Archive for the ‘ France ’ Category

The Arab Spring Will Only Flourish if The Young Are Given Cause to Hope

By Henry Porter for The Guardian

Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi dead; Hosni Mubarak and family behind bars with millions of dollars of assets frozen; President Ben Ali of Tunisia sentenced to 35 years in absentia; the Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladic awaiting trial in the Hague. We can take a moment to recognise that sometimes things go astonishingly well – the removal of these five characters from the picture is a blessing.

Whatever doubts we have about Gaddafi’s death and the absence of due process (if you can’t even decide where to bury a man, it is a good rule not to kill him), his death is a bracing lesson for the likes of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who is torturing young demonstrators to death, and President Saleh of Yemen and King Hamad of Bahrain, both of whom are drenched in the blood of their countrymen.

The knowledge that just 12 months ago Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi all looked untouchable must cause the goofy-looking butcher of Damascus and his fragrant missus to clutch at each other in the wee small hours.

The Nato intervention was right and I would say that now, even if it had not gone so well for the rebels in the last three months. At the time the decision was taken, I was in Tunisia, in the stunned aftermath of Ben Ali’s departure, looking up the timeline of the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, when General Mladic separated the men from the women and young children and went on to murder 8,000 people. Benghazi, the eastern city where Gaddafi did his military training, was as vulnerable as the Bosniak enclave. His mercenaries would have created a bloodbath if they had not been driven from the outskirts as the first air strikes began.

I wasn’t optimistic – Libya seemed too vast, Gaddafi too cunning and the rebel forces hopelessly amateur. And there were doubts whether air power alone could achieve the result that it did. But after 26,000 air sorties and 9,600 strike missions, and a lot of blood spilled, the regime is no more and David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy can quietly take a bow. Both are nimble politicians, yet it is not unduly naive to believe they were influenced by the memory of what happened in Bosnia.

There is always a basic moral requirement to intervene, but any decision to act must gauge risk and the likelihood of achieving success. The seemingly pragmatic considerations also contain a moral element, because the interventionist obviously has an obligation not to inflame local opinion or create a situation worse than the one he is seeking to alleviate. These conditions were met in Libya, yet there was the additional incentive of the country’s “sweet, light” crude and the reserves of 46.4bn barrels, which have nothing to do with morality or Srebrenica.

Stage two of the Arab Spring begins today with elections in Tunisia for the Constituent Assembly, in which the Islamist party An-Nahda, led by Rachid Ghannouchi, is likely to do well. This is the first big test for the west because we have to allow the people who risked everything on the streets to develop their own politics and democratic processes.

Nor should we allow ourselves to be spooked by what happens in the Egyptian elections on 28 November, when the Muslim Brotherhood’s well-organised political wing, the Freedom and Justice party, is expected to trounce nascent secular parties. Admittedly, this will not be the greatest outcome. Quite apart from the Islamists’ failure to reconcile their declared support for rights and civil liberties with the deeper convictions of religious authoritarianism, the generation of devout men likely to take power is hardly equipped to address, or properly understand, the problems of the young people who took to the streets Tunis and Cairo.

The thing that so few have really absorbed about the revolutions is that they were generational – the young rising against the tyranny and corruption but also the incompetence of their parents’ generation. The first demonstrations in the Arab Spring occurred in the Tunisian provincial city of Sidi Bouzid, where a young man set himself on fire because officials confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling without a permit. Like so many of his contemporaries, Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, could not find proper work.

Youth unemployment and the grinding lack of hope are the source of the most serious social and political problems across the Arab world. The unemployment rate among Tunisians under 25 is about 26%. Half of the 60,000 graduates released on to the jobs market every year will not find work. These are the well-educated and highly organised single young people who had nothing to lose during the uprising and have gained very little in material terms since.

To grasp what happened in Tahrir Square, you must know that 54 million of Egypt’s population of 82 million are under 30 years old and this age group makes up 90% of the country’s unemployed. The very highest rates of joblessness are among the well educated.

The UK’s median age is 40. Across the Arab world, it hovers in the mid-20s. In Egypt, it is 24.3, Libya 24.5, Tunisia 30 and Syria 21.9. Factor in regular unemployment rates in the Middle East of 25% among the young – even in the rich Gulf states – and you know that we are only at the beginning of this particular story.

The sophistication of this new generation of Arabs should not be underestimated. They require far more than sermons about prayer and clean living from middle-aged chaps to make lives for themselves in the 21st century. They will need freedom, empathy and technocratic as well as political leadership to create the jobs that will ensure stability and peace. When you talk to these educated young adults, as I did earlier this year in Tunis and Cairo, it is striking how well they appreciate that democratic change depends on job creation. Yes, they declare their faith, but it’s a given – not something they want to go on about.

If the west wants permanent change in North Africa, we have to recognise the potential of this new generation and find ways of providing stimulus and investment, even as we struggle to create jobs for our own young people. That is the only intervention open to us now and in some ways it is much more demanding.

In Libya, the guns need to be put away, a national army and police force set up and proper courts founded. The first test of the new civil society must be to give a scrupulously honest account of how the former dictator met his end. The new republic will not be served by a cover-up and by spokesmen for the National Transitional Council lying through their boots. As the graffiti that appeared in Tripoli this weekend reads: “Clean it up and keep it clean”.

Norway Suspect Wanted European Anti-Muslim Crusade

As Reported by The Associated Press

The man blamed for killing at least 93 people during terrorist attacks on Norway’s government headquarters and an island retreat for young people wanted to trigger an anti-Muslim revolution in Norwegian society, his lawyer said Sunday.

A chief surgeon treating the wounded from Friday’s mass shooting, meanwhile, said he believes the attacker used special “dum-dum” bullets that cause massive internal injuries. The doctor told The Associated Press that the killer’s chosen ammo “exploded inside the body.”

The manifesto that 32-year-old suspect Anders Behring Breivik published online ranted against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge on those “indigenous Europeans” whom he deemed had betrayed their heritage. The document said they would be punished for their “treasonous acts.”

Police said they were analyzing the approximately 1,500-page document. They said it was published Friday shortly before the back-to-back bomb and gun attacks.

Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said his client wrote the document alone. While police said they were investigating reports of a second assailant on the island, the lawyer said Breivik claims no one helped him.

The treatise detailed plans to acquire firearms and explosives, and even appeared to describe a test explosion: “BOOM! The detonation was successful!!!” It ends with a note dated 12:51 p.m. on July 22: “I believe this will be my last entry.”

That day, a bomb killed seven people in downtown Oslo and, about 90 minutes later, a gunman began opening fire on about 600 young people at a retreat on Utoya Island. Police said the death toll in the shooting rose by one Sunday to 86.

That brings total fatalities to 93, with more than 90 wounded. People remain missing at both scenes. Police have not released the names of any victims.

Authorities revealed Sunday that one of the attacker’s first victims on the island was an off-duty police officer who had been hired by the camp directors to provide private security in his spare time. Oslo Police Union Chairman Sigve Bolstad declined to identify the victim.

That detail sheds new light on the confusion many survivors described during the 90-minute massacre. The attacker arrived dressed as a policeman, and some campers were killed when they approached the killer thinking he was there to save them.

Dr. Colin Poole, head of surgery at Ringriket Hospital in Honefoss northwest of Oslo, told The Associated Press the gunman used special bullets designed to disintegrate inside the body and cause maximum internal damage. Poole said surgeons treating 16 gunshot victims have recovered no full bullets.

“These bullets more or less exploded inside the body,” Poole said. “It’s caused us all kinds of extra problems in dealing with the wounds they cause, with very strange trajectories.”

Ballistics experts say the so-called “dum-dum” bullets also are lighter in weight and can be fired with greater accuracy over varying distances. They commonly are used by air marshals and hunters of small animals. Such characteristics potentially would have allowed the gunman to carry more ammunition and fire his weapons at varying targets without adjusting his sights.

Officials at the lakeside scene of the island shooting spent Sunday continuing to account for the dead.

Six hearses pulled up at the shoreline as orange-jacketed Red Cross searchers on small boats slowly explored the extensive shoreline.

Body parts remain inside the Oslo building, which housed the prime minister’s office. In a chilling allusion to the fact that the tragedy could have even been greater, police said Sunday that Breivik still had “a considerable amount” of ammunition for both his guns — a pistol and an automatic rifle — when he surrendered.

Police and his lawyer have said that Breivik confessed to the twin attacks, but denied criminal responsibility for a day that shook peaceful Norway to its core and was the deadliest ever in peacetime. Breivik has been charged with terrorism and will be arraigned Monday.

Lippestad said his client has asked for an open court hearing “because he wants to explain himself.”

Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said a forensics expert from Interpol was joining the investigation Sunday.

European security officials said they were aware of increased Internet chatter from individuals claiming they belonged to the Knights Templar group that Breivik describes, in fantastical terms, in the manifesto. They said they were still investigating claims that Breivik, and other far-right individuals, attended a London meeting of the group in 2002. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.

The officials would not confirm whether they had identified Breivik as a potential threat.

As authorities pursued the suspect’s motives, Oslo mourned the victims. Norway’s King Harald V and his wife Queen Sonja and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg crowded into Oslo Cathedral, where the pews were packed, and people spilled into the plaza outside. The area was strewn with flowers and candles, and people who could not fit inside the grand church huddled under umbrellas amid drizzling rain.

The king and queen both wiped tears from their eyes during the service themed on “sorrow and hope.”

Afterward, people sobbed and hugged one another in the streets. Many lingered over the flowers and candles. The royal couple and prime minister later visited the site of the bombing in Oslo. The royals then visited shooting survivors at Ringriket Hospital.

The attacker picked targets linked to Norway’s left-wing Labor Party. Breivik’s manifesto pilloried the political correctness of liberals and warned that their work would end in the colonization of Europe by Muslims.

Such fears may derive, at least in part, from the fact that Norway has grown increasingly multicultural in recent years as the prosperous Nordic nation has opened its arms to thousands of conflict refugees from Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. The annual Labor Party retreat — which the prime minister, Stoltenberg, fondly remembers attending in his own youth — reflected the country’s changing demographics as the children of immigrants have grown increasingly involved in Labor politics.

The assaults have rattled Norway, home to the Nobel Prize for Peace and where the average policeman patrolling in the streets doesn’t carry a firearm. Norwegians pride themselves on the openness of their society and cherish the idea of free expression.

“He wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution,” Lippestad, the lawyer, told public broadcaster NRK. “He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”

Lippestad said Breivik spent years writing the manifesto titled “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.” It was signed “Andrew Berwick.” The document later explained that 2083 was to be the year when European government would be overthrown en masse.

Sponheim, the police chief, said there was no indication whether Breivik had selected his targets or fired randomly on the island. The manifesto vowed revenge on those it accused of betraying Europe.

“We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare a pre-emptive war on all cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western Europe. … We know who you are, where you live and we are coming for you,” the document said. “We are in the process of flagging every single multculturalist traitor in Western Europe. You will be punished for your treasonous acts against Europe and Europeans.”

The use of an anglicized pseudonym could be explained by a passage in the manifesto describing the founding, in April 2002 in London, of a group he calls a new Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a medieval order created to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade in the 11th century.

A 12-minute video clip posted on YouTube with the same title as the manifesto featured symbolic imagery of the Knights Templar and crusader kings as well as slides suggesting Europe is being overrun by Muslims.

Police could not confirm whether Breivik posted the video, which also featured photographs of him dressed in a formal military uniform and in a wet suit pointing an assault rifle.

The video contained a series of slides that accused left-wing politicians in Europe of allowing Muslims to overrun the continent. One image showed the BBC’s logo with the “C” changed into an Islamic crescent. Another referenced the former Soviet Union, declaring that the end result of the left’s actions would be an “EUSSR.”

In London, the leader of Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain’s largest Muslim groups, said mosques are being extra vigilant in the wake of the attacks. Mohammed Shafiq told The AP he was talking to European Muslim leaders and British police about the need to increase security.

