Monday, July 14, 2008

RELIGION FOR HUMANITY

By Pormadi Simbolon

Witnessing many religious cases in Indonesia, we can see that some people of certain religion has used physical force to defend their interest in the name of religion. Their way to reach their purpose had made people of other religion intimidated. In this point, it is necessary to question, what is the function of religion? Why do a religion destruct humanity?

As the feeling of reverence which men entertain towards a Supreme Being, religion is should be reject the way of cruelty. Religion is the way to recognize of God as an object of worship, love, obedience and piety. Logically, if a religion is a way to respect God (Supreme Being), it means the people of religion should respect God’s creatures, include human being.

Destruction of religion

Abd A’la, an expert from Religious Reform Project (RePro) said, physical force is contrary to every single of religion, included Islamic values. Harshness which showed by some people of Islamic radicalism is opposed to Islamic teachings (Suara Pembaruan Daily, July 4, 2008). The physical force to other people can not be tolerated.

The main question is, why some people of religion should do cruelty to others who having different faith? I think that most of people of every single religion do not internalized yet the main substance of a religion. In fact, the main substance of every religion is LOVE. The people of religion should be teached to love God and to love neighbours.

It is clearly, substance of loving God also mean accepting any differences of other people in ethnic groups, religion, race, ideology and so on. The destruction of humanity also be the destruction of the face of religion.

Duty of religious leaders

We used to hear that there are some religious leaders who teach their people hatred to other religions. Its results are conflicts in togetherness. The people of this religion are not ready to live together with other people of different religions. Basically, this hatred is opposed to universal values e.g. human rights as United Nation Organisation declared 1948.

It is the main duty of every single leader of religion to build this country as a place for people of different religion can live together. It is the time for religious leaders to realize it in this globalization spirit.

One of the main way is making the substance of religious teachings to be internalised by people of religions. What are the religious values, they should be showed first to the people. According to our positive thinking, any system of faith must be a respect to God and so it should be a respect also to humanity.

The other way is spreading the universal values of every single religion. Religion is not a system of worship only, but also a system of behaviors to other people in daily life as the result of them. I mean, the love to God is not celebrated in a church or in a masjid, and other religious place only, but it should be manifested in daily life’s attitude to others. Hurting other people is also hurting his/her creator.

Besides, the existential principle of Republic Indonesia is Pancasila, the five principles. Pancasila teaches how to live together between people from any cultural background in Indonesia. The values of Pancasila has verified by the founding fathers to be the principles of life for Indonesian people. Pancasila should be the supreme direction to live in peace and tolerance.

And finally, it is a task for religious leaders and for all of religious people to build a pluralistic world civilization where different religious traditions can co-exist and mutually reinforce the cause of peace and human dignity. It is a challenging task for people of religion.

It is the time for people of religions to realize that religion is not for God only, but it is also for humanity too. Destruction of humanity is the destruction of religion too. Franz Magnis Suseno, a philosopher of Dryarkara in Jakarta said, “Do not make faith (religion) to be a cause of harshness!” We hope that people of different religions can live together in peace and tolerance.

The writes is a former student STFT Widyasasana Malang.
He can be reached at: pormadi.simbolon@gmail.com

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shut down your mind!

THIS is a lingering question that keeps haunting me time and again: ifI want to be good Muslim, should I shut down my mind and submit myselftotally to God? Can I be a good servant of God while still reservingsome space for doubt, question, and skepticism?

The way Islam is presented in the modern discourse of Islamistliterature is very interesting. Take for example the popular work byAbul A'la Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-i Islam-i in Pakistan, entitled Towards Understanding Islam. I stumbled upon this book long time ago while I was still a young student in madrasa in Indonesia.

Islam, in the Maududian discourse, means literally submission. "Muslim"means some one who submits and surrenders. Islam is an act ofsubmission. God has laid down for humanity a set of rules that willlead them to the path of salvation. To be a Muslim means to submityourself to God's sovereignty.

Islam, for Maududi, is not a religion as it is usually understood bywestern people, i.e. a personal conviction and faith that has nobearing on the public life. Islam is a faith plus a system; a religionthat unfolds in the history of humankind in the form of completecivilization.

The mission of the prophet, according to Maududi, is not simply toproduce individuals who adhere to moral teachings, but also politicalsystem in the modern sense of the word. In other words, Muhammad, inMaududian discourse, is not merely a teacher of moral life in the wayBuddha is, but also Constantine who is taking upon himself a tremendoustask of erecting an empire, a political system, a state, a dawla.

Submission in Islam is not simply an act of personal piety, but rathera "public" act to submit to a certain divinely sanctioned system. Thatis the system of God. For people like Maududi, God is not a solitary"father" in the dark corner of the world who cares so little about themundane affairs. God acts in the same manner as a CEO in the moderncompanies who is busy as hell with the minutiae of human affairs,ranging from state administration down to the trivial affairs such ashow you enter the bathroom. (Yup, even your CEO won't care how andwhere the hack you pee!)

God's rule is so complete and comprehensive that it leaves no singleaspect in human life unattended. To be a good Muslim is to placeyourself under this complete and totalitarian rule of God. Yes, God hasequipped humankind with the faculty of reason. But, watch out: reasonis given by God to test human truthful allegiance to his rule.

If we use our mind to challenge and question divine rule, that amounts to an act of rebellion against divine sovereignty.

In other words, if you want to be a good Muslim, you have no choice butshut down your mind. Of course, Maududi and the likes would do theirbest to repudiate any accusation that Islam is a religion thatcontravenes human reason. He will show you, of course apologetically,that Islamic history is ripe with the best instances where reason andrevelation coexists harmoniously producing the fruit of civilizationthat benefit all humankind. Even Europe owes Islamic civilizations agreat deal of debt.

Sound good argument, doesn't it?

But I don't buy it, AT ALL. Yes, Muslim generations over centuriesdeveloped a rich and magnificent civilization. But the standard bearersof that civilization were people of totally different breed. They arethe champions of humanism and rationalism. They were even the victim ofpeople of yore whose religious view was not so different from Maududi:totalitarian, anti-intellectual, and so hostile to the "other". IfMuslim philosophers and scientists like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd(Averroes), Ibn Baja (Avempace) and many others were ever resurrectedagain from their grave, they would definitely disown people likeMaududi outright!

JOHN Shelby Spong, a Christian theologian from the US, is one of my favorite writer. In a book that he published recently, Jesus for the Non-Religious, he said something about religion that resonates so deeply with my understanding of Islam. Listen to him as follows:

The Christianity that is now emerging in America and in the ThirdWorld is something with which I do not choose to be identified. I donot want to be filled with competing claims or disturbing anger. I donot want to worship a God that I cannot challenge, or be loyal to atradition that requires me to shut down my mind. (p. 7)

Spong is definitely a courageous man of religion. He chooses a thornypath: a God we are able to challenge, not God who judges our allegianceto him by how far down in the slope we can go to shut our mind down.

Of course, this is not what Maududi thinks about God. Maududi's God isa totalitarian God. Spong's God is a God of dialogue, a God with whom Ican negotiate.

I submit to this type of God.[] Ulil Abshar Abdalla (courtesy: Milis Pluralitas)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Republican Jewish Coalition responsible for mailing anti-Muslim film

The Republican Jewish Coalition is responsible for a mailing received by Reform rabbis and other Jews that included a DVD of the controversial anti-Muslim film Obsession, JewsOnFirst. org has learned. At least part of the mailing was sent under the postal permit of Christians United for Israel, a leading Christian Zionist organization. The DVD was packaged inside a book by David Brog (see scan below, at right), CUFI's executive director. The package also contained a letter by a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, endorsing Brog's book and calling on Jews to accept an alliance with Christian Zionists. CUFI's media representative told JewsOnFirst. org that the package was "mailed out" by the Republican Jewish Coalition. The representative, Juda S. Engelmayer, was unable to specify a particular mailing list the coalition used, but said he believed the recipients came from "a combination of various lists." Informal surveys by JewsOnFirst and others determined that the mailing was received by many rabbis, and also many members of the Jewish community. A staffer at the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organized rabbinate of Reform Judaism, said that the organization had neither made its list available for the mailing nor sent the package through its mailing house.

Book cover altered
The Republican Jewish Coalition's media officer asked that a request to confirm the group's role in the mailing be emailed. She has not responded to the email or subsequent phone messages. Engelmayer of CUFI told JewsOnFirst that he did not know what motivated the Republican Jewish Coalition's involvement, but that the mailing was intended to reach "the broadest spectrum of Jewish community members." It is likely however, that Obsession was added to the book specifically for the mailing. The cover of Brog's book, Standing with Israel, that arrived in the mailing is different than the cover currently advertised on his website. The cover in the packages received this week indicates that the DVD of Obsession is inside (see scan above). The original cover, copied this morning from Brog's website and shown here below the book cover from the mailing, has no reference to Obsession. A knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified said that the Republican Jewish Coalition dictated the contents of the mailing as a condition of getting CUFI's message to the Jewish audience that CUFI wished to reach. The Republican Jewish Coalition is a national organization, headquartered in Washington, DC, with revenue of $4 million in 2005. It calls itself "the pre-eminent Republican organization in the Jewish community." On February 14th, the group's website had a news releaseslamming Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's plan to try to bridge the widening gap between Muslim and Western nations." Rabbi Joan Friedman a professor of Religion and Jewish Studies at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, said it would be a mistake for Jews to involve themselves in the enduring contention between Islam and Christianity. "There is a long history between Christianity and Islam but if the Christians want to get on an anti-Islamic hobby horse, I think it is a mistake to buy into that," said Friedman, who received the mailing this week. (You can listen to our recorded conversation with Friedman here.) CUFI displaying link to Obsession trailer

Responding to a question about the thinking that went into sending the anti-Muslim film Obsession to Reform rabbis, who are often engaged in interfaith work, Engelmayer, CUFI's representative, said that CUFI also engages in interfaith work. Engelmayer added that CUFI has nothing to do with the film. In response, JewsOnFirst noted that CUFI's contact with Muslims is limited to harsh critics of Islam like Walid Shoebat-- and that CUFI's websitedisplays a link to the Obsession trailer, using the photo below. Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, founder of the Progressive Faith Foundation, who has been active in efforts at Jewish-Muslim bridge-building, said in an interview with JewsOnFirst. org that Obsession "offers an inflammatory portrayal of Islam and stigmatizes all Muslims as potential terrorists." Jacobs expressed concern that the film is "going to blow up the bridge that many of us have worked hard to establish." (You can listen to our recorded conversation with Jacobs here.) The film has sparked controversey around the country; critics have challenged its thinly disclaimed portrayal of Muslims as violent and hostile. Campus screenings have sometimes been canceled, in one instance because of fears that the film would provoke anti-Muslim hate crimes. Florida Attorney General screened film for staff
Recently Florida's Attorney General Bill McCollum prompted an outcry from Muslim and civil liberties groups when he screened Obsession three times for his staff during business hours, in government buildings. Earlier this week Muslim leaders, civil rights leaders, and Rabbi Jacobs met with McCollum about the screenings. Jacobs told JewsOnFirst that, while McCollum did not require his staff of 400 to see the film, "it was quite intimidating" for staffers to refuse to see the film and the few Muslims on his staff were "quietly threatened." As a result of the meeting, McCollum agreed to establish a Muslim advisory panel and to educate his staff about Islam.
However, Jacobs noted, with the widespread mailing of Obsession into the Jewish community "many more will see the film" and "we've got an enormous responsibility to tell truths and not set a people up the way we were set up. In my opinion the Muslims are the new Jews of America in terms of being scape-goated and being hated. And we know that as well as anybody and we need to challenge this film."

Israeli ambassador urges U.S. Jews to embrace Christian Zionists
In the cover letterincluded in the mailing, former ambassador Daniel Ayalon praised CUFI's David Brog for his work with Christians and urged Jews to overcome their antipathy to Christian Zionists. "For the first time in Israel's history, we are seeing the emergence of a significant pro-Israel movement outside of the Jewish community," wrote Ayalon, who was ambassador to the U.S. between 2002 and 2006.

Rabbi Philip Bentley of Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville, North Carolina, said that Reform Movement organizations ought to protest Ayalon's intervention in U.S. politics. "The Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judiasm ought to register a strong protest against this mailing and against former Ambassador Ayalon for lending himself, his organization, and his title to the Hagee organization, " Bently said. "If we are silent we have only ourselves to blame if Hagee makes inroads into our movement." As does Ayalon in his letter, Brog (who is Jewish) argues in Standing with Israel that Jews should appreciate -- not shun -- Christian Zionist support for Israel. Christian Zionism not an easy sell
Many Jews reject allying with Christian Zionists because of their fundamentalist domestic positions. CUFI's executive board and its directors include some of the biggest names on the religious right -- Gary Bauer, Jonathan Falwell and Rod Parsley, to name a few. In the two-plus years that CUFI has been in existence, local Jewish federations have pressured rabbis to participate in CUFI's "Nights to Honor Israel." These programs usually feature televangelist John Hagee, CUFI's founder and chairman, who typically presents a big donation to the local federation and sometimes to an Israeli settlement project as well. Some Jews reject the Christian Zionists' credo that Israel will be the scene of the "Battle of Armageddon" that presages the return of Jesus. Rabbi Bill Leffler, vice president of MoneyWatch Financial Advisors, said he found Brog's book "a sorry commentary on why we should appreciate the religious right's support of Israel which has to do with the rapture and not the intrinsic worth of Israel. Politics can make for strange bedfellows!" Recently CUFI has been trying to downplay Hagee's promotion of endtimes prophecy. CUFI's represenatitve Engelmayer emphasized that Hagee has said "countless times" that he does not believe Jesus' return is imminent. But Hagee has been promoting a U.S. attack on Iran in an end-times context. Additionally, CUFI has gone out of its way to oppose Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that might lead to Israeli concessions. That causes some who believe it is in Israel's interest to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, to question the value of CUFI's support for Israel. "If they want to contribute money to build hospitals, it is hard to argue with that, said Prof. Joan Friedman. But, she continued, "their contributions are not so innocent. They support groups that are inimical to the peace process." The opinions and views articulated by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Israel e News.

http://www.israelenews.com/view. asp?ID=1124

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Target Iran: Christian Fundamentalists' Road To The End Of The World

By Yoginder Sikand

11 June, 2008Countercurrents. org

It is not only because of insatiable greed for oil, orbecause of America's addiction to war or because ofBush's obvious mental instability that America and itsallies now seem hell-bent on attacking Iran, althoughthese factors are certainly important. Equallycrucially, the current wave of fervent war-mongeringin the West directed against Iran owes to the enormousclout wielded by Western Christian fundamentalistorganizations who, following the invasion anddestruction of Iraq, which they had so ferventlyabetted, are now calling for a repeat performance,this time in Iran. These blood-thirsty votaries of thecult of unmitigated violence consider Iran to be themajor challenge to American and Zionist imperialism,which they regard as enjoying divine blessing.Insisting that America and Israel should invade Iranat once, they regard this as a Christian necessity.They also believe that this would herald a global warof cosmic proportions that would, so they believe,usher in the end of the world and Jesus' SecondComing, something that they passionately await.

A key American Christian fundamentalist ideologue isthe Texas-based televangelist John Hagee. He is noinsignificant crank, although his views are, to put itmildly, wildly outlandish. He is said to be close totop leaders of the American Republic Party as well asIsraeli intelligence officers and politicians. He isthe pastor of The Cornerstone Church based in SanAntonio, and also heads the multi-million dollarGlobal Evangelism media company that broadcasts hisdaily programmes on 172 television and 82 radiostations throughout the USA and around the world. Hisfervent appeals to Christian simplicity obviously arenot intended to apply to himself: he is said to be oneof the wealthiest men in his city, and the trust thathe has named after himself, The John Hagee RabbiTrust, includes among its various assets a ranchspread over almost 8000 acres.
Hagee is one of the principal ideologues of what iscalled Christian Zionism, which is said to be thefastest growing religious cult in America today. Hageeis known for his fervent support for Israel, for heconsiders this a Biblical duty binding on Christians,and has been opposed to any peace deal that mightcause Israel to give up back any occupied land to thePalestinians. He works closely with several Americanand Israeli Jewish groups, and is one of thearchitects of a Christian evangelical- Zionistalliance. Recently he was in the news for bringingtogether 400 Christian evangelical leaders,representing as many as 30 million Christians, for a'Summit on Israel', which resulted in the formation ofa new pro-Israeli lobbying group called ChristiansUnited for Israel, which intends to establish a50-state rapid-response network that aims to reachevery senator and congressman in America.

Author of numerous Christian fundamentalist texts,Hagee's latest book, 'Jerusalem Countdown: A Precludeto War' encapsulates the Christian fundamentalists'case for a joint American-Israeli invasion of Iran. Inorder to build up his argument, he portrays Iran inthe most lurid colours. 'Iran', he insists, withoutadducing any evidence (for in Christian fundamentalistcircles-and in the West more generally-such evidenceis not needed) 'is the command post for global terror'(p.vii). Under President Ahmadinijad, Hagee argues,Iran is building up a nuclear stockpile, which itintends to share with the rest of the Islamic world.Since Iran, so he claims, is motivated by hatred forIsrael and America 'without limitation', it might usethese weapons to attack both these countries and theirallies and to completely destroy Western civilisation(pp.4-5). Hence, before this can happen, America andIsrael, he insists, must invade Iran and destroy thenuclear bombs that it supposedly possesses.

As Hagee and his ilk see it, Iran's opposition toAmerica and Israel has nothing whatsoever to do withAmerican aggression and imperialism or to Zionistoccupation and Israeli crimes against humanity.Rather, this opposition is attributed squarely to thefact that most Iranians are Muslims. It is, Hageeclaims, Islam as a religion that is the cause of thesupposed hatred of Muslims (including Iranians)towards America and Israel. Here, he convenientlyignores the fact that most ruling regimes in Muslimcountries, some of which, such as Saudi Arabia, spareno effort to display their supposedly 'Islamiccredentials' , are decidedly pro-American and arelittle more than appendages of the West. Obviously,conceding this inconvenient fact would seriouslyundermine his argument.

Tracing the cause of anti-Westernism simply to Islam,Hagee claims that Jews and Christians, on the onehand, and Muslims, on the other, are presently engagedin nothing less than the final battle for globaldomination, and that, in fact, World War III hasalready begun. Since this is, as he characterises it,a religious war, a war, as George Bush describes it,between 'good' and 'evil', there can be no compromiseor settlement between the supposedly contendingparties. It is a war to the finish, even if it bringsabout the destruction of the world and the entirehuman race through nuclear conflagration. In fact,Hagee seems to clearly suggest (and this is somethingthat he appears to share with numerous otherinfluential Christian fundamentalist ideologues) thatthis grand, final war must be speeded up by allpossible means, for only then, he believes, will Jesusreturn to the world, destroy all non-Christians anddispatch all 'good' Christians, like Hagee himself, toever-lasting bliss in heaven.

In order to justify what is nothing short than aglobal anti-Islamic crusade, in which a proposedinvasion of Iran is just one step, Hagee repeats manyof the worn-out, tired clichés about Islam that were,and still are, part of the stock vocabulary ofChristian fundamentalism. Islam and Christianity arepoles apart, he insists. He claims that Muslims andChristians do not even worship the same God, and thatAllah is actually 'the moon god of Mecca' (p.2). WhileChristianity is said to teach peace and love, Islam,he contends, does precisely the opposite. He claimsthat Islam was spread by the sword by the ProphetMuhammad and his followers, while, ignoring thecenturies of Christian aggression, he writes thatChristianity was spread through love and charity.Islam, he claims, insists that Muslims must kill allnon-Muslims if they do not accept to accept Islam.Muslims, are by definition, 'terrorists' , he says,because their religion allegedly teaches them thatthis is precisely what they should be. Muslims, hegoes on, are driven to hate non-Muslims because theirreligion allegedly tells them to do so. Islam, hewrites, has an 'absolute commitment' to 'violence, tomurder and to terror'. (p.70). Muslims' supposedhatred of the West, he claims, is because the West(supposedly) champions democracy, freedom, women'srights, men's respect for women, education, the loveof life, equality and so on, all of which, so Hageewants his readers to believe, Islam stronglyproscribes (p.28).

