Sunday, July 31, 2011

"A President Who Kills His People is a Traitor": From Syria's Arab Spring to Its Ramadan Massacre

Anti-government protesters carry a giant Syrian flag in the city of Hama on July 29. [Photo: Reuters]

This post has been in draft form since April 30. At that time I noted there had been 700 dead and 10, 000 imprisoned by Syria's Al-Assad government. The numbers now are considerably higher and rising--even before Friday's massacre of 60+ at Hama when government tanks descended on the protesters.

Hama is further proof that when it comes to the Presidents Al-Assad, Hafez and Bashar, the saying, "Like father, like son", is sadly true:
Significance of Hama

Hama - a bastion of dissidence - occupies a significant place in the history of modern Syria. In 1982, then-President Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar, sent in troops to quell an uprising by the Sunni opposition Muslim Brotherhood. Tens of thousands were killed and the town flattened.

Hama, with a population 800,000, has seen some of the biggest protests and worst violence in Syria's 2011 uprising. It was slow to join in, but has now become one of the main focuses of the revolt, and is largely out of government control.

Like many other Arab Springs, the one in Syria was marked by simultaneous promises of reform and repression. The repression in Syria is ongoing and particularly brutal--as hard as it is to gradate brutality. Syria, like Yemen, seems to be underreported in the media. In reference to the Friday July 29 killings in Hama, the CBC's television headline was "Syrian Protests in Hama Turn Violent"--as if there were no agent of the violence, or by implication that the protesters themselves turned violent. Inept titling--to put it mildly--although, the report was actually better.

The Hama Massacre seems to be a simultaneous attempt to gain control over protesters before Ramadan starts, and to warn against increased protests during Ramadan. Friday communal prayers are seen as a time for organization of the protesters, and during Ramadan there are nightly communal prayers, seen as more of a threat. It is hard not to feel the irony even while typing that sentence.

The reason this post began in draft form on April 30 was that I had seen a protest organizing in a usual place for protests in my city, noted that the women were wearing hijab, and that a number of protesters were carrying a flag. I recognized it right away as the flag of a MENA country but couldn't immediately place which one. I looked for other clues, and saw a sign written in English, "A President Who Kills His People is a Traitor". I was immediately struck by the simple yet powerful truth of this statement. However, I was left racking my brain for which countries' presidents were then killing their people. Egypt-no; Yemen-yes killing,?president; rule out monarchies--or wait some of those have "presidents" too;...

Finally, I decided it must be Syria, and so I said tentatively to the people standing together, "Syria?". "Yes" a couple of them replied solemnly with no further engagement. So I said, "Good luck with your protest", and went about my errands.

A few weeks later I was in the same area, saw a cultural festival going on, then a number of police lined up--with their backs to the festival. I looked, as they were, across the street, and this time immediately recognized the prostesters as Syrian. This was partly because of my new found flag knowledge, but mostly because they were better organized, had better signs in English and Arabic, and there was the unmistakeble picture and lamentation for Hamza Al-Khatib, the 13 year old boy tortured, mutilated, and killed, by the Syrian regime, whose body was released as a lesson to others.

This time the protesters were engaging passersby who were interested, including myself. They had information printed if one asked for it, and since I did, the woman I spoke to asked me if I had heard of "our Hamza". I said I had, but asked for her information on him. We both had tears in our eyes. She said, "We are all, our whole country, broken hearted for our Hamza".

Every time I have wanted to complete and post my draft on Syria, there has been something new and even more horrible. This is not the first violence in Hama or elsewhere in Syria, but it is the newest most shocking one--until the next, because so far Al-Assad seems to operate with relative international impunity, if not encouragement.

See Also:
Good Friday Sadness Regular commentator Susanne's excellent post on her blog This and That on "The Great Friday" massacre of 90 people; incudes a graphic video.
Hamza Al-Khatib, Syria Boy, Brutally Killed In Custody (GRAPHIC VIDEO)--Huffington Post
The Torture of My Father by the Syrian Regime Syrian blogger Maysaloon, of Maysaloon ميسلون on why she doesn't believe Syrian propaganda, or trust an Al-Assad, father or son--restrained and very moving.
In Scarred Syria City, a Vision of a Life Free From Dictators-Anthony Shadid reporting for the NYT from inside Hama on July 19, 2011; includes slide show; thanks to Mustapha of Beirut Spring who has blogged regularly on events in Syria and whose post brought this article to my attention
Syrian Revolution : Hama Massacre 2011 edition “Extremely Graphic” by Zeinobia of Egyptian Chronicles.

Resources on the Syrian Uprising and Reprisals:
#Ramadan Massacre--Twitter hashtag to give information about and help raise international awareness of the Hama Massacre on Friday July 29.
Syria Live Blog--Al Jazeera
Syria Crisis--BBC; includes Inside Syria: Protest footage mapped, an interactive map of underground protest videos from specific locations in Syria; Syrian refugees tell of rape, murder and destruction, extensive stories from refugees; Syrian unrest: Hama army raid 'kills dozens'
Shaam News Network -- a news service by Syrian youth activists in English and in Arabic; with links to their Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube sites (in each language), and their contact information.(Thanks to Susanne)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?
Please share additional resources on the "Syrian Spring" you have found helpful.

Although the arrest of the teenagers in the southern city of Deraa first prompted people to take to the streets, unrest has since spread to other areas, including Hama, Homs, Latakia, Jisr al-Shughour and Baniyas. Demonstrators are demanding greater freedom, an end to corruption, and, increasingly, the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad. From the BBC's slideshow backgrounder in its  Guide: Syria Crisis.

!رمضان كريم Ramadan Karim! Happy Ramadan!

!رمضان كريم Ramadan Karim!

Happy Ramadan to All!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ramadan 2011--Most Likely to Start August 1 by Moon Sighting; Set for August 1 by Some

As most readers know, there is some uncertainty each year about the start of Ramadan, because the Muslim religious calendar, the Hijri Calendar, is a lunar one, and the first day of the month of Ramadan depends on the evening sighting of the sliver-shaped crescent of the new moon of the 9th lunar month. Fasting begins in the daylight hours of the same day of the Hijri Calendar, or the next day in the Gregorian Calendar.

