بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالاَتِ اللهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلاَ يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللهَ وَكَفَى بِاللهِ حَسِيبًا

Selasa, November 22, 2011

In Malaysia, Reality TV With a Feminist Twist

Source: The New York Times

Contestants on ‘‘Solehah’’ praying before a live telecast of the show in Kuala Lumpur last month (Rahman Roslan for the International Herald Tribune)

KUALA LUMPUR — Meet the latest in reality television, Malay style: 10 young contestants stride confidently onto a green-hued set, ready for their moment before a studio audience and viewers across the country.

But this is no trial by adventure, or a demand to sing and dance. These women in floor-length black skirts, their hair covered with brightly colored scarves, are competing to show superior knowledge of Islam and their ability to teach it to others.

While official religious leadership in this predominantly Muslim country has traditionally been male, women in Malaysia are carving out new roles, including that of female preacher. Now, television has taken up the theme, starting rival preaching contests on separate channels: “Solehah” (pious female in Arabic), and “Ustazah Pilihan” (ideal female preacher in Malay).

“We need women preachers, rather than men,” said Siti Adibah Zulkepli, 21, after her appearance on “Solehah.” “Because they don’t face what we are facing — health problems, how to manage the house, how to manage the children. The woman knows better.”

Women in many Muslim countries have been engaged in religious education behind the scenes. In Malaysia, where women are on the rise in business, politics and academia, the new television shows have shone a spotlight on women’s growing role in religious leadership.

The Malaysian Constitution both declares the country a secular state and specifies Sunni Islam as the official religion. Malays, the majority ethnic group, are automatically classified as Muslim by law. While the country has long been considered moderate in its approach to Islam, more conservative strains have taken root in recent years.

Still, Malaysian Muslim women enjoy greater freedom than many peers in the Middle East. In Malaysia, there is no gender segregation; women hold top positions in banks and other companies, and female university students now outnumber men.

“There are more women than men doing Islamic studies at the universities,” said Zaleha Kamaruddin, an Islamic scholar who in August became the first female rector of the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur.

Ms. Zaleha said Malaysia was now “reaping the fruits” of those enrollments, with an increasing number of women becoming Islamic studies lecturers. She said that it was rare for a woman to lead an Islamic university in the Muslim world, but that reaction to her appointment had so far been positive, with several speaking invitations from a surprising source: conservative Saudi Arabia, where female students are subject to strict gender segregation, and women are notoriously not allowed to drive.

“I think Malaysia has started to break the glass ceiling and is trying to be one of the modern Muslim countries,” Ms. Zaleha asserted.

If women are taking on more prominent roles in Islamic education in Malaysia, as they have in Morocco and Turkey, they are still barred from leading men, or mixed congregations, in prayer. While there have been instances of women leading prayers to congregations that include men in North America and Britain, in most Muslim countries, including Malaysia, it remains strictly taboo.

Yet, the contestants on the two television shows are certainly burnishing the image of female preachers here.

Contestants on “Solehah,” who are selected by auditions around the country, study Islam and get coaching in public speaking and personal grooming. During one recent episode, the women produced videos on high school drop-outs and acid attacks and were then asked to comment before a live studio audience on how these issues could be addressed, using Islamic references.

“Ustazah Pilihan” focuses more on a search for “muslimah,” or female Muslim role models. Modeled on a popular TV contest for male imams that premiered last year, it eliminates one contestant a week. Publicity material for the show stresses the “importance of assuming responsibilities as a Muslim woman, not only as a wife or mother but also as an educator, who can shape and nurture potential leaders of the future.”

Prizes have not yet been announced for either show.

Greg Barton, acting director of the Center for Islam and the Modern World at Monash University in Melbourne, who has studied the role of Muslim women around the world, said it would be a mistake to dismiss the significance of Malaysian women’s expanding engagement in Islamic education.

“There’s actually a lot more happening with women in a teaching role than you might think,” he said.

Despite the more conservative interpretations of Islam adopted in recent years, he noted, it is becoming more common for women to give devotional speeches to mixed groups during social gatherings. At such occasions, women often have more time and leeway to deliver their message than male imams who conduct Friday Prayer in mosques, he said.

Ms. Zaleha, the university rector, said she delivered academic lectures on Islam and sometimes led women in prayer in the women’s wing of the university mosque. But a male staff member — “my right-hand man,” she quipped— leads mixed congregations because it is forbidden for women to lead men in prayer, and only men are permitted to deliver the Friday Prayer and sermon.

Mr. Barton said that in neighboring Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-dominant country, women have been very active in large Islamic groups that boast millions of members.

“One wouldn’t think to go looking for feminists in such circles,” he said. “But I would suggest that a lot of important feminist concerns are being addressed by such women,” he added, citing women’s success in disseminating information about birth control and campaigns against polygamy.

Women in Indonesia and Turkey have been involved in public intellectual debates on Islam for decades, he said. Now, it appears, the demand for television content, especially content that appeals to women, has pushed this to the next level in Malaysia.

“Reality TV sells and religion sells in Malaysia,” he said. “Malaysian women are accustomed to enjoying wide success in professional life, and Malaysians view themselves as modern and progressive.”

He predicted that greater education in more conservative Arab countries would enhance women’s influence in Islam there, too. “Expect to see a lot of changes in the Arab world over the coming decade, including in Saudi and Yemen,” he said.

Harussani Zakaria, a mufti of the Malaysian state of Perak, said he welcomed the growing number of women teaching Islam, but he was adamant that women could not lead Friday Prayer in front of mixed congregations.

“They can preach Islam to the men,” he said, “ but they cannot lead the prayers for men.”

Ratna Osman, executive director of Sisters in Islam, a women’s advocacy group based in Kuala Lumpur, disagrees. She argues that, throughout the history of Islam, women, including Mohammed’s wife Aishah, have educated both men and women.

Ms. Ratna said that the new reality shows may encourage a more public role for women in Islam, yet both in many respects broadcast what she considered conservative messages about women’s subordination to men.

Ms. Ratna says that, when her husband was away and she prayed with her 17-year-old son at home, she recited the prayers — unusual in Malay households, where a son rarely follows his mother in prayer once he has reached puberty.

“I will lead the prayer because it’s just logic that I’m the more knowledgeable,” she said. “Why do I need to ask him to lead the prayer? Just because he’s a male? No, I will not take that.”

Source: The New York Times

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Khamis, September 08, 2011

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka

Kisah perjuangan menuntut kemerdekaan, 10 tahun sebelum merdeka. Saksikanlah sebuah filem dokumentari oleh Fahmi Reza:

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Bhg. 1/4)

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Bhg. 2/4)

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Bhg. 3/4)

10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka (Bhg. 4/4)

Baca lagi...

Rabu, September 07, 2011

Momokan Komunis Terhadap Hj Mohamad Sabu dan PAS

Mohamad Sabu menunjukkan kandungan buku 'Pengukir Nama Johor' yang mencatatkan Mat Indera sebagai salah seorang heronya (HarakahDaily.net)

Sudah hampir dua minggu Timbalan Presiden PAS, Haji Mohamad Sabu (HMS) menjadi sasaran serangan pucuk pimpinan UMNO, bermula daripada Presidennya, Dato' Sri Najib Razak dan Timbalannya Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin serta lain-lain pemimpin UMNO pelbagai peringkat terutama yang paling kuat mengampu seperti Rais Yatim, Ahmad Maslan, Noh Omar, dan Khairy Jamaluddin. Serangan itu bermula apabila Utusan Malaysia pada halaman utamanya pada 27 Ogos yang lalu, mendakwa bahawa HMS dalam satu ceramahnya di Padang Menora, Pulau Pinang pada 21 Ogos berkata, “Pengganas Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM) yang menyerang dan membunuh anggota polis dan keluarga mereka dalam tragedi Bukit Kepong adalah sebagai hero sebenar.”

Akhbar milik UMNO itu memutarbelitkan ucapan Timbalan Presiden PAS itu dengan mendakwa bahawa beliau menyatakan Mat Indera, seorang Melayu yang bersekongkol dengan Goh Peng Tun dan 200 anggota komunis adalah wira dan bukannya 25 anggota polis serta keluarga mereka yang mempertahankan diri dalam serangan di balai polis itu.

