing for several months, told people that the oil company was operational again, and life was taking on some semblance of normality. On day 14 we started pumping; within three months we were producing 75% of pre-war capacity.
The time taken to provide the basic necessities of modern life was vital in raising morale. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to lead such men, drawn from all Iraqi areas, ethnic groups and religions. They are true Iraqis, skilled in their professions and devoted to their count
Many of those men, and many others like them, are still in Iraq. They remain capable, as they were in 1991, of planning and executing the necessary repairs to our battered country, if they are given a free hand. There is no need for foreign companies to take control. Iraqi oil revenue should go to Iraqis, who should then be left in peace to set their country to rights. *Ghazi Sabir-Ali is the former chairman and managing director of the North Oil Company, Kirkuk. This article was written in collaboration with Valerie Sabir-Ali
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