Saturday, June 28, 2014

US prosecutors drop case on Sami Al-Arian


Federal prosecutors dropped the case on Friday, a decade since the US Justice Department began to target him over accusations.

World Bulletin / News Desk -- June 28, 2014


Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida who was accused of leading the Islamic Jihad resistance group, finally had all charges against him dropped after his case sat in limbo for five years.

Federal prosecutors dropped the case on Friday, a decade since the US Justice Department began to target him over accusations, eventually forcing him into a plea bargain in 2006 for reduced charges. After a lengthy trial, it was expected that Al-Arian would be deported.

However, two years later the prosecutors began harassing him again for cooperation in a separate investigation, but he pointed out that as part of his plea bargain he had negotiated to exclude the usual requirement to cooperate with government investigations.

Soon afterwards, prosecutors in Virginia filed criminal contempt charges against him for his refusal to testify despite a grant of immunity, a case that sat in front of skeptical Judge Leonie Brinkema, who without explanation, refused to rule on pretrial motions for the case to go forward.

For several years, Al-Arian had been under house arrest until conditions were altered to allow him to leave home under GPS monitoring, which also restricted him to a curfew. However, on Friday U.S. Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed the case after prosecutors moved to drop it.

“In light of the passage of time without resolution, the United States has decided that the best available course of action is to move to dismiss the indictment so that action can be taken to remove the defendant from the United States,” U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg wrote.

It is still expected that he will be deported. Al-Arians lawyer Jonathan Turley posted a statement on his blog regarding the case, saying it “remains one of the most troubling chapters in this nation’s crackdown after 9-11.”

He also said the case ranks as “one of the most disturbing cases of my career in terms of the actions taken by our government.”

MEETING WITH BUSH

Sami Al-Arian, as well as being the head of the Palestinian Islamic Committee, was deeply involved in U.S. politics, and had campaigned successfully to help George W. Bush become president.

After being elected president, George W. Bush met with Al-Arian during a visit to Florida to thank him for using his influence over the Florida Muslim community to ensure they voted for Bush.

However, after 9-11, Al-Arian became a target of Bush's anti-terror campaign across the U.S.

Opinion: The assassination of Salwa Bugaighis in Benghazi – a blow to Human Rights in Libya

By David Hammond, UK Counsel to the Libyan National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, London.

June 28, 2014


On Thursday 26 June 2014, Libya suffered one its greatest setbacks to human rights in Libya since the fall of the Qadaffi regime: the assassination of the prominent human rights lawyer and democracy campaigner Mrs. Salwa Bugaighis.

The perpetrators knew precisely what they were doing. Their intent was to send a clear message to all those individuals who oppose change, democracy and a more liberal stance within Libyan society.

Salwa was stabbed and shot through the head by gunmen who broke into her house in the eastern city of Benghazi, wounding a security guard and abducting her husband, Essam al-Ghariani, who remains missing.

Their brutal and wicked silencing of a leading critic of the growing extremist elements in Libyan society will, however, have the opposite effect. This was arguably an own goal.

What the extremist elements have failed to understand is the depth of feeling by the core of the Libyan populace and their desire for positive and democratic change. That desire can not be repressed by force and terror in the long term. History is littered with such examples; including the very revolution that toppled the dictator who employed the very same tactics less than three years ago.

I had the honour of meeting Salwa during a visit to Tripoli. I was struck by her dynamism, determination and positive attitude as set against the environment in which she campaigned tirelessly.

The Libyan government in whatever form it may finally take must now assure that a robust, comprehensive and unwavering investigation into this horrific crime is carried out without delay, even if it must be undertaken in the face of intimidation and terror tactics; as it must for all other crimes perpetrated against the ordinary citizens of Libya.

There must be prosecutions of the perpetrators to show that the state is truly effective in its dealing with such crimes and that the rule of law is not ineffective. Failure to grasp this opportunity will otherwise be a further nail in the coffin for democracy and human rights in Libya.

Our thoughts and prayers must now be with Salwa’s family, friends and her colleagues who continue their struggle in the face of such difficult and dangerous circumstances.

David Hammond works between London and Tripoli and currently represents victims of serious sexual and violence offences in Libya.

Is Social Justice a Luxury or a Necessity for Egypt?

 By Hussein Kamal Mehrem | June 27, 2014


Calls for Social Justice and talks about wages have been hyping in Egypt, but why does inequality matter at all economically?

Many people in the Egyptian political arena call for the termination of strikes until Egypt overcomes the heated transitional period. Their argument lies upon the idea that stability in itself would guarantee an increase in wages and consequently the attainment of a rather narrow-view of economic justice.

The policy prescription goes on with the recommendation of austerity measures in order to reduce the budget deficit and make resources available for investment. The notion of austerity here usually means cutting down wages and expenditure on public goods such as education and health, which more often than not generate positive externalities and are vital for economic progress. Cutting down wages, from an economic point of view, is detrimental during a recession as it reduces aggregate demand for goods and services and thus prolongs the span of recession.

This school of thought believes that the aptitude of rich business men to make massive investments would naturally mean that the fruits of growth generated reach the majority of the society in a mechanism called “the trickle down effect”. Nevertheless, the experience of Egypt in this regard turned out to be of complete failure during Mubarak’s era.

Indeed, Egypt was recording high levels of growth but this was never reflected in the standards of living of the vast majority of Egyptians. High poverty rates, degrading education and health care systems, failed and bloated public administration and ailing infrastructure are all features of the Egyptian economy. Only a small part of the society enjoyed the fruits of this growth and hence the question of inequality and injustice seems to be of significant importance.

Why does inequality matter at all? It matters because we as human beings naturally care about how others live. Injustice in a society leads to societal diseases and envy and damages communal bonding and sense of unity.

