Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Israel & Arabs agree on Iran

I know that many Arabs don't want to see the US bomb Iran, but many obviously do. Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, Saudi King Abdullah, and Israel's conservative government would like to see America bomb Iran.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sistani not an Iranian lackey

'Two cables from late 2009 described the limits of Iranian sway over its neighbor, with one saying that its "greatest political roadblock" for Iran was differences between Iranian religious leaders and Iraq's pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In the March 2010 parliamentary polls, al-Sistani's call for an open-list ballot - allowing voters to select individual candidates - won out over Tehran's preference for a closed list, which would have favored established parties, the cable said.'

Iraqi govt more willing to stop malign Iranian influence

From a cable dated 24 April 2009: "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers are active in Iraq, conducting traditional espionage and supporting violent extremists as well as supporting both legitimate and malign Iranian economic and cultural outreach. Iraqis and their government have demonstrated increasing willingness to push back against malign Iranian influence in the last year. Working with the Iraqis, we have succeeded in stopping some IRGC-QF activity through military operations and diplomatic engagement, while we prevented some IRGC-QF officers from entering Iraq through explicit warnings that we would target them unilaterally. However, under the Security Agreement effective January 1, all operations in Iraq must be conducted in conjunction with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and our previous unilateral warnings carry less weight. As Coalition Forces continue the period of responsible drawdown, we will rely increasingly on the GOI to keep the pressure on the IRGC-QF. We intend to support the GOI in these efforts through continued diplomatic engagement, intelligence sharing, and our security partnership of Coalition Forces working by, with, and through the ISF."

Violence against women in Iraq

I've known about the violence against women in Iraq, but I did not realize so much of it is concentrated in Kurdistan. I always perceived the Kurds to be more progressive than the rest of Iraq because they've had an autonomous government supported by the US since 1992. But this year I've read a few articles about honor killings in Kurdistan, and after reading recent comments by Mister Ghost, I've read a few articles about FGM in Kurdistan. Thank you MG for discussing honor killings and FGM in Kurdistan.

In 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported about FGM in Kurdistan for the first time. UNICEF/Arbil followed. Shortly before, WADI had published the first findings from a comprehensive study by the association, indicating that FGM is prevalent in almost all parts of Iraqi Kurdistan. This study, published in 2010, also shows that FGM is equally widespread in towns and in the countryside. Human Rights Watch is expected to publish their own survey soon, confirming the results found by WADI.

Today, female genital mutilation in Kurdistan is internationally recognized beyond dispute. All future reports about FGM worldwide will also have to include Kurdistan. Maps of the FGM-affected regions are currently being revised. Those who still call FGM an “African problem” are corrected by other, better-informed. This recognition has become possible thanks to the campaign.

Read more: Stop FGM in Kurdistan. It's good to see that UNICEF has been part of the effort to stop FGM in Kurdistan. In March I asked "Why aren't more countries in the middle east (especially the oil rich nations) contributing to UNICEF?"

I'm glad that Kurdistan's government is allowing open discussion of these issues and is attempting to combat gender-based violence against women.

As Kurdistan is fast progressing, becoming democratized and westernized, it faces serious difficulties with its conservative culture that has subjected women to painful and deadly rituals including honor killing. Barham Salih, prime minister of Kurdistan, promised on Thursday to put the issue of women first in his government’s policies and eliminate violence against women, who constitute more than half of the Kurdish society.

Perhaps these changes in Kurdistan have been made possible by American influence. If so, I hope the positive influence continues, and not just in Kurdistan. With American help and encouragement, Iraq can become a better country.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arabs want US to attack Iran

"Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks begun releasing extracts from secret messages sent by US embassies which give an insight into current global concerns.

They include reports of some Arab leaders - including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme."

Saudis still biggest financiers of Al Qaeda

'Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.'

Saturday, November 27, 2010

UAE to build new museums

This is good for the UAE. Hopefully it will be good for the region. Thanks Sousan for posting on fb.

"In 2005 Sheikh Zayed’s son and heir, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, approached Thomas Krens, who was the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, with the idea of creating a new branch of the Guggenheim Museum — a Middle Eastern version of what Mr. Krens and Mr. Gehry had accomplished a decade earlier in Bilbao, Spain. But the sheik’s ambitions were never so small: within a few years the proposed site of the project, Saadiyat Island, a 10-square-mile development zone just north of Abu Dhabi’s urban center, was being planned as a miniature city built around culture and leisure, with some of the most recognizable names from the creative world.

Abu Dhabi’s blockbuster deal with the Louvre was signed in 2007; another deal, with the British Museum, to design exhibitions for Foster & Partners’ Zayed National Museum, was signed two years later. The maritime museum by Mr. Ando and a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid are still being planned. These cultural megaprojects will be joined by a campus of New York University on Saadiyat Island’s southern shore and, in a location to be determined, a four-million-square-foot development for media companies and film studios meant partly to provide job training and opportunities for young Emiratis.

Sheik Khalifa and his government want all this to instill national pride in a new generation of Emiratis while providing citizens with tools, both intellectual and psychological, for living in a global society. The idea, several people told me on a recent visit, is to tell a new story, one that breaks with a long history of regional decline, including the recent upheavals caused by militant fundamentalism, and to re-establish a semblance of cultural parity with the West."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Iraqi Christian lawmaker demands govt protect Christians

'"We demand the government be up to its responsibility of protecting its people - otherwise the crimes targeting Christians will continue," Kana told a parliament session on Tuesday.

