Monthly Archives: March 2008

Indonesian Muslim Group Recognizes Homosexuality

In a discusson organized by the non government organization, Arus Pelangi, Muslim scholars cited the Koran in order to cite reasons why homosexual behavior is recognized as being consistent with the Muslim faith. Siti Musdah Mula, of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace, cited the Koran’s al-Hujurt(49.3) as indicating “there is no difference between lesbians and nonlesbians in the eyes of God, people are valued on the basis of their piety.” Many speakers at the meeting said the significance of Islam is a receptivity to divergent beliefs. Another speaker pointed out “Indonesian culture has accepted homosexuality. The homosexual group in Bugis-Makassar tradition called Bissu is respected and given a high position in the kingdom.”

Many in the Western world tend to accept the views of radical militants as representing those of the majority of Muslims. Nations like Indonesia which contains the largest Muslim group in the world are ignored even though their approach to religion is more open and tolerant because it doesn’t fit into the stereotype of bomb throwing militants.

Bush Accepts Putin Invitation As McCain Attacks Putin

President George Bush surprised officials by accepting an invitation from President Putin of Russia for an informal meeting in early April to discuss several controversial issues. A source told the Moscow Times, “some members of the(Bush) administration, including those working in the field of interntional affairs, advised Bush not to hurry with an answer and not to accept the invitation” but apparently the president decided to ignore their advice. Bush wants to clarify the relationship between the two nations and deal with issues such as American construction of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin has also expressd Russian concern over expansion of NATO to include the Ukraine and Georgia.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president this November, blasted the Russian govenment and urged the Goup of Eight to drop plans to include Russia because of its “nuclear blackmail.” He said: “We should start by ensuring that the G-8..becomes a club of leading market democracies. It should include Bazil and India, but exclude Russia.” He made clear his policy would be to organize NATO to maintain opposition to Russia until there are changes in its government’s attitude toward the West.

Hamas Offers Cease Fire As Rockets Hit Israel Preschool

The on a gain off again story of possible cease fire in the Gaza Strip continued as exiled Damascus based Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, sent a messatge to Arab leaders offering to consier the possibilit of an over all calm with Israel. According to th daily Al Hayat, the message was timed to coincide with the Arab League summt scheduled to take place in Syria’s capital over the weekend. Mashaal defended the policy of firing rockets although his actions have come under severe criticism from Arab leaders who regard it as pointless and merely making more difficult attainment of any form of peace in the region. Mashall wrote use of rockets was meant to defend the people of Gaz, but added, “all of the factions of the Palestinian resistance have expressed their willngness to seriously examne the issue of a calm, provided that is overall, concurrent and mutual.”

Egypt, which has been working to broker a peace, has been informed by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, of a willingness for a cease fire provided it includes the West Bank. However, there are as yet no signs the Israel government will accept that proviso. There are risks in any agreement, but continuation of the present situation is a greater risk. A rocket hit an Israel preschool and luckily no one was killed. If a rocket kills Israel children there is no doubt, Israel forces might well strom into Gaza. Everyone needs a period of calm.

Iraq Government Offense In Basra Stalls

The Iraq army’s offensive against the Shiite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr apparently has stalled in its efforts to dislodge them from positions in Basra. The American military expected the Iraq army offense to demonstrate the success of US training efforts and make clear the government of Prime Minister Maliki was in control of the country. Instead of being a show of strength, the assault has encountered fierce opposition from opponents. Saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra and cut by one-third exports of crude oil. In Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of al-Sadr marched through the streets shouting anti-Maliki slogans. “We demand the downfall of the Maliki government,” said Hussein Abu Ali, a demonstrator, “it does not reprsent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney.”

The main bastion of al-Sadr supporters is Sadr City which contains about two milliion people and the densely packed slum area has been sealed off by US troops. People are trapped inside without adqequate food, water, and electricity. In Basra, the Iraq army has cordoned off several districts but has failed in its attempt to dislodge Mahdi militia. The Iraq government says at least 51 are dead and hundeds wouonded as a result of the fighting.

President Bush offered congragulations to the Maliki government saying it faces a “tough battle against militia fighters and criminals.” The Iraq force of 15,000 soldiers and police is certainly insufficient to handle an area of two miillion people. At some point, the Maliki government will have to switch its efforts to the political arena since further military action is only bound to exacerbate the situation.

Hunkering Down In Green Zone-Surge Working?

Dick Cheney and John McCain came and went announcing to the media how the Bush surge had significantly reduced violence in Baghdad. During the past few days, warning sirens echo through Baghdad and within seconds rockets and mortars strike, sometimes in one or two, other times 10 or more. The danger has completely reshaped lives of those living in the heavily protected area. On Thursday, the State Department ordered Embassy personnel not to leave reinforced structures and all employees are required to wear helmets and other protective gear while in or outside. The attacks apparently are the work of members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia who are fightng the government of Iraq both in Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere. One explosion on Thursday ignited a fire in the central area of the zone that sent a massive column of thick, black smoke drifting over the Tigris River.

On Easter Sunday at least 12 innocent Iraqi civilians were killed by rockets that went astray. Inside the Green Zone, American personnel are sleeping on cots and on couches in heavily reinforced buildings to escape rocket and mortar shells. The barrages are definitely coming from Shiite areas located in eastern Baghdad. Rockets are fired from mobile rocket launchers which are quckly moved to other locations.

