Samir Nasri in Demand

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

2011-06-03T211419Z_1327019765_GM1E7640EMI01_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-EURO

France’s Samir Nasri controls the ball during their Euro 2012 Group D qualifying soccer match against Belarus at Dinamo stadium in Minsk June 3, 2011.

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The agent of Arsenal scoring sensation Samir Nasri indicates that talks between the player and Arsenal are still ongoing, despite reports to the contrary. There have been rumors of interest on the part of Manchester United amidst reports of Nasri’s displeasure with Arsenal’s attempts, or lack thereof, to improve thus far in the offseason.

“I want to clarify that there has been no break with the Gunners over the contract’s renewal and we should meet again soon with Arsene Wenger,” Nasri’s agent Alain Migliaccio told calciomercatoweb. “There are a few clubs interested in Samir, but it is useless to name them. Before listening to other teams, we need and we want to talk with Arsenal.”
Nasri had a prolific season with Arsenal, making for a nice bounce-back after having been left off of the French World Cup team last summer amidst politics and infighting. However, much of the mayhem has since tied to outgoing French coach Raymond Domenech, so Nasri’s reputation has been rehabilitated sufficiently with his play for Arsenal this past English season. And with his value at an all time high, Arsenal owner, American Stan Kroenke, is reportedly set to break the bank to keep him.

13-25

Libyan Rebels Take New Ground in Western Mountains

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nick Carey

2011-06-15T224232Z_1848250202_GM1E76G0IRF01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Rebel fighters prepare to make their way to the frontline near the town of Riyayna, June 15, 2011.   

REUTERS/Anis Mili

GHARYAN, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan rebels pushed deeper into government-held territory south of the capital on Wednesday, but their advance came as strains began to emerge in the Western alliance trying to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

Fighters in the Western Mountains, a rebel stronghold about 150 km (90 miles) south-west of Tripoli, built on gains made in the past few days by taking two villages from which pro-Gaddafi forces had for months been shelling rebel-held towns.

The rebels are still a considerable way from Gaddafi’s main stronghold in Tripoli, while their fellow fighters on the other two fronts — in Misrata and in eastern Libya — have made only halting progress against better-armed government troops.

“The revolutionaries (rebels) now control Zawiyat al-Babour and al-Awiniyah after pro-Gaddafi forces retreated this morning from the two villages,” Abdulrahman, a rebel spokesman in the nearby town of Zintan, told Reuters.

In Gharyan, a Gaddafi-held town that forms the gateway from Tripoli to the mountains, there was an undercurrent of tension as the frontline moves closer to the capital.
Libyan government minders brought a group of reporters to the town, which lies about 120 kilometers southwest of Tripoli and about 20 kilometers east of Kikla, which rebels seized from Gaddafi loyalists on Tuesday.

Despite an outward appearance of normality, numerous walls around town on Wednesday had recently painted over graffiti. The windows of one government building were smashed, the sign for another was riddled with holes.

While many traders and people on the streets were reluctant to talk to reporters, one shop owner said the calm in the area during the day was replaced by fighting every night.
“Two thirds of the people here are for the rebels,” he told Reuters, giving his name as Mohammed.

Those willing to talk in front of the minders were strongly pro-Gaddafi.

“Sarkozy is stupid, he is fighting this war for petrol,” a man called Yunis said in French, referring to the French president, villified by Gaddafi supporters as the driving force behind NATO bombing. “This is colonialism all over again.”

The NATO military alliance, which has been pounding Gaddafi’s military and command-and-control structures for nearly three months, has failed to dislodge him.

Libyan TV said on Wednesday a NATO bombardment had killed 12 people in a convoy in Kikla. A NATO official denied it.

Ties are becoming strained in the alliance, with some NATO members complaining that others have been reluctant to commit additional resources needed to sustain the bombing mission in the coming months.

Adding to the pressure, Republicans in the U.S. Congress are pressing President Barack Obama to explain the legal grounds on which he was keeping U.S. forces involved in Libya without the authorisation of Congress.

Speaking in London after meeting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated that time was running out for Gaddafi and that the alliance was as determined as ever.

“I think there is a very clear pattern emerging which is time is on our side, because we have the support of NATO, the United Nations, the Arab League, a huge number of countries in our coalition and in our contact group,” he said.

Rasmussen echoed those comments despite senior NATO commander General Stephane Abrial on Tuesday raising questions about the alliance’s ability to handle a long-term intervention.

“Allies and partners are committed to provide the necessary resources and assets to continue this operation and see it through to a successful conclusion,” Rasmussen said.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said the alliance was “sliding down and being dragged more into the eventuality of a land-based operation in Libya.”

In a theatrical show of defiance, Gaddafi was shown at the weekend playing a game of chess with a Russian official, but after weeks of ambivalence, Moscow has joined Western countries this month in calling for Gaddafi to step down.

Saad Djebbar, a former legal adviser to the Libyan government, told Reuters Gaddafi would continue to play for time and seek to demoralise and split the coalition.

“Gaddafi’s mentality is that as long as my enemies haven’t triumphed, I haven’t lost,” he said.

“The U.S. stance, that the major outside role should be played by the Europeans and Arabs, sends the wrong signal. Gaddafi will be very encouraged by it. His line is ‘We are steadfast. We can wait it out.’”

Gaddafi has said he has no intention of leaving the country — an outcome which, with the military intervention so far failing to produce results, many Western policymakers see as the most realistic way out of the conflict.

The Libyan leader has described the rebels as criminals and al Qaeda militants, and called the NATO intervention an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya’s oil.

Potent Force

Though under attack from NATO warplanes and rebel fighters, Gaddafi’s troops have showed they are still a potent force.

A rebel spokesman in Nalut, at the other end of the Western Mountains range from Zintan, said Gaddafi’s forces had been shelling Nalut and the nearby border crossing into Tunisia. The rebels depend on that crossing to bring in supplies.

On Tuesday, the rebels tried to advance in the east of Libya, setting their sights on the oil town of Brega, but they were unable to break through.

In Misrata, Libya’s third-biggest city about 200 km (120 miles) east of Tripoli, rebels have been inching slowly west toward the neighbouring town of Zlitan along the coast road to Tripoli, but have repeatedly had to fall back under fire.

The rebels there have expressed frustration that NATO is not more active at taking out Gaddafi’s forces there, and is not doing more to coordinate with fighters on the ground.

A Reuters correspondent in Misrata said there were no further advances toward Zlitan on Wednesday.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger will visit the rebels in Benghazi on Sunday to offer “concrete support,” his office said, the latest in a series of such visitors.