He said calls from France and Germany should be "rejected" and claimed they are "linked to foreign agendas that aim to deplete Iraq's Christian community."

Kana also accused "political agendas" within the Shiite-led government of ignoring pleas to help Iraqi Christians. "We found no response, just silence," he said.'

Iraq is a basket case

I haven't been able to watch the Rachel Maddow Show on TV lately, so I check out her website on MSNBC to catch up on the latest in American politics. Last night I noticed on the site a collection of Maddow's reporting on Iraq and I watched all the clips.

Maddow's reporting on Iraq has often been pessimistic (understandably, I suppose) and she was always "against" the war, but it's clear she cares about the welfare of Iraqis. I also appreciate Richard Engel's brutally honest and straightforward reporting on Iraq.

Maddow traveled to Iraq in August to cover the US announcement of the end of combat operations there. In this interview, Engel tells Maddow that Iraqis are still thankful that the US overthrew Saddam's regime, saying that Saddam was really THAT bad.

This was filmed in August and the two discuss how hot Iraq is and Maddow shows her disgust at the lack of electricity:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also watch this clip, in which Maddow and Engel discuss President Obama's remarks on the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Engel calls Iraq a "basket case".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan

I did not know until recently the scale of "honor killings" in Kurdistan. In this sad story, a man was killed by his wife's brother, because her family did not approve of the marriage.

"Honor killing has a long history in Iraq and here in the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan. But even here, this couple’s case stood out because the man was killed, not the woman, and because of the political clout of the warring families.

As some Iraqi lawmakers try to crack down on honor killing, the case — in which there have been no arrests — also illustrates how difficult it can be to uproot a deep-seated tribal honor code.

More than 12,000 women were killed in the name of honor in Kurdistan from 1991 to 2007, according to Aso Kamal of the Doaa Network Against Violence. Government figures are much lower, and show a decline in recent years, and Kurdish law has mandated since 2008 that an honor killing be treated like any other murder. But the practice continues, and the crime is often hidden or disguised to look like suicide."

Iraqi govt must be formed to pass a budget

'He said Iraq would not be able to resume that aid until a new budget was passed.

Some lawmakers called for an investigation into the shortage of money; others said they were not surprised to learn that the well was dry.

“It’s expected,” said Ayad al-Samarrai, a former speaker of Parliament. “When Parliament is delayed for all these months, it also stops monitoring the government and holding them accountable.”

Less than two weeks ago, Iraqi leaders announced a power-sharing deal to fold the country’s major ethnic and religious factions into a fragile unity government led by Mr. Maliki, a religious Shiite who took office in 2006 and presided over an ebb in bloodshed.

The latest delay seems to be centered on an obscure parliamentary question: When will President Jalal Talabani, whom Parliament re-elected on Nov. 11, formally ask Mr. Maliki to form a government?'

Murder of Christians in Mousul continues

"Three people were killed Monday in Iraq in the latest attack targeting Christians, police in the city of Mosul said.

In one attack, two Christian brothers were killed in Mosul when gunmen broke into their workplace in an industrial part of the city and shot them. The brothers were welders who owned the shop.

On Monday evening, police found an elderly Christian woman strangled in her home in central Mosul.

The attacks on Christians started October 31 in Baghdad have extended to the northern parts of the country, such as Mosul.

Last week, a bomb attached to the vehicle of a Christian man detonated in eastern Mosul, killing him and his 6-year-old daughter, local police told CNN.

The November 16 attack came one day after two Christian men in adjacent homes were killed after gunmen stormed their houses.

Also on November 15, a bomb detonated outside a Christian home. It caused damages but no injuries."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iraq is worst at solving murders of reporters

Maybe the government's excuse is "Allah will solve it".

'Gunmen killed a young television news reporter in his home in the restive northern city of Mosul on Sunday, in the latest in a series of deadly attacks on journalists in Iraq, police said.

Mazin Mardan, in his mid-20s, was a correspondent for Al-Mosuliyah satellite television channel, covering hard news and carrying out interviews for the city's local station.

"Unknown gunmen raided the house of Mazin Mardan of Al-Mosuliyah satellite channel in the Al-Sadiq neighbourhood, east Mosul," police Major Mohammed al-Hayali said. "They killed him and they escaped."

The shooting occurred at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) in the city, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, Hayali said.

In October, the International Press Institute press watchdog said more journalists had been killed in Iraq this year than in all of 2009.

The same month, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Iraq a lowly 145th place for media freedom out of 175 countries, and in September said the Iraq conflict has been the deadliest for the media since World War II.

And according to the "Impunity Index" released in April by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iraq has the worst record of any country for solving the murders of reporters.'

Iraq runs out of welfare money

'In only their fourth session since being elected in March, members of Iraq's parliament on Sunday demanded to know what happened to the estimated $1 billion allocated for welfare funding by the Finance Ministry for 2010.

"We should ask the government where these allocations for widows' aid have gone," demanded Sadrist lawmaker Maha Adouri of Baghdad, one of the women who make up a quarter of the legislature's 325 members. "There are thousands of widows who did not receive financial aid for months."

Another legislator said farmers have not been paid for wheat and other crops they supplied the government for at least five months.

The cause of the shortfall was unclear, but officials have worried that the deadlock over forming a new government since March's inconclusive election ultimately would lead to funding shortages. Whatever the cause, the welfare cutoff has been felt among Iraqis.

"We are sick people and others are old, and not getting our welfare puts us in a financial crisis," said Fatima Hassan, 54, a widow who lives with her four children in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.'

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bomb targets members of Parliament in Mosul

"A roadside bomb exploded Friday morning beside a convoy carrying three members of Parliament in the northern city of Mosul. The lawmakers escaped without injury, but a bodyguard died in the attack, and two were wounded.

The Parliament members belong to Iraqiya, a multisectarian coalition supported by most Sunnis. They were on their way to visit the new speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Najafi, now the most prominent Sunni politician in Iraq. The bomb exploded as the cars were passing between two checkpoints run by Iraqi soldiers."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is Islam a religion of peace?

A few weeks ago I saw part of a debate on Bloomberg TV about whether Islam is a "religion of peace." It looked interesting and I want to see the entire debate.

There is no compulsion in religion, Zeba says. Her parents respect Jews and Christians, as the Qur'an instructs. A small minority of Muslims perpetuate violence, and their actions are motivated by politics and not religion, she argues.

On the other side of the debate, Ayan Hirsi Ali points out the violent verses in the Qur'an. She argues that Zeba, being a tolerant peace-loving Muslim, does not represent Islam.

Conclusion: the majority of Muslims are peaceful, but given the incredible violence in the Qur'an, Islam cannot be called a "religion of peace."

Iraq scores low on religious freedom

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today released a report on the state of religious freedom around the world, highlighting Iraq as among the worst offenders in failing to punish violence against non-Muslim minorities.

The report examines religious tolerance in 200 countries and outlines action taken by the U.S. government to prevent persecution. The U.S. called attention to religious tensions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talabani won't sign Aziz death sentence

' Iraq's president said Wednesday that he would not sign an execution order for the foreign minister in Saddam Hussein's government, who was sentenced to death last month.

"I will not sign Tariq Aziz's death sentence," Jalal Talabani told France 24 television during a visit to Paris for the Socialist International meeting. "I will sign no death sentence at all, because as a social democrat, I'm against the death penalty." '

But: "Talabani, a Kurd, did not oppose the death sentence being carried out against other Saddam aides, such as Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali" for overseeing poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages in which thousands died."

Quantitative Easing

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christians murdered in Mosul

"A bombing in northern Iraq killed a Christian man and his 6-year-old daughter Tuesday, the latest in a series of strikes targeting the country's dwindling Christian population.

The incident occurred in Mosul, a multi-ethnic city in Nineveh province -- long the home of significant Christian enclaves.

A flurry of attacks in the north over the last 24 hours is a sign that the recent sectarian violence targeting Christians is spreading from Baghdad.

The man and his daughter were killed Tuesday afternoon when an explosive attached to a vehicle detonated, local police said.

Monday night, attackers went into two homes occupied by Christian families in the Tahrir neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, killed the two male heads of the households, and then drove off, the interior ministry official said.

In central Mosul, at about the same time, a bomb detonated outside a Christian's home. No one was hurt in that blast, which damaged the home's exterior.

Attacks in October 2008 on Christians in Mosul prompted a mass exodus from that city of 1.8 million people.

Many Christian families in Iraq who spoke to CNN said they feared for their safety and wanted to leave the country, but didn't have the means to do so."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Violence in Iraq may continue despite power sharing agreement

'Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite, told CNN on Friday that “Iraqiya is not going to be part, and I am definitely not going to be part, of this government.” He also said the country would probably see more “tensions and violence, probably.”

...The senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, reiterated American support for the agreement, expressing concern that failure to be inclusive could inflame tensions and fuel further violence.

“If the people don’t consider it to be an inclusive government, there might be some people in the community who express their displeasure in the form of violence,” he told reporters at his headquarters beside Baghdad’s international airport.

“Having said that, what we’re seeing early on is some pretty good signs the leadership intends to in fact form an inclusive government,” he said. “They’ve been wrestling with some difficult issues for eight months now.”

In the wake of a series of attacks by Al Qaeda and other insurgents that killed more than 100 people, General Austin warned that more violence was likely as Mr. Maliki cobbles together a cabinet. “We can expect there will be some turbulence between now and when the government is finally formed,” he said.

Asked about Mr. Allawi’s remarks that a withdrawal by Iraqiya could result in violence, he added: “There’s always that possibility, and are we concerned about it? Yeah, we remain concerned about it — not only during this time, but during any point in time throughout the year. Certainly, things are a little bit more sensitive about it during this time period because people are very anxious about how this is going to turn out.” '

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jailed for "insulting the divine essence"

'QALQILIYA, West Bank — A mysterious blogger who set off an uproar in the Arab world by claiming he was God and hurling insults at the Prophet Muhammad is now behind bars — caught in a sting that used Facebook to track him down.

The case of the unlikely apostate, a shy barber from this backwater West Bank town, is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority — and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.
Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life.

Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father's barbershop, Husayin was secretly [posting] his anti-religious opinions on the Internet during his free time.

The media in the Palestinian Authority, as in the Arab world in general, are largely government-controlled, driving dissenting voices to the relative freedom of the Internet. The blogger's arrest showed a willingness on the part of the Palestinian government to clamp down on freedom of speech on the Web as well. He now faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for "insulting the divine essence."

Many in this conservative Muslim town say that isn't enough, and suggested he should be killed for renouncing Islam. Even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.
"He should be burned to death," said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public "to be an example to others," he added.'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christianity older than Iraq and Islam

"Christians have been living in Iraq since long before it was called Iraq and centuries before Mohammed was born. Ancient Assyrians converted to Christianity during the first century A.D.