We await comments from John McCain about the success of his ideas that additional soldiers, in themselves, will result in peace in Iraq. The failure to launch a political offensive is among the reasons for further violence.

China Rolls Out Propaganda To Blame Tibetan Radicals

The riots have ended in Tibet, at least for the moment, and the Chinese government is in full swing with its campaign to prove they were caused by evil Tibetans who killed fellow Tibetans. The China Daily reports “of the 18 innocent people killed, three were Tibetans, and stores owned by Tibetans and Hui people were also burnt down or looted.” A local Tibet official, Baema Chillain, is quoted as emphsizing that “strangers” forced people to participate in the riots. The story being told by the Chinese media and those friendly to the government is one in which riots were caused by those who are against the interests of the people of Tibet and thanks to the hard work and generosity of the Chinese government everything is back to normal.

Of course, no where is anything mentioned about the deaths of over a hundred people nor of the actions of Chinese police and soldiers to squash the riots. There will be more such stories in the coming weeks of happy Tibetans who have been freed from evil outsiders who caused the entire mess.

Swedish Common Sense On Asylum Seekers

The Swedish government and the Green Party put together a proposal ffor new policies that would govern immigrants who seek to remin in the nation and avoid being returned to their native lands where they might be subject to brutality. Under terms of the agreement, Sweden would not return anyone if they had secured work. Migration Minister Tobias Billistrom termed it “the biggest reform of Swedish immigration polcy for several decades.”If a job seeker who comes from outside the European Union receives a bona fide job offer frm an employer in Sweden, they will be able to secure permits for residency and employment. The proposal also provides for longer time limits in which to secure residency and obtain a job. “From now on,” said Billstrom, “no labour force immigrant will be forced to go home despite having work.”

This is an interesting model for other nations to accept in confronting issues of human rights abuses for those seeking asylum. It is simple, clear, and fair.

Turkey’s Tense Political World Relaxes

President Abdullah Gul took steps to reduce tension in his nation by inviting several opposition political leaders to meet and dicuss issues that appear to divide the nation. In recent weeks, Turkey’s political world has been shaken by charges from virtually all ends of the political spectrum. Nationalist politicians charged the Turkish army invasion of northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels was halted due to pressure from the American government. The government’s decision to push for an end to the ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf in universities aroused the anger of liberals who fear it is the first step towards the implementation of an Islamc fundamentalist society. To top off the list of angry encounters, a public prosecutor called for closing down the AKP which is the party of President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan.

Several leading NGOs urged the nation’s leaders to come together in a spirit of good will and confront these divisive issues. Prime Minister Erdgan responded positively to the call: “I agree with the message’s content and welcome it…We are ready for the formation of common sense.”

Turkey has the opportunity to demonsrate to the Muslim world that an Islamic party can govern while allowing freedom for those who have secular beliefs.

Clinton’s Low Road Politics Leads To Low Poll Results

The Clintons have regarded themselves as survivors in the rough world of politics. Certainly, never before in American history have a husband and wife been so tightly connected in the political arena. They have endured slanders and unfair accusations and still were able to gain electoral victories. Perhaps, the long term impact of brawling and fighting with any weapon at one’s command is to develop an attitude that victory is the only goal, not how it is accomplished. Senator Hillary Clinton’s remarks attacking Barack Obama over his membership in the church of Pastor Wright were nasty and vicious since the central issue of the Obama speech was about racism. Results from an NBC-WSJ poll indicate the American people were not impressed by how Senator Clinton is handling the campaign. Her positive ranking fell to an all time low of 37%.

Senator Obama apparently was only slightly damaged by the speech. Among those polled, 32% said he “sufficiently addressed the issue,” while 26% said he had to offer more and 31% did not see or hear about the speech. Of those who actually saw or read the speech, 47% said he did a good job and 37% wanted more from him. When asked which candidate could best unite the nation, 60% said Obama, 58% said McCain, and 46% said Clinton.

The real issue facing both Clinton and Obama is how much damage the campaign has done to their core supporters willingness to vote for the other candidate. We won’t know that answer until November.

Monks Mess With China Propaganda Trip

Chinese authorities believing they had completey restored peace and prosperity to the Tibet area allowed a group of foreign correspondents to enter Lhasa on a special propaganda trip designed to beguile the outside world with the situation. Unfortunately, about 30 monks staged a quiet protest at the Jokhang Temple in the heart of the old Tibetan quarter of town. Foreign correspondents had been banned from traveling independently in Tibet after outbreak of the anti-Chinese demonstrations. A reporter for the Fnancial Times noted that the “smell of burning buildings still hangs in the air,” and that a string of shops and apartments were “reduced to charcoal frames.” The correspondents felt there was much more damage in Lhasa than what the world had thought was happening during the riots.

Some correspondents broke away from the group and, although followed by security police, were able to try talking with Tibetans. However, few were willing to risk speaking with foreigners when police were watching what took place. Calum McLeod of USA Today, commented: “the climate of fear means it’s very tough to get people to speak candidly and to get them on the record even harder.”