Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Casablanca: The Bogart-Hemingway Nexus
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--With a brief digression on the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League

by Sam Bluefarb
(December 2011)

“We’ll always have Casablanca. . .” In 2004, an American woman, Kathy Kriger, a former diplomat, posted to Morocco, opened up the first “Rick’s Café Casablanca.” [pacé: Rick Blaine]


In his post-modernist analysis of Casablanca, Umberto Eco speaks of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) as a “Hemingwayan Hero [who] helped the Ethiopians and the Spaniards [fight] against fascism) [and who] does not drink.”[1] Does not drink? more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 3:20 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
The Bee and the Lamb
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(Part 2)

by Takuan Seiyo (December 2011)


A societal prescription of living a saintly life in the Jesus mode welcomes the looting of everything the West has and is by the great masses of the Third World with two feet already in the door. It cannot fend off global jihad, North Korea or China. It skirts modern economic reality in which wealth is the reward of productive competition, and capital has no religion but flows to where the returns are highest. What Nixon and other sincere Christians prescribe is self-liquidation with a beatific smile. more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 3:09 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Will Israel Win the Energy Prize in the Levant Basin?
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by Jerry Gordon (December 2011)


In the Middle East, the world’s attention has been diverted by the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the turmoil of the Arab Spring turning into winter in the Arab Muslim heartland. However, another conflict is rapidly emerging over development of vast natural gas fields offshore in the Levant Basin of the Eastern Mediterranean, which could transform Israel into a major world energy producer and change the geo-political landscape.  more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:57 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Why the West is Best
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by Rebecca Bynum (December 2011)

Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
By Ibn Warraq
Encounter Books, 2011
286 pp.

Ibn Warraq’s latest book may be best viewed as a follow up to his excellent 2007 critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism, entitled Defending the West (reviewed here). Why the West is Best  is meant more for the general reader and is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of the Western world as seen through the eyes of a man born a Muslim in Pakistan and whose appreciation of the West is fresh and stimulating. more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:50 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Collectivist Dreams
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The Russian Soul - A Turbulent Priest - Marx and Engels - Insouciance and Despair

by David Wemyss (December 2011)


In Tolstoy’s short story “The Three Hermits”, a Russian Orthodox bishop hears rumours about three old hermits on an island. He goes to visit them. His ship drops anchor near the island and a group of oarsmen take him ashore. The three hermits are dressed in rags, with long white beards to their knees. They are theologically and doctrinally illiterate. The bishop sees it as his duty to sort them out. more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:45 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
God and King in Sumeria
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by Mark Anthony Signorelli (December 2011)


No longer did they sacrifice the court retinue upon the death of a king. That such practices occurred among the Sumerians we know as a result of the discovery of the famous Royal Tombs at Ur; several burial chambers there revealed an arrangement of human remains seated about a central figure. Poison appears to have been the means of this ritual suicide. more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:40 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Islam and Christianity: The Roots of Europe’s Religious Identity
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by Richard L. Rubenstein (December 2011)


In a 2004 interview Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asserted that “Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one” whose roots are Christian. Recalling the wars of religion between Christianity and Islam, the Pope argued that Turkey belonged to another cultural continent and ought not to be admitted to the European Union. more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:35 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited: An Introduction to the History of a Controversy
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by Emmet Scott (December 2011)


The book that follows is not a history in the normal sense, but, as the subtitle explains, the history of a controversy. The controversy in question is the one which has raged for many years around the question: What ended Roman civilization and brought about the Dark Ages?  more>>>

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Posted on 11/30/2011 2:27 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Diaa Rashwan Doesn't Understand Why Islam Can't Be The Solution
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In an article by Robin Wright about Islam and the new Tunisian regime, she claims that "[m]any Muslims share conservative values even as they push for freedoms. The right to human dignity, Muslims believe, is God-given -- a view shared by Thomas Jefferson and engraved on the walls of his memorial. The values of their religion are a starting point for all other aspects of life."

But is this correct? Do Muslims believe that non-Muslims have a "right to human dignity"? What do we learn, by studying the texts of Islam -- Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira -- and the most authoritative Muslim commentators on, and interpreters of, those texts, about the view toward Infidels that Islam inculcates? This Robin Wright fails to explore, possibly because she does not know the answer, and possibly because she does.

And then the last two paragraphs of her articel contain a quote and a plaintive query from "an expert on political Islam" at Al-Ahram University (really, a school of Islamic theology):

'"Without Islam, we will not have any real progress," reflected Diaa Rashwan, an expert on political Islam at Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "When Western countries built their own progress, they didn't go out of their epistemological or cultural history. Japan is still living in the culture of the samurai, but in a modern way. The Chinese are still living the traditions created by Confucianism."

"So why," he mused, "do we have to go out of our history?"