One can clearly observe the social unrest as a repercussion of social injustice in the case of Egypt. On the economic side, low standards of living is a lost potential and harms economic growth and development. The exclusion of the development process makes it rather difficult to industrialize because of lack of trained human resources and makes it difficult for the majority to engage in the formal economy and take part in productive and financially rewarding employment.

On the political side, democracy cannot function in a severely unjust society for several reasons. The economically privileged usually have a sufficient power to manipulate the political process for their own sake. The poor are typically underrepresented in such a society, which makes it rather complex for them to mount pressure for more radical reforms.

Furthermore, as has been observed in Egypt, the economic elite exploits the needy in elections by giving them food or money to vote for them. Therefore, I believe high levels of inequality in Egypt cannot be sustained if Egypt is to move forward as a promising model for economic modernization and democratic reforms.

ACHIEVING SOCIAL JUSTICE

There is no general consensus about what social justice signifies. Yet, social justice is a much broader concept than just an increase in wages or better infrastructure in poor slums. Social justice entails a vast improvement in economic outcomes but more importantly the equality of opportunity, that is the ability of every member of the society to receive decent education, health care and rewarding employment regardless of their family financial status or education or background in general.

More importantly, following Amartya Sen’s view of development, social justice requires the state to give people the freedom to lead the life they would like to pursue. As an example, a rich man/woman who lives in a society where endemic diseases are common and health care system is not functioning well cannot be perceived as a free man. Illness and lack of health care constrains him/her from leading the life they would want to pursue. A child who comes from a poor family usually drops out to work with the family in order to increase their income, here again is a constraint on that child’s freedom to choose among many alternatives and pick what is best for him.

In the case of Egypt, the continuation of economic injustice is a serious threat to economic progress. As mentioned earlier, the persistence of this phenomenon has negative repercussions on social coherence, the political process and economic development. What is it then that the Egyptian government can do at least in the short run to close the gap and paves the way for more radical reforms in the future?

Food subsidies in Egypt requires substantial reform because many people who receive the benefit do not necessarily deserve it. 78 percent of Egypt’s food subsidies is leaked and wasted through the black market, feeding animals and purchasing the subsidized food by the rich.

The tax structure in Egypt is also distorted and favours the rich. A new tax structure has to be implemented through dialogue and consultations among stakeholders. In other words, if some argue that investment and capital would fly if taxes increase one has to incentevize investors in ways, such as public administration reforms or right to use land for a specific period of time for free, that do not compromise the right of the rest of the society. Tax on capital gains and property are also worth serious consideration. Moreover, energy subsidies especially for industries that make profits above acceptable margins have to be revised. The latter ideas are just a few among many that can make some change in the lives of the poor in the short run.

THE LONG RUN

In the long run, however, the picture is more complicated. Egypt is in desperate need to address some of its structural problems that lead to economic stagnation. The institutional and political establishment in Egypt is controlled by the economically privileged and the political outcomes only serve this class and excludes major parts of the society. One can say it is a two way street, the political outcomes serve the rich but the rich also have the stronger say in the political process. The opening up of the politics from the municipal level upwards can serve as an important tool to achieve better economic outcomes and social justice.

Another major issue that has to be addressed in the long-run is the source of revenue and the whole structure of the economy that can be labeled as a rentier-state. Egypt has to establish a new industrial policy that focuses first on productive small and medium enterprises, which represent more than 60 percent of Egypt’s employment, as well as a special focus on high end products industries where knowledge and technology can be accumulated and not rely on unstable sources of revenue such as Suez Canal and remittances.

Now it has been nearly four years since the revolution, which means that children born on the 25th of January 2011 are on the verge of entering school. This means we have a new generation in the making that is probably poorer and has less access to public services so the inclusive development process has to start as soon as possible.

Al-Sisi’s Egypt Is Worse For Gays Than The Muslim Brotherhood

Quote from article:

"Police bundled Ahmed into a truck and took him to a station in the satellite city west of Cairo known as 6 October. Together with nine others he was stripped naked and subjected to humiliating “anal tests,” then put on trial. After just one court session nine of the ten defendants were found guilty of debauchery and sexual deviance and handed between three- and eight-year jail terms. Only one, the female owner of the venue, was acquitted.

"Ahmed, released on bail, managed to avoid being in court for the verdict and is now “travelling” constantly to avoid re-arrest. Outcast by his family, fired from his job and on the run, he says his life is in pieces. 

"Since the military overthrew Morsi last July, rights groups have recorded the worst state crackdown on the LGBT community since the days of Hosni Mubarak." 

MOVING FORWARD AMID DISAGREEMENT ABOUT GAY MUSLIMS

First posted on 14 February 2014 by Ify Okoye 


I finally got around to reading Scott Kugle’s Islam and Homosexuality as well as its recent companion book, Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading Rabbi Steven Greenberg’sWrestling with God and Men, which while specifically dealing with Jewish tradition resonates with issues common to many conservative religious communities. These books have been tremendously illuminating and spiritually healing for me. Reading and reflecting on these works and the very real voices and lives from the lesbian, transgender, and gay community, a community that has been as the Muslim gay activist Faisal Alam notes, “so spiritually wounded” was in many ways humbling, devastating and enriching.

I’ve heard conservative voices, which claim the mantle of orthodox legitimacy poorly paraphrase or summarize the arguments about understanding homosexuality elaborated with much care and detail by Kugle, Greenberg, and others. There is no substitute for reading their works, reviewing their evidence, arguments, and intellectual creativity in full. Irrespective of one’s own personal views being open to learning and truly hearing another person in attempt to foster greater understanding and empathy is a worthwhile challenge.

It seems that we should be able as a religious community to move the discussionforward beyond a simple rehashing of legal rulings regarding particular sexual acts. That discourse has dominated the conversation but is only a side point. I’m going to use broad brushstrokes here so bear with me for a moment. The LGBT community doesn’t need to seek permission from religious authorities for what they do in their bedrooms. It’s none of your business. What we, as a community, do need is a pragmatic religious and spiritual paradigm, which allows us to be fully present, seen, and included in our communities. And as Rabbi Greenberg says, “a way to envision a life of love, intimacy, and commitment…in the context of a religiously alive Orthodox (or otherwise) community.”

For many religious gays, our orientation is not on the table for reconsideration or debate. Many of us have spent the majority of our lives working through the issues surrounding our sexual orientation so what is at stake is our faith and our lives.

Scripture can be read in a multitude of ways, not every reading holds the same subjective weight of validity or truth. Our challenge as we continue to be out and remain in our religious communities is to read scripture in ways, which Greenberg argues “replace the depiction of perversity with mere difference and sinful desire with the simple human longing for loving.” If you want to see that as a slippery slope that’s your business.

Rabbi Greenberg offers that “the challenge of gay inclusion tests any tradition’s capacity to engage with diversity, to encounter the world responsibly as it is rather than as it is wished to be.” How many of us would willingly accept a religious tradition that offers no path or way forward other than lifelong celibacy or “deceptive heterosexual marriage.” If we’re not going to leave our faith, it’s time that we move beyond religiously sanctioned lying about who we are toward the moral imperative to “stay and tell the truth.” I am disturbed by how easily my tongue has become accustomed to reflexively lying in order to hide an integral part of my life.

I wept after reading the conclusion of Rabbi Greenberg’s book, which mentioned three points to help move the discussion forward:

1. For religious leaders: No humiliation. They will agree not to humiliate or intimidate gay and lesbian people from the pulpit and work to prevent such humiliation in their congregations.

2. For gay and lesbian congregants: No public advocacy. Gay and lesbian members will acknowledge the limits of the scriptural process and not presume the Orthodox community will adopt the social agenda of the lesbian and gay community.

3. For communities: No lying. Lesbian and gay members will be able to tell the truth about their relationships and their families.

I think these considerations point toward a meaningful start to move the conversation forward, wouldn’t you agree?

Introducing Samara --- a non-partisan charitable organization that works to improve political participation in Canada.

A friend of mine works with this project as a research fellow so I thought I would share it with you all. 

http://www.samaracanada.com/

British Muslims' right to fight in Syria backed by adviser on radicalisation

Ex-Prevent adviser Farooq Siddiqui says young jihadis who 'walk the walk' against Assad should not face arrest on return

Mark Townsend, home affairs editor
The Observer, Saturday 28 June 2014


Farooq Siddique, a former government adviser on radicalisation of Muslims, defended British jihadis fighting in Syria. Photograph: Paul Blakemore

A former senior government adviser on tackling radicalisation and extremism has defended the right of British Muslims to travel to Syria and fight.

Farooq Siddiqui, a former regional manager for the government's controversial Prevent strategy, said it was acceptable for Britons to "walk the walk" and travel to Syria to fight the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

As part of a Facebook conversation Siddiqui, 45, defended the right of an individual to be called a martyr if he took up arms against Assad, and questioned whether those who fought against the Syrian president should face arrest upon return to the UK.

Former senior intelligence officials consider jihadists battling Assad's government forces in Syria to be a potential threat. They estimate that up to 300 fighters have already returned to the UK from Syria. Scotland Yard has warned that Britain will live with the terror legacy of the Syrian conflict for years to come.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, believes as many as 400 British citizens may be fighting in Syria, recently confirming that security measures are in place such as the option of withdrawing leave to remain, cancelling passports and arresting UK jihadists who have been fighting in Syria or for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which has seized control of swaths of northern Iraq.

Siddiqui, who ran Prevent in the south-west until 2012, pointed out that Britons were free to join the Israeli Defence Force and return to the UK without censure, while those taking up arms against what they viewed as a tyrannical dictator, Assad, faced arrest. He says he knew "nothing about" Isis at the time of the online conversation in February. He does not support the group.

Before generating headlines after sweeping into Iraq, Isis had been operating independently of other jihadist groups in Syria, including the al-Nusra Front, the official al-Qaida affiliate in the country, and has been involved in widespread infighting with other rebel groups.

Some Syrian rebels opposed to Isis point to instances of apparent hesitation by Assad's forces about attacking the group as evidence of tacit co-operation with the regime to undermine other rebel groups.

Writing on Facebook, in reference to the situation inside Syria, Siddiqui said: "If a man describes himself as wanting to help the oppressed and dies, in that case he is a martyr."

Referring to an individual prepared to travel and stand up for his beliefs, Siddiqui adds: "I'd rather take his word for it because he walked the walk and isn't sat behind a keyboard like me."

An Isis recruitment video showing three Britons – Reyaad Khan with school friend Nasser Muthana, from Cardiff, and a third man named as Abdul Raqib Amin, from Aberdeen – has fuelled anxieties over the radicalisation of Muslim youths in Britain as a result of the Syrian civil war.

Siddiqui told the Observer that he would be happy to endorse security measures on combatants if they applied to others returning from fighting abroad, not just Muslims. "As for people fighting in Syria, if they go with the intention to defend the civilian population from a dictator – a population we have abandoned – I accept their conviction until proven otherwise."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Harper’s silence on Egypt is no surprise

GERALD CAPLAN

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Jun. 27 2014,


Gerald Caplan is an African scholar, former NDP organizer and a regular panelist on CBC’s Power and Politics.

What’s the Harper government most proud of? Arguably, that they have the courage of their convictions. They speak up boldly, bombastically even. Not for them, in a favourite expression, going along to get along. This is particularly true on international issues (except of course China, but let that go).

Of course nowhere is this government’s voice heard with more pungency than in the Middle East, where Israel can do no wrong, Iran no right, and where Canada asserts its right to bully Palestinians.Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, for example, have been as outspoken as anyone in the world in their condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s adventures in eastern Ukraine are “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic”. He threatens the “peace and stability of the world.” You’d think he was Joe Stalin incarnate, and maybe that’s what the Conservatives had in mind. They clearly compared Putin to Hitler, the former’s annexation of Crimea unhelpfully equated with the Nazi aim to conquer all Europe.

Still, it’s clear that Messrs. Harper and Baird truly do not go along to get along. But sometimes the consequences are surprising, as when Baird visited Cairo two months ago to offer Canada’s moral support to the brutal military government of Egypt. The Canadian government had clearly decided to go along with that regime. Mr. Baird’s meetings with Egyptian officials, so he himself reported, were “warm and productive”, and he made no bones about his government wanting to “effectively assist Egypt at this critical juncture.”

Yet this was the same Egyptian government that was earning sharp rebuke from much of the rest of the world for its ruthlessness. A government whose tame judges had condemned to death, in two mass trials that lasted only minutes, 529 people and then 680 people. A government that harasses and jails Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists. (Where is the Harper government’s mysterious Office of Religious Freedom when you need it?) A government, as the New York Times put it, with “ruthless disregard for the law and contrary political views that go far beyond anything that former president Morsi was accused of doing when he was deposed by the army.” A government that Stephen Harper, however, described as a “return to stability”.

And a government that this week, through a pet judge, sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to long prison terms for the crime of doing journalism. One is Mohammed Fahmy, who holds dual Canadian-Egyptian citizenship. World leaders have denounced this travesty in the strongest possible terms. Or, more precisely, some have.

I have a wise friend who reminds me there are no accidents; if an established pattern is abruptly broken, there’s usually a reason. So it’s not just happenstance that neither Stephen Harper nor John Baird joined Australian Prime Minister Abbot, British Prime Minister Cameron or U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in their personal phone calls of vigorous protest to the most senior officials in the Egyptian government, including the new president himself. Canada’s remarkably restrained official response was officially issued by Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Consular Affairs.

In the media, government spokespeople assured us of the Conservatives’ concern for Mr. Fahmy, but also insisted that the regime in Egypt is “progressing to democracy”. This curious assertion has in fact been the Harper line ever since al-Sisi’s election as President in May with an enviable 96.91 per cent of the votes, which Baird described as “a key step along Egypt’s path to democracy.”

Derided on all sides for its tepid reaction to the sentences, the government has been untypically defensive. Baird explained that on this file “bullhorn diplomacy” would be ineffective. The government’s subdued reaction to Fahmy’s sentence, we are to conclude, is unrelated to its desire to have “warm and productive” relations with President al-Sisi. And why do Messrs. Harper and Baird want to cozy up to such a brutish regime? Can it be because Israel has so warmly welcomed al-Sisi’s election, believing that he guarantees Israeli-Egyptian cooperation? Indeed, what else can it be?

Ask yourself this: Had this gross injustice against the three journalists taken place in Iran or Russia instead of Egypt, would Stephen Harper and John Baird still have eschewed bullhorn diplomacy?

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

Islam and apostasy: The right to renounce | The Economist

June 27, 2014


NOTHING does so much harm to Islam's global image as the spectacle of people being condemned to death, or some other harsh fate, for renouncing their religion. In today's pluralist societies, religions generally gain respect when their followers seem to hold their beliefs voluntarily and sincerely, while respecting the convictions of others. The reverse also applies. To a modern, liberal mind, it is hard to see merit in a religion which threatens those who leave it with some terrible penalty. With menaces like that in the air, it seems impossible to tell whether people who persevere in that faith are doing so sincerely or just because they fear the consequences of stopping.

So does Islam always threaten those who abandon it with severe retribution? If you take only the Koran, it is possible to argue for a different conclusion. There are several verses which are often cited to affirm the idea that belief only has value when freely maintained. The most famous proclaims that "there is no compulsion in religion." Another declares that God could have chosen to make everybody believe, but decided otherwise. "Had our Lord willed, everybody on earth would have believed. Will you then compel people to be believers?"

The "no compulsion" verse carries particular weight, according to a briefing paper by Usama Hasan, a British imam who now works for the London-based Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself as an "anti-extremism think-tank"; that is because the verse comes straight after one of the most revered lines in the Koran: "[God's] throne encompasses the heavens and the earth...He is the exalted, the great."

On the other hand, if you take the various legal traditions which have been used to set rules for Muslim societies, the picture looks much darker. All the leading schools have argued for the legitimacy of executing, or at least severely punishing, those who fall away. Many cite a hadith—a well-established tradition relating to the words and deeds of Islam's prophet—which says Muslims cannot be put to death except for murder, marital infidelity or turning against Islam. In their early days, the legal schools seemed to differ only over the precise application of the penalty: whether it applied to women as well as men, and whether the person's soundness of mind had to be tested.

By way of explaining this extraordinary harshness, it is sometimes argued that the penalty was devised in the first years of Islam's existence, when Muslims were engaged in a life-or-death struggle against against other communities—so that leaving Islam was tantamount to betrayal. "Many modern scholars would say that the death penalty can only apply when accompanied by treason," says Inayat Bunglawala, a co-founder of Muslims4UK, a lobby group which encourages civic engagement among Muslims.

Christian kings used to burn heretics, but they stopped. Why can't the Muslim world move on from such cruelty? Some would say it did move on—in the early 19th century, when the Ottoman empire stopped executing apostates. (Prior to that Ottoman Christians who embraced Islam and then reverted to their original faith did so at the cost of their lives.) And the Ottoman ruler who decreed that liberalising measure was not just a worldly sovereign but the caliph, the supreme religious authority over Muslims—so the whole Muslim world should have followed suit.

Unfortunately it has done so very patchily, as is shown by the ghastly case of Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman with a Christian husband who was sentenced to a delayed death sentence in May for "renouncing" her religion, even though she was only technically Muslim because her father had followed that faith. This week brought news of her release, her re-arrest at the airport and, most recently, of her re-release on condition she not leave the country.

Mr Bunglawala says he wishes that Muslims living in the West would be more emphatic in deploring such cruelty. Even in the West, he added, some Muslims apparently felt they would incur opprobrium if they broke ranks with their co-religionists; and some seemed to fear that relaxing the ban on apostasy would open the flood-gates to all modern notions of personal and intellectual freedom. They may be so; but firmly accepting people's right to change religion (which is enshrined in all the world's human-rights charters) would be taken by most people as a vastly welcome and overdue change.

Why Is the World Silent?Khaled al-Qazzaz: Disappeared by Egypt’s Military

By KHALED AL-QAZZAZ  -- JUNE 27, 2014


TORA, Egypt — In a few days’ time, I will complete 365 days of imprisonment, more than half spent in solitary confinement and under severe limitations in the maximum-security Scorpion wing of Tora prison in Cairo. I have spent the past year thinking about what drove me to where I am today. I have also been thinking about an explanation for why politicians, human rights activists and the media have largely been silent about my case.

I am an engineer by education and an educator by profession. After the Egyptian revolution in 2011, I became interested in politics. I joined the presidential campaign and then found myself chosen to be the foreign relations secretary to Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2012.

When the military ousted Mr. Morsi’s government, it was predictable that the president and his aides would pay a heavy price. I made the decision, along with eight other staff members, to wait with the president for the moment of his arrest on July 3, 2013. On the orders of the newly appointed secretary of defense, the chief of the Republican Guard arrested Mr. Morsi along with the rest of us. I expected this. What I did not expect was the silence that followed our arrests.

Over the year of Mr. Morsi’s presidency, our government met with scores of world leaders, either through official visits or during international conferences. I attended almost every meeting as the president’s note-taker. We worked closely with Western leaders and their envoys to broker peace in the region.

In November 2012, we cooperated with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to successfully broker the cease-fire in Gaza. Syria and Mali, too, were regions where we wanted to foster peace, so we worked on an ambitious plan to achieve that.

We set out a human rights agenda for Egypt that was spearheaded by the president’s office and that invited the United Nations to open a headquarters for UN Women Egypt in Cairo. We recommended legislative reforms to advance a new Egypt, and we met with all the local and international stakeholders we could to develop that agenda.

Because of all this activity and these contacts, I have struggled to understand the silence of the international community over our arrests in July 2013. When the military ousted the Egyptian government, almost none of our international partners stood up for us. For most, it was as if we never existed. The silence was so thorough that I joked with my colleagues, “Do we really exist, or were we Photoshopped in?”

When Human Rights Watch released a statement in December that detailed our forcible disappearance, we felt alive again. But as a consequence, two of my senior colleagues — the president’s assistant and one of his advisers — found themselves accused, along with the president, without due process.

I was sent to a maximum-security prison with them under absurd accusations. This very article could result in retaliatory charges against me.

I am facing this treatment because of what I represent. I represent a worldview that is built on a genuine exchange and understanding between civilizations and cultures. I represent a generation that crossed borders, that lives in a truly global community, that resists control by undemocratic institutions.

I have lived on three continents: in Asia (my childhood was spent in the United Arab Emirates), in North America (I went to Canada for college and postgraduate studies), and in Africa (in Egypt, my home country). My wife is Canadian, and our four children are Canadian-Egyptian.

I am a Muslim who sees more common ground than disagreement with other faiths and cultures. I view Canada as a model of tolerance and multiculturalism. I see America and Europe as hubs of science and innovation — and as agents of world peace, with the proviso of a more principled foreign policy. I see Asia as a global competitor in scientific development with values that can enrich us all. I see the Middle East as the intersection of civilizations, a place where a stable peace could be a lasting monument to human interdependence and tolerance.

I believe that this century will be different from previous ones. Global citizens are destined to have a greater say and politicians will be held accountable to our voices. We must dream together.

Some dreams do come true. We toppled a dictator who had held power for 30 years after five people assembled in Tahrir Square and asked all Egyptians to join them on Jan. 25, 2011, under the banner of “Freedom, Justice and Dignity.” It was that movement that inspired me to work as a campaign volunteer in Egypt’s 2012 election.

Today, my dreams are haunted by this question: “My brothers and sisters in humanity, I know why the Egyptian military government demands my complete silence, but please answer me this: Why are you so silent about me?”

Khaled al-Qazzaz, the secretary on foreign relations from 2012 to 2013 in the government of President Mohamed Morsi, has been in extralegal detention since July. This article was smuggled from the prison where he is held.

Detroit water shutoffs violate human rights


27 June 2014


An agency of the United Nations issued a statement Wednesday condemning the shutoff of water to thousands of residents of the city of Detroit.

“Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” the statement read. It was signed by three representatives of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: an anti-poverty advocate from Canada, and law professors from Colombia and the United States.

The OCHCR concerns itself with gross violations of human rights, including torture, capital punishment, racial oppression and the abuse of women and children, as well as mass starvation, epidemics and the social consequences of flood, drought and other natural disasters. Most of its reports and statements deal with the impoverished countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is rare for this agency to issue a statement about conditions of daily life in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

That the social conditions in Detroit have become the subject of a declaration by a UN human rights panel, made in response to an appeal from various local organizations, is an expression of the staggering decay of social conditions in the city, once the center of American manufacturing.

The moves to shut off thousands of people from water is part of the bankruptcy and restructuring of Detroit, under the leadership of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began mass disconnection of water services from households more than two months behind on their bills—owing as little as $150.

More than 7,500 homes have been disconnected so far, and DWSD has set a goal of increasing the rate of disconnection to 3,000 customers per week. Ultimately, this could affect 150,000 customers, nearly half the households in the city, who have fallen behind on water bills under conditions of widespread poverty, unemployment, and cutbacks in food stamps, unemployment compensation and other forms of aid.

According to the water department, two-thirds of those cut off service pay their bills within 48 hours. This does not mean, as city officials claim, that these are people who would not, rather than could not, pay their bills. It only means that under threat of shutoff, money that would have gone to pay rent or utilities, buy food, or keep a car running to get to a low-paid job, went instead to keep the water on.

And that still leaves one-third of those shut off, unable even with a gun at their heads to get the money to restore their water service. What does it mean to live without running water in a modern society? You can’t take a shower, cook a meal, wash your hands or use the toilet. These conditions are extraordinarily dangerous from a public health standpoint, particularly for children, the elderly and the sick or disabled. Yet so acute is the economic and social crisis of American capitalism that tens of thousands of people in a major city now face such degrading conditions.

From a historical standpoint, the mass water shutoffs represent an unprecedented retrogression. Water and sewage service as a public utility was essential in the development of urban life in the 19th century and throughout the 20th century, banishing such diseases as cholera and dysentery, which once took thousands of lives every year.

Detroit symbolizes the long-term decline of American capitalism—and the ruthless avarice of the financial aristocracy that runs society. In the 1950s, workers in the Motor City had the highest standard of living of any in the world.

Today the city is in bankruptcy, ruled by a state-appointed financial overseer and a federal judge, with the public schools largely dismantled, pensions and health benefits for city workers gutted, and the assets of the city—from the paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts, to the sewage plant on the Detroit River, to the water department itself—being primed to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

As in Detroit, so in the rest of the country. Since the 2008 crisis, the ruling class, under the leadership of the Obama administration, has orchestrated a massive transfer of wealth—a policy mirrored in all the major capitalist countries. Every remaining social right of the working class is being eliminated—health care, public education, pensions, transportation and water. Mass unemployment and poverty are the norm.

The banks and financial institutions live a parasitic existence, amassing wealth on the basis of social misery. Just this week, the Commerce Department reported that the economic output fell at a 2.9 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year—a sign of continuing, and indeed deepening, economic slump.

Yet the stock markets have continued their upward march, confident that the government will keep open the supply of cheap cash. Ever greater sums of wealth are simply funneled back into new speculative ventures, combined with an intensification of the wrecking operation targeting basic social infrastructure.

The consequences of these conditions are not hard to calculate. The ruling class has thoroughly discredited its own political rule, while exposing the historical bankruptcy of the social system, capitalism, upon which it rests.

Patrick Martin

THE AUSTRALIAN: Denying dual citizenship is a double-edged sword

BEN SAUL THE AUSTRALIAN JUNE 24, 2014


THE Abbott government is understandably alarmed by Australians fighting with Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, which have committed savage war crimes. The Prime Minister has said he wants to prevent Australian fighters returning to Australia or to detain them to prevent “trained killers, who hate our way of life”, causing “mayhem”.

More than 30 passports have been cancelled on national secu­rity grounds in the past year. A number of people have been prosecuted for the federal crime of foreign incursion. The latest proposal is to strip dual nationals of Australian citizenship if they prejudice security.

This was suggested by the Immigration Minister in January, and supported this month by the outgoing Independent Monitor of National Security Legislation, Bret Walker QC. Britain is pursuing related reforms. At present, dual citizens can lose their citizenship only if convicted of a serious offence or if it was fraudulently obtained.

The proposal rests on two basic ideas: that excluding “terrorists” makes Australia safer and that dual nationals forfeit the privilege to be Australian by prejudicing our security. Both ideas are ­appealing on their own terms. Banishing terrorists from our shores can certainly prevent them causing mischief here. And, if we believe that our five million or so dual citizens must continuously earn their place among us by good behaviour, then it is reasonable to feel that fighting with terrorists lets down Team Australia.

Stripping citizenship is, however, unnecessary. And its costs outweigh its benefits. First, washing our hands of “our” terrorists simply shifts the threat they pose on to other countries, so they are free to cause “mayhem” elsewhere. Often these countries are less able to deal with terrorism precisely because they are affected by conflict and have weak law-­enforcement institutions, as in much of the Middle East.

No country has a right to shift its terrorists on to others. To the contrary, Australia has international legal obligations under UN Security Council resolutions to co-operate with other countries to prevent and punish terrorism. Our culture, too, produced these “terrorists”.

Stripping Australian nationality would be grossly irresponsible and would make the world more dangerous. It also makes Australia less safe, because those we exile remain free to plot terror attacks against us in countries where law enforcement cannot stop them — just as al-Qa’ida did in Afghanistan before 9/11. Second, stripping citizenship from dual nationals creates a new category of “second-class” citizens. The proposal would not affect people like me who are born as Australians and have no other nationality.

This is because Australia res­pects its international obligation not to make people “stateless” by depriving them of any nationality, and thereby depriving them of the protection of any government. The Abbott government has also rightly noted that the Australian Constitution would likely prevent this kind of denationalisation.

The proposal would mean that dual nationals would always have to “prove” themselves to be good, “loyal” citizens if they want to keep their citizenship. By contrast, other “homegrown” terrorists, born and bred in Australia with only one nationality, cannot “lose” citizenship through mis­behaviour. Stripping some Australians of citizenship, but not others, for security reasons is fundamentally divisive, unfair, and un-Australian. It makes the millions of dual nationals among us forever suspicious and vulnerable to losing their civic rights.

The very point of granting citizenship to foreigners is to recognise that “we” now accept them as one of us. Through it they become equal to every other Australian, born here or not, and they should not have to constantly show that they are more “loyal” than “we” who are locally born. Place of birth is, after all, just luck.

Fourth, stripping citizenship for threatening “national secu­rity” would go too far because the legal definition of security is too broad. Not every Australian fighting in Syria is killing civilians or committing terrorism.

Some may only be fighting ­militarily against, for instance, ­Assad’s repressive army. This is not to suggest Australians should fight there. But nor should they lose citizenship for doing so. Experience fighting overseas seldom translates into later violence against Australians in Australia.

Finally, stripping citizenship is unnecessary because Australia has enough laws to deal with the threats. Since 9/11, the Australian parliament has been among the most hyperactive counter-terrorism lawmakers on the planet.

Australians who fight overseas can be prosecuted for innumerable offences, including terrorism, war crimes, crimes against hum­anity and foreign incursion. Prosecution takes terrorists off the streets altogether, and does not ­irresponsibly shunt them on to other countries. It also ensures ­decisions are made based on evidence with judicial safeguards. Stripping citizenship based on untested intelligence about what a person is doing overseas risks miscarriages of justice.

Instead of prosecution, federal police can apply for control orders to prevent terrorism by restricting a person’s freedoms. In emergencies, preventive police detention is available, and ASIO has questioning and detention powers. Other powers range from surveillance to passport cancellation.

Governments are often tempted to reach for new laws when ­security is threatened. Intelligence agencies never say they have enough power or stop asking for more. Giving more power to the government, and making citizenship more provisional, is not the answer.

The answer lies in ­better intelligence and action to prevent people leaving, and in bringing them home to prosecute them.

Ben Saul is professor of international law at the University of Sydney and a global counter-terrorism law expert.

My husband has been illegally held in an Egyptian prison for a year. Enough

In this open letter, I want to urge the prosecutor general to show the world he is on the side of justice and that Egypt is not lost – free Khaled Al-Qazzaz

Khaled Al-Qazzaz's children

Dear prosecutor general Hisham Barakat,

You don't know me; we have never met. But, as prosecutor general of Egypt, your actions have governed the lives of my family for the past 358 days. This week, when given the chance to grant my husband his freedom, you choose to continue an injustice that unlawfully returned him to prison.

My name is Sarah Attia. I am a Canadian-Egyptian and my husband,Khaled Al-Qazzaz, has been detained unlawfully for 358 days in Tora prison.

I spend each day with my four children stoking my hope into something fierce to sustain me for however long this nightmare will last. I live with the knowledge that my husband spends every second of his day in solitary confinement, boiling in an insect-infested cell that reaches temperatures of 45C.

In all, prosecutor general, you've dismissed 13 opportunities to show the world that Egypt is not a bastion for political treachery, that Egypt does not carry on farcical games of injustice masked as legitimate enactions of Egyptian law. Instead, in all the 13 times you could have released my husband, you chose to extend his time in prison. You chose to cement Egypt's reputation as an oppressive regime that flagrantly disregards human rights.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange, Code Pink and the United Nations Human Rights Council are all demanding Khaled's immediate release.

The world is paying attention. Their eyes are on you because my husband has been detained without cause. There have never been any charges brought against him. He has never been afforded a fair and balanced trial.

Khaled Al-Qazzaz

Khaled was arrested on 3 July 2013 – his 34th birthday – because he was a civil servant and staffer under Mohamed Morsi'sdemocratically elected government in Egypt. Khaled and I left Canada and came to Egypt because we wanted to make a difference. As one of Egypt's leaders, you are aware of the challenges the country faces. Khaled felt privileged by his Canadian and American education. He felt it was his responsibility to go back to Egypt and use his skills where they would have the most impact. He believed in Egypt.

With a master's degree in engineering, his ongoing doctorate in education through an American university, as well as his status as a permanent resident in Canada, my husband could have lived a comfortable life. In Egypt, Khaled chose to enter the field of education because he felt this was an essential service that would help the people of Egypt fulfil their potential. Khaled took the job in the presidential office when he realised that with this position, he would have the opportunity to advocate for the betterment of human rights and women's empowerment.

I supported him because he worked for values I believed in. He dreamed big. He wanted an Egypt where women would have opportunities to excel, where world conflicts could have peaceful ends. He was the best kind of dreamer – the kind of man who turned dreams into real and practical goals.

Today, my husband's health is failing fast. The severe conditions in Tora prison are notorious for causing permanent and even fatal injuries to its occupants. He occupies a cell that is built to break people down.

Last Monday, you ordered the release of Abdullah Elshamy and 12 other people. In a statement, you attributed the move to the "health conditions" of the defendants. I am relieved for Elshamy, his wife and his family, but that relief was short-lived. Just a short time later, you sentenced Canadian Mohammad Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and their fellow journalists to seven years in prison. I continue to fear the outcomes of an unjust trial against Khaled.

I want my husband to live again. I want our family to live beautiful lives once again. Next month, our youngest daughter will turn two.

Prosecutor general, send Khaled back into the arms of his family. The time to uphold the tenets of justice that Egypt aspires to is now. Every previous experience has seen an arbitrary and inhuman extension of my husband's term. But I cannot stop hoping that you will vouch for justice, that you will show the world that Egypt is not lost. The world is watching. Show the world that you are on the side of justice and grant Khaled his freedom now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CBC PLAN ABANDONS CANADIANS -- Friends of Canadian Broadcasting statement

Jun 26, 2014


For immediate release 

Toronto (26 June 2014) – CBC’s plan to privilege digital and mobile delivery over its radio and television broadcast platforms is a retreat driven by the federal government’s deep budget cuts that will leave the national public broadcaster smaller and weaker, according to the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

“Lacroix should resign. He is helping Stephen Harper drive CBC into the ground. Today he told CBC’s employees that the government is the shareholder. That’s false: all Canadian are shareholders,” said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison.

Lacroix made the statement today in response to angry questions from CBC staffers who called on Lacroix to resign during a stormy question and answer session about the CBC’s just released five-year plan.