Media cetak, elektronik dan internet UMNO termasuk blogger-blogger pencacai UMNO terus menyerang HMS dan PAS. Topik dan motif serangan yang merupakan tuduhan dan fitnah bertujuan untuk menggambarkan bahawa HMS menyanjung perjuangan Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM) atau sekurang-kurangnya mengaitkan HMS dan PAS dengan komunis.

Yang agak melucu malah memalukan, ikut tumpang semangkuk menyerang HMS adalah mantan Ketua Polis Negara, Timbalan Ketua Polis Negara, dan beberapa orang ahli akademik termasuk Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim dan Prof Abu Bakar Hamid (yang selama ini saya menghormati kedua-duanya). Ada pula dua orang profesor (dari USM dan UiTM) yang mempertikai kenyataan Timbalan Presiden PAS itu dengan hanya merujuk kepada laporan Utusan Malaysia yang memutarbelitkan kenyataan beliau. Agaknya kedua-dua profesor seperti inilah yang dikategorikan sebagai “profesor kangkung” yang mulanya diungkapkan oleh mantan Naib Canselor Universiti Malaya, Prof DiRaja Ungku Abdul Aziz.

Sepatutnya profesor-profesor tersebut dan mereka yang hendak membuat ulasan kenalah mengetahui terlebih dahulu apa yang sebenar diucapkan oleh HMS, bukannya berasaskan kepada laporan Utusan Malaysia yang memang sentiasa melaporkan pelbagai berita yang bohong dan fitnah terhadap PAS khasnya, dan Pakatan Rakyat amnya. Utusan Malaysia sudah menjadi alat propaganda UMNO 99.9 peratus. Kalau pun mereka berkenaan itu tidak mengikuti sepenuhnya ucapan HMS yang mengandungi hampir 5,000 perkataan itu, sekurang-kurangnya mereka bacalah transkrip ucapan berkenaan Mat Indera itu yang hanya lebihkurang 100 perkataan. Cuba baca betul-betul apa yang HMS kata seperti berikut:

“... tapi kita lihat cara yang dibuat itu memang banyak yang tak kena... bila hari merdeka nanti tunjuklah filem Bukit Kepong... Bukit Kepong polis itu... polis British... hak serang Bukit Kepong tu lah pejuang kemerdekaan... ketuanya Mat Indera... Melayu... tetapi semua sejarah itu ditutup... Jins Samsudin buat filem... Jins Samsudin tu UMNO... cerita Bukit Kepong hak serang Balai Polis tu penjahat... polis tu polis British, sebelum merdeka, negara kita diperintah oleh British... tapi dibuat filem yang hero hak pertahan balai polis, hak serang tu pengganas, padahal Mat Indera... ketua penyerang balai polis itu... dan akhirnya dia dihukum gantung di Jail Taiping...”

Inilah ayat-ayat yang diputarbelitkan Utusan Malaysia yang kemudian digunakan oleh UMNO dan pencacai-pencacainya untuk menyerang HMS, kononnya HMS menghina polis dan membela komunis. Padahal tidak ada pun perkataan “komunis” yang disebut beliau. Mengikuti ucapan HMS, dapat difahami bahawa beliau menyebut cerita filem Bukit Kepong yang dibuat oleh Jins Samsudin (seorang pendokong UMNO) itu hanya sekadar untuk menggambarkan bahawa UMNO hanya mengiktiraf mereka yang berjasa, kerana mereka bersama dengan British yang menjajah negara kita. Bagi UMNO, mereka yang berkerjasama dengan penjajah British adalah pejuang dan mereka yang menentang British adalah penderhaka atau petualang.

Sebab itu di awal ucapannya antara lain HMS berkata:

“Sepatutnya tokoh pejuang kemerdekaan kena masuk dalam televisyen... kalau nak buh Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato’ Onn pun takpalah... kena letak juga Dr Burhanuddin, kena letak juga Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir, kena letak juga Dato’ Ahmad Boestamam, kena letak juga Dato’ Ibrahim Yaakob, kena letak juga perjuangan-perjuangan seperti Mat Kilau dan sebagainya... ini penentang-penentang British... tapi bila merdeka, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato’ Onn, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato’ Onn... kalau gitu UMNO lah yang layak... betul ke dak?”

Dalam ceramah tersebut HMS tidak nafikan sumbangan tokoh-tokoh UMNO itu, tapi apa yang dikritik beliau adalah sikap UMNO dan kerajaan BN yang menggelapkan jasa pihak lain yang turut berjuang untuk kemerdekaan negara. Tiba-tiba sekarang HMS dituduh sebagai penyokong komunis kerana menyebut nama Mat Indera sebagai seorang pejuang kemerdekaan kerana menentang British dalam masa penjajahan (1950) yang kemudiannya mati di tali gantung.

Sebenarnya kalau mengikuti sejarah UMNO, memang UMNO paling gemar memomokkan pihak-pihak yang tidak bersamanya sebagai penyokong komunis atau mendokong fahaman komunisme. Mula-mula dari Presiden UMNO yang pertama Dato’ Onn Jaafar, UMNO menuduh pejuang kemerdekaan yang tidak bekerjasama dengan penjajah Inggeris sebagai komunis seperti Hizbul Muslimin yang dipimpin oleh Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir. Begitu juga Partai Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM) yang dipimpin oleh Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy, Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API) yang dipimpin oleh Ahmad Boestamam, Angkatan Wanita Sedar (AWAS) yang dipimpin oleh Shamsiah Fakeh, dan Partai Rakyat Kalimantan Malaya (PRKM) yang dipimpin oleh Ustaz Abdul Wahab Nor. Kesemuanya dianggap sebagai penyokong komunis.

Suatu ungkapan Dato’ Onn Jaafar yang dicatatkan dalam sejarah politik negara ialah, “hubaya... hubaya... bahaya dari gunung” yang merujuk kepada kongres di Gunung Semanggol pada Mac 1948 yang dihadhiri oleh kira-kira 5,000 orang dari parti-parti politik yang tersebut di atas dan juga parti-parti bukan Melayu yang tergabung dalam All Malaya Joint Council for Action (AMCJA).

Malah Dato’ Onn Jaafar mengulangi kata-katanya itu dengan mengatakan bahaya dari gunung masih ada lagi, dan ditambah satu bahaya lagi yang tumbuh dari tanah dan menjalar akarnya supaya orang Melayu terhapus dan terjatuh kerana sebenarnya parti Islam itu (Hizbul Muslimin) “merah” (yakni komunis). Tidak hairanlah pemimpin-pemimpin UMNO kemudiannya selepas itu sering mengaitkan PAS dengan komunis atau kegiatan komunis sehinggalah ke hari ini, seperti fitnah yang dilemparkan ke atas HMS. Ini adalah kerana momokan komunis paling mudah mempengaruhi masyarakat Melayu untuk menerimanya, walaupun tuduhan dan momokan tersebut kadang-kadang tidak masuk akal.

Bayangkanlah seorang ulama’ seperti Allahyarham Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir, begitu juga Allahyarham Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy dicop pro-komunis atau sebagai pendokong fahaman komunisme. Saya masih teringat lagi setelah penjajah Inggeris mengisytiharkan Darurat pada Jun 1948, kira-kira sebulan selepas itu sebuah pesawat kecil terbang rendah menggugurkan puluhan ribu risalah di kawasan Semanggol Selinsing dengan gambar portret Dr Burhanuddin yang dicop sebagai pendokong komunis. Ketika itu Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir bersama beberapa pemimpin Hizbul Muslimin, API, dan PRKM telah ditangkap oleh penjajah Inggeris, yang kemudiannya ditahan tanpa bicara selama hampir 5 tahun. Dr Burhanuddin tidak dapat ditangkap kerana berada di Singapura yang tidak termasuk dalam kuasa undang-undang Darurat Malaya. Beliau hanya kemudian ditahan di Singapura dalam peristiwa rusuhan Natrah pada 1951.

Dari kiri: Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir, Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy dan Ahmad Boestamam

Penjajah bertindak demikian atas desakan UMNO ketika itu. Seorang penghulu muda khas dihantar oleh kerajaan ke Semanggol untuk mengintip pergerakan pejuang-pejuang kemerdekaan di Semanggol khasnya pemimpin dan pendokong Hizbul Muslimin. Penghulu muda tersebut adalah anak buah kepada seorang yang ada hubungan rapat dengan Dato’ Onn Jaafar dan seorang pemimpin UMNO pada ketika itu.

