Tuesday, September 30, 2008


NY Post

Chutzpah: ACORN's drive to lower mortgage standards paved the way for the meltdown - yet last week, it was holding protests like this one in Florida, trying to get a cut of the financial-market-rescue bill.
Chutzpah: ACORN's drive to lower mortgage standards paved the way for the meltdown - yet last week, it was holding protests like this one in Florida, trying to get a cut of the financial-market-rescue bill.

WHAT exactly does a "community organizer" do? Barack Obama's rise has left many Americans asking themselves that question. Here's a big part of the answer: Community organizers intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit. In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes - and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it.

THE seeds of today's financial meltdown lie in the Commu nity Reinvestment Act - a law passed in 1977 and made riskier by unwise amendments and regulatory rulings in later decades.

CRA was meant to encourage banks to make loans to high-risk borrowers, often minorities living in unstable neighborhoods. That has provided an opening to radical groups like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) to abuse the law by forcing banks to make hundreds of millions of dollars in "subprime" loans to often uncreditworthy poor and minority customers.

Any bank that wants to expand or merge with another has to show it has complied with CRA - and approval can be held up by complaints filed by groups like ACORN.

In fact, intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America's financial institutions.

Banks already overexposed by these shaky loans were pushed still further in the wrong direction when government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began buying up their bad loans and offering them for sale on world markets.

Fannie and Freddie acted in response to Clinton administration pressure to boost homeownership rates among minorities and the poor. However compassionate the motive, the result of this systematic disregard for normal credit standards has been financial disaster.

ONE key pioneer of ACORN's subprime-loan shakedown racket was Madeline Talbott - an activist with extensive ties to Barack Obama. She was also in on the ground floor of the disastrous turn in Fannie Mae's mortgage policies.

Long the director of Chicago ACORN, Talbott is a specialist in "direct action" - organizers' term for their militant tactics of intimidation and disruption. Perhaps her most famous stunt was leading a group of ACORN protesters breaking into a meeting of the Chicago City Council to push for a "living wage" law, shouting in defiance as she was arrested for mob action and disorderly conduct. But her real legacy may be her drive to push banks into making risky mortgage loans.

In February 1990, Illinois regulators held what was believed to be the first-ever state hearing to consider blocking a thrift merger for lack of compliance with CRA. The challenge was filed by ACORN, led by Talbott. Officials of Bell Federal Savings and Loan Association, her target, complained that ACORN pressure was undermining its ability to meet strict financial requirements it was obligated to uphold and protested being boxed into an "affirmative-action lending policy." The following years saw Talbott featured in dozens of news stories about pressuring banks into higher-risk minority loans.

IN April 1992, Talbott filed an other precedent-setting com plaint using the "community support requirements" of the 1989 savings-and-loan bailout, this time against Avondale Federal Bank for Savings. Within a month, Chicago ACORN had organized its first "bank fair" at Malcolm X College and found 16 Chicago-area financial institutions willing to participate.

Two months later, aided by ACORN organizer Sandra Maxwell, Talbott announced plans to conduct demonstrations in the lobbies of area banks that refused to attend an ACORN-sponsored national bank "summit" in New York. She insisted that banks show a commitment to minority lending by lowering their standards on downpayments and underwriting - for example, by overlooking bad credit histories.

By September 1992, The Chicago Tribune was describing Talbott's program as "affirma- tive-action lending" and ACORN was issuing fact sheets bragging about relaxations of credit standards that it had won on behalf of minorities.

And Talbott continued her effort to, as she put it, drag banks "kicking and screaming" into high-risk loans. A September 1993 story in The Chicago Sun-Times presents her as the leader of an initiative in which five area financial institutions (including two of her former targets, now plainly cowed - Bell Federal Savings and Avondale Federal Savings) were "participating in a $55 million national pilot program with affordable-housing group ACORN to make mortgages for low- and moderate-income people with troubled credit histories."

What made this program different from others, the paper added, was the participation of Fannie Mae - which had agreed to buy up the loans. "If this pilot program works," crowed Talbott, "it will send a message to the lending community that it's OK to make these kind of loans."

Well, the pilot program "worked," and Fannie Mae's message that risky loans to minorities were "OK" was sent. The rest is financial-meltdown history.

IT would be tough to find an "on the ground" community organizer more closely tied to the subprime-mortgage fiasco than Madeline Talbott. And no one has been more supportive of Madeline Talbott than Barack Obama.

When Obama was just a budding community organizer in Chicago, Talbott was so impressed that she asked him to train her personal staff.

He returned to Chicago in the early '90s, just as Talbott was starting her pressure campaign on local banks. Chicago ACORN sought out Obama's legal services for a "motor voter" case and partnered with him on his 1992 "Project VOTE" registration drive.

In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN's up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott's drive against Chicago's banks.

More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago's Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation's board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers - and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.

That committee's report on strategies for funding groups like ACORN features all the key names in Obama's organizer network. The report quotes Talbott more than any other figure; Sandra Maxwell, Talbott's ACORN ally in the bank battle, was also among the organizers consulted.

MORE, the Obama-supervised Woods Fund report ac knowledges the problem of getting donors and foundations to contribute to radical groups like ACORN - whose confrontational tactics often scare off even liberal donors and foundations.

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public's eye. The Woods Fund's claim to be "nonideological," it says, has "enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government 'establishments' without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship."

Hmm. Radicalism disguised by a claim to be postideological. Sound familiar?

The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN's Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.

And, as the leader of another charity, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Obama channeled more funding Talbott's way - ostensibly for education projects but surely supportive of ACORN's overall efforts.

In return, Talbott proudly announced her support of Obama's first campaign for state Senate, saying, "We accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer."

IN short, to understand the roots of the subprime-mort gage crisis, look to ACORN's Madeline Talbott. And to see how Talbott was able to work her mischief, look to Barack Obama.

Then you'll truly know what community organizers do.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.

Jihad on the High Seas

Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | 9/30/2008

After years of battling al-Qaeda on land, Western forces now face a terrorist war at sea. In a recent communiqué, the Islamist organization claimed responsibility for this year’s surge in pirate attacks in the vital Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Dozens of vessels from different nations have been seized and held for ransom, shaking the world’s shipping industry. Al-Qaeda calls its maritime campaign “a new strategy which permits the mujahedeen” to hijack shipping, since “fighters who aspire to establish the caliphate must control the seas and the waterways.” Counterterrorism consultant Olivier Guitta revealed the al-Qaeda connection in his Asia Times column, writing that the terrorist organization “intends to take control of the Gulf of Aden and the southern entrance of the Red Sea.” Guitta called the area “strategic” for the radical Islamic group.

Al-Qaeda’s goal is the removal of Western military bases from the Arabian Peninsula. It believes sea lanes “weakened by acts of piracy,” combined with mujahedeen attacks, will force concessions from Western powers. And while Al-Qaeda has not abandoned its more traditional tactics – it has a presence in both Somalia and Yemen and attacked the American embassy in Yemen this month, killing 16 – the organization is increasingly focusing its terror on the high seas.

Al-Qaeda’s sea war is already having an effect. Piracy attacks have increased so dramatically in the Horn of Africa that a London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) spokesman called the waters off Somalia, a Muslim country, the most dangerous in the world. A failed state, Somalia has possessed neither a navy nor a central government since 1991 – factors exploited by criminal organizations and al-Qaeda, sometimes working together. As a result, in the first two weeks of September alone, Somali pirates attacked 17 ships, four more than in all of 2007, and last week captured a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 T-70 tanks. “In my time here, I must say, this is the most concentrated period of destabilizing activity I have seen in the Gulf of Aden,” said Keith Winstanley, a British naval officer patrolling the gulf.

Altogether, piracy accounts for about 60 attacks against oil tankers and cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden this year. Most scandalous, however, is that these maritime terrorists are currently holding 14 ships and 300 of their crewmen for large ransoms in Eyl, a pirate town in northern Somalia. On Sunday, the terrorists demanded $20 million for the Ukrainian ship alone, although ransoms for most other captive ships are in the $1-3 million range.

The Gulf of Aden is not a sea route ships can avoid. Situated at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula between Somalia and Yemen, the 2,500-mile waterway is strategic for the world’s economy. It connects Europe and North America with Asia and East Africa via the Suez Canal. About 1,500 ships, ten percent of global shipping traffic, pass through it every month, including four percent of the world’s daily crude oil supply. The only alternative route, around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, is thousands of miles longer and much more expensive, considering larger ships cost about $20,000 daily to run.

As it is, the financial costs of piracy in the Gulf of Aden are high enough. The pirates stand to gain an estimated $50 million dollars in ransom money this year. But this sum does not include the losses shipping companies incur for their ships’ inactivity after capture. Increased insurance rates and thousands of dollars in extra fuel consumption costs from ships traversing the gulf at higher than normal speeds to avoid pirates are additional financial burdens facing owners.

The threat that piracy in the Horn of Africa poses to international trade and to freedom of movement is substantial. After two of its vessels were hijacked last month, a major Malaysian shipping company, MISC Berhad, announced that its ships are going to stop using the Gulf of Aden.

World leaders also are waking up to the problem. The United Nations passed a resolution last June giving countries permission to pursue pirates into Somali territorial waters, while French President Nicholas Sarkozy recently sent commandos to wrest an elderly French couple and their yacht from Somali pirates.

The U.S. also has gotten involved. As an anti-piracy measure, the United States in August established a protected shipping corridor in the gulf that Combined Task Force 150, an international naval force under US 5th Fleet command, is patrolling. But although the CTF has thwarted 12 pirate hijackings since then, ships are still being attacked, even in the protected zone, indicating the extent and strength of the piracy problem. Captains are now even being told to traverse the gulf in convoy.