Back then, Iraq was part of what was known as Mesopotamia and it would not be until the eighth century A.D. that Islam arrived. Even today, tombs of Old Testament Jewish prophets such as Ezekiel and Daniel dot Iraq."

Mass exodus of Christians would hurt Iraq's development

'On the street, suspicions abound among Muslims as to why the Christian minority has been so heavily targeted. After all, amid Iraq's complex sectarian equation that pits Sunni versus Shi'a versus Kurd, the Christians, numbering some 400,000, are essentially non-players. Sayed Hassan al-Husaayni, the imam at the mosque closest to the Salvation church, says he and his followers have no time for hate-mongering. "We condemn the attacks that have struck the Christians. They are our brothers and we have been living with them for centuries. I believe they are the victims of a terrorist organization, but I'm positive that Iraqi Muslims respect their brothers. We just worry that Christian will leave Iraq and then the Western world will have a negative opinion of Muslims in Iraq." Christians are generally better-educated than the general population and tend to belong to the professional classes. A mass exodus would only further debilitate Iraq's development.'

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2030747,00.html#ixzz151RrNsmy

Thanks Fayrouz (via Bessam) for posting.

Elie Wiesel influenced Bush decision to oust Saddam

'Another person who had a deep impact on his war decision was holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel.

"There was passion in his 74-year-old eyes when he compared Saddam Hussein's brutality to the Nazi genocide," the former president remembered.

"Mr. President," Wiesel said, "You have a moral obligation to act against evil," Bush wrote.'

Thank you Elie Wiesel.

Mubarak told US Saddam had WMD

'Former U.S. President George W. Bush says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak informed the U.S. that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He also spoke of other people who had influence on his decision to invade Iraq.

The revelation comes in Bush's memoirs, Decision Points, in which he highlighted mistakes made during the Iraq war campaign, and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in the country.

"President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had told [general] Tommy Franks that Iraq had biological weapons and was certain to use them on our troops," Bush revealed in his newly-released book.'

Christians in Middle East increasingly worried

"The attack on the Catholic Church in Baghdad, explicitly by Al-Qaeda, that's unusual. And Al-Qaeda has followed up on that with saying that because of events in Egypt, all Christians in the Middle East are now legitimate targets for attack. That sort of explicit terrorist threat is relatively new, but with the increasing power of more radical forms of Islam, the Christians in that area and even in North Africa but certainly in the Levant, also over into Iran, Christians are feeling more and more threatened. And in my contacts, my conversations with them, there is a level of tension, anxiety, and fear that you did not see 20 years ago, 30 years ago."

Maybe it was unusual in that the terrorists stormed the Church and initially held the Christians hostage and made demands, but Churches in Iraq have been attacked since 2004.

Obama to urge Allawi to join coalition govt

"Barack Obama will today make a personal plea to Ayad Allawi to join a coalition government with his rival Nouri al-Maliki in a deal designed to end eight months of political deadlock in Iraq.

The US president's intervention comes as fears grow among Iraqi leaders and US diplomats that Allawi – the leader of the bloc that won the most votes in March's election – will walk away from the government outlined by the Kurdish regional president, Masoud Barzani, today."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The six principles of shariah

"Here they are, the six principles of shariah:

1. The right to the protection of life.
2. The right to the protection of family.
3. The right to the protection of education.
4. The right to the protection of religion.
5. The right to the protection of property (access to resources).
6. The right to the protection of human dignity. "

I did not know these are the six principles of Sharia until I read this article. Obviously many Muslims have violated the principles of Sharia.

"Honor" killings in Iraqi Kurdistan

"Our research in the Kurdistan region of Iraq shows that despite the recent efforts of the authorities to clamp down on 'honour' killings, women and girls are still being murdered by relatives in their dozens, sometimes with the tacit approval of the wider community."

More Iraqi Christians are murdered

'Suspected Islamist militants detonated 11 bombs in Christian suburbs across the Iraqi capital, striking indiscriminately at shops and homes owned by members of the increasingly vulnerable minority. At least five Christians were killed and a further 33 wounded, among them a four-month-old baby.

The attacks came less than a fortnight after extremists linked to al-Qaeda blew themselves up during evening mass at Baghdad's main Syriac Catholic church, killing over 50 worshippers.

In the aftermath of the church massacre, The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda front, announced its intention to open upon the country's Christians "the doors of destruction and rivers of blood." '

Man arrested in UK for encouraging terrorism

"A 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of encouraging an act of terrorism in connection with a website that listed MPs who voted for the Iraq War.

The man was taken into custody in connection with the internet blog which influenced a student who tried to kill MP Stephen Timms."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Christians I knew in Baghdad

I've been thinking a lot about the Christians I knew in Iraq. A few Christian families lived in our east Baghdad neighborhood. One of the Christian kids, a boy named Raad, was around my age and we became good friends. When my sister was hospitalized in the summer of 1982, my mother stayed with her at the hospital and my father had to work. Although I did not need a babysitter at the age of 13, my parents did not want to leave me and my brothers home alone. Raad's mother offered to watch me and my brothers while my mother stayed at the hospital with my sister. Raad's parents were most kind. I always remembered Raad as the one who played a good game of chess. After we fled Iraq in 1982, I often wondered how Raad and his family were doing. A few months ago Raad found me on facebook. I was so happy to hear from him! He and his parents had fled to Canada, presumably after the 1991 war. In an email he reminded me that as kids we also played Monopoly and Stratego. He said that my parents and I were lucky to have fled Iraq when we did. He said for him it wasn't fun being there. This is not to say that Christians were persecuted under Saddam - they were not. "Christians numbered approximately 800,000 before the war, and while prohibited from building new churches, enjoyed relative safety under Saddam Hussein." Life was just very difficult for all ordinary Iraqis during the 80s and 90s.

