Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Iran: Old Guards Return.

Date: Wednesday 14 December 2005
Subj: Iran: Old Guards Return.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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IRAN: OLD GUARDS RETURN
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Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), two groups whose names are synonymous with Iranian repression and terror, are making a comeback under President Ahmadinejad.

As noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis report entitled "The Islamic Revolution is now complete" (29 August 2005), "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has flooded the Majlis (parliament) with former Revolutionary Guards while Ayatollah Khamenei has made key changes in security structures and strategies to entrench the Revolutionary Guards' hegemony over all law enforcement agencies."

Now Iran's MPs are purging their domains of Khatami-era officials and replacing them with heavy-handed hardliners, including many former senior secret police from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who were complicit in the serial murders of dissidents and intellectuals that took place in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. President Khatami's sensitivity to international relations led to these murderers being removed from positions of public authority, but now under President Ahmadinejad they are making a comeback. For this regime, a proved track record in brutality, assassination and inflexible hard-line Islamic ideology makes an ideal prerequisite for a government job. In fact, having hands that are stained with the blood of Christian martyrs appears to be a perfect prerequisite for a senior position in the Ministry of Interior.

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PERSECUTION ESCALATES DRAMATICALLY

On 22 November, Pastor Ghorban Dordi Tourani (53) was kidnapped from his home and stabbed to death, allegedly by an unnamed group of fanatical Muslims. His body was later dumped back at his home. Pastor Tourani, a convert from Islam, was pastoring an independent fellowship of convert Christians in Gonbad-e-Kavus, northeastern Iran. He is survived by his widow and four children aged between 3 and 23yrs.

Compass Direct reports, "Within hours of the November 22 murder, local secret police arrived at the martyred pastor's home, searching for Bibles and other banned Christian books in the Farsi language. By the end of the following day, the secret police had also raided the houses of all other known Christian believers in the city.

"According to one informed Iranian source, during the past eight days representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have arrested and severely tortured 10 other Christians in several cities, including Tehran. All the detainees have since been released.

"In addition, MOIS officials have visited known Christian leaders since Tourani's murder and have instructed them to warn acquaintances in the unofficial, Protestant house fellowships that 'the government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon'." (CD, 28 Nov 2005)

OLD GUARD MOIS RETURNS: TO THE INTERIOR MINISTRY...

Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a Shiite cleric who was the Deputy Minister of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for some 13 years during the late 80s and throughout the 90s has been appointed as Iran's Interior Minister. Iran Focus reports, "Critics charge that Pour-Mohammadi is replacing Interior Ministry officials with former colleagues from the secret police, thus creating another security apparatus." (Link 1)

Two of Pour-Mohammadi's appointments to senior positions in the Interior Ministry are: Mahmoud Saeedi, the former director of MOIS in Isfahan province, who has been appointed as Director General of the Interior Ministry; and Shahab Goodarzi, the former deputy director of MOIS in Isfahan, who has been appointed as Director of Security in the Interior Ministry.

It is of great concern that Iran's Interior Ministry, a ministry that has control of the security forces and is responsible for preserving political stability, is to be run by men who were senior MOIS officials during Iran's dark and bloody days of the serial murders of dissidents and intellectuals. Iranian Christians may feel an especially cold chill, as Saeedi comes into the Interior Ministry with the blood of Christian martyrs on his hands.

Iran Focus reports, "A former senior official in Iran's dreaded secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who personally oversaw the gruesome murders of two Christian bishops and a priest in Iran in the 1990s, has been appointed as the new Director General of the country's Interior Ministry.

"Mahmoud Saeedi, who formerly headed the MOIS department in Isfahan Province, was removed from his position in 1999 under mounting pressure on the Iranian government after it became clear that his agents had carried out the brutal murder of three Anglican Church figures in Iran."

Investigations by dissident investigative journalist Akbar Ganji (now imprisoned) revealed that MOIS was responsible for the serial killings of dissidents and intellectuals that took place through the 1990s, and that the murders of Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr, Bishop Tateos Michaelian, and Reverend Mehdi Dibaj were ordered by Deputy Intelligence Minister Saeed Emami and carried out by a team under the command of Mahmoud Saeedi.

According to Iran Focus, after Mahmoud Saeedi was removed from MOIS, he went to work with other former senior MOIS officials in the Special Security Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran Focus reports that Saeedi's boss in Khamenei's Special Security Office "was Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi".

So Iran's Interior Ministry, which is responsible for maintaining internal stability and security, is now being led by old guard MOIS officials who have already demonstrated their willingness to persecute and assassinate dissidents, intellectuals and Christian leaders.

.. AND TO THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND ISLAMIC GUIDANCE

Former Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, Iran's new Minister for Culture and Islamic Guidance, is also purging his subordinates. He is determined that books, journalism, visual arts, film, music and all cultural pursuits must conform to and re-enforce Iran's Islamic ideology and the strictest of Islamic values.

Most interestingly, the Iran Press Service reports, "Masha'allah Shamsolva'ezin, spokesman for the Tehran-based Association for Advocating Freedom of Press, said that state pressure on journalists has increased since [President] Ahmadi Nezhad took office. According to Shamsolvaezin, the culture ministry, in cooperation with intelligence and security forces, has in recent weeks called in many journalists for questioning without apparent reasons. The goal clearly is to intimidate them. Many of those pressing journalists are former employees of the Ministry of Intelligence [MOIS] who were fired under Khatami for their involvement in killing intellectuals and political activists." (Link 2)

The article at link 2, entitled, "Tehran renews war on culture" gives details of measures to control, police and further Islamise journalism, book publishing, musical performances, women's dress, and universities. This Islamic "war" against Persian culture will doubtless continue until Persians decide they want their Persian culture back.

MOTIVATIONS

President Ahmadinejad is committed to preparing Iran for what he firmly believes is the inevitable, even immanent return of the "hidden 12th Imam". I (EK) have to confess that I am not exactly sure what is required to hasten the Imam's return, but I think it might be a pure Islamic Iran surrounded by a world in chaos. If Ahmadinejad is pursuing this scenario, then that is disturbing on several fronts.

A few interesting articles on the religious motivations of President Ahmadinejad can be found at link 3. This is a subject that deserves closer attention, because Ahmadinejad's faith in and expectation of a messiah-style immanently returning 12th Imam reduces his devotion to the Guardian Council, expunges his interest in international opinion, but increases his zeal for an uncompromising, aggressive and authoritative Revolutionary Guard and MOIS to help usher in his apocalypse.

Links

1) Iran appoints murderer of Christian bishops to key position.
22 Nov 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4532

2) Tehran renews war on culture
By Mahdi Khalaji, 26 November 2005
http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2005/november-2005/culture_crackdown_261105.shtml

3) Iran president paves the way for Arabs' imam return
By Paul Hughes, Reuters,17 Nov 2005
http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_10945.shtml

Second coming for imam is first concern for Iranian president
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth.
Financial Times. 9 November 2005
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1519153/posts

Shi'ite supremacists emerge from Iran's shadows
Asia Times On-line. 9 Sept 2005
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GI09Ak01.html

Religion Versus Reality
By Richard Ernsberger Jr. Newsweek International. 12 Dec 2005
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10313618/site/newsweek/

President of Iran: Hallucinations of a psychopath. 3 Dec 2005
By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD International Law - Persian Journal
http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_11240.shtml

Friday, December 2, 2005

Bangladesh: Islamist threat escalates with suicide bombings.

Date: Friday 2 December 2005
Subj: Bangladesh: Islamist threat escalates with suicide bombings.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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BANGLADESH: WAVE OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS
- new terror tactic increases risk to threatened Christian leaders, institutions and NGOs.
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More than 30 years ago, Bangladesh fought a Liberation War for the right to be independent of Pakistan, and secular. The war cost the Bangladeshis somewhere between 500,000 and three million lives. Today, Islamic militants with al Qaeda training and links are engaged in a violent and deadly campaign to force Bangladesh to submit to Sharia law.

Islamic zeal and radicalisation have skyrocketed in Bangladesh since October 2001 causing local persecution of Christians to escalate in frequency and severity. Now organised Islamic terror threatens to destabilise the nation and the wider region. Of course it will also seriously impact the Church. Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is presently targeting Bangladesh's secular courts and judges, and threatening to continue until Sharia is implemented. But JMB has also declared that it will target NGOs and non-Muslim religious figures and institutions engaged in "anti-Islamic activities". It is reported that Bangladesh has some 172 terror training camps operating on its soil, and that JMB has a 2,000-strong suicide squad prepared for martyrdom operations.

The pro-Islamic Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), elected in October 2001 to rule in coalition with some very radical Islamist groups, has difficulty facing and dealing with these threats. It has used Western law and democracy for its own advantage, but now the popularist Islamist puppy it has fostered and nurtured has matured, is exerting its independence, and is starting to bite. Unless the government gets serious about replacing radical madrassas with real and positive education, closing terror training camps, and promoting secularism, tolerance and democracy, then Bangladesh will develop into a Islamic terror hub and jihad launching pad. Nothing grows, spreads and wreaks havoc like a disease that is not acknowledged and is left untreated.

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WAVE OF SUICIDE BOMBINGS

On Tuesday 29 November, suicide bombers from Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) – also known as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) – fatally struck law courts in two Bangladeshi cities, killing seven. Around 60 were wounded, 21 of them seriously. The death toll has since risen to ten. (Link 1)

The first bombing took place at 9:05am in Bangladesh's second largest city, the port city of Chittagong. In response to terror threats, police had been posted at the entrance of the court and were checking all visitors. Just before he was to be intercepted at the police checkpoint, the bomber took an explosive device out of his bag and threw it at the officers. He then detonated another explosive device strapped to his leg. The two policemen were killed.