Sejarah seperti inilah yang perlu dibaca oleh orang-orang yang otaknya terkongkong dengan propaganda dan khurafat UMNO mengenai perjuangan menuntut kemerdekaan negara kita. Orang seperti Tan Sri Musa Hassan dan Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar perlulah membuka minda mereka sedikit supaya jangan dianggap sebagai katak di bawah tempurung. Selaku anak jati Gunung Semanggol dan bekas anak murid kepada Ustaz Abu Bakar Al-Baqir, saya sedia memberi banyak lagi maklumat dan cerita yang saya sendiri menyaksikan... bolehlah hubungi saya.

Dari kiri: Shamsiah Fakeh, Ishak Haji Mohammed dan Ibrahim Yaakob

Kini UMNO berada dalam gelabah menghadapi PRU 13. Media alat UMNO khasnya Utusan Malaysia menyerang dan memburukkan HMS semenjak beliau mencalonkan dirinya untuk bertanding jawatan tertinggi nombor 2 dalam PAS. Apabila beliau menang sebagai Timbalan Presiden, UMNO makin bimbang kerana hubungan HMS dengan pimpinan DAP terutama Lim Guan Eng begitu rapat dan mesra yang memang diketahui ramai. Dengan mengaitkan HMS dengan komunis, kelak mereka akan kaitkan pula hubungan PAS dengan DAP sebagai hubungan yang kononnya ada kaitan dengan fahaman komunisme. Lebih mudah lagi mengaitkan DAP dengan komunis kerana sebahagian besar ahli-ahli dan pimpinannya adalah dari kaum Cina. Tetapi mereka terlupa bahawa UMNO lah yang kini paling rapat hubungannya dengan Parti Komunis China dan kerajaan UMNO BN lah di rantau Asia Tenggara yang mempunyai hubungan paling intim dengan kerajaan komunis China.

Dalam bahagian kedua nanti saya akan mendedahkan bagaimana UMNO semenjak zaman pengganas komunis masih bergerak menentang kerajaan Malaysia, pemimpin UMNO sudah menjalin hubungan mesra dengan komunis China...

Baca lagi...

Sabtu, September 03, 2011

Rebel military chief says he was tortured by CIA

Abdulhakim Belhaj's allegations suggest a close relationship between the US and Gaddafi's regime

Source: The Independent
By Patrick Cockburn

Tripoli's notorious Abu Salim jail

The overthrow of Gaddafi has brought together strange allies, but few stranger than Abdulhakim Belhaj, the military commander of all rebel military forces in Tripoli, and Nato. An Islamist whom Gaddafi tried to have the US list as a terrorist, Mr Belhaj says he was tortured by CIA agents after being arrested in the Far East in 2004 and later handed over by them to Colonel Gaddafi for further torture and imprisonment in Libya.

Mr Belhaj, the head of the military council for Tripoli, who led an Islamist guerrilla organisation fighting the Gaddafi regime in the 1990s, told The Independent in an interview that he had been directly "tortured by CIA agents" in Thailand after being first arrested in MALAYSIA.

If true, his story is evidence of the close co-operation between the CIA and Colonel Gaddafi's security services after the Libyan leader denounced the 9/11 attacks. After his stint in the hands of the CIA, Mr Belhaj was kept in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. He says: "I was in prison for seven years during which I was subjected to torture as well as solitary confinement. I was even denied a shower for three years." Other Libyan Islamist prisoners have related how they were sometimes taken from Abu Salim to be questioned by US officials in Tripoli.

Released from prison in 2010, Mr Belhaj, who had military experience from fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians in the 1980s, became one of the most effective rebel military commanders. He is said by diplomats to have played a crucial role in the capture of Tripoli at the end of last month, and is highly regarded by the chairman of the Transitional National Council (TNC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

Ironically, given his claims of previous mistreatment at US hands, Mr Belhaj has emerged as one of Nato's most important allies during their air campaign in support of the rebels over the last six months. Speaking in his headquarters in the Mitiga military airbase on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli, he forcefully denied that he and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which he helped found in 1995, had ever been allied to al-Qa'ida.

"We never had any link to al-Qa'ida," said Mr Belhaj, a short, soft-spoken, bearded man, who does not use a military title. "We never took part in global jihad. The fact that we were in the same country, Afghanistan, [as al-Qa'ida] does not mean we had the same goal." He stresses that the sole aim of the LIFG was always to overthrow Gaddafi.

Despite his current close co-operation with Nato, Mr Belhaj says he finds it difficult to forgive his treatment by the CIA in the past.

When first detained at an airport in MALAYSIA in 2004 he says he was with his wife: "She was six months pregnant and she suffered a lot."

After a few days, CIA agents took him to Thailand as part of the notorious rendition process by which the agency transferred prisoners to countries where security forces were known to use torture. He says that in Thailand CIA agents took a direct part in his torture, though he did not give details. He says that "if I ever have the chance I will take legal action" against those responsible.

The disclosure of Libya's intelligence files may reveal embarrassing details of co-operation between the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies with Gaddafi's brutal and ruthless security services in pursuit of Islamist opponents. Mr Belhaj says that in the wake of 9/11, the US administration reacted by pursuing "any organisation with an Islamic agenda".

Mr Belhaj spent seven years in Abu Salim prison which was the site of the Gaddafi regime's most infamous atrocity, the massacre of some 1,200 prisoners in 1999, almost all of them Islamists, who had protested against conditions. The first protests which ushered in the uprising in Benghazi this February was by lawyers representing the families of the dead Abu Salim prisoners.

The Libyan prison was run with great savagery even against those whose offences were minor. Students accused of being excessively religious were stripped naked and attacked by dogs. Prisoners who survived might spend decades without seeing their families. In Abu Salim, Mr Belhaj helped write a 419-page document, published in 2009, which repudiated the Jihadi doctrine of holy war and the use of violence to change regimes. The name of the LIFG was changed to the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change. The ideological change, spurred by the failure of radical Islamic groups fighting on their own to overthrow governments, led to Islamists seeking the co-operation of more secular and liberal groups also opposed to Arab police states. It is these popular front coalitions that have won victories in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya.

Mr Belhaj is keen to underline that he and other Islamists are not seeking to impose their agenda. He says: "The Libyan people have different views and those views will be respected." He also evidently wants to reassure Nato countries that they have not helped get rid of Gaddafi only to see a fundamentalist Islamic state replace him. He had just returned from a meeting in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which has given him significant support, where "I explained to them our vision of the future." Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the TNC, specifically says he was taken to a Nato meeting in order to reassure the West that he presented no threat.

Mr Belhaj says the thousands of militiamen from all over Libya, who owe allegiance to his Military Council, will ultimately join a new Libyan army or return to civilian life. Asked about mass round-ups of sub-Saharan Africans, often undocumented workers, accused of being mercenaries, he said he wanted harassment stopped, but many immigrants had no identity card. He added: "Last night 10 immigrants came to this base for protection and we will check their IDs and either look after them or help them leave the country."

On the whereabouts of Gaddafi, he said that the military operation room in charge of locating him had "strong information he is in Bani Walid". Saadi, one of Gaddafi's sons had phoned Mr Belhaj a few days ago "to separate himself from his father's regime" and was told that, if he surrendered himself, his safety would be guaranteed and he would receive a fair trial.

Baca lagi...

Khamis, Mac 10, 2011

Islam emerges as key issue for GOP

Source: CNN
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants a federal ban on Sharia and opposes a proposed Islamic center near ground zero.

(CNN) -- A conservative activist who served in George W. Bush's White House, Suhail Khan has lately found himself at odds with certain figures who should be allies, like fellow activists on the right and some leading lights of the Republican Party.

Khan, a Muslim, has chafed at recent remarks about Islam from potential Republican presidential contenders like Sarah Palin, who has called on "peaceful Muslims" to oppose a proposed Islamic center near New York's ground zero, and Newt Gingrich, who has called for a federal ban on Sharia, or Islamic law.

Khan supports the New York Islamic center and says there's no threat of Sharia taking hold in the United States.

Then, last month, as he presided over a strategy session at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Khan was repeatedly interrupted by right-wing activists accusing him of having ties to the Islamic Brotherhood, the Islamist political party based in Egypt.

In recent days, Khan has gone on the offensive, meeting with Republican staffers on Capitol Hill and urging old friends to help halt or dramatically alter the direction of Republican Rep. Peter King's hearings on "radicalization in the American Muslim community," which begin Thursday.