“This plan and Lacroix’s shameful statement are a betrayal of the values of public broadcasting. This new plan will also make CBC less accessible for many Canadians, especially older people who tend to vote,” Morrison said.

According to the plan CBC will:

- Cut 1000 – 1500 creative staff by 2020, on top of 657 staff cut in April
- Significantly cut in-house production, except for news, current affairs and radio
- Privilege digital and mobile distribution over broadcast radio and television
- Cut CBC’s real estate holdings in half
- Set aside 5% of commercial revenue to establish an "internal line of credit"
- Cut most suppertime news programs from 90 to 30 minutes and shift delivery of its local programming to mobile

Since 2012, the government has cut the CBC’s budget by a quarter of a billion dollars, and 75% of the CBC Board – all Harper appointments – have been financial supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada, including the CBC President. 

“This is a plan to do less with less and Harper’s cuts are to blame. CBC is popular with Canadians who will remember the government’s record of hostility to CBC at election time,” said Morrison.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming and is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.

-30-

For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592 jim@friends.ca

US Federal judge says no-fly list rules are unconstitutional

A federal judge in Oregon said Tuesday that the rules surrounding the use of a no-fly list managed by the United States government violates the constitutional rights of the US citizens included therein.

District Judge Anna Brown’s ruling this week will now force the government to fine-tune its procedures for handling requests from flyers who want to know if they’re included on that list and find ways for them to be removed if such is the case.

Judge Brown’s decision was made in response to a complaint filed by 13 Muslim-Americans who have been anything but successful with regards to having their name removed from the no-fly list and thus being unable to enjoy air travel above and around the US. In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on their behalf. READ MORE.......

Ramadan 2014: The Persecuted Muslims who Have Nothing to Celebrate

By Ludovica Iaccino -- June 26, 2014


While many of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are preparing to celebrate Ramadan, the month of fasting, there are some who will not be free to acknowledge the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar.

IBTimes UK looks at some of the countries where Muslims are persecuted for their beliefs and also looks back at examples of persecution of Muslims throughout history.

Muslims are currently persecuted in: 

Myanmar

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority, originally from Bangladesh, who live in the predominantly Buddhist of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) .

Buddhist extremists refuse to acknowledge the Rohingya and claim they are Bengalis who belong in neighbouring Bangladesh.

A New York Times short documentary broadcast this month, shows how Myanmar authorities confine the Rohingya to 'quasi-concentration camps' or to their own villages, with reduced/minimal access to medical care and education.

More than 230 people have been killed in religious violence in Myanmar since June 2012 and more than 140,000 have been displaced.

Central African Republic (CAR)

The CAR conflict has pitted Muslim Seleka forces against Christian Anti-Balaka militias since the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Muslim Michel Djotodia in 2012.

The two have continued to engage in tit-for-tat violence resulting in more than 2,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displacements since.

Thousands of Muslims have fled Christian-majority areas as sectarian violence continues to rise.

"We didn't want the Muslims here and we don't want their mosque here anymore either,'' Christian looter Guy Richard told news agency AP after more than 1,200 Muslims had fled the capital Bangui.

China

The Uyghur people are a Turkic Muslim minority living in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, known also as East Turkestan, in China.

The Uyghurs are subjected to religious discrimination by the Chinese government. 

Since the founding of the Republic of China in 1912, some Uyghurs have demanded complete autonomy from the Chinese government.

Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong launched an anti-rightist campaign in 1957, aimed at purging dissidents and critics of the government. The campaign was believed to have also targeted the Uyghur nationalists

During the Great Leap Forward Campaign (1958-1962), hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs fled Xinjiang to Soviet Union, due to a widespread famine.

China accuses Uyghur militants of waging a violent campaign for an independent state; however, Beijing is often accused of exaggerating Uyghur's extremism to justify its religious crackdown on the Muslim minority.


Muslims have been often felt persecuted in India - the world's largest Islamic community - by the Hindu majority.

Between 50,000-200,000 Muslims were believed to have been killed in pogroms in Hyderabad in 1948, during the Partition crisis.

Since independence, India has always maintained a constitutional commitment to secularism but Muslim-Hindu conflict hasd never been far from the surface. Since then, India has witnessed sporadic large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities.

The sense of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the post-partition period was compromised greatly by the razing of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. The demolition took place in 1992 and was perpetrated by the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Last month, Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP, was sworn in as India's new prime minister. Questions still persist over PM Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, when up to 2,000 Muslims were killed in religious riots. Human rights groups and the media have accsued Modi, who led the the Gujarat government at the time, for inflaming the violence and not protecting the Muslim community form the mob.

Angola

In November 2013 Angola ordered the shutdown of all mosques and declared Islam illegal. 

Minister of culture Rosa Cruz e Silva called Islam a "sect" which would be banned as counter to Angolan customs and culture.

Muslims account for less than 1% of the population of 19 million, while more than half of the former Portuguese colony in south west Africa subscribe to Christianity.

Clashes between the two communities are frequently reported in the local media. Muslims, many of whom migrated from west Africa and Lebanon, often face hostility from lawmakers.

Examples of persecution and ethnic cleansings of Muslims in recent history:

Bosnia During the Bosnian War (1992-1995) Bosnian Serb forces carried out an ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Serbian Croats.

The Bosnian genocide took place in the towns of Srebrenica and ┼Żepain 1995. 

Between 7,000- 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were believed to have been killed in Srebrenica in July 1995. Another 30,000 were forced to flee.

Bosnian genocide trials are still ongoing.

Chechnya

Russian forces carried out violence and ethnic cleansing attacks of Chechen Muslims after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian troops entered Chechnya in October 1991, after the Islamic International brigade had invaded the Republic of Dagestan.

Several NGOs accused Russian troops of war crimes against Chechen Muslims.


The toll is unknown.