Swiss Antagonist of Minarets Is Now Muslim

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer Based on News Reports

daniel-streichRENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who previously campaigned against Swiss minarets, embraced Islam a few years ago.

A member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and a well-known politician, Daniel Streich was the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and to lock the mosques in Switzerland. The proclamation of Streich’s conversion to Islam created a furor in Swiss politics, and caused a tremor for those who supported ban on construction of mosques minarets.

Streich had propagated his anti-Islamic movement far and wide in the country, sowed seeds of indignation and scorn for Islam among the people, and paved the way for public opinion against pulpits and minarets of mosques.

But now Streich has become a servant of Islam. His anti-Islam thoughts finally brought him so close to this religion that he embraced it.

He is ashamed of his past doings now, and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland.

The most interesting thing in this regard is that at present there are four mosques in Switzerland and Streich wants to lay the foundation for a fifth. He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam. He is thinking of a movement contrary to his previous one to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on mosques minarets has gained a legal status.

This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation.

Abdul Majeed Aldai, the president of OPI, an NGO, working for the welfare of Muslims, says that Europeans have a great desire to know about Islam. Some of them want to know about the relationship between Islam and terrorism; same was the case with Streich.

During his confrontation, Streich studied the Holy Quran and started understanding Islam.

He wished to be hard to Islam, but the outcome was otherwise. Aldai further says.

Later the question of the ban on minarets was put to a vote in Switzerland, wherein the Swiss nationals did ban minarets in the country.

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Bin Hammam Loses Appeal of Lifetime Ban

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

SOCCER-FIFA/Qatari soccer official Mohamed bin Hammam, who challenged Sepp Blatter for the presidency of  international soccer’s governing body, lost an appeal against his lifetime ban from the sport, FIFA said on Thursday. He’ll now appeal to sport’s top court, his lawyer said. Bin Hammam was head of the Asian soccer confederation and was banned in July after being found guilty of buying votes for the FIFA leadership contest against Blatter. Bin Hammam said the ban was politically motivated and that he had the resources to fight for years to clear his name.

“The appeal made by Mohammed bin Hammam has been rejected and the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee confirmed,” FIFA said in an e-mailed statement. “The sanction of being banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) at national and international level for life has therefore been maintained.” The Zurich-based body’s three-member appeal panel was led by Ecuadorian Francisco Acosta and included officials from Argentina and Senegal.

FIFA’s decision to expel Bin Hammam came after an investigation led by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh into claims he offered Caribbean soccer officials envelopes containing $40,000 while campaigning in the region. FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who arranged Bin Hammam’s visit to the Caribbean, was also suspended and quit the sport before the end of Freeh’s inquiry. He denied wrongdoing.

The papers will be lodged with the Lausanne, Switzerland- based court once Bin Hammam receives a full written statement from FIFA explaining its latest decision, Gulland added. “I will continue my battle until I prove my innocence and that my suspension was a political decision and an absolute abuse of power to deprive me of my right to contest for FIFA presidency,” Bin Hammam wrote on his personal blog last month.

Bin Hammam’s legal team has also lodged a separate action with CAS that challenges FIFA’s right to designate China’s Zhang Jilong as “acting president” of the Asian Football Confederation and appoint him to sit on the FIFA Executive Committee, Gulland said.

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Right to Vote But No Driving

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Saudi monarch grants kingdom’s women right to vote, but driving ban remains in force

By Associated Press

2011-09-27T195104Z_01_BTRE78Q1J5Z00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-SAUDI-WOMEN-DRIVING

Veiled Saudi women take photos of their children during a ceremony to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s Independence Day in Riyadh in this September 23, 2009 file photograph.

REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed/Files

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, considered a reformer by the standards of his own ultraconservative kingdom, decreed on Sunday that women will for the first time have the right to vote and run in local elections due in 2015.

For the nation’s women, it is a giant leap forward, though they remain unable to serve as Cabinet ministers, drive or travel abroad without permission from a male guardian.

Saudi women bear the brunt of their nation’s deeply conservative values, often finding themselves the target of the unwanted attention of the kingdom’s intrusive religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation of Islamic Shariah law on the streets and public places like shopping malls and university campuses.

In itself, Sunday’s decision to give the women the right to vote and run in municipal elections may not be enough to satisfy the growing ambition of the kingdom’s women who, after years of lavish state spending on education and vocational training, significantly improved their standing but could not secure the same place in society as that of their male compatriots.

That women must wait four more years to exercise their newly acquired right to vote adds insult to injury since Sunday’s announcement was already a long time coming — and the next local elections are in fact scheduled for this Thursday.

“Why not tomorrow?” asked prominent Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar. “I think the king doesn’t want to shake the country, but we look around us and we think it is a shame … when we are still pondering how to meet simple women’s rights.”

The announcement by King Abdullah came in an annual speech before his advisory assembly, or Shura Council. It was made after he consulted with the nation’s top religious clerics, whose advice carries great weight in the kingdom.

It is an attempt at “Saudi style” reform, moves that avoid antagonizing the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population. Additionally, it seems to be part of the king’s drive to insulate his vast, oil-rich country from the upheavals sweeping other Arab nations, with popular uprisings toppling regimes that once looked as secure as his own.

Fearing unrest at home, the king in March announced a staggering $93 billion package of incentives, jobs and services to ease the hardships experienced by some Saudis. In the meantime, he sent troops to neighbor and close ally Bahrain to help the tiny nation’s Sunni ruling family crush an uprising by majority Shiites pressing for equal rights and far-reaching reforms.

In contrast, King Abdullah in August withdrew the Saudi ambassador from Syria to protest President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on a seven-month uprising that calls for his ouster and the establishment of a democratic government.

“We didn’t ask for politics, we asked for our basic rights. We demanded that we be treated as equal citizens and lift the male guardianship over us,” said Saudi activist Maha al-Qahtani, an Education Ministry employee who defied the ban on women driving earlier this year. “We have many problems that need to be addressed immediately.”

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Clinton Backs Saudi Drivers

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Andrew Quinn

2011-06-22T173003Z_1967305151_GM1E76N047F01_RTRMADP_3_SAUDI-DRIVING

Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. Saudi Arabia has no formal ban on women driving. But as citizens must use only Saudi-issued licences in the country, and as these are issued only to men, women drivers are anathema.

REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday praised “brave” Saudi women demanding the right to drive, but she tried to avoid an open breach with a close U.S. ally by saying the Saudis themselves should determine the way forward.

The Saudi driving ban has been publicly challenged in recent weeks by women who have risked arrest to get behind the wheel. Clinton, one of the world’s best-known advocates for women’s rights, has come under mounting pressure to take a stand.

“What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right, but the effort belongs to them. I am moved by it and I support them,” Clinton said in her first public comments on the issue.

Clinton’s carefully phrased remarks appeared to be an attempt to balance her deep-held beliefs with the need to keep smooth relations with Riyadh in an era of huge political changes sweeping the Middle East and concern about oil supplies.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have seen their traditionally close ties strained in recent months as popular protests erupted in a number of Arab countries including Bahrain, where Saudi security forces were called in to restore order.

Prior to her remarks, the State Department had said that Clinton was engaged in “quiet diplomacy” on the driving ban — drawing a fresh appeal from one Saudi women’s group for a more forceful U.S. stance.

“Secretary Clinton: quiet diplomacy is not what we need right now. What we need is for you, personally, to make a strong, simple and public statement supporting our right to drive,” the group, Saudi Women for Driving, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

Clinton did just that on Tuesday, although she repeatedly added the caveat that the issue was an internal matter for Saudi Arabia to sort out.

“This is not about the United States, it is not about what any of us on the outside say. It is about the women themselves and their right to raise their concerns with their own government,” she said.

Clinton raised the issue in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Friday and said the United States would continue to support full universal rights for women around the world.

Clinton said mobility was important for women to both find jobs and help care for their families.

“We will continue in private and in public to urge all governments to address issues of discrimination and to ensure that women have the equal opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential,” she said.

Saudi Arabia — a key U.S. security ally and important oil supplier — is an absolute monarchy which applies an austere version of Sunni Islam. Religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women.

Besides a ban on driving, women in Saudi Arabia must have written approval from a male guardian to leave the country, work or even undergo certain medical operations.

Riyadh is also an important factor in both Yemen and Syria, where protests have challenged autocratic leaders and left Washington trying to balance its support for democratic reform with concerns over stability and security in the region.

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Smoke-Free by Force

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

no-smoking-signSmokers around the world are somewhat used to having certain smoking privileges revoked for the sake of their health and the health of those around them. One of the most recent anti-smoking laws to go into effect, in the US State of New York, is a statewide ban on cigarette smoking on public beaches and parks. The fine for anyone stubbing out the law is a $50 fine. However, the NYPD will not be held responsible for enforcing the ban. According to Mayor Bloomberg, it will be up to park rangers and regular “New Yorkers” to keep smokers from lighting up on any number of New York’s 1,700 parks and 14 miles of beaches. Back in 2003, Mayor Bloomberg also banned cigarette smoking in bars and restaurants.

Just across the Atlantic Ocean the miniscule sheikhdom of Dubai, municipality of the United Arab Emirates, spearheaded a grandiose 24-hour ban this past Tuesday on the sale of cigarettes. Smokers in the oil-rich Gulf state could not buy a pack of cigarettes if their lives depended upon it as grocery stores and gas stations were emblazoned with placards announcing the daylong ban of cigarette sales. The majority of Dubai’s restaurants and cafes also supported the ban by refusing customers the “shisha” pipe, which is a water-filled pipe that releases steamed tobacco smoke into the smoker’s mouth.

The reason for the ban is to highlight the problem of smoking in the region. Smoking and second-hand smoke are known carcinogens that have been proven to cause certain forms of cancer. Smoking is rampant in Dubai with people from all ages and walks of life “lighting up”. Dubai takes great pride in its anti-smoking initiative and offers free smoking cessation courses at various centers across the municipality. According to Dubai’s Minister of Health, Dr Hanif Hassan, more than 800 smokers have kicked their cigarette habit since 2009 thanks to the cessation centers. Hassan also revealed, in a recent interview, that Dubai plans to build even more cessation centers to help Dubai residents stop smoking once and for all.

In addition, Dubai authorities are mulling over a new law that would double the price of all tobacco products right across the board. The hope is to deter cigarette smoking by making it more expensive. There is also a new initiative to raise public awareness over the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, special attention will be given to children and teens that may face peer pressure that encourages smoking.

Dubai passed a Federal Anti-Smoking Law back in 2009, however only recently have the bylaws been approved and it has yet to be enforced by the appropriate governmental departments.

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Taking the Wheel

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehanm, TMO

car-steering-wheel-lgMost women in America don’t think twice about hopping in their cars and hitting the open road to run errands, pick the kids up from school or simply enjoy a long leisurely drive. However, in Saudi Arabia, women are still banned from driving despite several high profile incidents over the years that has thrust the global media’s attention on the issue. This past week the issue was once again brought into the limelight as a female Saudi Arabian citizen took to the wheel and later posted the video on the popular social-networking site YouTube.

With her brother in the passenger seat, 32-year-old Manal al-Sharif, took a short spin that landed her in the slammer. The drive was deliberate as al-Sharif herself revealed in a recent interview in which she lamented her frustration for not being able to find a taxi one night, “I had to walk on the street for half an hour looking for a cab. I was harassed by every single car because it was late at night and I was walking alone. I kept calling my brother to pick me up, but his phone wasn’t answering. I was crying in the street. A 32-year-old grown woman, a mother, crying like a kid because I couldn’t find anyone to bring me home.” Al-Sharif learned to drive in the United States and holds a driver’s license from America. However, in her homeland, only men are issued driver’s licenses.

According to Saudi Arabian authorities, al- Sharif broke several laws after she got behind the wheel including, “bypassing rules and regulations, driving a car within the city, enabling a journalist to interview her while driving a car, deliberately disseminating the incident to the media, incitement of Saudi women to drive cars, and turning public opinion against the regulations.” Scores of Saudi citizens have rallied behind al-Sharif and begun to question the veracity of the driving ban on women especially when there is nothing on the books that legally bars a woman from driving.

Soon after her incarceration, a Facebook page was erected entitled ‘We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women’s rights’ The page has already garnered 19,000 likes. Another fan page related to the women’s driving ban in Saudi Arabia is also getting a lot of support, to the tune of 6,000 likes so far, albeit for all of the wrong reasons. The page encourages Saudi Arabian men to beat their female relatives with a heavy brocaded rope known as the “Iqal”, which adorns the Saudi Arabian men’s headdress, should any of the women demand driving rights.

Al-Sharif remains in prison and her fate is yet to be determined. Some analysts have predicted she will stay in prison for five days, however it remains to be seen if she will face further penalties for deliberately flaunting the driving ban. Meanwhile, another Saudi Arabian woman copied al-Sharif’s drive this week and was swiftly arrested at a local supermarket. However, she was only held for a few hours and released.

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Hijab Gaining Favor in Turkey

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By F. Brinley Bruton

turkey_hijab04-01-2008ISTANBUL, Turkey — Funda Altintas picks at her lamb kofte and salad and tentatively describes her dream.

“I really want to be a professor,” the 23-year-old psychology graduate says. “My father says that maybe in 10 years I’ll be able to be a professor.”

On a night out on the town, Altintas’ friends also share their ambitions: Melike Akkus, 25, and Fatma Betul Yumuk, 22, are getting their MBAs. Esma Bendez, 23, would like to focus on intercultural studies.

Despite earning degrees from one of Turkey’s best universities, none can be sure of reaching their career goals. What stands between them and their ambitions has little to do with dedication, loans or standardized tests. Instead, it is the traditional Muslim head covering they all wear.

Parliamentarians, judges, teachers and professors are forbidden from wearing the headscarf in public buildings, even though Turkey is predominately Muslim and governed by the Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP). Held in place by an old guard of secular bureaucrats, judges and the army, the ban has been eased at universities but remains unofficially applied in large parts of the private sector.

For many Muslims, the right of women to dress in accordance with their beliefs is on the front line in a battle with the traditional ruling class. For many secular Turks, the head covering is a symbol of everything they fear Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan government is working toward — political Islam and the oppression of women.

Istanbul seems to comfortably meld the old with the new, the secular with the religious. A sleek tram car rumbles through the Old City. The Blue Mosque’s soaring minarets and a hulking Aya Sofia — first a basilica, then a mosque and now a museum — crown a skyline that is both ancient and modern.

Women with and without headscarves walk through the city, arms sometimes linked. Despite appearances, what is known here as the “turban” remains one of the most polarizing issues in Turkey.

‘Shock, awe and sadness’

Merve Kavakci-Islam’s experience illustrates how explosive one piece of clothing can be. At the age of 30, she was elected as a lawmaker for the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi) in 1999.

Jeers greeted the engineer when she arrived for her swearing-in wearing a headscarf. For 45 minutes, dozens of rival parliamentarians chanted:

“Out, Merve Kavakci! Out!”

“The prime minister (Bulent Ecevit, who served in the role until 2002) got up and pointed at me with his finger and said, ‘Put this woman in her place,’” she told msnbc.com.

Kavakci-Islam never took her seat. She was stripped of her Turkish citizenship within weeks and two years later her party was closed down.

Now a lecturer at George Washington University and Howard University, Kavakci-Islam says she felt “shock, awe and sadness” at her treatment in parliament.

“I was Western-educated — (with) all the qualities that the republic wanted,” she says. “But one-quarter of the parliament were protesting against me.”

The governing party is in a tight spot. In 2008, the AKP’s failed attempt to lift a ban on Islamic dress at universities was used in a legal bid to shut it down. It was alleged the party had violated the country’s secular constitution. And while the party says it will support university students expelled for wearing the “turban,” it has refused to back around a dozen headscarved women who filed candidate applications ahead of June’s parliamentary elections.

“There should be candidates wearing headscarves, but not now,” AKP deputy leader Bulent Arinc said last month.

Demonstrations

Even after the secular republic was established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, many women continued to cover their heads. The ban has been enforced with varying severity over the years, but the vast majority of women of the traditional elite did not and do not cover their heads.

Akkus, Bendez, Betel Yamuk and Altintas pressed their point while at college. The four friends led five months of demonstrations at Bosphorus University when a new rector decided to enforce the ban on headscarves.

They say they are tired of fighting for the right to get ahead while “You have to convince other people that you are a thinking person with ideas and thoughts,” Yamuk says.

Bendez told msnbc.com it is difficult to debate the subject with fierce secularists.

“Everybody talks to me, but they don’t try to understand me,” she said.

Secularists say easing the ban not only would betray the country’s tenets but fundamentally hurt women’s rights.

“The headscarf is a religious symbol but today it is a political symbol,” said Nihal Kizil, the vice president of educational charity Association to Support Contemporary Life. “Can you imagine a headscarf-wearing judge presiding over a woman without a headscarf?”

Disadvantaged?

The four friends say they constantly feel disadvantaged because of the way they dress.

Leaning over a cup of sugary tea served in a traditional tulip-shaped glass, Akkus says the fact that she covers her head has had a big impact on who will hire her and the size of her salary.

“I graduated from the best management programs in Turkey, and yet I earn half of what my classmates do,” she said.

Akkus recounts a conversation with an executive with one of the world’s biggest car companies. She asked him why his firm didn’t hire headscarf-wearing women in management positions in Turkey but did in other parts of the world.

“He told me, ‘We have to follow the rules of the country,’” Akkus said.

But Akkus, Bendez, Betel Yamuk and ———- agree that society is changing.

“Ten years ago, you couldn’t imagine the president’s wife in a headscarf,” Betel Yamuk says optimistically.

The fact that President Abdullah Gul’s wife, Hayrunnisa, covers her head has also been noticed by the country’s army chiefs, who in October boycotted the Republic Day reception hosted by first lady.
Akkus is less upbeat than Betel Yamuk. She recounts the anger and humiliation she felt at the age of 14 when female students at her school were forced to uncover their heads.

“Soldiers came to our school,” she says. “It was the hardest thing I have experienced.”

Akkus and her mother wept that day and she vowed never to return to school. She did eventually return without her headscarf, but also forged a new long-term goal: “We decided the best thing for me to do would be to become a very important person.”

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Bottled Water Sales Banned at Ottawa Campus

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Emily Chung, CBC News

Thirsty students won’t be able to buy bottled water from vending machines, food outlets or stores at the University of Ottawa starting Sept. 1.

That is when a ban on the sale of bottled water goes into effect across campus, the university announced Wednesday, the eve of Earth Day.

Pierre De Gagné, assistant director of engineering and sustainable development at the University of Ottawa’s infrastructure department, said the move is intended to encourage students to drink free, healthy tap water and reduce plastic bottle waste.

Michèle Lamarche, vice-president of student affairs at the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, said the move was largely driven by students, who have been working with the university to bring in the ban for more than a year.

Contract issues

Initially, she said, the university was concerned about upgrades to water fountains that would need to be made, as well as contracts with food services and vending machine companies that sell bottled water.

Many food outlets on campus didn’t even have water fountains nearby, she said.

Bottled water bans

In 2009, the University of Winnipeg, Memorial University in St. John’s, and Brandon University in Manitoba all announced they were banning bottled water sales on campus.

The University of Ottawa says it is the first university in Ontario to do so. Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., announced earlier in April that it will phase in a bottled water sale ban as it renegotiates food and vending machine contracts over the next few years.

Twenty universities in Ontario participated in Bottled Water-Free Day on March 11.

“Why have a water fountain outside when they can get people to buy the water bottle inside?” she asked.

De Gagné said he was surprised how quickly the university’s food services staff managed to renegotiate with their suppliers to drop bottled water.

“It all happened through a lot of good will, I guess, and a lot of long-range thinking.”

He did not know the details of the renegotiated deals.

In preparation for the ban, the university said, it has spent more than $100,000 since 2008 to improve the availability of tap water by:

* Adding goose necks to about 75 water fountains to make it easier to fill reusable bottles.
* Installing new fountains near food service outlets.
* Upgrading existing fountains with features including wheelchair accessibility, stronger pressure and better refrigeration.

Lamarche said the student federation is also doing its part by giving away hundreds of reusable bottles. It will also be selling the reusable bottles at the student-run convenience store for around the same price as a regular disposable bottle of water. And it will be installing a bank of water fountains with goose necks in the store itself.

Maps, signage on the way

Both the student federation and the university are working on maps and signage similar to washroom signage to indicate where water fountains are located. Neither Lamarche nor De Gagné thought students thought the ban would encourage thirsty students to choose pop instead of water.

“It won’t reside anymore in the same machine as pop, but it won’t be far away,” De Gagné said.

Lamarche said drinking water issues are very personal for her because she is an archeology student who spends her summers working in the Middle East. There, drinking water isn’t readily available, she said.

“The more we buy bottled water in North America, the more we say it’s OK to charge people for something that should be free or really really cheap,” she said. “And then governments say why do we have to worry about water infrastructure if they can buy water?”

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Plumes of Smoke

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

“The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just about anywhere you go in Kuwait, you’re met with plumes of thick and murky cigarette smoke. Grocery stores, malls, hair salons and even hospitals are a smoker’s paradise where lighting up is as easy as whipping out your lighter. Despite smokers being the minority in Kuwait, they make up for their small number by the amount of smoke they exude, giving a renewed meaning to the phrase ‘chain smoker’.

It’s not uncommon for children to come home from a day of shopping with their mother only to reek of cigarette smoke the moment they get home or a sick person having little choice to sit in a hospital waiting room that billows with cigarette smoke. The problem of public smoking is so bad in Kuwait that many people are forced to cover their mouths while moving about the course of their day. It’s unfortunate because the smoker’s unhealthy habit is willingly thrust on the reluctant non-smoking populous whose only crime is leaving their home.

What’s most shocking is that the Kuwaiti government passed a ‘no smoking’ law back in 1995, which covers all public places. Today, many government buildings have a special room that smokers can go into and enjoy their cigarette away from the public. However, most public venues do not have a specially designated room. As a result, most smokers take free smoking reign in Kuwait, ignoring the countless ‘no smoking’ signs and even public service posters educating the public about the dangers of smoking.

In a recent survey, the website GulfTalent.com discovered that Kuwait is one of the most cigarette-friendly countries in the world, with office workers even being allowed to smoke comfortably right at their desks. The survey also revealed that only 42% of companies in Kuwait have banned smoking, however despite even a corporate ban, smokers still light up in the workplace. With all of the smoking going on, during both work and leisure activities, it’s not surprising that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Kuwait.

Kuwait is not the only Middle Eastern country that has an often ignored smoking ban. Several Middle Eastern countries have similar bans in place. One of the most prominent is Bahrain. Within only a year of the ban being put in place, an estimated 14,000 smokers were caught illegally smoking in public. Unlike Kuwait, Bahrain often dispatches teams of health inspectors to enforce the no smoking ban. The ministry determined that the primary smoking culprits in the country are male adults, with teenagers under the age of 18 commanding over 2,000 of the citations issued. In Kuwait, smokers are left to their own devices and there is no one that can stop them once that cigarette is lit.

The Middle East often conjures up romantic images of men in robes lounging on pillows while smoking the ‘hookah’, or water-steam smoking pipe, as the sweetly scented smell of tobacco floods the air. However, cigarettes are much more user-friendly than the hookah and a whole lot cheaper. And regardless of the mode of operation, smell or the price, any use of tobacco is dangerous not only for the smoker but also those around him.

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Swiss Politician Apologizes For Calling For Ban On Muslim And Jewish Cemeteries

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Rachel Slajda

A Swiss politician has apologized today for calling for a ban on Jewish and Muslim cemeteries two days after the country voted to outlaw minarets on mosques.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” said Christopher Darbellay, president of the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Switzerland, a centrist party and the smallest member of the government coalition.

“It was about the principle that we all belong to the same Swiss society,” he added.

In his call for the ban, Darbellay said, “I don’t imagine that in this country, every religion or sect can have a separate cemetery in every town. It wouldn’t be manageable to make these exceptions. … Principle requires that one does not distinguish on the basis of origin or religion.”

Darbellay has also called for a ban on burkas or veils worn by some Muslim women.

Switzerland made international headlines Sunday when residents voted to add a line to their constitution banning the construction of minarets, or prayer towers, on mosques. The initiative, backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, passed by more than 57 percent of voters.

“The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over,” said one SPP politician.

The Swiss have a long history of trying to keep their culture free from the influence of both Muslim and Jewish immigrants.

In 1893, Switzerland banned the practice of shechitah, the kosher way of slaughtering animals, citing cruelty because the animals are not stunned first. Although the government opposed the measure, a group called the Anti-Semite Committee gathered more than 83,000 signatures to bring it to a referendum.

Even now, Jews and Muslims must import their kosher and halal meat from neighboring countries. In recent years, some groups have gone farther, trying to ban even its import. In 2003, for example, the Swiss Animal Protection group began a campaign to ban its import, but failed.

Six other European countries join Switzerland in banning the practice: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The European Union recognized such slaughter earlier this year and declared kosher and halal meat can be sold in every country, but did not go so far as to legalize the slaughtering practice throughout the EU.

Much of the xenophobia in Switzerland seems rooted in the belief that immigrants will not assimilliate into Swiss culture. In 2006, the citizenship application of a Turkish woman and religious teacher was rejected because she didn’t want to integrate into society.

Muslims are one of the fastest-growing groups in Europe, sparking culture clashes throughout the continent. In France, for example, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to ban the burka on the grounds that such veils oppress women.

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