Rabu, Februari 19, 2014
Ahad, Februari 16, 2014
Source: The NY Times
By Reem Makhoul and Liam Stack. February 7th, 2014
There are believed to be hundreds, if not thousands, of groups fighting in Syria. These opposition groups are fighting the Assad regime, but recently turned on each other with increased ferocity.
Source: The NY Times
Source: The NY Times
By STEVEN ERLANGERFEB. 13, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, England — Alum Rock, a neighborhood of Birmingham, looks the way Pakistan might, if Pakistan were under gray northern skies and British rule.
The streets are lively but orderly, with shops that provide the largely South Asian population with most of its needs. The huge Pak Supermarket, with its 10-kilogram bags of spices and rices, is matched by the nearby Pak Pharmacy. Nearly every face is South Asian, and people wear a vibrant mixture of clothing, from Western styles to head scarves, knitted caps and full-face veils, or niqabs.
But the Muslims of Alum Rock, Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, who make up most of the more than 21 percent of Birmingham’s population who declare Islam as their religion, are newly uneasy, they say. The backlash from the killing of a white soldier, Lee Rigby, in London in May by two fanatical young British Muslims, combined with anxieties about the flow of jihadis between Britain and Syria and the sometimes harshly anti-immigrant tone of leading British politicians have combined to create a new wariness among British Muslims.
“It is a less comfortable country than it used to be,” said Sadruddin Ali, 35, born and raised here.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes are up, the police and Muslim advocacy groups say. In response, many British Muslims say they are becoming more insular and more reluctant to leave their areas of Britain’s big cities, where they are among other Muslims and South Asians.
To many Muslims and non-Muslims, that is a worrying trend in what is considered to be a generally tolerant country as it heads toward the 2015 general election. A divided Conservative Party has a populist, anti-immigration party to its right in the U.K. Independence Party, and even the opposition Labour Party is supporting restrictions on benefits for immigrants.
“There is more hostility and more aggression,” Mr. Ali said.
He mentioned the firebombing of a nearby mosque after the Rigby killing, as well as the fatal stabbing in April of Mohammed Saleem, 82, as he left a local mosque. His attacker was a recent Ukrainian immigrant, who also placed three small bombs outside mosques. In June, a police officer and three other people were stabbed outside another Birmingham mosque.
In other parts of Britain, Mr. Ali said, “I feel a bit intimidated and don’t feel welcome, to be honest.” When he travels, he is often pulled aside at the airport for special questioning, he said, adding that this happened “even when I was cleanshaven.”
Mohammad Naseem, chairman of the Central Mosque in Birmingham, one of Britain’s largest, is 89. Born under British colonialism, he served as a doctor in the British Army and came here in 1959. He said he understands why Muslims are uneasy and defensive these days.
“When you go outside the boundary, you’re not sure where you stand,” he said. He said he sees the new fashion for Islamic head covering and veils less as religious than as a reaction to outside pressure. “When you’re being downgraded or threatened,” he said, “there is a natural reaction to hit back and say, ‘This is my identity.’ ”
In London, anti-Muslim episodes rose from 318 in 2011 and 336 in 2012 to 500 by mid-November in 2013, the police reported. The Greater Manchester Police recorded 130 offenses in 2013 compared with 75 in 2012. The West Midlands Police force, which covers Birmingham, reported in response to a freedom of information act request that there were 26 anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2011, 21 in 2012 and 29 through October 2013.
Tell MAMA, an advocacy group that monitors anti-Muslim episodes nationwide (MAMA stands for “measuring anti-Muslim attacks), said that such episodes had almost doubled in a year, with a surge after the Rigby killing, to nearly 1,000 cases. But the group does not separate online attacks from physical ones.