The last 100 pages of the manifesto apparently lay out details of Breivik’s social and personal life, including his steroid use and an intention to solicit prostitutes in the days before the attack.

Also Sunday, police carried out raids in an Oslo neighborhood seeking explosives. Police spokesman Henning Holtaas said no explosives were found and no one was arrested.

Police said the bomb used in the Oslo blast was a mixture of fertilizer and fuel similar to what home-grown U.S. terrorists used to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

A farm supply store said Saturday they had alerted police that Breivik bought six metric tons of fertilizer, a popular terrorist component for car bombs.

Pakos- Pakistan Zindabad

France Pushes Ahead With Controversial Law To Ban The Veil in Public

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has ordered the French government to draw up legislation that will allow for the total ban on the Islamic veil or niqab. This includes not just state or government offices or buildings, but in fact it will make it illegal anywhere in public. The government of Sarkozy is pressing ahead with writing and planning to enact this law despite many legal analysts in France and in Europe stating that it could eventually prove to be unconstitutional.

Despite having Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, France was one of the first to enact laws outlawing the veil in government buildings and schools in 2004. The move comes after a French driver was stopped last week for driving while veiled in the French city of Nantes. She was penalized a 22-Euro or $29 fine as police cited her for posing a “safety risk” while driving.

French government spokesman Luc Chatel said that the proposals for a full ban on the niqab and burqa would be submitted to parliament in the coming months and could theoretically be made into law by this summer.

The plans to ban the veil, he stated, were “in line with the wishes of the head of state”, who has made clear on numerous occasions his opposition to face covering garments prevalent in the Muslim culture. “The ban on the full veil must be total in all public places because women’s dignity cannot be watered down,” said Chatel, as he kept to the official view that a ban would be in keeping with “republican French values of gender equality and secularism.”

He added: “Everything must be done to ensure that no one feels stigmatized because of their faith or religious beliefs. The president and the prime minister have asked all members of the government to commit to this point.” Clearly, these are contradicting actions to many Muslims across France and Europe as they feel signaled out for the differential treatment. There is no attempt to include other religious articles of clothing from being banned such as the turban for Sikhs or the habits for the Catholic nuns.

Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party and other groups within France have been lobbying for well over a year in support of the ban. The French Council of State, a body made up of legal experts and is a part of the executive branch in charge of giving the government legal advice, has said that the burqa ban may be unconstitutional under French and European law as it violates the protections for religion. In fact, the French Republic is based on the principle of “laicite” or freedom of conscience preserved in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Undeterred, French president Sarkozy is pressing ahead with his attempts to push the law through in the next few weeks.

The Muslim veil has become the symbol of a cultural clash between a secular France concerned with preserving its Christian and Western identity, with the rise of a Muslim population that is estimated at roughly 5 million people, making 1 in 10 Frenchmen, a Muslim. Although the presence of Muslims in France started in the 8th century when Muslims had conquered Spain and pushed into France. But Islam then totally disappeared from France until the 20th century. After World War II, many people emigrated from former colonies in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and elsewhere, putting Islam in a distant second place as next most practiced religion after Catholicism which is roughly 85% of the population. Of France’s estimated 5 million Muslims, only as little as perhaps 3,000 women wear the veil, according to French government estimates.

The ban on the veil is not constitutional as it conflicts with the country’s freedom of religion and conscience that are ingrained in the French constitution and indeed psyche. Furthermore, to explicitly single out the Muslim religious articles of clothing, the law is blatantly discriminatory and certainly therefore unconstitutional. There is a big concern in France and indeed across Europe over the Arabization or Talibanization of Europe.

Many people in France see the Muslim religion as being repressive towards women and the veil is the symbol of that oppression. It may even seem commendable that France is standing up for the rights of oppressed Muslim women. However, the banning of the veil will certainly be seen by the Muslims of France as a direct assault on their personal and religious rights of expression. In a country where the majority of Muslim women do not wear the veil and have successfully assimilated into French society, the ban will actually serve to further divide and alienate the Muslim population already feeling stigmatized in France and across Europe since 9-11.

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