The ultimate aim of Muslims, Hagee claims, is todestroy the West, kill all Jews and Christians,because, he writes, this is 'their ticket to heavenand the seventy-two virgins that await them there'(p.23). Muslims, he argues, aim to conquering thewhole world and establishing a one-world Islamicgovernment (pp.6-16). He terrorizes his readers intobelieving that a massive Muslim 'religious army,unlike anything the Western world has seen since thesawn of civilization' is now preparing for war againstthe West, intending to conquer it and force Christiansand Jews into slavery if they do not accept Islam.(p.6)

Iranian/Muslim opposition to America and Israel thusbeing said to be entirely a result of alleged Islamicteachings, rather than having any political oreconomic causes, the solution that Hagee offers isalso expressed in religious terms: unleashing what isvirtually a second crusade against Muslims the worldover. The first step that America must do in thisregard, he argues, is to admit and announce that it isengaged in a religious war against Islam, which hesays, 'is totally dedicated' to America's destruction(p.35). Accordingly, he advises that the Americangovernment must firmly tighten control on Muslimimmigration to that country. He even goes so far as tosuggest that all American Muslims are real orpotential 'terrorists' or terrorist-sympathis ers, andclaims that 'sleeping terrorist cells' have been setup in mosques and Islamic centres across the country.(p.63). 'The Islamic army is not coming .it's here.Quietly living next door, they are waiting for thephone to ring for orders to attack', he says withregard to Muslims living in America. (p.35)

This veiled argument for justifying government-backedwitch-hunts directed against Muslims in America isaccompanied by equally frightening steps that Hageeadvocates against Muslims living elsewhere. Americamust continue, and even step up, its war in Iraq, heinsists, and must not bow to any pressure to withdrawfrom that country for that , he says, would be'perceived as a victory for radical Islam' which mightembolden Muslims to bring the war into America itself.(p.35). Simultaneously, he argues, with unconcealedglee, America must attack Iran and destroy itssupposed nuclear warheads.

This attack on Iran, Hagee writes, would be asingularly crucial event of cosmic proportions. Itwould, he claims, be nothing less than a major 'partof a much bigger picture-that of God's plan for thefuture of Israel and the entire world'. It would, infact, he says, unleash a chain of bloody anddevastating wars, the like of which humankind worldhas never witnessed before, and which would soon causethe destruction of the entire world. (p.37) The readeris not left without a strong feeling that this isprecisely what Hagee and his war-mongering fellowChristian fundamentalists actually desperately cravefor.

Hagee sketches out the chain of events that wouldfollow from the American attack on Iran which heclaims the Bible predicts in fine detail. No soonerdoes America invade Iran than a massive Muslim army,hundreds of thousands strong, will attack Israel withRussian assistance in order to destroy it. This armywould unleash nuclear weapons against America andIsrael, and, in this way, would cause what he calls 'anuclear Armageddon'. (p.53). This, Hagee insists, isnot something that can at all be prevented. In fact,he seems to suggest that this global war is somethingto be wildly celebrated by Christians because, heclaims, it has been ordained by none other than GodHimself. 'God is making it clear that He is draggingRussia and its allies into Israel', Hagee writes(p.145). The purpose: So that God can 'crush them [theRussian-Muslim alliance] so that the Jews of Israel asa whole will confess that He is the Lord!". By allcounts, nasty, brutal way for the god of Hagee'simagination to seek to convince the Jews of hisexistence.

The combined Russian-Muslim force that attacks Israelas soon as America and Israel attack Iran will causewidespread death, Hagee says, but then God willintervene and cause his 'fury [to] explode' againstthose who have gathered against the Jews, for God,Hagee claims, considers the Jews 'His chosen people'.But no sooner has the Russo-Muslim army been quashedthan another major opponent appears: this time in theform of the Anti-Christ, the Son of Satan, who will,through his powers of black magic, conquer the entireworld. He will enter into a seven-year peace treatywith the Jews ostensibly in order to protect them fromthe Muslims and the Russians, but after three and ahalf years have passed he will break the treaty andwill turn on the Jews, seeking to obliterate them. Inthis task, Hagee writes, he will be assisted by whatthe Bible calls the 'Man from the East', which heidentifies as China.

This represents the culmination of the final battlethat heralds the end of the world, so Hagee (likeother Biblical literalists and Christian extremists)believes. In this war against the Anti-Christ andChina, the West will join forces with the Jews, at aplace call Armageddon, a narrow valley outsideJerusalem, which the Bible describes in considerablegory detail.

Just before the battle is about to begin, a miraclewill appear, so Hagee ardently believes. Quoting theBook of Revelations, the last chapter of the ChristianBible, he writes, Jesus will descend to earth from theskies, clothed in a garment dipped in blood and seatedon a white horse. He will be followed by a heavenlycavalry to assist him. His task, Hagee quotes the Bookof Revelations as saying, will be to judge and makewar. With the sharp sword that he wields in his mouth,Jesus shall 'strike the nations' that have gatheredagainst Israel, killing the Anti-Christ and the 'Manfrom the East' and sending them-literally hundreds ofmillions of people-all non-Christians, that is-toeternal torment in hell. The blood of those slain byJesus, Hagee approvingly refers to the Book ofRevelations as announcing, would create a virtual 'seaof human blood' that will be 'two hundred miles long'.

Jesus would then ascend his throne in Jerusalem, fromwhere he would rule the entire (and, if Hagee is to bebelieved, the by-then entirely Christian) world for athousand years. A 'Golden Age of Peace' is how Hageecharacterizes this era, although how non-Christianscould ever consider it so is something that heobviously does not bother about. 'Rejoice and beglad', he excitedly announces, celebrating the gorychain of events that he describes with such passionthat he says will unfold in the wake of an Americaninvasion of Iran, 'The best is yet to be!'.
That 'best' that Hagee and his fellow Christianextremists so fervently pine for, is nothing less thanthe destruction of the entire world.
http://countercurre nts.org/sikand11 0608.htm

Bill Gate's Rule of Life

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

(FOF)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The President of India DR. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam's Speech in Hyderabad

Agree 110 % ! Please forward to other fellow Indonesians around the world
The future of Indonesia is in our hands. We can start it small, start with ourselves but start it now.



Wise words that can apply too to us " The Indonesian.. ."

The President of India DR. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam's Speech in Hyderabad *

Got 10 minutes for our country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.

Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?

We are the first in milk production.

We are number one in Remote sensing satellites.

We are the second largest producer of wheat.

We are the second largest producer of rice.

Look at Dr. Sudarshan , he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self-driving unit. There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters. I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert into an orchid and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news.

In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE? Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign T. Vs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology.

Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance? I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied: I want to live in a developed India . For her, you and I will have to build this developed India . You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation. Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance.

Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.

YOU say that our government is inefficient.

YOU say that our laws are too old.

YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage.

YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke.The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.

YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.

YOU say, say and say.

What do YOU do about it? Take a person on his way to Singapore . Give him a name - YOURS. Give him a face - YOURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best. In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground links as they are. You pay $5 (approx. Rs. 60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity... In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai . YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, 'see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else.'YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, 'Jaanta hai main kaun hoon ¡ (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost.' YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand .

Why don't YOU spit Paan (sirih) on the streets of Tokyo ? Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston ??? We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India ? Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay , Mr. Tinaikar, had a point to make. 'Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place,' he said. 'And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with a broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels?

In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan . Will the Indian citizen do that here?' He's right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick a up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms. We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity.

This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child! and others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? 'It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry.

'So who's going to change the system? What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbours, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away.Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England . When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.

Dear Indians, The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too.... I am echoing J. F. Kennedy's words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians.....

'ASK WHAT WE CAN DO FOR INDIA AND DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO MAKE INDIA WHAT AMERICA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES ARE TODAY

'Let's do what India needs from us.Forward this mail to each Indian for a change instead of sending Jokes or junk mails.

Thank you,

Dr. Abdul Kalaam

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waiting for democracy's dividend

Waiting for democracy's dividend
By Marianne Kearney in Jakarta

For many poor Indonesians life has actually got harder since Suharto's fall [GALLO/GETTY]A decade after the upheaval that swept Indonesia's former president Suharto from power, many Indonesians feel that the advent of democracy has brought few positive changes.

Despite 10 years of political and economic reforms – a process known as reformasi – there is a widespread disillusionment among the country's poor.

In depth

Ten years after Suharto's ruleWatch Al Jazeera's Indonesia coverageThe experience of 48 year–old Suni is typical of millions.

In the late 1990s Suni had his own small business selling snacks and cigarettes and earned a respectable wage of between $10 and $30 a day.
Today, working as a motorcycle taxi driver, he rarely makes the equivalent of $5 a day - a sum he says is not enough to eat and pay his rent.

"Since reformasi the prices of everything have just got worse and worse. Everything is too expensive, it's not controlled by the government," he says.

The student-led reformasi movement began as protests against the Suharto government's failure to deal with the effects of the Asian financial crisis.

Anger at perceived high-level corruption remains widespread [EPA]Then the country was wracked by spiralling inflation, food shortages, skyrocketing unemployment and the plunging value of the national currency, the rupiah.

Since then Indonesia has become increasingly democratic; holding fair elections, creating one of Asia 's freest press, providing greater protection for human rights, and reducing the role of the once all-powerful military.

But for Suni, many of these so-called freedoms have just led to more instability, and violence.

He points to frequent media reports of crime, high-level corruption as well as sectarian, ethnic and political violence.

Under Suharto, the tightly-controlled press rarely reported such news.

"Our nation can't be given freedom, because we have minimal education," he says, repeating a line frequently used during the Suharto era.

"If we're given freedom – everyone will do their own thing. Those who benefit are just those with brains."

"In 10 years of reformasi there has been no change, except life is more difficult"
Suryiadi,DriverWhat Indonesia needs, he says, is a strong leader and democracy has failed to produce a leader of Suharto's calibre.

"Since Suharto, there hasn't been anyone like him, no one to replace him."

At a nearby snack stall, 35-year-old Suryiadi also gives a sobering analysis of the economic and political changes wrought by the reform movement.

"In 10 years of reformasi there has been no change, except life is more difficult," he says.

Broken promises

Many of Jakarta's poor need to work second jobs simply to survive [EPA]"This democracy, it's just about promises, and promises, but then the politicians never keep their promises."

Echoing a familiar lament, Suryiadi says that under the former president, known affectionately as Pak Harto, ordinary workers found it much easier to make money and feed their families.

"It was good during the Pak Harto era. Things were cheap then, now everything is expensive," he says.

Back then, Suryiadi had a car washing business in which he employed four people, making at least $10 a day. It was enough to support his family, send his two children to school and pay the rent.

Today he works two jobs – as a driver for a dentist and as a motorcycle taxi driver - but it still is not enough to pay the bills.

The only positive development, he says, is that under the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the worst corruptors are being prosecuted and jailed.

During the Suharto era corruption was rampant, with the former president's family stealing $35bn, according to Transparency International.

"The price of everything has gone up and us little people have been destroyed"
Khulifah,Traffic "jockey'But on the streets of Jakarta , few people see reason to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Suharto's downfall.

Thirty-year old Khulifah is another part of the army of informal workers that have appeared on Jakarta' s streets over the last decade, struggling to eke out an existence from the most marginal occupations.

A mother of one, she scratches a living as a "jockey" - an occupation that did not even exist 10 years ago.

Every morning she tries to hitch a ride in commuters' cars, so the owners can get around traffic regulations requiring vehicles travelling on main roads to carry at least three people during peak hours.

Jockeying is risky: if Khulifah is caught by the frequent police raids she could be jailed for a month, or forced to pay a fine equal to a month's wages.

Despite the risks, competition is tough. Every evening and morning, hundreds of jockeys line roads leading to Jakarta 's main roads.

With so many jockeys lining Jakarta ’s streets, Khulifah is only occasionally able to hitch a ride.

On a good day she can make $10-$20, but it is not enough to feed herself, she says, and so she, like many other jockeys, has a second job as a maid.

No improvement

A failure to deliver improvements means many have lost faith in government [EPA]Like Suryiadi and Suni, Khulifah can see little benefit from the political freedoms wrought by reformasi, and the direct election of Yudhoyono, popularly known as SBY.

"SBY is the worse, because the price of everything has gone up and us little people have been destroyed," she says.

Economists agree that the reform movement has brought few improvements, with the World Bank reporting almost half the population living on $2 a day or less.

"For common people we don't see much improvement compared to before the crisis," says Umar Juoro, an economics analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta .

"At that time poverty was around 17 per cent and now it's 17 per cent, but food is much more expensive than at that time."

Ten years on from the downfall of Suharto , Indonesia in 2008 looks a lot like Indonesia in 1998.

Food prices are spiralling, rising 15.7 per cent in April, cooking oil has doubled in price, and the cost of tempe , a soya bean cake that is a popular source of protein for the poor, has soared.

Reformasi has not helped the poor, but it has drastically altered Indonesia' s business landscape and created a more competitive business environment, says Juoro.

The country's bloated crony conglomerates, which grew wealthy as a result of Suharto’s patronage, have had their power and influence sharply reduced.

"For the big conglomerates, unless they're good companies it's difficult for them to survive," Juoro says.

Boom time for some

But the government says the opening up of Indonesia 's economy has lured foreign investors back to Indonesia , creating the sharpest economic growth in a decade.