13-25

Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Consensus After Big Win

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Pinar Aydinli and Ibon Villelabeitia

2011-06-12T211440Z_1243616371_GM1E76D0ER301_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY-ELECTION

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a slogan reads that “We are Turkey together” in the background, greets his supporters at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara June 12, 2011. Erdogan’s ruling AK Party was set to win Sunday’s parliamentary election with 50.2 percent of the vote, but looked unlikely to get enough seats to call a referendum on a planned new constitution.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will start a third term of one-party rule strengthened by Sunday’s decisive election victory but also burdened by the need for consensus to push ahead with plans for a new constitution.

Erdogan will have to focus first on a pressing foreign policy issue right on his borders: unrest in neighboring Syria has led to nearly 7,000 Syrian fleeing to Turkey to escape a brutal crackdown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, with more coming every day.

But analysts said Erdogan also must find ways to revive a stalled bid for membership of the European Union and break down French and German reluctance to let Turkey in.

Erdogan, whose AK Party has transformed Muslim Turkey into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and ended a cycle of military coups, won 49.9 percent of the vote, or 326 seats, in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

The vote was AK’s biggest electoral tally since it first came to power in 2002 but the party failed to win the 330 seats it needed to call a referendum to recast the constitution, written almost 30 years ago during a period of military rule.

Financial markets were cheered on Monday as investors saw the mixed result forcing the AK Party to compromise with others to make the constitutional change. The Turkish lira strengthened against the dollar and bonds also gained.

“The new constitution requires consensus and dialogue with other parties and the society at large,” Cengiz Aktar, a professor at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University, told Reuters.

“We will see if Erdogan is ready for these with his majority or will he go his own way and impose his own views on Turkey — in which case we will have difficult times.”

Turkish newspapers lauded his success.

“Turkey loves him,” “The master of the ballot box,” said front page headlines next to pictures of a smiling Erdogan waving to cheering supporters outside party headquarters.

Critics fear Erdogan, who has a reputation for being intolerant of criticism, might use the victory to cement power, limit freedoms and persecute opponents.

In a victory speech before thousands of flag-waving supporters in the capital Ankara on Sunday night, he pledged “humility” and said he would work with rivals.

“People gave us a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation. We will discuss the new constitution with opposition parties. This new constitution will meet peace and justice demands.”

The new leader of the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which garnered its best result in more than 30 years with 25.9 percent of the vote, warned Erdogan that he would be watching his movements closely.

“We wish all success to AKP, but they must remember there’s a stronger main opposition party now,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

Analysts saw scope for political turbulence in Turkey.

“The anticipated preparation of a new constitution has the potential to create significant political uncertainty, as it may well raise profound and controversial issues related to the division of power, secularism, religion, nationalism and ethnic minority rights,” Ed Parker, Fitch’s Head of EMEA Sovereign Ratings, said in a statement issued on Monday.

MODEL FOR ARAB SPRING

Turkey and Erdogan’s party are often are cited as models for supporters of democracy living through the “Arab Spring” series of anti-authoritarian protests in parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
But opponents say Erdogan, whose party evolved from banned Islamist movements, is imposing a conservative social agenda.

Since crushing old establishment parties on a wave of support from a rising middle class of religious Turks, Erdogan has challenged the secularist military and judiciary with reforms meant to help Turkey meet EU standards of democracy.

He also has set the long-time NATO member and U.S. ally on a more assertive foreign policy course, building closer relations with Middle East countries, including Iran.

Some financial analysts had warned that too large an AK majority could polarize a country that is deeply divided over the role of religion and ethnic minorities.

A limited majority is seen making the government focus on macroeconomic imbalances, including an overheating economy.

There has been speculation that Erdogan would seek to move Turkey toward a more presidential system of government, with the ultimate aim of becoming president himself.

Besides the economy, Erdogan’s government also will need to tackle a separatist conflict in the mainly Kurdish southeast. A strong showing by the pro-Kurdish BDP in the Kurdish region played a role in denying the AK a bigger vote haul.

On Sunday night, a percussion bomb exploded in southeast Turkey, injuring 11 people celebrating election victories of Kurdish candidates, security and hospital officials said.

The explosion occurred around 11 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) in the province of Sirnak, near the Iraqi border. Casualties were being treated at a nearby hospital.

(Additional reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore, Ece Toksabay, Daren Butler in Istanbul, Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

13-25

Bernanke Glum on Growth–But No stimulus Hints

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Bigg (Reuters) –

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday acknowledged the economy has slowed but offered no hint the U.S. central bank is considering any more stimulus to accelerate growth.

He also warned members of Congress who might be planning aggressive budget cuts that they have the potential to derail the recovery if cuts in government spending take hold too soon.

A recent spate of weak economic data, capped by Friday’s report showing anemic job creation last month, had renewed speculation the Fed might again come to the economy’s aid.

Bernanke gave no such indication but did say the recovery was fragile enough to warrant keeping in place the extraordinary monetary support the Fed has already provided.

Speaking to a banking conference, the Fed chairman said that while he expects the economy to strengthen in the second half of the year, the job market bears close monitoring.

“The economy is still producing at levels well below its potential,” he said. “Consequently, accommodative monetary policies are still needed.”

Richard Gilhooly, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities in New York, called the speech “pretty downbeat.”

“It means that the Fed’s on hold for longer,” he said.

Stocks closed lower after Bernanke’s sober assessment, while longer-term bonds erased losses.

Bernanke repeated his view that a spike in U.S. inflation, while worrisome, should prove fleeting as commodity prices moderate. In addition, weak wage growth and stable inflation expectations should help keep prices down, he said.

On the budget, Bernanke repeated his call for a long-term plan for a sustainable fiscal path but warned politicians against massive short-term cuts in spending.
“A sharp fiscal consolidation focused on the very near term could be self-defeating if it were to undercut the still-fragile recovery,” he said.

“By taking decisions today that lead to fiscal consolidation over a longer horizon, policymakers can avoid a sudden fiscal contraction that could put the recovery at risk,” he said.

All Tapped Out

The central bank has already slashed overnight interest rates to near zero and purchased more than $2 trillion in government bonds to pull the economy from a deep recession and spur a recovery.

With the central bank’s balance sheet already bloated, officials have suggested there would be a high bar for any further Fed easing. The Fed’s current $600 billion round of government bond buying, known as QE2, is due to end this month.

Sharp criticism in the wake of QE2 is one factor likely to make policymakers reluctant to push the limits of unconventional policy.

“QE3 is still not an option right now, more because of the political ramifications,” said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT in New York. “We need to see much more significant deterioration in the economy and consistent weakness in non-farm payrolls before that can happen.”

In a Reuters poll of U.S. primary dealer banks conducted after the employment data, analysts saw only a 10 percent chance for more government bond purchases by the Fed. They also pushed back the timing of an eventual rate hike further into 2012.

Hurdles to better economic health have emerged overseas as well. Europe is struggling with a debt crisis, while Japan still reels from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami.