Wright chooses not to even begin to answer this question. But we can. We can note that Islam, as a Complete Regulation Of Life, and Total Explanation Of the Universe, goes far beyond what Diaa Rashwan somewhat confusingly calls its "epistemological or cultural history" by which I assume he means Hebraism, Hellenism, Christianity, and the Enlightenment, but since he would prefer not to mention any of these, he keeps it all vague. He then adduces two non-Western cultures. He describes a samurai" Japan (as if that warrior-cult, and not Lady Murasaki, or Basho, or the Floating World, or Shinto, were enough to sum up Japan. And he mentions China, and the tradition of Confucianism but not other strains in Chinese thought, including Buddhism. In other words, Diaa Rashwan thus  omits all  mention of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto.

And he asks why "do we have to go out of our history?" Could it be that if Muslim peoples and polities which to remove the source, or at least weaken the source, of their own political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failings, they will have to systematically downplay, tie in knots, undercut, the power of Islam.

Ataturk recognized this, and by weakening Islam as a social and political force he managed to rescue Turkey, and to create a class of secular Turks who inhabit, more or less, the same intellectual universe as Western man and, come to think of it, Eastern man as well. Bourguiba recognized this, and did what he could to create a similar class in Tunisia. But the tug of Arabness, 'Uruba, which reinforces and is reinforced by Islam (a vehicle for Arab supremacism), made his task much harder. In any case, Islam never goes away, even where it has been systematically suppressed, and in both Turkey and Tunisia, after Ataturk and Bourguiba were replaced by epigones less talented, or more corrupt, than they, Islam has come back, with a vengeance.

Islam is based on the view that the Qur'an is uncreated and immutable, and cannot be questioned. Islam discourages free and skeptica inquiry about the thing that in Muslim societies matters most -- Islam itself -- and hence it discourages such an attitude of mind for all other things as well. Muslims want, think they can buy or otherwise obtain, the goodies -- the technological gewgaws -- created by the West (and now the East too). But they cannot recognize the need to create the mental conditions for political freedom, based on the notion of the free individual, cannot see how Islam, with its inshallah-fatalism and the razzia-mentality which survives in the desire to seize the state, and through political power acquire wealth, with its inculcated mistreatment of all non-Muslims and of all women, ensures economic backwardness that persists even with the vast infusion of wealth, the more than fifteen trillion dollars, that Muslim members of OPEC have received since 1973 alone, not through any hard work or entrepreneurial activity, but merely because of an accident of geology. Not a single Muslim state has managed to create an advanced economy. Only a handful of Muslim states that do not possess oil have managed to advance economically: Turkey (because of Ataturk), Tunisia (because of Bourguiba and the creation of a class of "Arabs who want to be Europeans"), Malaysia (because of the Chinese and Indians who make up nearly half the population), Indonesia (because of Chinese entrepreneurs, and the influence of a mild, sometimes syncretistic culture that includes elements of the Hindu and Buddhist past, that predates the arrival of Islam), Lebanon (because of its large and once-dominant Christian population).

Diaa Rashwan can't possibly recognize all the ways that Islam holds Muslims back, holds them down, and makes them into permanent enemies of non-Muslims everywhere, who by now have become so wary of Islam, in just a decade, that there is no going back to the naive hopefulness, or possibly obliviousness, that once characterized the attitudes of Western elites, for a few decades after World War II, toward Muslims. Now there is only suspicion and hostility toward Muslims -- both of them well-deserved, and both of them likely to increase as people educate themselves about Islam, and see for themselves the Jihad news of the day, or try to make sense of the observable behavior and attitudes of Muslims in their midst.

He can't.

But we can.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 1:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
A Musical Interlude: Time On My Hands (Russ Columbo)
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Listen here.
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Posted on 11/30/2011 12:55 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Salafists Hold University Professors Hostage In Tunisia
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From MiddleEast online:

Salafists besiege Tunisian university: Dean, professors taken hostage

Salafists disrupt classes at Tunisia Manouba University, demanding stop to mixed-sex classes and for female students to wear full face veils.

Middle East Online

Salafists’ weapons: Threats, verbal abuses

TUNIS - A group of Salafists disrupted classes on Monday at a university west of the capital Tunis, demanding a stop to mixed-sex classes and for female students to wear full face veils, officials said.

The mob of Salafists also took hostage the dean of the University of Letters, Arts, and Humanities of Manouba along with several other professors.

One of the professors who witnessed the protest said the group threatened him and verbally abused other professors. The professor called on the protection of the army, but no security forces had yet been confirmed arrived.

"A group of Salafists, dressed like the Afghans, have been camped in front of my office since early afternoon," Habib Kazdaghli, the dean of faculty at the University of Manuba, said.

The group of several dozen students interrupted an English class in the morning, Kazdaghli said.

"They want girls to wear the niqab, a mosque in the middle of the campus, a stop to mixed classes and a prohibition of women teaching male students and vice versa," he said, adding that it marked the first such incident on campus.

Tunisia's Salafists have become more assertive in recent months, following the revolution that ousted a staunchly secular regime along with president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January following mass protests.

The ministry of higher education "firmly" condemned the incident, saying that "all recourse to violence is inadmissible and intolerable."

In regards to policies concerning the niqab, a ministry spokesperson said that "according to current regulations, each student must be able to be identified before accessing the university, for pedagogic and security reasons."