Last year, it says, economic growth hit 6.3 per cent and a million people entered the workforce.

A quick tour around the capital confirms that middle class and upper middle class Indonesians have more money than ever.

The property market is booming, with cranes dotting the skyline building new malls, apartment complexes and office towers.

No less than three new luxury malls have been built in central Jakarta over the past 18 months while sales of cars and motorcycles have hit new highs.

The government also says that its pro-poor policies, which include a planned cash handout to 19 million people this year, as well as welfare benefits for the poor who keep their children in school, have helped reduce poverty levels.

But Fauzi Ichsan, chief economist with Standard Chartered Bank, agrees with the motorcycle taxi drivers.

The political and economic changes of the last decade, he says, have mostly benefited the middle class and upper classes, or foreign investors.

"Reformasi benefited Indonesia politically, benefiting civil society, non-government groups, the media, labour unions," he says. "But on the other hand democratisation has not ensured just, equitable growth."

Economic reforms have attracted foreign investors into the banking, telecom and retail industries, as well as investment in local stocks, he argues. But they have failed to improve the lives of Indonesia 's poorest.

"The problem with reforms they make - they're good for investors, particularly foreign investors - but for poor, the standard of living has not increased dramatically. In fact it has deteriorated
. "

Source: Al Jazeera
http://english. aljazeera. net/NR/exeres/ 4A1C3868- 8FEC-485B- 9637-9FED07B55A4 A.htm

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

----A Military Commissions Cheat Sheet

http://writ.news.findlaw. com/mariner/ 20080521. html


By JOANNE MARINER ----
Wednesday, May. 21, 2008
In the more than six years since President George Bush first announced the creation of military commissions to prosecute detainees allegedly responsible for terrorism, war crimes, and other misdeeds, there has not been a single full-blown military commission trial. (An Australian prisoner accepted a plea bargain last year and received a short sentence, which he served back in his home country.)

This should change in the next few months. The trial of Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan is now set to start on July 21, with motions hearings beginning on July 14. A few other detainees have already been arraigned; others are awaiting arraignment. In all, thirteen defendants are currently facing trial. (Charges had also been sworn against another defendant, Mohammed al-Qahtani, but he was so badly tortured while in US custody, tainting any statements that he made, that the Pentagon decided to drop his prosecution. )

Former chief military commissions prosecutor Moe Davis has testified to the political pressures that his office faced to push cases forward this year, particularly cases involving defendants implicated in the September 11 attacks. There was a strong feeling, he explained, "that if we didn't get this thing rolling before the election it was going to implode." Davis left the military commissions office last year.

Eight days ago, charges were referred against five detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were among the group of 14 transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006. A sixth so-called high value detainee, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, is also facing charges for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania.
Below is a cheat sheet summarizing basic information about the defendants, the charges against them, and the key developments in their cases.

The First Cases
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 37-year-old Yemeni, was captured by Afghan forces and handed over to the US military in late 2001. He is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on claims that he served as Osama bin Laden's driver and transported weapons and other supplies to aid in fighting against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Hamdan was previously charged with conspiracy before a military commission in July 2004, under the original military commissions system established by President Bush. He challenged the legality of the commissions, and won in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June 2006. Yet three months later, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which authorized a new system of military commissions, under which Hamdan and the other detainees listed here are now being tried.

New charges against Hamdan were referred on May 10, 2007, and he was arraigned on December 5, 2007. (He had been scheduled to be arraigned on June 4, 2007, but at that hearing the judge dismissed the charges against him and another detainee, Omar Khadr (discussed directly below), without prejudice.)

Omar Khadr, a 21-year-old Canadian, was just 15 when he was captured and seriously injured in a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. The US has accused Khadr of throwing the grenade that killed US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer and injured two others. He is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.

Even though Khadr was a juvenile at the time of his capture, the United States has refused to acknowledge his status as a minor, or to apply universally- recognized standards of juvenile justice in his case. Both US and international law allow for detention of juveniles only as a last resort, require juveniles to be provided educational opportunities and housed separately from adults, and mandate a prompt determination of all cases involving children. Yet Khadr has been incarcerated with adults, reportedly subjected to abusive interrogations, and not provided any educational opportunities. In addition, he was detained for more than two years before he was provided access to an attorney, and for more than three years before he was charged. He was initially charged in the first round of military commissions, which were struck down by the Supreme Court. Another two years passed before he was re-charged before the current military commissions.

New charges against Khadr were referred on April 24, 2007, and he was arraigned on November 8, 2007.
Mohammed Jawad, a 23-year-old Afghan, has been in US custody since he was 17. He is charged with attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury. The US government alleges that while in Afghanistan in 2002 he threw a grenade at a military vehicle, injuring two US soldiers and their interpreter.

As with Omar Khadr, the US has ignored the fact that Jawad was a juvenile at the time of his alleged offense. Whereas other children detained at Guantanamo were given special housing and education programs, and were eventually released to rehabilitation programs in Afghanistan, Jawad was housed with adults, was not provided rehabilitation assistance, and was held for over six years prior to being charged. Jawad has told a panel of US military officers that he falsely confessed after being beaten and tortured by Afghan police when first taken into custody in 2002.

Charges against Jawad were referred on January 30, 2008, and he was arraigned on March 12. At his arraignment he told the judge, "I am innocent and I want justice and fairness."

Other Pending Cases
Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi, a 33-year-old Saudi who has been in US custody since 2002, is being charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and material support for terrorism based on alleged connections to al-Qaeda that date back to 1996.
The issue of evidence obtained through abuse is likely to be a central concern in this case. Al-Darbi was held in the US detention center at Bagram, Afghanistan, for eight months in late 2002 and 2003, during the period when some of the worst abuses took place there. Al-Darbi has said that while at Bagram, US soldiers kicked him, beat him, dragged him around by his calves, and hung him by his wrists for days on end.

Charges against al-Darbi were referred on March 3, 2008, and he was arraigned on March 13. Further proceedings in his case are scheduled for late May.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, a 47-year-old Sudanese national, is charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. The US government alleges that from 1996 to 2001 he served as a driver and armed guard for Osama bin Laden, and that from 1998 until 2001 he provided security, transportation and supply services for an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. The US also claims that he fought with al-Qaeda as part of a mortar crew.
Al-Qosi has alleged that he was subject to abuse at Guantanamo, including sexual humiliation and brutal interrogation. In a lawsuit filed in 2004, al-Qosi stated that female interrogators rubbed their bodies suggestively against detainees and that US soldiers or interrogators performed sex acts in front of prisoners and displayed hardcore pornography. He also said that detainees were strapped to an interrogation room floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag, and then subjected to "constant pounding of deafening music." An FBI agent in August 2004 reported in an email that he observed a detainee at Guantanamo sitting in an interview room "with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing."
Charges against al-Qosi were referred on March 5, 2008, and he was arraigned on April 20. At his arraignment, he read a statement describing his plans to boycott his trial, explaining that he viewed the proceedings as illegitimate and unjust. Further proceedings in his case are scheduled for late May.

Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, a 37-year-old Yemeni, was one of the first detainees to be transferred to Guantanamo when the facility opened in 2002. He is charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder, attack civilians, attack civilian objects, destroy property, commit terrorism, and provide material support for terrorism, based on claims that he received military training in Afghanistan and acted as a "media secretary" for Osama bin Laden.

During al-Bahlul's initial appearance before the first round of military commissions in 2005 he requested permission to choose a lawyer from Yemen, his home country, but the request was denied. When he appeared again a year later, he requested permission to represent himself, stating that he had no expectation of justice from a system created by his American enemies—that request was also denied.

The first case against him was thrown out when the Supreme Court declared the initial military commissions unlawful, but the US government referred new charges against him in the revamped military commissions on February 26, 2008, and was arraigned on May 7. At his arraignment, Bahlul declared that he would be boycotting his trial. He also indicated that he wanted to represent himself, but it was not clear whether he would participate in future proceedings in any way.

Mohammed Kamin, an Afghan estimated to be about 30, is charged with providing material support for terrorism, based on claims that, among other things, he received arms training at al-Qaeda camps. Charges against Kamin were referred on April 7, 2008, and he is scheduled to be arraigned on May 21.

The Prosecutions for the September 11 Attacks
Charges of involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks were referred against five defendants—all of them former CIA prisoners—a little more than a week ago. The five prisoners are currently scheduled to be arraigned on June 5. Given the enormous complexity of these cases, both factually and legally, the understaffing and lack of preparedness of military defense counsel—and the fact that all of the defendants face a possible sentence of death—it is unlikely that these cases will make great progress this year.

Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a citizen of Pakistani, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, based on claims that he ordered flight simulation and training videos and transferred large sums of money to the 9/11 hijackers in the US.

Abdul Aziz Ali was arrested in April 2003, but (like his co-defendants) he was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006.

Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin 'Attash, a Yemeni national, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. Bin 'Attash is specifically accused of having been instructed by Osama bin Laden to obtain a US visa so he could travel to the US and receive pilot training in order to participate in the eventual hijacking. It is also alleged that he applied for a US visa in 1999 but was denied, after which the government claims he continued to do research for al-Qaeda and facilitated travel for the 9/11 hijackers.

Although bin 'Attash arrested and placed in US custody in April 2003, he was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006. In the interim he was held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. "

Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni national, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. The US government claims that Binalshibh was chosen by bin Laden to be one of the participants in the 9/11 hijackings, but was unable to enter the United States because his repeated requests for a US visa were denied.
Although Bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002 and transferred to US custody, he was not sent to Guantanamo until four years later. In the interim he was believed to have been interrogated and held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. " A Jordanian former detainee, who claims that he spoke to Bin al-Shibh in detention, said that Bin al-Shibh was rendered to Jordan for some period of time, where he was badly tortured with electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and other abuse.
Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi, originally from Saudi Arabia, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. The government claims that Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi helped research flight schools for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and administered bank accounts for several of the hijackers.
Al-Hawsawi was reportedly arrested and transferred to US custody in March 2003, but was not transferred to Guantanamo until September 2006. In the interim he was held incommunicado in secret CIA detention facilities, where he was effectively "disappeared. "
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an approximately 44-year-old Kuwaiti, has been charged with conspiracy, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism, for his alleged role in planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is believed to be the main architect of the attacks, and he admitted responsibility for them in a 2002 interview with Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda.

Mohammed was indicted in New York in 1996 for his alleged involvement in a Philippines- based plot to blow up 12 US-bound commercial airliners in a 48-hour time period. The indictment, which was made public in 1998, and federal arrest warrant provide details of how he operated within al Qaeda.

Mohammed was arrested in March 2003 and held in secret CIA custody for more than three years. During his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) hearing at Guantanamo, held on March 10, 2007, Mohammed claimed that he was tortured while in CIA custody and that as a result, he made false confessions about both himself and others. In addition, he alleged that his young children were detained and abused as well, a story that others have reported.
The details of Mohammed's allegations from the transcript of his CSRT hearing are redacted, but the CIA acknowledged on February 5, 2008, that the agency had subjected him and two other detainees to "waterboarding" in the period of 2002 to 2003. Waterboarding, a torture technique in which a prisoner is made to feel like he is drowning, violates both the federal anti-torture statute and the War Crimes Act. Although the CIA videotaped the interrogations in which terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other "severe interrogation techniques," the CIA confirmed that at least two videotapes documenting the interrogations had been destroyed in 2005. Several officials said that the tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that the video could expose agency officials to legal liability.

The Embassy Bombing Prosecution
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian believed to be about age 34, has been charged with murder, attacking civilians and civilian objects, causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property, terrorism, and conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the August 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The US is seeking the death penalty in his case.
Ghailani was previously indicted by US federal prosecutors for his role in the embassy bombings. Four co-defendants were put on trial in federal court in 2001 and sentenced to life without parole, but Ghailani was a fugitive at the time. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004, held incommunicado in secret CIA detention for two years, where he was essentially "disappeared, " and transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006.

He is now slated for trial by military commission. The only new charge contained in the military commission indictment alleges that Ghailani continued to provide material support and resources to al-Qaeda from 1998 until 2004.

Charges were sworn against Ghailani on March 31, 2008, but they have not yet been referred against him (the convening authority of the military commissions has the option of amending or dropping the charges during this period).

Interested readers may also want to consult the Pentagon's military commissions page. – Ed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

World food prices soar as a wealthier Asia consumes more

By Russell Blinch and Brian Love
Reuters
Monday, March 31, 2008



WASHINGTON: Food prices are soaring; a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers cannot keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over.

Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports - a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century.

Damaged by severe weather in producing countries and plundered by a boom in demand from fast-developing nations, global wheat stocks are at 30-year lows. Grain prices have been on the rise for five years, ending decades of inexpensive food.

Drought, a declining dollar, a shift of investment money into commodities and use of farm land to grow biofuel crops have all contributed to food woes. But population growth and the growing wealth of China and other emerging countries are likely to be more enduring factors. World population is set to hit 9 billion by 2050, and most of the extra 2.5 billion people will live in the developing world. It is in these countries that the population is demanding dairy and meat, which require more land to produce.

“This is an additional setback for the world economy, at a time when we are already going through major turbulence, but the biggest drama is the impact of higher food prices on the poor,” Angel Gurría, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said.
In Gurría’s native Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn.


Global food prices, based on United Nations records, rose 35 percent in the year to the end of January, markedly accelerating an upturn that began, gently at first, in 2002. Since then, prices have risen65percent.