The bomber, who survived but lost both his legs and his right hand, was identified as Abul Bashar (19). He reportedly told Agence France-Presse (AFP), "I attacked the Chittagong court by the order of Allah. I did not do any wrong in carrying out the suicidal attack." A report by the Bangladesh Independent online news said police had found a JMB leaflet in his pocket. According to Chittagong police official Mohammad Majedul Huq, it was handwritten and warned police, judges and lawyers "to stop upholding man-made laws which go against Islam". At least 16 others were injured; 13 of them were police. Abul Bashar has since died from his injuries in Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

The second bombing took place in Gazipur at 9:40am. The bomber donned a lawyer's black gown and walked right past police security into the bar library where he detonated his bomb. Three people in the library died immediately and four others died from their wounds soon after in hospital in Dhaka. The suicide bomber's body was found with wires and bomb parts still strapped to it.

At around 10am on Thursday 1 December, as lawyers were staging a demonstration in Gazipur, a bomb exploded near the police checkpoint outside the chief government administrator's office. Two were killed and 30 were injured, five critically. One of the dead was a policeman, the other is believed to be the suicide bomber. According to Kazi Fazle Rabbi, Gazipur district commissioner, "The suspected bomber ... disguised himself as a tea vendor. One of his flasks exploded when police stopped him for checking." (Link 2)

ESCALATION OF TERROR

On 17 August, JMB (JuM) orchestrated a nation-wide terror attack, setting off nearly 500 small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) virtually simultaneously in 63 of Bangladesh's 64 districts. While the devices did not contain shrapnel, they did result in three deaths and left more than 150 injured. Pamphlets found near many of the explosive devices demanded the expulsion of foreign NGOs "engaged in anti-Islamic activities in Muslim countries". (Stratfor Terrorism Brief, 23 November 2005)

The carnage from the August bombing campaign was minimal but the message was loud and clear. As noted by Stratfor, the August bombing campaign "demonstrates that JuM has a widespread presence, robust logistics and sophisticated command-and-control capabilities".

After this attack JMB (JuM) declared, "Everybody is the enemy of Islam who wants to launch democracy as an institutional form. Therefore we invite the ruling party and also the opposition to initiate the rule of Islam within a short time in Bangladesh."

On 22 August, Bangladesh's leading national Bengali daily newspaper reported that the Intelligence Department had informed the government that Islamic militants are planning to attack the largest non-Muslim religious centres in Dhaka. They were also threatening to kill local and foreign non-Muslim leaders, missionaries, priests, humanitarian workers and anyone else preaching religion other than Islam. Christianity was to be particularly targeted for the purpose of discrediting the government of Bangladesh in the West. (See WEA RLC report: link 3)

On 3 October, larger bombs exploded in three district courts outside Dhaka, killing two people and wounding more than a dozen. Then on 14 November two senior Assistant Judges of Jhalakathi District Judges Court were assassinated on their way to work. Their microbus stopped outside the government staff quarters to pick up another judge. The assassin, identified as Mamun, a JMB militant, approached the microbus with the pretext of showing papers to the judges. He then shoved a package into the microbus which immediately exploded. The assassin, who survived with serious leg wounds, was immediately arrested. He was found to have some 24 JMB leaflets, and a live bomb fastened to his body. Presumably the assassin intended to escape, with the body-bomb to be used only in the case of capture. His injuries however probably prevented him detonating the body-bomb before his arrest. His willingness to explode himself and thus become a "martyr" was evidence of a shocking new tactic and ideological shift.

In their 23 November Terrorism Brief, Stratfor Intelligence reported, "According to a Nov. 22 report in the Bangladeshi English-language Daily Star newspaper, the JuM's (JMBs) policymaking body -- Majlis-e-Shura -- recently ordered its bomb and suicide squad members to fight their opposition to the death and to continue striking government offices and courts." Stratfor notes, "JuM (JMB) appears to have no problem obtaining explosives, and apparently is actively constructing devices – an activity normally conducted at the end of the attack planning cycle." And Stratfor adds, "JuM members reportedly received training from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and allegedly maintain links with that group."

According to Reuters, Bangladeshi police report that the explosives used in the 29 November suicide bombings are the most powerful and highly destructive explosives used by the militants so far. Reuters also reports, "The State Minister for Home Affairs Lutufuzzaman Babar said earlier this month [Nov] that there were reports that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen had set up a 2,000-strong suicide squad." (Link 4)

THREAT TO EMBASSIES

The British High Commission's First Secretary in Dhaka, Mike Stevenson, reports that Manik Hossain, a Muslim extremist identifying himself as a member of "al-Qaeda in South Asia", has threatened to blow up the UK mission, along with other Western missions. The threatening message was sent to the UK Embassy by fax on Sunday 27 November, and signed by Manik Hossain of Faridganj" (220km, or around 140 miles, southeast of Dhaka). Security has now been increased around diplomatic offices in Dhaka. (Link 5)

BANGLADESH: TERROR HUB

Webindia reports that on 29 November, India's Border Security Force (BSF) Director General R S Mooshahary told a press conference "the unabated mushrooming of terror camps" in Bangladesh, and the fact that Bangladesh is becoming "a hub of infiltrators and fundamentalist forces" threatens to destabilise the whole region. "In the long run," warned Gen. Mooshahary, "Bangladesh could be a greater problem than Pakistan going by the shifting of population, massive infiltration bids and mushrooming of terror camps... it has become a hub of drug dealers and smugglers."

Mooshahary claimed to have recently given Bangladesh a list of 172 terror training camps. "But their reply is the same every time," he complains, " ...that no such camps exists on their soil." (Link 6)

Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) BANGLADESH BOMBING TOLL RISES
30 November 2005. SBS
http://www9.sbs.com.au/theworldnews/region.php?id=126032&region=2
Seven killed, many injured in Bangladesh blasts
http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=58404
Nine die in Bangladesh bombings
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4480408.stm
Bangladesh's escalating extremism. 29 November 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4482320.stm

2) Two dead in court attack. 2 December 2005
http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,17435239-23109,00.html

3) WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis
Militants Move to Islamise Bangladesh
By Elizabeth Kendal, 16 September 2005
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.org/news/view.htm?id=151

4) Bangladesh explosives most powerful yet -- police
30 Nov 2005. Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DHA129923.htm
Bombs target Bangladesh lawyers. 29 November 2005
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/11/29/bangladesh.blasts.reut/index.html

5) Man threatens UK, US missions in Bangladesh – police
28 Nov 2005. Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DHA97711.htm

6) Bangladesh a hub of infiltrators and fundamentalists: BSF DG
New Delhi, 29 November 2005
http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=176465&cat=India

Monday, November 14, 2005

Guinea: Future in the balance.

Date: Monday 14 November 2005
Subj: Guinea: Future in the balance.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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GUINEA: FUTURE IN THE BALANCE
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Nzerekore is located in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, West Africa, close to where the borders of Liberia, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire meet. In the words of Major Algassimou Barry, the Prefect (government administrator) of Nzerekore and the surrounding district, "We're at the heart of a region in turmoil." (July 2004, Link 1)

BAPTISM SERVICE ATTACKED IN NZEREKORE

On Wednesday 19 October, a Christian baptism ceremony in the Gonia neighbourhood of Nzerekore was attacked by Muslims who were complaining that music from the church was disturbing their prayers in a nearby mosque. Ten people were injured, two seriously, and several houses were sacked. The Muslims rioted again on the Friday evening and razed a local video store. Elite soldiers, known as Rangers, had to be deployed to restore calm. Several guns were confiscated and a curfew was imposed. Over the weekend (22-23 October) some 100 people were arrested, with 56 still detained. (Link 2)

The Christians belong to the Guerze ethnic group which has a long history in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea. Most Guerze practise Christianity or African Traditional Religion (ATR). The Muslims are Konianke, a sub-group of the Mandingo (also known as Malinki or Mandinki) people who have been Muslim since the 13th Century. The Konianke, who are traditionally nomadic traders, migrated south from northern Guinea during the late nineteenth century when Guinea was under French rule and the French had established a colonial administration in the Forest Region.

Ethnic-religious violence had previously erupted in Nzerekore on 16 June 2004 when, according to the US Department of State Human Rights Report 2004, "a Guerze youth on a motorcycle collided with a crowd leaving a mosque". Of the 238 people arrested, 234 were Konianke and 90 percent were Liberian. Two people died in that clash, but the toll would have been much higher had the Guinean security forces not moved so quickly to quell the fighting. (Link 1)

The incidents in Nzerekore arise out of several much larger issues: the ethnic tensions created by Mandingo southward migration; the religious tensions created by Muslim migration into regions historically populated by settled Christian and Animist tribes; the ethnic and religious superiority complex of many of the Mandingo Muslims, and the proliferation of weapons, bored ex-combatants and entrepreneurial criminals and soldiers for whom "war is more lucrative than peace".

Clearly, the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea must be viewed as a potential flash-point for future, major ethnic-religious conflict. Attention must be given to this region now, before disaster strikes and spreads like shock-waves.

ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS TENSIONS

The ethnic and religious tensions in the Forest Region of Guinea are similar in many ways to the ethnic and religious tensions that have manifest themselves around the wider region and all along Africa's ethnic-religious fault-line. Migration by Muslim tribes, into regions long inhabited and farmed by non-Muslim tribes, has created competition for land and resources. Increasingly over the past decade, religious tension has been exacerbated by the revival of Islamic zeal and orthodoxy. This has caused Muslim intolerance and anger to escalate in proportion to Muslim feelings of both superiority and victimhood. Once violence erupts it is virtually impossible to prevent it taking on a religious dimension. The main threats to peace come from Islamists stirring up feelings of Muslim supremacy and inciting conflict; and provocation by those who profit (financially or politically) from conflict. The primary needs are good governance, justice and disarmament.

Twelve months ago WEA RLC released a News & Analysis posting on ethnic-religious violence in Monrovia, in neighbouring Liberia, which touched on many of the same issues. Likewise, many of the WEA RLC posting concerning neigbouring Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) over the past 3 years, and on the religious violence in Plateau state, central Nigeria, have dealt with the same issues.

The main difference in Guinea, when compared to the above mentioned nations, is that in Guinea, Christians are a very small minority (less than 5 percent) in a country that is more than 85 percent Muslim, making the Christians even more vulnerable.

"LIBERIA, THE LURD AND GUINEA'S FOREST REGION" (ICG)

Thrown recently into this pot of simmering ethnic-religious tension is the most dangerous ingredient of all: a large quantity of armed, bored, exiled Muslim Liberian ex-rebel fighters. Guinea's support for Liberian rebel groups has come back to bite it.

In an excellent report entitled "Stopping Guinea's Slide" (June 2005), International Crisis Group (ICG) looks at the Forest Region as a potential flash-point where conflict could have dire consequences. ICG warns: "For some time, both Guineans and Guinea-watchers have been worried that a conflagration in the Forest Region could spark a generalised meltdown throughout the country." (ICG report: Link 4)

There is considerable documentary evidence that the government of President Conte in Guinea trained, armed, funded and gave refuge to Liberian rebels fighting against the government of Liberian President Charles Taylor during the Liberian War. ICG maintains "LURD fighters trained at the Kankan and Macenta military bases and were armed by the government from 1999 if not 1998." (ICG report, p 21)

ICG notes that 80 percent of Liberian refugees are Mandingos who are unwilling to return to Liberia where they feel they are not accepted and are regarded as 'foreigners'. But as ICG also notes, "A similar dynamic exists in Guinea, primarily in Macenta and N'Zerekore prefectures, where tensions between Forestier peoples, who consider themselves the original settlers, and Mandingoes, who are considered strangers, as in Liberia, are very high." (p 21)

The tension has been stretched to crisis levels in recent years because, since peace was brokered in Liberia in August 2003, many hundreds of LURD rebels have moved across the border into the Forest Region of Guinea where they can blend in amongst the thousands of Liberian refugees and find protection amidst their fellow Konianke Muslim brothers and sisters. Tension is further exacerbated by the fact that Taylor was from the same ethnic group as the non-Muslim peoples of Guinea's Forest Region.

The UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported in July 2004, "Residents in Nzerekore said the town was packed with hundreds of Liberian gunmen made idle by a peace agreement which ended 14 years of civil war in their own country in August last year. 'The town is full of them, everybody knows that,' a local human rights activist in Nzerekore told IRIN. '...we know that they're still carrying their weapons and that they help their brothers the Konianke when the disputes explode between the two [Konianke and Guerze] communities,' he said." (Link 1)

The ICG adds a further layer to this situation. Under the sub-heading "LURD and the lost Mande Empire" (p 21), ICG explains that between 1905 and 1915, African warriors menaced the Manenta and Nzerekore prefectures and the wider region, preventing the French, English and American-Liberians from claiming control of the region.

LURD emerged in the Forest Region and is made up primarily of Mandingoes. The Mandingo fighters have a strong sense of history. They not only remember the warriors' dominance of the region in the early 20th Century, but they also remember and long for the days of the great Mali (or Mande) Empire (14th to 17th Centuries), when the Mandingoes, the founding fathers of Mali, controlled trans-Saharic trade from the Middle East to West Africa. According to ICG, "These [LURD] fighters sometimes talk about their longer-term mission being the restitution of a glorious Mandingo empire."(p 21)

ICG also notes that for many, "war is more lucrative than peace" (p 15). According to ICG, the military "has entrenched interests in pillage". ICG claims the military is involved in cross-border trade and in regional arms flows, including to the rebel "Forces Nouvelles" in Cote d'Ivoire (p 19). But as ICG notes, what usually starts out as a simple economic interest, can develop into serious security problems.

FUTURE IN THE BALANCE

Only months after the Liberian war ended, ICG released a report on the possible consequences for Guinea. It was entitled, "Guinea: Uncertainties at the End of an Era". (Africa Report No 74. 19 December 2003). ICG commented, "The large number of weapons and irregular combatants circulating in this region is one of the principal elements of concern. These armed groups with their unpredictable allegiances could serve the interests of politico-military elites who seek to create disorder and or to take power by force."

The June 2005 ICG report claims that today many LURD former combatants in Guinea are angry, believing that Conte has abandoned them. Also, in Liberia there are both pro- and anti-Guinean forces actively recruiting ex-combatants. ICG even comments that it is difficult to understand why no attacks have yet materialised. (p 21,22)

In the midst of this, Guinea is approaching a period of political uncertainty. President Conte is critically ill, there is no obvious successor, and the nation is soon to hold its first local elections for 10 years. On Sunday 18 December, Guineans will be able to vote for majors and rural councils in an election that will be seen as a test of the country's democratic reform process.

IRIN reports, "Guinea, where more than half the population lives on less than a dollar a day, has been ruled by Lansana Conte since he came to power in a 1984 coup. But his ill health and the lack of a clear successor in either the government or the opposition have led to worries that a dangerous power vacuum is looming.

"In its [June 2005] report, [International] Crisis Group said that disaster could only be averted if both the opposition and the international community engaged fully in the reform process, starting with these critical municipal elections. They will largely determine the quality of Guinean democracy. If they fail, the presidential succession will likely be disastrous." (Link 5)

After decades of Marxist, pro-Islamic persecution of the Church, there is now religious freedom in Guinea, which is 85.4 percent Muslim, 9.7 percent African Traditional Religion (ATR), and 4.7 percent Christian. Operation World reports that the Guinean Church has embraced mission and in the past decade indigenous workers have begun witnessing cross-culturally to previously unreached people groups. The Guinean Church is growing. But many analysts fear that Guinea is "primed for instability" (IRIN), and heading for a crisis. IRIN reports that diplomats and aid workers have long worried that the Forest Region is "a powder keg waiting to explode". For Guinea, and especially for the Church in Guinea, the future is truly in the balance.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) GUINEA: Ethnic tensions threaten to explode in southeast.
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) 7 July 2004
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=42067

2) GUINEA: Dozens arrested after ethnic clashes in south-east.
IRIN 24 October 2005
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=49722
ALSO
WEA Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 351 - Wed 02 Nov 2005
GUINEA: BAPTISM SERVICE VIOLENTLY ATTACKED

3)

4) ICG Stopping Guinea's Slide.
Crisis Group Africa Report No 94, 14 June 2005
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3509&l=1

5) GUINEA: Opposition throws hat into ring for local elections
CONAKRY, 31 Oct 2005 (IRIN)
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=49850

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Guinea: Baptism service violently attacked

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 351 - Wed 02 Nov 2005

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GUINEA: BAPTISM SERVICE VIOLENTLY ATTACKED
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Nzerekore is located in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, close to where the borders of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea meet. The region is awash with bored ex-soldiers, illegal weapons and illegal immigrants. The wider region, especially neighbouring Ivory Coast, is simmering with ethnic and religious tensions. Guinea is 85.4 percent Muslim, 9.7 percent African Traditional Religion (ATR), and 4.7 percent Christian. After decades of Marxist, pro-
Islamic persecution of the Church, there is now religious freedom in Guinea. The Guinean Church has embraced mission and in the past decade indigenous workers have begun witnessing cross-culturally to previously unreached people groups. The Guinean Church is growing. But in recent years, as Islam has radicalised worldwide, the Christian minority in Guinea have found themselves increasingly on the painful end of a revived Islamic intolerance.

On Wednesday 19 October, a baptism ceremony in Nzerekore was attacked by Muslims complaining about the music from the service disturbing their prayers at a nearby mosque. Ten people were injured, two seriously, and several houses were sacked. The Muslims rioted again on the Friday evening and razed a local video store. Elite soldiers had to be deployed to restore calm. Several guns were confiscated and a curfew was imposed. Over the weekend some 100 people were arrested, with 56 still detained.

The Christians belong to the Guerze ethnic group which has a long history in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea. Most Guerze practise Christianity or ATR. The Muslims are Konianke, a sub- group of the strongly Muslim Mandingo (or Malinki) people. The Konianke migrated south from northern Guinea during the late nineteenth century when Guinea was under French rule. There has been ethnic tension ever since, as the tribes compete for land and resources. Religious tension, stemming from ethnic tension, has escalated further as Islam has radicalised and revived its historic intolerance. The ethnic-religious tension has grown to crisis levels since the end of the Liberian War in August 2003, when many hundreds of Liberian Konianke rebels fled into southeastern Guinea, blending there with the thousands of Liberian refugees and protected by their fellow Konianke.

Ethnic-religious violence erupted in Nzerekore on 16 June 2004 when a Guerze youth on a motorcycle accidentally ran into a crowd leaving a mosque. Of the 238 people arrested, 234 were Konianke and 90 percent were Liberian. Two people died in that clash, but the toll would have been much higher had the Guinean security forces not moved so quickly to quell the fighting. The most recent incident - Muslims attacking a baptism ceremony because they could hear church music - has all the hallmarks of intolerant Muslims wanting to establish dominance and even reject religious liberty.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will protect, comfort and preserve the minority Christians of Guinea, especially those in the southeast Forest Region amidst volatile tensions and erupting violence; may he renew their strength and bless their witness, for his glory and Kingdom.

* Christ, supreme over all powers and authorities and sovereign over all creation, will bring a spirit of peace to Nzerekore, severing the spiritual shackles of those bound to darkness while light is in their midst. 'So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.' (John 8:36 NIV)

* pastors, evangelists and all believers will have great spiritual understanding to respond with wisdom and grace to the escalating Muslim presence, dominance and intolerance.

* the government and authorities will continue to protect the security of Christians and uphold justice and religious liberty in Guinea, and especially that God will use President Conte to do his will; may God open his heart to receive the gospel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Egypt: Riots, threats and a stabbing in Alexandria.

Date: Wednesday 26 October 2005
Subj: Egypt: Riots, threats and a stabbing in Alexandria.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Massive Muslim riots, Islamist web threats, and the stabbing of a Coptic nun have forced Egyptian authorities to place an armed guard around St George (St Girgis) Coptic Orthodox Church in Muharram Bik, Alexandria on the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. The sudden eruption of aggression against the Church demonstrates the extremely fragile nature of religious harmony in Egypt where Muslim hostility and contempt towards the Christian minority simmers just below the surface and very little provocation is required to make the volcano blow. In this case, the provocation consisted of totally unsubstantiated reports that a theatrical production performed in St George Coptic Orthodox Church had defamed Islam.

As the Egyptian weekly 'Al-Ahram' explains, "...the sectarian tension in Alexandria began in much the same way previous Muslim-Christian disputes had: with the publication of a tabloid story. This time, the newspaper in question -- Al-Midan -- published an article about a church play that defamed Islam." (Link 1)

According to Al-Ahram, "Waleed Orabi, the journalist who wrote the Al-Midan story, said he had obtained a CD of the performance from a source inside the Alexandria church where the play took place. He refused to provide any other details on the matter." Orabi goes on to describe Muharram Bek, where the protests took place, as "a hotbed of Islamism".

INCITEMENT

On Friday 14 October, the day after the article was published, a group of Muslims allegedly from Cairo entered the neighbouring mosque with copies of the article and incited the worshippers to protest. Al-Ahram describes what happened: "An angry crowd of about 100 people promptly marched towards the neighbouring church. As word spread around, the crowd got bigger, with some 3,000 people eventually taking part. Some were there to support the demonstrators' demands, while others were just curious about the goings on. Local police were quickly deployed in the hundreds; and by three in the morning, had dispersed the angry demonstrators."

Adnkronos International (AKI) reports that the protesters shouted slogans such as, "Oh Islam, we will defend you with our body and soul!", and "Christians and Jews, the army of Mohammed will return". Jihad groups linked to al-Qaeda posted video footage of the protest on their websites along with exhortations to follow this example and attack Christians. (Link 2)

On 18 October, the Islamist group "mujahadeen of Egypt", which claimed responsibility for the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings, posted a notice on the Internet inciting Muslims to take action against Christians in revenge for the alleged offence against Mohammed.

AKI reports, the mujadadeen described their posting on the Internet as, "an urgent message to the followers of the cross living in Egypt". The message made specific reference to the "crusaders' church", which it deemed guilty of staging a theatre performance offending the Prophet Muhammed. According to AKI, the "mujahadeen of Egypt" decided to destroy the church, but found the security too tight to perpetrate an attack. As the militants explain in their Internet statement: "After hearing this news, we had decided without hesitation to destroy that church. The mujahadeen prepared themselves but found what they were expecting. The ... police, secret services and internal security forces had surrounded the area of Muharram Bik, protecting the church. If those responsible for the offence do not admit their guilt, then every Christian holding a sermon in the incriminated church will become a target of the mujahadeen." (Link 3)

NUN STABBED

On 19 October, the day after the incitement from "mujahadeen of Egypt", a Muslim student in his early 20s entered St George Church as a prayer service was finishing. He shouted "Allah akbar" (God is great) and stabbed a novitiate nun in the chest with a knife. The nun, aged in her mid-40s, required surgery for her wounds. One other worshipper, Ali al-Jani, was wounded as he intervened to protect the nun. Father Augustinous, head of St George Church was not present during the attack. However, it was reported to him by eye witnesses that after stabbing the nun, the attacker knelt and prayed "as if he was thanking God for finishing a task". (Link 4)

MASSIVE DEMONSTRATION AND MOUNTING ANGER

Following Friday prayers on 21 October, after the ultimatum demanding an apology from Coptic Pope Shenouda III had expired, more than 5,000 angry Muslims demonstrated outside the front of St George Church. They brandished sticks and threw rocks. Around 90 people were injured as police fired tear gas and fought to disperse the angry crowd. Twenty police officers were amongst those injured. Two protesters and two policemen died in the violence – one protester being trampled to death. Nine cars and seven Christian-owned businesses were torched and a gold store was looted. (Link 5)

Seven churches in Alexandria were attacked by a violent mob of Muslim youths that Friday evening. Reports are coming from Alexandria that tell of significant damage to church property, including broken gates, doors, windows, and furniture. Pews were reportedly burned and Bibles were thrown into the street to be trampled by angry crowds. Families, especially pastoral families who live in the churches, have been traumatised. Many from the congregations were too afraid to meet on Sunday.

New York Times (NYT) reports, "In Alexandria, several shopkeepers and pedestrians spoke of their waning patience for their Christian neighbors, and of a sense that their tolerance has been taken for granted and abused." (Link 6)

Ahmed Ali Mahmoud, 25, a pharmacist whose shop is opposite St George's Coptic Orthodox Church told the NYT , "People are very, very provoked. They are boiling. Did we make plays that insult the Christians? They will pay the price in terms of their security, comfort, and now no priest will be able to walk in the streets."

NYT also spoke to a shoemaker who said his name was Muhammad Abdo. He said that police first fired tear gas into the crowd, which only served to anger those in the streets. They then went wild, turning over cars and setting them on fire, smashing storefronts and looting a gold shop. " 'No one will stop until they give a formal apology,' Mr. Abdo said, adding that he heard the play denied a central tenet of the Islamic faith - that Muhammad was God's prophet."

THE PLAY

The play which Muslims allege defamed Islam is called, "I Was Blind but Now I See". It was based on a 1990s movie called The Terrorist, which starred Egyptian comedian Adel Imam. It is the story of a poor Coptic University student who converts to Islam after a group of Muslim men offer him money to do so. However, the young convert becomes disillusioned after the local sheikh exhorts him to kill priests and destroy churches. Abused and maltreated by the sheikh and his group, the young man eventually abandons Islam and returns to Christianity. His apostasy enrages the Islamists who then seek to kill him. His life, however, is ultimately saved by his faithful Muslim friend.

According to Coptic leaders, the play was a statement against extremism and radicalism. However, Islamic voices are claiming that the play "defamed" Islam. Osama Gado, of the Muslim Brotherhood claimed the play "clearly harms the image of Islam". Tamer Harfush also lambasted the play saying, "The play compares Islam and Christianity, Jesus and Prophet Muhammad, presenting the first as a man who sacrificed his life and the second as more preoccupied with earthly pleasures." (Link 7)

The most critical thing about this play is that it was performed once, TWO YEARS AGO!

QUESTIONS

Apart from the standard questions: "Does this defame Islam?" (the dictionary defines "defame" as: To damage the reputation, character, or good name of by slander or libel), and "Why riot?", the most obvious question is: Why now? Considering the play was performed once, TWO YEARS AGO, why is this sectarian hatred, specifically anti-Copt hatred, being whipped up now?

1) ELECTIONS
Legislative elections commence on 9 November. Already the trouble in Alexandria has driven Maher Khella, the local Coptic candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), to withdraw from the parliamentary race "to defuse tensions". Maher Khella was one of only two Copts amongst the 444 candidates fielded by the ruling NDP. (Link 7)

According to Al-Ahram, Al-Midan is not the only newspaper inflaming Islamic sentiments. Al-Ahram reports, "Sameh Fawzi, the editor of Watani (My Nation), a prominent Coptic newspaper, says that 'reading a number of tabloid newspapers will clearly reveal how a sensitive topic like religion is often manipulated to pit Muslims and Christians against each other.' Several newspapers, for instance, have recently been running stories claiming that churches are doing intensive missionary work among university students across the country."

On Thursday 20 October, supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood marched in Cairo in an effort to encourage Egyptians to vote for their Islamist candidates in next month's parliamentary elections. As noted by Reuters, the Muslim Brotherhood sidesteps its ban by fielding candidates as independents. As they marched they chanted "Islam is the Solution" as well as other slogans such as "We make the pledge and guard the dhimma...".(Link 8)

  • (Dhimmis are second-class citizens in historic, orthodox Islam, with limited rights and no equality before the law. Dhimmitude (see http://www.dhimmitude.org/ ) is based on Islamic theology and is an Islamic form of religious apartheid. Historically, in the context of Islamic imperialism, it has permitted the preservation of Jews and Christians for the purpose of exploitation. To receive and maintain "protection"/right to life, dhimmis must live in subjugation and submission, eternally grateful for and humbled by the "protection" afforded them.)
These religious issues – "defamation" of Islam, Christian evangelism, and dhimmis abusing Muslim tolerance and taking it for granted (NYT) – will ensure that Islamic zeal and anger are running high. This should give the Islamists a boost at the polls at the expense of Copts, other Christians, and secularists. Many observers suspect that political Islamists, who can gain political mileage from sectarian tensions, are behind the Alexandria riots.

2) COPTIC CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON
Al Ahram reports, "A US-government sponsored conference on Coptic grievances in Egypt is scheduled for 16 November in Washington. Participants will reportedly press for the Egyptian government to provide more freedoms for Copts. They will also demand the amendment of a constitutional article that considers Islam 'Egypt's official religion and main source of legislation'. The meeting is seen as a means for Washington to exercise more pressure on the Egyptian government, and for Copts to extract more concessions at home."

Some analysts believe that State Security Forces have orchestrated the Alexandria protests in order to embarrass and discredit the Copts at home and abroad before the Washington Conference so as to limit, or even cripple, its effectiveness.

INCENDIARY SITUATION

Even though more than one hundred rioters have been detained for 15 days pending investigations, Christians in Alexandria are afraid and are staying home indoors.

Several facts indicate that this situation has potential to escalate and spread like wildfire:
  • The approaching legislative elections will arouse further sectarian zeal and tension, especially as media provocation and the Alexandria riots have already ignited hostility and fractured unity.
  • In the light of the troubles and controversies in Alexandria, the Washington Conference on Coptic grievances will doubtless now receive more attention on the street in Egypt than it otherwise might have, and the Muslim response will probably be further anger and resentment.
  • The involvement of al-Qaeda linked organisations with their calls for jihad against Christians and churches is extremely worrying.
  • and Ramadan, which because of the fasting and restrictions required can tend to raise Islamic zeal and cause frustration and irritability to overpower tolerance, is not over yet!

Elizabeth Kendal

--------------------------------------------------
For an excellent and most insightful comment, see:
Alexandria, Yesterday and Today
By Mona Eltahawy, 25 October 2005
---------------------------------------------------

Links

1) One step forward, two steps back
Mustafa El-Menshawy, in Alexandria
Al-Ahram Weekly 20 - 26 October 2005. Issue No. 765
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/765/eg6.htm

2) Web video incites attacks against Christians. 21 October 2005.
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Terrorism&loid=8.0.221749664&par=0

3) New Threats Against Coptic Community. Cairo, 18 October 2005.
(AKI)http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Religion&loid=8.0.220123440&par=0

4) Stabbing of nun sparks tension in Alexandria
By Maamoun Youssef, 20 October 2005
http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=85&art_id=qw1129782066324B221

5) Christian DVD sparks riot. Saturday, 22 October 2005
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/africa/10/21/egypt.church.riot.ap/index.html
ALSO
Three killed in Egypt church riot. Saturday, 22 October 2005.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4366232.stm

6) Egyptian Police Guard Coptic Church Attacked by Muslims
By. Michael Slackman in Alexandria, Egypt. 22 October 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/international/africa/23egypt.html

7) Coptic Play Shadows Egypt’s Legislative Polls
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, 23 October 2005
http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2005-10/23/article05.shtml
SEE ALSO
Deadly protest adds to grievances of Egypt's
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=19561

8) Islamists hit streets in Egypt election campaign
By Tom Perry in Cairo. REUTERS. 24 October 2005
http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=2348

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bangladesh: Militants move to Islamise Bangladesh.

Date: Friday 16 September 2005
Subj: Bangladesh: Militants move to Islamise Bangladesh.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

-------------------------------------
MILITANTS MOVE TO ISLAMISE BANGLADESH
-------------------------------------

On 17 August 05, more than 400 small bombs exploded almosts simultaneously in 63 of Bangladesh's 64 districts. Whilst three people were killed and 150 were injured, the most devastating element of this attack is not the damage it caused, but the message it left. That message is that Islamic militants are willing and able to co-ordinate and perpetrate terror nationwide.

The group that has been blamed for the bombings, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, threatened to strike again unless Bangladesh introduces Islamic law. According to Pakistan's Daily Times, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen subsequently declared, "Everybody is the enemy of Islam who wants to launch democracy as an institutional form. Therefore we invite the ruling party and also the opposition to initiate the rule of Islam within a short time in Bangladesh." (Link 1)

THE THREAT TO TARGET CHRISTIAN LEADERS

Five days later, on 22 August, Bangladesh's leading national Bengali daily newspaper, the "Daily Ittafaq", published on its front page the news that the Intelligence Department had informed the government that Islamic militants are planning to attack the largest non-Muslim religious centres in Dhaka – the Dhakashari Hindu Temple, the Tejgaon Catholic Church, and the Kamlapur Buddhist Monastery. According to the intelligence report, militants also plan to kill local and foreign non-Muslim leaders, missionaries, priests and humanitarian workers. Basically anyone who is preaching religion (especially Christianity) is to be targeted for violence or killing for the purpose of discrediting the government of Bangladesh in the West.

After a meeting with intelligence agencies the Home Ministry requested that police step up security around non-Muslims religious establishments and leaders.

Under the leadership of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, a coalition of leaders from Christian churches, institutions and NGOs wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister which was printed in Bengali and English language national newspapers.

In "An Appeal to Her Excellency Begum Khaleda Zia" published in the Observer on 4 September, the Church leaders reiterated their desire to serve the nation through education, health-care, relief and rehabilitation, poverty alleviation, and the fostering of spiritual values. They then expressed their concern over both national security and the security of the threatened religious minorities, noting that preachers of Christianity have been singled out to be targeted on account of the effect this would have on Western governments.

The church leaders then humbly requested that the government take every possible step to remove the deep-rooted causes of terrorism. The memorandum was signed by Rev. Theotonius Gomes, the Secretary General of the Catholics Bishops' Conference of Bangldesh; the Rt. Rev. Nibaran Das, Bishop of the Methodist Church of Banglades; Rev. Asam Kain, Chairman of the Bangladesh Assemblies of God; Mr Subodh Adhikary, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Bangladesh; Rt. Rev. Michael Baroi, Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh; Rev. Robert Sarkar, the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha; Mr Leor P. Sarkar, the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship; and Mr Dennis D. Datta, General Secretary of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh.

LOCAL MILITANTS ARISE ON THE STRENGTH OF FOREIGN FUNDS

Islamic zeal erupted in Bangladesh in October 2001 objecting to the presence of American and allied military forces in Pakistan for the purpose of bombing Afghanistan. The feelings of Islamic rage, identification and solidarity were so strong that Bangladesh's October 2001 general elections yielded a huge swing away from the ruling secular Awami League Party in favour of pro-Pakistan, pro-Muslim and militant Islamist parties. This is especially tragic when we consider how much blood was shed for Bangladesh to win independence from Pakistan and the right to secular government based on Bengali rather than Islamic culture.

Since October 2001, local Islamic militant groups have grown in number, membership and organisation. Madrassas have proliferated across the country to the extent that there are now more than 64,000, up from 4,000 in 1986. Most have arisen in the last decade and are without any government oversight. Meanwhile, persecution of religious minorities has intensified.

Bangladeshi intelligence agencies have come to believe that not only are the militants well established and well co-ordinated, but they are also well funded courtesy of foreign Islamic NGOs that channel funds from the Middle East to local militant groups. Nearly a dozen foreign Islamic NGOs have now been placed on a watch list.

A 7 September article by David Montero for the Christian Science
Monitor gives an excellent overview of "How extremism came to
Bangladesh". (Link 2)

Montero writes, "In the aftermath of the [17 August bomb] attacks, Bangladesh is confronting a realization long suspected but consistently overlooked: Islamist militant groups have taken firm root here, demonstrating a widespread, highly coordinated, and well-funded network. The government, after consistently denying the threat, recently blamed Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) for the attack."

Montero notes that Jama'atul Mujahedin was banned in February after members confessed to bombing 'un-Islamic' targets, including theatre shows and the offices of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

According to Montero, the spiritual head of Jama'atul Mujahedin, Abdur Rahman, told the media last year that he admired the Taliban and had traveled to Afghanistan. "He claimed his organization had been operating underground since 1998, with the aim of founding an Islamic state. His network was active across the country, he said, with 10,000 trained full-time operatives, and 100,000 part-time activists, funded with a payroll of more than $10,000 a month, a huge sum by Bangladeshi standards."

Montero continues, "Another JMB leader, Muhammad Asadullah Al-Galib, who was arrested after the February crackdown, is alleged by intelligence agencies to have received large funding from the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), a Kuwait-based organization. In 2002, the US State Department blacklisted some RIHS offices, citing their support of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. RIHS and Galib's organization have reportedly constructed over 1,000 mosques across Bangladesh and 10 madrassahs."

Writing from Dhaka for New Kerala (India), Farid Ahmed states, "The Kuwait-based Revival of the Islamic Heritage Society is on top of the list of suspect organisations and the government is going to ask it to close its offices in the country. The other organisations put under close watch include the Rabita Al Alam Al Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Al Muntada Al Islami, Islamic Relief Agency, Al Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee and the Muslim Aid Bangladesh. All these organisations are based in different Middle East countries and have been active in Bangladesh for years."

According to Ahmed, intelligence has revealed that more than 100 foreigners, who traveled from various Middle Eastern and African countries and entered with tourist visas, have been working in these Islamic NGOs illegally. (Link 3)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Banned group calls for Islamic rule in Bangladesh
Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen threatens to strike again unless the country resorts to Islamic law. DHAKA, 24 August 2005
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_24-8-2005_pg4_17

2) How extremism came to Bangladesh
Foreign funding and bitter politics may have played a role in the recent bombings.
By David Montero, 7 September 2005
http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0907/p06s01-wosc.html

3) Foreign NGOs funding militancy in Bangladesh: intelligence
By Farid Ahmed, Dhaka, 8 September 2005
http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=20898

Monday, September 12, 2005

West Bank: Taiba attack exposes Christian vulnerability.

Date: Monday 12 September 2005
Subj: West Bank: Taiba attack exposes Christian vulnerability.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Late on Saturday evening 3 September, a riotous, murderous Muslim mob from the West Bank village of Deir Jarir attacked the neighbouring Christian village of Taiba, northeast of Ramallah. They came armed with clubs, kerosene and Molotov cocktails, chanting, "Let's burn the infidels, let's burn the Crusaders." Residents were beaten, houses were looted and cars were burned. At least 13 homes were torched. The attack lasted until the early hours of Sunday morning when Palestinian Authority (PA) security police finally made it through the Israeli checkpoints.

The Muslims were searching for Christian shop-keeper Mehdi Khouriyye (also written as "Mahdi Abu Houria") and targeting the homes of his extended family. PA police arrived just in time to save Mehdi Khouriyye from being lynched, but not in time to save the homes of all his relatives. Mehdi Khouriyye and 15 of the Deir Jarir Muslim attackers were then arrested. But after several hours, the police released the Muslims in order to "cool things down". (Link 1) Meanwhile, victim Mehdi Khouriyye remains in "protective custody", where he is reportedly routinely beaten.

Whilst Muslim intolerance of Christians has escalated, the attack on Taiba is the biggest and most organised Muslim attack upon a Palestinian Christian community in years. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi regards the Taiba attack as a "a very serious development". She says she has witnessed a "regression of social norms". (Link 2)

The implications for vulnerable Palestinian Christians, especially if the PA police are going to be partisan, are horrendous.

FROM LOVE TO TRAGEDY

Mehdi Khouriyye, has a tailoring business in Taiba. He employed Hiyam Ajaj (30), a Muslim woman from Deir Jarir, and the two fell in love. The pair had been in a romantic relationship for two years before Hiyam's family learned of the affair in late August (2005). Making matters worse, Hiyam was six months pregnant. Within days, she was dead, poisoned by her own family in an honour killing. Hiyam's body was then quickly buried and the death not reported.

Initially the family claimed that Hiyam was raped and had committed suicide. Insisting the baby was not his, Mehdi Khouriyye requested that Hiyam's body be disinterred for DNA testing. The Guardian reports that Palestinian president Abu Mazen gave permission for Hiyam's body to be exhumed and for DNA testing to be done to determine paternity. Despite the family's protests, Hiyam's body was disinterred on Tuesday 30 August.

According to the Guardian, Palestinian women's groups claim that if a woman is raped by a family member then she will be killed to restore family honour and an innocent man will be blamed – made a scapegoat – and killed in "revenge". (Link 3)

The 3 September Muslim attack on Taiba has left at least 13 Christian families homeless. The Muslims attackers from Deir Jarir seek to justify their criminal barbarity with talk of "honour". Meanwhile the Christians of Taiba say the violence against them was inspired by pure religious hatred and was nothing less than Muslims using vulnerable Christians as scapegoats.

CHRISTIAN FEARS

Suleiman Khouriyye, a cousin of Mehdi Khouriyye, blames sectarianism. "They did this because we're Christians. They did this because we are the weaker ones." (Link 2)

Samir Qumsieh runs the only Christian private TV channel in the West Bank, the Bethlehem-based al-Mahed ("The Nativity") which is struggling for funds. (Link 1).

Qumsieh told Adnkronos International (AKI), "Many cases like this are happening and the time has come for Abu Maazen (PA president Mahmoud Abbas) to take a decisive stand." Qumsieh told AKI that he has registered more than 100 attacks against the Christian community since 2003. Qumsieh calls the violence "religious racism", and says the attacks include murders, rapes and extortion.

"Some people lay the blame on Islamic extremists," he says, "but this is only part of the truth." Qumsieh says the most common attacks are perpetrated by what he calls "the Muslim land mafia", criminals who target Christian land or home owners and threaten them with the aim of forcing them off their property. Qumsieh believes PA officials are involved in this practice. "It was the situation under [former PA president] Arafat and it is the situation under Abu Maazen," he says.

In February, Samir Qumsieh, together with other prominent Christian Palestinians, wrote a letter to the PA president outlining their fears and grievances. "We have had no reply," he says, "and our anger and our fear are growing."

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Houses torched as Muslim -Christian tensions flare.
AKI, 6 Sept 2005
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Religion&loid=8.0.204471774&par=0

2) Honour killing feud exposes rift between Palestinian Muslims and
Christians. LARA SUKHTIAN (AP), 7 Sept 2005
http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/050905/w090583.html
http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Security/6505.htm

3) Homes razed in mob fury at couple's 'affair'
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, 5 September 2005
http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1562709,00.html

ALSO
Muslims ransack Christian village
By Khaled Abu Toameh, 6 Sept 2005
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1125831262546

Monday, August 29, 2005

Iran: The Islamic Revolution is complete.

Date: Monday 29 August 2005
Subj: Iran: The Islamic Revolution is complete.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

-----------------------------------------
IRAN: THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IS COMPLETE.
-----------------------------------------

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has flooded the Majlis (parliament) with former Revolutionary Guards while Ayatollah Khamenei has made key changes in security structures and strategies to entrench the Revolutionary Guards' hegemony over all law enforcement agencies. (Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was established by Ayatollah Khomeini in May 1979 as a force, under the direct command of the clerics, to consolidate the Islamic Revolution.) (Link 1)

The following posting shows clearly how Iran has begun to enact a policy of zero-tolerance towards breaches of the ideals of the Islamic revolution. It does not require much imagination to see how much pain and trauma Christians, other non-Muslims and freedom-loving Persians are destined to experience as Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad forcefully advance their Shi'ite vision of a pure Islamic State.

A NEW ERA OF "ISLAMIC GOVERNMENT"

On Wednesday 3 August, former Revolutionary Guard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as the sixth President of the Islamic Republic of Iran by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad pledged to restore an "Islamic government" in Iran, implying, as Iran Focus notes, "...that the previous administrations of Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami had distanced themselves from the policies of the founder of the Islamic state, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini." (Link 2: includes a biography of Ahmadinejad.)

On 14 August, President Ahmadinejad presented his list of cabinet nominees to the Majlis Speaker, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel. According to Iran Focus, only two of the 21 persons nominated by Ahmadinejad for ministerial appointments had previously held ministerial posts, while at least 13 were former commanders of the Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated agencies, and five were former officials in Iran's notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and revolutionary prosecutor's office.

Hardliners gained control of the parliament in 2004, so it was not anticipated that there would be any difficulty having the nominations passed. However, the inexperience and obscurity of some of the nominees (clearly chosen only for their Revolutionary credentials) did cause concern and four were rejected with calls for stronger candidates. The 17 others were passed.

REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS' HEGEMONY:

OVER THE PEOPLE

On Saturday 20 August, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered a key change in the high command of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Brigadier General Mohammad-Ali (Aziz) Jaafari has been appointed to establish "the IRGC centre for strategy" which will "draw up the new strategy and implement the necessary changes to ensure rapid and efficient transformation of the country's civilian infrastructure and resources to military footing under the control of the IRGC". Khameni instructed Jaafari to "identify and propose key individuals and scientists in the Revolutionary Guards for membership in this important centre". Jaafari is to work closely with President Ahmadinejad, with whom he shares a close friendship. (Iran Focus 20 Aug)

OVER THE MILITARY

Iran Focus also reports that Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of the IRGC, has been asked to "devise a new command structure and military strategy for the IRGC that would give the elite military force unlimited access to national resources and absolute priority over the regular army in case of a foreign military confrontation". (Iran Focus 20 Aug)

OVER THE POLICE

On 10 July, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam to the position of police chief. Moghaddam, who was deputy commander the paramilitary Bassij and commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Greater Tehran, is a long-time ally of President Ahmadinejad. Iran Focus reports that in a decree read out on the state radio Ayatollah Khamenei said the police force's top priority was "to create security all over the country at a level worthy of the Islamic Republic".

Iran Focus comments that the appointment of Ahmadi Moghaddam brings the country's police force under the complete domination of the Revolutionary Guards and signals a readiness to crack down harder on what the ultra-conservatives see as "deviation" from the country's rigid religious laws. Farhad Nasseri, an Iranian analyst based in Dubai told Iran Focus, "This is part of an overall trend to extend IRGC hegemony over all military, intelligence and even civilian institutions. Ayatollah Khamenei is taking no chances. He wants his own men in control everywhere." (Link 3)

On Sunday 28 August, Ayatollah Khamenei appointed Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier General Mohammad-Kazem Moazzenian as the new chief of the Intelligence Protection Organisation of the State Security Forces.

POLICE TO ENFORCE "ISLAMIC VALUES"

Under orders from their new police chief, Iran's police have commenced a crackdown on "models of corruption", or in other words poorly-veiled women. (Iran Focus 27 Aug) Jamal Karimi-Rad, Iran's new Minister of Justice vowed on Saturday 20 August, that "improperly-veiled women" will be treated as if they had no Islamic veil at all. "Being improperly veiled and not wearing a veil are no different," declared Jamal Karimi-Rad. "When it is clear from the appearance of a woman that she has violated the law, then the crime is obvious and law enforcement agents can take legal measures against her."

PARAMILITARIES AS LAW ENFORCERS

Iran's State Prosecutor, Ghorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi (a Shiite cleric and former head of the Iran's dreaded secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security), told journalists in Tehran on 25 August, "There are about 18 different law enforcement agencies, and may be even more, in the country." He listed the State Security Forces, certain branches of the Intelligence Ministry, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Bassij militia as amongst Iran's "law enforcement forces". (Iran Focus 25 Aug)

According to Brigadier-General Hossein Zolfaqari: "In circumstances when the police are not present or when they require assistance or when they for whatever reason do not wish to carry out their tasks, uniformed members of the Bassij can in accordance with the law act against apparent crimes."

Iran's new Justice Minister, Karimi-Rad, has also made it clear that members of the para-military Bassij and the notorious Ansar-e Hizbollah, government-organised gangs of hooligans, are regarded as law enforcement agents in clergy-ruled Iran. (Iran Focus 25 Aug)

Since Thursday 18 August, plain-clothes agents of Iran's State Security Forces (SSF) have been conducting stop-and-search operations in Isfahan, central Iran. Iran Focus reports that drivers are stopped and ordered to show their identity cards before their vehicles are thoroughly searched by plain-clothed SSF agents. (Iran Focus 19 Aug)

The State Security Forces have also launched a crackdown against "young people harbouring anti-government sentiments". (Iran Focus 20 Aug) And in a move that will further entrench the isolation of Iranians, police have been ordered, "...to use all means, including helicopters, to locate and confiscate privately-owned satellite dishes, which are illegal in Iran." (Iran Focus 20 Aug)

FOREIGN POLICY

Iran Focus also reports that Mohammad-Reza Jaafari, the commander of Iran's new Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison, which has recruited more than 50,000 potential suicide bombers for "martyrdom operations" recently hinted to the Persian weekly "Parto-Sokhan" that if the US ever attempted to strike Iran' s nuclear installations, then the theocratic state could make use of long-term "sleeper cells" in the West to destroy United States' interests all over the world.

Jaafari also said, "The Imam [Khomeini] said years ago that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth, but so far practical steps have not been taken to achieve this. Our garrison must spot, recruit, organise and train martyrdom-seeking persons to be able to materialise this objective. Any delay in fulfilling the strategy of the Imam and the Supreme Leader in this regard will not be to the advantage of Islam or the revolution." (Link 4)

FROM THE MACRO TO THE MICRO

Lest anyone monitoring the big picture be tempted to forget the flesh and blood human beings within it, here is an Iranian story that could doubtless be told by more than one family. It is a situation that will probably become even more common in the new Iran.

The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia reports that in 2000, Muslim vigilantes kidnapped Miss Layla Zahrooni (then aged 10 yrs) from her school. The Muslims then informed the Zahrooni family that Layla had converted to Islam and could not therefore be returned to an infidel family. (As Mandaeans, the Zahroonis follow the teachings of John the Baptist.) The Muslims placed Layla in an Islamic institution.

In 2004, Layla (aged 15 yrs) succeeded in escaping and finding her way back to her family. But on 4 April 2005, Iranian authorities discovered Layla (16 yrs) in the city of Sosangerd. They seized her from her distraught family and forcibly married her to a Muslim man.


Links

1) Defending The Islamic Revolution -- The Corps Of The Matter
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/08/dfead359-312f-4497-8686-559b29a226a6.html

2) Hardliner takes over as Iran's new president. 3 Aug 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3147

3) Iran puts police under Revolutionary Guards control. 10 Jul 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2796

4) Iran's "suicide operations" chief vows to hit U.S. Interests.
23 Aug 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3429

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sri Lanka:Anti-Christian belligerence rewarded.

Date: Tuesday 16 August 2005
Subj: Sri Lanka:Anti-Christian belligerence rewarded.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


In Sri Lanka, a local Head Quarters Inspector has banned a small Christian fellowship from meeting for worship or prayer on the grounds that aggressive, threatening Buddhist opposition to its presence led to a disturbance of the peace. This unconstitutional, unjust and arbitrary ruling is pure appeasement. Impunity equals permission, and appeasement leads to escalation. Unless it is overturned, this ruling will bolster the confidence of Sri Lanka's Buddhist militants with the hope that unlawful, anti-Christian belligerence will be rewarded rather than prosecuted.

-------------------------

On Saturday 6 August 2005, the pastor of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Horana, Kalutara District, Sri Lanka, was informed that the mob which interrupted worship and harassed believers on Sunday 31 July was planning a repeat attack on Sunday 7 August. On the basis of this information, a request was made for police protection.

On Sunday 7 August, the mob of around 50 persons led by a Buddhist monk arrived at the church and demanded amidst threats that the believers (about 12 in number) cease their meetings, leave the church and not return.

No police protection had arrived, so the pastor once again called the police station, this time to request police intervention. The police called both parties to the police station to resolve the matter.

The Buddhists claimed that the Christians have no right to meet for worship in a village that is 99% Buddhist. Various unsubstantiated accusations were leveled against the Christians, based on the Buddhist Commission Report (which is a report, and not law).

The police accepted that the Christians have a constitutional right to religious freedom, which entitles them to meet and practise their faith. However, the Head Quarters Inspector (HQI) ordered the pastor and his congregation to stop meeting for Christian worship, with immediate effect, on the grounds that their Christian worship has led to a situation where it has caused a disturbance of the peace.

The church has also been instructed not to try and relocate. Hence the members of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Horana have in effect been banned from meeting for worship and prayer.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Iran: Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison - recruiting now.

Date: Friday 29 July 2005
Subj: Iran: Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison - recruiting now.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

---------------------------------------------------
IRAN: LOVERS OF MARTYRDOM GARRISON - RECRUITING NOW
- initiated and sanctioned at the highest levels.

---------------------------------------------------

Iran Focus reports from Tehran, "A military garrison has been opened in Iran to recruit and train volunteers for 'martyrdom-seeking operations', according to the garrison's commander, Mohammad-Reza Jaafari. (Link 1)

"Jaafari, a senior officer in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told a hard-line weekly close to Iran's ultra-conservative President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the new 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' (Gharargahe Asheghane Shahadat, in Persian) would recruit individuals willing to carry out suicide operations against Western targets.

"The full text of the original interview in Persian can be seen on the weekly's website at www.partosokhan.ir/283/page08.pdf ." According to Iran Focus the interview is titled "Commander of Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison: Let America and Israel know, each of our suicide volunteers equals a nuclear bomb".

Jaafari told the weekly Parto-Sokhan, "The Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison has been activated and we will form a Martyrdom-seeking Division for each province in the country, organised in brigades, battalions and companies to defend Islam."

According to Iran Focus, Parto-Sokhan is published in the Shiite holy city of Qom by the Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, whose chairman, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, is regarded as the ideological mentor of President-elect Ahmadinejad.

Jaafari also said the martyrdom force was being implemented on the basis of instructions from the Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Armed Forces.

Iran Focus quotes Jaafari as saying, "In Tehran alone, there will be four martyrdom-seeking divisions", adding that "we are currently in the process of recruitment and organisation and soon volunteers will receive training in accordance to their assigned missions". Jaafari boasted that the 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' had set up branches all over Iran and was presently working to convince youths to enlist.

Jaafari also said that the Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison would "spot martyrdom-seeking individuals in society and then recruit and organise them, so that, God willing, at the right moment when the Commander-in-Chief of the country's armed forces [Ayatollah Khamenei] gives the order, they would be able to enter the scene and carry out their missions".

This statement forces the question, what do "martyrdom-seeking individuals" look or act like? The strategy sounds reminiscent of various Palestinian terror groups, who don't just limit their recruitment to radicalised, militant Islamists who crave the glory of a martyr's death, but also seek out depressed and compromised youths and offer them the opportunity to escape their misery and redeem their honour through martyrdom for Allah. Considering the extent of Iran's social problems, with unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution being rife amongst youth, this would not be too difficult.

Jaafari also said, "The Imam [Khomeini] said years ago that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth, but so far practical steps have not been taken to achieve this. Our garrison must spot, recruit, organise and train martyrdom-seeking persons to be able to materialise this objective."

According to Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Arabiya TV broadcast on 2 July the news that Iran had already recruited some 40,000 volunteers who were ready to martyr themselves for the liberation of Islamic lands. (Link 2)

As part of the recruitment drive, Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison's has a regular advertisment published in Parto Sokhan. The advertisment and application form, with English translation, can be found at Link 3.

AHMADINEJAD - MARTYRDOM IS THE MOST DIVINE "ARTMANSHIP"

On Monday 25 July, President Ahmadinejad met with a group of Iranian cinematographers. (Using the relative freedom they had under former President Khatami, Iran's cinematographers gained a reputation for cinematic brilliance and have been praised by critics worldwide.)

Ahmadinejad reminded the artists that "the Islamic Revolution is by nature a cultural revolution". Ahmadinejad said that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable from one another, praising the Islamic Republic of Iran for its rich cultural background.

Ahmadinejad's assertion that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable is of course totally false. Iran's rich cultural heritage does not result from Islam, but from the incredible intellectual and artistic richness of Persian culture. Persian culture and civilisation brought richness to Islam. Islam needs Persians far more than Persians need Islam. Iranian culture was far richer before the Islamic Revolution, which was indeed a cultural revolution, with tragic consequences for thinkers and artists.

It is most interesting however, that in concluding his message to the cinematographers, President Ahmadinejad turned his focus to what he referred to as Iran's "Culture of Sacred Defense". The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quotes Ahmadinejad as saying that this "Culture of Sacred Defense" is not the culture of war, but the culture of "living more appropriately and dying the best possible death". IRNA reports, "He [Ahmadinejad] said that martyrdom is the 'most gracious, most divine and longest lasting kind of artmanship'." (Link 4)


Links

1) Iran opens garrison to recruit suicide bombers against West
Iran Focus, Fri. 22 July 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2944

2) Special Dispatch No. 929 - Iran/Jihad & Terrorism
Al-Arabiya TV Report: Iranian Volunteer Suicide Bomber Organization of 40,000 "Time Bombs" Recruited to Target Americans in Iraq and Israel. 6 July 2005
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD92905

3) Iran weekly advertises "application form" for suicide operations
Iran Focus, Sat. 23 July 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2949

4) President elect meets a group of country's cinematographers
Islamic Republic News Agency, Tehran, 26 July 2005
http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/menu-235/0507260075032204.htm

ALSO
JUST RELEASED – MEMRI
Special Dispatch No. 945 - Iran/Jihad & Terrorism Project
Iran's New President Glorifies Martyrdom. 29 July 2005
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD94505

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pakistan: Hasba Act - a tool for incitement.

Date: Tuesday 26 July 2005
Subj: Pakistan: Hasba Act - a tool for incitement.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

--------------------------------------------
PAKISTAN: HASBA ACT – A TOOL FOR INCITEMENT
--------------------------------------------

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six hard-line, pro-Sharia, pro-Taliban Islamic parties, rules Pakistan's western provinces (Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP)) with an absolute majority. It also holds the balance of power in Pakistan's federal parliament.

On 14 July, the MMA passed the North-West Frontier Province Hasba Act 2005, in the NWFP Assembly, 68 votes to 43. If enacted, this draconian Act would complete the "Talibanisation" of NWFP.

