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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Religious Intolerance

It was January 14th, 2011 when Obama declared the 16th to be Religious Freedom Day.
My Administration continues to defend the cause of religious freedom in the United States and around the world … human right and to foster tolerance and peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own … The United States stands with those who advocate for free religious expression and works to protect the rights of all people to follow their conscience, free from persecution and discrimination.” In this proclamation Obama asserts that he, as President will support religious freedom and seek to prevent persecution of those who practice different beliefs. It all sounds nice; however, what does he mean by “seek”? To me, it means to look for. IT does not provide for finding or actively protecting that right.

Coptic Christians are being murdered in Egypt, this being the new regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, I would say expect more of that. Girls are being taken, raped, and put into forced marriages. In one most horrific attack a toddler was sexually attacked in view of her parents to force their conversion. That child is likely physically crippled for life. She and her family are reported to be living in Canada now seeking asylum.

Obama had nothing to say at Easter; he did, though, have great and grand things to say yesterday about the coming Ramadan. Now, Obama misses an opportunity to comment on a gathering of national leaders from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Morocco, Sudan and Jordan, representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood and other Egyptian political establishment elements, as well as Hezbollah, and Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations coming together to talk. Aren’t some of these listed as terrorist groups or terror supporting entities? Where is the outrage? Obama must have had a speech written for this occasion. What will come from the White House regarding the slaughter of Syrians by their own government as the peaceful Ramadan comes along?

I do not believe that he will say anything. Even if he did, he would do much less.

Dalits ask govt to stop forced conversions

Zaib Azkaar HussainWednesday, July 27, 2011

Representatives of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN), who held at a meeting at the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Centre, demanded of the government to take notice of alleged abduction of Dalit girls and then their forced conversion to Islam.

They expressed serious concern over alleged social and economic discrimination against scheduled castes arguing that well-organised and conscious attempts were being made to reduce the share of schedule castes in the overall population of Pakistan in the house counting and the coming census.

The representatives further alleged forced labour, abduction of Dalit girls, and forced conversions of religion and illegal occupation of religious places of minorities.

Dr Sono Khangharani of the Thardeep Rural Development Programme, Karamat Ali and Zulfiqar Shah of the Pakistan Institute of PILER, Malji Meghwar, Avinash Hari of the Upgrade Minorities for Integrated Development (UMID), Ramesh Jaipal, chairman of the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement Pakistan, and other representatives of the PDSN made speeches.

They expressed their concern over exclusion policies against scheduled caste population everywhere in Pakistan and demanded of the government to provide protection to Dalits and allot government land to landless peasants of the low-caste monitories. A large number of Dalit families are working on lands of big landlords, where they face torture and bonded labour.

The representatives of scheduled caste communities said that the share of Dalits in employment, educational scholarships, national resources, development schemes and in the parliament was inadequate and it should be enhanced according to their proportion in the population.

They noted that primary schools in many areas in Tharparkar district had been either closed or they were not functioning. Besides there were no health facilities in localities of Dalits, they added.

They decried that political parties were providing assembly tickets for the reserved seats of minorities to only upper caste Hindus, whereas actually the scheduled caste population was much more than the upper caste Hindus in Pakistan.

They feared that in the forthcoming census, the population ratio of Dalits among the minorities would further be reduced as many scheduled caste people could include themselves in “Hindus” categories, whereas a separate category of “scheduled caste” was also included in the religion column. They underlined the need to create awareness among Dalit families about getting them registered in the census as “scheduled caste.”

The speakers complained that influential people and landlords in rural areas abducted girls of poor Dalits and then marry them off, forcibly converting them to Islam.

“The parents of girls are not allowed to meet their daughters even in the case of conversion,” a member of the Dalit community complained. Moreover, he said that in many cases Dalit girls were forced to beg or become prostitutes, exploited and abused.

He demanded of the government to stop forcible conversations of Dalit girls.

Members of the Dalit community from Karachi complained that religious places of minorities in the city, particularly in Keamari and Clifton areas, were forcibly occupied by land grabbers and at many places they were not allowed to use the worship places.

They also complained that police were reluctant to register a case of murder of a Katchi Dalit community member. Moreover, in rural areas of Sindh and southern Punjab the graveyards of Dalits had been occupied by land mafias and housing schemes had been initiated at the land of graveyards, the speakers concluded.

Egypt hosts terror convention with Hamas, Hezbollah, more
From the ITIC:
On July 24-25 Egypt hosted a conference called the “Founding Conference of the Arab-Islamic Gathering to Support the Option of Resistance” [i.e., terrorism] to support the so-called “resistance” (i.e., terrorism and violence). It was held at the Egyptian Press Syndicate in Cairo. The Palestinian media reported that the conference was attended by representatives from 14 Islamic countries, among them Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Morocco, Sudan and Jordan. Also present were representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood and other Egyptian political establishment elements. In addition, there were representatives from Hezbollah, and Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations. The Hezbollah representative gave a speech in the name of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (Qudspress and Ma’an News Agency, July 24, 2011).