In 2007 alone, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s world food index, dairy prices rose nearly 80 percent and grain 42percent.”The recent rise in global food commodity prices is more than just a short-term blipping,” the British research group Chatham House said in January. “Society will have to decide the value to be placed on food,” it added, and how “market forces can be reconciled with domestic policy objectives.” Many countries are already facing these choices.

After long opposition, Mexico’s government is considering lifting a ban on genetically modified crops to allow its farmers to compete with the United States, where high-yield, genetically modified corn is the norm.

The European Union and parts of Africa have similar bans that could also be reconsidered.
A number of governments, including Egypt, Argentina, Kazakhstan and China, have imposed restrictions to limit grain exports and keep more of their food at home.


This knee-jerk response to food emergencies can result in farmers producing less food, and it threatens to undermine years of effort to open up international trade.

“If one country after the other adopts a ’starve-your-neighbor’ policy, then eventually you trade smaller shares of total world production of agricultural products, and that in turn makes the prices more volatile,” said Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

In Argentina, a government tax on grain led to a strike by farmers that disrupted grain exports. Vietnam and India, both major rice exporters, announced further curbs on overseas sales Friday, sending rice higher on U.S. futures markets. Other food commodities retreated from record highs in recent days, but analysts attributed that less to fundamentals and more to profit-taking by investors.

In the next decade, the price of corn could rise 27 percent, oilseeds like soybeans by 23 percent and rice by 9 percent, according to tentative UN and OECD forecasts in February.
Waves of discontent are already starting to be felt. Violent protests hit Cameroon and Burkina Faso in February. Protesters rallied in Indonesia recently and media reported deaths by starvation. In the Philippines, fast-food chains were urged to cut rice portions to counter a surge in prices.


Trade Minister Kamal Nath of India said Monday that the government was looking to cut duties on food items to rein in rising prices.
“We are looking to cutting our duties on many products on the food front,” he said, ahead of a cabinet committee meeting to consider ways to contain prices. Earlier this month, the government cut the import duty on crude palm oil to 20 percent from 45 percent, and on refined palm oil to 27.5 percent from 52.5 percent.


Last year, the central bank of Australia - where minds were focused by a two-year drought - asked whether the surge in commodity prices could be one of the few really big ones in world history, like those of the mid-1930s or the 1970s.

Real commodity prices remained flat or even fell during the rapid industrialization of the United States and Germany in the early 20th century. But the industrialization of China, with 1.3 billion people, is on a totally different scale, the Reserve Bank of Australia noted.

“China’s population is proportionately much larger than the countries that industrialized in earlier periods and is almost double that of the current G-7 nations combined,” the central bank said. The emergence of China’s middle class is adding hugely to demand not just for basic commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, but also for meat, milk and other high-protein foods.
The Chinese, whose rise began in earnest in 2001, ate just 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of meat per capita in 1985. They now eat 50 kilograms a year.


Each pound of beef takes about seven pounds of grain to produce, which means land that could be used to grow food for humans is being diverted to growing animal feed.
As the West seeks to tackle the risk of global warming, a drive toward greener fuels is compounding global food problems. It is estimated that one in four bushels of corn from the U.S. corn crop this year will be diverted to make fuel ethanol.


“Turning food into fuel for cars is a major mistake on many fronts,” said Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group based in Washington. “One, we’re already seeing higher food prices in the American supermarket. Two, perhaps more serious from a global perspective, we’re seeing higher food prices in developing countries where it’s escalated as far as people rioting in the streets.”

Similarly, prices for palm oil are at records because of demand to use it for biofuel, causing pain for low-income families in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is a staple.But despite the rising criticism of biofuels, the U.S. corn-fed ethanol industry enjoys wide political support because it helps farmers, who suffered years of low prices, and that support is likely to continue.
John Bruton, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, predicts that the world faces 10 to 15 years of steep rises in food costs. And it is the poor in Africa and, increasingly, Southeast Asia, who will be most vulnerable.


The director of the UN World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, is on a global tour in search of donations to fill a $500 million funding gap caused by the rising prices. The largest U.S. aid program, Food for Peace, has seen its commodity prices jump 40 percent and may have to curtail donations.

But aid and many policy options available to governments for helping the hungry distort markets and cause pain elsewhere in their economies, according to proponents of free markets.
“I was involved in a government that introduced food subsidies in Ireland and we had the devil’s own job to get rid of them,” said Bruton, who was prime minister of Ireland from 1994 to 1997.
Others trust that better fertilizers and higher-yielding crops – some of them genetically modified - will keep production in line with demand.


Bruce Babcock, an economist at Iowa State University, said the rising markets were a signal to farmers that they needed to raise production.
“It’s actually the greatest time in the world to be a farmer around the world,” Babcock said. “We are going to see fairly substantial increases in production because farmers have never had such a large incentive to increase production.”


But others note that expensive seeds and fertilizers are out of reach of farmers in poor countries.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, the British political economist Thomas Malthus said population had the potential to grow much faster than food supply, a prediction that efficient farming consistently proved wrong. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, some are revisiting his predictions.

Responses to ‘Fitna’ film

Geert Wilders is a die-hard masochist who enjoys dispensing “Dutch treat”.NENNETH CHENJakarta

Muslims only wonder why Wilders disrupts the quiet of others while he is never interrupted. I think he is just seeking fame for himself by sacrificing the peace. Congratulation, Wilders. See you in hell.HM SABAR SS PRAYAJakarta

In fact the protests against the anti-Islam film have been going on not only at Jakarta’s Dutch Embassy but also at the Dutch Consulate in Medan.

It is not a matter of maturity or immaturity of Indonesian Muslims, but the feeling of togetherness and brotherhood with Westerners, mainly Europeans, as a part of the global community that should be maintained.
The incorrect opinion on Islam must be buried to create a global life of harmony.ABDUL RAHIMTangerang, Banten


The less violent protests against Fitna do not indicate the growing maturity of Indonesian Muslims. It indicates the growing faithless of them.RIZWAN DARMAWANBandung

Being a Muslim, I hate people who humiliate Islam without any knowledge about it. Fitna is mockery, reflecting the producer’s madness for popularity.SUYADIJambi

I’m a Christian and absolutely condemn Fitna as made based on like and dislike. I hope Muslim clerics still continue to give cool and fresh sermons (da’wah).L.L. BIEPurwodadi, Central Java

I think Fitna will hurt Muslims and it may spark conflicts.SETYO DEWI UTARIBandung
The government bans Fitna, but Ahmadiyah followers in many areas like Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara and Kuningan, West Java, still get harassed even by officials of local governments.RIKAJakarta


Until now, seven mosques belonging to Ahmadiyah Muslims, located in Kuningan, West Java, are still closed by the local government, claiming for the sake of safety.
It is ridiculous. While the government and Muslims in this country condemn the film Fitna, they still allow violence against Ahmadiyah followers.GUNAWAN AHMADTangerang

(thejakartapost.com)
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