Birmingham Central Mosque with the city skyline in the background. Muslims here, who make up a little over 20 percent of the city’s population, say they are newly uneasy. Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Women walking their children home from school in Alum Rock, a Pakistani neighborhood in Birmingham. Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased, the police and Muslim advocacy groups say. In response, many Muslims say they are becoming more reluctant to leave their enclaves in big cities. Andrew Testa for The New York Times
It is not clear how the current tensions will affect what some analysts say has been a slow but gradual trend of greater racial understanding in Britain, though periodically interrupted by racial and ethnic eruptions of hostility. News media attention to immigration from within the European Union has also helped dilute the focus on Muslims.
“Islamophobia intensifies after big events like 9/11, 7/7 and the Lee Rigby murder, and anti-Muslim hate crimes spike,” said Humayun Ansari, a professor of Islamic history at Royal Holloway, University of London, referring to the July 7, 2005, bomb attacks in London. “Then it actually fades away and dies down to a much lower level of intensity.”
But younger Muslims, like Sameera Hussain, 19, a student who wears a head scarf, said she sometimes got insulting or aggressive comments when she traveled outside her community, things like, “We’ll take your scarf and wrap it around your neck.”
Mohammed Wagas, 18, said he feels he is treated differently by the police, who in his opinion stop Muslim drivers “with nice cars” more often than other people. “Oh, you know, he’s brown, he’s going to be doing drugs, that’s why he’s rolling in a big car.”
Somaya Cheraitia described moving to a predominantly white area; casual insults intensified when she started to wear the niqab two years ago. “I was very different to what they knew, and I was an easy target,” she said. Stones were thrown at her family house and lit firecrackers put through the front mail slot teenagers grabbed her mother’s groceries and spilled them on the ground, yelling: “You’re rubbish anyway.”
Then a group of young women attacked her, she said, some trying to untie her niqab while another set her dog on Ms. Cheraitia, saying, “You’re both of the same breed.” When they managed to uncover her face, she remembers, one said: “Oh, she’s ugly anyway, look.”
She was shaken, and decided to stop wearing the niqab. “It was too much,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t belong, even if it’s your home. It was emotionally draining.” She said: “I wasn’t safe anywhere. I wanted to be strong in my worship to Allah,” but her fear “was too strong,” and she moved back to more comfortable East London less than a year ago.
Mr. Naseem noted that anti-Muslim fear and hatred went back to the Crusades, with pubs called “Turk’s Head” or “Saracen’s Head,” but he attributes most anti-Islam and anti-immigration commentary to political language devised to win votes.
But for all the problems, he said, Britain is seen by many Muslims as offering security and liberty.
“Here, there is a trust in the law, and it is a lawful country, no matter how deceiving the government may be,” he said.
Muhammad Shakeel, 29, is among the many Muslims who are happy to be here. He came from Pakistan five years ago and works in a chicken factory alongside other immigrants, mostly Asian and Polish. Married to a Pakistani woman who has been here 10 years, he thinks Britain is fine.
“It’s not safe in Pakistan,” he said. “It’s very dangerous.” Here in the “Balti triangle,” as the neighborhood known, he feels he can construct a decent life. “There are good rules in this country,” he said. “Some people have prejudice, but mostly they are very nice. This is a safe country.”
Source: The NY Times
Source: The NY Times
By THOMAS ERDBRINKFEB. 9, 2014
TEHRAN — Sitting in his office at Tehran’s only Jewish hospital, Ciamak Morsadegh lit another cigarette and reminisced about how his wife left Iran for the United States after he insisted on staying.
Dr. Morsadegh, the director of the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center here, said that unlike thousands of other Jews he has never thought about leaving the Islamic Republic, for the simple reason that Iran is his home.
“I speak English, I pray in Hebrew, but I think in Persian,” said Dr. Morsadegh, a surgeon who is also a member of Parliament. “I am Iranian. Iranian-Jewish.”
Many were surprised last week when the government of President Hassan Rouhani donated $400,000 to the Dr. Sapir Hospital, but Dr. Morsadegh was not among them.
“We Jews are a part of Iran’s history,” he said. “What is important is that Mr. Rouhani makes big news out of supporting us. He is showing that we, as a religious minority, are part of this country, too.”
Situated on Mostafa Khomeini Street — named for the son of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — the hospital sits across from the Imam Reza Seminary school, one of the oldest Shiite seminaries in Tehran. White-turbaned clerics pass by, talking in hushed tones with their students. Though the hospital might seem out of place, local people do not seem to think so.
‘I speak English, I pray in Hebrew, but I think in Persian.’ CIAMAK MORSADEGH Director of the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center in Tehran. Morteza Nikoubazl for The New York Times
“When I am sick I go across the street,” Mohammad Mirghanin, a seminary student, said as he rushed to class. “They might have a different religion, but they are fellow Iranians. I do not see why I should not go to the Jewish hospital.”
On Saturday, a woman in a traditional black chador approached Khoddad Asnashahri, the hospital’s managing director and a Muslim, and asked for help.
“I went to the Iman Khomeini hospital with my daughter who needs a sonogram, but over there it costs 500,000 toman,” or roughly $200, said the woman, Zahra Hajabdolmaleki.
“We will help you here for half that amount,” Mr. Asnashahri pledged.
Named after a Jewish doctor who died in 1921 while trying to cure patients during a typhus epidemic raging through Tehran, the hospital started out as a clinic where all Iranians could come for medical care at vastly reduced rates. For more than 50 years it has been a meeting point for Iranian Jews and Muslims and the most prominent Jewish charity in the capital.
Mr. Asnashahri, who has worked at the hospital for nearly 48 years, praised the “good atmosphere” while also noting that only five Jewish physicians remained. “Many have migrated and others have bought shares in more modern hospitals,” he said.
About 96 percent of patients are Muslim, like most of the hospital’s employees. But what mattered most, he said, was the message that “here all people can come, no matter what religion, color or race.”
Launch media viewer An Iranian orderly at the pharmacy counter in Dr. Sapir Hospital. The hospital began as a clinic with reduced rates for care. Morteza Nikoubazl for The New York Times
Though the Jewish population of Iran is dwindling — now at about 9,000, according to an official census by the Statistical Center of Iran, though other estimates range to 20,000 — the country has the largest number of Jews in the Middle East after Israel.
Dr. Morsadegh, the surgeon, has devoted his life to that diminishing community. He was a leader of the Tehran Jewish Committee, a group that supports synagogues, schools and other facets of Jewish life in Iran, and in 2008 was elected as the Jewish representative in Parliament, where five official religious minorities have a permanent seat.
He will not say that the situation for Jews and the other official religious minorities — Christian Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Zoroastrians — is perfect in Iran. The five minorities would like to see an Islamic law changed that allows one of their faith who converts to Islam to get the entire inheritance of his or her non-Muslim family, for example. Yet things are worse for evangelical Christians and Bahais, who can face prison sentences and in many cases exclusion from higher education.
Dr. Morsadegh said former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated Holocaust denials left psychological scars, as well. “Look, all Jews believe in the Holocaust,” he said. “It would have been much better if the former president had not raised that issue.”
President Rouhani has remained silent on the Holocaust, and in September his social media team wished Jews around the world a happy Rosh Hashana.
“It has gotten a lot better,” Dr. Morsadegh said, recalling how thousands of Jews left the country after the 1979 revolution. Many more have emigrated since then, often because of Iran’s bad economy.
Though Dr. Sapir Hospital is Jewish owned, there is not much that would remind one of Jewish heritage. On the wall of Dr. Morsadegh’s office are two portraits of Iran’s past and current supreme leaders, facing a painting of Moses holding up the Ten Commandments.
In September, Dr. Morsadegh joined President Rouhani on his trip to the United Nations in New York. Some in Iran have hinted at a connection between the president’s financial donation to the hospital and Dr. Morsadegh’s enthusiastic defense of Iran and the position of Jews in the country.
But the doctor is not bothered by those questions. “I helped out in the war with Iraq for this country, as a first aid doctor,” he said. “And I’d do it again tomorrow.”
Source: The NY Times
Sabtu, Februari 15, 2014
Source: The NY Times
By THOMAS ERDBRINKFEB. 6, 2014
TEHRAN — The brother of Iran’s president walked into Tehran’s only Jewish hospital on Thursday, delivering a surprise donation along with the message that the Health Ministry would give more attention to hospitals that traditionally serve Christian and Jewish Iranians.
“We are very happy,” a nurse there said by telephone. “This is a good sign.”
The hospital, the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center, received $400,000 from the government of President Hassan Rouhani, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported. Another Iranian source, the semiofficial website Tabnak, said that the amount was $200,000, but that a second installment in the same amount would be coming.
The leader’s brother, Hossein Fereydoon, who goes by Mr. Rouhani’s original family name, was quoted by Tabnak as saying, “Our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.”
Since taking office in August, Mr. Rouhani has embarked on a campaign to engage the world after years of isolation under his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who never missed an opportunity to denigrate Israel and deny that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust.
Mr. Rouhani’s approach toward Jews and the care he takes when mentioning Israel form a central part of his effort to undo some of the damage — international censures and sanctions — from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s two terms.
The gift to the hospital comes after the president’s social media team wished Jews around the world a happy Rosh Hashana, in September. In stark contrast to Mr. Ahmadinejad, Mr. Rouhani rarely mentions Israel and avoids talking about the Holocaust.
While the Islamic republic’s ideology prescribes that Israel — “the Zionist regime,” as it is referred to here — is a mortal enemy, never to be recognized, Iran is also home to the largest population of Jews in the Middle East after Israel, though that number is dwindling. Jews are an officially recognized minority, with a population of about 9,000.
“We can clearly see that Mr. Rouhani is trying to take distance from Mr. Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust-denial policies,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a political analyst close to the government.
Some are interpreting Mr. Rouhani’s gentler approach toward Israel as a policy change, pointing to several Middle Eastern meetings to which both countries sent representatives, even though Iran does not officially recognize Israel.
During the Munich Security Conference last Saturday, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, gave an interview in which he was reported to have said that Iran could consider recognizing Israel someday.
“After the problem with the Palestinians is resolved, the conditions that will enable recognition of the State of Israel will be established,” he was quoted as telling a German television station, Phoenix.
In a separate speech at the conference, Mr. Zarif said the Holocaust was “tragically cruel and should not happen again.”
On Thursday, Mr. Zarif denied the comments attributed to him during the interview, saying his words were distorted. He did not deny his comments about the Holocaust.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli who teaches Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, said Mr. Rouhani’s gestures were “rare for recent years,” and described Mr. Zarif’s remarks about an Iranian decision regarding relations with Israel in the event it finalizes a peace deal with the Palestinians as “a first in itself.”
“They may or may not decide to recognize Israel,” Mr. Javedanfar said in a telephone interview, “but to say that they will decide on it is unprecedented.”
Source: The NY Times
Ahad, Februari 09, 2014
CAIRO, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Reports Egyptian Army Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told a Kuwaiti newspaper he would be a presidential candidate are false, an army spokesman said.
Egyptian military spokesman Ahmed Ali said an article published in the daily newspaper al-Siyasa was conjecture, not a statement from al-Sisi, Ahram Online reported.
"What was published in al-Siyasa is merely journalistic speculation and not a direct statement from Field Marshal al-Sisi," Ali posted on his Facebook page.
In the article, al-Sisi was quoted as saying he "would fulfill the people's demands to run for president."
"Egyptians have big dreams and in order to fulfill those dreams we need everyone to help and cooperate. Some rulers disturbed the country by using their position to serve their own interests," al-Sisi was quoted as saying in an apparent reference ex-President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in June.
Khamis, Februari 06, 2014