The conference attendees attempted to establish a link between the so-called “resistance” (i.e., the path of terrorism) and the popular protests in the Arab countries in recent months, stressing that the “resistance” was the only option for “liberating” Palestine. Osama Hamdan, responsible for Hamas’ international relations, said in a speech that “the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict will never end unless Israel ceased to exist,” and that Hamas would never recognize Israel (Al-Quds TV, July 24, 2011).

Syria: Over 100 killed as Ramadan starts

Syria Kills 145 on Ramadan Eve Amid International Condemnation

 Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) — Syrian soldiers sought to reassert control over a restive nation yesterday, killing 145 people in one of the deadliest bouts of violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began four months ago, Al Jazeera reported.

The army took action the day before the start of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer. Tanks shelled Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, where at least 113 people were killed, the Qatari-based network said, citing the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

The regime “has been very frightened by Ramadan’s onset,” Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist who directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, said in a telephone interview.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “deeply concerned” by the reports of killings in Syria, his office said in a statement yesterday. The U.S., France, Turkey and the U.K. joined Ban in condemning the violence.

Activists, analysts and refugees have said they expect the uprising to intensify during the holy month. More than 1,950 protesters have been killed since the demonstrations began in mid-March, according to Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Damascus- based Arab Organization for Human Rights, and Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Challenge to Assad
The unrest poses the biggest challenge to Assad’s rule since he inherited power from his father, Hafez al-Assad, 11 years ago.

“The unfolding crackdown is going to fuel people’s anger more, there is no doubt about it,” Landis said. “Clearly the regime believes they have got to use more force and they have to get on top of this before it expands into more towns and gets beyond the capabilities of the security forces to be in all places at all times.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “appalled” by the Syrian government’s “use of violence and brutality against its own people.” He said the reports out of Hama “demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime,” adding that Assad has “shown he is completely incapable and unwilling to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people.”

Syria will be a “better place when a democratic transition goes forward,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. “In the days ahead, the United States will continue to increase our pressure on the Syrian regime, and work with others around the world to isolate the Assad government.”

French, Turkish Condemnations
France condemned the Syrian military repression and said the violence would lead to further instability, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Turkey said the events on the eve of Ramadan saddened the Islamic world and raised doubts over Assad’s commitment to a peaceful solution to the protesters’ demands. Ersat Hurmuzlu, an adviser to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, told Al Jazeera that his government was “shocked and disappointed,” calling the military action “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

“The operations will not only make no contribution to securing public order, they also have an extremely negative impact on the process of necessary reform,” the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said in an e-mailed statement. “The events raise questions over the Syrian administration’s goodwill and sincerity in the search for a peaceful resolution.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “appalled” by the assault. “Assad is mistaken if he believes that oppression and military force will end the crisis,” he said.

Previous Uprising
Hama, in western Syria, was the site of a 1982 uprising that the current president’s father crushed, leaving about 10,000 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch.

The city has been controlled largely by protesters for about the past month, Merhi said. Footage broadcast yesterday by Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera showed columns of black smoke billowing from the city. Gunfire and people screaming could be heard.

Al Jazeera, citing activists, said security forces opened fire on civilians next to a mosque in Daraa, killing three. Abdul-Karim Rihawi of the Syrian Human Rights League said at least 10 people were killed in Deir al-Zour, in northeastern Syria -- the same city where Syrian state television said an army colonel and two other soldiers were slain by armed men.

The unrest is likely to increase pressure on the country's economy, Chris Phillips, a London-based analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in a telephone interview. Growth is expected to slow to 3 percent this year from 3.2 percent in 2010, the International Monetary Fund said in April. The Institute of International Finance says the economy may contract 3 percent this year.
No Tourists

The tourism industry, which accounts for about 10 percent of gross national product, is slumping, with virtually zero hotel-occupancy rates in Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo, Phillips said.

In Syria, as in other mostly Islamic countries, extended family and community groups typically gather to break the daily Ramadan fast after sunset, and people attend the mosque more frequently than in other months. Mosques have been rallying points for the Syrian protesters and greater attendance may help organizers get more people on the streets, Phillips said.
Calls for Democracy

Inspired by the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, demonstrators are calling for democracy and increased civil rights in the country, which has been ruled by the Assad family for four decades. Syria has been a key opponent of U.S. and Israeli policy in the Middle East and a power-broker in neighboring Lebanon.

Assad has blamed the protests on foreign-inspired plots, while conceding that some demonstrators have legitimate demands and pledging political changes.

The government last week approved laws that allow new political parties to exist alongside Assad's Baath Party, which has been in power since 1963, and the establishment of a commission to regulate parliamentary elections. Those moves and earlier steps toward change have failed to mollify protesters.

--With assistance from Nayla Razzouk in Amman, Alaa Shahine and Zahra Hankir in Dubai, Tara Patel in Paris, Steve Bryant in Ankara and Katarzyna Klimasinska, Mike Dorning, Flavia Krause- Jackson and Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington. Editors: Leslie Hoffecker, Daniel Enoch

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