Tuesday, October 12, 2010

India enforces new curfew in Kashmir

New Delhi has imposed a strict curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir, bringing all activities to a standstill in the volatile Himalayan region.
Thousands of Indian police officers and paramilitary troops were deployed in Srinagar and other major towns across the Muslim-majority valley.
The deployment is aimed at preventing a planned march in protest at the continued house arrest of pro-independence leader Syed Ali Geelani.
A police statement said Tuesday that the curfew had been imposed to "maintain law and order."
"The situation at this hour continues to remain under control throughout the Kashmir valley," the statement read.
Meanwhile, a Press TV correspondent reported that residents have been complaining about shortages of food and other supplies across the valley.
Kashmir has been the scene of deadly protests against the Indian rule for quite some time.
The latest round of demonstrations began in June, when a youngster was killed by Indian forces. More than 110 people have so far been killed in the ensuing unrest.
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on India to take immediate steps to protect and respect human rights in Kashmir.

Middle East company to launch Muslim newspaper in UK

Pakistan's ARY is backing the liberal weekly title, to be based in London and aimed at the worldwide Muslim diaspora
James Robinson
A media company based in the Middle East is launching a London-based weekly newspaper aimed at Muslim people across the world.
The paper, which is backed by the Pakistani pay-TV operator ARY Digital and will be able to tap its network of reporters covering south Asia, is earmarked to launch early in the new year.
ARY, known for broadcasting the Pakistani version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, also broadcasts to several Gulf states and in North America and the UK, where it launched in 2000 as the Pakistani Channel on Sky.
The paper, which does not yet have a name, will be edited by Burhan Wazir, a former deputy features editor at the Times who was named young journalist of the year in 1999.
Wazir is a former executive at the National, the English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi launched by former Telegraph editor Martin Newland.
He launched a weekend edition of the National two years ago, leaving London for Abu Dhabi and recruiting more than 40 journalists.
Wazir said the title, which will also be published in Pakistan and several Gulf states, will serve the Muslim diaspora in the countries where it is available.
It will be a liberal title aimed at a young and relatively affluent readership aged between 20 and 45, including second- or third-generation British Muslims.
Wazir added that its target audience of young readers with Muslim backgrounds will share a modern, cosmopolitan outlook. "I suppose you could say they have a foot in both camps," he said.
Plans are at an early stage and negotiations with distributors are ongoing, but Wazir said the title should be on sale in around four months' time.
British titles aimed at a south Asian audience include Eastern Eye, which was saved from bankruptcy last year when Asian Media & Marketing Group bought it from its administrators. It is aimed primarily at the UK's immigrant population from across the region, however.
Wazir said the new title will have a different focus with a more international outlook and upmarket content.
He will be hiring reporters and production staff to cover Britain, continental Europe, the US and the Middle East, including at least six reporters based in the UK.
It will have a large freelance base elsewhere and will draw on ARY's existing network of more than 100 reporters who cover south Asia.
Wazir could not give details of the amount of money ARY is investing.
ARY Digital is owned by Haji Abdul Razzak Yaqoob, a Pakistani businessman based in Dubai whose other business interests include banking and retail.
ARY Digital also holds a licence to distribute VH1 and operates a news channel in Pakistan. ARY News also has an English-language website.

Angle says Islamic law rules two U.S. cities, including one that no longer exists

By Holly Bailey
Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle told a rally of tea party supporters last week that two American cities - Dearborn, Mich., and Frankford, Texas - operate under Islamic religious law.
"We're talking about a militant terrorist situation -- which I believe isn't a widespread problem, but it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it," Angle said, according to audio provided to the Washington Post's Greg Sargent. "First of all, Dearborn, Mich., and Frankford, Texas, are on American soil and under constitutional law. Not sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States."
In an interview with the Associated Press' Cristina Silva, Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly called Angle's comments "shameful" and "totally irresponsible." But that's not Angle's only problem: Frankford doesn't actually exist. As CNN reports, the former city in central Texas was annexed to Dallas in 1975. The only thing that's there now: an Episcopal church and cemetery.
An Angle spokesman did not return emails seeking comment, and the candidate has not offered any further explanation for why she said what she did. It's only the latest in a series of controversial statements made by the tea-party-backed GOP nominee in the closely watched contest.
Yet in spite of the controversy, Angle remains virtually tied with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the race. A recent CNN/Time Magazine poll of likely voters in the race found Angle narrowly leading Reid, 42 percent to 40 percent - well within the poll's margin of error. Of those polled, 10 percent say they want "none of the above."

Taliban capture US base in Afghanistan

Taliban militants have claimed that they have driven US troops out of a military outpost in Afghanistan's northeastern Kunar Province.
They also said that the Americans fled the military outpost in Kunar's Marawara district in helicopters on Monday.
A senior Taliban commander said the group is now in full control of the district where the outpost is located.
He added that the militants attacked the outpost with rockets and machine guns.
Taliban say the ensuing clashes forced the US forces stationed there to flee.
The militants say they have seized all weapons and munitions left behind in the outpost.
A Press TV correspondent says the US military has not yet commented on the attack.

Al-Qaeda demand end of French burka ban in return for hostages

Al-Qaeda in North Africa has demanded that France overturns its burka ban in return for the release of five French hostages kidnapped in the African state of Niger.
The group is also demanding 7 million euros (£6.1 million) and the release of Islamic militants being held in France as part of their conditions.
Seven captives - five French citizens and two Africans - were abducted in Niger a month ago before being taken to neighbouring Mali.
The kidnappings marked an escalation of tensions between Paris and al-Qaeda's north African network, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which executed 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau in July.
But a French intelligence source yesterday described the terms for the hostages release as "unrealistic".
France's burka ban crossed its final legal hurdle last week, making it illegal for anyone to hide their faces in public. It will come into force early next year, and means women will then face jail for wearing the full Islamic face veil.
The law was passed despite separate threats from al-Qaeda chiefs to seek "dreadful revenge" if it is ever enforced.
The French spy source told news agency AFP that initial contacts with AQIM through local chiefs in Mali were "not encouraging" due to the nature of the demands.
The source added: "The abductors have unrealistic demands which Mali and France cannot accept, including withdrawing a ban on the face veil in France and the release of some of the group's elements detained in France, Mauritania and other countries."
France's new law was passed after a year of national debate on burkas and niqabs, and mounting public tensions over the issue.
There is also widespread support for a similar ban in the Netherlands, while Switzerland recently voted to ban the construction of new minarets on mosques.
The French burka ban also comes amid warnings of a heightened terrorist threat across Europe.

High Court test case to keep Islamic preacher Zakir Naik out of Britain

A Christian minister is bringing a legal test case to try to prevent a radical Islamic preacher coming to Britain.
By Robert Mendick, Chief reporter
Dr Zakir Naik, an Indian-based television preacher, was banned from entering the UK by Theresa May, the Home Secretary The Reverend Mahboob Masih will lodge papers in the High Court this week alleging that Dr Zakir Naik, an Indian-based television preacher, is "extremely dangerous to community cohesion, religious tolerance and race relations".
He will claim that the courts should give greater respect to Christian values and declares in High Court papers that Britain's judges have adopted an "over sensitivity to Islamic sensibilities due to the threat of violence".
Dr Naik had been due to lecture at a series of major venues including Wembley Arena and the Birmingham NEC in the summer but was banned from entering the UK by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, just two days before his arrival.
Dr Naik is now taking the Home Secretary to court for a judicial review of that decision.
The Rev Masih's highly unusual intervention is intended to bolster the Government's case to keep Dr Naik out of the UK.
The Church of Scotland minister will argue he has the right to make his legal protest because he previously lost his job as presenter of a community radio station after a disccusion about Dr Naik's preachings.
In his submission to the high Court, the rev Masih, who is the minister in West Kirk, East Kilbride, claims Dr Naik has "made offensive comments on Judaism. Christianity, Hinduism Buddhism and other religious beliefs".
He adds in his submission: "In my view and in the light of my experience of work in the Asian community in Britain, he should be completely barred from all western capitals until he has moderated his uncivilised behaviour, his distorted views on Western life, cultural values and ended his inflammatory oratory style."
His case is being brought by the Christian Legal Centre, who have hired the religious and human rights barrister Paul Diamond.
Mrs May cited reported comments from Dr Naik such as "every Muslim should be a terrorist" and, on Osama bin Laden, that "if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him" when she decided to ban him on the grounds his presence "would not be conducive to the public good".
But lawyers for Dr Naik will argue at a judicial review hearing set to begin in ten days' time that it was unfair to ban him at such short notice.
He also claims that comments attributed to him were made several years ago and even predated the granting of an earlier five-year multi-entry visa by the Home office in 2008.
His lawyers will also point out that there remains wide support for his visit even among senior Home office officials, including approval for his tour from a senior Whitehall security adviser.

Kosovo Muslims protest school headscarf ban

Protestors call for allowing headscarves as Islam 'part of the identity of the people' of Kosovo.
PRISTINA - Some 1,000 people on Friday took to the streets of the Kosovo capital to protest against a government ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools.
"Our demand is that this ban to be suspended as soon as possible," said Bujar Xhikoti, a representative of the organisers of the protest.
The organisers, relatively unknown non-governmental "Join Us" movement, warned the protests would be intensified if the ban was not suspended in a month.
Carrying signs saying Prime Minister "Hashim Thaci do not discriminate against us because we are Muslims" and chanting "God is great", the protesters demanded that the government allow the wearing of religious symbols in schools.
The move to ban headscarves "is an effort to present Islam as foreign although it is a part of the identity of the people," Xhikoti said.
The government prohibits girls from attending public schools wearing the headscarf and recently there have been a few cases where young women have been barred from school for refusing to remove their headscarves.
More than 90 percent of Kosovo's population are Muslims, but western values and culture dominate in the society.
After Kosovo declared indepedence from Serbia in 2008 it adopted a secular constitution that stipulates the separation of religious and state authority.
Serbia does not recognize independent Kosovo. However the United States and 22 out of 27 members of the European Union are among 70 countries that recognise it.

Multicultural Germany turning against Muslims

Bojan Pancevski and Matthew Campbell
ANGRY claims that Islam is 'dumbing down' Germany have shocked its nation's leaders.
The distinctly multicultural German football team that humiliated England in the World Cup was feted at home as the emblem of a dynamic young country enriched by decades of immigration.
It was beaten by Spain in the semi-final, however, and the national jubilation inspired by players of Turkish, Tunisian and Ghanaian origin is a distant memory today as Germany is caught up in a wave of anti-immigrant feeling that is sweeping across Europe.
Germany's burdensome history was long considered to have immunised it against the populism flourishing among its neighbours: parties of the far right have never broken through the 5 per cent electoral barrier to win representation in parliament, as they have in half the European Union's member states.
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Now, though, resentments ignored by mainstream politicians are beginning to boil over as Europe's most populous and economically powerful country engages in what by German standards is an unusually fierce debate about the role of Muslims in the country.
A recent poll showed that 55 per cent of Germans consider Muslim immigrants a burden who "have cost much more socially and financially than they have contributed economically".
When, in an attempt to defuse public anger about immigrants, President Christian Wulff likened the challenge of integrating Germany's 4 million Muslims to that of reunification after the fall of communism and proclaimed that Islam, like Christianity, was now part of Germany, it provoked an immediate backlash.
"Mr President, why are you sucking up to Islam?" screamed Bild, the largest-circulation tabloid, which published a poll showing that 66 per cent of the public believe Islam does not belong in Germany.
MPs in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), to which Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and Wulff also belong, seemed eager to distance themselves from him. "Multiculturalism has failed and that's the truth," said one MP, Maria Bohmer.
Joachim Herrmann, the conservative Bavarian interior minister, was even more blunt. "There is no reason to integrate Islam into our system of values. Germany does not want to integrate Islam, but to retain its own cultural identity," he said.
Emotions have been stirred by reports of German Islamic militants, the children of first-generation immigrants, receiving training as terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Several Germans were reported to have been killed in the mountains of Pakistan last Monday in an attack by drone aircraft operated by the CIA.
Another feature of the debate is a book called Germany Does Away With Itself by Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democratic party politician and former director of the Bundesbank. His provocative thesis is that fast-breeding Muslim immigrants are "dumbing down" Germany and will eventually take over. It has sold 600,000 copies in less than a month.
"I don't want the country of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be largely Muslim," he wrote.
"I don't want Turkish or Arabic to be spoken in large areas, women to wear headscarves and the daily rhythm to be set by the call of the muezzin. If I want to experience that, I can take a holiday in the Orient."
Merkel publicly criticised Sarrazin and he was forced to resign from the central bank, but an opinion poll showed that 60 per cent of the public agreed with him and 18 per cent would vote for him if he set up his own party.
He has shown no interest in the idea, but it may be only a matter of time before some charismatic figure rides the populist wave into parliament.
Rene Stadtkewitz, a Berlin MP who was expelled from the CDU because of extremist views, caused a political earthquake last month by founding Freedom, a party modelled on that of Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti- immigration politician.
"We are focused on building up this new party in Berlin," said Stadtkewitz, who wants to ban mosques and cut welfare payments to immigrants. "But if we have success here, I certainly can't rule out extending it nationwide."
He is the latest politician to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon in Europe, where concerns about migrants have grown on fears of terrorism and the economic crisis.
Wilders, who went on trial last week for inciting racial hatred, has emerged as arguably the most powerful politician in Holland. In Austria, the far-right Freedom party sponsored an online video game called Bye Bye Mosque. Players were invited to shoot at muezzins in minarets.
Even in Scandinavia, often regarded as a beacon of tolerance, far-right parties are on the march. Norway's anti-immigrant Progress party has become the country's main opposition group and a far-right party in Sweden made history last month by winning seats in parliament for the first time. Mainstream politicians are being forced to take note.
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy's rightward lurch and crackdown on immigrants over the summer, when thousands of Roma people were expelled from the country, was his way of flirting with supporters of Marine Le Pen, the popular new figurehead of the country's far right.
Merkel angrily denied Sarkozy's claim that she, too, was thinking of rounding up Roma travellers. The suggestion was potentially explosive in a country with Germany's history.
Yet the German chancellor is trimming her sails, albeit minimally, to the anti-immigrant wind. Initially she supported Wulff's speech about Islam, but as the magnitude of public anger became clear - and as newspaper editorials accused politicians of having lost touch with reality - she altered her language.
At a party conference last Wednesday, Merkel told followers that Islam "in some of its forms" was not compatible with German law.
"Forced marriages and honour killings are not part of our basic order," she said. "Tolerance ends there."
It went down well.
"It was so refreshing to hear clear words from the mouth of our chancellor," a party member told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung paper.
"It was a balm for our souls."

Drugs advisers to consider qat ban

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs asked to evaluate stimulant used by several ethnic communities around UK
Home Office ministers have asked the government’s official drug experts to consider placing restrictions on the use of qat, a plant that is widely used in Britain’s Somali, Ethiopian and Yemeni communities for its stimulant effects.
New Home Office research published today confirms that chewing qat leaves is widespread in all three communities and considered to be a normal, socially accepted practice. The study says Yemenis in particular regard it as an important part of their culture and tradition.
The latest study however reports concern in all three communities over problems involving a minority of heavy qat users and fuelling demands for restrictions on its import and sales, better access to treatment and in some cases, demands for a total ban.
The decision to refer qat to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs follows a pledge two years ago by Sayeedi Warsi, now the Conservative party chairman, that a future Tory government would ban the currently legal drug on the grounds that it was an “unacceptable cultural practice”.
A 2005 Home Office study said that 6 tonnes of qat leaves and stems were flown into Heathrow airport every Friday. The bulk of the consignment, which has a very short shelf life, was sent on by air for sale in the US. The strength of the active ingredients in qat starts to decline 36 hours after picking.
Qat is sold in bundles of 250g of dried leaves and stems wrapped in banana leaves for about £3-£5. A chewing session, traditionally a male-only activity, can last up to six hours and can produce a mild state of euphoria and excitement.
Qat is grown mainly in east Africa and the Middle East and its use is thought to involve over 50% of Somali men in Britain, although the percentage who use it every day is much lower and probably in single figures.
The latest study says that although the main users are mature men there is also evidence of increasing use among women and young people as well. It is chewed mostly at home or in a “mafresh” or qat house – often used when watching football or getting together with friends for an evening. Frequent all-nighters were associated with problem users.
There is still however a taboo against women chewing qat in public and it is not socially acceptable for them to admit they use it. It is sold in grocery shops, restaurants, and even directly at car boot sales.
The Home Office says there is limited evidence of the use of qat by people from other ethnic backgrounds, mainly involving those who socialise with Somalis or Yemenis.
People in all three communities raised concerns that heavy qat use could lead to loss of teeth and other oral problems, problems of keeping a job, and generate friction within families.
James Brokenshire, crime prevention minister, said: “This report provides further helpful insight into the use of qat. We have passed this on to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and have asked them to consider all the available evidence on this substance. We will await their advice.”

Israeli troops accused of shooting children in Gaza

• Victims were scavenging for rubble, say rights groups
• Attacks allegedly took place outside 300-metre buffer zone
At least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops in the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the “buffer zone” created by Israel along the Gaza border, in a low-intensity offensive on the fringes of the blockaded Palestinian territory.
Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the official 300 metre-wide no-go area, rights groups say.
According to Bassam Masri, head of orthopaedics at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya in the north of Gaza, about 50 people have been treated for gunshot wounds suffered in or near the buffer zone while collecting rubble in the past three months; about five have been killed.
He estimates that 30% of the injured are boys under 18.
Defence for Children International (DCI) has documented 10 cases of children aged 13 to 17 being shot in a three-month period between 50 and 800 metres from the border. Nine were shot in a leg or arm; one was shot in the stomach.
The creation of the no-go area has forced farmers to abandon land and residents to leave homes for fear of coming under fire. Last month a 91-year-old man and two teenage boys were killed while harvesting olives outside the official zone when Israeli troops fired shells. Forty-three goats also died in the attack.
In another case a mother of five was killed by a shell outside her home near the zone in July.
Israel declared the buffer zone inside Gaza after the three-week war in 2008-9, saying it was intended to prevent militants firing rockets. It has dropped leaflets from planes several times warning local people not to venture within 300 metres of the fence that marks the border or risk being shot.
However, the UN, aid agencies and rights groups say that Israel has unofficially and without warning extended the zone to up to 1km from the fence, leaving residents and farmers uncertain whether it is safe to access their land or property.
“The army knows the kids are there to collect. They watch them every day and they know they have no weapons,” said Mohammed Abu Rukbi, a fieldworker with DCI. “They usually fire warning shots but the kids don’t take much notice.”
Mohammed Sobboh, 17, was shot just above the knee on August 25 when he was 800 metres from the border, he said. The 12 people in his family have no other income and are not entitled to aid from the UN as they are not refugees.
Israeli soldiers shot dead a horse and a donkey used by Mohammed and his brothers to carry the rubble, he said.
His brother, Adham, 22, said children as young as eight collect debris from former settlements and demolished buildings for 30-40 shekels (£5.20-£7) a day. “The price has gone down because a lot of people are collecting,” said Adham.
According to Dr Masri, the number of shootings has increased as more impoverished Gazans turn to collecting rubble to sell as construction material, which is still under Israeli embargo. “Every day we have one or two cases. Some kids are facing permanent disability. Most of the injuries are to the legs and feet, suggesting the soldiers did not aim to kill. That means they know that the people aren’t militants.”
Ziad Tamboura, 27, lying in a hospital bed with a heavily bandaged foot, was shot last week while collecting 500 metres from the border. X-rays showed the bones in the foot to be smashed by the bullet. He collected rubble in order to feed his wife and child. “If I am able to walk again, I will go back. There is no other work.”
The Gaza City-based Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights is to mount a legal challenge jointly with the Israeli groups Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights to breaches of the official buffer zone. “The area [the Israelis] announced is not the same as what exists on the ground,” said the centre’s Samir Zaqout.
He criticised the Israelis for shooting and shelling unarmed civilians. “They know everything. They have the technological capacity to monitor the area. They have drones in the sky all the time. They are observing and screening everything.”
According to the UN, about 30% of Gaza’s arable land is contained within 300 metres of the 50km border. The difficulty farmers face in reaching their land had had an impact on the availability of crops in Gaza, Zaqout said. “Tomatoes are now 10 shekels a kilo, whereas the price used to be one or two shekels.”
The Abu Said family, whose land lies outside the buffer zone, felt confident that their faces were well known to Israeli troops monitoring the area. “Every day six or seven members of my family are there [on the land],” said Mohammed Abu Said.
But on 12 September, 91-year-old Ibrahim Abu Said, his 17-year-old grandson, Hussam, and a family friend, Ismail Abu Owda, 16, were killed by a shell fired from a tank on the Israeli side of the border. “This was a very old man taking care of his goats,” said Mohammed, Ibrahim’s son. “Our land used to be like a heaven. Now it’s like a desert.”
He blamed Palestinian militants for firing rockets as well as the Israeli military.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the 300-metre buffer zone was created in response to “many incidents of hostile terrorist activity” close to the security fence, often made “under a civilian disguise”.
It added: “The IDF acts in order to prevent harm to civilian populations in its operations and any complaint expressed regarding its soldiers’ conduct will be … examined according to the existing policy.”

In the firing line

Children shot in “buffer zone” while collecting rubble
Mohammad, 17, shot in left leg, 800m from border, 25 August
Khaled, 16, left thigh, 600m from border, 31 July
 Hameed, 13, left arm, 50m from border, 14 July
Nu’man, 14, right leg, 300m from border, 10 July
 Arafat, 16, left ankle, 50m from border, 10 July
Mohammad, 16, stomach, 500m from border, 23 June
Abdullah, 16, just above right ankle, 60m from border, 22 June
Ibrahim, 16, right leg, 400m from border, 16 June
Awad, 17, just above his right knee, 350m from border, 7 June
Hasan, 17, just below right knee, 300m from border, 22 May
Source: Defence for Children International