Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Islam Under Fire in Europe’s Two Biggest Nations

 Alternative for Germany leader Frauke Petry delivers a speech at the party’s conference in Stuttgart. (AP Photo/Christoph Schmidt/dpa)

Okay, don't get too excited by the title of this post but there is at least a HINT of a movement in Europe to fight the damn Islamists instead of rolling over and willingly get butt fucked by 'em.

The story comes from CNS News.

Islam Under Fire in Europe’s Two Biggest Nations

(CNSNews.com) – A right-wing party in Germany that made gains in recent state elections has adopted a party manifesto declaring that “Islam is not part of Germany.”

The policy embraced Sunday by thousands of members of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party meeting in Stuttgart also called for a ban on the Islamic public call to prayer, minarets, and the wearing of headscarves in public schools.

“Islam is not part of Germany” is a direct response to an assertion by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, voiced on various occasions including in a speech last January amid a series of anti-Islamization protests, that “Islam is part of Germany.”

The development comes as a new opinion poll finds that large pluralities of respondents in both France (47 percent) and Germany (43 percent) view Islam as a threat – an increase of five and three percent respectively since 2010.

The survey (in French), conducted by the IFOP polling company for the French daily Le Figaro, also found that 63 percent of respondents in France and 48 percent in Germany regard Islam as too visible and too influential in their societies.

Fifty-two percent of French and 49 percent of Germans respondents said they opposed the building of mosques, and opposition to the wearing of headscarves in public schools was measured at 88 percent in France and 75 percent in Germany.

(Headscarves and other religious garb have been banned in French public schools and government offices since 2004.)

Another finding in the poll: 67 percent of French and 60 percent of German respondents blamed a perceived failure by Muslims to integrate into society on a refusal to adapt to local customs and values.

France and Germany have the largest Muslim populations in the European Union – 4.8 million in Germany comprising 5.8 percent of the total population, and 4.7 million in France, or 7.5 percent of the population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Recent months have been marked by tensions stoked by Islamic terror attacks in Paris last November and in Brussels in March, and for a longer period by the European-wide refugee and migrant crisis. A deal with Turkey, brokered by Merkel to respond to the migrant influx, has stoked fresh controversy, not least of all because of an element expected to allow Turks visa-free travel in the E.U.’s visa-free Schengen zone.

Riding on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment, the AfD in Germany has seen its popularity grow rapidly. Within three years of its founding, it now has representatives in eight of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, making it essentially the country’s third-largest party, after Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

It has also won representation in the European Parliament, and is eyeing seats in Germany’s federal legislature in elections due in the second half of next year.

The party conference drew public protests, with left-wing demonstrators who tried to disrupt proceedings in the south-western city scuffling with police. Senior leaders of both the CDU and SPD criticized the AfD’s stance, describing it backward and driven by fear.

Earlier during the weekend event, AfD co-chairman Jörg Meuthen said that while religious freedom was an essential part of German culture, the Western, Christian world view was the guiding principle, not Islam, Deutsche Welle reported. Meuthen defended the manifesto, saying it represented “healthy patriotism.”

Other elements of the adopted platform included calls for Germany to leave the eurozone, restrictions on immigration, and an expression of support for the “traditional family” model.

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said Monday the AfD program was characterized by “demagoguery and populism.”

Such an “Islamophobic” program does not solve Germany’s problems, but merely divides the country, he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung paper.

In an interview with the public broadcaster NDR, Mazyek compared the AfD’s program to Nazi policies.

Meanwhile in France, IFOP opinion department director Jérôme Fourquet was quoted as telling Le Figaro that although the Paris terror attacks contributed to the deterioration of Islam’s image in that country, the trend was already underway before then.

“What we’re seeing is more of a growing resistance within French society to Islam,” he said. “It was already the case among voters for the [far-right] National Front and part of the right, but it has now expanded to the Socialist Party.”

Last month French Prime Minister Manuel Valls – a Socialist – voiced support for the existing headscarf ban to be extended from public schools and government institutions to cover universities, a stance that drew strong protests, including from some members of his own party.

Apart from the headscarf ban, since 2010 it has been illegal in France, which prides itself on strong secular traditions, to wear any full face-covering clothing in public.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Al Qaeda? Still a Threat?

The article comes from DAWN.

Al Qaeda after bin Laden, still 'a dangerous threat'

DUBAI: The militant group Al Qaeda has survived the death of its founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 and bolstered its notoriety with attacks in Africa, Europe and Yemen despite suffering a series of setbacks.

Al Qaeda has been replaced as a pre-eminent global militant power by the militant Islamic State (IS) group but remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts say.