Visible again on the streets of Tunis and other major cities, their new assertiveness has led to a number of more or less violent clashes.

In the eastern city of Sousse earlier this month, some 200 Islamists stormed the university campus after a female student wearing the niqab, or burka, full face veil was not allowed to sign up.

On October 9 in Tunis, a mob of Salafists tried to attack the offices of private Nessma TV station that aired "Persepolis", a French-Iranian animation film.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 12:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
School allowed to ban Muslim pupil's praying
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From the German edition of The Local

A German federal court on Wednesday backed banning a Muslim pupil from praying according to Islamic rites at a Berlin public school, ruling it could jeopardise its smooth operation. In the case of the 18-year-old pupil, who took his school to court, it justified the ban at his Berlin high school because the issue of praying had already sparked conflict among Muslim pupils.

The court said the school, in Berlin's ethnically diverse Wedding district, was right in stopping him from praying as "sometimes very severe conflicts" had broken out among Muslim pupils over the interpretation of the Koran. Capping a more than two-year legal battle, it ruled that a pupil "is not entitled to perform prayer during school outside of class when this can disrupt the running of the school."

Tilman Nagel, an expert in Islam who appeared as a witness at an earlier court hearing, said that postponing midday prayers was acceptable if there was a good reason. He also argued that the Islamic ritual of praying undertaken with other people was very different to the Christian private act of praying, and was thus disruptive in a public space.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 12:35 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Terrorism At Topkapi
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From Associated Press:

Gunman shot dead at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace after he wounds 2 people

November 30, 2011

ISTANBUL — A heavily armed man opened fire at one of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions on Wednesday, wounding a Turkish soldier and a security guard before police snipers killed the attacker, officials said.

The motive for the assault at Topkapi Palace was not immediately known. But police said the man, a Libyan with Syrian citizenship, had entered Turkey only three days ago.

Police said the attacker arrived at the palace in a car with Syrian license plates. Minutes before the attack, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had announced tough economic sanctions on Syria to protest its government’s crackdown on an 8-month-old pro-democracy uprising.

Multiple gun shots were heard from behind the high walls of the Topkapi Palace before the attacker was killed, and some tourists threw themselves on the ground to avoid the violence , officials and witnesses said.

Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years, is located in the city’s historic Sultanahmet district, which also includes the Blue Mosque and the former Byzantine church of Haghia Sophia.

The palace — including ornate courtyards, gilded treasures and dozens of rooms that once housed harems, attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Witnesses said the man shot the soldier in the leg and the guard in the abdomen before running into the palace courtyard through the main gate, chanting in Arabic “God is Great!”

Istanbul’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, said the wounded are not in life threatening condition.

Mutlu said the gunman made no demands and that police decided to shoot him when he refused to surrender.

Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the attacker had entered Turkey on Sunday. The state-run TRT television, citing unnamed officials, identified him as 36-year-old Samir Salem Ali Elmadhavri, a Libyan with Syrian citizenship.

Authorities would divulge further details about the man’s identity and Sahin said it was not immediately known if the attacker was affiliated with any groups or organizations in Libya or Syria.

The prosecutor’s office in Istanbul launched an investigation into the attack, authorities said.

A spokesman for Libya’s National Transition Council, Jalal el-Galal, said authorities in Tripoli have no information at this point on the gunman.

The man was seen at an outdoor cafe in the area before going on his rampage, witnesses told Associated Press television. A photo obtained by The Associated Press shows the attacker carrying a rifle and a cartridge belt around his neck.

“I saw the gunman carrying a gun on his shoulder, like a hunter. He had ammunition around his neck and a backpack. His overcoat was buttoned, I couldn’t see what was underneath,” witness Idris Cengiz told AP television. “He was coming toward us and my friend said he looked like a hunter so I asked him in English ‘Are you a hunter?’ He said something in Arabic which I didn’t understand. Then he said ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great).”

Cengiz said he and his friend heard the gun shots moments later.

“We ran we saw a soldier and a security guard laying on the ground,” he said.

No tourists were hurt in the attack.

“I’m not afraid because this kind of thing can happen anywhere these days, even in Amsterdam, where I live,” ["even in Amsterdam" -- that is, even in Western cirites to which Muslims may travel or in which they have been allowed to settle] Dutch tourist [a Muslim who apparently has Dutch citizenship], Yeuonne Alkemade, told AP television.  “I’m sad for Turkey and Istanbul because this is one of the top tourist attractions here.”

Turkey has suffered a number of terrorist attacks in the past.

Earlier this year, police arrested alleged Turkish members of al-Qaida terrorist network accused of planning to attack the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and another group in the southern city of Adana, which is home to the Incirlik Air Base used by the United States to transfer noncombat supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorities have said al-Qaida planned to attack Incirlik in the past but was deterred by high security.

An attack blamed on al-Qaida-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in 2008 left three assailants and three policemen dead.

Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida attacked the British Consulate, a British bank and two synagogues in Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 12:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
New York - Cabbies at UWS Mosque Obey Religious Laws Over Parking Rules
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From DNA Info - Manhatten local news.

