Apparently, Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, has threatened a ‘shoah’ (‘catastrophic disaster’, some say ‘holocaust’) on Gazans.
Archive for February, 2008
This month, a letter appeared in Indonesia’s main English-language newspaper.
It was signed by Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee and it called on Indonesia to expand its role in the Middle East, and to engage more with the challenges facing the Muslim world.
This might come as something of a surprise, given that Indonesia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
It also happens to be the world’s most populous Muslim country, is a member of Opec and enjoys good relations with Iran and Syria.
But Indonesia is the kind of Muslim country many western nations and their allies feel comfortable with – it is democratic, pluralist, and has had real success in tackling Islamic extremism.
No wonder some people see it as an ideal candidate to bridge the gaps between the Muslim world and the West.
To some extent, it is already involved in that dialogue. Indonesia took part in last year’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, and is working on capacity-building programmes for the Palestinians.
But given its size and political spread, could it do more? Should it have a more prominent role in issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or Iran’s nuclear programme?
A volunteer rescue operation in Germany has sheltered more than 100 Muslim women who fear they will be killed if they do not go through with marriages that their families have arranged for them.
I was unlocking my bicycle outside a shopping mall one afternoon when a group of teenage boys asked me in German if I knew how to break-dance.
I thought I was hearing things, so I said, “Excuse me?”
They repeated their question in typical slang, complete with Berlin dialect, saying they would be glad to show off their hip-hop moves, if I shared some steps of my own.
I laughed and replied that, while I do love dancing, my knees are not quite up to the acrobatic task of break-dance.
Once we got talking, though, I was in for a mental head-spin that would defy any choreography.
All but one of the boys – of Turkish, Kurdish and Palestinian origin – were born in Germany.
They wore jeans and T-shirts and their hair glistened with styling gel. One sported a gold earring.
With their playful jostling, they seemed like teenagers in any Western backdrop, except for one thing: they swore they would kill their own sisters if any of them had sex before marriage.
When the teenagers agreed to let me record them, I asked if they really meant what they had said about killing their sisters.
They were adamant: “If a girl has sex with a boy without being married, we must kill both of them,” said Ali, the teenager with the gold earring.
The contrast was baffling. These teens looked entirely at ease outside a 21st Century shopping mall but their views came straight out of the Middle Ages.
“You say you’re Muslims,” I reminded them, “and killing is forbidden in the Koran, right? If you love your sister, couldn’t you just forgive her?”
“No,” one of the boys replied, “because honour matters even more than religion.”
The Kurdish teenager explained: “We have no money. We have nothing except our honour. If we lose that, it’s the worst thing that can happen to us.”
Someone might like to tell Lee Smith, supposed expert on Arab affairs, that most “non-American Muslims around the world” are not Arabs and have views and thoughts, feeling and prejudices, which have nothing to do with Arabs. Unlike Smith, I am sure that these “non-American Muslims around the world” can see Barack Obama for whatever he is meant to stand for and however they wish to, and do not need the approval of Arabs, Smith or anyone else.
Further, can someone inform Smith that he is an utter moron?
I happened to chance upon Mad Mel’s latest contribution to the debate. According to Mad Mel, Barack Obama’s ‘rejection and denunciation’ of Louis Farrakhan is actually “some kind of stealth support for anti-semitic, racist views”.
Next she’ll be telling us calls for harmony and peace are actually a death threat.
To be fair to Mad Mel, she has every right to be sceptical about Obama’s motives. I mean, it’s not as though he has suggested Palestinians are all antisemites whose only goal in life is to destroy Israel, nor has he told us of his plans to engage in a new world war against
Mad Mel also calls Louis Farrakhan an Islamist. It is views like this are fast rendering Islamist totally useless as a concept.
When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind’s use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That’s when it became clear that the major oil companies—the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence—were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die. It’s the day Moscow dashed the hopes of five major oil companies from three countries and announced that Russia itself, and not they, would develop the biggest new natural gas field on the planet, an undersea Arctic reservoir called Shtokman.
Shtokman is the oilman’s Angelina Jolie: much-coveted but out of reach. Experts believe it contains the carbon fuel equivalent of 23 billion barrels of oil—that in an industry that considers a field of one billion barrels gigantic. Shtokman alone contains sufficient energy to power all of Europe for several years, and the world’s big oil companies had sought rights to it for years.
Big Oil, then—the indomitable giant symbolized by the pitiless John D. Rockefeller—is dying. At the very least, it will soon have to fundamentally change the way it does business. But the shock of Shtokman is merely a tremor compared with the coming revolutionary transition to a non- carbon energy economy. Big Oil could transcend its current woes and weather that future revolution—perhaps even lead it—if it reinvented itself as Big Energy, striving to develop renewable power sources like wind and solar, or even to deliver the industry’s holy grail: a clean energy mechanism that renders fossil fuels obsolete. True, no one yet knows what the revolution will look like; but the odd thing is that, for the most part, the oil companies don’t seem to care.
The minutes of cabinet meetings at which ministers discussed the legality of invading Iraq should be published, the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said today.
In an unprecedented ruling, Thomas said the papers about the controversial legal advice should be made public in part because “there is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision”.
Thomas said the public interest in disclosure outweighed the principles that normally allow the government not to have to publish minutes of cabinet decisions.
The government is expected to appeal against Thomas’s decision, which on its own will not guarantee that the minutes will be disclosed.
The legality of the invasion of Iraq has been a source of huge controversy ever since the invasion in March 2003, with some lawyers and campaigners believing that Tony Blair’s decision to attack was illegal under international law.
At the time the government published a nine-paragraph legal opinion written by the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, claiming that the invasion was legal.
But it subsequently emerged that, in a much longer legal opinion written 10 days earlier, Goldsmith expressed reservations about the legality of the attack.
Thomas issued his ruling today in relation to a request submitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act for copies of minutes and records relating to the two meetings of the cabinet held between March 7 2003, when Goldsmith wrote the first legal minute, and March 17, when he published the second.
Britain has been warned of a new terror threat from Sikh extremists who are forging links with Islamist terror outfits linked to Al Qaida.
The revelation comes after the FBI compiled a Watchlist of American and British-based Sikhs who they believe are agitating for an independent Sikh homeland. Names on the watchlist include US-based Sikh activists who are regular visitors to Pakistan which is believed to be backing the movement for Sikh soveriegnty.
US authorities are concerned that Sikh radicals are being trained alongside Kashmiri militants at mobile terror camps run by the Pakistan secret service the ISI. Most of the main Sikh terror group leaders, who feature on the Indian Government’s Most Wanted lists, are based in Pakistan from where they occassionally deliver fiery speeches to supporters over the internet.
The issue of Sikh militancy is explored in a BBC Radio Four File on Four documentary tonight (TUE 26 February) at 8pm
Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam – and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.
The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.
The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.
As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.
But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.
It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.