Archive for January, 2009

News and Analysis (1/21/09)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Of the nearly 800 prisoners detained at Guantanamo, only 3 were ever put on trial and convicted:

In a move analysts believe to correspond with the inauguration of President Obama…

…However, Israel might not avoid responsibility for the illegal tactics of assault on Gaza so easily:

Under pressure of expulsion from Maliki, MEK denies allegations they were planning an attack and believes they will be “executed or harshly treated if returned to Iran”:

College students researching state-sanctioned texts discovered “disturbing” themes including “Pakistan is for Muslims alone, the world is collectively scheming against Pakistan and Islam, and Muslims are urged to fight Jihad against the infidels”

… and speaking of bigotry in politics, Geert Wilders manages to be for incitement and against free speech, producing anti-Muslim propaganda films while seeking to ban the Qur’an:

Karzai submits a draft agreement which would give Afghans more control over NATO forces as

In the home of the largest Jewish and the largest Muslim communities in Western Europe,

News and Analysis (1/20/09)

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

One of the new president’s first acts in office will be to appoint former Senate Majority leader George, who although of Arab-American descent, is considered “objective” by Zionists:

Sistani urges patient perserverance with Iraq’s under-developed democracy ….

… while “in Kirkuk … the election has been indefinitely postponed because Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen could not agree rules for voting there”:

Calling the Israeli attack “outrageous” Ban demands “an inquiry and, if need be, the guilty to be held to account” …

… while Israeli Arabs feel the pain and the heat, saying, “Either they are afraid or they are punishing us”:

At “”Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow Conference” attendees seek “to define themselves around the core values they believe in: pluralism, freedom, justice, creativity, and intellectual development”:

Commentator Sheldon Richman argues that in the light of recent torture revelations, “it is difficult to see how criminal proceedings can be avoided” by Obama’s administration:

Bahrain Noted for Outstanding Fiscal Freedom

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Every year the Heritage Foundation puts out its rankings of economic freedom in the world. This year the USA came in sixth. Of the Muslim countries, Bahrain scored best, coming at #16, with an economy ranked overall at 75% free. Bahrain got honorable 80% scores on trade freedom, business freedom, and government size, 74% on labor freedom, and a fair 60% on investment freedom and property rights, although it lagged in freedom from corruption, getting only 50%, an embarrassment for a country that professes Islam. Where it really shines, however, is in fiscal freedom, blowing the competition away with a 99.9% rating! (The U.S. only scores 67.5% and even top-rated Hong Kong only gets 93.4% on this parameter.) Taxes are less than 3% of GDP.

The reason’s for Bahrain’s outstanding ranking start with the fact that it has no personal income tax (although there is a 1% tax on “the salaries of Bahraini nationals working for companies with more than 50 employees as a way to fund job training.” Few companies (mainly oil companies generating domestic profits). There is “a small stamp duty is collected on property transfers” and since last July, “employers must pay a new tax for each expatriate employee.”

So Bahrain provides a fiscal model for the rest of the Muslim world. Now, if they can just do something about that corruption.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (1/19/09)

Monday, January 19th, 2009

In the aftermath, 1,300 Palestinian dead, 1/3 were children, and a thousand are left wounded and homeless…

… yet, the chances of charging Israel with war crimes remains slim:

…while the war’s impact on Fath’s chronic factionlism spells trouble for the PA President:

Islamic parties seem assured of dominating southern Iraq for years to come, which will impact crucial issues such as the centralization of power, Iranian influence, and prospects for the resource-rich but faction-plagued south realizing its ambitions:

Saudi Arabia promises $1 billion in aid to Gaza as Arab nations mull over strategies for Palestine:

Among her objectives as Secretary of State is to establish “America Houses” in cities across the Arab world that would offer Internet libraries, English lessons and stories about Muslims in America:

For criticizing Mubarak’s treatment of Gaza and suspected membership in the Muslim brotherhood,

Indian police have yet to file charges against the lone gunman arrested in the Mumbai attacks:

News and Analysis (1/17-18/09)