UPPER WEST SIDE — A popular worship service at an Upper West Side mosque has prompted dozens of local cabbies to flout the rules of the road in order to observe the rules of their religion, neighbors and mosque officials said.

Dozens of cab drivers rushing to services at the Islamic Cultural Center at Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street are double- and triple-parking outside the house of prayer, forcing northbound traffic on the recently-reopened stretch of Riverside Boulevard to veer into the oncoming traffic lane, DNAinfo has learned.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," said James Beale, the resident manager at 240 Riverside Blvd., one of four Trump high-rises along the boulevard. "It's a very dangerous situation. It's like all the rules of the road are thrown aside."

The illegal parking was largely ignored for years, but has recently become the source of a police crackdown . . .

But the cabbies who gather for the religious devotions — which can run as long as a 30 minute sermon followed by a 15-minute prayer — say they have no qualms about breaking parking rules in order to attend the prayer services, which are mandatory for practicing Muslims. The Friday service, which is typically scheduled during the middle of the day, is the most heavily attended, with up to 300 worshippers.

"For me, my prayer is more important, because that's what I'm going to take with me the day I die," said cabbie Abdoulaye Diallo, a 30-year-old immigrant from Guinea, who left his taxi in a no parking zone outside the mosque at 1 Riverside Drive on Tuesday evening so he could dash in for a quick evening prayer, one of the five mandatory prayers he performs daily. Diallo said he's racked up several $75 tickets for parking illegally in order to pray, but he doesn't mind. "I'm not going to take my money with me," he said.

Jim Littlefield, a security director at the Trump Corporation, said that as police have stepped up their enforcement on the illegal parking, tensions have flared. He said he saw a police officer who had been asking double parked cars to move handcuff a taxi driver on Nov. 18. Littlefield, a retired NYPD cop, said he then called 911 because he saw several cabbies approach the officer and was concerned about his safety.

Abdur Rahman, an assistant imam at the mosque, said officials at the Islamic Cultural Center are well aware of the parking problem and have made repeated announcements asking worshippers to follow parking laws. . . "In Islam, you have to make happy neighbors," he said. "It's a rule of Islam. Good Muslims should follow parking rules, because it's a rule of the city."

Rahman said the city should consider more flexible parking rules around Muslim houses of worship on Fridays. He noted that on-street parking is free on Sundays, in part so Christians can go to church without worrying about feeding a meter.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 12:24 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
No Longer Drowning, And With No Intention Of Waving
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Israelis save drowning Iranians

Drama in Thailand as Israeli lifeguards save two drowning Iranians. 'When we told them we were Israeli they just got up and fled'

Reuven Weiss

11.29.11 13:14 / Israel News
Nimrod Machani (27) has been working as a Tel Aviv coast lifeguard for four years. His father Shimshon, 60, was employed as a seaman for many years and between voyages, also worked as a Tel Aviv lifeguard.

 

Two years ago Shimshon moved to Koh Samui, Thailand where he opened a surfboat business for local tourists. At the end of the summer season in Israel, Nimrod decided to visit his father in Thailand and help him in setting up the new business.

 

Last week the father-son team went out on their daily rowing course. "The weather here is tropical," Shimshon explained. "Things can change in a second. And indeed, on the way back, the weather changed all at once. The winds got stronger and the waves grew tall."

 

Suddenly, they noticed two swimmers who were crying out for help. "Their Kayak had overturned in the storm and was swept away, they were left alone in the water," said Shimshon. "They didn't have much of a chance."

 

The two lifeguards rowed towards the drowning men. "When we reached them they were already at the point of exhaustion," nimrod noted. " "We loaded them on to the surf boat and kept rowing towards the shore, a kilometer away."

 

For 45 minutes the two battled against the winds and the waves with the swimmers on board. "When they came around and started talking among themselves I noticed they were speaking in Persian. I was born in Iran and speak the language. I told them in Persian: 'Don't be scared, you're in good hands," Shimshon recalls.

 

When they reached the shore the two, who introduced themselves as Mundar and Ali, hugged and kissed their rescuers and thanked them.

 

"When we told them we're Israelis they just got up and fled," Nimrod noted.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Valentina Colombo On Tawakkul Karman
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From HudsonNewYork:

Whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood
Nobel Peace Prize for a "Muslim Sister"

by Valentina Colombo
November 30, 2011

Once again the West has chosen among the heroes and heroines of the "Arab Spring" the most politicized, and especially the closest, to its short-sighted policies in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, as mentioned by al-Mashari Dhaid on the Arab international daily Asharq al-Awsat, we should never forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace is political, and it "is an instrument of soft pressure to fulfill a specific path of peace or stability, according to a Western perspective."

Mashari al-Dhaid is right when he states that "Tawakkul Karman is not Mother Teresa, but a political activist who acts in accordance with the directives and policies and social needs of her own party."

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, to which Karman belongs, is the party representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. Tawakkul Karman is 'Abd al-Salam Khalid Karman's daughter, a member of the same party. The Reform Party, as you can easily infer from its political program published on the official website (www.al-islah.net), acts on behalf of Islam and claims the implementation of sharia law, advocates equality among believers without distinction of sex, even though sharia law states that a woman is worth half the man (see Koran II, 282; IV, 11).

Tawakkul Karman is indeed an activist: a political activist. There is no doubt that she is the symbol of a revolution, but at the same time her victory has to be placed in the continuum of Arab Springs that are witnessing the domination of the organized and economically strong Muslim Brotherhood.

The Nobel Prize follows the International Women of Courage Award assigned to Karman by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama. Everything confirms the US and Western policy of whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood. And what a better leader and symbol than a young and determined woman like Karman? During an interview, in June 2010, she declared that the day would come when "all human rights violators pay for what they did to Yemen." If she was referring to Yemeni President Saleh, fine; but I wonder if human rights under Sharia -- the law her party would like to introduce in all levels of the country - match universal rights.

"In the name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful, to sister Tawakkul 'Abd al-Salam Karman, president of Women Journalists Without Chains, a member of the Governing Council of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-tajammu' al-yamani li-al-islah), greetings and appreciation. With great joy we have received, within the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, the announcement of the assignment to your person of the Nobel Prize for Peace as the first Arab woman to receive this award and the first Yemeni personality to enjoy this international attestation of esteem.

"Congratulations for this historic achievement since we believe that this victory is to support the peaceful revolution of Yemen, and a Yemeni woman who fights and who is aware of her ability to win despite the obstacles the legacy of backwardness and tyranny that separate our people from progress."

This is the beginning of a release of October 8th 2010 signed by Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Yadumi following the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.

Well, many of us were happy because finally an Arab woman, last but not least a symbol of the Yemeni "Spring" had her efforts and courage recognised. Even secular intellectuals like the Yemeni political scientist Elham Manea, of Yemeni origin, who now is living in Switzerland, and the Yemeni writer Ali al-Muqri, have rejoiced.

While in many other countries, Islamic parties are banned, Islah participates in the political process and has even formed a coalition government with the ruling General People's Congress. One significant difference between Islah and other Islamic parties is that it is not purely an Islamic Party. The Islah Party is a heterogeneous party made up of three distinct groups: the tribes, Islamic elements and conservative businessmen. Islah could be described as a reflection of the conservative segments of Yemeni society. Nevertheless, it has an Islamic ideology and pushes for social and economic reform, similarly to other Islamic parties in the region.

Some people even praised Karman as the woman who has "torn" the veil. This is half true: in 2004 during a conference on human rights, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace removed her black full veil, worn by the vast majority of Yemeni women, to replace it with a simple veil, which she calls "Islamic." The statement published on the website of her Party after a demonstration celebrate the award says that it is a "source of pride and honor not only for Yemeni women, but also for Arab women and the Islamic veil."

So Karman replaced the traditional black veil -- "un-Islamic"-- in favor of a colorful headscarf that is not so much a symbol of Muslim women, as of the women of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least of women wearing the veil as a political symbol.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 10:13 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Shi'a-Sunni Battles In Yemen
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From Reuters:

Northern battle flares as Yemen seeks interim government

Nov. 30, 2011

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - Fighting between Shi'ite rebels and Sunni Islamists wounded at least 26 people in north Yemen Wednesday, as the new prime minister worked to form a government under a Gulf plan to avert civil war by easing President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.

The plan crafted by Yemen's wealthier neighbors envisions a government including opposition parties that backed 10 months of protests aimed at ending Saleh's 33-year rule, which would lead the country to presidential elections in February.

Saleh, who backed out of that deal three times, signed it last week and transferred powers to his deputy, a step the plan's sponsors said will help reverse the chaos Yemen has slid toward during the political struggle over Saleh's fate.

One of the country's multiple, overlapping regional conflicts flared anew when Shi'ite Muslim fighters who have rebelled in a northern province along the Saudi border attacked Sunni Islamists whom they have fought over the last week.

A group of Yemeni Salafis -- Sunnis who hold a puritanical creed with followers in Saudi Arabia -- said fighters from the rebel Shi'ite Houthi movement attacked early Wednesday in Damaj, 150 km (90 miles) north of the capital Sanaa.

The official, Abu Ismail, spoke by telephone with explosions audible in the background, and said several students of the town's Dar al-Hadith religious school had been injured in shelling. His group said at least 25 people were killed in Houthi shelling in the region Saturday and Sunday.

The Houthis, members of the Zaidi branch of Shi'ism who draw their name from a tribal leader, effectively control the northern Saada province and are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia's promotion of Salafi creeds that class Shi'ites as heretics.

They have accused the Salafis in the northern Saada province of working to build military encampments near the Saudi border.

Saleh's forces struggled to crush the Houthi rebellion -- which Saudi forces also intervened against militarily -- before a cease-fire last year.

The fighting came as Yemen's prime minister designate, Mohammed Basindwa, a former foreign minister who joined the opposition to Saleh, worked to form a transitional government that he has said will be set in days.