By the time US special forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, the group he founded in the late 1980s had been badly damaged, with many of its militants and leaders killed or captured in the US "War on Terror".

Dissention grew in the militant ranks as new Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri struggled in bin Laden's place, until one of its branches, originally Al Qaeda in Iraq, broke away to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

After seizing large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, the group declared a caliphate' in areas under its control, calling itself simply the IS.

IS has since eclipsed its former partner, drawing thousands of militants to its cause and claiming responsibility for attacks that have left hundreds dead in Brussels, Paris, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and on a Russian airliner over Egypt.

Its self-declared 'emir' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has won pledges of allegiance from extremist groups across the Middle East and beyond, with especially powerful IS affiliates operating in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and in Libya.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, a Paris-based expert on Islam and jihadist groups, said IS has been especially effective at using new technology to surpass its less tech-savvy rival.

"Al Qaeda propaganda has become invisible on social networks thanks to the media war machine that Daesh has managed to successfully create," Filiu said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

"Al-Qaeda has lost everywhere to Daesh, except in the Sahel" desert region of northern Africa, he said.

Here are key dates in the group's development since Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri succeeded bin Laden as Al Qaeda's chief on June 16, 2011.
US ambassador killed in Benghazi

September 11, 2012, Libya:

An attack carried out in part by Al Qaeda militants against the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, kills four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) calls for more attacks against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and urges Muslims living in the West to target US interests.

Violence that leaves more than 50 people dead sweeps across the Middle East amid protests against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims", produced by a US religious group.
Deadly North African network

January 11, 2013:

France and its allies intervene in northern Mali, where Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has strongholds.

Five days later, an AQIM affiliate in the Sahara desert, Al-Murabitoun, attacks an Algerian natural gas complex at In Amenas, where 40 hostages and 29 attackers die.

The group's leader, who is still at large, is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed militant dubbed "The Uncatchable" by French officials.

France expands its operations to include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger, while AQIM militants stage attacks that kill dozens in Bamako, Ivory Coast and Ouagadougou.
France, India, Iraq and Syria

April 10, 2013, Syria:

The Al-Nusra Front pledges allegiance to Al Qaeda, becoming a bitter rival to former allies in Iraq that have formed the militant Islamic State (IS) group. Al-Nusra becomes a major force in the Syrian conflict.

June 29, 2014, Iraq:

The proclamation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria by IS, formerly a branch of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, fuels growing tension between the groups.

In September, 2014, Zawahiri announces the creation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

January 7, 2015, France:

An attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris kills 12 people and is claimed by AQAP.

April 2, 2015, Yemen:

AQAP captures Mukalla, a provincial capital in southeastern Yemen, benefiting from chaos that reigned after a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against Houthi rebels in the country.

On March 22, 2016, however, a US air strike on an AQAP training camp in the region kills 71 recruits.

The US has also targeted Al Qaeda linked Shebab fighters in Somalia, with an air strike killing more than 150 in early March 2016. A Pentagon spokesman says they were "training for a large-scale attack".
Holed up back home

August 13, 2015, Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Zawahiri pledges his group's allegiance to new Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, involved in a bitter leadership struggle.

Zawahiri is believed to be in hiding in the Pak-Afghan border region, where bin Laden was holed up after the 9/11 attacks.
'Jihad will last decades'

The US still sees Al Qaeda as a key threat, pursuing a vigorous drone war against the group in Yemen.

The strikes have killed many senior operatives, including Al Qaeda's second-in-command Nasir al-Wuhayshi in June 2015. In March a US strike on an AQAP training camp in Yemen killed at least 71 recruits.

Writing for French news website Atlantico in early April, former intelligence officer Alain Rodier said that while IS may have stolen the spotlight, Al Qaeda may be in a better long-term position.

By rushing to declare its caliphate and establish its rule, IS has made itself an easier target, with thousands of its supporters killed in air strikes launched by a US-led coalition and by Russia.

Its harsh rule has also alienated potential supporters, while groups like Al-Nusra have instead sought to work with local forces in areas under their control.

"The death of Al Qaeda's founding father in no way meant the end of his progeny," Rodier wrote. "This jihad will last for decades."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Video: They Never Stop Looking Out For Us


(Hat Tip: Henry Bowman)


Muslim Schools in Britain Segregating Teachers and School Staff by Gender

Welcome to the year 2016 in jolly old England!

The story comes from Times of India.

Staff segregated by gender at some UK Muslim schools

LONDON: Teachers and other staff at some independent Islamic faith schools in the UK are facing gender-based segregation, prompting the country's schools watchdog to write to the education ministry.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, said his inspectors found one independent religious school using dividing screens across the room to segregate men and women.