The bill is pending with the NWFP governor, who has until 17 August to approve the Act or return it to the NWFP Assembly. President Musharraf however, immediately invoked the Supreme Court's advisory jurisdiction and directed the attorney-general of Pakistan to file a reference against the Hasba Act under Article 186 of the 1973 Constitution.

The NWFP Governor Khalilur Rehman has promised to take "every constitutional step to prevent the province being 'Talibanised' by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government."

The Act went before the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Monday 25 July, but the court adjourned the hearing after the NWFP government requested more time to mount a defence. The reference against the Act will now be heard on 1 August 2005.

NWFP Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam, has charged that the constitutional right of democratically elected provincial assemblies to legislate will also be on trial. The Constitution does, however, clearly state that Provincial Assemblies may legislate "Subject to the Constitution" and "subject to, and limited by, the executive authority expressly conferred by the Constitution or by law made by [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] upon the Federal Government or authorities thereof." (Articles 137 and 142.) So the constitutionality of the Hasba Act is the issue.

While the MMA has vowed to defend the Hasba Act in the Supreme Court, it has also promised to respect the Court's decision. The fact is, while the MMA is determined to "Talibanise" NWFP, it is also playing a political game. Whether they win or lose in the Supreme Court, the MMA will use the Hasba Act to gain political mileage before the August/September provincial elections.

---------------------------
NWFP HASBA ACT
---------------------------

The full text of the North-West Frontier Province Hasba Act 2005 can be found at .

The Hasba Act opens by establishing that the "implementation of Islamic way of life revolves around Amer-Bil-Maroof and Nahi-Anil-Munkir [forbidding that what is not proper and practicing that what is good] and to achieve this objective it is necessary, apart from other steps, to establish an institution of accountability, which could keep a watch on securing legitimate rights of various classes of the society, including females, minorities and children and to protect them from emerging evils and injustices in the society..."

Kanchan Lakshman, a Research Fellow with the Institute for Conflict Management explains, "The Hisba (Accountability) Act, which will come into force only after the Governor signs it, will establish a new department to 'discourage vice and encourage virtue,' and will set up a new office akin to that of an ombudsman which is to be headed by a cleric called Mohtasib (one who holds others accountable) whose main function would be to 'protect/watch the Islamic values and etiquettes at the provincial level'." (Link 1)

Lakshman comments, "While it is clear that the Act sets out to legitimize the MMA's agenda of radical Islam, what has astounded the critics is the extent of powers that may accrue to the Mohtasib, something that prompted the poet Kishwar Naheed to say, 'This is more than the Taliban.'"

Lakshman continues: "A Mohtasib is to be provided with the 'requisite police force' called Hisba Police for enforcement. The Hisba Act, akin to the Taliban's moral policing, is also an attempt to form a parallel judicial system. Ironically, the Hisba force, in acting as the Inquisition-like 'chief prosecutor', is itself not accountable to anyone, since 'no court or authority shall be competent to question the legal status of the proceedings before a Mohtasib.'

"According to the Act, 'No court or authority shall have the power to pass any injunction or any interim or a stay order with regard to any matter under consideration of the Mohtasib' and only the Chief Minister can hear an appeal against his recommendations. The Mohtasib's office, which would only duplicate administration, is estimated to cost Pakistan Rupees (PKR) 10 billion annually, while the total provincial development fund is PKR 40 billion.

"The MMA intends, through this institution, to influence in its favor the local level elections scheduled for August-September 2005. The alliance has moreover, time and again, declared that it would stop at nothing to bring 'real Islam' to the Province."

Daily Times (26 July) reports, "Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar criticised the Act for lacking a right to appeal, pointing out that a political appointee [Mohtasib] would be given an unchallengeable right to interfere in people's lives.

"Khurshid Nadeem, head of the Organisation for Research and Education, said it was a common mistake in Pakistan to assume that the laws could effect the necessary Islamisation. He contended that the concepts of 'Amr Bil Maroof' and 'Nahi Anil Munkir' were not religious duties and questioned the purview of the Hasba Act, saying that it empowered the ombudsman [Mohtasib] to do anything in the name of Islam." (Link 2)

You will note in the full text of the Hasba Act that the Mohtasib will "monitor adherence of Islamic values" and "discourage un-Islamic customs". Presumably when the Hasba Act states that the Mohtasib shall "protect the rights of minorities, particularly to regard the sanctity of their religious places and sites where they perform their religious ceremonies", it means that Mohtasib is to preserve the "rights" of religious minorities according to Islam, that is, as dhimmis: submissive, second class citizens. This is quite different from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights definition of religious liberty.

The Act also states that those who do not cooperate with the Mohtasib or his staff during investigations may be charged with interfering with the smooth functioning of government.

SHREWD POLITICAL STRATEGY

Pakistani commentator Irfan Husain, in a piece entitled "In the name of faith", (Kjaleej Times (UAE) 21 July 2005), highlights the problem facing the MMA. "I recently met an old friend who has served as a senior police officer in the NWFP for many years. According to him, the rule of the mullahs has been a huge disaster for the province. No development activities are going on, corruption is rampant, and ordinary people are miserable. ... whatever their expertise in theology, [the mullahs] are hardly trained in economics and administration."

The fact is the MMA's popularity is in decline and the provincial elections are fast approaching. (The first phase of Local Bodies polls will be held on 18 August.)

If the Supreme Court declares the Hasba Act constitutional and the governor signs it into law, the MMA will have won a great victory that will provide legal precedence and leverage to demand the total Islamisation and Talibanisation of all Pakistan.

However, if the Supreme Court cuts down the Act by declaring it unconstitutional, the MMA's victory will be just a great as they will become martyrs for Islam. The MMA would use a defeat in the Supreme Court to demonise the federal government and Pakistan's judicial system as anti-Islamic while whipping-up anger and stoking Islamic zeal. The MMA would use the heightened Islamic zeal to restore their popularity and fame as Pakistan's defenders of Islam, increase their majority at the provincial elections, and then boast a "democratic" mandate for complete Islamisation and Talibanisation of NWFP. It truly is a win-win situation for the MMA – a masterful stroke of political genius – at least in the short term.

IMPORTANT DEBATE

The debate in the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Hasba Act will be interesting and important.

The Constitution of Pakistan states in its Preamble, "Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures..."

Also: Part II, "Fundamental Rights" Chapter 1, 20a) states, "every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion."

These statements should give us confidence that Supreme Court will quickly declare the Hasba Act to be unconstitutional.

Hamid Khan, Chairman Executive Committee Pakistan Bar Council said that the Hasba Bill is unconstitutional and is repugnant to the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and the institution of Mohtasib and the sweeping powers given to him would undermine the freedom of religion protected under constitution. He further opined that the citizens of NWFP, particularly the minorities, would feel themselves as second class citizen and would remain under constant threat of insecurity. (Link 3)

However, the Constitution of Pakistan also contains the standard Islamic loophole: Part IX "Islamic Provisions", 227 (1) "All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this Part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions."

While the Supreme Court will be told that the Hasba Act contravenes constitutional guarantees, in particular the fundamental right to religious freedom, the MMA will doubtless argue that it is the Hasba Act, rather than the Constitution, that is in conformity with Islamic injunctions.

Pakistani Commentator Irfan Husain comments on the problem this presents: "Modernists maintain that the interpretation of Islam being upheld and enforced by the religious parties is far too literal and removed from the modern world. Here, they are on slippery ground because mullahs can quote chapter and verse to prove that the words of God as expressed in the Holy Book are immutable and timeless." ("In the name of faith", Khaleej Times, 21 July 2005)

HASBA ACT: A TOOL FOR INCITEMENT

Without a doubt, the MMA is using the Hasba Act to gain political mileage, to complete the "Talibanisation" of NWFP, and to widen the divide between the federal government and NWFP.

But most seriously, the MMA is using the Hasba Act to destabilise society by widening the divide between (in Musharraf's words) "orthodox Islamic thought... and those that are enlightened and educated". (Link 4)

Coming, as the Hasba Act now does, on top of a nation-wide government crack-down on pro-jihad imams, madrassas and militants, the MMA is likely to have little difficulty convincing many of Pakistan's pious poor, as well as many trained militants, that the Pakistani government is apostate and an enemy of Islam.

After Friday prayers on 22 July, the MMA led a nation-wide Protest Day to protest the government crack-down on extremism and militancy, and "to condemn the global conspiracy against Islam". Protest rallies were staged in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.

Interestingly, the protest rallies were not at all well attended. Islamabad saw the biggest and most violent rally, with some 700 Islamists, mostly youths (madrassa students), chanting anti-Musharraf and pro-bin Laden slogans. It is estimated that a sum of only 2,000 Islamists nationwide turned out to protest, indicating that most Pakistanis are not as beholden to the MMA and not as displeased with the crackdown on Islamic militancy and sectarian hate as the MMA believe.

The prayer of the Christian Church must surely be that the MMA strategy will backfire, resulting in widespread disgust and a rejection of divisive, repressive, barbaric Islamic mediaevalism, in preference to national unity, progress, development and complete religious liberty.


- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) London Bombings and Pakistani Connection: An Indian View
By Kanchan Lakshman. South Asian Tribune. 20 July 2005.
http://www.satribune.com/archives/200507/P1_kl.htm

2) Hasba Bill contrary to Islam and Constitution
Daily Times, Staff Report, ISLAMABAD. 26 July 2005
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_26-7-2005_pg7_31

3) SC has jurisdiction to nullify any law
http://www.pakistanlink.com/Headlines/July05/18/11.htm

4) Musharraf looks two ways in extremist fight
By Aamer Ahmed Khan, BBC News, Karachi, 21 July 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/4705379.stm