Some Muslim scholars and societies hold that all should follow the timings set in Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom of the Two Holy Mosques, and of Makkah and Madinah where Islam began. Others, particularly MENA Muslim majority countries, follow the moon sightings in their own location.  Shia and Sunni communities may follow different calculations or follow the lead of different countries where their faith group predominates. Watching for and sighting the moon in itself can be a time of festivity and celebration, and is the time of the first niyyat (making intention) to fast.

Other Muslims and Muslim societies, especially those in non-majority countries, fix the date based on astronomical calculations for the lunar calendar in their locations. The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Caucasus Muslims Office (CMO), European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), and International Fiqh Council (IFC) have all set August 1 as the first day of fasting, based on the astronomically predicted sighting of the new moon in the evening/night of July 31.

The article below, from Arab News, on predicted dates in Gulf Countries, suggests that these calculations are reasonably accurate for most countries, with August 1 the most likely first day of fasting in the Gulf, according to the Gregorian Calendar.

Moon-sighting unlikely today
Published: Jul 29, 2011 23:07 Updated: Jul 29, 2011 23:07

JEDDAH: Observatories in a number of Islamic countries were unanimous in their claims that the crescent indicating the beginning of Ramadan will not be sighted on Saturday night, meaning the first day of Ramadan will most likely be Monday.

This time of year all Muslims everywhere will be busy looking at the skies to the crescent which signals the beginning of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Deputy chairman of the astronomical society in Saudi Arabia Sharaf Al-Sufyani said the society would organize a moon-sighting function under the Supreme Court, which asked all residents to look for the crescent Saturday evening. The court is the specialized organ that will decide when fasting should start.

He said the sighting will be done in Al-Hada, Taif, and he welcomed all those who have telescopes or binoculars to attend.

Al-Sufyani said it would be extremely difficult to sight the moon on Saturday evening.

The Bahrain Astronomical Society expressed the same view. It said in a statement that moon-watchers would not be able to see the crescent. The society said the crescent would clearly be seen on Sunday evening and therefore Ramadan would start on Monday when it would stay for about half an hour after sunset.

The European Council for Ifta and Research in Dublin said Monday would be the first day of Ramadan. It said the crescent would be clearly sighted Sunday evening in large areas in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and North America.

The Calendar Home in Qatar expressed the same view.


Every Ramadan is a time for focus on faith, prayer, charity, and fasting as a purification of one's spirit, mind, and body. This Ramadan falls at a time of year when the days are long, and the temperatures hot, making the physical challenges, and health risks greater. This year there are extra warnings about rest during the hottest hours of the day, as well as the usual shortened day in Muslim majority countries. Those living in non-Muslim countries are encouraged to set their daily schedule to be able to do the most demanding tasks (physically or mentally) in the morning when they have the most energy, and to take a nap in the afternoon if possible.

Related Posts:
Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family
Ramadan: A Special Month
Ramadan 2010---As the Month Comes to a Close

See Also:
Ramadan FAQ
Ramadan etiquette: A guide to your Muslim neighbor’s holy month
Ramadan guide for expatriates

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

30 Mosques 30 States in 30 Days 2011--On the Road Again!

This year Ramadan will begin on approximately August 1 by the Gregorian Calendar, and of course 1 Ramadan by the Hijri calendar, of which Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month.

Last year, among the posts during the month of Ramadan specifically on the topic of the holy month, I included extensive excerpts from the road trip of 2 American Muslims, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, as they journeyed throughout the USA praying and celebrating in a different mosque in a different state for each of the 30 days of Ramadan. They fasted though travelling, when fasting is not obligatory, but out of personal choice, and to best be in harmony with those with whom they prayed Taraweeh Prayer (the special prayers of Ramadan in addition to the 5 daily prayers) and ate suhoor (breaking the fast) and iftar (dinner).

Amin and Tariq are an engaging pair with excellent writing and photography skills, so that accompanying them vicariously on this journey is a great pleasure. Furthermore, it is a welcome incite into the history and diversity of American Muslims--whether in the USA for generations, or recent arrivals. This is a more realistic portrait of Muslims in America than what I call "CNN Muslims", or better "Media Muslims", who are about as representative of the whole community as those who consistently make the headlines/news anywhere.

Along with an appreciation of the mosques and their communities, one gains an appreciation of the beauty of the American landscape in all its geographical variance, and of current issues for American Muslims in their broader American communities.

Fortunately, Amin and Tariq are back on the road this Ramadan. Below are excerpts from their 2 introductory posts on this year's trip. Further posts following along with them will appear here throughout the month of Ramadan, among the other upcoming Ramadan specific posts.

Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq

We’re Back!!!


We’ve only scratched the surface with all the compelling narratives about Muslims living in this country. Nobody could anticipate all the discoveries we made last year. Now that we’re blessed to have you all as friends, just imagine what we can find this year.

Our journey explored what it means to be Muslim in America today and served as a powerful counter-narrative to the media’s image of a monolithic Islam. This year marks 10-years since 9/11 and unfortunately Muslims are still being tokenized and marginalized for what role they play in this country. It’s reasons like this among a myriad of others as to why this project is one of the only true and authentic portrayals of Muslims in this country.

One of the most beautiful parts of last years project was how you all played a critical role to this project’s success. You suggested places and people for us to meet that we would have never have thought of and you financed the entire thing. We didn’t take a single dime from grants or corporate sponsors.

I’ll be blunt, this project won’t happen this year without your guys support again this year. We want to hear your suggestions of places to visit (email us at and any contribution you can give to the project will help make it a reality.


Aman sampling Chicago airport cuisine

Alaska, here we come!

Hey guys, first off, special thanks to every single one of you that has supported this project. Because of all your support, we not only reached our fundraising goal of $10k, we shattered it by raising well over $12.5k!

Ramadan begins Aug. 1 and our first stop on the trip is Alaska. Yes, there are actually Muslims living in Alaska, over 3,000 in Anchorage alone. We arrived here today because we wanted to hang out for a few days and explore this incredible community. Stay tuned because Monday is going to be a really fun post to kick off the road trip.

In the meantime, bear with us for the next few days as we prepare the site for this year’s trip (new design and all sorts of fun new tech goodies). Many of you guys have been asking where we’ll be heading this year. Below is our tentative route. If you know of any cool places for us to check out that aren’t on this route, email us,

8/1/2011 Anchorage, AK
8/2/2011 Seattle, WA
8/3/2011 Portland, OR
8/4/2011 San Francisco, CA
8/5/2011 Honolulu, HI
8/6/2011 Las Vegas, NV
8/7/2011 Laramie, WY
8/8/2011 Bozeman, MT
8/9/2011 Ross, ND
8/10/2011 Brookings, SD
8/11/2011 Omaha, NE
8/12/2011 St. Louis, MO
8/13/2011 Little Rock, AR
8/14/2011 Houston, TX
8/15/2011 New Medinah, Mississippi
8/16/2011 Mobile, AL
8/17/2011 Gainesville, FL
8/18/2011 Orangeburg, SC
8/19/2011 Murfreesboro, TN
8/20/2011 Plainfield, IN
8/21/2011 Wheeling, WV
8/22/2011 Richmond, VA
8/23/2011 Baltimore, MD
8/24/2011 Dover, DE
8/25/2011 Paterson, NJ
8/26/2011 Hartford, CT
8/27/2011 Providence, RI
8/28/2011 Concord, NH
8/29/2011 Colchester, VT
8/30/2011 New York, NY


Check out their adventures last year, either in the extensive selections on this blog, "Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast" Part I, Part II, Part III, or in full at their 30 Mosques 30 States website or Facebook site.

Related Posts:
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part I
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims Coast to Coast Part II
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims Coast to Coast Part III

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage-->Iqama-->Birth Certificate: Saudi Anonymous (Aziz) and his non-Saudi Wife have a Daughter! And More Paperwork!!

When last we met Aziz, who had commented and posted on this blog and others as Saudi Anonymous, he had successfully negotiated the Saudi bureaucracy for marrying his non-Saudi wife, a Saudi resident along with her family, and had recently married. Since then Aziz and his wife have been blessed with a beautiful daughter.

However, Aziz got a surprise when he went to register his daughter’s birth with Saudi authorities, and wanted to share his experience and the solution here to facilitate the process for others.
Here in his own words is Aziz’ story.

As I have said before, when dealing with the benevolent agencies of our esteemed Ministry of the Interior one must learn to be extremely patient.

I knew that taking care of things this time would take at least two weeks, and set out to obtain half of my previously unclaimed vacation to free up some time to dwell in both the Civil Affairs Office in Al-Khobar, and then the Passport Office in Dammam.

What brought this on was my desire to have a preliminary birth certificate issued for my daughter. I say preliminary because that’s what it is--you can only have the original permanent certificate once the child is one year old, and has received all required vaccinations (at 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months). At that point, you must return with the vaccination documents and the preliminary birth certificate, in order to get the final, original birth certificate.

This sounds easy enough, as I'm sure all would attest, but here is where it all changes—and I'm not innocent in this case either.

As my wife is not a Saudi citizen, I needed to prepare different documents to be presented to the employee processing the documents for our daughter’s preliminary birth certificate.

For declaring a child born to a Saudi/non-Saudi couple, one must have the following:

1. Original & copy of Saudi father’s Civil ID card
2. Notification of Birth from the hospital
3. Form regarding Births—completed
4. Original & copy of mother’s Passport
5. Original & copy of mother’s Iqama
6. Original & copy of Marriage Document
7. Appointment Confirmation document

That last document is a new one, as the Ministry of the Interior, in order to facilitate and expedite civil procedures for citizens, has created an online page specifically catering to civil affairs. There you can book an appointment, but you must remember to print out the confirmation of the appointment made online, otherwise you will not be served when you appear in person.

My issue was with Item #5. When I handed the employee my papers, he asked me for my Family Card (the one to which your wife and children are added). I replied that, as she is not a Saudi citizen, my wife cannot be added. He then asked if she was under my sponsorship. I said that she was not; she was sponsored by her father. He said that until she came under my sponsorship, my daughter could not be issued a preliminary birth certificate.

So I set out to the Passport Office in Dammam.

True, we had married almost 2 years ago, but I was never informed (and neglected to ask—hence my contribution to the problem) that I should have gone straight to the Passport Office and changed my wife’s sponsorship from her father’s to mine.

It turns out that doing so is a different story altogether. After being given conflicting information by a multitude of olive-color-uniformed men about the different prerequisites, I was able to understand all the requirements.

To officially sponsor his non-Saudi wife a Saudi man would need:

1. Her mahrem’s (usually father’s) written consent to withdraw his sponsorship
2. Form regarding Iqamas/Sponsorship change—completed
3. Original & copy of the Saudi husband’s Civil Affairs ID
4. Original & copy of the non-Saudi wife’s Passport
5. Original & copy of the non-Saudi wife’s Iqama
6. Original & copy of the Marriage Document
7. Approval & Signature of Officer in charge of Muqeemeen (Local non-Saudi residents)
8. Payment of a one-time sponsorship charge (currently SR 2000)

While the one-time sponsorship charge is a daunting figure, as I'm sure all would agree, it’s a small price for me to pay so that my wife is able to have her affairs in order. It took me the entire first week (Saturday-Wednesday) of my 2 week “vacation” to get through this gruelling journey.

I then made an appointment for Sunday June 19th, to return to the Civil Affairs Office and request that our daughter be issued a preliminary birth certificate. 10 minutes later, my name was called and I received the document.

It was well worth the wait, as now my daughter’s existence is recognized by my government, and I can rest happy that she will not be denied her birthright. Also, now I can have her passport issued.

Another added benefit is that I was finally able to open a bank account for my wife, as this had been another obstacle for her in the past.

All in all, a very productive “vacation” that has borne fruit.

Although it worked out for me, as I had planned to take a two week vacation to pursue these issues and it all panned out, I advise against waiting to expedite the sponsorship of a non-Saudi spouse. It'll almost be two years since our marriage in late October, and this is something the Ministry employees took pleasure in reminding me all the time. I could afford to engage them in a tête-à-tête as I had some free time, lol.

However, I was lucky in that I genuinely wasn't aware of the need to transfer the non-Saudi wife’s sponsorship on marriage, and had time to rectify the issue. A Saudi who knowingly tries to delay the transfer of his non-Saudi wife’s sponsorship and Iqama from her father to himself might not be as fortunate.

I hope all you good people out there who are married to a non-Saudi spouse find this post most useful.

I would like to thank Aziz for once again so generously sharing his experience and knowledge with Chez Chiara readers.

Most happily, I would like to sincerely congratulate Aziz and his wife on the birth of their beautiful daughter, who has brought great joy to all the family!

Related Posts:
The Marriage Permission Process: "Is either of you a non-Saudi?"
The Marriage Permission Process—Saudi Anonymous/non-Saudi: Update
The Marriage Permission Process for a Saudi/non-Saudi Couple: New in 2010!
The Marriage Permission Process for a Saudi/non-Saudi Couple: Facilitation for GCC Nationals Upcoming

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Congratulations to Abu, Umm, and Bint!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Santiago de Compostela y Santiago Matamoros: The Apostle St James (the Greater)--Patron Saint of Spain, and Moorslayer

I had originally planned to do this post last year, as part of a number of posts related to Saints on their Saint's Day, with a focus on those who have had an impact particularly in the Arab world. July 25, the feast day of St James the Greater in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and other Protestant religious calendars, passed well before I could complete my draft.

Anders Behring Breivik's ~1500 page manifesto (AFP/Getty)

In a way, it is more fitting to do the post on this "Crusader saint" this year, in light of Norway bomber and shooter Anders Breivik's identification of his actions as part of a crusade to rid Norway of Norwegians deemed sympathetic to immigration and Muslims by their affiliation with the centre-left Labour Party, a Knight Templar fighting to rid Europe of Muslims. As negative as the Medieval Crusades were in many aspects, this perversion of their narrative is worse.

St James the Greater, Rembrandt

St James the Greater was one of the first of Jesus' disciples, and one of 2 Apostles named James (the other being called James the Lesser to distinguish the 2, and also a saint). James the Greater is also called James, son of Zebedee (and Salome), as another way of identifying and distinguishing him. Both he and his brother John were at the seashore with their father when Jesus called them to Him, and both became his disciples. Along with the Apostles Peter and John, James was one of the 3 Apostles to whom Jesus appeared after his Transfiguration, having risen from the tomb, in order that they might bear witness to His divinity.

After Jesus' death, St James continued to spread the teachings of Jesus, the Gospel in the Roman Province of Judea. He was imprisoned in city of Jerusalem and then beheaded by the Roman King Herod Agrippa 1 in 44 CE. He is considered the first Apostle martyred for the Church, and is the only one whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament (in the Book of Acts).

The above aspects of  St James life are considered historically factual, based on the congruence about them in the 3 Synoptic Gospels (the Books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and the Book of Acts in the New Testament of the Bible. The other aspects of his life are considered legend, as there is much belief but no textual or material evidence.

St James wearing his symbol, the sea scallop, Carlo Crivelli 

The first of the legends is that St James' ministry took him to the Iberian Peninsula and the Roman Province of Hispania. The second, closely related one, is that the Virgin Mary appeared to St James in 40 CE while he was preaching in Zaragosa (then Caesaraugusta) on the bank of the Ebro River. As she appeared to him on a pillar, she was venerated there as Our Lady of the Pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and the pillar kept as a relic in the Basilica dedicated to her in Zaragosa. After this apparition, St James returned to Judea, and met his end.

The third legend is that after his death, St James' own disciples carried his remains back to Iberia, arriving by sea on the coast of Galicia in the northwest corner of the peninsula. They brought his remains inland for burial at a site now know as Santiago de Compostela, which became a destination of Christian pilgrimage beginning as early as the 9th Century, after the rediscovery of the relics. It remains the most popular Christian pilgrimage, with routes stretching across France then the north of Spain, and up from the south of Spain.

Pilgrims follow tributary routes marked with the scallop symbol of St James.

The fourth legend is that there was a battle between Christians and Moors in 844 CE near Clavijo, in northeastern Spain. St James supposedly appeared on the side of the Christians under Ramiro I of Asturias and helped them triumph over the Muslims under Abd ar-Rahman II of Córdoba, hence his name Matamoros or Moorslayer.

Santiago Matamoros ("Saint James the Moor-slayer")

The legend was written down in the 12th century, by which time the Medieval Crusades led by different Popes against Muslims in the Holy Land were well underway. The Battle of Clavijo would have been part of the Reconquista, or Reconquest of Spain by the Christians, which took 7 centuries from the time the Moors first began their conquest of Spain in 711 until their expulsion in 1492 by the Catholic Rulers, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The Reconquista is considered a precurser and an ancillary part of the Medieval Crusades proper, where Popes and Kings together led wars against Muslims in the the Holy Land itself.

I used the term "Crusader saint" in quotes above as, unlike some other saints, who were an active part of the Medieval Crusades to take back the Christian Holy Land from the Muslims, St James the Greater was more of an inspiration than a participant. The legends of his ministry, the apparition to him of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Pillar, his burial at Compostela, and his participation in the Battle of Clavijo made him both the Patron Saint and military leader of Spain. Spanish armies adopted the battle cry "Santiago y cierra España"--"St James and strike for Spain". The Crusader soldier, Algerian captive, and then great writer Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra wrote:

“St James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had ... has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection.”—Cervantes, Don Quixote

The military religious Order of Santiago was formed in the 12th century in Spain to fight against the Moors and exists to this day, though in much diminished numbers. Only members of the nobility are admitted and the Order serves under the Spanish Crown. Notably, for those who cling to the idea that Jerusalem and the Holy Land still belong to the Christian Crusaders and have been occupied since, the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, is also the current King (or one of the claimants) of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291).

The Quran speaks of disciples of the Prophet Messenger Isa or Jesus, as "helpers",  but does not name any. Some Muslim commentators name Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon.

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

The red cross of St James (a cross fleury fitchy, with the lower part fashioned as the blade of a sword), worn as a symbol on the clothing of the Knights of the Order of Santiago, and part of the crests of Zaragoza and of Gallicia.

Saudi Arabia's Draft Anti-Terrorism Law Revisited in Response to Arab Spring and Recent Events in KSA

Photo in AlRiyadh, accompanying the article, Majlis Al-Shura Emphasizes Importance of Preservation of Security in Saudi Arabia, which reproduces the following from the official Saudi Press Agency. Riyadh - SPA:
Majlis Al-Shura stressed today the importance of preserving the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and not paying any attention to misleading calls for the organization of demonstrations, sit-ins and marches, which are incompatible with the principles of the Islamic law through which the Saudi leadership and people have been governed in all their affairs.
The Majlis endorsed the position of Senior Scholars Council in the Kingdom, which stressed that the Islamic law prohibits demonstrations in this country, warned against deviant intellectual and partisan links, and called for advice and understanding.
The Speaker of Majlis Al-Shura Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh emphasized the necessity that every citizen should preserve the security and stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and adhere to the Saudi unique approach of the open-door policy and writing directly to the leadership or any official to achieve a demand or eliminate a grievance.
He noted that the statement of Senior Scholars Council stressed that the Kingdom has been based on the Holy Quran, Prophetic Sunnah, allegiance-pledge, commitment to the unity of people, obedience and advice.

In June 2011, Saudi Arabia revived discussion of passing an anti-terrorism law drafted 5 years ago. This has caused considerable concern among human rights groups nationally and internationally, and for those Saudis involved in activism including via social media and online. While the law targets terrorism and terrorists within the country, its reach is broad and the punishments harsh for words or activities considered to be against the Kingdom, and particularly against the integrity and place of the Saudi King and the Crown Prince, with little in the way of detainee rights.

Renewed discussion of passing the law at this point in time seems more connected to protests that have occurred in the KSA in the last few months, which have seem to derive their impetus or momentum from the Arab Spring events in other MENA countries. These include protests by the families of detainees in the Eastern Province, Shia demonstrations in protest of Saudi's intervention in Bahrain, and the ongoing women's campaign to drive. While critics see this as a pre-emptive strike to prevent democratic reform in the Kingdom, Saudi authorities deny that the law is anything but an anti-terrorism strategy.

Amnesty International issued an important news article on the topic on Friday, July 22, 2011, after receiving a draft smuggled out of the Kingdom by its volunteers. The Amnesty article, Proposed Saudi Arabian Anti-Terror Law Would Stifle Peaceful Protest, includes links to the full Arabic text of the draft law, and official discussion of it, as well as a photo of the smuggled copy and a link to their campaign to Stop Saudi Arabia's oppressive anti-terror law.

In response the Saudi Embassy in the UK issued an official statement:

0020 Saudi Embassy in London: Amnesty's Concerns about Saudi Law to Tackle Terrorism Are Baseless

London, Sha'ban 22, 1432, Jul 23, 2011, SPA - The embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the United Kingdom issued today a statement regarding the Amnesty attack on a draft Saudi Law to assist Saudi Security Forces in tackling terrorist activity.

The statement said: 'A draft law to assist Saudi Security forces in tackling terrorist activity and currently under discussion by the Majlis Al-Shura (The Consultative Council) in Saudi Arabia has been attacked by Amnesty International.

Without contacting the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia for clarity or comment, Amnesty (International) determined that this law could be used to suppress dissent within the Kingdom, and on this basis circulated its interpretation to journalists. Only after a journalist contacted the embassy did we find out about their accusations.

The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia would like to point out that Amnesty’s concerns about this law are baseless, mere supposition on their part, and completely without foundation.

However the Kingdom would also like to point out that it is determined to continue to tackle the threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Since 1995, the Kingdom has been struggling with domestic terrorism, only recently eradicating Al-Qaeda cells that took root in the country. Before that time, a multitude of terrorist acts occurred, killing scores of people and sowing fear. Today, due to the efforts of the Saudi Security Services, those cells have largely been eradicated. However, regional unrest provides a breeding ground for new threats. The continued growth of Al-Qaeda presents us with a serious challenge, and policies that prevent this group from establishing an affiliated network in the Kingdom are necessary.
14:53 LOCAL TIME 11:53 GMT


Two recent articles copied below, the first from Al Jazeera, the second from Al Arabiya,  provide a good discussion of the law, Amnesty International's position, and the Saudi response.

The legislation would allow authorities to imprison for 10 years anybody who questions the integrity of the king [AFP]

Rights group criticises Saudi anti-terror law
Amnesty International says that proposed legislation threatens to strangle peaceful dissent in the Gulf kingdom.

Last Modified: 22 Jul 2011 11:11

A proposed Saudi anti-terrorism law threatens to strangle peaceful dissent in the kingdom, a leading human rights organisation says, calling on King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz to reconsider the changes.

Under the Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism, the authorities could detain people "potentially indefinitely" without charge or trial, Amnesty International said on Friday, adding it had obtained a leaked copy of the law.

The legislation would also give the authorities power to imprison for at least 10 years anybody who questions the integrity of the king or Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, it said in a statement.

Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor of Middle East history at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera that this was not a new law.

"It was started about five or six years ago and there was a discussion about the law in general, more focused on the threats from al-Qaeda," he said.

"But this is now focused on current events within Saudi Arabia and is maybe coming to limit any kinds of movements to criticise the authorities."

Peaceful protests

Amnesty, which is based in London, warned the proposed anti-terrorism law "would strangle peaceful protest".

"This draft law poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in the kingdom in the name of preventing terrorism," Philip Luther, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, was quoted as saying.

"If passed, it would pave the way for even the smallest acts of peaceful dissent to be branded terrorism and risk massive human rights violations."

Amnesty said a Saudi government security committee had reviewed the draft law in June but that it was "unknown when or if it might be passed".

It warned the "definition of 'terrorist crimes' in the draft is so broad that it lends itself to wide interpretation and abuse, and would in effect criminalise legitimate dissent".

"Terrorist crimes would include such actions as 'endangering national unity', 'halting the basic law or some of its articles', or 'harming the reputation of the state or its position'," said Amnesty.

Under the draft law, which went against the Gulf state's international legal obligations including the UN Convention against Torture, violations would carry "harsh punishments," it added.

"The death penalty would be applied to cases of taking up arms against the state or for any 'terrorist crimes' that result in death."

Death penalty

Saudi Arabia has beheaded 33 people so far this year, according to the AFP news agency, based on official and human rights group reports.

Earlier this month, Amnesty called on Riyadh to stop applying the death penalty, saying there had been a significant rise in the number of executions in previous weeks.

Amnesty said on Friday that under the draft law, "terror suspects" could be taken into custody arbitrarily and be held "in incommunicado detention for up to 120 days, or for longer periods - potentially indefinitely".

"At a time when people throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been exercising their legitimate right to express dissent and call for change, Saudi Arabian authorities have been seeking to squash this right for its citizens," said Luther.

"King Abdullah must reconsider this law and ensure that his people's legitimate right to freedom of expression is not curtailed in the name of fighting terrorism."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies


Saudis vote in municipal elections. (File Photo)

Saudi Arabia disputes Amnesty’s view of smuggled classified draft law on protests
Friday, 22 July 2011


Amnesty International has condemned a proposed Saudi Arabian law that it says could make legitimate protests as part of the Arab Spring a terrorist offense. But Saudi officials in London vigorously dispute Amnesty’s interpretation of the classified draft law that was smuggled out of the Kingdom

The human rights organization said the draft law also provides for extended detention without charge or trial and without access to a lawyer. A minimum prison sentence of 10 years is specified for questioning the integrity of the king or crown prince.

Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent and a specialist on the Arab world, said on BBC radio on Friday that he has spent the past week examining the draft law with Amnesty officials and discussing it with officials at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London.

He said Amnesty researchers smuggled the classified document out of the country and Saudi officials do not dispute its authenticity but dispute Amnesty’s interpretation of it.

Amnesty researcher Dinah Mahmoud told the BBC that Amnesty fears the draft law will criminalize legitimate dissent against the state. She said some Saudi citizens taking part in Arab Spring protests already have been arrested. “If this law passes, it makes it easier for the state to charge them with terrorist offenses,” she said.

Saudi officials declined to be interviewed for the BBC program, Mr. Gardner said.

He noted that Saudi Arabia, after a slow start, has successfully fought an eight-year battle against terrorists and has driven most of its hard-core terrorists into neighboring Yemen. Most Al Qaeda terrorist plots hatched there against the West have been the work of Saudi nationals, he said, and these are regarded by the US and Britain as some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

“They do have a serious problem,” he said. “But the fear of Amnesty International and other human rights organization is that the Saudi Arabian authorities could be using anti- terrorism as a cover for. . .stifling dissent in Saudi Arabia.”

Mr. Gardner is himself a victim of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. In June 2004 he was attacked by Al Qaeda sympathizers in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital, and shot six times, while a cameraman with him was killed. Mr. Gardner has since been paralyzed in both legs.

He said some members of the Majlis al Shura, an official advisory body with no legislative powers, are reported to have reservations about parts of the draft law. Amnesty is convinced it will become law but Saudi authorities say that is not necessarily true, he reported.

James Lynch of Amnesty said the draft law “seeks to entrench some of the most repressive practices” and provides that people can be held without trial for an indefinite time.

Philip Luther, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on King Abdullah to reconsider the law “and ensure that his people’s legitimate right to freedom of expression is not curtailed in the name of fighting terrorism.”

The draft law gives the minister of the Interior broad powers to act against any terrorist threat and provides for no judicial authorization or oversight of his actions, Amnesty said. It said the definition of “terrorist crimes” is so broad that it lends itself to abuse. Terrorist crimes are defined as “endangering...national unity,” “halting the basic law or some of its articles” or “harming the reputation of the state or its position.”

The draft provides the death penalty for taking up arms against the state or for any crimes that result in death. Amnesty opposes use of the death penalty worldwide.

Some provisions of the draft, Amnesty said, run counter to Saudi Arabia’s legal obligations under the United Nations Convention against Torture. Holding suspects incommunicado in detention facilities can amount to torture, it added, and there is no clear prohibition of torture in the draft.

Amnesty said a specialized court would have the power to detain suspects without charge or trial for up to a year, and to extend detentions indefinitely.

(Ray Moseley is a London-based former chief European correspondent of the Chicago Tribune and has worked extensively in the Middle East. He can be reached at

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Saudi Arabia Shura Council --AP

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Saudi Friend Reacts to the Oslo Bombing

Two women are seen leaving as rescue workers arrive to evacuate the injured at the site of a powerful explosion that rocked central Oslo July 22, 2011. Thomas Winje/Reuters

Below is an email I received of a chat sent by a Saudi friend in reaction to the Oslo bombing. It was sent on the day of the bombing, before the perpetrator was known or arrested, and when the main topic was the likelihood of the "twin attacks" being co-ordinated attacks by Al-Qaeda, and Al-Qaeda-like in their method and amplitude. Even the debris in Oslo was described as "just like that of the twin towers on 9/11". My response follows, and I look forward to your comments.

These messages were sent while you were offline.

15:27 fuck this shit
  a bomb goes off somewhere and then all the racist kooks of europe put their nazi helmets on n start attacking muslims
  complete and utter bullshit
15:28 now everyone will start acting like their life has been affected
15:30 when in reality everytime a bomb goes off somewhere it's muslims worldwide that have to put a hand on their heart n think about what consequences such an act of stupidity done by whomever (muslim or not) will yield upon them
  I hope the asshole behind this (muslim or not) dies
  I hope he/she/they suffer
15:31 they don't have a clue how much worse they've made the lives of other people
  especially immigrants
  the amount of bullshit in this world is just wooh over the top
15:32 still somehow somehow despite europe's attitudes towards immigrants n foreign labour
  they still somehow manage to play a saint n show emirates as bad guys
15:33 as if they haven't done any exploitation themselves
  sugarcoating assholes
  just a note
  if some bomb god forbid goes off somewhere in canada
15:34 n it's indeed a muslim asshole
  before you start cussing out n before your emotions get out of control
15:35 just remember how many people are out there whose lives are gonna get even shittier because of it
15:37 come to think of it there was an explosion that happened in canada not too long ago n once it happened people went nutso n started throwing stones at mosques n what not...and then news flash! it wasn't the muslims
15:38 that'd be like everytime a black guy dies somewhere
  people pointing their fingers at europe

Chiara 00:24

Every time a bomb goes off I pray it wasn't Muslims who did it--for the exact reasons you gave.

The Oslo bomb went off the same day as the 1945 Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel, including the British military post there when the Zionists were trying to establish Israel. The leader was Menachem Begin, later Prime Minister, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. That is the topic of my latest post.

I would love to do a post entitled A Saudi Friend Reacts to the Oslo Bombing and then quote your chat without saying anything more about who you are. Let me know if it would be okay. I will let you see the final draft before posting it for your approval if you agree. Of course I won't do it, if you don't want me to, but you very eloquently went through the exact issues to be addressed, and did it with sincerity and passion.

*My sincere thanks to my Saudi friend who prefers to remain anonymous, but who so graciously agreed to share this chat with Chez Chiara readers. 

Smoke pours from a building in the centre of Oslo, Friday, July 22, 2011, following an explosion that tore open several buildings including the prime minister's office, shattering windows and covering the street with documents.(AP / Thomas Winje Oijord, Scanpix, Norway)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway's "Oklahoma City"--Right Wing Norwegian Extremist Christian Islamophobe Responsible for Bombing and Shooting Attacks

As mentioned in the last post, "A terrorist by any other name is: a freedom fighter, a liberator, a martyr, a prime minister,...", the immediate assumption about the bombing in Oslo and the shooting on a nearby island was that they were a "co-ordinated Al-Qaeda attack" in response to Norway's NATO involvement in Afghanistan and Libya, and as a general soft Western target.

The Norwegian police investigation resulted in the arrest of 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian right wing extremist who has previously written online against multi-culturalism and Islam. He was a member of the anti-immigration Progressive Party in Norway, the 2nd largest party in the Norwegian parliament, but the party stresses that he is no longer a member and is unwelcome. His attacks were directed specifically at the office of the Prime Minister (a member of the centre-left Labour Party), the Ministry of Labour, and a Labour Party youth gathering of about 700 teenagers on a nearby island, Uteya.

Norway killer attacked multicu[l]turalism, Islam online

By Johan Ahlander and Victoria Klesty
OSLO | Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:24am EDT
(Reuters) - The Norwegian charged with going on a killing spree in which at least 91 people died is a former member of a populist anti-immigration party who wrote blogs attacking multiculturalism and Islam.

The suspect, detained after 84 people were gunned down at a youth camp and another 7 killed in a bomb attack on Friday, has been identified by Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik.

Website entries under Breivik's name criticized European policies of trying to accommodate the cultures of different ethic groups, and claimed a significant minority of young British Moslems back radical Islamic militancy.

"When did multiculturalism cease to be an ideology designed to deconstruct European culture, traditions, identity and nation-states?" said one entry, posted on February 2, 2010 on the right-wing website

"According to two studies, 13 percent of young British Muslims aged between 15 and 25 support al Qaeda ideology," said another entry dated February 16 last year.

Police searched an apartment in an Oslo suburb on Friday, but neighbors said the home belonged to Breivik's mother, whom they described as a nice lady.

Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen would not speculate on the motives for what was believed to be the deadliest attack by a lone gunman anywhere in modern times. But they said the man in custody had described himself on his Facebook page as leaning toward right-wing Christianity.

Breivik had also been a member of the Progress Party, the second largest in parliament, the party's head of communications Fredrik Farber said. Breivik was a member from 2004 to 2006 and in its youth party from 1997-2006/2007.

The Progress Party wants far tighter restrictions on immigration, whereas the center-left government backs multiculturalism. The party leads some polls of public opinion.

Progress leader Siv Jensen stressed he had left the party. "He is not a member any more," she told Reuters. "It makes me very sad that he was a member at an earlier point. He was never very active and we have a hard time finding anyone who knows much about him."

Farber said: "He was a member and had some participation in the local chapter in Oslo but stopped paying his membership dues and ceased being a member in 2006 or 2007."

Breivik was also a freemason, said a spokesman for the organization. Freemasons meet in secretive fraternal groups in many parts of the world.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Lannin; editing by David Stamp)


Norway attacks shock, disgust Europe
By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press – 36 minutes ago

BERLIN (AP) — The deadly twin attacks in Norway were greeted with an outpouring Saturday of sympathy and disgust across Europe and beyond, and generated calls to counter the far-right intolerance that may have motivated the assailant.

A massive bombing Friday in the heart of Oslo was followed by a horrific shooting spree on an island hosting a youth retreat for the prime minister's center-left party. The same man, a Norwegian with reported Christian fundamentalist, anti-Muslim views, was suspected in both attacks.

"It appears the attack on the Utoya youth camp was intended to hurt young citizens who actively engage in our democratic and political society," said Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe and chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded each year in Oslo.

"But we must not be intimidated," he added. "We need to work for freedom and democracy every day."
"That the perpetrator apparently comes from the far-right scene shows once again how dangerous racist and anti-foreigner ideologies are," Germany's opposition Greens said in a statement. "We must not allow them an inch of space in our societies."

Pope Benedict XVI's envoy to Norway called the attacks "madness."

"All these actions are irrational and difficult to comprehend, whether they had personal or political reasons," Archbishop Paul Tscherrig, the apostolic nuncio, told Vatican Radio.
He added that the Catholic Church is praying for the victims, who will be remembered during Sunday Mass.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek expressed shock at the targeting of youths at a political party camp.

"This is an unimaginable tragedy for the families who lost their loved ones, young people at the outset of their adult life, fascinated with public service," he said. "It's shocking how one can inflict so much evil."

Pakistan, which has been a frequent target of attacks by Islamic extremists, said its president and prime minister "strongly condemned" the attacks.

"Pakistan itself has suffered enormously from terrorist attacks and fully empathizes with the government and the people of Norway," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Associated Press reporters across the globe contributed to this report.


People jumped into the water and tried to swim away in an attempt to escape

Although he is being presented by some as a "lone gunman", and his one and only tweet made just before the attacks emphasized the power of the lone man of action over those who only observe, like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, Breivik was not totally isolated. He was connected to right wing groups, he did have a website/Facebook site where he announced his views, if not his plans, and he did manage to legally get 6 tonnes of fertilizer for bomb-making, and fire-arms. Dressed like a policeman, he first gathered together the trusting youth and then began firing on them. As they scattered and hid, diving in to the water, running to the farther side of the island, or playing dead among the bodies, he hunted them down--for hours--shouting "I'll kill you all!".

Armed police called to the scene take aim as youth group members take shelter

Instead of the ongoing discussion about Islamist attacks, and headlines like Attack on Norway shows terrorists like soft targets - such as Canada, the more pertinent discussion is one raised by Norwegian social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen on the BBC, that half of Norway's population is against immigration, and that Islamophobes have free reign in the media. "In my experience it [the far right in Norway] is stronger and more dangerous than we wish to think", he observed in reply to the interviewer's question on the prominence of the far right in Norway.

Norway, like other countries in Europe and the West, needs to pay greater attention to the extreme right extremism within, which targets not only immigrants, but their own democracies and social fabrics.

Related Posts:
A terrorist by any other name is: a freedom fighter, a liberator, a martyr, a prime minister,...
A Saudi Friend Reacts to the Oslo Bombing

Breivik on Facebook

Friday, July 22, 2011

A terrorist by any other name is: a freedom fighter, a liberator, a martyr, a prime minister,...

A picture taken July 22, 1946 shows the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British Headquarters, damaged after a bombing attack against the British government by members of Irgun, a Zionist terrorist group headed by Menachem Begin. Many attacks by Zionist groups occured as a response to the British policy of restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine.-AFP— AFP

I saw the above photo (without the original AFP caption) in the print version of the July 22, 2011 edition of The Globe and Mail, in its feature "A Moment in Time" which marks the anniversaries of historical events.

Here is the accompanying text:

When the explosives destroying the British military headquarters in the King David Hotel were detonated, "the whole town seemed to shudder," recalled Menachem Begin in his memoirs. Begin's militant Irgun sought to drive the British out of Mandate Palestine, and had planted 225 kilograms of TNT  and gelignite in milk cans delivered to the hotel basement. The blast "reached the whole height of the building...six storeys of stone, concrete and steel," Begin wrote. Although the terrorists telephoned a warning, it was not heeded and 91 people, including British officers, Arab workers and Jewish civilians, were killed. David Ben-Gurion, leader of Palestine's Jewish community, labelled the Irgun "the enemy of the Jewish people," though Begin insisted that Ben-Gurion's more mainstream Haganah had approved the operation. Both men would later serve as Prime Minister of Israel.--Patrick Martin

Ben-Gurion would go on to perpetrate his own forms of violence against the Palestinians as part of a deliberate ethnic cleansing of the country--one revealed in recently declassified documents which have proven great sources for younger Israeli historians seeking the truth about the founding of their country. Some of their research, which is published in academic journals, is also published from time to time in the Israeli paper Haaretz.

In searching Google Images for the picture above which accompanied the print version of "A Moment in Time", "July 22, Jerusalem's King David Hotel is Bombed", I discovered the same picture was featured in an excellent online slide show history of the Palestine-Israeli conflict, beginning with Zionist European immigration to Palestine in the 1880's to the present, as below.

The Ottoman era Suleymaniye mosque is covered by fog as the sun sets in Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire once included the area now considered Palestine. (Reuters)— Reuters [Slide 1--1880s – European Zionists begin arriving in Palestine]

Mideast discord has roots 130 years in the past
Globe and Mail Update
Published Tuesday, May. 31, 2011 4:32PM EDT
Last updated Monday, Jun. 13, 2011 5:20PM EDT
A timeline detailing the history of the Israel and Palestinian territories

1945 – Postwar Jewish immigration to Palestine increases

The Jews who survived the Holocaust took their fight for a homeland to a new level. Although official postwar British policy was to continue limiting Jewish immigration, about 200,000 Jews went to Palestine. There were acts of Jewish terrorism against the British, as well as Jewish-Palestinian fighting. In 1946, Jewish militants blew up part of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which was being used as a headquarters for the British military. That event pushed Britain toward abandoning the question of what to do with Palestine.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (R) shakes hands and speaks with President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during their meeting in Cairo May 4, 2011. Abbas said on Wednesday Palestinians were turning a "black page" on division at a ceremony in Egypt to heal a four-year rift between his Fatah movement and Islamist group Hamas.— Handout/Reuters [Slide 33-May 3, 2011 – Palestinian factions sign unity accord]

Before I found the picture of the bombing of the King David Hotel which accompanied The Globe and Mail pieces, I saw these two juxtaposing pictures of Menachem Begin, then head of the Irgun, and who later became Prime Minister of Israel, and was awarded a shared Nobel Peace Prize with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, with his group's work:

I had planned this post early this morning, before I learned (via email from regular commentator Wendy) about the bombing today in Oslo, Norway and the shooting at a youth camp on nearby Utoeya Island. When I was able to access the news, I was struck that the commentators and pundits observed the journalistic etiquette/ethic of prefacing their remarks with a statement acknowledging that the origin of the bombing was unknown, and not known to be an Al-Qaeda attack, and then proceeding as if there had already been official confirmation that this was an Al-Qaeda operation.

Among the motives given for an Al-Qaeda attack on Norway were the identification of the country is a soft target, one that hadn't prepared itself adequately despite recent warnings; and that as a NATO member Norway had been involved both in Afghanistan and in Libya. Threats made both by Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Muammar Gaddafi were cited. There was speculation that the shooter at the youth camp was an Islamist participating in a coordinated Al-Qaeda attack, and that despite being reported (then uncomfirmed) as blue-eyed, blond-haired, and Norwegian, he could still be (was most likely) Al-Qaeda.

Most striking to me was that no one mentioned Oslo's role in the (failed) Oslo Accords to try to resolve the Palestine-Israel crisis. Moreover, no one mentioned the day as falling on the anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel, specifically the British military headquarters in the then British Mandate of Palestine, by the Zionist terrorist group, the Irgun, fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine--Israel. An inconvenient truth?

While not justifying the existence of or means used by Al-Qaeda, it does seem as if Westerners, and Americans in particular, still prefer on the whole to ignore the historical and current foreign policy decisions that have contributed to the creation and perpetuation of this particular terrorist group in particular religious disguise.

The bombing in the heart of the capital also left nine people critically injured (AFP/Scanpix, Thomas Winje Oijord)

Police said at least 80 people had been killed at the massacre at the youth camp (AFP, Odd Andersen)

"We do not exclude a higher toll," a police spokesman said (AFP/Scanpix, Thomas Winje Oijord)

Related Posts:
Rachel Corrie in Israeli Custody--Again: When Does the Occupation End?
Peace in the Middle East: Will Obama Do Any Better?--Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Nuclear Warheads: If Israel, why not Iran, Saudi, the GCC, or MENA? The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
The Pro-Israel Lobby: Defending Israel or Stifling Debate including of the Saudi Peace Initiative--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Calling on Obama: Get Tough on Israel--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Israel Apartheid Week 2010--1-4 weeks focused on Palestine

See Also:
At least 87 killed in Norway twin attacks: police (AFP)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

A cartoon published shortly after the bombing of the King David Hotel


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