The IMB estimates that about 1,000 pirates are active in the gulf. One sailor, a pirate prisoner for 174 days, said his captors are well-organized in groups of 15-20. Armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and scaling ladders, they operate hundreds of miles off shore from two or three larger “mother” ships, from which they launch their attacks in speed boats against unsuspecting victims. Naval officer Winstanley said there was a degree of organization in their attacks, “Which is why we are taking action.”

Security experts fear the ransom money the pirates are receiving will allow them to buy better equipment and weapons for larger operations. Another concern focuses on the threat to the world’s energy supply. A Japanese tanker, for example, was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade last year, spilling hundreds of barrels of oil into the gulf. A spate of successful sinking would see sky-rocketing oil prices climb even higher.

Such financial disruption would please al-Qaeda, since it has long targeted the American economy for destruction. It knows the Western world derives its military and cultural strength from its economic power, hence its attack on the World Trade Center. Al-Qaeda also wants to draw America into as many Gulf of Aden-type military sideshows as possible in order to drain American resources.

That may prove a fatal error. A sudden, resolute attack on the pirates’ Somali bases would sink al -Qaeda’s high seas terror war and restore calm to the waters of the vital Gulf of Aden. Before long, the terrorist organization may discover that its chances against American forces are no better on sea than they are on land.
Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.

Barbarism in Syria

O. Winter
MEMRI.org | 9/30/2008


There has been series of flagrant human rights violations recently in Syria, including the mass killing of prisoners in Sidnaya prison and the killing of three Kurdish citizens who were celebrating Norouz (New Year) in the city of Kamishli.

Following are excerpts from reactions to these events on oppositionist Syrian websites, as well as details and illustrations from reports posted on these sites about the torture of prisoners in Syrian jails. The Sidnaya Mass Killing

On July 5, 2008, Syrian oppositionist websites and human rights organizations reported that least 25 prisoners had been killed by security forces during rioting in Sidnaya prison. [1] After two days of silence from the government, the official Syrian news agency SANA confirmed that "prisoners convicted of terrorism and extremist acts" had rioted, that security forces had taken steps to "restore the peace," and that legal action had been brought against the rioters. [2] To date, however, the Syrian regime has not acknowledged that any prisoners have been killed, nor has it allowed the prisoners' families to visit the prison to find out what befell their relatives.

The Damascus Declaration Organization: "The Regime is Responsible for the Tragedy in Sidnaya Prison"

An article posted July 12, 2008 on the website of Damascus Declaration, an umbrella organization of oppositionist forces in Syria, blamed the Syrian regime for the mass killing, and criticized the international community for keeping silent about it:

"A week has passed since the events at Sidnaya prison, and the details of what happened there have not yet been fully disclosed. The regime and its security apparatuses are to blame for the tragedy, owing to their use of excessive force and live ammunition.

"Even if some of the prisoners did perpetrate violent acts - and that is not very likely - their incarceration in this prison is questionable to begin with... since they were arrested under the Emergency Law, [i.e.] without due process. Moreover, some of them were tried by the Emergency Court, which violates legal principles and whose existence is insupportable. In the jail [itself, the prisoners] receive inhuman treatment and are held in inhuman conditions - the most recent [example of which was the] ban on visits from their families...

"First, [we] condemn the government's refusal to disclose the number and names of the victims, as well as the general [information] blackout it has imposed on this affair, which gives rise to confusion, alarm and chaos. An independent, unbiased investigation of the massacre is imperative... [Furthermore,] we ask the world to take a firm stand on human rights [in Syria], since this is our legitimate right." [3]
Syrian Columnist: "The Sidnaya Massacre - A [Mirror] of Syria's Entire Domestic Situation"

'Abd Al-Baset Sayda, a Kurdish Syrian columnist who resides in Sweden, wrote on the oppositionist Syrian website Levant News that the Sidnaya prison incident mirrored the situation in Syria as a whole: "The difference between the crime that took place in Sidnaya prison and the crimes that occur in the numerous other prisons, either secret or non-secret, erected by the gang that rules Syria... is that the news of the crimes [in Sidnaya] reached the press after the jailors lost control and could no longer bully people into silence as they had always done. Consequently, they were compelled to ask for help [from forces] outside the prison to suppress [the prisoners], which led to the killing and wounding of dozens of victims...

"Sidnaya prison today is a microcosm of Syria's entire domestic arena. A regime armed to the teeth that controls the capital and the media looms over victims who have no option but to staunchly stand up for their honor and insist on their [right] to hope for a better future.

"This is a regime that starves [people], usurps [their] freedom, and kills [them]... It is a regime that has brought people to bankruptcy [by] forcing them [to endure] horrifically high prices, in order to keep everyone constantly preoccupied with making an honest living. This enables [the regime] to tighten its hold over the country and over Syrian society, and to thwart every possible threat to the continuation of its dictatorial rule." [4]
The Killings in Kamishli

On March 20, 2008, the Syrian security forces opened fire on Kurdish citizens who were celebrating Norouz (New Year) in the city of Kamishli, killing three and wounding five. Eyewitnesses gave conflicting reports as to the reason for the shooting. Some claimed that the three had been shot without provocation, while others maintained that the celebrators had burned tires and thrown stones at policemen. Following the incident, several Kurdish organizations in Syria announced a period of mourning and the cancellation of Norouz celebrations. [5]

The Syrian regime completely ignored the incident, but Kurdish forces inside and outside Syriareacted in anger. The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mas'oud Barazani, harshly condemned "the shooting, during the [Norouz] festivities, of innocent people whose only crime was to express their joy at the birth of the Kurdish new year." Barazani called on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad "to intervene in order to prevent the recurrence of such crimes, and to conduct an investigation in order to discover the identity of the perpetrators and bring them to justice." [6] Al-Assad responded in an interview for the Qatari daily Al-Watan, saying that Barazani should "deal with Iraq's [affairs], not Syria's," and that "Barazani had nothing to do with any Syrian citizen." Al-Assad went on to say that "[the Syrian government] was responsible for Syrian citizens, and was fully capable of carrying out investigations and defending [its people]." [7]
Kurdish Columnist: The Shooting Was Meant to Kill Syrian Freedom Even Before It Was Born

In an article on the Kurdish website www.welate-me.com, Serdar Badrakhan, a Kurdish columnist residing in Syria, wrote that high-ranking Syrian officials were responsible for the Kamishli shootings:

"Is there any state on the face of the earth [other than Syria] that fires live bullets at its citizens during their festival?! Is there any [other] state that harbors so much resentment toward citizens who want only justice, equality, and an end to the policy of apartheid against them? Is there any [other] state, in this day and age, that places such a low value on its citizens and their lives, [and treats them] with such depravity and contempt? How can it be that people are brutally massacred, [yet] the perpetrators of these shameful crimes against humanity are not subjected to any legal or criminal investigation?! What right does [the state] have to guillotine Kurds who only wanted to be treated first as human beings and then as citizens?!

"What more does the regime want from us?! We live on the land that has belonged to our ancestors for thousands of years, yet you do not recognize our existence or our right to live... Have you forgotten that the truth cannot be concealed forever? We will stay on our land and will not forsake it, despite your policy of oppression, physical aggression, and killing. We will continue to live on it, hungry and barefoot; we will eat its herbs and shelter in the shade of its rocks and trees; and we will not go away!... Do you want our people to give up their Kurdish identity?! Do you want to bring them to their knees?! [If so,] you are making a grave mistake... Your plans and your policy cannot undermine the self-respect and the pride that have always distinguished our people. We are certain that the day will come when, alive or dead, you will be held to account for the crimes you have perpetrated against our people.

"We believe that those hate-ridden bullets were fired... on orders from high-ranking officials, and we firmly demand that their [idenity] be revealed and that they stand trial. [Those bullets] were meant to kill the nonexistent freedom in Syria and to bury it before it could even be born. [They] were meant to thwart the Syrian people's [hope] for nonviolent, gradual democratic change, as well as the rapprochement between all national and ethnic groups [in Syria] and their joint activity - so that the [regime] can carry on oppressing everyone, plundering the riches of the land, and [depriving] the people of their livelihood." [8]

Kamishli Resident: "Syria Will Not Achieve Stability by Firing On Its Citizens"

In an article on www.alarabiya.net, Hawas Mahmoud, a Kurdish columnist residing in Kamishli, called to extinguish the flames of nationalism in Syria before they engulfed everyone: "We ask with bitterness: How can Syrian national unity be strengthened? How can the Syrian homeland be built? [Will it be built] through oppression, prisons, random shootings, the murder of national identity, and the slaughter of innocent unarmed civilians? [Will it be built] by sanctioning corruption and bribery, destroying infrastructure, suppressing freedoms, and gagging people? Or [will it be built] through dialogue, democracy, elections, public participation, freedom of expression, a modern party law, construction and development?... If sensible people in Syria... wish for a stable country, they must extinguish the flames of chauvinism before they engulf everyone. Negation of the other is tantamount to a suicide of the nation. The examples are numerous, ranging from Kosovo to Iraq, Sudan, etc...