In emerging markets, China is trying to rein in red-hot growth to prevent inflation.

Fed policymakers have admitted to being surprised by how weak the economy appears, but none have yet called for more stimulus.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans, a noted policy dove, said he was not yet ready to support a third round of so-called quantitative easing. His counterpart in Atlanta, Dennis Lockhart, also said the economy was not weak enough to warrant further support.

While Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren told CNBC on Monday the economy’s weakness might delay the timing of an eventual monetary tightening, the head of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, Richard Fisher, said the Fed may have already done too much.

Evans and Fisher have a policy vote on the Fed this year while Rosengren and Lockhart do not.

13-24

ANALYSIS-India Eyes Diplomacy and Private Sector to Woo Africa

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Henry Foy and Aaron Maasho

NEW DELHI/ADDIS ABABA, May 27 (Reuters) – Bereft of China’s riches, India is banking on diplomacy, development and its entrepreneurial private sector to woo African nations to open markets and natural resources to Asia’s third-largest economy

New Delhi has promised billions of dollars in development support, financing for infrastructure projects and the building of educational and training institutes as it positions itself as the alternative to Beijing.

India enjoys historical ties with some African countries, but became a mere observer when China came calling for resources and energy, with financial riches New Delhi could not match.

China boasts foreign exchange reserves of more than $3 trillion, 10 times India’s $307 billion, and has aggressively used state-owned development banks to invest heavily in oil, gas and other resources across the continent.

But after being caught cold by China, and losing a series of bids for oil rights and infrastructure projects to its Asian rival, India is banking on a new approach to Africa that blends trade and investment with development economics.

“India’s approach is reciprocal, expecting access to resources in exchange for developing technology and training Africa’s human resources. That’s how India is different to other foreign powers,” said Suresh Kumar, head of the Department of African Studies, University of Delhi.

“In providing education, technology, development and security, India is a complete partner.”

Like China, India has posted high economic growth rates since 1990 and the economy in a country of 1.2 billion people is now expanding at more than 8 percent a year. Resources from Africa are seen as crucial to help sustain growth.

Total trade between India and African countries stood at $46 billion last year, still less than half of China’s $108 billion in 2008, but a huge increase on $3 billion in 2000-1. India says it will reach $70 billion by 2015.

Beijing also leads the way in diplomatic terms, with 42 embassies across sub-Saharan Africa, double India’s diplomatic presence of only 21 embassies, a report from the London-based Chatham House think-tank said.

Indian is keen to trumpet its cultural links with African countries, citing a shared history of imperialism and trade routes established hundreds of years ago.

The Indian diaspora in Africa tops 2 million people, but it is mainly concentrated in South Africa, the Indian Ocean and some countries along the Eastern seaboard such as Kenya.

“The private sector is pushing the Indian government to engage on Africa more consistently and to expand its network,” said Alex Vines, head of Chatham House’s Africa Programme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a six-day trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania this week, pledged $5 billion over three years in development support, $700 million for new institutions and training programmes and $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line.

“India can be blamed for waking up late to the African opportunity, but can make up for lost time by projecting itself as a more humane investor than its northern neighbour,” wrote India’s Hindustan Times newspaper in an editorial.

While India, and other emerging economies, see Africa as an important supplier and customer to drive growth, it is a sign of New Delhi’s growing global economic and political clout, that it is seeking to play a leading role in Africa’s development.

“Africa is determined to partner in India’s economic resurgence as India is committed to be a close partner in Africa’s renaissance,” said the declaration after the second Africa-India summit in Ethiopia this week.

India’s state-run oil firms are beginning to invest in countries including Nigeria and Kenya, coal and diamond firms have invested across the continent, and new embassies in Niger and Malawi have been opened to assist firms with securing uranium for India’s fast-growing nuclear power industry.

India is also keen to leverage its global expertise in the information technology, agriculture and human resource sectors in helping African countries, many of which face similar developmental hurdles that India itself is grappling with.

While China has snapped up resources through governmental agreements, India’s government wants the private sector to spearhead the push to secure investments across the continent.

“India’s engagement with Africa is completely different with that of China. With China its state-to-state, even if the investors are private companies,” said Zemedeneh Negatu, Ernst & Young’s Managing Partner for Ethiopia.

Indian telecoms firm Bharti Airtel spent $9 billion acquiring Zain’s African assets last year, with a view to implementing strategies in Africa that were developed in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market.

Largely thanks to the Bharti deal, India was the most acquisitive nation in Africa in 2010.

With African consumer spending set to nearly double to $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to McKinsey and Co., Indian consumer goods makers are also pushing hard across the continent.

Godrej Consumer has bought personal care products makers in Nigeria and South Africa, while Dabur India, Marico and Emami have also bought assets.

“India’s engagement with Africa in the economic sense will be driven by the private sector,” said H.H. Viswanathan of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

“The majority of the top 10 Indian companies in Africa are private firms, not state-run like the Chinese firms.”

Development assistance aside, as the Indian private sector expands in Africa, the continent is also destined to benefit from job creation as companies seek lower production costs.

“Labour costs have become more and more expensive in China and India. Chinese and Indian companies are starting look at destinations where they can do their things cost-competitively,” said Ernst & Young’s Zemedeneh.

“That’s where Africa benefits.” (Editing by David Clarke)

13-24

ANALYSIS-India Eyes Diplomacy and Private Sector to Woo Africa

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Henry Foy and Aaron Maasho

NEW DELHI/ADDIS ABABA, May 27 (Reuters) – Bereft of China’s riches, India is banking on diplomacy, development and its entrepreneurial private sector to woo African nations to open markets and natural resources to Asia’s third-largest economy

New Delhi has promised billions of dollars in development support, financing for infrastructure projects and the building of educational and training institutes as it positions itself as the alternative to Beijing.

India enjoys historical ties with some African countries, but became a mere observer when China came calling for resources and energy, with financial riches New Delhi could not match.

China boasts foreign exchange reserves of more than $3 trillion, 10 times India’s $307 billion, and has aggressively used state-owned development banks to invest heavily in oil, gas and other resources across the continent.

But after being caught cold by China, and losing a series of bids for oil rights and infrastructure projects to its Asian rival, India is banking on a new approach to Africa that blends trade and investment with development economics.

“India’s approach is reciprocal, expecting access to resources in exchange for developing technology and training Africa’s human resources. That’s how India is different to other foreign powers,” said Suresh Kumar, head of the Department of African Studies, University of Delhi.

“In providing education, technology, development and security, India is a complete partner.”

Like China, India has posted high economic growth rates since 1990 and the economy in a country of 1.2 billion people is now expanding at more than 8 percent a year. Resources from Africa are seen as crucial to help sustain growth.