"I am writing again to report that Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) continue to find that staff are being segregated because of their gender in Muslim independent schools," Wilshaw writes in his letter sent on Wednesday to UK education secretary Nicky Morgan.

It adds that officials who inspected Rabia Girls' and Boys' School in Luton, east England, expressed their concern after the school insisted on "segregating men and women through the use of a dividing screen across the middle of the room" at the initial meeting.

"This meeting was not carried out in a religious setting but in a classroom. HMI also gathered evidence that male and female staff are segregated during whole school staff training sessions.

"Male staff sit in one room and the session is simultaneously broadcast to female staff in another part of the school," the letter adds.

The inspection was carried out earlier this month following the department for education's (DfE) request for Ofsted to carry out an emergency follow-up inspection of the school already assessed as "inadequate".

Ofsted was so concerned about the behaviour in the school that they told the owner that the "school would remain in the inadequate category despite improvements being made elsewhere".

"HMI will remain vigilant in ensuring that such behaviour, which clearly flouts the requirement to promote British values, is identified and reported. Any form of segregation, without a good educational reason, is likely to lead to an inadequate inspection judgement for leadership and management," Wilshaw said.

The private school was set up in 1996 to provide an Islamic education for young Muslims in Luton.

"It is completely unacceptable for women to be treated less favourably than men, and the advice note we have received from Ofsted on Rabia Girls' and Boys' School is concerning.

"We have referred this case to the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) so they can consider whether the school has breached the Equalities Act, and we will consider carefully the inspection report on the school to determine what action to take against any potential breaches in the independent school standards," said a DfE spokesperson.

Friday, April 29, 2016

De Mistura: Aleppo hospital strike appears deliberate

You know, nothing much good is happening in Syria nowadays.  Well, come to think of it, nothing much good was happening in Syria ten years ago either.

The story comes from Al Arabiya.

De Mistura: Aleppo hospital strike appears deliberate

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday he did not believe the targeting of a hospital hit by air strikes in Aleppo overnight was by mistake, Al Arabiya al Hadath television reported.

During an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya’s sister Al Hadath, de Mistura said he does not believe the shelling of an Aleppo hospital earlier on Thursday was ‘a mistake’, describing it as a war crime.

He did not elaborate or comment on who might have been responsible.

De Mistura also warned that the ceasefire in Syria could collapse and called for bringing it back to the previous level ahead of the next round of peace talks.

He also called on the international community to create an inclusive Syrian government “that includes all parties.”

A wave of airstrikes and shelling killed more than 60 people in less than 24 hours in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, monitors and activists said Thursday.

The contested city is now one of the main battlegrounds of Syria's devastating civil war, with a cease-fire that has collapsed and peace talks in Geneva stalled.

At least 27 people died as a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee for the Red Cross and nearby buildings were hit overnight in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

New airstrikes Thursday in residential areas in the rebel-held part of the city killed at least 20 while state media reported that at least 1,000 mortars and rockets were fired at government-held areas of Aleppo, killing at least 14 civilians.

The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the violence. He told The Associated Press that it shows "the environment is not conducive to any political action."

About 200 civilians have been killed in the past week, nearly half of them around Aleppo. There has also been shelling in Damascus, along with a car bombing - both rarities for the capital. The ICRC said the fighting, including the destruction in airstrikes overnight of a key hospital in Aleppo, is putting millions at grave risk.

With peace talks in Geneva completely deadlocked, Syrians are regarding the escalating bloodshed with dread, fearing that Aleppo is likely to be the focus of the next phase of the war.

Rebel commanders said government forces have been mobilizing soldiers, equipment and ammunition in preparation for a military action in Aleppo.

The well-known al-Quds filed hospital supported by MSF and ICRC and located in the rebel-held district of Sukkari was hit shortly before midnight Wednesday, according to opposition activists and rescue workers. Six hospital staff and three children were among the 27 who died there.

The Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer first-responders agency whose members went to the scene of the attack, put the death toll at 30 and said the dead included six hospital staff. Among those slain was one of the last pediatricians remaining in opposition-held areas of the contested city and a dentist.

The defense agency, also known as the White Helmets, said the hospital and adjacent buildings were struck in four consecutive airstrikes. It said there were still victims buried under the rubble and that the rescue work continued. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three children were among the 27 victims but it was not immediately clear if they were patients at the hospital.

MSF said in a statement that at least 14 patients and staff were among those killed, with the toll expected to rise. "Destroyed MSF-supported hospital in Aleppo was well known locally and hit by direct airstrike," it said.

"This devastating attack has destroyed a vital hospital in Aleppo, and the main referral center for pediatric care in the area," said Muskilda Zancada, MSF head of Syria mission. "Where is the outrage among those with the power and obligation to stop this carnage?"

The 34-bed, multi-story hospital had an emergency room and offered services such as obstetric care, outpatient and inpatient treatment. It had an intensive care unit and an operating theatre. Eight doctors and 28 nurses worked full time in the hospital, the MSF said. It has supported the hospital since 2012, the aid group said.

An unnamed Syrian military official quoted on state TV denied reports that the hospital was targeting, saying they were false.
A video posted online by the White Helmets showed a number of lifeless bodies, including those of children, being pulled out from a building and loaded into ambulances amid screaming and wailing. It also showed distraught rescue workers trying to keep onlookers away from the scene, apparently fearing more airstrikes.

Shortly after midday, new airstrikes in rebel-held areas killed at least 20 people in two neighborhoods, the Syrian Civil Defense and the Observatory said.

Videos provided by activists show scenes of dust rising up from buildings on fire as men and women run away from collapsing houses and children cry, looking for their parents. In one clip, a man is seen lifting his daughter out of the rubble.

State media said at least 1,300 rockets and missiles fell in residential areas in government controlled parts of the city, killing 14 people on Thursday.

Alloush, who was one of the leading negotiators of the opposition in the Geneva talks, described the airstrikes as one of the latest "war crimes" of Assad's government.

"Whoever carries out these massacres needs a war tribunal and a court of justice to be tried for his crimes. He does not need a negotiating table," Alloush told the AP in a telephone interview.

"Now, the environment is not conducive for any political action."
The February 27 cease-fire has been fraying in the past weeks as casualty figures from violence mount, particularly in Aleppo and across northern Syria. Airstrikes earlier this week also targeted a training center for the Syrian Civil Defense, leaving five of its team dead in rural Aleppo.

Since April 19, nearly 200 people have died, including at least 44 in an airstrike on a market place in rebel-held area in northern Idlib province, as well as dozens of civilians in government-held areas from rebel shelling.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New plainclothes morality police draws ire in Iran

This is just further evidence of the "amazing" strides that Iran has made in human rights - no wonder John Kerry and Barack Obama want to sit down with these guys and make them front and center on the world's stage.

The story comes from DAWN.

New plainclothes morality police draws ire in Iran

TEHRAN: Tehran resident Sousan Heidari has stopped letting her headscarf slip casually down over her neck and shoulders while driving in the Iranian capital. These days, the 22-year-old with a taste for bold makeup makes sure to pull it tightly over her dark hair, fearful of running afoul of a newly established undercover division of the morality police.

"Every single man or woman could be a member of the unit," she cautioned. "I don't know. Maybe some plainclothes have already reported me because of heavy makeup."

Tehran police chief Gen Hossein Sajedinia recently announced his department had deployed 7,000 male and female officers for a new plainclothes division ─ the largest such undercover assignment in memory.

Authorities say the division, which started work last week, will patrol major Tehran streets and intersections, policing transgressions including harassment against women and excessive car honking and engine noise.

Critics fear the unit's main focus, however, will be enforcing the government-mandated Islamic dress code, which requires women be modestly covered from head to toe.

They see it as the latest flashpoint in the struggle between relative moderates such as President Hassan Rouhani and establishment hard-liners who fear looser social norms will weaken the Islamic Republic's values and principles.

Iranian women these days, particularly younger ones, often forego the traditional long black long veil known as the chador and opt instead for trendy dresses and fashionable headscarves. More and more, they are daring to let their scarves slip down to their shoulders while driving.

Influential ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani alluded to those concerns about moral erosion during a recent Friday sermon in Tehran, saying that a woman driving without a veil "cannot be called freedom".

Avoiding sartorial trouble in Iran has been fairly straightforward up until now. Police assigned to the morality-enforcement beat normally wore the same dark green uniform of regular Iranian police, and were stationed out in the open at major squares and crossroads.

They would take a range of approaches to enforcing dress codes, including handing out scarves as gifts, giving verbal warnings or having female officers physically remove excessive makeup.

At worst, offenders would be sent to court and face fines of up to $250 or hauled to the local police station until their family members gave a written promise that they would never commit the same offense again.

Azizeh Shirazi, a mother of two college-aged daughters, said last week's announcement of the new force has left her worried that something might happen to them on the way to university. "When the girls do not answer my phone calls during the day, my heart beats faster," she said.

The outcry over the new undercover police force extends to senior officials.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice president for women and family affairs, criticised the decision and expressed concern that it would be "limited to giving warnings to women over improper attire", according to local media reports.

Molaverdi said many citizens have complained to her about the police decision, and she vowed that the Rouhani administration will review the proposed force.

Even the popular Hamshahri daily, which is linked to conservative opponents of Rouhani's government, raised questions about the plan in an editorial, asking why it was necessary now and whether there would be any way to verify the unit's reports.

Police responded to the criticism by saying that "demands by the people" led to the creation of the new unit and that concerned citizens could contact police about any ambiguities.

They have found support from hard-liners, including female parliamentarian Fatemeh Rahbar ─ who said the previous practice of uniformed morality police was too easy for violators to spot and evade.

"The police are thinking about a more precise, more effective and more functional method since the previous open method did not bear fruit," she said.

On Sunday, the spokesman of the hard-line dominated judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, added his voice of support, saying the "judiciary definitely supports the police plan to confront open social corruption".

Tehran-based political analyst Saeed Leilaz believes the new unit is a reaction to the resounding defeat of hard-line and conservative candidates in Tehran during recent parliamentary elections.

A bloc led by moderates and reformists won a majority of seats around the country, but captured all 30 seats representing the capital in the 290-seat parliament. A runoff election for 68 remaining undecided seats will be held Friday.

Leilaz noted that these new plainclothes units have only been announced for Tehran, not for any other major Iranian city.

"This is part of the establishment's reaction toward Tehran residents' attitude in the election," he said. "It's an expression of discontent and taking revenge, as well as applying efforts in restricting President Rouhani."

Leilaz said the new initiative suggests previous hard-line dress code policies have failed. And he questioned how effective the new division would be.

"The plan, as usual will have a short-term limited impact. Soon people will return to their routines," he said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Afghan president calls on Pakistan to battle Taliban

Afghanistan's President is already counting the days until the Taliban take his power away and the clown is so desperate he actually thinks the Pakistanis give a rat's ass about the government of Afghanistan.

The story comes from DAWN.

Afghan president calls on Pakistan to battle Taliban

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in a sombre speech to the Afghan parliament on Monday, called on Pakistan to battle some factions of the Taliban rather than try to bring them into peace talks.

Ghani's statement comes a week after a Taliban assault on the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed 64 people and wounded another 340.

Although President Ashraf Ghani said Afghanistan faced a terrorist enemy led by Taliban "slaves" in Pakistan, his statement appeared to leave the door open to resuming peace talks with some factions of the Taliban as he suggested there was still some hope of compromise with at least some Taliban.

He said that the doors of negotiation would remain open for those Taliban ready to stop bloodshed but added: "This opportunity will not be there forever."

He said Taliban leaders finding shelter in Peshawar and Quetta were "slaves and enemies of Afghanistan who shed the blood of their countrymen" and he called on Pakistan to wipe them out.

Ghani stopped short of declaring a state of national emergency, pledging war against radical groups like the militant Islamic State (IS) and the Haqqani network.
Whose slaves?

The Afghan president did not say whose slaves he thought the Taliban were, but his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, has accused Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban and supporting other militant groups in the past.

Pakistan denies harbouring and aiding the Taliban but Ghani urged the Pakistan government to "fulfill promises and carry out military operations against those whose bases are in Pakistan".

Ghani said there are "no good or bad terrorists, they are just terrorists", and that "Pakistan must understand that and act against them."

The response from the Taliban, who have already rejected peace talks while Western forces remain in Afghanistan, was scornful.

"The nation is not blind, people understand who the slave is and who works for the interest of others," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States have been trying to revive peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in recent months, but have made little progress.
Intelligence head, defence minister to be appointed soon

After a year that saw 11,000 civilian casualties and some 5,500 members of the security forces killed fighting the Taliban, the distinction may make little concrete difference to the fighting on the ground.

But two weeks after the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive and then followed up with the biggest single attack seen in Kabul since 2011, there had been wide speculation among politicians in Kabul that Ghani could declare the stalled peace process formally dead.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule.

Ghani's speech came at a time of growing apprehension in Kabul at the prospect of more intense fighting over the summer months.

Over recent days, Afghan security forces have fought back Taliban attacks on Kunduz, the northern city that briefly fell to the insurgents last year.

Large parts of the southern province of Helmand are now in insurgent hands and there has been heavy fighting in several other provinces from Herat in the west to Kunar in the east.

Ghani said security forces, fighting alone since the end of Nato's main combat mission in 2014, were in a stronger position than last year and said a permanent minister of defence and head of the main intelligence agency would be appointed soon.

Monday, April 25, 2016