"How did we go from the majority of American Muslims supporting Bush in 2000 to the very misguided comments of people like Palin and Gingrich and these King hearings," Khan asked in an interview this week.

While opinions vary on the propriety of Palin's and Gingrich's remarks and King's hearings, there appears to be a dramatic uptick recently in Republican rhetoric around Islam and Muslims.

In the run-up to last November's elections, Republicans including Palin and Gingrich weighed in against the proposed New York Islamic center, while Oklahoma voters approved a Republican-led effort to ban Sharia law (though the ban was blocked by a federal judge).

In the months since, roughly a dozen other states have started weighing bans on Sharia, with all or almost all of those efforts led by GOP lawmakers.

Other high visibility Republicans have criticized Islam or aspects of the religion or the Muslim community. Mike Huckabee, likely a 2012 presidential candidate, last month called Islam "the antithesis of the gospel of Christ" and criticized congregations that allow mosques to use their churches for prayers.

There are disagreements about what has caused such critiques to become an increasingly important part of GOP messaging and policy efforts. But with the Republican presidential primary on the horizon, as well as the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, political analysts say the trend is likely to accelerate.

Republican operatives attribute the movement to lingering fears of terrorism, including an apparent spike in homegrown terrorism.

"People are concerned about terrorists, and anytime someone goes on an airplane they¹re reminded of that," says Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist and CNN political contributor. "There is great mystery about Islam. I don't think the discussion is in a sophisticated place right now, but King is going to make a case."

Frank Gaffney, a conservative Washington activist who has long criticized Islam but whose views have often been rejected by mainstream Republicans, says a spate of high-profile terrorist incidents on American soil is making the GOP more receptive to his message.

The alleged gunman behind the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, massacre reportedly was radicalized by an American-born cleric based in Yemen. The failed Times Square bomber, sentenced to life in prison last year, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who said he was motivated by Islam.

"We have a problem, and the country is coming to grips with that," says Gaffney, who is among the activists alleging that Khan has ties to radical Islamist groups.

"The Republican presidential candidates are going to have to be knowledgeable about this problem to a degree that they haven't had to be up to this point," Gaffney says.

But other Republicans suggest that inflammatory remarks about Islam are coming from the party's fringes.

"So far, a great many leading Republican figures have been very temperate in their remarks" about Islam, says GOP strategist Whit Ayres. "They¹re making a distinction between peace-loving Muslims and radical terrorists."

He rattled off a list of likely 2012 Republican presidential contenders who he says fit that description: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour and Jon Huntsman, all current or former governors.

Asked about whether Palin, Gingrich and Huckabee would make the cut, Ayres said, "I'll leave it at that."

Few Republicans have criticized King's hearings, which could stretch out for more than a year. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, King has responded to criticism that the sessions single out Muslims, saying, "I will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States."

"We're talking about al Qaeda," King told CNN over the weekend. "There's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it's there, and that's where the threat is coming from at this time."

Of course, the broader issues of terrorism and national security, which often touch on Islam, aren't new to the GOP. John Esposito, a Georgetown University professor of religion and international affairs who focuses on Islam, said in an email message that rhetoric around Islam by "Republicans like Peter King and others go back to post-9/11."

"You could especially see it in presidential primaries," says Esposito, the co-editor of a new book on Islamophobia. "Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mike Huckabee all played the Muslim terrorism card in 2008 without carefully distinguishing between the small minority of cases at that time and the Muslim-American community."

Khan, who served in the Bush White House's Office of Public Liaison and in its Transportation Department, says the increasingly charged GOP rhetoric on Islam reflects a leadership vacuum in the party since it lost the White House in 2008.

"Hours after 9/11, Bush made it clear that ours was a war on violent extremists that were limited in number and were not representative of Islam," Khan says. "That leadership was key in reminding Americans that we¹re all Americans, regardless of faith or ethnic background."

Khan and other critics of the GOP's recent Islam critiques allege that the campaign is part of a broader effort to falsely brand President Obama, who is a Christian, as a Muslim.

"Conservatives see a nice nexus of being able to take advantage of pairing the president as Muslim while burnishing their national security credentials by fear mongering about Islam and Muslims," says Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national group.

A Pew survey last fall showed that nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who said he was Muslim in 2009.

Republicans deny allegations of such a campaign. But some non-Muslim strategists within the party have also criticized the way some if its spokespeople treat Islam, warning that harsh rhetoric on Islam could scare off Muslim voters and other religious minorities.

"The support for criticizing a mosque is half a mile wide and an inch deep," Grover Norquist, a top party strategist, told the Washington Post last year around the time of the controversy over the Islamic center near ground zero.

"And at the end of the process," he said, "the only people who will remember it are the people who feel threatened by this -- not just Muslims, but Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Mormons."

Source: CNN

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Family helps Gadhafi stay in power

Source: CNN
By Tom Foreman, CNN

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, 68, has been married twice. He has eight biological children and two adopted children, one of whom died.

(CNN) -- The embattled Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, is one of those rare figures in the world who manages to not only seize power, but also hold onto it for decades. Despite the inevitable mythology that grows up around such figures, however, it is worth noting that he has not done it alone. He has had a large, if at times quarrelsome, family to help him hold onto the reins.

Gadhafi has nine grown children. One is the result of a short marriage to his first wife, seven are with his second wife, and one is adopted. They hold many positions of influence in Libya's security forces, military, telecommunications, and other industries, and plenty of Libya watchers believe Gadhafi uses them not only as agents of his will, but also his eyes and ears.

The most noted power player is Saif Al-Islam. He is the one who shows up relatively often in TV interviews. He is the second oldest son, the oldest from the second wife. He was educated at the London School of Economics. He speaks fluent English, is a fastidious dresser, and he paints. An exhibition of his work was displayed in Moscow.

More importantly, he has long been seen as a possible successor to his father. He has denied any such desire, but others were interested in the idea for quite some time because he was considered more modern in his thinking, even reform minded by many Libya watchers. But that was before his recent and very public vows to fight the protestors to the end.

Another possible successor to the family throne is Mutassim, and accordingly his relationship with Saif Al-Islam is believed to be tense. Mutassim once allegedly helped plot a coup against his father and had to flee the country when it failed. He was eventually forgiven and is now his father's national security adviser. Mutassim was involved in official talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 about improving U.S./Libyan relations.

Ayesha, who is 34, is the only daughter. In many photos she looks like a blond model, and she is believed to play the role of peacekeeper among the brothers. Yet she also toes a very tough political line. She has been a longtime, loud supporter of anti-government groups (except at home) including the IRA and the insurgents in Iraq. She was famously part of Saddam Hussein's defense team when he was tried and hanged. When The Telegraph asked her how she felt about Iraqis who say he slaughtered thousands of their countrymen, she replied, "You are bound to meet people who may be against your policies."

Hannibal Gadhafi is the headline maker. He has reportedly paid millions of dollars for private parties featuring big name entertainers including Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Usher. Several of the artists now say they have given the money back.

It's not just Hannibal's parties that make news. He has been implicated in a string of violent incidents in Europe. He was accused of beating his staff, although the charges were later dropped. He is married to a model, Aline Skaf, and he was also accused of beating her in a London hotel. She later said her broken nose was the result of an accident.

In a spectacular episode, Hannibal was stopped after driving his Ferrari 90 mph the wrong way on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. He invoked diplomatic immunity.

The sixth son, Khamis, is said to command a special forces unit known as the 32nd brigade, or the Khamis brigade, which protects the Gadhafi family. His troops have been involved in much of the heavy fighting throughout Libya.

Still, despite the various problems and reported clashes among these strong personalities, nothing seems to have driven the family members far enough apart to weaken their collective grip on power for all these years.

Source: CNN

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Khan: Islam is not the Enemy

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

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U.S. Muslim groups slam radicalization hearings

Source: CNN
By the CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) -- Leading American Muslims on Wednesday strongly criticized this week's planned congressional hearing into the alleged radicalization of members of their community, calling it an unfair attack on loyal citizens and a dangerous break from the traditional U.S. embrace of tolerance and pluralism.

Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has said Thursday's hearing is necessary to explore the extent to which al Qaeda is trying to influence and indoctrinate U.S. Muslims, among other things. But his plans have created an uproar, with critics accusing Republican leaders of bigotry and comparing the hearings to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's allegations of Communist infiltration in the early years of the Cold War.