"It is no longer possible [for the regime] to boast about [political] stability [in Syria]. To those who claim that Syria enjoys stability, I say: Syria will not achieve stability by firing on its citizens. You chauvinists are steeped in illusion if you believe that you have the power to extinguish the blaze of Norouz that lives in the hearts and minds of the Kurds.'" [9]

Torture in Prisons

Syrian oppositionist and human rights websites periodically post articles on torture in Syrian jails. A July 2007 report by the National Human Rights Organization in Syria states that a variety of methods of physical and mental torture are used in the prisons, especially during preliminary investigation. The report stated that these include using the torture chair; torture by means of water or electrical shock; extinguishing cigarettes on the prisoner's body; beating with metal cables; using the torture wheel; hitting, kicking, and slapping; beating the soles of the prisoner's feet, humiliating the prisoner and using abusive language; binding the prisoner's arms, and blindfolding. [10]

Former Political Prisoner: "The Syrian Regime Is Committing Crimes Against Humanity"

Syrian human rights activist George Salim recounts the torture he endured in a Syrian jail: "I wonder if the walls of Prison Dungeon No. 13, Section 235 - known as the Palestine section, and notorious for its torture and maltreatment [of prisoners] - still reverberate with my screams and groans. Inside these walls I spent 120 days, to the hour, during which I was subjected daily to barbaric torture, [which made me] beg for death thousands of times a day. [Only] then did I understand how merciful death really is.

"I apologize to the reader for recounting what befell me personally and for dwelling on my own experience. Nevertheless, I am determined to get it off my chest, [and hope] that this article will reveal to the reader the crimes against humanity committed by Syrian intelligence...

"Everyone knows that governments throughout the world collect taxes from the people in order to build schools, pave roads, improve their citizens' standard of living, construct hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and advance development programs. The Syrian regime, however, acts in exactly the opposite way. Public funds and taxes go towards the intelligence budget, and are used for opening new security branches and jails, devising novel methods of torture, and filling the dungeons and detention centers with citizens and humiliating them...

"A [prison] officer shamelessly orders his subordinates to torture a prisoner, and personally supervises the proceedings. Most of these people have become sadists who enjoy torturing the detainees. They have become addicted to it, and practice it on a daily basis.

"Slapping and spitting in [the prisoner's] face, abusive language, blows to the head, punches in the face, hitting, shackling [the prisoner's] feet, using the torture wheel, administering electrical shocks to sensitive body parts, suspending [the prisoner] from the ceiling, raping [him]... starving [him], urinating on [his body] - this is only a partial list of [torture] methods practiced daily, regularly and in a well-organized manner in the detention centers and jails of the Syrian intelligence [apparatus]...

"I have never been a political enemy of the Syrian regime, or [even] a member of a political party; neither have I carried out hostile acts against [this regime]. I only became somewhat interested in improving human rights in Syria, [seeing this] as a voluntary service to the regime, and nothing else. Nevertheless, I came to be regarded by it as a traitor, was followed, arrested and subjected to torture and persecution, and besieged from all directions.

"What would have happened if I had really been a political dissenter? What punishment would I have incurred then? This regime understands only the [language of] arrests, torture, intimidation, and humiliation of the citizens, aimed at protecting itself from collapse. [Nevertheless,] I am convinced that its days are numbered." [11]

Syrian Oppositionist: Torture Is Part of Syrian Reality

In another article posted on Levant News, Syrian columnist and human rights activist Muhammad 'Ali 'Abdallah wrote that Syrian citizens had no choice but to succumb to the reality of torture: "Although the Syrian constitution (Clause 28, Subsection 3) and penal code prohibit torture, and although in 2004 Syria endorsed the U.N. charter forbidding torture, it is still known as one of the countries where torture is used in an organized fashion in detention centers and jails. Besides, torture is regarded as one of the [accepted] punishments.

"There is no point in discussing torture without talking about Syrian prisons and detention centers [in general]. The Syrian authorities are notorious for violating human rights... They alone are responsible for [the fact that] their names are associated with torture and human rights violations. There are two main reasons for this. First, they do not allow prosecution of torturers, anchoring their immunity in legal rulings... Second, the government refuses to allow independent observers access to prisons and detention centers...

"In Syria, the authorities continue to conceal all acts of torture, to refuse negotiations with human rights organizations that are concerned about this issue, to evade the responsibility of investigating cases that have been exposed, and to implement laws protecting intelligence personnel from indictment. [As a result,] Syria is included in the list of countries that use torture, and any citizen wishing to sue his torturers is denied the right to do so. This leaves them no [choice]... but to submit to the status quo and keep silent." [12]

Illustrations: Torture in Syrian Jails

The website of the Syrian Human Rights Committee (www.shrc.org ) published a series of illustrations portraying torture practices in Syrian jails:

"No to Torture"

*O. Winter is a research fellow at MEMRI.

[1] www.shrc.org, July 5, 2008.

[2] Al-Thawra (Syria), July 7, 2008.

[3] http://annidaa.org, July 12, 2008.

[4] www.thisissyria.net. July 8, 2008.

[5] www.thisissyria.net, March 21, 2008. Further violations of Kurds' rights in Syria followed the Kamishli killings. On September 14, 2008, the Damascus Military Court sentenced 50 Kurdish citizens to six months in prison for participating in a June 2005 protest against the abduction and murder of Kurdish Sheikh Mohammad Ma’ashouq al-Khaznawi by Syrian authorities. www.thisissyria.net, September 14, 2008.

[6] www.elaph.com, March 22, 2008.

[7] Al-Watan (Qatar), April 27, 2008.

[8] www.welate-me.com, March 22, 2008.

[9] www.alarabiya.net, March 25, 2008.

[10] www.thisissyria.net, July 6, 2007.

[11] www.syriahr.com, November 13, 2007.

[12] www.thisissyria.net, October 7, 2007.

How the West Was Lost?

amie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | 9/30/2008

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Hasan Mahmud, the Director of Sharia Law at the Muslim Canadian Congress. He played a vital role in the successful movement against the Toronto Sharia Court. The court had been established in 1991 (and functioning since then) with the blessing of Ontario law and was banned in 2003 when the Ontario Government enacted a new law banning all faith-courts. He has authored books, debates, docudramas and a DocuMovie on Sharia. He has also spoken on Sharia in various conferences in Europe, North America and Asia FP: Hasan Mahmud, welcome to FrontPage Interview.

Mahmud: Thanks and Salam to all. It is sad that we are forced to spend part of our resources and attention to address man-made problems when millions suffer due to natural calamities such as food-shortage, famine, epidemic, unemployment, earthquake, Tsunami and so on.

FP: We’re here today to discuss Sharia Law and your group’s opposition to it. Let’s begin with why you, as a Muslim, oppose Sharia Law.

Mahmud: Sensible Muslims always rejected it for its content and spirit. Many of its laws are against women, non-Muslims, justice, logic and reason. In spirit it is not a benign law-system; it is the malignant inspiration of creating global theocracy. It launched an informal permanent war against the world’s non-Muslims. The Sharia-Gurus know that we are able to prove how deceptive and fraudulent the institution of Sharia Law is. That is why they turn down all our requests of public discussion. By the way, “Guru” (teacher) is a respectable word.

FP: Who are the Sharia-Gurus?

Mahmud: They are self-appointed brokers of God who have no place in Islam. They legitimize violence by divinity and mortgage world-Muslims to psychological imperialism of oil-Sheikhs. They destroy human lives through on-line Sharia-courts, they sit in your state-machines and they are not idle, they control thousands of Islamic organizations and mosques, they breed home-grown piranhas out of innocent youths.

State-Gurus such as OIC including KSA, Pakistan and Egypt are champions of violators of human rights but sit in the HR Commission of the UN. Then there are numerous non-Muslims Sharia-Gurus such as John Esposito, Dalia Mogahed and Noah Feldman. Their flawed and misleading books and articles on Sharia Law are highly frustrating to see.

FP: Why do the Sharia-Gurus want to incorporate Sharia Law in the West? What exactly do they want?

Mahmud: Establishing Sharia-based global Islamic State is their God’s command. For early Muslims, Plan A was military victory that ended with their defeat in France in 732 AD. Plan A failed permanently and now that conquering Muslim majority countries is almost complete, Plan B emerged to incorporate Sharia law in Western countries to turn those into Islamic states, at least partially. It worked well.

FP: Is the West losing badly?

Mahmud: Well, the West has not lost, it is only passing through a phase. True that it is experiencing a deadly Trojan horse, but the West is more than laws. Given that nothing is perfect, the West has tremendous strength in terms of science, technology, knowledge, morality and human rights, all protected by the enormous umbrella of freedom – freedom of thought and expression, freedom to research everything including divinity, freedom to disagree and dispute, freedom to change or leave religion and freedom to offend.

This is diametrically opposite to the spirit of Sharia Law – which has fragmented Muslims forever. No jurist Imam wanted it, nor did they allow their personal research to be enacted as State Law or claimed divinity. Documents tell us who killed Imam Shafi’i, who did not spare even Ka’aba and built four arenas in its four corners for separate prayers of four schools of Sharia Law.

Documents tell us who prohibited marriage between Hanafis and Shafi’is. These documents are not from Dr. Ali Sina or Robert Spencer or Ibn Warraq but from their own. Conspiracy and violence are Sharia's driving forces.

FP: Tell us why Sharia Law is false and not Islamic.

Mahmud: Proof is everywhere in all Sharia books and in the reality of the past and present. Let’s begin with common sense. Can violence be part of a religion? Can instant divorce by husbands be divine? Can Kisas Law that protects killers of Honor Killing from death sentence and thus encourages Honor Killing be divine? Can the legal requirement of four Muslim male adult witnesses to prove rape be sane? Can a ban on women state heads be divine? Who creates laws to legitimize lying and killing opponents to achieve its goal? Ask yourself, who creates laws to protect criminals of genocide from corporal punishment? Who kills Muslims for having a different view about Islam? Can the sources of the horror of FGM - two Sharia Laws, two Sahi Hadises (Prophet’s Examples) and the list of enormity against Islam (e.g. not doing FGM) be divine?