Across the street from us lived an Armenian Christian family. They had two boys. One of those boys, Shant, was around my age and was sometimes an arrogant punk (they were rich), and his little brother, who was around my little brother's age, seemed to enjoy practicing his karate skills on my little brother. Shant's parents were much nicer. Shant's mother baked a cake for us after we moved into our house. Overall they were great neighbors. They had always wanted to move to Miami. I wonder if they are there now.

Shant was a good friend of Ammar, the son of Palestinian Christians who were close friends of my parents and also lived in the neighborhood. My father visited them in 2005 and said they were doing well.

There were a few Christians in my junior high school. Qur'an class was the last class of the day at that school and the Christian students were allowed to skip it. I befriended one of those students, who seemed to be poor unlike the other Iraqi Christians I knew. He loved everything American and he admired my ability to speak and write English so easily. He wanted to see America. Sometimes after school he and I went to my house to listen to the western music I'd brought with me from the US. Abba and the Bee Gees were big hits among Iraqi youth in 1981. I remember how difficult it was trying to translate "Tragedy" into Arabic. We also listened to an instrumental version of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them". I had no idea at the time that the song is about war.

Since 2003, Iraq's Christians have been fleeing their homes in fear of the terrorism that's been aimed at them. Today, 82% of the students at St. Elia's Catholic school in east Baghdad are Muslim. I often wonder what happened to the Christians I knew in Baghdad. The poor Iraqi Christians are no doubt stuck in Iraq. I feel guilty that I, a Muslim, fled the tyranny of Iraq and ended up in America while Iraqi Christians stayed in Iraq until the bitter end and many still cannot leave. God help Iraq's Christians.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Defend our Iraqi Christian Brothers

According to this witness, whose son was killed in the church attack, Iraqi Security Forces were outside the entrance to the church for two and a half hours while hostages were being killed inside. How horrific and sad.

Justice was slow in coming

"It was said in the Sunni strongholds of Iraq, and in the Arab capitals, that
it had been bad form that the dictator had been dispatched at dawn, on the first day of
Id al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice that marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
But those protests came from people who had never shed a tear for Saddam's victims.
Their loyalties are atavistic: They are motivated by a dread of the Shiites, and by a
reflexive, unthinking anti-Americanism.

A big thing happened, it has to be conceded, when Maliki affixed his signature to that
death sentence. Sunni rulers had been hounding Shiite rebels for centuries in Arab
lands; Saddam himself had put to death some great men of standing in the Shiite
religious establishment. In April 1980, in a deed that is still recalled with terror by the
vast majority of Shiites, a great figure of the Shiite seminaries, Ayatollah Muhammad
Baqir al-Sadr, was put to death by the Hussein regime-along with his immensely
talented sister, Bint al-Huda, a poet and a writer of exquisite sensibility. Sadr had
become the great martyr of Iraqi Shiites; he is said to have been the intellectual
inspiration behind the Dawa Party to which Maliki belongs. Saddam's execution was an
act of fealty to that beloved man. For the Shiite faithful, justice had been slow in coming.

It had taken a foreign war to decapitate that tyrannical regime in Baghdad, it is true. But
the judgment that mattered was an affair of the Iraqis. We have been asking them to
claim responsibility for their country, bemoaning their political abdication. On that
morning in Baghdad, three years after he had been flushed out of his spider hole,
Saddam Hussein came face to face with the wrath and hurt he had bequeathed Iraqis.
Those vengeful men taunting him as he fell through the gallows' trapdoor were in the
most direct way the children of his cruel reign of terror."

--Fouad Ajami

I remember a post by As'ad Abu Khalil (Angry Arab), who seemed to be a fan of the "legitimate" resistance in Iraq, in which he said of Maliki: "here is a man who has just signed two death sentences: one for Saddam, and the other for himself."

But all the Arab "resistance" has done is murder Iraqi police and ordinary Iraqi civilians.

Persians, Jews and Flies

'A propaganda pamphlet written by Saddam Hussein's uncle and published in 1981 summed up the dictator's attitude toward Jews: It's titled "Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews and Flies."

Under Hussein, the anti-Semitic Iraqi regime confiscated property and imprisoned and attacked Jews, all but eliminating the remains of what was once a thriving community.'

Bombs target Iranian pilgrims

"Two car bombs appearing to target Iranian pilgrims exploded Monday in the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, killed at least eight people and injuring 48. In western Basra, a car bomb exploded on the main road of a commercial and residential area five miles from the center of the city. Ten people were killed and 43 injured, according to an official at the Basra General Hospital."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Aisha bint Abu Bakr

Muslims have been killing Muslims in the name of Islam since the beginning of Islam.