American Muslim leaders have also taken issue with King's assertion that they haven't sufficiently cooperated with law enforcement officials, and dismissed his claim that the overwhelming majority of mosques are run by extremist imams. Such claims are "demonstrably false," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

"Except for a tiny minority," extremists have found "no fertile ground in America," he said. He said King is engaged in "fear-mongering," and called the New York Republican "unfit" to head the Homeland Security Committee.

"We are not in denial as a community that something is going on, that there are bad actors in every community," said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, a member of the Council of Muslim Organizations. King is "onto something, but he is going in the wrong direction."

And Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in as well, disputing King's premise that Islamic leaders haven't done enough to help police during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Holder said the Justice Department has tried to establish a dialogue with American Muslims, "so that information flows to us, information flows from us." And he warned against doing anything to "alienate entire communities."

"Leaders of the Muslim community and the Muslim community itself have contributed significantly to the resolution of many of the things that we have resolved over the course of the last 12 to 18 months," Holder said. "Tips that we have received, information that has been shared, has been critical to our efforts to disrupting plots that otherwise might have occurred."

In an interview with CNN, King shot back, "That's not my experience."

"New York is the epicenter, and I'm not aware of any tips that have been given in Nassau, Suffolk [counties] or New York City," he said. "That's one. And then talking to officials around the country, I get the same complaints."

Holder has not been called to testify in King's hearings, because he would contradict those complaints, King acknowledged. And he said top Obama administration officials also say al Qaeda is attempting to radicalize American Muslims, so "Where else would we look?"

"I won't demonize anyone," he said. "We're going to show the threat is coming from certain elements and in many ways threatens Muslim Americans as much as it does the entire country."

But Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, said King is more interested in "scoring cheap political points by vilifying vulnerable communities."

On Tuesday, a national group, Muslim Advocate, launched a website aimed at tracking what it calls anti-Muslim rhetoric, particularly among elected officials.

"Our concern is that the King hearings are going to sow fear and mistrust of the Muslim community at a time when the nation needs to be coming together," said Farhana Khera, executive director of the group that launched WhatUnites.Us. "It's essentially a congressional stamp of approval for anti-Muslim hate."

In an earlier interview on CNN's "American Morning," King promised a "thoughtful, meaningful, very fair hearing" and insisted he was not condemning Islam as a religion or American Muslims as a group.

"I would never question anyone's religious beliefs," he said. "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding patriots." But he added, "There is a very small percentage who have allied themselves with al Qaeda," and he said U.S. Muslim leaders "do not face up to that reality."

"I want to encourage people in the Muslim community ... to be more aggressive in choosing their leaders," he said. "I don't think the leadership right now -- groups such as CAIR -- are doing an adequate job. I think in some ways doing a very poor job of representing the Muslim-American community."

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper dismissed King's criticism, telling CNN the congressman "doesn't like that CAIR criticizes his past anti-Muslim statements and his Keystone Cops hearing."

Some critics of the hearings have called King's efforts against Islamic-American terrorism hypocritical. In the 1980s, King, an Irish-American, was an active supporter of the Irish Republican Army, an organization the State Department then deemed a terror group, and Gerry Adams, the leader of the IRA's political wing.

The IRA was responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths in terror attacks. But King, however, has defended his efforts, calling the IRA "a legitimate force" for decades. The congressman has insisted he only got involved so heavily with Adams because he knew Adams would be willing to broker peace with the British government.

A January 2010 study from researchers at Duke and the University of North Carolina concluded that the threat stemming from radicalized Muslims is overblown.

In the eight years following the September 11, 2001, attacks, 139 Muslim-Americans engaged in terrorism-related violence or were prosecuted for terrorism-related offenses with violent elements, the researchers concluded. That level -- roughly 17 individuals per year -- "is small compared to other violent crime in America, but not insignificant."

"Homegrown terrorism is a serious, but limited, problem," they asserted.

The report concluded that effective self-policing, denunciations of terrorism, and heightened political engagement were among the factors helping to minimize radicalization in the Muslim-American community.

Critics such as King, however, point to a number of recent examples of alleged homegrown terrorism as evidence of a dangerous trend, including the case of Army Maj. Nidal Hassan, a psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009.

Hassan had been in contact with militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and preached at a mosque in Virginia before leaving the United States for Yemen.

Last April, New York taxi driver Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to involvement in a 2009 plot to blow up crowded subway trains. Prosecutors said Ahmedzay conspired with another man -- Najibullah Zazi -- who also pleaded guity and cooperated with authorities.

According to a recent study from the New America Foundation and Syracuse University, the number of cases of American citizens or residents charged with or convicted of taking part in terrorist activities has jumped in recent years. There were 76 such cases in 2009 and 2010 -- nearly half the total since September 11, 2001.

But Muslim-Americans have played a key role in stopping such plots, noted Peter Bergen, a CNN national security analyst. More than 20 percent of post-9/11 Islamist terror cases in the United States began with tips from Muslim community members or involved cooperation from the family members of alleged plotters, he said.

Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute, told CNN Wednesday that the threat of radicalized Americans "continues to metastasize (and) comes in varies shapes, sizes, and forms."

"To suggest that we don't face a threat is wrong," Cilluffo noted. "But to look for a single profile, unfortunately that doesn't exist right now."

CNN's Richard Allen Greene, Alan Silverleib, Dana Bash, Mike Ahlers, and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.

Source: CNN

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Rabu, Mac 09, 2011

GOP leaders back hearings on Muslims

Democrats, rights groups see panel singling out community

Source: The Washington Times
By Seth McLaughlin

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the hearings “assess how we can better work with the Muslim community in America to stop the spread of radical Islam.” (Associated Press)

Saying extremist elements of Islam are a real threat that need to be confronted, House Republican leaders on Tuesday defended the Homeland Security Committee chairman’s decision to begin hearings this week to investigate the inroads radical Muslims have made in America.

But Democrats, as well as religious and civil rights groups say committee Chairman Peter T. King is singling out the Muslim community and could stoke anti-Islamic sentiment nationwide while providing another recruiting tool for extremists worldwide.

Mr. King, a New York Republican who saw more than 100 of his constituents perish in the Sept. 11 attacks, said his goal is to explore radicalization in the American Muslim community. The first hearing, scheduled for Thursday, will feature testimony from relatives of radicalized Muslim Americans who’ve engaged in terrorism, and Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is the sole Muslim in Congress.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the backlash against Mr. King’s effort is unwarranted and that the purpose of the hearing is to “assess how we can better work with the Muslim community in America to stop the spread of radical Islam.”

“It is pretty obvious where the problems have been in terms of terrorist activity,” the Virginia Republican said, noting the apparent ties between the suspect in the terrorist attack at Fort Hood and radical Islam. “There is no question that it has been encouraged by the radicalization of folks coming out of Central Asia and the Middle East and [they] have used this as a reason to perpetrate terrorist acts. It is a fairly well accepted notion at this point and that’s where Chairman King is going.”

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, fired back a few hours later, saying he is “deeply concerned about these hearings, which demonize law-abiding American Muslims who make important contributions to our society, as I would be about congressional hearings to investigate Catholics, Jews or people of any other faith based solely on their religion.”

Asked about Mr. Reid’s comments, Peter Gadiel, president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said, “I think the difference is so far as anybody is aware, Jews and Catholics are not encouraging organized terrorism.”

“I have not heard of Southern Methodist conspiracies to blow up buildings or kill soldiers on military bases,” Mr. Gadiel said. “To the contrary, we know there is something called violent jihad and that is not something connected with Southern Methodists, that is connected with Muslims.”

The hearings come about six months before the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and have sparked a vigorous debate across the political spectrum, with some critics likening Mr. King’s hearings to former Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his efforts to expose communists in the 1950s.

But Mr. King said his opponents are “tied up in political correctness.” He said he has no plans of backing down and will do whatever is in his power to prevent another terrorist attack.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, applauded the effort, calling it an important step forward in safeguarding the country against the rising tide of homegrown terrorism.

“Without question, there’s a troubling factual pattern of American Muslims becoming radicalized and focusing on creating havoc here on U.S. soil,” Mr. Sekulow said. “This hearing is designed to get to the bottom of what’s taking place in our nation — how al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are recruiting and manipulating American Muslims to attack the U.S. This hearing isn’t about profiling — it’s about protecting our homeland.”

But J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said the hearing “will send a further message that Muslims present a greater threat of terrorism than other religions.”