It is a fake Islam Jamie; it is a devil in Islam’s disguise. When the Taliban destroyed the Buddha-statue in Afghanistan they only followed a Sahi Hadis. When they plan to conquer the West by breeding they simply follow another Sahi Hadis.

All these are fake Hadises. Our Islam says that that even if I don’t beat my wife for her perceived disobedience, or I don’t marry another woman, or I don’t apply my authority of instant divorce, my rights to do so are a criminal violation of her rights and dignity. I’ll show you some evidence and you do the math.

1. The powerful Caliph did something wrong and all palace-clergies supported him. Imam Hanifa scolded the Caliph on his face publicly – (“The Four Imams” by Abu Zahra, a massive famous book on our Jurist Imams).

2. Muslim Caliph kept Imam Hanifa imprisoned for long; broke his bones by beating and ultimately killed him by poison in prison – (Ibid – and other books on the Imam).

3. “Head of Islamic State cannot be charged for murder, theft, adultery, drinking” – (Law # 914 C of Vol 1, Codified Islamic Law - basically Hanafi Law- published in 1998).

4. Same law – (page 188 of Hedaya the Hanafi Law).

Sharia-Gurus want us to believe that for those crimes the Imam prescribed punishments for commoners but protected the Caliphs, the same Caliphs who broke his bones and killed him in prison. The whole Sharia doctrine is full of such nonsense. How this law entered Hanafi Law book, then? Look at the evidence and do the math again. You will find similar info in other Muslim sources.

5. “(Imam Hanifa) wrote little himself, but his disciples preserved his teaching for posterity, while the later jurists, who developed slightly different theories, founded new Madhhabs. - (“Islam, A Short History – Karen Armstrong – page 49).

6. The very first official compilation of Hanafi Fiqh by a ruler was done after one thousand years of the Imam, by Indian monarch Aurungzeb in 17th century – (Preface - Codified Islamic Law Vol 1).

7. All four Sharia laws were shaped by others than the respective Imams, sometimes after centuries. “Musnad Hanbal was compiled after his death….with addition of several thousand traditions”– (“Muslim Jurisprudence and Law of Crimes – Dr. Meer Waliullah - Principal, Law faculty, Peshawar University, and other sources).

Is it acceptable if someone comes up with Shakespeare’s literature long after his death and the political power-conspiracy has every scope and necessity to play with it for centuries? Many Sharia Laws tell us that bogus and corrupt writers constructed the Sharia-palace in the names of Imams. Today it is impossible to know who wrote what. But the bottom-line is many Sharia laws violate Human Rights and punish the victims.

FP: How successful are Islamists in their attempt to impose it on Westerners to date?

Mahmud: Well, let's tell it like this:

First, they acquired stunning expertise of taking advantage of the Western system to destroy the Western system.

Second, their expertise of using the Western system to silence their opponents including Human Right activists and non-Sharia Muslims like us, is telling.

Third, they succeeded in obtaining support of some religious, political and social organizations and leaders who trust the word “God’s Law” -- but have no clue of its content, spirit and devastating impact.

Fourth, they created a massive network of “Islamic” organizations, pressure-groups, lobby-groups, charity, civil-rights, human-rights, women-rights, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV-shows, conferences, seminars, gatherings, sermons and partial social culture of observing Sharia law. The West is yet to match this Tsunami. It needs to find a legal way to stop this invasion.

Fifth, their support of Petro-Dollars cannot be stopped by enacting laws.

Sixth, they avoid discussion and debate with progressive Muslims who can expose their conspiracy. On the other hand, “Dialogue with Jews-Christians” is their successful tactic to buy time.

Seventh, they succeeded in exploiting the West’s Multiculturalism as protection.

Eighth, their birth rate is higher than Westerners and may have some potential impact.

Ninth, the West is yet to develop a system to control local Sharia-supporting Muslims and their immigration.

Tenth, and most important, they succeeded in terrorizing their opponents. People, media, organizations -- even governments -- were either punished or had to back off because of Islamists' pressure.

FP: Can you give some examples of threats on our territory?

Mahmud: It is a long list – here are a few from the West. Worse is happening in Sharia-countries. I am only mentioning their strategy of threat; I am not supporting anti-Muslim actions.

* Death threat issued to office bearers of Muslim Canadian Congress for actively resisting Canadian Sharia Court– CBC News 23 March 2007. (The founder of MCC had to quit MCC for a while).

* Man stabbed at Toronto Mosque after refusing to pray. - National Post 10 May 2007.

* Pentagon’s specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism Stephen Coughlin fired for being too harsh on Islamists – The Washington Times – 04 January 2008.

* Australian court instructed Critic of Islam to apologize - Washington Times 24 July 2005.

* Dutch film-maker murdered for making film critical to Islam – NY Times 03 November 2004

* Executives of a TV Channel that exposed activities of Sharia-Leaders were marginally saved from prosecution - The Independent 18 August 2007.

* Mark Steyn, a Canadian writer critical to Islamists (read supporters of Sharia Law) sued in Human Rights Commission – MuslimsAgainstSharia 16 December 2007.

* A novel, “The Jewel of Medina”, about the prophet Mohammed and his wife A'isha, got canceled when Random House, the publisher, became scared of getting attacked – NY Observer 08 August 2008.

* The organization Anti-CAIR sued in the USA.

* PBS of the USA had to drop airing the documentary “Islam vs. Islamists” -- which documented the threats and intimidation moderate Muslims face at the hands of their extremist co-religionists.

* Belgium - Anti-Sharia demonstration in Brussels on 11 September banned by Brussels Mayor. – The Independent – 16 August 2007.

* In Cologne, Germany, the anti-mosque rally expected 15,000 protesters but only a few dozen came due to threatful presence of 40,000 supporters of the mosque.

FP: In terms of Sharia Law penbetrating the West, what is happening in the U.N?

Mahmud: Let me give two examples:

* UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced concern over "taboos" on discussion in a key U.N. forum of subjects that Islamic countries see as offending their religion – Canada.com 18 June 2008.

* Criticism of Human Rights Violations under Sharia Law Deemed Out of Order and Critics of Islamic Extremism Harassed and Silenced – (Video) - Eye On The Sun - 03 Jul 2008.

FP: Tell us about the developments in Europe.

Mahmud: In Europe, they have already succeeded in incorporating Sharia-elements in German and British law.

* The Muslim Brotherhood in France – The National Interest.

* Scotland - “Do we seriously think it won't happen in Scotland? Look at their website. It's happening already” – News.Scotsman.com – 31 August 2008

* Denmark- Danish SIOE leaders “have urged Christians in an Open Letter to oppose introduction of Sharia law in European law” – Pakistan Christian Post 31 August 2008

* Sharia in Holland? - New Europe, 31 August 2008

* Spain - a book on how to beat wife without leaving scars is written by a Spanish imam – Reuters, Yahoo news.

* In Germany, a judge tries to introduce Sharia law into her court.

* One third of British Muslim students say it's acceptable to kill for Islam – Thisislondon.co.uk - 27 July 2008.

* The Archbishop of Canterbury backed the introduction of Sharia law – 08 February 2008.

* UK's top judge Okayed Sharia law - Daily Mail - 4 July 2008.

* UK Treasury to Become Sharia-Compliant - The Trumpet.com - 02 May 2007.

* In the UK, Islamic extremists have infiltrated at least four British universities to radicalize Muslim students, The Sunday Times, November 12, 2006.

* “Sharia courts rule on sex lives in Britain” - Canada Free Press - 27 August 2008.

* Religious Hate Law Aimed At Protecting Muslims Passes UK Vote - CNS News – 12 July 2005

* Sharia-Gurus suggested UK-Minister to "totally exempt" Islamic texts from the Religious Hate Law - CNS News – 12 July 2005.

* Muslim ghettos ruled Sharia courts - “Ten currently operate across the country…. 50 to 60 cases every week covering financial, criminal, divorce and marital problems.” – Sunday Express 27 August 2008

* “Muslims are increasingly expecting state-funded mediators to help them find a settlement in keeping with Islamic law” – Birmingham Post – 27 August 2008.

* UK government’s study for provision by universities for Islamic studies for all students. - WorldNetDaily – 20 August 2007.

* King Faisal donated £2m towards the building of the Regent's Park Mosque, and King Fahd paid for the construction of a new educational and administrative wing in the 1990s. Its director general is a Saudi diplomat – The Independent - 18 August 2007

* Lessons in hate found at leading UK mosques – Times on Line October 30, 2007.

* Steadily growing employment of Sharia Law in Britain's semi-autonomous Muslim enclaves - London Telegraph – 19 January 2008.

* UK - preachers condemning integration into British society, condemning democracy and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers.

* King Fahd gave $5-million (U.S.) and an annual grant of $1.5-million to the Islamic Centre in Toronto. (The Islamic Centre of Canada is also housed at ISNA - Globe and Mail November 8, 2005).

* The London Mayors Office in the process of deciding the fate of the proposed £100m to London Masjid - Evening Standard Poll – 29 Jan 2007.

* Muslim Preachers' messages of hate to Muslim worshippers. They urge by radical clerics to ignore British law - The Observer - January 7, 2007.

FP: How about what is happening in the U.S. and Canada?

Mahmud: Let me give a selected list:

* Blueprint of The American Sharia Court is created in 1989 by The American Muslims.

* The Pentagon sacks an authentic, influential scholar of Islam, Stephen Coughlin, who evidently refused to soften his views on Islamic extremism at the insistence of one Hasham Islam.

* Two Texas daughters are killed for being too Western.

