More than any other Arab leader — and even more than his father, the late King Hussein — Abdullah has attached his fate to the West. He has opened Jordanian markets and plans to introduce western democratic reforms.Read the whole article here.
Like his father, Abdullah also has fostered the only truly warm Arab-Israeli peace, and he met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the United Nations last Friday.
Coupled with a biography firmly rooted in the West — his mother is British and his schooling is American and British — these goals deny Abdullah the appeal among ordinary Arabs that many of his contemporaries have, despite his lineage: Hashemite kings are believed to be direct descendants of Mohammed.
Abdullah’s solution is to use the Arab street’s hardiest vehicle — Islam — to move it toward his vision of moderation. The July assembly in Amman of 180 Islamic scholars from 45 countries concluded with 17 of the most senior scholars issuing religious edicts outlining two principles: Fatwas issued by Muslims not formally trained in Islamic are not legitimate; and Muslims must refrain from calling other Muslims apostates.
The two statements were clearly aimed at Al-Qaida and its leaders. Lumbard, a Cairo-based scholar who helped organize the summit, said the pedigree of the scholars at the Amman meeting lent heft to their fatwas in a way that multiple other efforts to moderate Islam — many of them stemming from Western capitals — could not.
Whether the effort resonates remains to be seen. Lumbard acknowledged that even those scholars, respected as they are, have become remote from an Arab street succored by the Internet and satellite television. The next step, he said, was to compete in those fields with the radicals who advocate terrorism.
Abdullah, 43, places much stock in youth, since half of Jordan’s population is 18 or younger. His first stop in the United States was a meeting with a group of high school students from two Washington public schools, the Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Md., and the Islamic Academy in Fairfax, Va.
Significantly, the most skeptical students at the gathering appeared to be Muslims from the Saudi-backed academy. When one young woman in a scarf expressed doubts that Abdullah’s moderation reflected the Arab world’s “general consensus," Queen Rania struggled for a response, and could cite only an outpouring of Arab sympathy for Americans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
By contrast, the Jewish students were clearly impressed.
“He’s very courageous for taking such a message," said Moshe Broder, a senior at the Hebrew Academy. “He’s a pioneer."
Abdullah will have to start at home, and that could be a problem. Creating change in Jordan’s highly conservative and tribalized political culture has never been easy. A recent campaign against “honor killings" of women has had mixed results at best, and the royal court’s embrace of peace with Israel is not shared by other Jordanian elites, never mind ordinary Jordanians.
The king will have to flex the kind of muscle his father occasionally did to overcome skeptics who see him as ensconced in the West, said Hiam Nawas, a Jordanian expert on political Islam.
“Abdullah will have to spend a fair amount of his own political capital if he wants his message to become authoritative in Jordan," she said.
One way to sell the moderation is to show that it brings results. Hence Abdullah’s appeal in the West, simultaneous with his religious outreach, for expanded trade and political ties.
Middlesex University has suspended the president of its student union and revoked his studentship until further notice after he refused to cancel a debate with the controversial Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The union was ordered to cancel the debate at the end of last week but refused, with the president of the student union, Keith Shilson, arguing that it should be allowed on the grounds of freedom of speech. He claims the group, which is considered by some to be extremist, including the prime minister who announced his intention to proscribe it last month, is a non-violent organisation.
Yesterday, Mr Shilson was escorted from the campus by university security in what is believed to be the first disciplinary action to be taken against a student over the issue of extremism.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned by the National Union of Students (NUS) because, according to NUS policy, the group is "responsible for supporting terrorism and publishing material that incites racial hatred".
But last term Middlesex student union overturned the NUS ban and Mr Shilson invited representatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir to give the Q&A session on September 28 at the union's Hendon campus, which has the highest population of Muslim students.
The university stepped in at the end of last week to order the cancellation of the debate, following a speech by the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, in which she said that vice-chancellors would have to crackdown on extremism on campuses.
The university confirmed that Mr Shilson was yesterday suspended until further notice and that the reason was his refusal to comply with the university's demands over the debate.
NEW YORK - September 23 - As Hurricane Katrina began pounding New Orleans, the sheriff's department abandoned hundreds of inmates imprisoned in the city’s jail, Human Rights Watch said today.
Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported that as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in ground-floor cells, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level.
“Of all the nightmares during Hurricane Katrina, this must be one of the worst," said Corinne Carey, researcher from Human Rights Watch. “Prisoners were abandoned in their cells without food or water for days as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling."
Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into the conduct of the Orleans Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail, and to establish the fate of the prisoners who had been locked in the jail. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which oversaw the evacuation, and the Orleans Sheriff’s Department should account for the 517 inmates who are missing from list of people evacuated from the jail.
Carey spent five days in Louisiana, conducting dozens of interviews with inmates evacuated from Orleans Parish Prison, correctional officers, state officials, lawyers and their investigators who had interviewed more than 1,000 inmates evacuated from the prison.
The sheriff of Orleans Parish, Marlin N. Gusman, did not call for help in evacuating the prison until midnight on Monday, August 29, a state Department of Corrections and Public Safety spokeswoman told Human Rights Watch. Other parish prisons, she said, had called for help on the previous Saturday and Sunday. The evacuation of Orleans Parish Prison was not completed until Friday, September 2.
According to officers who worked at two of the jail buildings, Templeman 1 and 2, they began to evacuate prisoners from those buildings on Tuesday, August 30, when the floodwaters reached chest level inside. These prisoners were taken by boat to the Broad Street overpass bridge, and ultimately transported to correctional facilities outside New Orleans.
But at Templeman III, which housed about 600 inmates, there was no prison staff to help the prisoners. Inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch varied about when they last remember seeing guards at the facility, but they all insisted that there were no correctional officers in the facility on Monday, August 29. A spokeswoman for the Orleans parish sheriff’s department told Human Rights Watch she did not know whether the officers at Templeman III had left the building before the evacuation.
According to inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, they had no food or water from the inmate’s last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an unbearable stench.
“They left us to die there," Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at Rapides Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation.
As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility.
“The water started rising, it was getting to here," said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. “We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying ‘I'm scared. I feel like I'm about to drown.' He was crying."
Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison. A number of inmates told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to get everyone out from their cells.
Inmates broke jail windows to let air in. They also set fire to blankets and shirts and hung them out of the windows to let people know they were still in the facility. Apparently at least a dozen inmates jumped out of the windows.
"We started to see people in T3 hangin' shirts on fire out the windows," Brooke Moss, an Orleans Parish Prison officer told Human Rights Watch. “They were wavin' em. Then we saw them jumping out of the windows . . . Later on, we saw a sign, I think somebody wrote `help' on it."
As of yesterday, signs reading “Help Us," and “One Man Down," could still be seen hanging from a window in the third floor of Templeman III.
Several corrections officers told Human Rights Watch there was no evacuation plan for the prison, even though the facility had been evacuated during floods in the 1990s.
“It was complete chaos," said a corrections officer with more than 30 years of service at Orleans Parish Prison. When asked what he thought happened to the inmates in Templeman III, he shook his head and said: “Ain't no tellin’ what happened to those people."
“At best, the inmates were left to fend for themselves," said Carey. “At worst, some may have died."
Human Rights Watch was not able to speak directly with Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin N. Gussman or the ranking official in charge of Templeman III. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department told Human Rights Watch that search-and-rescue teams had gone to the prison and she insisted that “nobody drowned, nobody was left behind."
Human Rights Watch compared an official list of all inmates held at Orleans Parish Prison immediately prior to the hurricane with the most recent list of the evacuated inmates compiled by the state Department of Corrections and Public Safety (which was entitled, “All Offenders Evacuated"). However, the list did not include 517 inmates from the jail, including 130 from Templeman III.
Many of the men held at jail had been arrested for offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.