“It would imply that the potential for terrorism from outside of Islam is not significant enough to merit a hearing,” Mr. Walker said.

Source: The Washington Times

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Libya’s first lady owns 20 tons of gold: reports

Safia Farkash owns an airline company

Source: Al Arabiya News Channel
DUBAI (Mohamed al-Naeimi)

Farkash maintained a low profile throughout Gaddafi’s rule

Since the start of the Libyan revolution on Feb. 17, Libya’s first lady Safia Farkash has not been in the limelight unlike her Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts even though she is known for her enormous wealth and considerable influence.

Safia Farkash owns an airline company called Buraq Air headquartered in the Mittiga International Airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Farkash operates the company with the approval of her husband even though it is a rival of the Libyan national carrier and monopolizes the transfer of Libyan pilgrims.

Reports of Farkash’s wealth are varried, but one of the most widely-circulated reports suggests that the first lady owns 20 tons of gold.

News of Farkash’s wealth is in line with the Wiki Leaks documents which stated that Gaddafi is the head of a family that is powerful and rich, yet divided and dysfunctional.

According to Wiki Leaks, Farkash is generally low profile. She travelled in a rented plane and a procession of cars drove her from the airport to her destination. Even the banquet she held at the Bab al-Azizia compound, Gaddafi’s main headquarters, to celebrate the anniversary of the 1969 revolution was quite modest.

During the Lockerbie crisis, the International Coalition against War Criminals (ICAWC), based in France, revealed in 1992 that Gaddafi’s wealth had reached 80 billion U.S. dollars and that his wife’s was estimated at 30 billion.

Story of first lady

Safia Farkash al-Baraasi is the second wife of Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi. She was born in the city of al-Baida in eastern Libyan and hails from al-Baraaesa tribe. They got to know each other when she worked as a nurse and he was admitted to hospital for an appendectomy in 1971. They got married the same year and had seven children, six boys and their only daughter Ayesha.

During the first years of their marriage, Farkash rarely made media appearances, yet in the past few years she started engaging in social activities like taking part in celebrating the 1969 revolution that brought her husband to power and attending the graduation of female police students in 2010.

In 2008, Farkash was elected vice president to the African First Ladies Organization in a meeting of African Union leaders in the Egyptian Red Sea city Sharm al-Sheikh even though she was not present at the meeting and has never taken part in activities related to it.

Several websites reported that Farkash and her daughter Ayesha landed in Germany on February 20, but no one denied or confirmed the news.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Source: Al Arabiya News Channel

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Rabu, Mac 02, 2011

LSE may withdraw Gaddafi's son PhD

Critics are calling on the London School of Economics to withdraw a doctorate it granted to the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi as he donated £1.5 million to the university.

Source: PressTV

A Libyan protester holds a sign during a demonstration against Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi in Benghazi.

Director of LSE Sir Howard Davies has admitted that he is “embarrassed” about the university's relations with the Qaddafi family saying they should not have accepted the research funding.

"We looked at the pros and cons of engaging with someone like Saif Qaddafi and with the problems in North Africa and we decided that we would do so," Davies told the BBC Radio 4.

The LSE also said it will examine the allegation that Saif al-Islam's cheated to get his PhD degree.

This comes as angry students at the central London campus have called for an independent inquiry into the issue saying the LSE may have given a doctorate to Qaddafi's son to ensure it gets the £1.5 million funding.

Saif al-Islam offered the reward to the university in 2008 shortly after he received a degree from the university's Centre for the Study of Global Governance.

According to Professor David Held from the center there were always concerns at the time of Saif al-Islam's studying there that his work was not his own.

"After he handed in the thesis there was a rumour that he may not have been the sole author. I wrote straight away to his supervisor but there was no substantial evidence," Held said.

This comes as a spokesman for the LSE Students Union said they are “angry” about the issue.

"LSE students are angry and upset that university officials are using degrees at the LSE to raise vast sums of money. There are serious questions about Saif al-Islam's PhD, and we call for an external investigation," the spokesman said.

The questions about the LSE's links to Qaddafi family and the validity of his son's degree were further strengthened when a video emerged showing senior university officials praising the Libyan dictator in a closed door meeting through video link two months ago.

The video shows Qaddafi expressing offensive views about Lockerbie and hitting out at former world leaders including former British PM Margaret Thatcher and former US president Ronald Reagan.

The student who made the video public said the “sycophantic Qaddafi address was held in secret because it was all about keeping money from a tyrant flowing into the LSE”.

"Now that his regime is facing collapse, it's only right that this love-in should be made public," she said.


Source: PressTV

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Libya protesters take over military base

Hundreds of Libyans including, children and elderly men, have taken over a military air base in southern Benghazi, hoping to begin training to repel attacks by Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's troops.

Source: PressTV

Libyan pro-democracy protesters who are now part of the forces against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi organize ammunition at a military base in Benghazi in eastern Libya, February 28, 2011.

"We are receiving dozens of civilians who want to get trained and then enlisted. We are ready to defend Benghazi and its suburbs. We are here to help our brothers in Tripoli if they ask our support, but I'm sure that they can defend themselves," Colonel Maraey Logny said on Monday, Reuters reported.

Enlisted men at the air base in the city will receive intensive training sessions on using heavy cannons and anti-aircraft weapons.

"I'm calling all Libyan youth to be enlisted to confront this despotic dictator to defend our country, blood and lives," enlisted man Saleh Al-Abidy said.

Large swathes of youth have hurried to military bases all over the country to defend it and be ready to confront any attacks by troops under Libyan ruler.

"I came here to join the Libyan military, because we want to topple Muammar who kills the people." Libyan child Suleiman Meftah said.

A brutal crackdown by the Libyan regime on pro-democracy protesters that began nearly two weeks ago has left an estimated 2,000 people dead so far.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 100,000 people have fled the violence in crisis-hit Libya over the past week.

Gaddafi, who led a military coup against King Idris, came to power and established "the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" in 1969.

The Libyan leader has ruled the North African country for nearly 42 years. He has seven sons and one daughter from two marriages.

Gaddafi and his family members have been holding a tight grip on the country's industries. Reports say they have hidden an estimated at $32.5 billion in secret foreign bank accounts.

The United States and other foreign governments discussed military options for dealing with Libya on Monday as beleaguered Gaddafi scoffed at the threat to his government from a spreading popular revolution.


Source: PressTV

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US mulls military attack on Libya

The US has reportedly planned to deploy thousands of its naval and aerial forces near Libya as it mulls over military intervention in the North African country.

Source: PressTV

A Libyan protester holds a sign during a demonstration against Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi in Benghazi.

The US military announced on Monday that it will deploy naval and aerial forces near Libya, the Washington Post reported.

A Pentagon spokesman said various contingency plans have been taken into consideration in order to provide options and flexibility once decisions are made.

One option on the table is using NATO air power to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. This measure, however, requires UN approval.

Also on Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We will continue to explore all possible options for action."

The development comes as Libyan air force attacked ammunition depots in two separate locations south of Benghazi.

Fighting flared up Monday in Misrata, near the capital where protesters have shot down a helicopter and captured its crew.

A brutal crackdown by the regime on opposition protests that began nearly two weeks ago has left an estimated 2,000 people dead so far.

In Benghazi, many are celebrating their freedom from Muammar Gaddafi's rule after taking control of the city.

However, many Libyans are still dying as a result of insufficient medical supplies to treat severe injuries.

Colonel Gaddafi has been in power since a military coup in 1969.

Gaddafi and his family members have been holding a tight grip on the country's industries for the past four decades. Reports say they have hidden away a massive amount of wealth in secret foreign bank accounts.


Source: PressTV

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PRESS RELEASE: Egypt – Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Chairman Khairet El-Shater suffers heart attack in prison

Mubarak regime prisoners given preferential treatment, while political prisoners languish under further restrictions.

Source: Islamic Human Rights Commission

Khairet El-Shater is reported to have suffered a heart attack today in Tura prison. El-Shater was involved in an argument with guards over the preferential treatment received by former Mubarak cohorts Habib Al-Adli, Ahmed Ezz, Ahmed Zuhair Garana, Al-Maghrebi and other government figures who are detained in the same prison for the crimes they committed during Mubarak's era.

El-Shater and others were denied access to open spaces, visitation sessions etc on the basis that the former regime’s prisoners were exercising and would decide when they would like to stop. Other amenities were denied the political prisoners on similar bases relating to privileges granted to Al-Adli et al.