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Hamas responds to Israel’s cease fire terms (“If they [Hamas] stop firing, we will consider leaving Gaza at a time that is suitable to us” – Olmert) …

… with one on its own (Israel has one week to pull out of the Gaza strip and must open the border crossings):

While declaring the case is not about terrorism, judge will let a jury decide whether the U.S. is bound by its agreement with Sami Al-Arian:

Critics point out that the Obama administration is still missing many key figures needed to broker a peace agreement:

While the balance of power in the Malaysian parliament does not change, the election results carry serious implications for future elections and government coalitions:

Israelis receive a glimmer of the horror created in Gaza on national broadcast:

With a growing perception that Maliki is Iraq’s new “strongman,” success of he Coalition of the State of Law in provincial elections may cement “his three-year transformation from little-known lawmaker to the most powerful Iraqi statesman since Saddam Hussein”:

Al-Arian to Be Tried Yet Again

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

The cruel circus surrounding the trials of Dr. Sami Al-Arian continues. We must declare our admiration for Judge Leonie Brinkema who has maintained her judicial integrity in the challenging balancing act of maintaining the rights of the accused even as the prosecution employs double dealing with a deck already stacked against defenders of the Palestinian resistance, such as Dr. Al-Arian.

After the federal prosecutors seduced Dr. Al-Arian into pleading guilty on a minor immigration charge in order to have severe fabrications of terrorist activity against him dropped, Virginia prosecutor Gordon Kromberg declared that he is not bound by an agreement made in Florida that Dr. Al-Arian would not have to cooperate with government and instead be deported, and sought to coerce him to testify before a grand jury. The Supreme Court refused to hear the question of whether the feds in Virgina are bound by the Florida agreement and the judge has decided to let the jury decide in a trial to be held in March.

In the meantime the press continues with its persecution campaign. Despite the judge’s explicit declaration that this is not a terrorism case, the Washington Post chose to headline its article about the upcoming trial with “Contempt Charges Will Stand In Terrorism-Related Case.” (Of course, this is the same newspaper that elected not to report the story that thousands of demonstrators marched in front of its own offices to protest its blackout on the many DC demonstrations against the Israeli devastation of Gaza, so who dares pretend to be surprised?)

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (1/16/09)

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Analysts believe the IDF is involved in a “furious drive” to coordinate last-minute attacks on Hamas…

…Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad declares the Arab initiative for peace with Israel is now “dead”:

In response to the West’s inability to stop the Israeli slaughter in Gaza,

Israeli Amira Hass examines the propaganda manipulating Israeli citizens …

… while Ismail Haniyeh appeals directly to the West:

Amid speculation of abuse and virtual isolation since December 21,

Israelis claim they only used rubber bullets and smoke grenades yet,

“Let us speak bluntly and honestly”:

News and Analysis (1/15/09)

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Tons of relief supplies burn as Israel claims the attack with “what appeared to be phosphorus shells” was a “grave mistake”:

“Labor and Kadima’s position is a declaration of war on Israel’s Arab citizens”:

Validating the Bush administration’s infringement of personal liberties,

For unclear reasons, US shipment of munitions on course for Israeli have been denied passage through a Greek port:

“The west cannot ‘kill its way’ out of the threats it faces…’Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology'”:

Filmmakers hope to challenge social norms through freedom of expression, but “powerful clerics and many citizens” respond “Ban it”:

Sectarian violence pressured many homeowners into selling low:

In addition to the arrests Pakistan has “closed 20 offices, 87 schools and several religious seminaries, or madrasas, run by JuD. Authorities had also banned its publications and blocked six group Website”:

News and Analysis (01/14/09)

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

As Israel continues to devastate Gaza, Palestinians feel empowered through Hamas:

Bush administration finally admits systematic use of  “prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold and involuntary grooming”, forced dancing with a male interrogator and dog commands should be considered torture:

Capital punishment for adultery persists, in direct contradiction to both the Qur’an (24:2-3) and a 2002 moratorium on the issue:

City officials warn of “Talibanization”:

“Multiple changes, cost overruns, failure to meet schedules and lack of oversight” contributed to the failure of an enormous $722 million contract:

Almost six years after the US invasion of Iraq, inadequate supplies of food, water, electricity and health care finally top concerns over security:

Internet Wars

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

A recent article published by the Associated Press highlights the growing struggle between political factions on online forms. The focus of this story is a video of Hamas rockets striking southern Israel that was flagged as offensive. After a brief review, the video returned with the disclaimer, “inappropriate for minors.” The media has always had a level on control regarding conflict but never before have individual users had such opportunities to influence and sway opinion.

