Saturday, 29 December 2007
Savage vs. Council on American Islamic Relations
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For those interested, here is the suit by Michael Savage against CAIR. It is more nuanced and complicated than I originally thought. This could go on for a long, long time.
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Posted on 12/29/2007 4:09 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
Bin Laden on Iraq and Hezbollah
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DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused the United States of plotting to take control of Iraq's oil and urged Iraqis to reject efforts to rebuild a U.S.-backed national unity government.

In a statement posted on the Internet on Saturday, the militant leader said Washington wanted to build military bases in the country and dominate the region.

Bin Laden urged Iraqis to reject a plan which he said meant "to give the Americans all they wish of Iraq's oil" and said those who take part in a unity government would be turning their backs on Islam.

He urged Iraqis not to join counter-insurgency patrols -- predominantly Sunni Arab tribal police funded by the U.S. military to fight al Qaeda and reduce violence -- and criticised the Saudi government for backing U.S. policies in Iraq.

"The government of Riyadh is still playing its wicked roles," said the Saudi-born bin Laden.

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden vowed that Islamist militants will expand their holy war to liberate Palestinian land and said his group will not recognize Israel.

The Saudi-born militant also criticized Iran-backed Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah for accepting the deployment of United Nations forces in south Lebanon after the Shi'ite group's war with the Jewish state in 2006.

He said in a recording posted on the Internet on Saturday that peacekeepers dispatched to expand a U.N. force in Lebanon after the war were there to "protect the Jews".

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Posted on 12/29/2007 3:48 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
Dozy bint of the year contest
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I have drawn up a shortlist of two, and it will take the wisdom of Solomon to choose between them.

In the Red Corner, we have Yvonne Ridley. She's a veteran dozy bint, having won Dozy Bint of the Year ever since 2001 when, following her capture by the Taliban, she converted to Islam.

This interview (hat tip Esmerelda) could mean she retains her title. Note the blue headscarf, matching her eyes. Note also the vacuity in those eyes:

When initially reading the Quran, Yvonne recalls, she intended to find out "how it teaches men to beat their wives". But she emerged entranced. "The Quran makes it crystal clear that women are equal to men in spirituality, worth and education," she realized.

That has to be the non sequitur of the year. The Koran does indeed teach men to beat their wives. Does Ridley even deny it? And if it does, how can her second statement be true?

 

Gradually, she began adopting Islamic practices and cutting out un-Islamic customs like alcohol and cigarettes. "I had a battle with cigarettes which I finally won - at last," she jokes.

Yvonne also began covering her head, finding it "liberating not to be judged by the size of her legs".

A strange turn of phrase. If, as I assume, she means that Western women are under pressure to have thin legs, then Islam gets round this by allowing marriage with nine-year-old girls, whose legs are generally on the thin side compared with an adult's. (I am put in mind of Lolita's Humbolt Humbolt calling Charlotte Hayes' legs "fat", which, compared with those of twelve-year-old Lolita, they may have been.) 

But then it was her own society that she felt oppressed by. "I've always been outspoken," she says, referring, for instance, to her critical views against the way detainees in the war on terror are held captive without charge, and often tortured.

And what exactly has our society done to Yvonne Ridley? Tortured her? Forced her into marriage? Stoned her for her less than chaste past?

Yes, Yvonne Ridley looks set to win. But there is a challenger. In the Blue Corner we have Salam Al-Mahadin, writing - where else? - in The Guardian. Ms Al Mahadin:

teaches at the English Department at Petra University in Jordan. Her research has focused on media discourse, identity formation and women's issues in both Jordan and the Arab world. She holds a PhD degree from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh in Translation and Discourse Analysis Studies.

The D-word, "discourse", rings alarm bells. Can it be coincidence that the word "dozy" also begins with a D? Let's hear some of Ms Al-Mahadin's discourse on Western hegemony:

Feminist agencies of western origin are, in the eyes of many Muslims, a post-colonial legacy. In the present climate of distrust between the west and the so-called east, there is hardly room for debates surrounding women if the sources of these emancipatory attempts are western feminist agencies. Human rights are hardly universal and, honour killings and stoning aside, there is a plethora of "rights" of profound cultural nuance rendering it almost impossible to decontextualise them; what one western culture deems a gross violation is not so in another culture.

And back to problematic term "Muslim woman", it is essential not to lose sight of the political context that breeds forms of oppression. In Jordan for example, Jordanian women cannot pass on their nationality to their husband or children. The delicate demographic balance between Palestinian-Jordanians and Tranjordanians underlies this gross violation. It is not a question of misogyny nor oppression but rather a matter of political expediency. Indeed, even crimes of honour in Jordan are part and parcel of such a political balance.

The western left may be able to catapult some of these issues into mainstream politics from the confines of academic discourse but I agree with Ghannoushi that the politics of resistance can only be formulated by those "who wish to be otherwise than they are", as the French thinker Michel Foucault once argued.

First the D-word and now the F-word. It's a close call. Photo-finish?

She's prettier than Yvonne Ridley, and doesn't look quite so dopey, but that stuff about "discourse" and "catapulting"? Still, I suppose "catapulting issues into the mainstream" is not as bad as catapulting stones at rape victims.

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Posted on 12/29/2007 3:21 PM by Mary Jackson
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
Old Year Resolutions
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I just can't face another chocolate.

Anyone who knows me will not believe this, but it's true. The fact is I have been stuffing myself with chocolates and all manner of rich food for the past seven days, and, incredible as it seems, I don't want another one. I have eaten my fill, and while Phil hasn't had enough, I have.

Overindulgence does strange things to the brain. As well as the "no more chocolate" blasphemy, I have been thinking some very un-Jacksonian thoughts, viz:

  1. Teetotalism is a valid option.
  2. Vegetarians are not cranks at all.
  3. I respect vegans. They are not whey-faced cadaverous lunatics.
  4. The EU is a wonderful institution, staffed by people who have our best interests at heart.
  5. "May have" or "might have"? What does it matter?
  6. Esperanto is an excellent idea. English, you see, is like London: old, sprawling, poorly designed and saddled by history with strange street names like "Pudding Lane". Esperanto is better. It is like Milton Keynes: the cows are concrete and don't smell; the streets are designed as an efficient grid system and the houses all look alike.
  7. Hugh was quite right about "reference". I was utterly wrong about this and about so many other things, and it was very presumptuous of me to debate him.
  8. Apostrophe's in the wrong place's? Who cares?
  9. I don't mind America being Top Nation instead of us. It means we can adopt all those wonderful words like "transportation", "obligated", "favor", and "train station" and we can write y'all and debate y'all about them.
  10. Don't you just love the French? I wish Napoleon had won.

And don't imagine that these un-Jacksonian notions are merely passing fancies. I will hold to them for the rest of the year.

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Posted on 12/29/2007 2:48 PM by Mary Jackson
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
More Blessed To Give
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According to this article in The New York Sun giving really does make you happier:

As we approach year's end, your mailbox is filling up with fundraising appeals from various charities and causes, hoping to capitalize on your holiday cheer — or at least, your effort to avoid a bit of 2007 income taxes through deductible contributions.

This is not a false hope: Americans gave nearly $300 billion away last year, and some charities claim to collect as much as a quarter of their annual contributions in the month of December alone. But there is one special reason to give, beyond the noble goals of helping your favorite charity and beating back the voracious taxman. It is that your gifts will give you a happier new year.

It is a fact that givers are happier people than non-givers. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, a survey of 30,000 American households, people who gave money to charity in 2000 were 43% more likely than non-givers to say they were "very happy" about their lives.

Similarly, volunteers were 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. It didn't matter whether gifts of money and time went to churches or symphony orchestras — givers to all types of religious and secular causes were far happier than non-givers.

People who give also are less sad and depressed than non-givers. The University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics reveals that people who gave money away in 2001 were 34% less likely than non-givers to say that they had felt "so sad that nothing could cheer them up" in the past month. They were also 68% less likely to have felt "hopeless," and 24% less likely to have said that "everything was an effort."

The happiness difference between givers and non-givers is not due to differences in their personal characteristics, such as income or religion. Imagine two people who are identical in terms of income and faith — as well as age, education, politics, sex, and family circumstances — but one donates money and volunteers, while the other does not. The giver will be, on average, 11 percentage points more likely to be very happy than the non-giver...

Just a gentle reminder about that donation button on the left from the staff at NER.

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Posted on 12/29/2007 7:35 AM by NER
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
Turkish Paper: New Year Celebrations Are Rebellion, Treason, Waste
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MEMRI Blog: Radical Islamist Vakit continues to attack new year celebrations for being Christian. Under today’s front-page headliner that read “Rebellion, treason, waste”, Vakit wrote, “Celebrating new year which is a Christian custom is rebellion to Allah, betrayal of our martyrs, and a consumption craze and waste”.

Vakit criticized the decorations in shopping centers, colorful store windows that incite people to shop and waste, adding that the most popular products were alcoholic beverages banned in Islam. It also lashed at Turkey’s mainstream, secular media for criticizing the practice of sacrificing animals during the Muslim holiday but not saying much about the murder of pine trees used in decorating.

Chairman of the Islamist Happiness Party [SP] Recai Kutan told Vakit that new year celebrations were against Muslim Turks’ customs and traditions and that they should all be cancelled.

Chairman of the ultranationalist-Islamist Alperen Association Eyup Gokhan Ozekin said that he found it unacceptable that many institutions are organizing entertainment and celebrations, despite repeated statements by Islamic authorities’ that say celebrating new year is Christian belief, and ways it is celebrated are based on customs and traditions of Christians.

 

 

Santa Drops Gifts Through The Chimney

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Posted on 12/29/2007 7:20 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
Al-Qaeda is blamed as Pakistan burns
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Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest before tens of thousands of mourners yesterday as Pakistan’s Government accused al-Qaeda of killing her and a furious row erupted over precisely how she died.
More than 30 people were killed as riots erupted across the country. Banks, police and railway stations, shops, factories, foreign fast-food outlets and vehicles were set ablaze in cities throughout Pakistan.
Demonstrators exchanged gun-fire with police, aircraft were grounded, railway lines severed and roads blocked. Troops were on the streets of the main cities and, in Karachi, Ms Bhutto’s stronghold, they had orders to shoot rioters.
The country was braced last night for even worse violence after Ms Bhutto’s burial in the family mausoleum in the town of Larkana, in Sindh province. Approximately 100,000 weeping and wailing supporters attended her funeral, many of them chanting anti-Musharraf slogans.
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Posted on 12/29/2007 2:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 29 December 2007
A British-led Anglosphere in world politics?
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From The Telegraph, something I have been sensing myself and regard as a GOOD THING.
This week Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of the Australian, (I missed this in the original, I do visit the Australian’s site but I can’t read everything) began with his research for a book, The Partnership, on the US-Australian military and intelligence relationship, which is close and growing closer. The more Sheridan examined this relationship, the more he was struck by something else: namely, "the astonishing, continuing, political, military, and intelligence closeness between Australia and Britain".
Even though Australia has little at stake in Europe and Britain only limited interests in the Pacific, everywhere Sheridan went in the US-Australia alliance, he found the Brits there, too: "Our special forces train with theirs, as we do with the Americans. Our troops on exchange with the Brits can deploy into military operations with them, an extremely rare practice, but something we also do with the Yanks. (We are cousins, in many cases literally cousins, even 2nd or 3rd generation keep in touch)
"Australian liaison officers attend the most sensitive British intelligence meetings and vice versa, in arrangements of such intimacy that they are equalled only in our relationship with the US."
Well, an interesting little story, you may think, but hardly earthshaking. And if AUKMIN were an isolated incident, that would be a sensible response.
As Sheridan's account makes plain, however, AUKMIN merely brass-hatted an existing system of military and intelligence co-operation between Britain, Australia, and the US that was unusually intimate and extensive.
But the story rang several bells. I had recently been reading a Heritage Foundation study by the American writer James C. Bennett, in which he argued that such forms of developing co-operation were especially characteristic of English-speaking, common law countries such as, well, Britain, Australia and America.
There is a definite pattern to them. Citizens, voluntary bodies, companies, lower levels of government form their own networks of useful co-operation for practical purposes across national boundaries.
Such network commonwealths may end up being more integrated - psychologically and socially, as well as economically - than consciously designed entities such as the EU.
If you want to know which countries the British feel really close to, check which ones they telephone on Christmas Day (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America... but you knew that). Network commonwealths don't demand surrender of sovereignty, either.
The idea, lagging well behind the reality, is now seeping into politics. Last year Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, delivered an eloquent speech to the Australian parliament that praised the common British heritage linking both nations.
Even more significantly India's PM, Manmohan Singh, gave a speech at Oxford in 2005 that neatly stole the entire concept for New Delhi: "If there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set, it is the world of the English-speaking peoples, in which the people of Indian origin are the largest single component."
That raises a painful question. If Australians, Indians, Canadians, and even Americans can recognise the Anglosphere as a new factor in world politics, why is it something from which the Brits themselves shy?
Is our reluctance because we fear to touch anything that smacks of the empire? No such timidity restrained Singh.
Are we nervous that anything "English-speaking" might be thought incompatible with multiculturalism? Well, the first multicultural identity was the British one; today the Anglosphere spans every continent.
Is it politically dangerous as an alternative to Europe? That would only be true insofar as "Europe" failed to meet our needs - in which case we would need an alternative. And boy, do we need that alternative
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Posted on 12/29/2007 2:40 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 28 December 2007
The Pentagon's Stephen Coughlin
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Stephen Coughlin, a specialist on Islamic law on the Joint Staff, met recently with Hasham Islam, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England's close aide. The officials said Mr. Islam, a Muslim who is leading efforts for the Defense Department's outreach to Muslim groups, sought to convince Mr. Coughlin to take a softer line on Islam and Islamic law elements that promote extremism.

There is also evidence that a whispering campaign is under way to try and discredit Mr. Coughlin as a "Christian extremist with a pen" and force him out of the building, according to the officials.

Mr. Coughlin came under fire from pro-Muslim officials after a memorandum he wrote identified several groups that are being courted by Mr. Islam's community outreach program as front organizations for the pro-extremist Muslim Brotherhood. --from this news item

Stephen Coughlin is one of the keenest analysts of Islam working for the American government, possibly the very best inside the Pentagon. If he is pushed out, if he is subject to any campaign by Muslims and their non-Muslim collaborators and puppets, that will be, or should be, a matter for alarm as great as any raised about the infiltration by Soviet agents during the Cold War. Because such people are not working for an identifiable state does not mean that they are not working for a cause -- and the cause in this case is to neutralize all those who understand the meaning, and menace, of Jihad, and its varied instruments. And one of those instruments is the fog machine designed to confuse and distract Infidels, and to keep them from seeing clearly the nature of an ideology, its imperviousness to change, and the ways in which, even under the surface of the so-called "moderates" -- the claims on the loyalty of adherents of that Total Belief-System remain. Everyone, anyone, who is out to get Coughlin is working against the interests of the legal and political institutions of this country, and should be investigated by Congress (one is no longer sure about the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. and the levels of incomprehension there). This is more than a scandal. This terrifies.

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Posted on 12/28/2007 4:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Yorkshire Muslims pray as Bhutto laid to rest
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A lot of people whose opinion I respect, Anne Cryer and the Bishop of Rochester spring to mind are condemning the murder of Benazir Bhutto today and paying tribute to her courage.
However there is some consternation locally as to why the Pakistani flag is flying at half mast above Bradford Town Hall.
PRAYERS have been said at mosques across Yorkshire today as former Pakistan leader Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest.
About 1,000 worshippers turned out for prayers to remember Ms Bhutto at Hanfia Mosque in Bradford.
Ms Bhutto had close links to Bradford and had visited the city on a number of occasions. A Pakistani flag was flying at half-mast over the Town Hall and Bishop of Bradford David James, also paid tribute.
A book of condolence has been opened at Leeds Civic Hall's Portland Crescent reception area, and at the Pakistan Consulate offices in Bradford.
Bradford West MP Marsha Singh, who met Miss Bhutto several times, said: "This is a tragedy of huge proportions for Pakistan, for Pakistanis across the world and for democracy. I met her personally in the Houses of Parliament and when she came to Bradford for rallies on several occasions. She was very popular in Bradford and her rallies were always bustling to the seams with people trying to get in.
"She always came across as a very determined person. For a woman to be prime minister of Pakistan is not easy, but she had huge courage and determination. She was a towering figure of a politician. She was very courageous to go back to Pakistan and attend rallies. My thoughts are with her children and with my constituents”.
Mrs Cryer said: "I can't think that President Musharraf will go ahead with election on January 8 after this tragedy.  I think it bodes badly for stability in Pakistan and there will be many people in Bradford very upset by what has happened."
She believed Miss Bhutto had the right ideas although she had been anxious whether the twice former premier of Pakistan could stand up to the "wildmen" of north western Pakistan and to Musharraf.
Kris Hopkins, Ian Greenwood and Jeanette Sunderland, the leaders of the three main political parties of Bradford Council, said in a joint statement: "We are shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party and the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.
"Miss Bhutto had a relationship with Bradford and visited on a number of occasions, and we know many people in the district will be affected by her death. Our condolences go out to her family and the families of the others who died. We will be flying the flag at half mast as a mark of respect."
Comments include
  • A tragedy for the country and for the future of Pakistan and I think many people had a lot of respect for her and what she was trying to accomplist BUT can someone please tell me why there is a Pakistani flag flying at half mast outside the City Hall?
  • I hope you are joking about the Pakistani flag at half mast at the City Hall ? Bradford council doing its best to be politically correct again and bending over backwards to please everyone. I really can't believe it.
  • This must be a joke.
    I cant believe why the council think it right to put a flag up outside city hall We are in the UK not the middle east There don’t think about up setting people of Bradford as long as there politically correct Why other people have been killed in many other country around the world I never seen any other flag at half mask on the city hall
    Thanks
  • All the council are doing once again is antagonising the public with their spineless attitude to race relations in this city.  . . They have made the flying of the Pakistani flag more of an issue than the death of Benazir Bhutto. Only Bradford council could achieve that.
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Posted on 12/28/2007 2:33 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Halal butcher caught
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I missed this just before Christmas. From Aftenposten, the English language version of the Norwegian newspaper.
Food Safety Authority inspectors apparently uncovered an illegal halal butchery operation on a surprise visit to a farm in Østfold County
The Muslim practice of halal, where the animal is not anesthetized before killing, and is bled to death by having its carotid artery cut, is illegal in Norway, for violation of animal treatment laws.
"This is a severe violation of the Animal Protection Act and it will be viewed very seriously," said Kirsti Ullsfoss, FSA district chief for the region. "Several times we have arrived after the slaughter and seen clear signs. But something like this is a new experience for us,"
The farmer insists that nothing illegal has been going on on his farm.
"It isn't illegal to sell live sheep from your own farm," Ole Martin Eggen told newspaper Smaalenene's web site.
Eggen said many Muslims visit his farm to buy sheep, and claimed he had a routine for avoiding any illegal activity.
"I help the new owners kill the animal they have bought. It is not leagl to cut the throat of a live animal in Norway, so I shoot the sheep in the forehead first. I tell the Muslims that the sheep has had a mild anesthetic. I don't think they understand that the animal is dead after I use the rifle. Afterwards the Muslims cut the sheep's throat. When it is done this way the animal bleeds the right way, according to the Muslims. In fact today I had a whole family come for a halal butchering, and they had a little ceremony together," the farmer said.
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Posted on 12/28/2007 12:40 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 28 December 2007
A vile ingenuity
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Thanks to David Thompson for drawing my attention to this piece by Mona Charen on the nature of the enemy:

The next to last assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto came... when a man in the crowd got the former prime minister’s attention. He was holding a one-year-old baby - Bhutto said later she thought it was a girl - and tried to hand the child across the sea of bodies. Bhutto said, “He kept trying to hand it to people to hand to me. I’m a mother. I love babies. But the [street lights] had already gone out and I was worried about the baby getting dropped or hurt.” So she turned away and ducked into her armoured vehicle. Just then, the baby’s body, rigged with explosives, detonated.

That is the nature of the enemy.

It was only a girl anyway. And it's nothing new. 

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Posted on 12/28/2007 12:07 PM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Mega-mosque site used without permission - Official
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From the website of Mega Mosque No Thanks.
At a meeting of Newham Council on 3 December 2007 it was officially confirmed that Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) does not have any current planning permission for the 18 acre West Ham site of their proposed mega-mosque.
Statement from Newham Concern below.
At a meeting of Newham Council on 3 December 2007 it was officially confirmed that Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) does not have any current planning permission for the 18 acre West Ham site of their proposed mega-mosque.
Although TJ’s small temporary mosque on the site is in regular - almost daily - use, Newham’s Mayor Sir Robin Wales verified at the Council meeting that the previous planning permission for the site had run out. This happened over a year ago on 31 October 2006; TJ has been using the site illegally ever since.
The seriousness of the situation is compounded by a March 2007 report on the site by contamination experts Waterman Environmental. The site was formerly a chemical works and the report states (pages 8 and 9) that the ground is suffering considerable contamination from toxic metals (such as mercury, arsenic and lead), acidity, sulphur compounds, mineral oil, poly aromatic hydrocarbons, asbestos fibres and significant levels of organic contaminants.
Waterman (page 21) classifies the environmental risk from the contamination as “medium-high” and the risk to current site users as “potentially significant”.
Although some remedial action has been taken recently by TJ to mitigate the risk, the disturbing situation is that they have a seriously contaminated site that is in regular use by the public without the necessary statutory authorisation or planning permission. Newham Council has a duty of care towards the public and should take urgent enforcement action to rectify the situation, especially as TJ continue to use the site illegally and irresponsibly.

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Posted on 12/28/2007 12:08 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Disbelief
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Aroosa rejected the fatwa. According to the Times of India, she said, 'I think Islam does not prohibit friendship and brotherhood. Religious interpretation of Islam is so wrong. Islam is a very liberal religion.'"
-- from this article, quoting the lady accused of un-Islamic conduct by seeing a man without a male guardian being present

What does it mean to say that the "[r]eligions interpretation of Islam is so wrong"? Is there another kind of interpretation of Islam, a "non-religious" or "extra-religious" one? And having asked this, the accused lady goes on to assert, without the slightest evidence, that "Islam is a very liberal religion" which appears to contradict the previous sentence. As with so many people born into Islam, and who secretly call into question much of Islam, she still cannot make the break, and she cannot even describe the situation accurately. Islam is not "a very liberal religion." It is, as Charles-Emmanuel Bousquet said, "doubly totalitarian" as a Complete Regulation of Life, and as a geopolitical system that insists Muslims must divide the world between Believer and Infidel, and furthermore must be in a state of constant hostility or war, directed at the Infidels, even if that war does not always take the form of open warfare.

Even she, a victim of Islam, says things about Islam that are false, and that either she knows to be false, or cannot allow herself to recognize as false.

It's a problem. Everywhere.

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Posted on 12/28/2007 11:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Anti-Islamic Outsider Is Top Dutch Politician
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MSNBC: Geert Wilders, who compares the Koran to Mein Kampf, has been named the Netherlands' politician of the year in a poll run by public broadcaster NOS.

Mr Wilders' pithy and shocking soundbites - he warned of a "tsunami of Islamisation" - have dominated headlines, while his parliamentary outbursts have brought an adversarial style of politics to the muted consensus to which the Dutch are attuned.

His latest project, a short film about the Koran that will be released next month, has stirred anger even before much is known about it. Mr Wilders, who has had round-the-clock protection for three years due to the death threats against him, says the film will illustrate how the Koran inspires people "to do the worst things".

He has called for the Koran to be banned. "With this film I'm trying to show not only in words but also images exactly what I mean," he says.

Mindful of the backlash provoked by the publication in Danish newspapers in 2005 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, government ministers have expressed concern but said there is not much they can do. Some public figures outside parliament have called for a movement against Mr Wilders.

The murders in 2002 of Pim Fortuyn, a pioneer of Dutch anti-immigration and anti-Islam politics, and in 2005 of Theo van Gogh, the director of a film critical of Islam, have pushed immigration and the failure to integrate large Muslim communities to the top of the Dutch political agenda.

Mr Wilders' proposed solutions are deeply radical: stop all Muslim immigration, ban the building of mosques and ask the 1m Muslims among the Dutch population of 16m to "go to their own countries" or give up their religion...

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Posted on 12/28/2007 11:47 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 28 December 2007
The true meaning of Christmas
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According to Stephen Pollard, last year eighty-four people spent Christmas Day filing their tax return online. Bah, humbug? Or were they following an earlier example?

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Luke 2

Times have changed. In those days women were delivered. Later it was babies. Now it's solutions.

(Mary and Joseph weren't married when she got pregnant. But it was a stable relationship.)

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Posted on 12/28/2007 8:31 AM by Mary Jackson
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Bring Back God
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Brendan O'Neill (an avowed atheist) writes at Spiked (hat tip: Arts & Letters):

They say we get the leaders we deserve. We also get the bishops we deserve. And in an age of petty piety, where relativistic non-judgementalism coexists with new codes of personal morality, giving rise to a Mary Poppins State more than a Nanny State, it’s fitting that the Archbishop of Canterbury is a trendy schoolteacher type who dispenses hectoring ethical advice with a smarmy grin rather than with fire-and-brimstone relish.

In his Christmas sermon, delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Williams finally completed his journey from old-world Christianity to trendy New Ageism. His sermon was indistinguishable from those delivered (not just at Christmas but for life) by the heads of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. Williams did not speak about Christian morality; in fact, he didn’t utter the m-word at all. He said little about men’s responsibility to love one another and God, the two Commandments Jesus Christ said we should live by. Instead he talked about our role as janitors on planet Earth, who must stop plundering the ‘warehouse of natural resources’ and ensure that we clean up after ourselves.

Williams has clearly been reading the Good Books – not the Bible, but those Carbon Calculator tomes that are clogging up bookshop shelves around the country, and which instruct people on how to live so meekly that they leave no imprint whatsoever on the planet or human history. He said that Earth does not exist only for ‘humanity’s sake’; it also exists ‘in its own independence and beauty… not as a warehouse of resources to serve humanity’s selfishness’.

Williams warned that our greed – presumably our insatiable lust for warm homes, cars, cookers and other outrageous luxuries – is killing the planet. He welcomed the fact that mankind is ‘growing in awareness of how fragile [the planet] is, how fragile is the balance of species and environments in the world and how easily our greed distorts it’. In 2008, we must take more seriously our ‘guardianship’ of the Earth, he declared (1).

Williams isn’t the only leading Christian who has sold his soul to Gaia and traded in Christian morality for the pieties of environmentalism. The Reverend John Owen, leader of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, said in his Christmas sermon that everyone should remember his or her ‘duty to the planet’. He urged people to recycle leftover food, and ‘redouble [your] efforts to take action and campaign against climate change’ in the coming year (2). Meanwhile, the Vatican is taking steps to become the world’s first carbon-neutral sovereign state by planting trees in a Hungarian national park to offset the CO2 emissions of the Holy See. Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, says that in 2008 there should be the ‘dawn of a new culture, of new attitudes and a new mode of living that makes man aware of his place as caretaker of the earth’ (3).

The reduction of man to an eco-janitor, a being who creates waste and thus must clear it up, is more than a cynical attempt by isolated Christian leaders to connect with the public. Yes, Williams, Owen, the Holy See and Co. no doubt hope and believe (mistakenly, I’m sure) that adopting trendy Greenspeak will entice people to return to the church. But the move from focusing on love for God and one’s neighbour to focusing on ‘respect for the planet’ represents more than a rebranding exercise: it signals a complete abandonment by the Christian churches of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. And in this sense, it is not only God that is being downgraded by the new nature-worshipping priests; so is humanity itself. And that’s enough to make even a committed atheist like me worry about the current direction of the Christian churches...

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Posted on 12/28/2007 7:55 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 28 December 2007
Father And Daughter
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John F. Burns has a good obituary on Benazir Bhutto in New Duranty:

...When asked to explain the courage — or stubbornness, as some of her critics saw it — that she displayed at critical junctures in her political career, Ms. Bhutto often referred to the example she said had been set by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was a charismatic and often demagogic politician who was president and prime minister from 1971 to 1977, before being hanged in April 1979 on charges of having ordered the murder of a minor political opponent.

Mr. Bhutto was the founder in 1967 of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the political vehicle that he, and later his daughter, rode to power. Like his daughter, Mr. Bhutto battled for years with Pakistan’s powerful generals. He was ousted from office, and ultimately executed, on the orders of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, one of the long succession of military rulers who have dominated Pakistan for nearly 40 of the 60 years since it emerged as an independent state from the partition of British India.

Under house arrest at the time, Ms. Bhutto was allowed to visit her father before his execution at Rawalpindi’s central prison, only a short distance from the site of the rally where she was killed nearly three decades later. In a BBC interview in the 1990s, she said seeing her father preparing to die steeled her for her own political career, which some biographers have suggested was driven, in part, by a determination to avenge him by outmaneuvering the generals.

A History of Violence

Violence ran like a thread through her family life, to an extent that caused her admirers to compare the Bhuttos, in the contribution they made to Pakistan’s political life, and in the price they paid for it, to the Kennedys — and her enemies, pointing to the Bhuttos’ bitter family feuds, to compare them to the Borgias. The younger of Ms. Bhutto’s two brothers, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously of poisoning in 1995, in an apartment owned by the Bhuttos in Cannes, France. French investigators said they suspected that a family feud over a multimillion-dollar inheritance from Zulfikar Bhutto was involved, but no charges were filed.

Ms. Bhutto’s other brother, Murtaza, who along with Shahnawaz founded a terrorist group that sought to topple General Zia, spent years in exile in Syria beginning in the 1980s. When Murtaza finally returned to Pakistan, in 1994, he quickly fell into a bitter dispute with Ms. Bhutto over the family’s political legacy — and, he told a reporter at the time, over the money he said his father had placed in a Swiss bank when he was prime minister. In 1996, Murtaza was gunned down outside his home in Karachi, and his widow, Ghinva, blamed Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto’s husband. Ms. Bhutto’s Iranian-born mother, Nusrat, sided in the dispute with Murtaza, and was dismissed by Ms. Bhutto as the Peoples Party chairman. “I had no idea I had nourished a viper in my breast,” she said of her daughter at the time.

Born on June 21, 1953, Ms. Bhutto, the first child in her family, reveled in telling friends that she was her father’s favorite. One of her most cherished anecdotes about her childhood involved her father’s encouraging her to set aside traditional Muslim views of a woman’s role and to have ambitions beyond the home, a message she said he conveyed with stories about Joan of Arc and Indira Gandhi.

After attending a private Christian-run school in Karachi, where the family maintained a luxurious mansion, Ms. Bhutto studied at Radcliffe College, earning a Harvard B.A. in 1973, and later at Oxford, where she gained a second B.A. in 1976. At Oxford, she was the first woman to become president of the Oxford Union, the prestigious debating society that nurtured several British prime ministers.

In her memoir, she described what life as a young woman at Harvard felt like. “I was amongst a sea of women who felt as unimpeded by their gender as I did,” she wrote. At Oxford, she adopted a Westernized way of life, spending winters at the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad. She said later that her passions at the time included reading royal biographies and “slushy” romances, and browsing at the London department store Harrods — a habit she maintained throughout the rest of her life.

From Oxford, Ms. Bhutto was thrust abruptly into the heart of Pakistani politics by General Zia’s arrest of her father in 1977, and by his execution 18 months later. Ms. Bhutto wrote in her memoir of her last meeting with her father, through a metal grille at the Rawalpindi Prison. “But I did not cry. Daddy told me not to,” she recalled.

From that moment on, Ms. Bhutto said in later years, she resolved to oust General Zia from power. But in August 1988, the general and the American ambassador, Arnold L. Raphel, were killed when their military plane exploded and crashed in southern Pakistan. Three months later, when she was 35, Ms. Bhutto won a general election and formed her first government, only to be ousted by Pakistan’s president in 1990, having served less than half her term. In 1993, she won a second election, but was again dismissed in 1996...

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Posted on 12/28/2007 7:16 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Friday, 28 December 2007
You have heard of the Polish plumber?
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Well this is the Polish chicken. Actually its a French breed, but that's continentals for you. Obtuse and perverse.
I took its photo yesterday while visiting relatives and practising with my Christmas present.

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Posted on 12/28/2007 6:26 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 27 December 2007
A Musical Interlude: I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling (Annette Hanshaw)
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Posted on 12/27/2007 10:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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