The family of El-Shater expressed their deep concern, and have stated that they hold the Supreme Council for Armed Forces responsible for El-Shater’s condition. El-Shater’s health was already in a poor state. He suffers from diabetes for which he has often been denied treatment while in prison.

IHRC Chair, Massoud Shadjareh stated:

“It is imperative that the focus on human rights issues not be taken away from Egypt simply because Mubarak has gone. His erstwhile military backers still hold power and many issues need to be resolved.

“The new regime needs to do more than simply talk about elections. It must release all political prisoners now, and make serious efforts to find the disappeared men and women who protested during the revolution. Without starting to address the human rights abuses perpetrated in Egypt the new regime fails to inspire confidence in its willingness to transform the country.”

Source: Islamic Human Rights Commission

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Isnin, Februari 28, 2011

Egypt/Turkey-Israel: ‘A Clean Break’

Source: Information Clearing House
By Eric Walberg

February 25, 2011 "MEO" -- While Egypt’s revolution was very much about domestic matters -- bread and butter, corruption, repression -- its most immediate effects have been international. Not for a long time has Egypt loomed so large in the region, to both friend and foe. At least 13 of the 22 Arab League countries are now affected: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

But just as powerful has been the resonance in Israel. It has no precedent for an assertive, democratic neighbour. Except for Turkey.

As the US was putting the finishing touches on NATO (established in April 1949), Turkey became the first Muslim nation to recognise Israel, in March 1949 (Iran did so a year later). Under the watchful eye of its military, Turkey and Israel had close diplomatic, economic and military relations throughout the Cold War.

The first hint of trouble was Turkey’s denunciation of “Israeli oppression” of the Palestinians in 1987, but it was not until the Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 that a strong critical voice was heard. In 2004 Turkey denounced the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as a “terrorist act” and Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip as “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Saudi acquiescence to US-Israel hegemony is understandable because of the Saudi monarchy’s total reliance on the US dollar income from its oil. As US secretary of state Henry Kissinger told Business Week after Saudi Arabia defied the US with its oil embargo in support of Egypt in the 1973 war against Israel, any more such behaviour would lead to “massive political warfare against countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran to make them risk their political stability and maybe their security if they did not cooperate”.

His words were not idle. King Faisal, who had risked all to help the Egyptians and Palestinians, was assassinated shortly after that, and his act of defiance was the last peep heard from the Saudis. Or Egypt, which went on to make peace with Israel. Even as Turkey’s resistance to Israel has grown hotter, Israel continued to find comfort in the accommodating nature of president Hosni Mubarak’s rule, though it has been a “cold peace” between enemies.

Yes, enemies. For despite official relations and a trickle of photo ops of Egyptian-Israeli leaders shaking hands over the past three decades, 92 per cent Egyptians continued to view Israel as the enemy, according to a 2006 Egyptian government poll. Perhaps Mubarak also found maintaining good relations with Israel distasteful, but he complied with US wishes, getting the second largest US aid package (after Israel).

Current Israeli military strategy was honed in the early1980s, after the elimination of Egypt as a military threat. Two names are identified with it. Ariel Sharon announced publicly in 1981, shortly before invading Lebanon, that Israel no longer thought in terms of peace with its neighbours, but instead sought to widen its sphere of influence to the whole region “to include countries like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and areas like the Persian Gulf and Africa, and in particular the countries of North and Central Africa”. This view of Israel as a regional superpower/ bully became known as the Sharon Doctrine.

Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 followed traditional imperialism’s strategy of direct invasion and co-opting of local elites, in this case a Christian one. But already this strongman policy was losing its appeal. It didn’t work for Israel in Lebanon. There was always the risk of a strongman turning against his patron or being overthrown.

The more extreme version of the new Israeli game plan to make Israel the regional hegemon was Oded Yinon’s “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980”. Yinon was nicknamed ‘sower of discord’ for his proposal to divide-and-conquer to create weak dependent statelets with some pretense of democracy, similar to the US strategy in Central America, which would fight among themselves and, if worse comes to worst and a populist leader emerges, be sabotaged easily – the Salvador Option. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah described the Israeli policy based on Yinon in 2007 as intended to create “a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

Yinon was using as a model the Ottoman millet system where separate legal courts governed the various religious communities using Muslim Sharia, Christian Canon and Jewish Halakha laws. Lebanon would be divided into Sunni, Alawi, Christian and Druze states, Iraq divided into Sunni, Kurd and Shia states. The Saudi kingdom and Egypt would also be divided along sectarian lines, leaving Israel the undisputed master.

“Genuine coexistence and peace will reign over the land only when Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security.” Yinon correctly observed that the existing Middle East states set up by Britain following WWI&II were unstable and consisted of sizable minorities which could be easily incited to rebel. All the Gulf states are “built upon a delicate house of sand in which there is only oil”.

Following on Yinon’s strategy in 1982, Richard Perle’s 1996 “A Clean Break” states: “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”

Israeli internal security minister Avi Dichter said shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: “Weakening and isolating Iraq is no less important than weakening and isolating Egypt. Weakening and isolating Egypt is done by diplomatic methods while everything is done to do achieve a complete and comprehensive isolation to Iraq. Iraq has vanished as a military force and as a united country.”

According to Haaretz correspondent Aluf Benn writing on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Sharon and his cohorts “envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel’s other enemies: Arafat, Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, the ayatollah in Iran and maybe even Muhammar Gadaffi.” By presenting the US with facts-on-the-ground and using its US lobby, Israel would keep itself at the heart of American plans for the Middle East.

The invasion of Iraq was always intended as a prelude to the invasion of Iran. The Israeli logic, which is hard to fault, is that with Iraq now occupied, unstable and its inevitably pro-Iranian Shia majority asserting control, Iran has been strengthened, and that the same war plan against Iran is necessary to defeat the chief remaining regional anti-Israeli regime, which is now gathering support from not only Shia, but from Sunni opponents to the US-Israeli project throughout the Arab world. Ben Eliezer told the gathering: “They are twins, Iran and Iraq.”

Despite Turkish storm clouds on the horizon, until 25 January 2011, Israel’s plan was still to replace the Ottoman Turks of yore as the local imperial power. The Arab nations (prepared by British imperial divide-and-conquer and local-strongman policies) would be kept divided, weak, dependent now on Israel to ensure safe access to oil. An Israeli-style peace would break out throughout the region.

But this tangled web has unravelled. Despite the $36 billion poured into Egypt’s military and Americanisation of Egypt’s armed forces since the peace treaty with Israel, according to wikileaks-egypt.blogspot.com US officials complained of the “backward-looking nature of Egypt’s military posture” (read: Israel is still Egypt’s main enemy), that the army generals remained resistant to change and economic reforms to further dismantle central government power.

Egyptian Minister of Defence Muhammad Tantawi “has resisted any change to usage of FMF [foreign military financing] funding and has been the chief impediment to transforming the military’s mission to meet emerging security threats.” In plain language, Egypt’s de facto head of state was criticised by the US because he refused to go along with the new US-Israeli strategy which would incorporate Egypt’s defence into a broader NATO war against “asymmetric threats” (read: the “war on terror”) and to acquiesce to Israel as the regional hegemon.

Mubarak was the Egyptian strongman that fit Sharon’s strategy for the region. But he was overthrown in a truly unforeseen manner -- by the people. Yinon’s divide-and-rule strategy -- in the case of Egypt, by inciting Muslim against Copt -- has also come to naught with the popular revolution here, one of its symbols being the crescent and cross.

There has indeed been “a clean break” with the past, but not the one foreseen by Perle. His scheme can be rephrased as: Egypt and Turkey can shape their strategic environment, in cooperation with Syria and Lebanon, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Israel. As for Dichter’s hubris, it is impossible at this point to see what the future holds for Iraq, but it will not be what he had in mind. And Iran can now breathe a sigh of relief.

A year and a half ago, an Israel Navy submarine crossed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, where it conducted an exercise, reflecting the strategic cooperation between Israel and Egypt, aimed at sending a message of deterrence to Iran. Just one week after the fall of Mubarak, the canal is being used to deliver a message of deterrence – but this time the message is for Israel, as Iranian warships cross the canal on their way to Syrian ports.