Opposition politicians, who are to split seats in the government with members of Saleh's ruling party, said negotiations were underway on the formation of a security committee tasked in part with separating the forces of Saleh's partisans and foes who have clashed in the capital.

In the south, where the United States -- which long backed Saleh in its campaign against al Qaeda -- and Saudi Arabia fear the Yemeni wing of the Islamist group could find a foothold, an older political conflict also overshadows the Gulf plan.

Members of a secessionist movement who want to undo the territorial union that Saleh presided over in 1990 marched through the southern port of Aden Wednesday, carrying flags of the former South Yemen, a socialist republic.

The march, which commemorated the 44th anniversary of the south's independence from Britain, reflected the resentment many southerners feel over the region's treatment under union, which erupted into civil war in 1994.

Elsewhere in the south, security officials said a police commander survived an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire on a police vehicle in Khor Maksar, east of Aden, when militants opened fire on a police vehicle, killing two soldiers.

Tens of thousands have been displaced from the southern Abyan province due to fighting between Islamists who have seized chunks of territory and Yemeni forces, in addition to those displaced by the fighting in the north, which peaked in 2009.

Nearly a year of political turmoil over Saleh's fate has deepened the poverty of the resource-strapped country, where a U.N. official said Tuesday that millions of people were facing a humanitarian crisis.

U.N. assistant secretary-general and deputy emergency relief coordinator Catherine Bragg, after a visit to Yemen, warned of "some of the world's highest malnutrition rates, a breakdown of essential services and a looming health crisis."

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Posted on 11/30/2011 10:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Meretricious, Hysterical, Altogether Unpleasant Pakistan
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From The Telegraph:

Pakistan hardens stance on Nato attack

Pakistan stiffened its public stance on a Nato attack on Wednesday, accusing commanders of deliberately targeting two border posts and killing 24 of its soldiers.

But the prime minister also offered a glimmer of hope that Pakistan could still attend a crucial conference on the future of Afghanistan.

The deaths have provoked daily demonstrations in Pakistan where much of the population cannot believe the attack was an accident.

The US military insists a joint patrol with Afghan forces was first upon first and only attacked the posts – which a commander mistakenly identified as Taliban training camps – after checking there were no Pakistani forces nearby.

But details of Pakistan's official version emerged yesterday with a point-by-point rebuttal of the US account.

Major General Ishfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, stepped up the rhetoric, rejecting the possibility the attack was an accident. Instead he claimed two or three helicopters launched an unprovoked attack early on Saturday morning.

He told local reporters that the attack happened in an area free from militants and that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan knew the position of Pakistani border posts.

"The positions of the posts were already conveyed to the ISAF through map references and it was impossible that they did not know these to be our posts," he said.

When one post, named Volcano, was attacked, he added, a second base, Boulder, engaged the helicopters with anti-aircraft fire but also came under "We informed them about the attack. But, the helicopters reappeared and also engaged the Boulder post," said Maj Gen Nadeem.

It also emerged yesterday that a US base in eastern Afghanistan had come under mortar attack from Pakistani territory on Tuesday night.

However, Nato officials said they were able to talk to their Pakistani counterparts to defuse the situation and avoid a repeat of Saturday's cross-border air strike.

The wave of anti-American anger leaves a feeble government and a military still embarrassed by the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden trying to prove their nationalist credentials and head off hardline religious leaders.

Pakistan has shut its borders to Nato supply convoys in protest at the raid and on Tuesday announced it would boycott next week's Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan.

Although few analysts believe the meeting is anything more than a talking shop, Pakistan's withdrawal reduces even slim hopes of progress.

Yesterday, however, Pakistan's prime minister signalled that the decision could be reversed if his country's security could be guaranteed.

Briefing reporters on a call made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai asking him to reconsider, Yousuf Raza Gilani said: "If we go to Bonn for you then who will guarantee our security? We cannot just go like this if someone will not ensure our security."

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Posted on 11/30/2011 10:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
New York Synagogue–Mosque Twinning Event Cancelled Because of Fearful Illegal Alien Muslims
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Source: The Jewish Daily Forward West End Synagogue and Imam Souleimane Konate

You may recall we had taken to task Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) that sponsors annual twinnings of synagogues and mosques throughout the US, the EU and even, Turkey. You can see the list for the most recent twinnings that occurred over the weekend of November 18th-20th on the FFEU website, here. There you will notice twinnings in the US involving Muslim Brotherhood front groups like the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Student Association, the latter with Hillel Chapters on some university campuses. When we interviewed Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, he talked about their uncovering a twinning event with Syrian terrorism sponsors and antisemitic Imams that forced the Buffalo, New York Jewish community to abandon that twinning episode. 

Rabbi Schneier’s FFEU persists in dhimmi-like delusion that these interfaith encounters further "dialogue and understanding." These FFEU twinning events are effectivelyf da’wah or call to Islam opportunities for their Muslim partners. The twinning event that was held the weekend of November 18th at Manhattan’s West Side "new age" egalitarian conservative synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, featured none other than Daisy Khan of the American Society for the Advancement of Muslims, wife of controversial Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf of the Cordoba House Initiative and what many believe is the ‘bust’ ground zero mosque project. In the JTA account of that FFEU twinning event at B’nai Jeshurun, Ms. Khan uttered this taqiyya comment totally lost on her Jewish interlocutors:

Asked about the concept of twinning, Arline Kane, a Jewish participant, answered that “It means that we are finding out we are closer than we think.”

Khan also noted the commonality between the traditions.

“Islam," she said, "is like a 1,400-year-old Jewish tradition.”

However, there was another twinning event that weekend which was cancelled at the last minute at another West Side Manhattan synagogue, that The Jewish Daily Forward has covered in an article published today, “Synagogue Hopes To Build Mosque's Trust “. The Jewish Daily Forward story attests to the mindset of liberal Jews who venerate the liberal interpretation of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam - "repairing the world."  It is about a twinning that never happened between the West End Synagogue in Manhattan and West African immigrants in Imam Souleimane Konate’s Masjid Aqsa Mosque in Harlem. Why? Because many members of the Masjid Aqsa Mosque, who hail from the Ivory Coast and Senegal, are "hard working" illegal aliens who were afraid of exposure to the authorities.

The Jewish Daily Forward picked up the threads of this complicated  tale:

When members of New York City’s West End Synagogue were recently disinvited at the 11th hour from a long-anticipated Friday gathering with Muslims at Harlem’s Masjid Aqsa, some involved in organizing the meeting feared that hard-line mosque members were behind the cancelation.

But at the synagogue the next morning, the mosque’s imam, Souleimane Konate, showed up to take part in Sabbath services, fulfilling his part in the weekend twinning arrangement the two congregations had planned together. Furthermore, Konate informed the West End congregants that his followers’ decision to disinvite them stemmed not from anger or hostility, but from fear.

“Immigration [agents], what they are doing, is separating families,” Konate said. “We have many cases where a father has been deported leaving behind his wife and kids. We are not criminals. We are hard working people.”

Konate, a native of the Ivory Coast, explained that the majority of his 1,200-member congregation consists of immigrants from West Africa — many of whom are undocumented. The congregants include cab drivers and cart vendors who work tirelessly to send money back home to support their families and communities, he said. But many have had experiences with scam artists claiming to help with immigration paperwork. All of them have seen other members of the community deported, he said, resulting in distrust and fear of any outsider.


Imam Konate when he spoke to this liberal West Side Reconstructionist Synagogue put in his da’wa pitch:

In his guest sermon before West End Synagogue congregants, Konate explained that during that particular weekend, Muslims commemorate the death of Abraham — patriarch to Muslims as well as to Jews. Abraham’s death was an opportunity for his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, to come together to bury their father, he noted, adding that the weekend signaled opportunity for the two congregations, as well.

Of course there was nothing about Muslims under Mohammed engaging in wholesale massacres, rapes and enslavement of Jewish tribes and enforcing dhimmitude on the frightened remainder in Arabia, which effectively made it judenrein. None of the congregants probably were conversant in the Qur’an to ask about Sura 5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.”

So what do these West End Synagogue members do in response to Imam Konate’s guest sermon?

Synagogue members offered words of support in response. “It seems to boil down to being the stranger,” said Eileen Sobel, a congregant in attendance. “Gehr in Hebrew means ‘stranger.’ It’s very important to realize that at any time, we can become a stranger.”

Others from the congregation offered material support. Jerry Posman, who serves as vice president for finance and administration at City College, expressed his desire to collaborate with Konate in setting up scholarships for undocumented youth who wish to pursue higher education.

“As Jews, we try to understand our identity, which emphasizes an awareness of the outsider,” said Rabbi Marc Margolius, West End Synagogue’s spiritual leader. “The imam’s concerns really struck a chord with my congregation and even helped the congregation relate.”

I wonder if the rabbi and his congregation would dare to ask Imam Konate how many members of his mosque have polygamous marriages and take their daughters back to the Ivory Coast for female genital mutilation procedures. 

After this revelation in today’s Daily Forward about a bust twinning event, the New York regional office of the ICE might have more than a passing interest in monitoring the Masjid Aqsa Mosque. As for the West Side Synagogue spiritual leader Rabbi Marc Margolius, he’d better consult with his board and worthy counsel about what liability is attached to their providing aid to illegal alien Muslims from the Ivory Coast.

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Posted on 11/30/2011 9:09 AM by Jerry Gordon
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Lifeless Qatar
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From The New York Times:

November 30, 2011

Qatar’s Capital Glitters Like a World City, but Few Feel at Home

DOHA, Qatar — Along a skyline that feels as ambitious as it is ephemeral, there is a building named for its design — the Tornado. The renowned architect I. M. Pei built a museum here in a quest for the essence of Islamic architecture. Another tower, built by another famous architect, is sheathed in an exoskeleton and suggests a Saracen helmet.

“It’s a mimic of a city that could have been built anywhere,” an unimpressed Issa al-Mohannadi, an engineer who has been asked to create something different, declared as he gazed out his fourth-floor window. “What you’re seeing shouldn’t be our future.”

Doha is many things: a former backwater on the Persian Gulf that at one time had a pearling boat for every 350 residents; the capital of a country with enough natural gas to make those same people the wealthiest in the world today; and the seat of an emir determined to put his country on the map with brash foreign policy and the power of Al Jazeera, the satellite television news channel. It is also a city in search of an identity that still feels as shapeless as the tracts of sand interspersed between domed skyscrapers and the most improbable geometry.

The debate, of course, is not new. All the emerald cities on the Persian Gulf have to varying degrees struggled with tradition and modernity, as oil and gas created what a Qatari official called “Earth on Mars.” But nowhere else is the debate so pronounced, driven by so many billions of dollars, cluttered with so many visions and punctuated by so much criticism over what Doha, in some ways an accidental creation of a city, should look like.

Here is what it offers: a film festival, the World Cup in 2022, a new airport, a metro system and a Coffee Beanery with a menu in English, Arabic, Korean and Japanese. Here is what it lacks: an urban fabric, in a place where citizens are a tiny minority and legions of foreign workers toil in bleak conditions.

In the growing debate here, drawing in everyone from the emir’s wife to Qatar’s lone comedian, the question most often asked is whether a sense of the cosmopolitan can reflect the skyline and transcend the rootless globalism and commercialism that have so long stood as the Persian Gulf’s grasp at modernity.

Dubai, shimmering like a mirage, never had the money. Saudi Arabia, with a conservatism born of a Bedouin sense of life’s caprice, never had the ambition.

Doha now has both, and a determination to will a world capital into existence. “There is depth to the vision,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.

Abdul Aziz al-Mahmoud is a rarity in Qatar — a novelist whose book has become a best seller, by standards here, since it was published last month. Set in the 19th century, the novel delves into the struggle between the British and littoral tribes that inhabited the Persian Gulf. Three years in the works, the book fills a gap, he said, in perceptions.

“The region didn’t appear from nowhere because of oil,” he said in an interview. “People lived here; they had their troubles and their happiness. We were not oil. Oil came to change our lives, but people were always here.”

Testaments to that history feel like oases in a city of more than a million that numbered just 12,000 a century or so ago. Suq Waqif is one of them. Once a labyrinthine seaside market where Qataris traded fish and goats, the market was abandoned, then left to crumble. Five years ago it was rebuilt with a faithfulness to detail that recreated even its shoddiness. Exposed timber and reed roofs look worn and white-washed walls antique, even though they are not. Hawking everything from SpongeBob sandals to ceremonial Syrian swords, the shops are like the country: owned by Qataris and run by South Asians.

Mr. Mahmoud said he would take friends from abroad there to see a representation of the essence of a bygone culture, but he would not normally visit the suq.

“It’s about a sense of belonging,” Mr. Mahmoud said. “Qataris go there occasionally, but it’s not where they go and socialize and interact, no.”

Qataris number just 225,000 of a population of 1.8 million, and interaction between them and the rest feels as lifeless as the miles of plastic grass that line the boulevards in Education City. Mr. Mahmoud describes it as a “hidden enmity,” where Qataris feel comfortable not at the Islamic Museum or Jean Nouvel’s latest addition to the skyline, but rather in a majlis, one of the traditional segregated salons that stand as a fixture of social life.

“It’s like fragmented, divided communities,” he said. “They don’t talk to each other. Somehow we have to design a melting pot to make them all feel at home.”

Mohammed Kamal has wrestled with that question of a sophisticated city. Imbued with an earnestness that belies his self-declared standing as Qatar’s lone comedian, he believes humor can create “openness and confidence” in culture. Confidence, he suggests, is the foundation of cosmopolitanism.

“I want our culture to be O.K. with laughing at ourselves,” he said “It’s better to laugh at ourselves then wait for someone from outside to make jokes and laugh about us.”

His task is not easy. The police told him that religion, sex and politics were off limits. “What else is stand-up comedy?” he asked. A Qatari woman threatened to hurl her shoe at him when he imagined a pampered Qatari woman working as a flight attendant. Sometimes his bite goes too far, as when he scolded Qatari men for threatening to revoke the visas of expatriates any time an argument erupted. But he managed to stage a comedy show in February, and it drew 1,200 people — Qataris in front, expatriates in back.

Not even Dubai, a city built on success in marketing an image, feels as self-conscious as Doha. Banners read “Rediscover the essence of our community” near a cultural village named Katara, with sparsely peopled offices for the Qatar Fine Arts Society, Qatar Photographic Society, Qatar Music Academy and Doha Film Institute. Buses bear ads that read “From Qatar to a Greener World” — this in a city built on exploiting one of the world’s largest gas fields. Museums compete with any in the world, and Education City has attracted branches of six American universities.

“I think they are hoping that with time, all this will be a big component of the Qataris’ or the nationals’ lives,” said Seif Salmawy, managing director of Bloomsbury in Qatar, which is seeking to make the country a publishing force in English and Arabic in the Middle East. “As it stands, I think it has little to do with their actual lives.”

His colleague Andy Smart added, “You need a city center for an urban life.”

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Posted on 11/30/2011 8:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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