Total trade between India and African countries stood at $46 billion last year, still less than half of China’s $108 billion in 2008, but a huge increase on $3 billion in 2000-1. India says it will reach $70 billion by 2015.

Beijing also leads the way in diplomatic terms, with 42 embassies across sub-Saharan Africa, double India’s diplomatic presence of only 21 embassies, a report from the London-based Chatham House think-tank said.

Indian is keen to trumpet its cultural links with African countries, citing a shared history of imperialism and trade routes established hundreds of years ago.

The Indian diaspora in Africa tops 2 million people, but it is mainly concentrated in South Africa, the Indian Ocean and some countries along the Eastern seaboard such as Kenya.

“The private sector is pushing the Indian government to engage on Africa more consistently and to expand its network,” said Alex Vines, head of Chatham House’s Africa Programme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a six-day trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania this week, pledged $5 billion over three years in development support, $700 million for new institutions and training programmes and $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line.

“India can be blamed for waking up late to the African opportunity, but can make up for lost time by projecting itself as a more humane investor than its northern neighbour,” wrote India’s Hindustan Times newspaper in an editorial.

While India, and other emerging economies, see Africa as an important supplier and customer to drive growth, it is a sign of New Delhi’s growing global economic and political clout, that it is seeking to play a leading role in Africa’s development.

“Africa is determined to partner in India’s economic resurgence as India is committed to be a close partner in Africa’s renaissance,” said the declaration after the second Africa-India summit in Ethiopia this week.

India’s state-run oil firms are beginning to invest in countries including Nigeria and Kenya, coal and diamond firms have invested across the continent, and new embassies in Niger and Malawi have been opened to assist firms with securing uranium for India’s fast-growing nuclear power industry.

India is also keen to leverage its global expertise in the information technology, agriculture and human resource sectors in helping African countries, many of which face similar developmental hurdles that India itself is grappling with.

While China has snapped up resources through governmental agreements, India’s government wants the private sector to spearhead the push to secure investments across the continent.

“India’s engagement with Africa is completely different with that of China. With China its state-to-state, even if the investors are private companies,” said Zemedeneh Negatu, Ernst & Young’s Managing Partner for Ethiopia.

Indian telecoms firm Bharti Airtel spent $9 billion acquiring Zain’s African assets last year, with a view to implementing strategies in Africa that were developed in the world’s fastest-growing mobile market.

Largely thanks to the Bharti deal, India was the most acquisitive nation in Africa in 2010.

With African consumer spending set to nearly double to $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to McKinsey and Co., Indian consumer goods makers are also pushing hard across the continent.

Godrej Consumer has bought personal care products makers in Nigeria and South Africa, while Dabur India, Marico and Emami have also bought assets.

“India’s engagement with Africa in the economic sense will be driven by the private sector,” said H.H. Viswanathan of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

“The majority of the top 10 Indian companies in Africa are private firms, not state-run like the Chinese firms.”

Development assistance aside, as the Indian private sector expands in Africa, the continent is also destined to benefit from job creation as companies seek lower production costs.

“Labour costs have become more and more expensive in China and India. Chinese and Indian companies are starting look at destinations where they can do their things cost-competitively,” said Ernst & Young’s Zemedeneh.

“That’s where Africa benefits.” (Editing by David Clarke)

13-24

INTERVIEW-Brotherhood Says Won’t Force Islamic Law on Egypt

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO, May 29 (Reuters) – The Muslim Brotherhood wants a diverse parliament after elections in September and is not seeking to impose Islamic law on Egypt, the head of the group’s newly formed political party said in an interview.

The Brotherhood, which has emerged as a powerful force after years of repression under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, has said it does not want a parliamentary majority, although rivals see it as well placed for a dominant position.

With secular politicians struggling to mount a challenge, Western investors are concerned about what a shift to an Islamic-leaning government would mean for Egypt, which relies on receipts from Western and other tourists and where tension between Muslims and the Christian minority have flared.

“We only use Islam as the basis of our party … which means that our general framework is Islamic sharia … We don’t issue religious rules in individual cases,” said Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood’s newly formed Justice and Freedom Party, which will contest the vote.

Liberal Egyptians in particular worry that the group could use for its own ends the second article of Egypt’s constitution, which makes sharia, Islamic law, a main source of legislation.
Egypt’s military rulers suspended the old constitution and introduced an interim one, but that article was unchanged.

Mursi, speaking in the group’s new five-storey headquarters in Mokattem on the outskirts of Cairo, dismissed such worries.

“We want to engage in a dialogue not a monologue,” he said. “The Brotherhood does not seek to control the parliament … We want a strong parliament … with different political forces.”
But he said Islamic law could have a place in a civil state in Egypt, where about 10 percent of the 80 million population are Christians. “Islamic sharia guarantees the rights of all people, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said.

Mursi said he would stick by the Brotherhood’s pledge not to field a presidential candidate or support any Brotherhood member running, as one has already said he will do.

“The group said it will not field a candidate for the presidency or support one if decides to do so independently,” he said.

No Economic Platform Yet

The Brotherhood’s new offices are emblazoned with its emblem of crossed swords, a scene unimaginable in the Mubarak era when its members were rounded up in regular sweeps and it worked from two cramped apartments in Cairo.

Mursi, head of the engineering department in Egypt’s Zaqaziq University, led the Brotherhood’s parliament bloc in the 2000-2005 parliamentary session. The Brotherhood used to field its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on its activities.

The Brotherhood, which has spread deep roots in Egypt’s conservative Muslim society partly through a broad social programme, held 20 percent of seats in the 2005-2010 parliament.

It boycotted last year’s vote because of accusations of rigging, which rights groups said had been a feature of all votes under Mubarak.

Mursi said an economic platform had not yet been drawn up as the party, formed in April, was still organising itself.

But some secular politicians and other Egyptians are concerned that women and Christians could be sidelined and that alcohol could be banned, which analysts say is a concern as many tourists to Egypt are non-Muslims wanting a beach holiday and who might be deterred if alcohol is not served.

One in eight Egyptian jobs depend on tourism.

On Christians, he said: “We want everyone to be reassured … that we want to see our Christian brothers elected in parliament … We don’t want one group to control the parliament, neither the Brotherhood nor anyone else.”

Of the party’s 9,000 registered members, he said 100 were Christian and 1,000 were women, adding that the party’s deputy head, Rafik Habib, was a Christian.

When asked if the party could propose a law to prohibit alcohol, Mursi said such changes would be up to parliament to decide, not a single group, such as the Brotherhood.

“The Egyptian constitution is not the constitution of the Brotherhood but … of the Egyptian people,” said Mursi, adding that the constitution “says Egypt’s legislation is based on the principles of sharia, and not its details”.

