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Monday, October 19, 2009

Iran mourns dozens killed in militant attack

Islamic World News
20 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com

Iran mourns dozens killed in militant attack

Petraeus, Kerry visit Pakistan as military battles on militants

Fraud probe invalidates Afghan ballots

Audit Pushes Karzai Below 50 Percent in Afghan Vote

Islamic council rejects sharia law proposal

Pak soil used, Tehran tells envoy 49 killed in Zahedan suicide attack

Deputy chief of Revolutionary Guards slain; Pakistan condemns

Iran Issues Threat Ahead of Talks

White House Unveils Sudan Strategy

Iran uranium deal talks 'go well'

Afghan poll: Possible outcomes

Endgame for Afghanistan's elections?

Goa Blast Heat On Hindu Outfit

Pakistan 'push into Taliban area'

Do Or Die As Pakistani Army Advances On Taliban

Dr Zainab Alwani Talks On Challenges Before Muslim Women

60 Taliban Men Killed In S. Waziristan Offensive

Iran's Elite Force Suffers Major Blow

To Arrest Rising Sea, Maldives Ministers Meet Underwater

Gandhi's Ideas Influenced Release Of Lockerbie Bomber

Yemen Promotes For Tourism From Islamic Perspective

Unstable Iran

Is Afghanistan Worth It?

Tehran's Saba To Host 3rd Intl. Graphic Biennial Of Islamic World

Islam's Besieged Moderates Are Making Themselves Heard

Qaeda On Recruitment Drive In US, Europe

Bayonne Delays Malaysia Concert Amid Criticism By Conservative Muslims

UAE Women Become Pilots At Etihad

U.S. Remains Mum On Invitation Of Philippine Muslim Rebels To Be Peace Broker

Western Terror Recruits Attending Camps In Pakistan Increasing: Washington Post

No Change In Pakistan's Attitude To Terror: Tharoor

Canada Helps Islamic Leadership In Indonesia

Attempt To Ban Minarets Sparks Censorship Controversy In Switzerland

Dallas-Area Muslims Fear Backlash From Arrests Tied To Terror Plot

Compiled by Aman Quadri

URL of this page: http://newageislam.org/NewAgeIslamArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=1948

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Iran mourns dozens killed in militant attack

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Three days of mourning began in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan on Monday, after dozens of people were killed in a militant attack a day earlier, state media reported.

A man carrying explosives blew himself up Sunday as participants headed to a conference between Shia and Sunni groups in southeastern Iran, killing at least 42, state-run Press TV reported.

The blast in the city of Sarbaz, in Sistan-Baluchestan, wounded 28 others, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

Among those killed were five senior officers of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, Fars said.

Various media outlets offered conflicting figures for the number of dead and wounded.

Among the officers killed was Nour-Ali Shoushtari, the deputy head of the corps' ground forces, who was in the province to mediate between the two sides, Fars said.

The perpetrators of the attack would be dealt a crushing response, Press TV reported Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the corps' ground force, saying.

The terrorist group Jundallah -- also known as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran -- claimed responsibility, according to Press TV.

In the past, the predominantly Shiite central government in Tehran has accused Jundallah of fomenting unrest in the province. Iran has alleged that the United States and Saudi Arabia are funding the group. Jundallah says it is fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in the country.

Earlier, Iran pointed the finger at the United States without disclosing its reasons.

"We consider this recent terrorist act to be the result of the U.S. actions and this is a sign of their enmity," said parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the accusation was "completely false."

"We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives. Reports of alleged U.S. involvement are completely false," Ian Kelly told CNN.

The United Kingdom also condemned the attack.

"The British government condemns the terrorist attack ... in Iran and the sad loss of life which it caused," the Foreign Office said in a statement. "Terrorism is abhorrent wherever it occurs. Our sympathies go to those who have been killed or injured in the attack and their families."

"We reject in the strongest terms any assertion that this was anything to do with the U.K.," the Foreign Office said later in response to reports Iran was accusing London of responsibility.

However, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported that Pakistan's ambassador was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, where he was directed to tell his government to expedite efforts to arrest people on the other side of the border who might be responsible for the attack. VideoWatch report on Iran's response to Sunday's suicice bombing

"We have heard that some of the government agents in Pakistan actually collaborate with the supporters of this savage act of terrorism and we see it as very much within our rights to demand that they turn those criminals over to our nation," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, according to Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Pakistani government didn't directly respond to Ahmadinejad's remarks, but Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari "strongly condemned the suicide attack," according to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

Zardari also said he planned to work with Iran to "curb militancy and exterminate militants," APP reported.

The attack was one of the largest in recent years on the Revolutionary Guard.

About the same time of the blast in Sarbaz, a second group of corps' commanders was caught in an explosion when their convoy came under attack at an intersection between the towns of Sarbaz and Chabahar, Press TV said.

The station did not say whether the second attack resulted in casualties.

The guard was initially created to protect the leaders of the revolution. But over the years, it has broadened its scope. Today, it is directly under the control of the supreme leader and enforces the government's Islamic codes and morality.

With an estimated 200,000-plus members, it is tasked with overseeing the country's crucial interests, including guarding its oil fields and missile arsenals.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/10/19/iran.suicide.attack/index.html#

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Petraeus, Kerry visit Pakistan as military battles on militants

Reza Sayah

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East and Central Asia visited Pakistan on Monday as the Pakistani army battled Taliban militants in the country's northwest, U.S. Embassy officials said.

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, held meetings as U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also arrived on a separate visit.

Details about their visits were not immediately available.

Petraeus' and Kerry's arrivals came on the heels of Pakistani troops launching a massive ground offensive backed by air power over the weekend in South Waziristan, a refuge and power base for insurgents operating in Pakistan and along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

The Pakistani military is trying to "decapitate" the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in the region, an expert said.

"There shouldn't be any false perception that the military is going all out after all brands of militants," said Reva Bhalla, director of analysis at the global intelligence company Stratfor. "The focus is the [Pakistani Taliban] and the Uzbeks that are aligned with them."

In a note the Pakistani army said was distributed to the Mehsud tribe, the dominant tribe throughout the battle zone in South Waziristan, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the purpose of the operation was not to target the tribe members but to free them "from terrorists who have destroyed the peace of the area." VideoWatch as Pakistan's army says no peace deal will be possible But the insurgent leaders may well have slipped away, Bhalla said, noting that it has been clear for some time this offensive was in the works.

"The classic insurgent strategy is to decline combat, melt away and recuperate," she said.

Local warlords loyal neither to the Taliban nor the Pakistani government seem to be turning a blind eye to the militants' efforts to evade the army, she said. That may make them impossible to capture or kill.

"As the militants are escaping northward, the terrain gets really rough there. It's a challenge to find where they are hiding," Bhalla said. "It's not that easy to pursue them."

Both sides have been releasing daily claims about the number of fighters killed on the other side. For example, the Pakistani military said it had killed 18 "terrorists" in South Waziristan.

It's not possible to verify either the army's or the Taliban's assertions.

But Bhalla said the numbers are not a good measure of success in any case.

"In the Swat offensive, every day the Pakistani military was saying we killed X number of militants, and every militant was suddenly a 'high-level militant,' " she said, referring to a Pakistani military operation against the Taliban earlier this year.

"That's not the right measure of success -- you want to go after their operational unit and their leadership," Bhalla said.

The best way to judge whether an offensive has achieved its aims is to see if the army gains control of territory that has never been under its command, Bhalla said.

"Will the military be able to hold the territory that they cleared?" she asked. "There has always been an understanding with the tribal leaders that they have a degree of autonomy. Will the military be able to win over enough of the local population that they can have a base and project power?"

The local population is not taking sides until it is clear who will win, she said. "The locals are on the fence because they can't be sure the military will be successful -- so they are going to hedge their bets."

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/19/pakistan.offensive.visit/index.html#

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Fraud probe invalidates Afghan ballots

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The U.N.-backed commission charged with investigating fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election Monday invalidated ballots from more than 200 polling stations.

However, it is still unclear if a presidential runoff will take place.

The Electoral Complaints Commission ordered Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission to invalidate 210 polling stations where it found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" in the August 20 presidential election.

Meanwhile, an analysis of election data by the non-governmental organization Democracy International, showed Afghan President Hamid Karzai did not win enough votes to avoid a runoff election.

Under Afghan law, the ECC is the final arbiter of fraud but the IEC has the authority to order a runoff, if needed.

There was no immediate reaction from the IEC. Its spokesman recently said that the IEC would need "a day or two" to examine the ECC's final report before making an announcement on a runoff.

The 210 polling stations account for less than 4 percent of the more than 6,000 polling stations available during the election. But it is unclear how many votes that would affect and whether it would bring Karzai below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff against his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

Last month, final uncertified results showed Karzai with 54 percent of the vote.

The ECC also recommended that each candidates' overall percentage of the vote be reduced according to previous criteria it set forth as part of its "investigation of polling stations that were highly suspicious of fraud."

Full Report at: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/19/afghanistan.election.fraud/index.html#

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October 20, 2009

Audit Pushes Karzai Below 50 Percent in Afghan Vote

By SABRINA TAVERNISE

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's political crisis deepened on Monday, with President Hamid Karzai hesitating to accept an international audit that stripped him of nearly a million votes, requiring a runoff with his top challenger.

A panel of United Nations-appointed experts issued findings for the first time on Monday showing that the fraud was so pervasive that Mr. Karzai had not won the Aug. 20 election outright, according to foreign and Afghan officials in the capital, Kabul.

The findings are a defining moment for Mr. Karzai, who initially received 54 percent of the vote, and believes he is the rightful winner. They place him in direct conflict with his main backer, the United States, and threaten to pitch the country into a major constitutional crisis, should he decide to reject them altogether.

The Obama administration registered its concern. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a top Obama ally and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, made an unplanned stop in Kabul on Monday night, and met Mr. Karzai in the presidential palace, "to continue his discussions and consultations," according to a spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Kabul.

The special audit committee, the Electoral Complaints Commission, invalidated nearly a third of all ballots cast for Mr. Karzai, according to a New York Times analysis of the preliminary data. More precisely, 28 percent of Mr. Karzai's 3,093,000 votes were discarded due to fraud, the analysis showed.

The result pushed Mr. Karzai's final vote total to about 49 percent, below the threshold needed to avoid a runoff. An independent analysis by an election monitoring group, Democracy International, gave Mr. Karzai about 48.3 percent, The Associated Press reported. A Western official familiar with the results had predicted that result earlier Monday.

Full Report at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/world/asia/20afghan.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

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Islamic council rejects sharia law proposal

BARNEY ZWARTZ

October 19, 2009

A SENIOR Melbourne Muslim is proposing a sharia court to handle disputes in the Muslim community, suggesting it might eventually form part of the state's legal structure.

Islamic Council of Victoria board member Hyder Gulam was due to meet a senior bureaucrat in the Premier's Department on Thursday to discuss the idea, but the meeting was postponed to this week.

Mr Gulam, a lawyer with Logie-Smith Lanyon and also a board member of Australian Red Cross, said a sharia court could function as a voluntary and non-binding dispute resolution mechanism in matters such as divorce, access to children, disputes over wills and financial or commercial disputes.

BLOG: Sharia in Australia: sanity or shocking?

''We are talking about a system that defuses community tensions before they reach litigation, so it can be settled at the lowest level, as quickly as possible, as cost-effectively as possible, with the best outcome. The Victorian Government is very keen on community dispute resolution mechanisms,'' he said.

''These are ideas we've raised with senior members of the community for three months, and the response has been very supportive because people see it's a cheap way to deal with intra-community disputes.''

However, the Islamic Council of Victoria has rejected the idea, because of concerns about the negative impact of the word ''sharia''. The leading Muslim women's group also rejected it.

On Friday a deeply concerned council vice-president Sherene Hassan learnt of it from The Age and held urgent phone conversations with other board members. She said: ''Sharia courts are not on the organisation's agenda. There has been no pressure for them from the Muslim community, and we have not discussed them. The meeting with the Premier's Department this week will go ahead, but it will not discuss sharia courts.''

Ms Hassan said Mr Gulam was acting on his own initiative and the council's agenda would not be set by one individual.

Mr Gulam discusses the possibility of an Australian sharia court in an article co-written with barrister Simon Lee in an Australian Muslim newspaper, the Crescent Times. Saying their aim is to stimulate debate, they conclude the only element of sharia law feasible in Australia is dispute resolution based on mediation and conciliation.

Meanwhile, Mr Gulam has received support and advice from the Fitzroy Legal Service on securing government support. Executive officer Rob Inglis said a sharia court ''would fill a really important need and would be a win-win situation''. It would not diminish existing law, but help create a ''safer, more culturally inclusive space'' for Muslims in legal matters.

Mr Gulam said the Jewish community had the Beth Din, Catholics had religious courts to settle marriage questions, and indigenous people had the Koori courts, which were part of the state legal system.

Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria director Joumanah El Matrah said research showed women and children would be ''extremely disadvantaged'' by any sort of sharia court.

''It's grossly naive to say women can opt out from such a tribunal. Women are often not in a position to make this sort of decision.''

She said examples from Britain showed women not only felt pressured, they became caught between the tribunal and the laws of the state. ''There's no sound argument to establish such a tribunal. Muslims are bound to live by the laws of the state they are members of. They can't opt in and out, according to their convenience.''

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/national/islamic-council-rejects-sharia-law-proposal-20091018-h2x9.html

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Pak soil used, Tehran tells envoy 49 killed in Zahedan suicide attack

Monday, October 19, 2009

Deputy chief of Revolutionary Guards slain; Pakistan condemns

TEHRAN: A suicide bomber killed seven commanders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and up to 42 other people on Sunday in an attack that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged had been plotted from neighbouring Pakistan.

The foreign ministry called in Pakistan's charge d'affaires over the bombing, which targeted one of the Islamic republic's most prestigious institutions in the region.Several tribal leaders in the majority ethnic Baluch Sistan-Baluchestan province also died in the bombing which left many others wounded.

The attacker set off his explosives belt as a meeting of Guards commanders and tribal chiefs got underway at around 8.00 am at a gymnasium in the city of Pishin, near the border with Pakistan, the state broadcaster said.

"The number of martyrs from the terrorist attack has reached 49... and that figure could still rise," the Mehr news agency reported.Provincial chief coroner Abbas Amian told the official IRNA news agency that his office had received 42 bodies.

The chief prosecutor in Sistan-Baluchestan, Mohammad Marziah, said that Abdolmalek Rigi, the head of the shadowy Sunni rebel group, Jundallah (Soldiers of God) had "accepted the responsibility" for the attack.

Among the dead were General Nur-Ali Shushtari, deputy commander of the Guards' ground forces; General Mohammad-Zadeh, Guards' commander in Sistan-Baluchestan province; the Guards' commander for the town of Iranshahr and the commander of the Amir al-Momenin unit, the Fars news agency said.

Three other commanders from the adjacent province of Kerman were also killed, Fars added.

The Iranian president hit out at neighbouring Pakistan over the bombing, accusing it of sheltering Jundallah militants."We became aware that some of agents in Pakistan were cooperating with the main elements of today's terrorist incident and we consider it to be our right to demand the rendition of these criminals," Fars quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"We want the Pakistani government not to delay the arrest of the main elements of this terrorist act any longer," he said.Iran's state-owned English language Press TV channel showed several patches of blood, broken glass and footwear scattered at the site of the attack. Some bodies covered in white sheeting were seen lying nearby.

One of the victims, Mohammad Ayoub Dehghani, who was wounded in the stomach, said the bomber "must have walked through the people to where the commanders and tribal heads were sitting."

"The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot tolerate the unity, so they hire mercenaries who are supported by the Zionists and arrogant powers to carry out these terrorist attacks," IRNA quoted him as saying.

General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the Guards' ground forces, threatened retribution for the bombing. "The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group, so the group will never be able to launch another act like this in the country," Fars quoted Pakpour as saying.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the United States was implicated. "We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of US action. This is the sign of America's animosity against our country," Larijani said. "Mr. Obama has said he will extend his hand towards Iran, but with this terrorist action he has burned his hand," he said referring to US President Barack Obama's repeated diplomatic overtures to Tehran. The United States denied any involvement.

"We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives," State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement in Washington. "Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false," he added.

State TV also singled out Britain. "Some informed sources said the British government was directly involved in the terrorist attack by organising, supplying equipment and employing professional terrorists," it said.

Iranian officials have previously accused Britain and the United States of supporting ethnic minority rebels such as Jundallah operating in sensitive border areas.

Meanwhile, Iran summoned Pakistan's envoy to Tehran over Sunday's deadly bombing against the nation's Revolutionary Guards, claiming those behind the attack had used Pakistani soil as a springboard, the ISNA news agency said.

It said the foreign ministry had called Pakistan's charge d'affaires and "expressed Tehran's regret to Pakistan's envoy that members of the terrorist group involved in the incident entered Iran through Pakistan."

The ministry also "protested against the (alleged) use of Pakistani territory by the terrorists and rebels against the Islamic Republic of Iran and urged Pakistani authorities to act firmly to prevent the movement of those terrorists and rebels in their country."

In Islamabad, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit condemned the suicide attack in Iran.The spokesman said both the countries enjoyed brotherly relations, adding, "We condemn the sad event in Iran."

Talking to Geo News on Sunday, the FO spokesman rejected the Iranian ambassador's statement about the presence of head of the Jundollah group in Pakistan.The spokesman said Pakistan and Iran are cooperating in the war against terrorism as both countries enjoy friendly relations.

Basit said that the war against terrorists in Pakistan's tribal area of South Waziristan reflects Islamabad's commitment that it will not allow its soil for terrorist activities in any country. Pakistan is not involved in terrorist activities, he said, "We are struggling to eradicate the menace of terrorism." He said that such statement could sour relations between the two countries.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Deputy chief of Revolutionary Guards slain; Pakistan condemns

TEHRAN: A suicide bomber killed seven commanders of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and up to 42 other people on Sunday in an attack that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged had been plotted from neighbouring Pakistan.

The foreign ministry called in Pakistan's charge d'affaires over the bombing, which targeted one of the Islamic republic's most prestigious institutions in the region.Several tribal leaders in the majority ethnic Baluch Sistan-Baluchestan province also died in the bombing which left many others wounded.

The attacker set off his explosives belt as a meeting of Guards commanders and tribal chiefs got underway at around 8.00 am at a gymnasium in the city of Pishin, near the border with Pakistan, the state broadcaster said.

"The number of martyrs from the terrorist attack has reached 49... and that figure could still rise," the Mehr news agency reported.Provincial chief coroner Abbas Amian told the official IRNA news agency that his office had received 42 bodies.

The chief prosecutor in Sistan-Baluchestan, Mohammad Marziah, said that Abdolmalek Rigi, the head of the shadowy Sunni rebel group, Jundallah (Soldiers of God) had "accepted the responsibility" for the attack.

Among the dead were General Nur-Ali Shushtari, deputy commander of the Guards' ground forces; General Mohammad-Zadeh, Guards' commander in Sistan-Baluchestan province; the Guards' commander for the town of Iranshahr and the commander of the Amir al-Momenin unit, the Fars news agency said.

Three other commanders from the adjacent province of Kerman were also killed, Fars added.

The Iranian president hit out at neighbouring Pakistan over the bombing, accusing it of sheltering Jundallah militants."We became aware that some of agents in Pakistan were cooperating with the main elements of today's terrorist incident and we consider it to be our right to demand the rendition of these criminals," Fars quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"We want the Pakistani government not to delay the arrest of the main elements of this terrorist act any longer," he said.Iran's state-owned English language Press TV channel showed several patches of blood, broken glass and footwear scattered at the site of the attack. Some bodies covered in white sheeting were seen lying nearby.

One of the victims, Mohammad Ayoub Dehghani, who was wounded in the stomach, said the bomber "must have walked through the people to where the commanders and tribal heads were sitting."

"The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot tolerate the unity, so they hire mercenaries who are supported by the Zionists and arrogant powers to carry out these terrorist attacks," IRNA quoted him as saying.

General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the Guards' ground forces, threatened retribution for the bombing. "The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group, so the group will never be able to launch another act like this in the country," Fars quoted Pakpour as saying.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the United States was implicated. "We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of US action. This is the sign of America's animosity against our country," Larijani said. "Mr. Obama has said he will extend his hand towards Iran, but with this terrorist action he has burned his hand," he said referring to US President Barack Obama's repeated diplomatic overtures to Tehran. The United States denied any involvement.

"We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives," State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement in Washington. "Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false," he added.

State TV also singled out Britain. "Some informed sources said the British government was directly involved in the terrorist attack by organising, supplying equipment and employing professional terrorists," it said.

Iranian officials have previously accused Britain and the United States of supporting ethnic minority rebels such as Jundallah operating in sensitive border areas.

Meanwhile, Iran summoned Pakistan's envoy to Tehran over Sunday's deadly bombing against the nation's Revolutionary Guards, claiming those behind the attack had used Pakistani soil as a springboard, the ISNA news agency said.

It said the foreign ministry had called Pakistan's charge d'affaires and "expressed Tehran's regret to Pakistan's envoy that members of the terrorist group involved in the incident entered Iran through Pakistan."

The ministry also "protested against the (alleged) use of Pakistani territory by the terrorists and rebels against the Islamic Republic of Iran and urged Pakistani authorities to act firmly to prevent the movement of those terrorists and rebels in their country."

In Islamabad, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit condemned the suicide attack in Iran.The spokesman said both the countries enjoyed brotherly relations, adding, "We condemn the sad event in Iran."

Talking to Geo News on Sunday, the FO spokesman rejected the Iranian ambassador's statement about the presence of head of the Jundollah group in Pakistan.The spokesman said Pakistan and Iran are cooperating in the war against terrorism as both countries enjoy friendly relations.

Basit said that the war against terrorists in Pakistan's tribal area of South Waziristan reflects Islamabad's commitment that it will not allow its soil for terrorist activities in any country. Pakistan is not involved in terrorist activities, he said, "We are struggling to eradicate the menace of terrorism." He said that such statement could sour relations between the two countries.

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October 20, 2009

Iran Issues Threat Ahead of Talks

By DAVID E. SANGER

VIENNA — Iran on Monday opened its nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France with veiled threats that it could back away from an agreement reached this month to ship more than three-quarters of its stockpile of nuclear fuel out of the country, unless the West accedes to Iranian demands for new fuel.

The threats, broadcast on Iranian television and in statements from the country's atomic energy organization, may have simply been negotiating tactics ahead of negotiations that started in Vienna, the city that saw so many Cold War nuclear talks between the United States and the Soviet Union.

In the runup to the talks, President Obama's aides said the talks, while advertised as a meeting of technical experts about a proposal to ship three-quarters of Iran's nuclear fuel out of the country for conversion into a form that could be useful in a medical research reactor, would take on far more importance.

"By the end of these next two days," one senior administration official in Washington said, "we'll know if the Iranians are serious and whether we have time" to pursue further diplomacy with Iran without fearing that it could race ahead to produce a weapon.

If Iran carries through on what the European nations said was its commitment on Oct. 1 to temporarily send its nuclear fuel to Russia and France, Washington will be able to claim that its diplomacy reduced the threat of an Iranian "nuclear breakout," a sudden race to convert reactor fuel into bomb fuel.

Iran's total known stockpile of fuel amounts to enough for one to two bombs, if it were further enriched. If it exports that fuel for further refinement abroad, experts believe it could not replace it for another year.

Full Report at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/world/middleeast/20nuke.html?ref=global-home

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October 20, 2009

White House Unveils Sudan Strategy

By BRIAN KNOWLTON

WASHINGTON — Laying out the basic outlines of his Sudan policy, President Obama said Monday that he would renew "tough sanctions" against the Khartoum government and increase pressure if it failed to improve the dire situation in Darfur — but he also held out the possibility of incentives if Sudan cooperated.

"As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction," Mr. Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

The strategy, worked out after months of intensive debate, is meant to build pressure on Sudan to end the abuses that have left millions of people dead or displaced in its vast Darfur region. It places a greater emphasis on incentives than the Bush administration policy, but officials were quick to stress that there were also additional punishments on the table.

The president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for his role in human rights abuses in Darfur, and the new policy has come under criticism from some human rights advocates for its willingness to engage with his government.

A Sudanese presidential adviser, Ghazi Salahadin, said after the policy was announced that the new approach had some "positive points" and represented a "new Obama spirit," but he expressed disappointment that the president had referred explicitly to genocide, Reuters reported from the capital, Khartoum.

Full Report at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/world/africa/20Sudan.html?ref=global-home

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Iran uranium deal talks 'go well'

Talks between Iran and world powers on a uranium enrichment deal are "off to a good start", the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog has said.

Russia, France and the US were at the IAEA meeting in Vienna.

Under a proposed deal, Iran would ship enriched uranium abroad to be converted for use in a research reactor.

Tehran sent a lower-level delegation led by its IAEA envoy, not its atomic agency chief, indicating a final agreement may not be reached this week.

Despite the setback, Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sounded positive.

Iranian doubts

"We had this afternoon quite a constructive meeting. We're off to a good start. Most of the technical issues have been discussed," he said after the meeting at the IAEA headquarters.

He said talks would resume on Tuesday morning.

The head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said he endorsed Mr ElBaradei's comments.

He refused to comment on Iranian media reports claiming that Tehran may be reluctant to ship out its fuel.

Before talks began, state broadcaster Press TV said Iran wanted to import highly enriched uranium for its research reactor by buying it directly from France, Russia or the US.

Full Report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8313679.stm

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Afghan poll: Possible outcomes

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has published the results of its investigation into fraud in the Afghan presidential election. The BBC understands the findings indicate that Hamid Karzai did not gain enough votes to win the election outright. According to poll rules, there should now be a second round.

BBC News examines possible scenarios.

AFGHANISTAN PREPARES FOR A RUN-OFF

If no candidate secures more than 50% of ballots then the constitution states there has to be a second round run-off between the two with the most votes.

This has to be held within two weeks of the announcement of a result.

But the rapid onset of winter from early November will make matters difficult, with parts of the country almost inaccessible.

There is a fear that the journey to a local polling station in the depths of winter will simply be too gruelling for many Afghans.

In addition, the authorities will have to once again mobilise election officials, polling stations, polling cards, security and organise the collection of ballot boxes and counting.

Decisions about the location of polling stations and the staff they hire to man them will also have to be made to prevent repeating mistakes made in the first round.

The election itself took months to plan. The run-off would have a matter of weeks. But authorities are reported to have already printed ballot papers.

Many analysts say Mr Karzai, a Pashtun from the country's largest ethnic group, would probably still win any second round.

Correspondents say there is no guarantee, however, that the authorities could prevent the security breaches and corruption that marred the first round.

But delaying a vote until the spring would leave Afghanistan in political limbo at a time when major Western powers are deciding whether to send more troops or not - leaving the way open for militants to make their mark.

Full Report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8309013.stm

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Endgame for Afghanistan's elections?

By Lyse Doucet

Nearly two months after millions of Afghans voted for a president, they have at last been informed about the verdict of their ballots.

But it is still not over.

After weeks of delay and mounting tension, Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has posted its findings on its website after a complicated and controversial investigation into what the UN has called "widespread" fraud.

It confirms what has been an open secret for many days: that Hamid Karzai scored less than the 50% necessary to avoid a second round with his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

But in an election which has turned into a deep political crisis, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) now believes it must have a deciding say.

When this tangled process began, the ECC, the only electoral body composed of Afghan and foreign representation, was regarded as the "final arbiter".

The IEC's role was to ratify and announce the results.

Full Report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8314575.stm

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Goa blast heat on Hindu outfit

Preetu Nair

19 October 2009

PANAJI: The probe into Friday night's blast at Margao has revealed that Sanatan Sanstha, the right-wing Hindu group allegedly involved in the blast, may have shifted its base from Maharashtra to Goa. The state government said it was investigating if any local politician was involved.

According to police, one of the four bombs planted by the group exploded seriously injuring two Sanatan Sanstha members. One of them, Malgonda Patil, died later in hospital. The other, Yogesh Naik, is battling for life at the Goa medical college and hospital. Two bombs were also defused in Margao and another near Shantadurga temple at Sancoale on Friday night.

We are inquiring if any politician has played a part in the circumstances that led to the blast and if they did play any role, to what extent they are involved, state home minister Ravi Naik told TOI on Sunday. ‘‘No organization can destroy Goa’s peace and harmony without local political support, he added.

At the moment though the probe is about the role of the Sanatan Sanstha in the blast. Police claim there are strong signs of its complicity. ‘‘Investigations have revealed that Sanatan Sanstha is shifting its base to Goa from Maharashtra. They want to make Goa their headquarters, said DIG Ravindra Yadav. The Sanatan Sanstha has denied their involvement.

Full Report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Goa-blast-heat-on-Hindu-outfit/articleshow/5137483.cms

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Pakistan 'push into Taliban area'

The Pakistani army has said it has pushed deeper into South Waziristan as it battles to wrestle control of the region from the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

On the offensive's third day, the army said it had captured important strategic heights in the mountains.

Nine soldiers and 78 militants have now been killed, the army says, though no independent verification of the figures is possible.

Up to 100,000 civilians have fled the conflict zone, according to the army.

The Taliban, who claim not to have lost a single fighter, say they have killed many more Pakistani soldiers than the nine reported by the army.

Residents in the remote area say dozens of people have died since the offensive began.

Pressure

"I decided to leave when my neighbour's house was destroyed by jet fighters "

Rahim Dad Mehsud Labourer from South Waziristan

The army has set up five bases in the region near the Afghan border to try to seal off the Taliban's main stronghold.

Military spokesman Gen Athar Abbas said troops were "carrying out a successful operation" in the region, which he described as "the centre of gravity of the whole terrorism problem" of Pakistan.

Gen Abbas said the operation would be completed "within the timescale" but that it would not be appropriate to say what that timescale was.

Reports from the region remain sketchy as the army is denying access to both foreign and Pakistani journalists within South Waziristan.

Meanwhile, US Central Command chief David Petraeus, who oversees the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, is holding talks with senior Pakistani military officials in Islamabad.

South Waziristan is considered to be the first major haven for Islamic militants outside Afghanistan since the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US and Pakistan's government has been under considerable pressure from the US to tackle militancy there.

US Senator John Kerry is currently meeting Pakistani leaders in Islamabad where he is expected to discuss America's multibillion-dollar aid package for Pakistan, amid concerns by some officials in the country that it comes with unacceptable strings attached.

Full Report at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8313699.stm

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Do or die as Pakistani army advances on Taliban

By Jason Burke

OCTOBER 19, 2009

If the militants can hold off the army, then a political crisis is inevitable

So, finally, Operation Rah-i-Nijat - Urdu for 'Path to Deliverance' - is underway. Pakistan's English-language Dawn newspaper calls it the Mother of all Battles. So far there are nine dead soldiers - two killed by a landmine - and apparently up to 60 militants killed. The only thing that is certain is that there will be many more casualties in the coming days and weeks as the Pakistani army advances towards the town of Makeen, main stronghold of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (above).

Mehsud, who came out of hiding to give a press conference earlier this month, successfully dispelling rumours that he had died in a shootout in August, now awaits the army in the mountains of Makeen, where he is said to be holed up with his senior lieutenants.

The extremists – who probably number between 5,000 and 10,000 and include local Pashtuns from the Pakistani Taliban, Uzbeks, a few hundred Arabs and even some Western volunteers - know that they are now engaged in an existential battle. So does the Pakistani army, which has deployed around 30,000 men backed by tanks, helicopters and artillery.

Full Report at: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/54868,news-comment,news-politics,do-or-die-as-pakistani-army-advances-on-taliban?DCMP=NLC-daily

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Dr Zainab Alwani talks on Challenges before Muslim Women

19 October 2009

New Delhi: Muslim women are faced with a number of difficult choices in a fast globalizing world as they have to make their personal and public decisions in the light of "the Islamic paradigm," said Dr Zainab Alwani while delivering her lecture at the Institute of Objective Studies auditorium in New Delhi yesterday. Dr. Alwani is program director Arabic Language Studies, North Virginia Community College, USA.

In her lecture attended by many young women, a few young men and some elders, she elaborated upon her idea of the Islamic paradigm. "The paradigm's core ideas are based on istikhlaf (vice regency)". That, in short, means, human beings (men and women) are God's viceroys on earth.

Quoting the Quran's Surah Al-Baqrah and Surah Taubah she said men and women were here to "bear witness" to God's Will. "A witness is always present, active and involved to be a real witness", she explained. The vice regent has to ensure a balance and sense of proportion in both the private and public, personal and political domains.

"That entails spreading the good, checking the evil and establishing payer", she pointed out. To live such life one has to be responsible and enlightened as an individual. Such individuals build a pure society.

The topic of the lecture was "Challenges Before Muslim Women in the Global Scenario". She restricted her lecture largely to theoretical issues and to her experience as a Muslim woman in the United States.

She said the drift and uncertainties of a post-modern world had once again put women (particularly Muslim women) at the centre of life. "Women are natural teachers, as were the Ummahatul Momineen (wives of the holy Prophet PBUH) who imparted Islamic learning to the first and second generation of Muslims".

Full Report at: http://twocircles.net/2009oct19/dr_zainab_alwani_talks_challenges_muslim_women.html

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60 Taliban men killed in S. Waziristan offensive

Nirupama Subramanian

Oct 19, 2009

Long-awaited offensive involves 28,000 troops

U.S. sending in military equipment in support

ISLAMABAD: A day after launching a ground offensive in the Pakistani Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, the Army said on Sunday 60 militants and six soldiers had been killed.

Eleven soldiers are also injured in the operation, code-named Rah-e-Nijat (Path of Deliverance), which, going by the casualties is facing resistance, though the military said the militants were fleeing the troops advance, leaving behind arms and ammunition.

The long-awaited offensive involving an estimated 28,000 troops began on Saturday, following a wave of attacks over 12 days by the Taliban and their Punjab-based jihadi allies in mainland Pakistan, including a strike on the Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi and three synchronised attacks in Lahore.

On Friday, Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani briefed both government leaders and opposition parties on the security situation. Troops began moving into South Waziristan early the next day.

The timing of the offensive also coincided with U.S. President Barack Obama signing the Kerry-Lugar Bill into an Act to provide Pakistan $1.5 billion annually until 2014 in non-military assistance, and an unspecified amount in military assistance. There were protests in Pakistan over what were described as "humiliating" conditions attached to the security assistance, most importantly from the Army.

Full Report at: http://www.thehindu.com/2009/10/19/stories/2009101955871300.htm

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Iran's elite force suffers major blow

Atul Aneja

Oct 19, 2009

Five top commanders killed in blast

DUBAI: Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) suffered a major blow on Sunday when a suicide bomber assassinated at least five top commanders of the elite force in a province that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A second explosion targeted another set of commanders between the towns of Sarbaz and Chabahar, Iran's state-run Press TV reported. Both attacks took place in the Pishin region in the turbulent Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Reports in the Iranian media said that in the first strike, Nour-Ali Shoushtari, deputy commander of the IRGC ground forces and Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh, a provincial commander of the Sistan-Baluchistan province were killed.

The semi-official Fars news agency said two corps commanders and a brigade commander were also listed among the dead. Preliminary figures suggest that up to 29 people have been killed and another 28 injured in the strike.

According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the attacker detonated his explosives when the commanders were inside a car on their way to a meeting, apparently with Sunni and Shia tribal leaders.

Full Report at: http://www.thehindu.com/2009/10/19/stories/2009101955861300.htm

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To arrest rising sea, Maldives ministers meet underwater

19 October 2009

MALE: The Maldives' government held an underwater cabinet meeting in a bid to focus global attention on rising sea levels that threaten to

submerge the low-lying nation.

President Mohamed Nasheed plunged first into the Indian Ocean on Saturday followed by his ministers, all clad in scuba gear, for the televised meeting in this archipelago.

Nasheed and a dozen ministers sat behind tables at a depth of six metres and approved a resolution urging global action to cut carbon emissions. Tropical reef fish swam among the ministers and the nation's red and green flag with white crescent moon was planted behind Nasheed.

After surfacing, he called for the UN's climate summit in Copenhagen in December to forge a deal to reduce carbon emissions blamed for rising sea levels that could swamp Maldives by the century's end.

Full Report at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/To-arrest-rising-sea-Maldives-ministers-meet-underwater/articleshow/5137310.cms

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Gandhi's ideas influenced release of Lockerbie bomber

18 October 2009

LONDON: The recent release of the alleged Lockerbie bomber was in line with Mahatma Gandhi's principles of compassion and non-violence, Scotland first minister Alex Salmond has said.

Speaking during a conference of his Scottish National Party, in Inverness, Salmond said that the Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill was right in deciding to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in August.

Salmond recalled the recent visit of Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi to Scotland and said, "One of the things he told me is that his grandfather's philosophy is much misunderstood. His resistance was not passive, but active. His dedication to non-violence a strength, not a weakness".

Salmond continued in the Gandhian mode, "Sometimes, someone has to break the cycle of retribution with an act of compassion - that is what Kenny MacAskill did and we should be proud of him for doing it."

Earlier, Salmond said he will consider a proposal to set up a Scottish centre for non-violence, peace and reconciliation after a meeting with Arun Gandhi.

Gandhi, 74, was in Scotland to deliver lectures at the universities of Edinburgh, Dundee and Queen Margaret. He addressed a conference at Napier University on the Gandhian approach to ethical leadership.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Gandhis-ideas-influenced-release-of-Lockerbie-bomber/articleshow/5136173.cms

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Yemen promotes for tourism from Islamic perspective

By Mahmoud Assamiee

SABA'A, Oct. 18 (Saba) - Yemen has organized a conference on tourism and Islam aiming at understanding tourism from Islamic perspective.

For this purpose the Ministry of Tourism and Jobari Investment Company invited great Islamic preachers from some parts of the Arab World to attend the First Conference of Tourism and Islam.

According to the conference coordinator Ali Jobari, the idea of the conference is to enlighten Yemeni people how to attract tourists via their good behaviors and to present their country to tourists in good picture.

"The conference is the first of its kind which held in an Islamic country," said Jobari. "Islam argues Muslims to travel across land and see Allah's creations and signs in His land."

The preachers invited to the conference, he says, have been chosen from those who have big audiences and those who are familiar to the Yemeni people and like them.

"The prime aim of the conference is to remove falsified ideas from minds of people", said the Minister of Tourism Nabil Al-Faqeeh. Tourism is not chalets, bars, nightclubs or hotels.

"Yemen will not be a hotbed for impudent tourism. Those tourists who want bars, nightclubs and chalets do not come to Yemen but those who come to Yemen are tourists looking for history and civilization," said al-Faqih.

Executive Director of Tourism Promotion Council Ahmad Al-Biel said that the invited preachers had delivered lectures in grand mosques in the capital Sana'a and a large hall.

Full Report at: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news196094.htmss

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Unstable Iran

October 18th, 2009

By David Frum

A suicide bombing near the Iran-Pakistan border killed at least 31 Iranian nationals, including senior Revolutionary Guard commanders.

The guessing is that the bombing was carried out by Sunni minority tribes. Whoever the culprit, here's the lesson to remember: Iran is not a nation-state. It was built as a multiethnic empire, and even today Persian speakers make up only about half the population. (51% is the conventional estimate.)

Iran is much more Shiite (over 80% at least) than it is Persian. But it's an interesting question to what extent Iran's distinctive Shiism should be understood as an expression of Persian nationalism. If so, that too might enflame the resentment of non-Persians against the regime.

Shiism identifies the early Arab caliphs as the most evil villains in history, the murderers of the family of the prophet Muhammad. It rejects the supreme authority of the early, Arab-speaking, schools of Islamic law in favour of reinterpretation by later generations, Arab and non-Arab alike.

Shiism incorporates pre-Islamic customs and folkways into religious practice.

And while Shiism came late to Iran (it was introduced by the Safavid monarchs - themselves ironically Turkish speakers, not Persian), it spread amongst the population only after it had entirely vanished from almost everywhere in the Arab world.

Bernard Lewis taught us not to be distracted by lines on the map: national identity was weak in the Islamic world, religious identity strong. It may prove a very urgent question: Are the Persians the exception to the rule? And might this Persian exceptionalism irritate non-Persians to such an extent as actually to prove a liability and danger to the Iranian regime?

Source: http://www.newmajority.com/unstable-iran

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Is Afghanistan worth it?

Mike • Radoiu

October 19, 2009

Someone should post a sign at the borders of Afghanistan warning all comers to "beware." Multiple empires ranging from the Macedonians to the Mongols encountered resistance and ultimate frustration in this region. More recently, the armies of Great Britain and the Soviet Union were both soundly defeated by its harsh geography and even harsher tribesmen. Afghanistan has always been unkind to invaders.

As we look to escalate the war in Afghanistan, we need to think hard about whether a deeper commitment there will address our national interest. Treading where so many others have failed presents considerable risks. By losing sight of our real mission (the destruction of the al-Qaida) we risk chasing a resilient and elusive Taliban down a rabbit hole ad infinitum. Although they harbored foreign terrorists in the past, only a third of the Taliban share the al-Qaida vision of a Global Caliphate. Many are simply brigands, opportunists or just oppose an outside force on their soil. With almost no al-Qaida remaining in Afghanistan, one wonders why we are poised to commit so much in the pursuit of a dubious end. The scenario has all the makings of a trap.

Military experts say that it would take about 500,000 troops (NATO and Afghan) to "pacify" the country and empower the government. Never mind that Afghanistan has no tradition of strong centralized governance. Power and influence is typically found at the local level in the person of the tribal elder.

Full Report at: http://www.newsleader.com/article/20091019/OPINION02/910190306

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Tehran's Saba to host 3rd Intl. Graphic Biennial of Islamic World

October 19, 2009

TEHRAN -- The 3rd International Graphic Biennial of the Islamic World will be opening on October 25 at the Saba Art and Cultural Institute in Tehran.

Over 3700 works from around the world were submitted to the secretariat and the final list will soon be announced by the selection board, said secretary of the biennial Habibollah Sadeqi, adding that the jury would decide later on about the best works to go on display.

The theme of the month-long program featuring works from 38 countries is "Palestine" and "Islamic Civilization", Sadeqi said.

"The countries of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Syria, and Lebanon are participating with the highest number of works, while European artists have also submitted works this time. Veteran and young designers will be displaying their works this year.

Several meetings, workshops, and discussions with the participation of Iranian and foreign artists are arranged during the biennial.

The biennial is sponsored by Saba Institute affiliated to Iran's Academy of Art.

Source: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=205918

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Islam's Besieged Moderates are Making themselves Heard

October 19, 2009

The fact that the majority of Muslims speak against violence and terrorism, regardless of its origins or the identity of its perpetrators, cuts no ice with these confirmed Islamophobes and political opportunists, notes Yasir Suleiman.

To say that Islam and the Muslims of Europe and North America are under pressure is an understatement. In fact, the Muslims feel under siege. On one side of the squeeze are certain non-Muslims who do not wish Islam to be seen as a religion of peace, moderation and ethical values that cuts across faiths traditions and cultural systems.

Whether out of Islamophobia or political convenience, people of this persuasion love to demonise Islam and Muslims as the main sources of violence and terrorism in the modern world. They have succeeded in turning this image of violence and terrorism into a dangerous stereotype, a self-evident truth that needs no substantiation. The fact that the majority of Muslims speak against violence and terrorism, regardless of its origins or the identity of its perpetrators, cuts no ice with these confirmed Islamophobes and political opportunists.

From the other side, Islam and Muslims have come under attack from within the fold by a small minority of extremists who wish to hijack the peaceful message of Islam, replacing it with bloodthirsty assertions about what true Islam really is. These Muslims believe that interpretations of Islam that speak of peace, moderation and the ethics of justice and toleration are acts of surrender to the power of anti-Muslims who wish to destroy Islam from within.

The logic of both parties is the same: a moderate Islam that is willing to live in harmony with itself and at peace with others if they are willing to do the same, is a historical aberration, a posture of dissimulation and deceit, or an abominable act of surrender to the enemy. The implacable enmity of these two camps to a moderate Islam loyal to its universal truths and values paradoxically makes it the most radical form of the religion.

Full Report at: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=35078

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Qaeda on recruitment drive in US, Europe

October 19, 2009

Even as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been facing a tough battle against the Pakistani army, an equally dangerous terrorist organisation in Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda, is on a recruitment spree.

According to a Washington Post report, Al Qaeda has expanded its recruitment base to European nations and even the United States.

The report said recruits from US, Germany, France and UK have been travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan for terror training.

The target countries have now been struggling to stop their nationals from being recruited by the militant outfit. However, the governments of these countries have not yet been able to make much headway.

The daily said at least 30 Germans went to Pakistan for terror training. A group called German Taliban has also surfaced in the country.

The group, the report said, was led by a German of Syrian descent. Members also include ethnic Turks, German converts to Islam and people having roots in Afghanistan.

On August 12, foreigners including four Swedes were arrested in Pakistan in this connection.

Source: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=111&id=66931&Itemid=1&sectionid=113&secid=0

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Beyonne delays Malaysia concert amid criticism by conservative Muslims

By Sean Yoong

October 19th, 2009

Beyonce delays Malaysia show amid Muslim criticism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — R&B star Beyonce Knowles has postponed a planned concert in Malaysia, the event's organizer said Monday, following accusations by Islamic conservatives that the show would be immoral.

Knowles, known for her provocative clothes and choreography, had been scheduled to perform at a Kuala Lumpur stadium Oct. 25. The show "has been postponed to a future date to be announced shortly," Malaysian entertainment company Marctensia said in a statement.

"The postponement is solely (the) decision of the artist and has nothing to do with other external reasons," the statement said.

A Marctensia representative declined to say whether the decision was prompted by criticism from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the country's largest opposition group, which has called for the show to be scrapped because it would promote "Western sexy performances."

Full Report at: http://blog.taragana.com/e/2009/10/19/beyonce-delays-malaysia-concert-amid-criticism-by-conservative-muslims-45059/

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UAE women become pilots at Etihad

October 19th, 2009

For the first time, Emarati women have earned their wings as pilots at Etihad Airways, the airline has announced. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier said the women, Salma al-Baloushi and Aisha al-Mansouri, graduated from flight training alongside nine male colleagues and earned the airline transport pilot licence (ATPL). 'Everyone at Etihad is delighted that Salma and Aisha - our first female cadet pilots - have made history as the first women to graduate from the programme,' Etihad Airways Chief Executive James Hogan said in a statement.

Source: http://www.ameinfo.com/212951.html

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U.S. remains mum on invitation of Philippine Muslim rebels to be peace broker

October 19th, 2009

Manila, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- The United States government on Monday said that negotiation is the only way to peace in Mindanao, but remained mum on the invitation of Muslim rebels to help broker peace talks with the Philippine government.

"The U.S. continues to support a negotiated peace settlement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While the shape of a peace agreement is for the two parties to determine, we encourage both sides to return to the negotiating table, the only venue for achieving peace and security in Mindanao," said U.S. embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson.

She stressed that the U.S. has been actively engaged in supporting peace and development in Mindanao.

Washington is a major aid donor to impoverished Muslim areas of Mindanao, and the U.S. special forces based on the island provide training and intelligence to Philippine troops fighting Islamist militants.

"Since 1996, through the U.S. Agency for International Development and its partners, we have worked on a large variety of development projects, from infrastructure and livelihood assistance projects to education and health support," Thompson said.

Full Report at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-10/19/content_12270500.htm

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Western terror recruits attending camps in Pakistan increasing: Washington Post

October 19th, 2009

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Oct 19 (IANS) A rising number of Western recruits - including Americans -are travelling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend paramilitary training camps, the Washington Post reported Monday citing US and European counter-terrorism officials.

The flow of recruits has continued unabated in spite of an intensified campaign over the past year by the CIA to eliminate Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders in drone missile attacks, the influential US daily said citing unnamed officials.

Since January, at least 30 recruits from Germany have travelled to Pakistan for training, according to German security sources, the Post said in a report from Berlin.

German security services have been on high alert since last month, when groups affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda issued several videos warning that an attack on German targets was imminent if the government did not bring home its forces from Afghanistan.

The videos all featured German speakers who urged Muslims to travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan to join their cause.

Last week, German officials disclosed that a 10-member cell from Hamburg had left for Pakistan earlier this year. The cell is allegedly led by a German of Syrian descent but also includes ethnic Turks, German converts to Islam and one member with Afghan roots.

Full Report at: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/western-terror-recruits-attending-camps-in-pakistan-increasing-washington-post_100262708.html

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No change in Pakistan's attitude to terror: Tharoor

19 Oct 2009

WASHINGTON: India sees no change in Pakistan's attitude towards jihadists, noting that Islamabad was yet to take credible action either to

Bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice or to dismantle the "infrastructure of terror".

"Now, this sort of thing does worry us. We want to see some really clear and firm action," said India's Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" programme.

India asked for two things "after the massacres of Mumbai in 26.11, as we call it in India," he said when asked if the Pakistani government has changed in the last three or four months with the rise of a civilian, democratic government.

"We asked for credible action to bring the perpetrators of that horror to justice. And we asked for credible action to dismantle the infrastructure of terror from which attacks had repeatedly been launched in India over the last couple of decades," Tharoor said.

"Now, frankly, we haven't seen enough action on either," he said noting, "The Pakistanis are "saying the right things...But it's what they do that matters."

"What we want now is something new, something clear-something that shows within Pakistan that it's a clean break from the condoning, at the very least, if not the actual leading, of terrorist actions against India," Tharoor said.

India certainly hoped that recent militant attacks on the Pakistani state would make Islamabad take on the fight against jihad, he said.

But "one of the concerns we've had in recent years is that there appears to have been a tendency in some parts of the Pakistani establishment to think there are good terrorists and bad terrorists."

Full Report at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/No-change-in-Pakistans-attitude-to-terror-Tharoor/articleshow/5138332.cms

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Canada helps Islamic leadership in Indonesia

The Jakarta Post

19 Oct 2009

Canada has donated C$13.5 million (Rp 122.77 billion) to Indonesia to boost the quality of Islamic leadership in the world's most populous Muslim country, the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement.

Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mackenzie Clugston, and Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs, Maftuh Basyuni, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday "to build the capacity of several Islamic institutions of higher learning in Indonesia and ensure their outreach functions well with local communities".

The MoU, the embassy added, also aimed to build the capacity of the Religious Affairs Ministry, "in order to effectively integrate democratic governance practices and issues in their strategies, programs and budgets".

"This important project will help further strengthen the long-standing relationship between Canada and Indonesia which has led to a greater mutual understanding of our respective cultures, values, and principles," the ambassador was quoted as saying.

Full Report at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/10/19/canada-helps-islamic-leadership-indonesia.html-0

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Attempt to Ban Minarets Sparks Censorship Controversy in Switzerland

By Patrick Goodenough

October 19, 2009

Supporters of a bid to outlaw minarets in Switzerland have been accused of undermining free expression, but they now accuse their critics of doing the same thing by banning a poster promoting the campaign ahead of a referendum next month.

Calling the posters discriminatory, a number of Swiss local authorities have prohibited their display in public locations. The poster depicts a burqa-clad woman alongside a Swiss flag pierced by minarets.

A federal anti-racism commission ruled earlier that the posters "incite hatred" by implying that Muslims in Switzerland pose a danger. The Muslim minority, mostly originating from Turkey and the Balkans, is 300,000-strong, accounting for around four percent of the predominantly Christian population.

The chairman of the organizing committee for the anti-minaret campaign, Walter Wobmann, told the Swiss news agency SDA on Sunday it planned legal action against the cities and towns that have banned the poster, possibly on the basis of a freedom of speech violation.

The referendum was initiated by the conservative Swiss People's Party (SVP) which collected a sufficient number of signatures last year under the country's referendum provisions. If it passes on November 29, the Swiss constitution will be amended to add the line, "the construction of minarets is prohibited."

Although Switzerland holds referendums regularly and on a wide range of issues, the minaret initiative has been especially controversial.

Full Report at: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/55697

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Dallas-area Muslims fear backlash from arrests tied to terror plot

By SELWYN CRAWFORD

October 19, 2009

North Texans were both angry and relieved last month when federal agents arrested a Jordanian teenager in a failed plot to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

But for area Muslims, the arrest of 19-year-old Hosam "Sam" Smadi evoked yet another emotion – fear.

"Being a Muslim in America today is not easy," said Hadi Jawad, a longtime Dallas business owner and a volunteer at the Dallas Peace Centre. "We feel under siege. There is open season on our faith. Muslims are painted with a broad brush."

Jawad and other Muslims praise the work of law enforcement in arresting Smadi, as well as two other terrorism suspects in New York and Illinois. But because of all three suspects' Islamic faith, they say the arrests cast aspersions on Islam that hearken back to the atmosphere that existed immediately after 9/11.

Though most area Muslims are quick to say the mood of the country has not returned to that bitter level, most add that their lives here would be practically unbearable if any Muslim terrorist were to carry out another attack on American soil

"We have to work toward a common yardstick of justice, but we are just one catastrophic incident away from the post-9/11 atmosphere and even worse," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, a Muslim civil rights organization. "We have to accept the double standards, as bad as they are. That's just the fact, unfortunately."

Muslims in North Texas say they don't know of any physical assaults on them of late, but that after any high-profile negative event involving Muslims – such as the arrest of Smadi – they face increased racial taunts and verbal harassment.

Al-Marayati says suspicions about Muslims persist, in large part, because Americans – most of whom are Christian – either can't or won't make a distinction between the mainstream and fringe elements of Islam, while they discern that difference for others. He says, for example, that when non-Muslims commit extreme acts, they are quickly dismissed as being crazy or weird or having some deep-seated emotional problem, and are not viewed as representative of an entire group of people.

Full Report at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/101909dnmetmuslimangst.3f4b3c3.html

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