Monday, May 31, 2010

Yemen not to accept US killing of Awlaki on land

Al Arabiya News Channel

n assassination on Yemeni territory of a radical Muslim cleric wanted dead or alive by U.S. authorities would be unacceptable, the Yemeni prime minister said on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Council recently gave the CIA the green light to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-Yemeni citizen whom they accuse of having links to al-Qaeda and who is believed to be in hiding in southern Yemen.

"We will absolutely not accept that," Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Megawar told Reuters in an interview.

"We are a sovereign country."

According to the latest information, Awlaki was still in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa, Megawar said.

U.S. authorities say Awlaki was added to the CIA's hit list after he became "operational" in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for a failed plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day.

The Nigerian man accused in the attempted bombing met Awlaki while visiting Yemen, and the U.S.-born preacher also had contacts with a U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. Army base in November.

Yemen's foreign minister said earlier this month that Yemen would not hand Awlaki over to Washington, but instead put him on trial if he is arrested.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and Yemen joined forces to fight al-Qaeda, and Washington has kept a close eye on the impoverished country, which borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

Awlaki, whose father is a former minister in Yemen, travelled to the country in 2004, where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al-Qaeda and involvement in attacks.

He was released in December 2007 because he said he had repented, but he was later charged again on similar counts and went into hiding.

Megawar said he disagreed with Yemen being described as a refuge for al-Qaeda.

"Yemen is not a safe haven for terrorists. Yemen has al-Qaeda, we recognise that ... but they are spread out in different areas and are scared as a result of the strict crackdown by the government for all their actions", he said.

"Yes, al-Qaeda is present in Yemen, al-Qaeda is a risk in Yemen, but there is exaggeration by the media," he said.

Last week, a fugitive Saudi Arabian man who was detained for several years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo until his release in 2006, was named as a senior member of Al-Qaeda's Yemen wing, according to a tape by the group.

Megawar said Othman Ahmed al-Ghamdi's appointment as a senior operative was another development in the ongoing fight against militants in Yemen but added, "We have nothing to do with who comes and goes."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Imam tells Italy that wearing of veil is in tradition of the Madonna

Veiled Muslim women have become the true upholders of western traditions of female dress, says Italy's top imam, who angrily condemned the decision to fine a woman in Italy for wearing a veil that completely covered her features.
The incident, which took place in the northern Italian town of Novara, was the first of its kind in Europe.
Izzedin Elzir, the president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII) and a former fashion designer, said: "If we go and see the beautiful artistic representations of the Madonna, we see her with the veil. We don't see her semi-naked, I think.
"For that reason, I believe it is the Muslims who are protecting the traditions of our country."
His remarks are likely to cause outrage on the right, particularly among members of the Northern League, who maintain that Italy's identity is inextricably tied up with its Christian traditions.
The imam said: "I believe Italian tradition is that which can be seen by going to a church, to a museum and seeing the beautiful images of the Madonna with a beautiful veil. That is our tradition."
A ¤500 (£430) fine was imposed on Amel Marmouri, a Tunisian woman, who was stopped last week by carabinieri.
Marmouri, 26, was covered head-to-toe, though it was unclear whether she was wearing an Afghan-style burqa or the niqab, which is more common on the Arabian peninsula.
The fine, imposed under a municipal bylaw passed in January, fanned the flames of an already heated debate elsewhere in Europe. On 30 April, the Belgian lower house voted to ban full veils in public. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's government is drafting a bill to the same effect.
Marmouri's husband, 36-year-old Braim Ben Salah, said they were merely obeying the Qur'an, which said she "may not be looked at by other men". But Elzir disputed that.
"There are two interpretations," he said. "One interpretation has it that the woman should be totally covered. Another says the woman should be covered totally, except for her face and hands. Both schools of thought are valid and it depends on the woman which school she chooses.
"The important thing is the freedom of the individual. Whether the face is covered or not covered, this belongs to the private sphere of the individual where we believe our constitution – the Italian constitution – guarantees religious freedom."
He said the UCOII was not in favour of full veils. But, in a pointed allusion to Italy's in-your-face variety shows with their scantily clad hostesses, he added: "It's a personal choice, like a woman who decides to go on television half-naked. That's her freedom. That's her choice."
Elzir said that, when faced with episodes such as the fining of Marmouri, "the [Muslim] community feels really discriminated against. There are serious problems in our country, not whether one wears the full veil or does not use the full veil, but problems of the economy, which is crumbling, [and] of unemployment.
"I believe the politicians and those who have the responsibility for governing ought to be looking at the reality and trying to resolve the problems of society, rather than creating them."
According to a law that has been on the statute books since 1975, it is a criminal offence to wear a face covering. The law was introduced as an anti-terrorist measure during a period of political violence that came to be known as "the years of lead".
In practice, it is no longer applied. But the mayors of four towns in the north of Italy have passed bylaws to ensure that it is implemented in the cases of veiled Muslim women. One of those towns is Novara, whose mayor, Massimo Giordano, is a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League.
Ben Salah said that the fine imposed on his wife meant she could no longer leave their house.
"So what is better?" asked the imam. "That we condemn these hundred or so women who cover up their faces to spend the rest of their lives at home?"
Many of the mosques affiliated to the UCOII are linked in turn to the Muslim Brotherhood, and questions have repeatedly been raised in Italy about its support for democracy and the western way of life. Elzir has a record of furthering integration and dialogue with other faiths.
His first public appearance after being elected head of UCOII in March was alongside the rabbi of Florence at a Roman Catholic-run refuge for the homeless. A few weeks later he attracted notice by saying that his fellow imams should speak only Italian when delivering their sermons.
This, he said, had a bearing on another tense issue in Italy – the Northern League's unwavering resistance to the building of new mosques, which it claims are unnecessary.
Many of the applications have been lodged by groups of immigrants from non-Arabic countries who say they need a separate place of worship where the sermons are delivered in a language they can understand.
Elzir said opposition to the construction of mosques was often based on alleged security reasons. But he said: "We are for security. That is why we want the transparency, the visibility of mosques."