* In Secret, Polygamy Follows Africans to N.Y. – NY Times 23 March 2007

* Muslim Brotherhood School in Minnesota? - Cross Country – 14 June 2008

* USCIRF (United Sates Commission on International Religious Freedom) confirms Material Inciting Violence, Intolerance Remains in Textbooks Used at Saudi Government's Islamic Saudi Academy – USCIRF Website 11 June 11, 2008.

* ISNA receives $5 million from Saudi sources – Globe and Mail Toronto

* Sharia in Canada? - Global Politician - 11 September 2007.

* Toronto mosque supports Female Genital Mutilation – 03 October 2007

* Canada's secret world of polygamy - The Toronto Star – 24 May 2008.

* Muslim Association Canada strives to implement Islam as understood by Hassan Al banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood – Globe and Mail - September 15, 2005.

* Sharia in Montreal - The Calgary Sun – 25 March 2007.

FP: How can Islamization be stopped?

Mahmud: Not Islam but Political Islam is the problem and it can be stopped.

Scholars have already identified its strengths and weakness and socio-political forces are working on it. I stress on the most crucial element of this war that we must expose the fraud of the institution of Sharia Law to Islam. We have enormous resource to do this. We need to detach the common good Muslim-mass from Sharia Law.

This is what Islamists are afraid of and cannot survive. Keep the movement of non-political Muslims separate from other parallel movements; otherwise they will mark the water by screaming that it is a conspiracy of non-Muslims against Islam and the gullible Muslim mass will swallow it.

Show the world that a peaceful interpretation of Islam always existed and that majorities Muslims still follow it. There is no eternal state-law, no concept of Islamic State, no intimidation, no hate-preaching and no conspiracy in it. Best of all, it is much more compliant to Islam. A peaceful interpretation can nurture human rights and tolerance. We need to put it to work.

It is a proven strategy. My book, Sharia-movie and Sharia-drama is doing well back home. The drama is here. The West could not imagine that an explosive resistance to the Canadian Sharia Court (1991-2006) would come from none other than Canadian Muslims. Indeed, the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC), the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) along with the International Campaign Against Canadian Sharia Court, a group of highly charged Iranian women, conducted and won this extremely important but unsung socio-cultural battle of recent history.

FP: Hasan Mahmud, thank you for joining us.

Mahmud: Thank you and Salam to all. Two necessities confront us: revamping the West’s foreign policy to Muslim countries and defeating the institution of Sharia Law. Both are possible to achieve.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.

Home Front Command chief: Don't fall for illusions

In first interview since taking office, Major-General Yair Golan warns against moment when Gaza truce collapses, presents plan for air raid siren on cellular phones and suggests freeing army from handling extreme settlers
Hanan Greenberg

The terrifying message about a bomb planted on an El Al plane making its way from Paris to Tel Aviv did not alarm Major-General Yair Golan. "In light of the data we had, it sounded like a fabrication," he recounts, "but we don't have the privilege or time to evaluate the situation. So we dispatched all forces. Some were sent to the airport, others were put on high alert."

The principal fear of the entire defense establishment these days – attacks avenging the assassination of senior Hizbullah commander Imad Mugniyah – is being dealt with by the Home Front Command, which has been headed by Major-General Golan for the past eight years.

"We realize that if Hizbullah implements what it is promising us, we will be the target in the broad sense of the term. It could be Israeli delegations abroad and Jewish community targets. Thus we have conducted a series of exercises and war games."

If this threat is implemented, God forbid, the Home Front Command is preparing to send out an aid delegation to the scene.

But before having to deal with the dispatch of delegations abroad, the Home Front Command is preparing for the closer threats – here at home. The Second Lebanon War made something clear once and for all, something which has become apparent since the Gulf War: The home front is turning into the front.

Even without the Winograd Commission and the state comptroller's report, Major-General Golan knows very well that in the next conflict, the eyes of the entire country will be on him.

"The missile threat is definitely concrete," he admits in a special interview with Ynet. "Our deployment is not aimed at stopping missiles but at getting the citizens to do the right thing, receive all the information available and the means to protect their lives, and continue to function."

Like the entire army, Major-General Golan is also worried that the abilities will again be put to a test soon, when the calm in the south is shattered. He reveals that the Command recently expanded its preparation for the possibility of missiles being fired from Gaza, 30 kilometers into Israeli territory.

"The 'tahadiya' (period of calm) is being used by Hamas and the other terror organizations to build power. As long as it is stable, it's very good. When it breaks down, we should not delude ourselves. There are terror organizations there with improved capabilities, both in terms of the missile range and in terms of the size of warheads, and we have a problem here."

The general believes that those who hang their hopes on the response provided by the anti-missile systems being built are making a mistake and misleading others.

"We mustn't create the illusion that an 'iron dome' will hover over the State of Israel and will really prevent missiles from infiltrating. What is being built will provide an answer to the heavier missiles; warheads which carry a nuclear or chemical bomb. Not Katyusha rockets."

The Home Front Command chief also warns against self-delusion in terms of the "heavy" threats. "It's not on the level of dealing with a massive launch. If we want to stop a threat, it's not only through defense – we must also move to the offense."

Air raid siren – on cell phones

The offensive side the general is referring to is not in his field. He is in charge of preparing the citizen for such an attack, until the barrages stop. Naturally, one of the main issues is deterrence.

"It's an element which saves lives more than anything," says Golan. "We have made dramatic improvement on this issue, there are many more systems revealing various missiles, including the new American radar. There has also been a dramatic rise in the amount of sirens."

In this context he mentions the move expected in early 2009 of dividing the country into 27 warning regions instead of the traditional 10.

"This will allow for greater endurance during an ongoing attack. Not many civilians will have to enter bomb shelters and stay there, but only in smaller and smaller areas. And this is not the final point: Today we are examining the possibility of shifting to more than 150 warning regions, but that won't happen before the end of 2010."

Some of his research work even includes the possibility of providing a personal alert – on one's cellular phone.

"There are 10 million devices in Israel and the number is constantly rising. This means that every citizen walks around with at least one device. So if we can provide a direct warning to cell phones, whenever we know 'a missile is about to land here,' you'll get a message."

This, he says, will improve the times the alert is given and the accuracy on the ground.

"The meaning of all this in an ongoing conflict is endurance. The moment you know how to get citizens into a bomb shelter or fortified room in time, remove them in time, violate their life routine as little as possible – we'll be in a different place."

No money – no masks

Golan paints an alarming picture in terms of personal protection – the A.B.C (Atomic, Biological and Chemical) kits, which were collected from the public and are being restored.

"This threat is only becoming increasingly concrete. It's enough to quote (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly. We didn't hear such harsh statements even during the Saddam Hussein period. The Syrian ability is known to us all. And in a perennial outlook, I cannot say it's unimaginable that it will reach Hizbullah."

What raises the concern is the failure to implement the government decision to start distributing the masks to the residents in January, due to budgetary constraints.

"We can't start distributing and we can't create new kits at the required pace. This puts the entire population in a very problematic situation. We believe in a concept of personal protection for each citizen, who can go out to work with an A.B.C. kit attached, and we are essentially unable to implement this principle and are in a very inconvenient situation.

"We must remember that the mask is undoubtedly the ultimate response against chemical warfare – inside a sealed room you raise the fortification factor hundredfold. This is a dramatic thing, it's not trivial."

As for the nuclear threat, Golan says that "the defense area in this context is very complicated, almost impossible. I believe that in terms of this issue the preparation on the national level is more complicated, and I don't want to go into it.

"And of course we also have the active defense abilities, the detection and interception systems, and more. The defense infrastructure and A.B.C. kits also have a role against some of the radiation types and we have a role in this issue."

Where will we escape to from Tel Aviv area?

And back to Lebanon. Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently said that Hizbullah possesses 40,000 rockets and missiles – four times more than what it had at the end of the war. But even in light of this threat, Major-General Golan does not see need for massive evacuation of residents in case of war, and in any event, there is nowhere to go.

"We checked the drop in the electricity and water consumption and in the amount of garbage collected during the Second Lebanon War. It appears that 60% of the population went nowhere. I believe it won't be much different in the future as well."

Yet he does understand those who choose not to remain in the missile range. "Do they expect a citizen to wait? I'll never say, 'Be strong, don't move.' But I will say, 'Care not only for yourselves. Volunteer for emergency missions.'

"We, on our part, will not help people get somewhere else. We mustn’t deal with this at all. We have more important missions in a state of emergency. We will evacuate the needy, the disabled, the elderly and the exhausted.

"We must understand: With Hizbullah, most Katyusha rockets have a 107 and 122 mm diameter. If you have a roof over your head, your chance of getting hurt is low. In the long-range missiles, the issue of north, south or center becomes irrelevant. The ranges have increased, and the heavier and deadlier missiles will land deep inside. They won't fire a 302 mm missile on Kiryat Shmona – it would fly to Haifa and Tel Aviv. Where exactly will we run to?"

"What we must explain to Israelis today," Golan concludes, "is that strength is an obligation and there is nowhere to run. It's not that if you are in one community or another, things will be better or worse. I don’t see where all the residents of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will suddenly escape to. Where will they disappear to? We must talk about endurance, about proper conduct, and I can say that the State of Israel is better prepared for an attack that any other country in the world."

Major-General Golan attributes great significance to the way municipalities function during a crisis. Since the last war, the link between Home Front Command and the municipalities has deepened through the use of an army liaison officer. The officer, normally in the reserves with the rank of colonel, is stationed in the municipality gathering information for any emergency. If an emergency occurs he will receive a staff of six to eight officers to help with the situation.

"After the war there was a realization that we could not rely on what the media or an elected official would say. The media would emphasize the negative while the elected official would downplay the seriousness of a situation. This is why we need an objective source to systematically gather information and provide us with the entire picture."

Free IDF from dealing with settlers

Golan, who commanded the Judea and Samaria Division, takes credit for one of the IDF's most impressive achievements in the region: Reducing the number of terror attacks in Israel originating in the West Bank.

"This is systematic work done over many years, which did not start with me and did not end with me," he says. "There are no victories here; it's not the Six Day War and not World War II. It expresses a firm policy of dealing with such a threat. There is a multi-channel solution here, not just a security-related one. They control the ground, the roots of terror, and deal with the financial institutions."

According to Golan, military action in the West Bank has created a different reality for the Palestinians, who are even willing to take limited security responsibility.

"Let's not fool ourselves, the current display of control in Jenin and Nablus was not brought forth by pure Palestinian motivation, but by internal and external pressures that we have created.

"They understood that if Israel runs everything, where are they headed? When we placed responsibilities in their hands, it was done with terms, which they, with their unimpressive forces, could handle reality. I am in favor of using judgment: Where we see we can help, we will. Where we can't, we won't."

But Palestinians are not the only group Golan has dealt with as division commander. In regards to the recent violent incidents by settlers in the region, he states that "it's a minority that is not representative of the majority. They are attention grabbers, noise makers with strange beliefs.

"There are some 260,000 people living in Judea and Samaria, and most of them are law abiding citizens. When facing those militant elements, it's wrong to present the army as something that can provide the ultimate answer. There are legal matters that lack the proper legal infrastructure. Once that is created it needs to be enforced, but that is a matter for the police, not the IDF. What is the army expected to do?"

When his tenure as division commander ended, Golan was in the running for the position of the prime minister's military secretary. An investigation into misconduct derailed that option, which led to him being reprimanded and his promotion held back for a few months before joining the General staff.

Was he insulted? "No, to feel insulted is the wrong way to go. I think that what I did was done with a clear head, and I was punished accordingly. I have no misgivings about anyone. I feel great now, and with this new job I'm exploring a new wonderful, interesting and fascinating world."

Al-Qaradawi Speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat

Note: This is a long,serious post; I feel it is important we read this perspective to better understand what is going on here in the Middle East.

Majid al Kinani

Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat- A few yards from the Grant Mosque in Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat sat down for an exclusive interview with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in which he attacked the Shiite expansion and Iranian ambitions and dreams. He stressed that "Iran is a country of dreams and ambition, a country of the old Persian Empire and emperors, and the issue is a mixture of Persian, sectarian Shiite tendencies and fanaticism." Sheikh al-Qaradawi insisted that his views regarding Shiite expansion remain unchanged and that many states that were purely Sunni now have some Shia.He stated that "Egypt, that I know very well and I know that 20 years ago did not have one single Shiite since the days of Salah al-Din, has now been infiltrated. They now have in Egypt, people who write in the press and write books and people listen to them. It is the same also in Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and other non-Arab countries such Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Senegal."

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What happened, and why the talk about Shiite invasion of Sunni countries at this time in particular?

[Al-Qaradawi] I would like to take the opportunity of the last ten days of Ramadan, and of being in the neighborhood of the House of God, Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca, and surrounded with the blessings of the time and the good deeds that we see around us and the good intentions, to congratulate the Islamic nation all over the world on this blessed occasion and invoke God to make it always return with security, faith, safety, Islam and guidance to what pleases him, and to make this season, a season of glad tidings and blessings for Islam and Islamic nations, everywhere. I would like also to say that I have always been one of those who care immensely about the unity of the Islamic nation and find it in the interest of this nation that all Muslims be united on achieving certain objectives, in the interest of their faith, their worldly affairs, and confronting their common enemies, and to leave aside controversial doctrinal matters for learned people to discuss among themselves. That is why I supported inter-faith dialogue and attended every conference held for this purpose. In all the conferences that I attended, I warned of certain things. Foremost among these was verbal abuse of the companions of the Prophet, and I said that this is a red line. The companions of the Prophet have preserved the Koran and delivered it to us. They reported the sunnah and the sayings of the Prophet to us. They led the conquest and disseminated Islam among the nations. They performed heroic deeds, took marvelous moral stands that filled the books of history; and they are the people whom God has praised in surat "al-Tawba," "al-Fath," and "al-Hashr." An example of God's praise is verse 100 of surat al-Tawba, where God says: "The vanguard (of Islam)- the first of those who forsook (their homes) and of those who gave them aid, and (also) those who follow them in (all) good deeds,- well- pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: for them hath He prepared gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever: that is the supreme felicity." History says they are the unique generation with whom the eyes of this world is adorned by seeing people like them in their virtues, in their aims, in their abandonment of pre-Islamic vice and their care to behave according to Islamic morality and faith. As I said earlier, the companions of the Prophet are a red line. Moreover, cursing or verbal abuse is alien to Islamic manners. The Muslim does not curse or verbally abuse and the sayings of the Prophet command "do not curse my companions", nor curse the wind because it does what is ordered to do, and do not curse 'fever' as it is penitence, and do not curse time [dahr] for God is time, and do not curse the cock; it wakes people up for prayers. The Prophet even said: Do not curse those who worship other than God, lest you give them an excuse to curse your God out of ignorance. In other words, do not curse their god, so as not to give them an excuse to retort by cursing your God as you cursed theirs. At every conference, I said cursing the companions of the Prophet is a red line that should not be crossed. The other line not to be crossed is the attempt to proselytize for one sect in a country where all Muslims belong to one sect. In order to become closer to each other all should refrain from doing these two things: cursing the Prophet's companions and proselytizing for one sect in the country of another. How would there be rapprochement when the Sunnis sanctify Abu-Bakr and Umar [the Prophets companions and successors] and A'ishah [the Prophet's wife] while the Shia curse them. The second issue is: do not invade me in my country. My country is Sunni and there is no need for you to disseminate your sect in my country, because if you do, I will have to defend my sect, and I will have to say that your sect is void, and severely criticize it; and I will say you are disseminating wrong in the land of right. I will be obliged to say that, so do not invade my country and my society. And let me ask: What would you gain from invading a Sunni country? I put this question to their top religious leaders many years ago when I visited Iran. I asked: what would you gain by invading a Sunni country to disseminate your sect? Do you expect to convert ten people, one hundred, a thousand or two? You may, but you will gain the animosity of an entire country when the people realize that you are spreading the Shiite sect and all the people will turn against you. I remember that Sheikh Ayatollah Muhammad Ali al-Taskhiri was present when I said that. We became friends after we met at the International Association of Islamic Ulema and we met at other conferences since. He said: "by God, you are right." He added: "There used to be a strong and friendly relationship between us and the Sudanese revolution and they allowed us to open an office in Khartoum, which we did. Sometime later, the office director published the letter of a Sunni Sudanese, claiming that he was guided to the right path and had converted to the Shia sect. The letter attacked the Sunni sects and called on people to convert. When the Sudanese Government learned of this, they closed the Iranian revolution office and deported the manager and employees to Tehran. This is what I say and draw attention to at every conference. Sheikh Muhammad Mahdi Shams-al-Din, one of the grand Shia scholars, says the same thing: "No missionaries from one sect should go to proselytize in the country of the other sect." "Neither the Sunnis nor the Shia should disseminate their sect in the countries where the Muslims in that country belong solely to one sect. Nevertheless, I have found that in the past two years, by observation, statistics and personal knowledge, that the Sunni societies have been subjected to organized Shia missionary work. I have seen that in Egypt, the country that I know very well. I know that 20 years ago not a single Shiite was in Egypt since the days of Salah-al-Din, but they have managed to infiltrate the country. They have people who write in the press, and publish books, and they have an audience. It is the same story in Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, in addition to other non-Arab countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Senegal.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the Gulf States?

[Al-Qaradawi] Even the Gulf States and Syria, but of course, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have Shia communities and therefore, unlike countries where there was no Shia, conversion to the Shia sect does not stand out. I am talking about societies that are purely Sunni, and it is this aspect which disturbed me and I wanted to warn early of its dangers. If the issue is left to develop, and we keep quiet and do not resist, you would find after sometime that the Shia sect has permeated the Sunni societies and then we would have a big problem. We will have Shia minorities demanding their rights, clashing with the Sunni majority and have conflagrations and wars. When I drew attention to this issue, I meant to guard against a large sedition [fitna] taking place in the future. It is a kind of preemptive action to prevent war taking place in the future among the followers of the same religion. The Iranian News Agency, which attacked me because of what I said, has admitted that there is a Shia tide in Sunni countries and regarded it as one of the miracles of the House of the Prophet. The news agency asked why you do not admit the fact that the Shia sect is winning and that this is one of the miracles of the House of the Prophet? Even Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who is a moderate Shia sheikh and a friend of mine, made a strange comment in this respect. He said: "I wonder why Sheikh al-Qaradawi is so enthused against Shia missionary work, but was not so enthused against Christian missionary work." It was strange that this came from him because it was me who stood forcefully against Christian missionary work since the Colorado Conference of American Missionaries in 1978 for the Christianization of Muslims in the world and for which $100 million were allocated at the time, in addition to the establishment of the Zwemmer Institute. I have toured the Islamic world warning against this Christianization campaign. I then worked for establishing the International Islamic Charitable Organization which has its head office in Kuwait. This organization was set up to confront that Christian campaign and I raised at that time the slogan "pay one dollar and save a Muslim."

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have specific statistics for conversion to the Shia sect?

[Al-Qaradawi] No, I do not have any specific figures and it is difficult to have any, but we are in the process of preparing some statistics. That is why our Iranian brothers asked if I had any statistics. These things are done in secrecy. When a certain sect endeavors to infiltrate a country where that sect has no followers, it cannot be expected to announce itself or the identity of those who converted to it. It would be kept secret so that the society does not become alerted and stand against the activity. Our Shia brothers are skilled in this as they have a principle that means double faced dealing with an issue, whereby what appears on the surface is not necessarily the real intention. Their sect allows this and they do not see it as religiously or morally abhorrent. So they are not going to tell you how many have converted, and if you ask any of them they would probably exaggerate and say their numbers can be counted in tens of thousands, which is untrue. On the other hand, if the issue is left to its own devices, they might approach people who do not have the intellectual or religious defenses, and it is possible that they would approach and exploit the poor; they have the money for temptation.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Rumors have it that there are Iranian charity organizations in many countries which exploit charitable work to disseminate and win converts to the Shia sect.

[Al-Qaradawi] I have no doubt about that and I believe there is money allocated for spreading the Shia sect. Since the Khomeini revolution, Iran has described itself as a state with a message; a state based on a belief and a message. The belief is the Shia sect and the 12 Imams; and its message is support for this sect and spreading it throughout the world. It is not surprising that millions or even billions are allocated for this purpose, and capable men trained and prepared for this in religious learning circles. This issue does not need statistics or proof. The evidence is there. There are Sunni societies where there were no Shiites and now there are Shiites. They know it and the Iranian News Agency admitted it and said it is a miracle of those of the House of the Prophet. Sheikh Fadlallah asks why I was strongly against Shia missionary activities and not as strongly against Christian missionary activities. And Sheikh al-Taskhiri says that I call the dissemination of the Shia sect 'missionary' as I call Christian proselytizing 'missionary', as if the issue is a matter of semantics. I did not create that name; it was Sheikh Muhammad Mahdi Shams-al-Din.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] We have noticed that many Arab intellectuals have stood with you in your campaign against the Shia tide, but some of your students have abandoned you in that campaign.

[Al-Qaradawi] We cannot say that my students or some of them have abandoned me. One or two of them might have been tempted by the political victories of the Iranian revolution or the victories of Hezbollah, but thank God, the majority of my students all over the world is still with me. I have received messages from many and wherever I go in Saudi Arabia, people that I do not know come to me and say "we are with you, go ahead." I also have the support of many religious scholars and thinkers; if I do not have the support of one or two people that does no harm; it is only natural.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] It looks as if you are saying Iranian money has changed some ulema's minds and views?

[Al-Qaradawi] Certainly, money plays a role, but I cannot accuse everyone who supports Iran of having received money and I cannot accuse them all. There are people who have received and are still receiving money, and shuttle trips are taking place between them and Iran. This is well known. Also, there are people who have strong views but are dazzled and blinded from seeing the whole picture; they see it only from one angle.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have a famous saying: "The Sunni factions or sects are the saved ones; other Islamic factions (sects) are in hell." So, where would that leave other groups such as the Shia Imamis and Zaydiyya?

[Al-Qaradawi] It is not me who claimed this to be a saying of the Prophet. All groups or sects claim they are the saved one and everyone else will go to hell. The Sunni groups or sects believe they are the saved ones and I have my own opinion about this and I do not accept this alleged saying of the Prophet. But even if we accept it for the sake of argument, it points to some important issues - that divisions were inevitable and differences among the groups are wide and only one group is saved from hell and all others are not saved, but they remain Muslims. All groups are Muslim and there is only one Islamic nation. We the Sunnis regard ourselves as the nation because 90% of Muslims are Sunnis, albeit divided into the four sects; al-Maliki, al-Hanafi, al-Shafi'i and al-Hanbali.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Sometime ago you met a group of British Jewish rabbis in Doha. Asharq Al-Awsat covered the event through your friend, Sheikh Dr Kamal al-Halabawi, who attended the meeting. There was a dialogue in which you stressed the importance of Muslims and Jews cooperating on the common denominators they have. Are there any common denominators on which all Islamic groups including the Shia can participate, instead of divisions?

[Al-Qaradawi] I am a believer in dialogue with all human beings. Muslims are commanded to heavy dialogue with all other religions. I said that at the interfaith conference convened in Mecca, which King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for. I called for widening the dialogue to include not only the people of the book - Muslims, Christians and Jews, but also idolatry religions. Why not have dialogue with the Buddhists or Hindus who number thousands of millions? The major religions dominate most of the world. I have called for dialogue with the Jews, not the Zionists, because the Koran says; "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong" [Al-Ankabut 29:46]. The Zionists have done wrong; they have invaded Palestine and established a state there, they shed blood and forced the people of the land out of their country and they are colonial settlers. There can be no dialogue between them and us. There was colonization in Algeria, but they did not replace the people of the land and drive them out of their country. Thus, I call for dialogue with all religions, and consequently I am not against a dialogue with the Shia, but if they want to invade our countries, convert us into Shia, uproot us and exploit poverty and need and so forth, then I would reject having any dialogue with them and I would reject rapprochement with them too. I have participated in many dialogues and attempts at rapprochement, but if the purpose of dialogue is to convert the Sunnis to their sect, then I would refuse any attempt at rapprochement.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your comment on the criticism leveled against you that in your criticism of the Shia expansion, and in your call for regarding them as enemies and in taking sides against Iran, you have abandoned your criteria of priorities and balances, on which you have written a book?

[Al-Qaradawi] There is confusion in these issues. I have called for the varieties of [fiqh] Islamic jurisprudence that a scholar should take into consideration, such as the jurisprudence on rules, purposes and consequences, balances and priorities. The important thing is not the names or the terminology, but the understanding of the meaning of this terminology and their correct implementation. Take balances for example. Should I for instance keep quiet about the invasion of my society by another sect whose correctness I doubt, for the sake of a joint stand against the United States? If I see preserving religion as more important than the United States or anything else, the balancing process becomes a dangerous one, and here comes the role of jurisprudence to decide which of the two issues should come first. This is to be decided in the light of the jurisprudence of priorities and balances. In my view, protecting my religion comes first, because it is my salvation on the Day of Judgment and my happiness in this worldly life. The imbalance happens in the jurisprudence of balances and priorities, when something is given a disproportionate importance and made your top priority. The Prophet has said: "Faith is seventy something branches; the highest is the saying of 'No God but Allah', and the lowest is the removal of harm from the road." The meaning is clear. There are people who confuse the priorities and put the removal of harm from the road as their top priority. It is important to apply the jurisprudence of balances and priorities properly.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it true that a number of lawyers have lodged a case against you demanding your deportation from Qatar?

[Al-Qaradawi] (laughing) - This is laughable and strange; some even said I am too old and should be put under guardianship. The strange thing is that this also applies to the Imam Khomeini - who lived to be more than 90, and it applies to Khamenei and Al-Sistani and many of the Shia grand scholars. It's ridiculous and I do not bother myself with it.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your reply to Tehran's attack describing you as a Masonic and Zionist tool?

[Al-Qaradawi] The accusation was made by the Iranian News Agency, not by Iran, so we should not say Iran. What the News Agency has said was a kind of sheer ignorance about me and my history; it is an ignorance tainted with lies. Who could say that I work for the interests of Jews, Zionist and Masons when all my life I have been working against them? Since I was 15, in the second elementary year at Al-Azhar institute in the city of Tanta, I used to go out on demonstrations, shout slogans, read poems and make fiery speeches against Zionism and the Balfour Declaration. I am still doing that. They should have asked the Palestinian organizations about my stance on the Palestinian cause, and ask the Zionists who they regard as their worst enemy. They publicly say that their worst enemies are the religious scholars, and of those, Al-Qaradawi is the worst enemy. They incited people to assassinate me; I was not allowed an entry visa to Britain, the United States and many European countries.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What would be expected to happen after the attempt to disseminate the Shia sect among the Sunnis? [Al-Qaradawi] If the Iranians are rational people and they want to win over the Sunnis that make up 90% of Muslims in the world, they should abandon their attempt to convert them. Too ambitious and fanciful dreams of changing the Islamic nation into a Shia nation, or, as the Iranian News Agency put it, a miracle of the House of the Prophet, is delusion, and it might lead to very serious conflict within the Islamic nation. In the light of the jurisprudence of balances, they should come closer to the nation [the Sunnis] and not get carried away by their dreams. But if they continue with their position, I am not going to abandon mine, and it is my duty to open the eyes of the nation, and it is my covenant with God as a scholar.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are rumors that Iran would try to use those converts to disturb some states if an Israeli or US strike takes place against Iran?

[Al-Qaradawi] It is natural that when a person changes from Sunni to Shia, he is likely to feel he has become something else and change his affiliation. An Egyptian in such a case would begin to feel his affiliation is with Iran; in the same way as the Shia of Lebanon see themselves closer to Iran than their Lebanese brothers. This is something I cannot deny. Iran is not an ordinary country; it is a country of dreams and ambitions of a Persian empire like the old Persian Empire and Persian emperors. The issue is mixed with a Persian tendency, a sectarian Shia tendency and fanaticism. We should take this into consideration when looking at this matter objectively.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some see Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as controversial in some of his fatwas and opinions. What is your comment on this?

[Al-Qaradawi] I do not like to raise controversies and I hate arguments. This is my principle in teaching and in fatwa. I have adopted the principle of innovation and facilitation and this does not suit everyone. My fatwa and writings in general disturb two kinds of people; those who are against any change whatsoever, and those who are ultra-liberal. I always tend to discipline myself, my thoughts and my fatwa with the Sharia rules and principles, in addition to sound logic which should be in conformity with sound reason. No religion can come up with anything that stands contrary to reason.

The Cartoon Fatwa

Hussein Shobokshi
Asharq Alawsat

As I observed the controversy that occurred after an Islamic Sheikh stated in an interview that “Mickey Mouse should be killed,” I wondered whether the Sheikh actually realises that Mickey is in fact a fictional character and is definitely not affiliated to a terrorist organisation of any kind. If Mickey Mouse must be killed, what about Jerry, one half of the Tom and Jerry cat-and-mouse duo or the legendary Mighty Mouse? What about other cartoon characters? Do they deserve the same fate? What about Pink Panther whose colour is too soothing for him to be a wild animal? What about Porky Pig − and there is certainly no need for elaboration here! What about Scooby Doo, a giant friendly dog who affectionately licks his companions, and Goofy and Pluto? How about Sylvester, Felix and Garfield and let us not forget the purple-coloured dinosaur Barney? Moreover, what do we do with Tweety Pie, Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny or Kermit the Frog and his friend Miss Piggy?

We are facing a huge challenge in confronting this dangerous cartoon invasion and these animals have come to threaten and eliminate us; this is how cartoons are being depicted to children. Games, cities and playgrounds were and still are means of entertainment, education and amusement and to portray them as anything else is demeaning and is an attempt to create baseless battles that defy logic. It embarrasses those who make such statements in front of their own people because people have now entered an advanced stage of information and learning, observation and interaction where empty slogans of intimidation and terror in such a superficial manner are of no benefit.

The media attention that was given to the Mickey Mouse news item was a waste of time, effort and thinking as it preoccupies people with issues that are of no benefit or concern to them. The only way to deal with people who present such opinions is to look at them with pity and ask them to handle issues with a more compassionate view and to focus on more important matters from which they themselves and other people can profit and to leave Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters alone as there are people who pose more of a threat than these characters.

As far as I know, Mickey Mouse and friends have never donned explosive belts nor have they accused people of being disbelievers simply because their opinion is different.

As Ramadan draws to a close and Eid is upon us, Mickey Mouse and friends will certainly be entertaining our children so let them play and rejoice calmly.

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Bailout Politics

Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nothing could more painfully demonstrate what is wrong with Congress than the current financial crisis. Among the Congressional "leaders" invited to the White House to devise a bailout "solution" are the very people who have for years created the risks that have now come home to roost.

Five years ago, Barney Frank vouched for the "soundness" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and said "I do not see" any "possibility of serious financial losses to the treasury."

Moreover, he said that the federal government has "probably done too little rather than too much to push them to meet the goals of affordable housing."

Earlier this year, Senator Christopher Dodd praised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for "riding to the rescue" when other financial institutions were cutting back on mortgage loans. He too said that they "need to do more" to help subprime borrowers get better loans.

In other words, Congressman Frank and Senator Dodd wanted the government to push financial institutions to lend to people they would not lend to otherwise, because of the risk of default.

The idea that politicians can assess risks better than people who have spent their whole careers assessing risks should have been so obviously absurd that no one would take it seriously.

But the magic words "affordable housing" and the ugly word "redlining" led to politicians directing where loans and investments should go, with such things as the Community Reinvestment Act and various other coercions and threats.

The roots of this problem go back many years, but since the crisis to which all this led happened on George W. Bush's watch, that is enough for those who think in terms of talking points, without wanting to be confused by the facts.

In reality, President Bush tried unsuccessfully, years ago, to get Congress to create some regulatory agency to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

N. Gregory Mankiw, his Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, warned in February 2004 that expecting a government bailout if things go wrong "creates an incentive for a company to take on risk and enjoy the associated increase in return."

Since risky investments usually pay more than safer investments, the incentive is for a government-supported enterprise to take bigger risks, since they get more profit if the risks pay off and the taxpayers get stuck with the losses if not.

The government does not guarantee Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, but the widespread assumption has been that the government would step in with a bailout to prevent chaos in financial markets.

Alan Greenspan, then head of the Federal Reserve System, made the same point in testifying before Congress in February 2004. He said: "The Federal Reserve is concerned" that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were using this implicit reliance on a government bailout in a crisis to take more risks, in order to "multiply the profitability of subsidized debt."

Chairman Greenspan added his voice to those urging Congress to create a "regulator with authority on a par with that of banking regulators" to reduce the riskiness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a riskiness ultimately borne by the taxpayers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not deserve to be bailed out, but neither do workers, families and businesses deserve to be put through the economic wringer by a collapse of credit markets, such as occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Neither do the voters deserve to be deceived on the eve of an election by the notion that this is a failure of free markets that should be replaced by political micro-managing.

If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were free market institutions they could not have gotten away with their risky financial practices because no one would have bought their securities without the implicit assumption that the politicians would bail them out.

It would be better if no such government-supported enterprises had been created in the first place and mortgages were in fact left to the free market. This bailout creates the expectation of future bailouts.

Phasing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would make much more sense than letting politicians play politics with them again, with the risk and expense being again loaded onto the taxpayers.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Does Islam Justify Honor Killings?

Dhimmi Watch

Supna Zaidi, the assistant director of Islamist Watch and daughter of my dear and much-missed friend the late Tashbih Sayyed, considers this question in an article of the same name at Pajamas Media (September 27): Sandela Kanwal wanted a divorce for unknown reasons. Maybe her husband in Chicago was a wife-beater. Maybe she just didn't like him. We don't know. For months, she had been trying to get her father to end her unhappy marriage and in July 2008 Sandela tried again. This time, Chaudhry Rashad strangled his daughter to death. When the police arrived, he stated that he did nothing wrong and later demanded that he be provided halal food while in jail.

What kind of an ideology causes a man to show no remorse for murdering his own daughter, but rants and raves at being served ham sandwiches while in prison? The media picked up the story quickly and asked, "Is Islam to blame?"

On CNN, Zuhdi Jasser, of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, tried to paint Rashad as a backward cultural aberration, stating:

It [the honor killing of Sandela] has nothing to do with Islam. This is a tribal, medieval mentality that is seen in tribes in Pakistan and India, and often is not even seen in Islamic communities. It's basically part of the ignorance of the tribal community.

On Fox News, Irshad Manji, on the other hand, stated that these killings are often done in the name of Allah and compared them to honor killings in the last century in Italy, which were carried out by Catholics. She notes that these killings are often done with the name of "Allah dripping from their lips."

The media and moderate Muslims like Jasser and Manji miss the point. The victim was not Islam but a 25-year-old girl. An honor killing is defined as the murder of a girl or woman who has allegedly committed an act that has shamed and embarrassed her family. For the family to show its community that it has reasserted control, the woman is killed. Thus, "harm to reputation" is a partial or complete defense to murder. No passage in the Koran discusses honor killings, but Muslim clerics justify them and secular Muslims either do not punish them or pass laws to mitigate punishment for them. With this, Muslims make honor killings a part of Islam.

Honor killings are justified under Islam in some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. For example, tenth-grade textbooks teach Saudi children that it is permissible to kill adulterers. In April 2008, a girl was killed by her father for talking to a boy on Facebook, an online social networking website. A leading Saudi cleric, Sheikh Ali al-Maliki, was outraged that girls had access to such websites where they could post pictures of themselves and otherwise "behave badly," but showed no concern over the girl actually killed.

Honor killings are justified as a necessary part of culture in other Muslim countries such as Jordan, which is technically a secular kingdom with a representative parliament. In 2001 King Abdallah presented a bill outlining stiff penalties for honor killings, but parliament rejected it, stating, "it [punishing honor killings] would encourage adultery and create new social problems." Four years later, honor killings accounted for one-third of all violent deaths in Jordan in 2005, where perpetrators received as little as six months in prison under the penal code.

Secular Iraq offers no punishment. Consider the following anecdotal evidence. This year, a 17-year-old named Rand Abdel-Qader was killed by her father because she had a crush on a British soldier. The arresting Iraqi sergeant stated that "not much can be done when we have an ‘honor killing' case. You are in a Muslim society and women should live under religious laws." The father also killed his wife, who left him after the murder of their daughter. He will not be prosecuted for either murder in Iraq.

Leaving honor killings at the doorstep of illiterate villagers, as Jasser does, ignores the problem on a humane level in favor of intellectual debate. The more secular, educated elites of Muslim countries may not be so backward as to commit such crimes themselves, but they know it is happening and prefer to look the other way. The upper and middle classes have a responsibility as civic and political leaders to defend women through education, the law, and enforcement of meaningful punishments. The "Qatif Girl" case in Saudi Arabia is a good example. Attorney Abdul Rahman al-Lahem represented a gang-rape victim who was punished for being with non-related men (the rapists) without a chaperone. Al-Lahem lost his license for bringing the case to the media. Following international pressure, the disciplinary committee at the Justice Ministry in Riyadh agreed to return it.

Irshad Manji's analysis hit closer to the truth, but is incomplete. By bringing in Catholic honor killings a century ago, Manji throws in the "you too" defense — the "you" being the West — and implies that such murders will fall out of favor as societies modernize and become more secular.

Neither Jasser nor Manji addresses the issue of accountability. Chaudhry Rashad was not raised in a vacuum. If moderates reinforce the line that honor killings are "dripping" with Allah or are part of Eastern culture, those prone to such violent acts will continue on the same path. No Muslim will claim theological authority to enforce change from the mosque. Nor will Muslims be forced to act now if the implication from Manji is that culture takes centuries to evolve. But if everyone starts pointing the finger at Muslim society collectively and asks, "why do you let this happen?" maybe change will finally come.

Such reorientation away from divine "Islam" to fallible, human "Muslims" would move violence such as honor killings from the margins of society into the spotlight.

This will allow the current tangential debate of whether such killings are religious or cultural to finally end so we can focus on the girls who continue to be killed daily.