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Elizabeth Piper)

13-24

Silencing Bahrain’s Journalists

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lamees Dhaif tells Al Jazeera: “They can stop us from telling stories now, but they can’t stop us forever.”

By Matthew Cassel

2011-05-17T104537Z_133607826_GM1E75H1FX801_RTRMADP_3_IRAN

An Iranian waves Iran and Bahrain flags as a ship filled with aid for the people of Bahrain departs from Bushehr, some 746 miles south of Tehran May 16, 2011. Picture taken May 16, 2011.

REUTERS/Mohsen Norouzifard/Mehr News/Handout

Women and local journalists have long been at the forefront of the movement for change in the Arab world. Bahrain’s Lamees Dhaif is both, and for nearly a decade she has been an outspoken proponent of social justice in the small island nation.

Thirty-four-year-old Dhaif spoke to Al Jazeera in Doha this past weekend about her career as a journalist and the recent government crackdown that has silenced her and many others in the Gulf kingdom.

Dhaif described herself as a “golden child” when she entered journalism in 2002, saying she had “everything it takes” to be a great journalist. Since then, Dhaif has become one of the most recognised and controversial personalities in Bahrain’s media.

“I came with an aggressive approach to journalism,” she said. “In Bahrain, they try to avoid conflict in journalism; they don’t want to upset anyone. It’s a small society, so if you write about someone you’re going to upset his relatives.”

Dhaif, a Shia Muslim who comes from a “conservative” background, said: “I criticised the [Shia religious establishment] and I’ve been the target of my own people.”

“And then I started to target the powerful and the elite, someone had to say something.”

“For example, we have 21 sports unions in Bahrain, and the heads of 17 of them are members of the royal family,” Dhaif explained. “I asked, ‘why is the chairman of the swimming union so fat?’ I asked the same for the minister of health, ‘shouldn’t he be a doctor?’”

“In the beginning I was smart, a little bit spoiled. I wanted to prove myself. When I put my hand deeper in my work and went for the first time to the villages and saw poverty and injustice, I started to despise myself for thinking that working in the media was something that could make me a star.”

“I started addressing issues that made the powerful want to destroy me, I made many enemies,” Dhaif said.

Dhaif described the government’s campaign to ruin her reputation. Statements were made about her physical appearance and behaviour, claims she dismisses as rumours and attempts to “shrink” her in the conservative Gulf society.

Dhaif said these attacks backfired and “only made me more determined, and spreading the rumours made me more known”.

However, lately Dhaif has been silenced since the government imposed martial law to suppress a protest movement that began in February of this year.

Bahrain, a key ally of the US and home to its Navy’s fifth fleet, is controlled by a Sunni monarchy. Shia, who make up more than two-thirds of the population, lack rights and are excluded from most high-level political positions and the security forces.

The protest movement resembled those in Tunisia and Egypt which came before and succeeded in ousting the respective heads of both states. In Bahrain, protesters demanding change started their own Tahrir Square-like sit-in at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, before they were forcibly removed. The government later destroyed the roundabout.

One month after protests began, the Bahrainmonarchy imposed martial law and invited thousands of Saudi troops to help quell the uprising.

Since that time, more than 30 protesters have been killed and hundreds of protesters, human rights advocates, medical workers, journalists and others have been rounded up and imprisoned by the authorities. Rights groups have condemned the widespread detention and subsequent torture and abuse reportedly happening inside the prisons. At least four detainees have died in custody, and two have been sentenced to death. Amnesty International has condemned military trials in Bahrain as “politically motivated and unfair”.

Dhaif described how her family had come under threat for her work, and, encouraged by her relatives, she took a break from writing since martial law began. “I stopped [practicing journalism] because I didn’t want to be arrested. If I’m arrested now, how can I document the others in jail? Everyone is arrested.”

Since the crackdown began, many activists, journalists and others have gone into hiding to avoid arrest by authorities – which posted pictures of the “wanted” on various media outlets, including Facebook.

“We reached a point where we’re scared to even write on our laptops because it’s the first thing they take when they invade our homes. So, I keep all the stories in my head,” Dhaif said.

“They can stop us from telling stories now, but they can’t do it forever. Even the dead will tell their stories.”

The government and state media in Bahrain have portrayed the protest movement as sectarian and attempted to justify the crackdown by warning against Iranian influence in the country. In April, Bahrain’s foreign minister said that foreign troops would stay in the country to remove any “external threat”, that he associated with Iran.

According to Dhaif, in Bahrain, “there are some Shia who have a lot. And there are a lot of Sunnis suffering, but they’re scared to [act] because the government makes them scared of Iran”.

“The government says that the protesters want Iran [to controlBahrain] … it’s an old song that they’ve sung for decades. What the hell do we want with Iran?

It is not a civilised government, it is a dictatorship. We wish a better life for the people in Iran.”

Dhaif asked: “Do all Sunnis want a government like Saudi Arabia? So why do they accuse any Shia of wanting a religious government like in Iran?”

Unlike protests in other Arab nations, Dhaif contends that the majority of protesters in Bahrain do not want “isqat al-nitham” (to overthrow the regime), but rather reform and equal rights.

“Bahrainis are peaceful and intelligent people, and we deserve a modern country. We deserve to be treated as citizens and partners, not followers and slaves. We don’t want to rule, we don’t want their palaces, their thrones, their Rolls Royces and their jets, we just want to be treated with dignity.”

“If the government said ‘let us keep our thrones, and we’ll offer you the dignity you deserve’ the people would accept,” Dhaif said.

“If the government gives them real rights there would be no need to protest. [The government] should stop being so stubborn – they can’t change the people, but the people can change them.”

Al Jazeera

13-23

Timeline of Events in Strauss-Kahn Case

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in a prison in New York on charges that he attempted to rape a maid at a New York hotel on Saturday.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have denied the charges.

The scandal has appeared to wreck his hopes of running for president of France and has prompted calls for new leadership of the IMF which oversees the world economy.

Here is a timeline of events:

FRIDAY AFTERNOON – Strauss-Kahn checked into a $3,000 a night suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, which a law enforcement source said he was paying a discounted rate of $800.
The suite has a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom. The 30-storey hotel has an Art Deco restaurant and bar called Gaby, which the website (www.sofitel.com) says serves “French flair in a glamorous setting.’’

The hotel is near Times Square, Broadway theaters, Fifth Avenue shopping and Central Park.

SATURDAY ABOUT 12:00 P.M. EDT (1600 GMT) – A 32-year-old maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite, room 2806, which she apparently thought was unoccupied.

Following routine procedure, the maid announced herself when she entered the suite, and left the front door to the suite unlocked and ajar, a law enforcement said. She entered the living room and saw nobody. Then she opened the door to the bedroom, where she saw Strauss Kahn, naked. She apologized and said she would come back later, and started to leave the room.