Practically any type of ideologically driven propaganda can be found on the Internet and YouTube is no exception. (The Israeli Defense forces’ page can be found here). The content of these videos are exactly what you would expect, weak video evidence of Hamas’ ability coupled with an emphasis on humanitarian effort by the Israeli army.

This also brings attention to an apparent double-standard in YouTube’s censorship. While the IDF’s videos were restored almost immediately, countless tales of anti-Israeli videos being permanetly removed exist. It is conceivable that all YouTube videos illustrating the mistreatment of Palestinians by Israel really are too disturbing to host (which would in itself further emphasize the significance of these videos), but I imagine politics plays the largest factor. Yet, despite the absence of an official Hamas web page and the removal of anti-Israeli videos, plenty of pro-Hamas videos are still available.

The Internet also provides a means for professional media outlets to have distribution in areas that otherwise limit consumer access. Due to the Israeli expulsion of the foreign press, Al-Jazeera is the only international news outlet in Gaza and the Internet provides access to the many parts of America where its English language service is not on cable, providing coverage of the invasion otherwise hard to come by.

Beyond posts by official and professional organizations, amateur videos attempt to capture the glory of their cause and discredit their opponents. The battle, typically laden with foul language, poor grammar and petty insults, becomes evident on the message boards. Too often videos on both sides of any issue rely on evidence out of context or outright fabrications. Videos showing children training for warfare carry an emotional wallop, but so do videos showing children who have been victimized. On the other hand, videos aimed at propagandizing Arab children are heirs to a tradition of propagandizing American children that includes ethnic stereotyping.

However, the motivations behind these Internet struggles remain as diverse as the issues they encompass. Some are simply venting frustration, others seek academic means to solve issues, others seem to only incite more violence. The point remains that any ideology can receive worldwide recognition through a simple Internet video.

Although media portrayal has always been an important aspect to any issue, the Internet has transformed the conflict permanently. Newspapers, magazines and television programs were always limited in their ability to transmit content and keep parties continually updated. The lack of censorship on the Internet is a double edged sword. It is well known that almost anything can be found on the Internet and the sheer amount of content is testimony to its potential persuasive power. The Internet conflict allows groups to recruit, mobilize and influence at previously inconceivable rate; its importance cannot be overstated. At the same time, this freedom puts a greater burden on the user to learn how to distinguish credible sources from unreliable ones.

Providing a reliable interface between the user and the enormous data available on the Internet is an important element of our work at the Minaret of Freedom Institute. The Internet is a crucial tool used everyday to promote our mission and vocalize our opinion. Without it, we would be limited by heavy mailing costs, impediments to data access, and the censorious filter of the mainstream media. How would this blog be distributed, and how inconvenient would citations be without hyperlinks to witness firsthand the examples we chose? Our policies of Internet use aim to avoid the pitfalls of personal and propaganda blogs. We seek to provide people the kind of editing service they don’t get from sites like YouTube, a service that lies somewhere between that of newspaper’s editorial staff and an academic review procedure.

As the Internet generation becomes older and more involved in politics, the effects of online soapboxes will continue to grow. List-serves, blogs and BlackBerrys only serve to further expand an already diverse amount of material found online. Essentially, anyone can become a celebrity through the Internet and the potential effects of their influence are limitless. Without a doubt, the Internet has forever changed the notion of “freedom of expression.” We take seriously the notion that with freedom comes responsibility.

Imran Malik and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute