daily archive: 03/01/2005
Changing Faiths in Egypt
Copts in Egypt have been agitated by the decision of two girls to convert to Islam
After learning that the girls had embraced Islam, several hundred agitated young Coptic Christians held a protest inside Mar Girgis church on Monday, chanting slogans against the conversion, according to Lina Ghadban, Aljazeera's correspondent in Egypt.
Some protesters speculated that the two girls, Marian Ayyad and Teresa Gorgy - both medical students at al-Fayyum general hospital - were pressured into changing their faith and were prevented from returning to Christianity.
Egyptian security officials have, however, vehemently denied the accusation, saying that the girls had in fact notified the authorities concerned to officially announce and document their change of faith.
As in the case of Wafaa Constantine
, it's hard to know what to believe here. In Cairo, Shafik Saleh Shafik runs "a recovery ministry for Coptic girls who are being enticed to leave their Christian families and convert to Islam"
. Mr Shafik’s ministry operates in close cooperation with Egypt’s Coptic clergy.
...Shafik bought two large residences in Cairo for use primarily as shelters for Coptic Christian girls. “Most of these are hard cases of teenage girls who have been convinced by a Muslim boy to leave home to marry him and become a Muslim," Shafik said.
“This creates big problems for the church, and everyone gets hurt along with the girl herself -- the girl’s family, her priest and church, and the Christian community at large," Shafik said.
It's undeniable that Copts in Egypt face persecution and discrimination. But these stories of abductions of Christian girls and forced conversions, are not always what they appear to be.
Religious conversion in Egypt is always intimately tied to marriage and family questions, including the shame felt by a family if a relative converts. Consequently, many of the stories of the abduction of Coptic girls by Muslims are probably cases of elopement to avoid family pressures or are a face-saving measure for the family. Nevertheless there are reliable reports that, often with police complicity, young, including underage, Coptic girls have been manipulated, or occasionally physically coerced, into conversion and marriage. Center for Religious Freedom
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No More Death Penalty for Minors
A closely divided Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for juvenile criminals on Tuesday, declaring there was a national consensus such executions were unconstitutionally cruel and ending a practice that had brought international condemnation.
The 5-4 decision, which overturns a 1989 high court ruling, throws out the death sentences of 72 murderers who committed their crimes as juveniles and bars states from seeking to execute others. Nineteen states had allowed death sentences for killers who committed their crimes when they were under 18.
The ruling was greeted with enthusiasm by numerous death penalty opponents, here and abroad.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said many juveniles lack maturity and intellectual development to understand the ramifications of their actions.
"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Kennedy said.
The United States has stood almost alone in the world in officially sanctioning juvenile executions, a "stark reality" that can't be ignored, Kennedy wrote. Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.
High Court Ends Death Penalty for Youths
I'm glad we won't be doing that anymore; as loathsome as their acts might be, they're still minors. And frankly, I really don't want my country to be in the company of Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia when it comes to this subject.
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Syrian Troops to Withdraw From Lebanon
Syria Says Might Pull Army from Lebanon in Months
- and good riddance.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Syrian troops might pull out of Lebanon in the next few months, as Lebanese protesters rallied in central Beirut on Tuesday demanding Syria get out of their country.
Assad's remarks indicated for the first time that Syria was considering a quick total withdrawal from its neighbor -- as stipulated by a U.N. resolution and demanded by the United States and France.
"You need to prepare when you bring your army back to your country. You need to prepare where you will put the troops," Assad said.
He said security in Lebanon and the protection of Syria's own borders needed to be taken into consideration.
One influential U.S. senator said a withdrawal in "a few months" as suggested by Assad might not be acceptable to the international community.
"The world community is going to insist upon a rather rapid acceleration of that timetable," Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after a meeting with President Bush.
Good, I hope so, I hope they're out of there next month. And what's this business about not knowing where to put the troops? Where were they before they left? Assad is full of it but I have a feeling he'll give in this time. Of course this has nothing to do with American pressure about democracy in the ME, it's because France is asking him politely.
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Iraqis demonstrate against Wahhabi terrorism
a thimbleful of cognac to RIP Ford for this story.
I found it interesting how the AP writer managed to write one sentence introducing this story, then insert about 21 sentences about some utterly unrelated French hostage story before finally coming back to the story she's trying to bury, the Iraqis demonstrating en masse against terrorism.
More than 2,000 people demonstrated Tuesday at the site of a car bombing south of Baghdad that killed 125 people, chanting "No to terrorism!"
[...ed: 20,000 words of irrelevant blah, blah, blah skipped]
Ten more people died from injuries in Monday's car bombing in Hillah, south of Baghdad, raising the death toll to 125. The attacker detonated the bomb as a group of police and national guard recruits were lining up to take physicals at a medical clinic.
At least 141 others were injured in the blast - the boldest challenge yet to Iraq's efforts to build a security force that can take over from the Americans.
More than 2,000 people held the impromptu demonstration on front of the clinic, chanting "No to terrorism!" and "No to Baathism and Wahhabism!"
Wahhabism is a reference to adherents of the strict form of Sunni Islam preached by Osama bin Laden, while the Baath party was the political organization that ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
The demonstrators also demanded that interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi step down.
Police prevented people from parking cars in front of the clinic or the hospital, where authorities blocked hospital gates with barbed wire to stave off hundreds of victims' relatives desperate for information on loved ones.
Provincial Gov. Walid al-Janabi said no funeral procession would be held in Hillah due to "security reasons." He did not elaborate, but police said they feared new attacks.
Authorities blocked hospital gates with barbed wire to stave off hundreds of victims' relatives desperate for information on loved ones.
Anxious for news of loved ones, they gathered around lists carrying the names of the dead and injured that were posted on hospital walls, screaming and wailing. They also went through victims' belongings, including identification cards, left in boxes nearby.
Distraught relatives at the hospital morgue placed the dead into coffins and loaded them onto pickup trucks, taking them to city mosques and homes where the bodies will be washed before burial, a Muslim tradition in Iraq.
Many of the corpses, charred or dismembered, were unrecognizable, stuffed into white plastic bags. Other bodies lay on the ground in the open because the overwhelmed morgue had no place to store them.
"We blame Hillah police for this tragedy because they didn't take the necessary measures to protect innocent people," said Hussein Hassoun, who lost two nephews who were standing in line for medical checkups, trying to join the local police force.
Many of the dead will be taken to the holy Shiite city of Najaf for burial later Tuesday.
The second deadliest attack since Saddam fell took place on Aug. 29, 2003, when a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in Najaf, killing more than 85 people, including Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.
In other violence, an Iraqi National Guard major was killed by a roadside bomb blast in the southern Doura neighborhood, the Interior Ministry said, while two unidentified corpses - one beheaded - were found floating in the Tigris River in Wasit, 60 miles south of Baghdad, morgue officials in nearby Kut said.
This man is weeping on his son Mahmood's coffin. Mahmood was trying to become a police officer when he was murdered by terrorists.
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US considers a deal with Mullahs? [updated]
Can we trust the Mullahs? According to some, we can!
The Bush administration is close to a decision to join Europe in offering incentives to Iran -- possibly including eventual membership in the World Trade Organization -- in exchange for Tehran's formal agreement to surrender any plans to develop a nuclear weapon, according to senior U.S. officials.
The day after returning from Europe, President Bush met Friday afternoon with the principal members of his foreign policy team to discuss requests made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in particular. More discussions are expected this week, but the White House wants to move quickly to finalize a list of incentives to offer Tehran as part of European talks with Iran, officials said.
The new willingness to engage, even if indirectly, marks a significant change from a position that Iran deserved no rewards for actions it is legally bound to take under terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But Bush's talks last week convinced him that a united front -- in offering carrots now and a stick later if Iran does not comply -- would be more effective, U.S. and European officials say.
Let's make Iran second North-Korea!Bush Weighs Offers To Iran: U.S. Might Join Effort to Halt Nuclear Program
[Washington Post needs free registration!]Update
: 1 day after, mullahs come up with this
Iran said Tuesday it would not give up its disputed nuclear program in return for economic and political incentives, the official IRNA news agency said.
"It is not the right of our government to swap it. It is the Iranian nation's right," Kharrazi [mullahs' Foreign Minister] said.
"The Iranian nation would never allow giving up the country's nuclear program."
Not that Iranians have a 'nation's right' for freedom of speech or democracy and choosing their own political form of government! No! They just have the right to enrich uranium! Which sounds like a sick joke.
And in the same day, they reject
IAEA's request for inspection of a military base:
Iran rejected a request by U.N. nuclear inspectors to return to its Parchin military base, where Washington suspects Iran might have conducted tests linked to nuclear bomb-making, the U.N. atomic watchdog said Tuesday.
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Christians and Druse and Muslims
Never before had the small church in the Galilee village of Mughar held so many important visitors as it did recently. Even the Vatican’s representative in Israel, Monsignor Pietro Sambi, was there.
But it was not a celebration that brought them together Sunday; on the contrary, the special guests were there to help sound alarm bells.
On Feb. 12 and 13, the small Christian community in Mughar suffered what some are calling a pogrom. Their attackers were young Druse hooligans — their neighbors. The riots were ignited by an explosive combination of religion and sex, ignited by a false Internet rumor.
Young Druse stoned their Christian neighbors, smashed and burned cars, burst into homes and vandalized them.
No one died, but 11 people were injured, including three policemen. The riots left a gaping hole in the fragile web of relationships linking Israel’s Christian-Arab and Druse communities and exposed rifts among minority communities in Israel.
Many Christians left Mughar, seeking shelter in Arab villages in the Galilee, comparing what happened in Mughar to what the Jews in Germany experienced during Kristallnacht in 1938.
The village’s elderly residents were unable to restrain the young thugs.
“For 50 years we have nurtured our relations and it was all destroyed in one day," lamented Kamal Ghanem, who is Druse.
Almost half of Mughar’s approximately 20,000 residents are Druse, about 22 percent are Christian and about 20 percent are Muslim.
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Uruguay elects its first socialist, rehabilitates Castro
Another domino falls in South AmericaThe Bolivarian revolution rages on
as another electorate takes leave of its senses and commits suicide by socialism. No, it's not a vaguely respectable government of socialists like Tony Blair's. They elected a government of Marxist guerrillas
. You know what? They deserve what they get.
URUGUAY, once South America’s most prosperous country, plays host to an unlikely gathering of left-wing leaders tomorrow as it prepares to break with 170 years of history and swear in its first socialist President.
Tabaré Vázquez, a 65-year-old professor of medicine who was elected last October with 50 per cent of the vote, will be inaugurated as head of the Broad Front coalition, whose biggest component is a party founded by the former Marxist Tupamaro guerrilla movement.
The new head of the country’s Senate is José Mújica, a former Tupamaro leader who was held in a deep well for seven years by his military captors who said he would be executed if the guerrillas killed any more military officers.
With Uruguay joining most of its neighbours in voting the Left into power, Washington loses one of its few remaining close allies in the region. The most visible sign of this change will be the attendance at the handover of Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader and the US’s arch-enemy in the region.
Uruguay broke off relations with Cuba in 2002 after Señor Castro dismissed the outgoing President, Jorge Batlle, as a bootlicker for his support of US attempts to condemn Cuba’s human rights record at the UN. Now the new President says that he will restore relations with Cuba.
This marks another defeat for President Bush’s regional policy of trying to isolate Cuba, President Castro having seen a similar improvement in relations with Argentina and Brazil after changes of power there. “The aim of the Bush Administration in the region was to isolate Cuba. Instead it has ended up isolating itself," says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington think-tank that focuses on US-Latin American relations.
Also expecting a warm welcome in Montevideo is Venezuela’s populist President Hugo Chávez, described by Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, as a destabilising influence in the region.
Señor Chávez hopes to quickly conclude a beef-for-oil swap with Uruguay’s new Government, similar to one he recently signed with Argentina.
The Venezuelan leader is an open advocate of deepening ties among South American countries to counteract Washington’s influence in the region.
Señor Chávez recently stated his aim of reducing Venezuelan oil exports to the US, currently its main market, and wants to shift them to Asia. He also has ambitions to create a South American oil giant, to be called Petrosur, which would be an alliance of the state oil companies of Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina.
The recent rise of the Left in South America has been fuelled by deep discontent at free market reforms sponsored by the US during the 1990s which are widely blamed in the region for financial crises, a widening gap between rich and poor and a growth in poverty.
The new Government in Montevideo has promised to move rapidly to tackle the country’s social crisis. Despite the economy expanding by more than 12 per cent last year, a four-year recession that ended in 2002 has left an estimated one in three people in poverty. Señor Vázquez’s first act as President will be to set up a $100 million social emergency plan.
Another priority will be to tackle the legacy of the country’s dirty war between the former military government and leftist opponents. Señor Vázquez has ruled out reopening legal proceedings against former and serving officers.
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Jefe is pacing up and down the hallways of the Very-Very Secret Government Agency while playing his fiddle, an activity he finds relaxing and entertaining. The Very-Very Secret Agents have put cottonballs in their ears.
floranista: One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy...
Jefe rushes to answer the phone in his office.
Jefe: Yes, did you get him?
floranista: A gracious good morning to you...Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?
Jefe: Mercy, woman! Is it him on the line?
floranista: And who might you be?
Jefe: Oh I so wanna fire your ass, you have no idea...
floranista: You and half of America, haaa-haaa-haaaa!
Jefe: Come on, put him through.
floranista: Say please.
floranista: Say it like you mean it.
floranista: I can't hear you...
floranista: Oh all right, just this once.
Jefe: I don't know how it happened Charles, it wasn't on my shift, I was on vacation! Yeah, in Ireland... No! No, I swear we didn't have farting contests! Oh...no... no, that wasn't me! Charles, you don't know this! But how could you possibly-
Jefe: I don't know how I lost my wallet.
Jefe: But I only bent over that one time though!
Jefe: Yeah, it's possible that it fell out then but... look-
Jefe: But Charles, my password wasn't compromised, I swear!
Jefe: ...in my wallet...
Jefe: I'm sorry Charles...
Jefe: Aww Charles...awww...oh come on! Oh, not my DSL too? ... But I need my... And the Xbox!? But Cha- awww... oh come on, man... awww man...
Meanwhile, Ultra-Secret Agent Sine has just arrived in the States and is reporting to headquarters:
Meanwhile in the deep woods of North America...
There are rustling sounds in the woods. A short, bald man stands tall as he looks around for snipers. He doesn't see any and after blowing his nose very loudly he continues his march towards the barn...
to be continued...
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Steal This Free Lebanon Button
So I futzed around for a little while and I made this gorgeous button which I encourage you to steal.
I'm putting it in the public domain. Feel free to use it on your own blog to show solidarity for the Lebanese people's struggle for independence. No, do not hotlink it and steal our bandwidth; we have hotlink protection so it won't work. You have to save it onto your own server. If you're on blogspot or for some other reason can't use your own server, I suggest imagehosting.us
, which is free!
1 commentFarah left a comment at 2:51 am 09/07