Nor are the upheavals across the Arab world at present following the sectarian scenario envisioned by Yinon. Even the Shia uprising in Bahrain is more about an oppressive neocolonial monarchy, originally imposed by the British, than about Shia-Sunni hostility.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed fears about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood “undermining the peace treaty” which 85 per cent of Israelis approve of. But he need not fear. While Egyptians have no love for Israel, none contemplate another war against what is clearly a more powerful and ruthless neighbour.

What really hurts for the Likudniks is the new Egypt in cooperation with the new Turkey will put paid to the Sharon/ Yinon strategy for establishing Israel as the regional empire. It will have to join the comity of nations not as a ruthless bully, but as a responsible partner.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/

Source: Information Clearing House

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Jumaat, Februari 25, 2011

Gaddafi's son denies crackdown; loyalists reportedly continue attacks

Source: The Washington Post
By Leila Fadel, Ernesto Londono and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Foreign Service

Moammar Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. Now, he is strongly rejecting opposition demands that he give up power, as anti-government demonstrators continue to push for his ouster. (Photo: John Moore / AP)

BAIDA, LIBYA - Moammar Gaddafi's son denied Thursday that Libya has killed large numbers of protesters through airstrikes and other attacks, while a former top Gaddafi aide said he quit the government to protest its violent crackdown.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Gaddafi's son, disputed the death tolls that have have been reported since the protests began 10 days ago, saying allegations that hundreds have been killed are a "joke."

"Tripoli is quiet," he said in an interview aired on Libyan state television. "Life is normal."

The junior Gaddafi said Libya intends to provide Western journalists on Friday access to Tripoli, the capital, and other cities, so they can corroborate the government's claim that the country remains under Gaddafi's control.

The U.S. State Department issued a warning to Western journalists who have entered Libya in recent days without government permission. Citing information received from top Libyan officials, the warning said some members of CNN, BBC Arabic and al-Arabiya would be allowed into the country, but any reporters not approved by the government as part of that effort would be considered al-Qaeda "collaborators."

"The Libyan government said that it was not responsible for the safety of these journalists, who risked immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges," the State Department warning said.

Libya appears dangerously fractured, with Gaddafi's regime intent on fighting but its authority beyond Tripoli in doubt. The longtime ruler has tightened his grip on the capital, witnesses say, by flooding the streets with militiamen and loyalist troops who were reportedly roaming the streets and shooting opponents from SUVs.

Rebels who launched an uprising last week have consolidated their control of key eastern cities, however, and continued advancing west across the coastal strip, where most of the country's population is clustered. The opposition has called for a large protest Friday.

In the city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, an army unit attacked a mosque where protesters had been stationed for several days, a witness told the Associated Press. The soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the mosque's minaret with anti-aircraft missiles, the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

He told the AP there were casualties, but couldn't provide exact figures. Some of the young men among the protesters had hunting rifles, he said. He said a day earlier an envoy from Gaddafi had come to the city and warned protesters, "Either leave or you will see a massacre."

"What is happening is horrible, those who attacked us are not the mercenaries; they are sons of our country," the witness said, sobbing. After the assault, thousands massed in the city's main Martyrs Square, shouting "leave, leave," in reference to Gaddafi, he said.

The other attack came at a small airport outside Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, where rebels claimed control on Wednesday, AP reported. Militiamen on Thursday attacked a line of residents who were protecting the facility, opening fire with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, said a resident who saw the assault.

"They left piles of human remains and swamp of blood," the resident told the Associated Press. "The hospitals are packed with those killed and injured."

In Cairo, a cousin and close adviser to Gaddafi said he had defected from the regime to protest its crackdown on the uprising, the Associated Press reported. Gadhaf al-Dam, who arrived in Egypt several days ago, is a member of the Libyan leader's inner circle, handling Libyan-Egyptian relations.

Dam said in a statement that the crackdown has seen "grave violations to human rights and human and international laws," AP reported. He said he left Libya "in protest and to show disagreement."

Oil prices hit $100 a barrel because of the turmoil in the North African oil exporter, a peak not reached since 2008. In Washington and other capitals, attention turned to the possible responses to the crackdown, including economic sanctions or imposition of a no-flight zone over Libya to prevent the use of aircraft against civilians.

In Washington, President Obama said the United States was developing a "full range of options" and would intensify discussions with other nations to address the violent unraveling of Gaddafi's regime.

"The suffering and bloodshed are outrageous and unacceptable," Obama said. The Libyan government "must be held accountable for its failure . . . and face the cost of continued violations of human rights."

But enormous questions remained about whether any foreign powers could wield the influence necessary to head off Libya's dizzying plunge into disorder, much less persuade Gaddafi to reconsider his vow to fight to the death in defense of his 41-year-old regime.

The independent organization Human Rights Watch has estimated that 300 people have been killed in a week of clashes, although some Libyan opposition groups and Western diplomats have said that they fear the figure may be much larger.

A 600-passenger ferry chartered by the U.S. government was in Libya to evacuate U.S. citizens to the nearby island of Malta, but its departure has been delayed by turbulent weather.

Residents reached by telephone in Tripoli on Wednesday said Gaddafi's loyalists appeared to have reclaimed control of the capital after several days of skirmishes. Stores and offices were shut down, the residents said, while blue-uniformed militiamen set up checkpoints and regime loyalists cleaned up graffiti calling for him to step down.

But opposition groups appeared to have taken control of cities across a broad swath of northern Libya that stretched hundreds of miles from Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, to as far as Misurata, 120 miles east of the capital. The loosely organized opposition protected key roads and government installations, with men in fluorescent orange vests patrolling the area, armed with sticks or rocket-propelled grenades.

A state-run radio station previously known as Eastern Radio was under the control of opposition groups, which renamed it Free Radio. In and around Baida, along the northern coast west of Tobruk, the once-omnipresent portraits of Gaddafi had been ripped down or burned.

"Oh Moammar, dictator, it's your turn now," people chanted.

There was ample evidence of recent fighting in Baida. Buildings on Revolution Street were pocked with bullet holes. At La Braq Airport, spent ammunition from rifles and antiaircraft rounds littered the ground. Civilians and defected soldiers climbed on tanks and blocked the runways to stop planes from landing - a precaution, residents said, after people were gunned down last week by purported mercenaries flown in from elsewhere in Africa.

The ability of the rebels to swiftly push west suggested that Libya's powerful tribes, long a beneficiary of Gaddafi's patronage, were turning against him. In recent days, tribal leaders have declared their support for the opposition after Gaddafi's use of warplanes and helicopter gunships to kill hundreds of protesters.

Indeed, the eastern tribes have long complained of being denied a share of Libya's wealth and resources, and eastern cities such as Benghazi have been bastions of opposition. Such grievances led to a revolt in the 1990s and underpinned the ongoing rebellion that began in Benghazi last week, in a country of as many as 140 tribes.

The east's al-Zuwayya tribe threatened to shut down oil production unless authorities stopped the "oppression of the protesters." The Warfala, one of the country's biggest and most influential tribes, has also reportedly joined the opposition. The tribe controls areas around Tripoli.

"We are seeing more and more tribal defections. A lot of police and military in Tobruk, Benghazi and other eastern cities defected because their tribal leaders had ordered them," Ronald Bruce St. John, an author and expert on Libya, said in a telephone interview. "I think you will see more and more in western Libya."

So far, St. John said, it appears that the major tribes in and around Tripoli continue to support Gaddafi.

The signs of a widening rebellion in eastern Libya came as more senior military commanders and government officials defected. The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that an air force pilot bailed out of his Soviet-made warplane and allowed it to crash rather than following an order to bomb Benghazi.

Residents of Tripoli said a sense of fear pervaded the capital.

"We have been indoors for the past three days," said Rahma, a Libyan American reached by telephone, who insisted that her last name not be used to avoid any retribution. "Tripoli is like a ghost town, as if nobody exists here."

She said her father, also a U.S. citizen, had been detained during an anti-government demonstration a few days ago in front of Tripoli's courthouse and was being held at a hospital on a military base. She said she fears for his safety after listening to Gaddafi's speech, in which he threatened to execute anyone going against the regime.

"We don't know what's going to happen to him," Rahma said.

She said two sons of a neighbor were killed at a protest. The next day, Rahma said, the neighbor placed a green Libyan national flag by her house to show support for Gaddafi and avoid being targeted by his loyalists.


Londono reported from Cairo. Wilgoren reported from Washington. Correspondent Sudarsan Raghavan contributed reporting from Sanaa, Yemen. Staff writer Howard Schneider in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post

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