Monthly Archives: November 2007

New Turkish Program To Curb Domestic Violence Against Women

Nimet Cubukcu, Turkey’s Minister in charge of women’s affairs, says domestic violence is a key issue in her nation. Since October, half of the 1,244 women who requested safe haven at the Mor Cati Women Shelter Association were fleeing from domestic violence issues. Ms. Cubukcu believes an important problem is the misuse of religion and culture to justify abusing women on grounds of “honor” which invariably means men’s feelings being angered. Besir Atalay, Minister of the Interior and Ms. Cubukcu are initiating a new program to train about 40,000 Turkish police in strategies of dealing with domestic violence.

As Ms. Cubukcu correctly points out, domestic violence is not a “Muslim issue,” it is one found in virtually all religions in the world. There are men who will justify violent behavior on religious or cultural grounds in just about any religion.

US-Iraq Long Term Agreement Signed By Bush-Maliki

President Bush signed a deal setting the foundation for a long-term U.S. troop presence with details subsequently to be worked out. Bush and Prime Minister Maliki reached the agreement on Monday which creates an “enduring” relationship in military, economic, and political terms. The hypothesis is that major portions of the American armed forces will be withdrawn over the coming year, but a large force will remain in Iraq, most probably stationed in outlying areas. There are rumors the eventual agreement will provide special advantages for American investments in Iraq– one can assume this would include oil exploration and development. Meanwhile, US troops fired on civilian vehicles which did not halt when demanded and five civilians were killed including children.

This agreement is exactly what one would expect from President Bush who still lacks any grasp concerning the complexities of Middle Eastern politics and religion. A continuing American military presence is a mistake since it opens the door for constant attacks and violence. Why not creation of a Muslim Army drawn from other Muslim nations which could assist a new Iraq government establish the basis for security? Turkey has a powerful and well trained military which would be able to accomplish anything that US forces would achieve. America must leave the region. The very notion of giving US business special advantages is a horrible mistake which eventually will backfire. Have we forgotten that American oil companies at one time received special advantages from the Saudi Arabian government until times changed and agreements were ended?

Rhetoric Is Loud And Will Increase As Annapolis Fails

As Arabs and Israelis gathered in Annapolis to discuss issues related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, tension was raised in the Gaza strip as Israel tanks and troops moved into the edges of the Hamas controlled area. There is talk of an Israel attack on Gaza to wipe out rocket launching sites once the Annapolis conference concludes. A reporter for The Independent spoke with ordinary Gaza citizens who are caught in a confusing middle between Hamas on one side and the Ramallah-based Fatah on the other side. Ami Ayub, who works in a cemetery that is desperate for cement, but can’t get it due to Israel restrictions, asked the question that was most probably on the minds of most of his neighbors, “After 15 years of negotiation, what are they going to do in a single day?” Farmers in the area are more concerned if they can get their strawberry crop across the line so their product can get sold. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas militant, roared defiance, “Whoever gives up The Right of Return(for refugees) and Al Quds(Jerusalem) is not for us.” He emphasized that not “one inch” of palestinian land will be surrendered. In a nearby souvenir shop, a man was selling mugs that one could break if the Annapolis conference failed.

We can expect many mugs will be broken all over Gaza because there is scant likelihood anything significant will emerge from the Bush-Rice photo-op meeting. A meeting is most successful if preliminary work establishes the basis for what will be examined. It is doubtful if 40 nations can reach a conclusion about anything within a day. Meanwhile, the absence of Hamas from the session only leads to rhetoric about not surrendering an inch of land or of standing firm on the Right of Return for refugees. A few million refugees are not going to return to Israel any more than a million Jews are going to return to Arab nations from which they fled in the fifties. The issue of Jerusalem can be readily resolved, but questions concerning West Bank settlements are more complex and will require compromise. Too many Israelis and Palestinians refuse to accept the reality of negotiations– both sides must compromise if any solution is to be achieved.

Liberal Muslim Scholar Not Wanted In Indonesia

Liberal Egyptian Koranic scholar, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, said he was pressured by Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry to cancel a scheduled appearance at an Islamic seminar in East Java. He believes the government was urged by the Indonesian Ulema Council to forbid his talk on grounds that Abu Zayd was preaching doctrines they disliked. Abu Zayd now lives in exile in the Netherlands after the Egyptian government persecuted him because he regards the Koran as a religious, mythical and literary work. He is will known among Indonesian Islamic thinkers for his views on Islamic theology and is regarded as a liberal who holds ideas not necessarily shared by the majority of religious figures.

Abu Zayd was also forced to cancel other scheduled talks in Indonesia when the Ulema Religious Council apparently did not want someone with religious views contrary to their own to speak in public. The Council noted in a press release, “In Indonesia, blasphemers of the Koran at state Islamic universities nearly always refer to Abu Zayd.” They are upset because he does not regard the Koran as a divine document, but more as a cultural product. One can only wonder if the Ulema Council is convinced they are right concerning the Koran why they do not wish to engage in open public debate with a figure who is supposedly so openly incorrect. Surely, the truth will prevail.

Message Coming From Bin Laden–Will Muslims Care?

A preliminary notice was furnished concerning a forthcoming message from Osama bin Laden was posted on on a web site that normally is aware of any messages he wishes to convey to the world. “Soon, if God allows, the lion sheik, Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, (will give) a message to the European nations.” His last message was addressed to the people of Iraq and urged them to unite and fight Americans. There is increasing evidence, al-Qaeda is continually encountering rising negative feeling from many places in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq where people are sick and tired of the mindless killings committed by this organization. Exactly, what he wishes to convey to the people of Europe is unclear. He most probably will make another threat, but his organization is being weakened as even former militants now call for an end to violence.

In a sense, Osama bin Laden, has been helped for years by the inept Bush policies which antagonize large segments of the Muslim world and create a desire among some Muslims to engage in Jihad. However, al-Qaeda is losing the war for the minds and hearts of Muslims because its strategy of killing Muslims is backfiring and all the messages from bin Laden will not change what people now know about his terrorist organization– it is an organization based on senseless killing of the innocent.

The End Of Russian Democracy- Putin Rules Forever!

Quiet reigns in Russia after last weekend’s brutal clamp down on Garry Kasporov,a leading dissident and opponent of Vladmir Putin. The European press was shocked at the open brutality displayed by Russian police toward a peaceful demonstration of people who were waving banners saying, “Russia Without Putin.” Apparently, even such a mild form of dissident behavior is cause for a major assault on people. Baton wielding police charged into the demonstration and arrested 200 people including Kasporov and the former vice premier of Russia, Boris Nemzov. As Germany’s Die Tageszeittung noted in a blistering editorial against the Russian leader, “Moscow has now permanently discredited itself in the eyes of the world.”

The question bothering many experts is why has Putin taken such a drastic open policy of crushing any form of disagreement with his rule. There is scant doubt his United Russia party will garner about 70% of the vote and no major opposition party will get more than about a 7% share of votes. Why is he so firm in refusing to allow even the semblance of a democratic society? The charade is now over, Russia is under the control of a one man government, something Russians thought ended with the downfall of communism.

Saudi Arabia And Syria Hesitant About Annapolis Conference

A group of Israel news reporters asked members of the Saudi Arabian delegation if there was any interest on the part of their nation at the upcoming Annapolis meeting to normalize relations with Israel, and they were told, “none.” The Saudi delegation wants no contact with Israel and will even enter the meetings via a separate door. Syria is attending the conference even though they were refused permission to place Israel possession of the Golan Heights as a topic for discussion. However, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqudad will be permitted to address the meeting. An editorial in the Syrian daily, Teshreen stated bluntly the only reason for attending was to deal with the immediate needs of the Palestinian people, and the Syrian delegation realized nothing would be done about their interests and needs. The Syrians believe Israel is trying to force normalization of relations without sensing a need to deal with Arab concerns.

There is no doubt many members of Arab nations are hesitant to attend the Annapolis conference, and a significant problem is failure on the part of its planners to get some prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority about concrete steps each party would take in the process of normalizing relations. The conference lacks a specific agenda items, it lacks a timetable to meeting those items, and it lacks a real sense among its participants that the dream of peace is what impels them to be present in Annapolis.

Thai School Tests Parents Before Admitting Children

A school in Thailand, the Mathayom Thanbin Kamphaeng Salen school, now requires parents to pass a written test before the institution would consider admitting their child. Potential students receive a child-raising manual which they take home in order to educate their parents concerning what constitutes being a good parent. According to Nannapas Kamchan, a 14-year old student, “I wasn’t worried that my parents would fail. The test isn’t hard. They only needed to seriously study the materials.” Children are allowed to assist their parents when they take the test which requires at least a 70% grade for passing. Parents are also required to attend a training session every session where they are expected to brush up on parenting techniques. The school has also increased Buddhism classes where students work on merit-making, meditation and social services.

One can only wonder if such an effort should be required of potential presidential candidates in the United States. What if they had to pass an examination which tested their knowledge of American and world history? Which of the current candidates would score highest? Which lowest?

Buy Nothing Day Encourages Just Doing, Not Purchasing!

Buy Nothing Day in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta resulted in hundreds of people sharing, singing, and having a good time without spending a dime. The global even was initiated by the Canadian magazine, Adbusters, which wanted to sponsor a day in which people throughout the world just hung around having fun and sharing and loving without getting caught up in commercial activities of buying goods they really didn’t need. At Sambas Park in Jakarta, there was free food, free clothes, free T-shirt printing, book readings, accupunture and even people who were ready to sing and dance. According to Ika Vantiani, “the spirit of Buy Nothing Day is sharing and charity.”

The dream of Buy Nothing Day is admirable, unfortunately, the world has reached a point in its history in which we buy and buy and buy or the wheels of commerce would cease moving. Among the thousands who turned out to celebrate the event in Sambas Park, there were hundreds who simply wanted some free food and clothes. I thought the most interesting event of the day happened in America where a woman went to a mall and had a sign offering to listen to anyone who needed someone to listen to their story. Reports indicate she attracted quite a crowd.

Russian Government Not Pleased With US Proposals On Missiles

The Russian government continues to be upset at American plans to establish missile bases in the Czech Republic and Poland. Leonid Slutsky, of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, claimed that American proposals fell far short of “real cooperation” and would not lead Russia to abandon its threat of suspending a key provision of a European arms agreement. The Russian government believes the United States has gone back on its word to work out a true cooperative solution to the problem.

This entire “problem” was created when the Bush administration decided there was need for missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic to guard the world against some unknown entity that wanted to fire missiles in that direction. The only two logical nations who might fall into the category of the “enemy” are North Korea and Iran. North Korea has already reached agreements with the United States about its nuclear and missile programs and Iran doesn’t possess the capability of attacking Western Europe. One might also raise the simple question as to whether or not this is a European Union issue, not one concerning the United States. Russia has indicated its willingness to cooperate and even place a missile defense system on its own territory. The failure of the Bush administration to develop this offer is merely another example of its ineptness, and success in making other nations doubt that America seeks peace.