Strauss-Kahn allegedly ran after the maid and, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, shut the door of his hotel room, preventing her from leaving. He grabbed the victim’s chest without consent, attempted to remove her pantyhose, and forcibly grabbed the victim’s vaginal area. His penis made contact with the victim’s mouth twice through the use of force, prosecutors said.
The woman fled and reported the incident to her supervisor who called police. Strauss-Kahn left the hotel, leaving behind his mobile phone.

An ambulance was called to the hotel and the woman was taken to a hospital where she was treated and released.

SATURDAY, 12.28 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn checked out of the Sofitel hotel, according to court papers filed by his lawyers with the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

SATURDAY, 12.45 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn “proceeded to a previously scheduled lunch a few blocks away’’ from the Sofitel hotel, according to the court papers.

SATURDAY, about 1:30 P.M. – Security staff at the Sofitel called police to report the alleged sexual assault, a law enforcement source told Reuters. The first police units arrived at the hotel at 1:45 pm, the source said.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – “Strauss-Kahn was driven to John F. Kennedy International Airport to catch an Air France flight to Paris, which was scheduled to depart at 4:40 p.m. A seat for Mr. Strauss-Kahn had been reserved on that particular flight approximately one week in advance,’’ court papers filed by defense lawyers said.

SATURDAY, about 3.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn called the hotel to ask about his missing mobile phone.

Police were still at the hotel and asked the staff member speaking to Strauss-Kahn to tell him an urgent effort would be made to return the phone. Strauss-Kahn told the hotel staff member to bring the phone to him at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn boarded Air France flight 23 for Paris at New York’s JFK airport and was seated in the first class section. He had been due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe on Sunday and attend meetings on the region’s debt crisis on Monday.

SATURDAY about 4:40 P.M. – Police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the bridges, tunnels and airports in the area, boarded the flight minutes before it was due to depart and detained Strauss-Kahn. He was not handcuffed.

The Port Authority police turned him over to New York Police Department detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, which covers the area of Manhattan where the Sofitel hotel is located. They handcuffed him.

Strauss-Kahn made no statements and requested a lawyer. He was taken to the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit in the Harlem neighborhood, where he was kept in a room reserved for questioning. He made no statements and declined any food. The Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes.

SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – The consul general of France met with Strauss-Kahn under the regular rules of consular protection for all French citizens detained abroad, said Marie-Laure Charrier, a spokeswoman for the French consulate in New York.

SUNDAY 1:15 A.M. – Brafman told Reuters in an email that the IMF chief would plead not guilty.

Brafman is a high-profile criminal lawyer who was part of Michael Jackson’s legal team that successfully defended the pop singer against child molestation charges in 2005. Brafman also won an acquittal on weapons and bribery charges for rap mogul Sean “P. Diddy’’ Combs.

SUNDAY 2:15 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn spent the night at the Special Victims Unit, which is on the second floor of a red brick and concrete building, sleeping in a chair with his feet propped up in another chair.

SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a breakfast of home fries, scrambled eggs and toast brought in from an outside diner, a law enforcement said.

SUNDAY 11 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, said in a statement: “I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband … I do not doubt his innocence will be established.’’

SUNDAY 1 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Brafman and William Taylor, arrived and spent half an hour with their client. Brafman again said Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty.

SUNDAY 2 P.M. – Sofitel New York manager Jorge Tito said in a statement sent by property owner Accor in Paris that the maid who made the allegations had worked for the hotel for three years and was “completely satisfactory in terms of her work and behavior.’’

SUNDAY 3.30 P.M. – Brafman and Taylor arrived and spent 45 minutes with Strauss-Kahn.

SUNDAY 3.50 P.M. – The maid arrived at the Special Victims Unit in a van and shielded by police with a white sheet from photographers. She spent 40 minutes there. She identified Strauss-Kahn in a lineup, a NYPD spokesman said. “It was a standard lineup — six people,’’ he said.

SUNDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and drinks a bottle of water, a law enforcement source said.

SUNDAY 10.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers told reporters on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court that his court appearance had been postponed so he could undergo a “scientific and forensic’’ examination that had been requested by investigators. Taylor said Strauss-Kahn was “tired but fine.’’

SUNDAY 11 P.M. – A handcuffed Strauss-Kahn, wearing black pants, a blue dress shirt and a black overcoat, was escorted from the Special Victims Unit by detectives. He was taken to Kings County Hospital in the New York City borough of Brooklyn where he was examined by forensic technicians who specialize in investigating sexual assault cases.

MONDAY about 3.30 A.M – Strauss-Kahn’s mug shot was taken at the Manhattan Criminal Court building detention center, best known as “The Tombs,’’ where he spent the night. The photo showed him looking haggard, his eyes downcast and his shirt collar open.

MONDAY 10.50 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn entered Manhattan Criminal Court for his hearing. Before his appearance, other defendants appeared before the judge in the media-packed courtroom on charges including drug possession, criminal trespassing and delinquency.

Strauss-Kahn appeared to be dressed in the same clothes he was wearing on Sunday and looked tired and grim.

MONDAY 12 P.M – Strauss-Kahn was denied bail. He is due to reappear in court on May 20.

MONDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn was transferred to Rikers Island jail and held in protective custody in an 11 foot by 13 foot cell, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

TUESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – At Strauss-Kahn’s request, the French consul general visited him at Rikers Island jail, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – The French consul general again visited Strauss-Kahn, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers lodged an appeal seeking bail with the New York State Supreme Court. They want him released on bail of $1 million in cash and placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring, according to the court papers. A bail hearing is due to be held on Thursday. It is unclear whether Strauss-Kahn will attend.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Edith Honan and Basil Katz in New York and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)

13-21

Amnesty: Iran Steps Up Public Executions

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran has sharply stepped up its use of public executions, hanging 13 men this year, nearly as many as in all of 2010, in an attempt to intimidate its citizens, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Eight of the hangings have taken place since mid-April, including two juveniles convicted for a rape and murder committed when they were 17, the human rights group said.

“It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanize the victim, but brutalize those who witness it,” said Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Iran executed at least 252 people last year, 14 in public, Amnesty said.

Human rights groups often criticize Iran, saying the Islamic republic has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy — the renouncing of Islam — are all punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law practiced since the 1979 revolution.

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

13-18

Advertise Here on The Muslim Observer Website!

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

To begin advertising on our site just click here—you can do the whole process by yourself (of course we have to approve your ad before it appears on our site, which could take as long as two business days).

The Muslim Observer is an exciting newspaper with a vibrant website—every day on average about 1,200 of your potential customers peruse our website.  Why not reach them directly?  The TMO website is not only read by Muslims—many people from many walks of life and people from around the USA and around the world read this website for a different point of view.  American Muslims are typically doctors, engineers, professionals who are active and affluent—great customers!

Take a look at a slideshow of some of our recent statistics:

As you can see, our numbers by and large have continually improved over the last few years, to the point now where we have on some days 2,400 unique human visitors on our site, each one viewing at least one page on the site and potentially more, not to mention the advertising that appears before them.

To begin our automated process for advertising on our site just click here—you can do the whole process by yourself, any time of day or night, 24/7! Of course we have to approve your ad before it appears on our site, which could take as long as two business days.  Or call us at:  two-four-eight-426-7777.

Thank you!

Please have a look around our website while you’re here! 

Dubai Now Seeking 26 Suspects in Hamas Killing

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Johnston

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furor.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Dubai police added 15 new names on Wednesday to a list of suspects wanted over the killing. Six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three were Australian, and three French, the Dubai government said in a statement.

Israeli media reported on Wednesday the new list could involve further cases of identity theft.

Dubai authorities had earlier named 11 suspects, who they said travelled on fraudulent British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh. Six were Britons living in Israel who deny involvement and say their identities were stolen.

“Dubai investigators are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of other people in the murder,” the statement said.

The suspected killers’ use of passports from countries including Britain and France has drawn criticism from the European Union. Some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

“We will not be silent on this matter. It is a matter of deep concern. It really goes to the integrity and fabric of the use of state documents, which passports are, for other purposes,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, as his government summoned Israel’s ambassador.

The Dubai statement said: “Friendly governments (which) have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner.”

It said pictures on the passports did not correspond to their original owners.

In a statement on Monday that European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said that the assassination was “profoundly disturbing.”

Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister said there was nothing to link it to the killing. The United States, Israel’s main ally, has kept silent about the affair.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989 and Israeli and Palestinian sources have said he played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.

A Hamas official and Israel have also said he masterminded the capture and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.

Like last week, Dubai police released passport photos and closed-circuit television footage of the new suspects, who police said arrived from cities including Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan and Hong Kong.

“This was to take the camouflage and deception to its utmost level and to guarantee the avoidance of any security supervision or observation of their movements,” the statement said.

Once their part in the operation was completed, the suspects again dispersed to different parts of the world, with two suspects leaving Dubai by boat for Iran, it said.

Dubai police also released credit card details of some of the suspects. At least 13 credit cards used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel were issued by the same small U.S. lender, MetaBank. The bank declined comment.

“MetaBank is declining comment pending a factual review of this matter,” it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Israel’s Ynet news website said it had tracked down a person with the same name as one of the suspects living in Tel Aviv.

“I am in shock from what I just heard. This is an identity theft. I cannot believe it,” Adam Marcus Korman, an Australian-born Israeli, told the website.

Several other names listed as suspects by Dubai police were similar to those of people listed in the Israeli telephone directory, including two named as British passport holders. Reuters was not immediately able to contact any of those people.

Two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in detention and Dubai’s police chief has said he believes the operation could not have been carried out without information from inside Hamas on Mabhouh’s travel details.

An official from the movement was quoted as saying last week that Hamas had launched an investigation to try to discover “how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.

Mossad is believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Iran’s nuclear project.

Mabhouh’s killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in trade and tourism hub Dubai, one of seven emirates in the UAE federation, where violent crime is rare.

(Additional reporting by Rania Oteify in Dubai, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Alastair Macdonald in Jerusalem, Daniel Wilchins in New York and Rob Taylor in Canberra, Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Matthew Jones)

12-9

Muslim Revival in Chechnya

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adapted by TMO from an article by Amie Ferris-Rotman, Reuters

2009-12-16T135212Z_01_BTRE5BF12J600_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-RUSSIA-CHECHNYA-ISLAM GROZNY, Russia – Adam, 52, keeps his three wives in different towns to stop them squabbling, but the white-bearded Chechen adds he might soon take a fourth.

“Chechnya is Muslim, so this is our right as men. They (the wives) spend time together, but do not always see eye to eye,” said the soft-spoken pensioner, who only gave his first name.

Hardline Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov is vying with insurgents for authority in a land ravaged by two secessionist wars with Moscow. Each side is claiming Islam as its flag of legitimacy, each reviles the other as criminal and blasphemous.

Wary of the dangers of separatism in a vast country, Moscow watches uneasily as central power yields to Islamic tenets. It must choose what it might see as the lesser of two evils.

Though polygamy is illegal in Russia, the region of Chechnya encourages the practice, arguing it is allowed by Shari’a law and the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

By Russian law, Adam is only married to his first wife of 28 years, Zoya, the plump, blue-eyed mother of his three children, with whom he shares a home on the outskirts of the regional capital Grozny.

His marriages to the other two — squirreled away in villages nearby — were carried out in elaborate celebrations and are recognized by Chechen authorities.
The head of Chechnya’s Center for Spiritual-Moral Education, Vakha Khashkanov, set up by Kadyrov a year ago, said Islam should take priority over laws of the Russian constitution.

“If it is allowed in Islam, it is not up for discussion,” he told Reuters near Europe’s largest mosque, which glistens in central Grozny atop the grounds where the Communist party had its headquarters before the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

“As long as you can feed your wives, and there’s equality amongst them, then polygamy is allowed in Chechnya,” he added.

Islam is flourishing in Chechnya which, along with its neighbors Dagestan and Ingushetia, is combating an Islamist insurgency which aims to create a Muslim, Shari’ah-based state separate from Russia across the North Caucasus.

Though Islam first arrived in the North Caucasus around 500 years ago, in Dagestan’s ancient walled city of Derbent on the Caspian Sea, religion under Communism was strongly discouraged.

Kadyrov, like most of his region’s one million people, is Sufi, a mystical branch of Islam which places a greater focus on prayer and recitation.

Political analysts say that in exchange for successfully hunting out Islamist fighters, the Kremlin turns a blind eye to Kadyrov’s Muslim-inspired rules.

Today Grozny’s cafes hold men sipping smuggled beer out of teacups as alcohol has been all but banned, single-sex schools and gyms are becoming the norm and women must cover their heads in government buildings.

Clad in a tight hijab, Asya Malsagova, who advises Kadyrov on human rights issues and heads a state council dealing with the rights of Chechen prisoners, told Reuters: “We believe every woman should have a choice — but we prefer she covers up.”

Animals are also being used to reintroduce Islam at Chechnya’s round-the-clock Muslim television channel, where 60 young bearded men and headscarved women create children’s programs in large studios adorned with photos of Mecca.

A bevy of bumble bees joyfully scream “Salam Alaikum” (Peace be with you) upon entering the studio of Ruslan Ismailov, who is making a full-length cartoon on hi-tech Apple computers for the channel, which is called “Put,” meaning “The Way” in Russian.

“The bees appeal to children, and they will teach them how to live properly by the Muslim faith,” Ismailov said.

Set up two years ago by the state and broadcast to thousands across the North Caucasus, instantly becoming one of the top channels in the region, it also features programs for women on how to keep home and reading Qur`an throughout the night.

“It’s no secret what Chechnya has been through,” said the channel’s general director Adam Shakhidov, sporting a ginger beard and traditional black velvet cap.

“Two wars, the Soviet Union and today’s Muslim extremism… it’s time to show the true beauty of Sufism and install the basis for Shari’ah,” he said.

11-52

Iraq Parliament Passes Key Investment Law

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament passed an investment law on Monday that would allow foreigners to own land for housing projects, and is designed to streamline regulations and applications for foreign investment, lawmakers said.

Iraq hoped for a tide of foreign investment as the sectarian bloodshed triggered by the 2003 U.S. invasion subsided in the last two years, but bureaucracy, red tape and outdated land ownership laws have deterred businessmen.

“This is a huge achievement for everybody, the parliament, the cabinet and the Iraqi people. This will remove many obstacles blocking the investment process in Iraq,” National Investment Commission Chairman Sami al-Araji told Reuters.

The investment law does not cover the oil sector, nor hotel construction, but housing is a potentially huge growth industry.

Iraq hopes to build millions of new housing units. The old real estate laws only allowed the lease of land to foreign investors for a limited time.

The new law aims to speed up the process of applying for investment licenses and to clarify federal and provincial powers when dealing with investors.

It must now be approved by Iraq’s presidential council.

11-51

Somali Shabaab Rebels Say They Shot Down U.S. drone

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdi Sheikh

2009-10-19T142349Z_601044172_GM1E5AJ1Q6Z01_RTRMADP_3_SOMALIA-CONFLICT

Hardline Somali Islamist insurgents from Hisbul Islam patrol the streets of the capital Mogadishu, October 19, 2009. Hardline al Shabaab rebels have destroyed a mosque and the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim sheikh in central Somalia after shooting in the air to drive away local protesters, residents said on Monday.                  

REUTERS/Stringer

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Insurgents of the Somali al Shabaab group shot down a U.S. drone aircraft flying over the southern port of Kismayu on Monday and were searching for the wreckage, an insurgent spokesman said.

U.S. commandos killed a ‘most wanted’ al Qaeda suspect allied to al Shabaab last month in a helicopter raid in the rebel-held south of the failed state.

“We fired at an American plane spying for information over Kismayu. Our forces targeted the plane and shot it and we saw the plane burning. We think it fell into the sea,” said Sheikh Hassan Yacqub, spokesman for al Shabaab in Kismayu.

“We are still searching for it,” he told Reuters.

Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said all its unmanned aerial vehicles had been safely recovered but could not give further details.

Al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, controls much of the south and center where it is waging an insurgency against the fragile U.N.-backed government.

Residents in one small central town, Galhareeri, said al Shabaab fighters destroyed a mosque, the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim cleric and a Sufi Muslim university there on Sunday.

The hardline group has targeted Sufi holy sites and religious leaders in the past, saying their practices conflict with the insurgents’ strict interpretation of Islamic law.

“They destroyed the Sheikh Ali Ibaar’s grave and our mosque. They also knocked down our Islamic university,” elder Hassan Ali said by telephone. “We do not know where to flee.”

Fighting in Somalia has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes.

A spokesman for Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a moderate Sufi militia group that is battling al Shabaab in central regions, denounced the desecration of the holy sites in Galhareeri.

“We strongly condemn al Shabaab for its evil acts,” Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf told Reuters. “They are notorious for destroying great graves, even in places where they just spend a couple of nights.”

Al Shabaab has shocked many Somalis, moderate Muslims, with its stern version of Sharia law, involving amputations for theft, and lately the public whipping of women for wearing bras.

Al Shabaab fighters have banned movies, musical telephone ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

Some residents, however, give the rebels credit for restoring a degree of law and order to parts of the country.

In the capital Mogadishu, police displayed on Monday the body of a foreign gunman who appeared to be Arab and was killed on Sunday during an al Shabaab attack on government forces.

“You see this dead Arab. He was among the members of al Qaeda who came from other countries just to destroy Somalia,” police spokesman Abdullahi Barise told reporters, standing over the corpse of a light-skinned man with several bullet wounds.

Al Shabaab have urged foreign jihadists to join their battle against what they describe as Somalia’s apostate government.

11-44

Offbeat Investment

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Martin de Sa’Pinto

ZURICH, August 24 (Reuters) – Few investors would be happy to see their assets turn sour, but an alternative investment launched recently offers them the chance to make a healthy return from just such a development.

Vinegar may be a unorthodox investment but Stefan Marti, managing director of vinegar maker Baerg Marti, said it has captured the imagination of many investors, especially from Russia and Asia.

“I was showing my bottled vinegar to some Japanese clients, and they asked me to sell them a barrel rather than bottles. They wanted their own barrel personalised with their logo so they could be identified with the product,” Marti told Reuters.

He said the clients were excited by the product and by its production process — it is matured in the Swiss mountains at an altitude of 3,000 metres for five years or longer in Limousin or cherry oak — which gave it a strong appeal as an investment.

Turmoil in the financial markets in 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 has boosted the attractiveness of unusual asset classes like fine wines, art, rare coins and violins, which investors hoped could perform through the crisis.

Although rallying equities and corporate bonds are pulling investors in once again, interest from around the world in Baerg Marti’s vinegar has been growing, Marti said.

Investors could see returns that outstrip those of many more conventional funds and expected average returns of 200 to 300 percent over five years, he said. However, as the project is new there are no past performance figures.

Baerg Marti is offering 5-year contracts on the vinegars, which use Swiss produce, including apples, strawberries and blueberries, at a cost of 11,500 Swiss francs ($10,850) per barrel, plus a yearly storage fee of 150 francs.

There will be no performance fee, although Marti said one may be introduced for high volume buyers.

When mature, the best balsamic vinegars can cost 3,000 francs and more for just 1 litre, Marti said. A barrel contains some 30 litres.

Investors would be tied in to the five year contract, after which they could hold the investment, resell the vinegar or use it.

The vinegar benefits from temperature changes high in the Swiss mountains, however, one risk is from earth tremors, which can damage the quality.

Marti, who said the main interest in the investment so far has come from Japan, China and Russia. He said the barrels were insured for 11,500 francs for the investment period.

The market is liquid enough to give investors an exit, with demand from buyers in many parts of the world, Marti said, although he was unable to say what sort of bid-offer spread investors could expect if they needed to sell quickly.

He said the initial number of investors would be restricted as the first site, on the Mutthorn mountain in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, can hold a maximum of 500 barrels. Another site was in preparation, and would be ready in seven or eight months. ($1=1.060 Swiss francs)

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