"Aisha bint Abu Bakr (died 678) (Arabic عائشة Transliteration: ʿāʾisha, [ʕaːʔɪʃæh] "she who lives", also transcribed as A'ishah, Ayesha, 'A'isha, Aishah, or 'Aisha) was one of Muhammad's wives. She had an important role in the early Islamic history, especially after Muhammad's death, in the time of third and forth caliphate. Aisha and Hasfa were two insubordinate figures among Muhammad's wives. She was a strict opponent of the third Caliphate, Uthman ibn Affan. Aisha believed Uthman had become an apostate due to neglecting the Islamic traditions during his caliphate, and she encouraged people to kill him. During the siege of Uthman, she was asked to stay in Medina, but she left the city without paying attention. In her absence, Uthman was assassinated and people chose Ali as Caliphate. Having an implacable hatred against Ali and his family, she formed a rebellion army including Talha and Zubair and went to the city of Basra to seek vengeance for Uthman's blood, which was the beginning of the second civil war in Islam. Upon entering the city, she ordered 600 Muslims beheaded, including 40 in the grand mosque, who were considered to be in Ali's side. In the war, Aisha accompanied the rebel army in her camel-litter. Ali overcame the rebells, and the defeated army was treated with generosity and Aisha was sent back to Medina. She died in 678 in Medina."

AQI detonated car bombs for Aisha

The "Islamic State of Iraq" says they mass murdered Iraqi Shia in Baghdad this week because some Kuwaiti Shiite in the UK said recently that Aisha was an enemy of God. I suppose this is the same logic that allows the "Islamic State of Iraq" to mass murder Christians in a Church to avenge two Egyptian women who "converted from Coptic Christianity to Islam, [and] are rumored to be held prisoner by Coptic monks somewhere in Egypt."


'Al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate said on Friday it was behind car bombings against Shiites in Baghdad this week that killed 64 people, saying they were revenge for "insults" and threatening more attacks.

The claim drew a strong reaction from the representative of Iraq's most respected Shiite cleric, saying it aimed to drag the country into new sectarian conflict.

In a statement on the Al-Hanein jihadi website, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) said Tuesday's attacks were to avenge "insults" against Aisha, the wife of Islam's Prophet Mohammed.

The "mujahedeen conducted a new campaign to avenge the mother of the believers and companions of the prophet, after the Shiites had poured insults on her," the statement said.

In late September, Yasser al-Habeeb, a Kuwaiti Shiite living in Britain, made disparaging remarks about Aisha on television, calling her "an enemy of God."

Shiites disapprove of Aisha for leading a battle in 656 AD against Ali, the figurehead of the Shiite sect.

The representative of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said the aim of Tuesday's attack was to inflict as many casualties as possible and inflame sectarian war.'

PS: I'm not sure if any of those schmucks at AQI realize that a few innocent Sunni Arabs were probably among the victims this week.

PPS: The AFP article incorrectly refers to takfiris as "apostates" in parentheses while quoting Muqtada al Sadr: '"Fatwas issued by some takfiris (apostates) ... is the reason for what happened at the church and the other attack," Sadr said in a statement sent by his office.'

A takfiri is a Sharia-minded Muslim who believes that because I am Shii I am a kafir (apostate or infidel) who is condemned to death.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Terrorists are not insurgents

I keep reading articles that say (or quote people who say) "insurgents" detonated bombs in Baghdad and "insurgents" threaten more attacks on Christians. I just looked up the definition of "insurgent" in the Advanced English Dictionary (AED, iPhone app). According to AED, an insurgent is a "person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions)." AED offers three synonyms: "insurrectionist", "freedom fighter", and "rebel". AED gives another definition of insurgent, with "guerrilla" as a synonym: a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment.

The people responsible for this week's massacres of Iraqis are NOT insurgents.

From Time:
'The bomb that destroyed the cafe near Abdullah's house in Baghdad's Almeen district was one of at least 12 explosives-laden vehicles that were detonated almost simultaneously by remote control in mostly Shi'a areas on Tuesday. The Ministry of Health reported 86 dead and more than 360 injured. Security officials have blamed Al-Qaeda in Iraq and claimed the terror group had support from unnamed regional countries. The U.S. military has been quoted describing the attacks as typical of the homegrown al-Qaeda groups.

The day before, gunmen overran a Christian church in the middle-class Karada neighborhood during Sunday services, instantly murdering the attending priest and an acolyte. In the hostage siege that followed, 52 people were killed and 73 wounded when attackers sprayed bullets and set off suicide vests. Officials said the gunmen were Arabic-speaking foreign nationals. Later, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq released a statement warning of more attacks against Christians — another devastating blow to Iraq's milleniums-old Christian community.

...Says Joost Hiltermann, Midddle East director of the International Crisis Group: "I am far from convinced that the attacks were a game changer, but let's wait and see. They are part of a pattern of such attacks aimed at jump-starting civil war, modeled on the success of similar attempts in 2004-2005. Insurgents will be successful only if no government is formed, or if a government emerges that is not inclusive of all of Iraq's main communities." Hiltermann points out, however, that forming a government that placates each of Iraq's different communities, as was the case in 2005, has its drawbacks as well. "An inclusive government could be very good at maintaining security; however, it would not be particularly effective at governing," because divvying up a government among Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish power brokers could leave the administration as hamstrung as ever as it tries to pass laws, distribute petrodollars and protect its citizens.'

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2029501,00.html#ixzz14LKhRD9c
I'm not even sure if the terrorists' primary aim is to incite civil war in Iraq. It seems the terrorists' primary aim is to punish the Iraqi population so that most Iraqis will condemn the current government. No need to kill Iraqis ya mujrimeen (murderers). The government in Baghdad is condemnable enough without your terrorism. The AQ-Saddamist alliance wants to show the world that Iraqis were better off under Saddam. They do this by terrorizing Iraqis.

Radical Muslims (formerly Jews) use 1st Amendment to encourage murder

"A radical website has praised the stabbing of the MP Stephen Timms and published a list of other MPs who voted for the war in Iraq, along with details of where to buy a knife.

The website, Revolution Muslim, is hosted in Bellevue, Washington, and includes a disclaimer invoking the first amendment of the US constitution, protecting free speech."

Update: Learn more about Revolution Muslim here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Familiar misery in Iraq getting old

'“Seven years!” he shouted, amid a crowd in the dark, claustrophobic warren of Majid Market. “Seven years, and these explosions are still going on?”

An argument ensued, as it often does here. “The first thing in a constitution is the rights of the citizens,” he said. “It’s the respect of the people. There’s no respect here. All we hear are delusions and promises on paper.”

At least you have the freedom to speak, a cousin pointed out. A friend insisted that the dead were really martyrs for a democratic future. These were points heard often after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

They are uttered less now, especially after two days of some of the most vicious bloodletting since 2003 that killed at least 122 people, seven months of political dysfunction that at least hints at a failed state and seven years of occupation, war and misery that have turned disillusionment into disgust.'

Muslims must protect the People of the Book

A reminder to the "Islamic State of Iraq" that the Qur'an instructs Muslims to respect the People of the Book. In case you don't know:

"People of the Book (Arabic: أهل الكتاب‎ ′Ahl al-Kitāb) is a term used to designate non-Muslim adherents to faiths which have a book of prayer. The three faiths that are mentioned in the Qur'an as people of the book are Judaism, Sabians and Christianity. However, many Muslim rulers and scholars have included other religions such as Zoroastrianism and Hinduism as well."

British woman radicalized by AQ online

'A British university student radicalized by online sermons from an al-Qaida-linked Muslim cleric was sentenced Wednesday to at least 15 years in prison for trying to murder a lawmaker because he supported the Iraq war.

Roshonara Choudhry, 21, stabbed legislator Stephen Timms twice in the stomach with a kitchen knife as he met constituents at a London community center in May.

She told detectives she wanted to kill Timms "to get revenge for the people of Iraq." '

"Islamic State of Iraq" says all Christians in ME are targets

As if the schmucks weren't targeting all Christians before Sunday's church massacre. These are the same Sharia-minded wingnuts who targeted all Iraqi Shia because the Iraqi Shia gained political power after the US invasion that toppled Saddam the mass murderer of Iraqis.

'All Christians in the Middle East are now "legitimate targets," al Qaeda in Iraq announced Wednesday, as the group's deadline for Egypt's Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.

An audio message released Monday gave the church 48 hours to disclose the status of Muslim women it said are imprisoned in Coptic churches in Egypt.

The message purportedly came from the Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed responsibility for an attack on a Baghdad church Sunday that killed 58 people and wounded 75. The umbrella group includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq.'

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bill Maher alarmed by number of Muhammads in UK

'The HBO host says he's alarmed by the popularity of "Mohammed" as a baby name in the United Kingdom'

GW Bush argues Iraqis better off without Saddam

I wish his father had made that decision in 1991.

"The 64-year-old former president defends his decision to invade Iraq in his autobiography, which was obtained in advance by the New York Times.

He argues that Iraqi citizens are better off without the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom he calls a "homicidal dictator", adding the US is also better off without a Mr Hussein pursuing biological or chemical weapons.

But Mr Bush admits that he was shocked when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq."

Death toll rises to 76 in Baghdad

"Sixteen bombs went off across Iraq's capital on Tuesday, many at restaurants and coffee shops full of civilians. The death toll climbed to 76 in the first hours following the blasts, but that number could keep rising as rescuers comb through the debris."

Al Qaeda continues to mass murder innocents at Iraqi cafes and restaurants. Meanwhile in other Arab countries, citizens drink Starbucks and eat McDonalds without worry.

Iranian govt to execute woman for adultery

"Authorities in Tehran, Iran, have given the go-ahead to execute a woman who initially was sentenced to death by stoning, according to an activist working on her behalf.

However, what method will be used to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is unclear, said Mina Ahadi, spokeswoman for the International Committee Against Stoning. The execution could happen as soon as Wednesday, she said, citing information received from a source in Tabriz, Iran, who is close to Ashtiani's family.

Ashtiani initially was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The Iranian government later said she was also convicted of murdering her husband, but her lawyer and family dispute that."

AQ bombings kill 50 in Baghdad

"At least 50 people were killed and 180 wounded in a wave of blasts across Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.

There were 14 explosions. Ten were car bombs, three were roadside bombs, and another was what's called a sticky bomb: a device that's placed on an object, many times a vehicle.

Explosions struck the Shiite neighborhoods of Kadhimiya in the northwest; Amil, Bayaa and Shulaa in the southwest; Ur and Zuhour in the northeast; Sadr City, Kamaliya and Amin in the east; and Abu Dhsir in the southern part of the city.

Other blasts struck mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods, including Waziriya, Yarmouk, Jihad and Eghraiat.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, said no U.S. advisory units have been requested to the scenes of the attacks.

He said there has been no aerial support but notes that the U.S. military always has "eyes in the skies" that feed imagery into the United States and into the Iraqi operational center.

He said the strikes are typical of al Qaeda in Iraq attacks."

Al Baghdadiya Shut Down

'Iraq's privately-owned Al-Baghdadiya television channel was closed down because it had turned into "a mouthpiece for terrorists," the country's media licensing commission said on Tuesday.

The Egypt-based station, whose programming focused heavily on Iraq, was closed because it had aired demands made by Al-Qaeda gunmen during Sunday's hostage drama at a Baghdad church that ended with 46 Christians killed, the commission said.'

Al Baghdadiya often invited guests who were critical of Maliki's government. Once I saw Mithal al Alusi on there calling on Maliki to step it up and do something good for Iraq. I saw some shouting matches. In 2007 Eye Raki wrote a post about Al Baghdadiya's shady ways of interviewing Iraqis. And we we will never forget Muntadhar al Zaidi, the Baghdadiya journalist who threw his shoes at Bush. But for the most part Al Baghdadiya seemed genuinely concerned for the welfare of Iraqis.

Sunday's killers were not Iraqi

"One thing that is clear, Sunday's attackers were not Iraqi. Survivors said they heard non-Iraqi Arabic dialects, and there were Yemeni and Egyptian passports at the scene. WaPo says the attack was in response to some charges of kidnapping Muslim women in Egypt.

The president called [Arabic] for more security at Iraq's churches. And the prime minister, who continues to emulate Baathist tacts, had the Army brigade commander of the area arrested presumably because the massacre took place on the commander's watch. The government also shut down the TV station Baghdadiya, charging it with terror connections.

Who knows why Iraqis threaten al-Qaeda. Maybe it's because it was for the longest time a country of many, many minorities who knew how to co-exist. Maybe they hadn't given it any thought. They just knew such violence is possible in an Iraq with compromised security."

--Iraq Pundit

A commenter (Mister Ghost) wrote that even if the killers were not Iraqi, they must have received support from Iraqis. Good point. This has been the case since 2003. I wouldn't be surprised if Saddam-lovers or Iraqi Sunni fundamentalists have supported Al-Qaeda since 2003. But then Mister Ghost says "al-Qaeda operates well within the precepts of Islam - the Christians are infidels."

The problem with Mister Ghost's argument is that Al Qaeda has killed many more Iraqi Shia Muslims than Christians. Yes Al Qaeda uses those verses from the Qur'an (kill the "unbelievers") to justify their murder of Christians, but Al Qaeda has used these same verses to justify their murder of Iraqi Shia. Al Qaeda has also murdered many Iraqi Sunnis. "Unbeliever" is whatever Al Qaeda wants it to be.

"They are free now"

'As Iraq’s government remains frozen in a seven-month standstill, the vibrant transformation of Sadr City may offer a prophetic glimpse of the country’s next chapter: repressed by Saddam Hussein, fearsome in its resistance to the American-led invasion and then brutal in its religious crackdown, the neighborhood is now fomenting a mix of secular and religious life that is both ad hoc and infectious.

“It’s not only new shops,” said Majid Lattef, 32, hanging out with three friends on a recent Friday after thousands gathered in the main square for prayers. “Young people here are changing their minds and attitudes.

“No one is harassing us to think one way,” he said. “Religion is available, and I worship God, but people who are praying and going to the mosque are also playing billiards and going to the coffee shops.”

Much of the last seven years here have belonged to the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the fiery cleric Moktada al-Sadr that imposed a strict interpretation of Islam. Residents took cover in overcrowded homes; parents did not allow their sons out after dark. But as the police and Iraqi Army have taken control, Mr. Sadr has remade himself and his following as a mainstream electoral force, winning 40 seats in the national election in March.

Their power is no longer in the streets but in Parliament. In turn, the Mahdi Army, whose violence threatened to marginalize the Sadrists, is letting the locals play.

“Those losers who were trying to claim they were doing this for Islam have no power now,” said Amaar Kreem, 26, shooting pool at a sidewalk table. “Now, people don’t listen to them.”

Memories of the recent past remain close to the surface. Ali Kraibit, who opened an outdoor pool hall, saw his tables as a product of history. First, Mr. Hussein banned all Shiite observances, he said. “Then after that, of course people were looking for religious ceremonies,” he said. “But now, people have had enough of this. They’ve relieved themselves. They realized they are free now.”

In a small barbershop, Saad Sabar, 34, remembered plucking beards in secret because it was contrary to Islamic law.

“The people who took control of the neighborhood were taking people with strange hairstyles from the street to the mosque,” he said, hesitant to name the Mahdi Army. “Then they beat them and shaved their heads.” Now, he said, many customers want Western haircuts. “Right now I can do everything I want, thank God,” he said, voicing a common refrain here.'

Thanks Anand for sending.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Bill Maher interviews Jimmy Carter

I'm working on a project in LA, was hoping to visit my brother tonight but he's working, so I have an hour to spend alone and I came to Starbucks hoping to watch Bill Maher's interview with Jimmy Carter. During lunch today I read some of the raves on facebook and this evening I thought I could watch the interview while enjoying a hot beverage, but it's very slow to download, maybe because Starbucks' or HBO's servers are overwhelmed. Anyway I can't watch it now, so I decided to embed it on my blog and watch it later.

Most victims killed before ISF entered Church

'Many of the survivors said the assailants killed most of the victims when they first stormed the church. Most of those who survived had sought shelter in a room at the front of the church barricaded by bookshelves, which the assailants were unable to enter.

An American official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said security forces decided to storm the church after they believed that the assailants had begun killing hostages.

Had they not entered, he said, the toll would have been worse. “Our information was the hostage takers had begun to systematically execute hostages,” he said.'

Bloodiest attack on Iraqi Christians

"An al Qaeda attack that killed 52 hostages and police in a Catholic church in Baghdad was aimed at driving the embattled Christian minority out of the country, Iraq's human rights minister said on Monday.

Church officials described the attack, which began when gunmen seized the Our Lady of Salvation Church during Sunday mass, as the bloodiest against Iraq's Christians in the seven years of sectarian war that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion."