Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Peter Saunders is a Homosceptic

Dr Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members. The following article appeared at his blog, Christian Medical Comment and was cross published at MercatorNet.

Peter Saunders

Many people think that homosexuality is a biological characteristic like race or sex – biologically fixed and genetically determined. They think this because this is the view that has been successfully propagated by the gay rights lobby for decades in order to provide a justification for arguing that ‘homophobia’ is a form of discrimination akin to racism or sexism.

This belief has also been behind moves to treat discrimination against 'practising' homosexuals as a human rights issue by pretending that homosexuals are a biological category like 'women' or 'Asians' whose distinctive features are genetically determined rather than just a group who have simply made a certain life-style choice.

But in fact the strength and direction of erotic attraction, although relatively stable in some people, can be quite changeable in others – it is often not fixed at all.

Similarly, identical twins often have different sexual orientations proving that, although sexual orientation may have some genetic influences, it is not genetically determined. There is, in other words, no such thing as the gay gene.

Sexual orientation is much more accurately thought of in the category of a conditioned (and often variable) preference than a determined biological condition.

Most researchers now accept that sexual orientation (the predominant direction of sexual attraction one feels) is the result of a complex interaction in which nature, nurture and choice all play a part. But whether one acts on those feelings by having same sex relations is actually a matter of personal choice.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has stated, ‘some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime’. The APA also says that ‘for some the focus of sexual interest will shift at various points through the life span...’
A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health similarly states, ‘For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time’
And in a recent Huffington Post article, ‘Future Sex: Beyond Gay and Straight’, a leading British gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, affirms the fluidity of sexual attraction.

First he affirms the reality of bisexuality:

‘We already know, thanks to a host of sex surveys, that bisexuality is an fact of life and that even in narrow-minded, homophobic cultures, many people have a sexuality that is, to varying degrees, capable of both heterosexual and homosexual attraction.’

Then he challenges the traditional view that gay and straight are distinct categories:

‘Research by Dr Alfred Kinsey in the USA during the 1940s was the first major statistical evidence that gay and straight are not watertight, irreconcilable and mutually exclusive sexual orientations. He found that human sexuality is, in fact, a continuum of desires and behaviours, ranging from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. A substantial proportion of the population shares an amalgam of same-sex and opposite-sex feelings -- even if they do not act on them.’
He then goes on to quote Kinsey’s (grossly inflated) assessments of the incidence of homosexuality whilst acknowledging that they ‘have since been criticised as out-of-date, exaggerated and unrepresentative’.

Tatchell also acknowledges that ‘evidence from sociology and anthropology (shows) that the incidence and form of heterosexuality and homosexuality is not fixed and universal, and that the two sexual orientations are not mutually exclusive. There is a good deal of fluidity and overlap.’

‘What's more,’ he adds, ‘although scientific evidence shows that human sexuality is significantly affected by biological predispositions - such as genes and hormones - other influences appear to be cultural, including social expectations, peer pressure and the availability and opportunity for sexual release. These influences channel erotic impulses in certain directions and not others.’
In fact he even goes so far as to suggest that some homosexual identities are formed as a result of people reacting to perceived prejudice in others:

‘Gay and lesbian identities are largely the product of homophobic prejudice and repression. They are a self-defence mechanism against homophobia. Faced with persecution for having same-sex relations, the right to have those relationships has to be defended - hence gay identity and the gay rights movement.’

Tatchell, despite these admissions, grossly inflates the true incidence of exclusive homosexuality.

The best evidence (see references 1,2,3 below) actually suggests that only a very small percentage of men (1-2 percent) and women (0.5-1.5 percent) experience exclusive same-sex attraction throughout their life course. It appears that more men and women experience mixed patterns of sexual interest. This includes shifts of interest from one sex to another at various points in their lives or attractions to both sexes at the same time.

Tatchell is right though in saying that bisexuality appears to be more prevalent than exclusive gay/lesbian and if defined in terms of same sex behaviours in past year, may be as much as 5 percent in men and 11 percent in women aged 15-44.

Sexual attractions are therefore best understood as lying on a spectrum rather than in terms of a simple dichotomous binary categorisation. Survey data suggest that mixed patterns of sexual desire, including attraction to both sexes at the same time, appear to be more common than exclusive same-sex attraction, especially among women.

So what?

Well, like many, I am getting rather tired of the term ‘homophobic’ being used as an accusatory label to tar anyone who does not accept, approve and celebrate same-sex sexual relationships and believe that homosexual orientation is a biological characteristic like race or sex.

There are a large and growing number of people (I call them ‘homosceptics’) who neither hate nor fear ‘gay’ people but simply believe that sex outside a lifelong exclusive heterosexual marriage is morally wrong and the fact that we have certain feelings of sexual attraction does not mean that we should therefore act on them.

These people are also highly sceptical about the key presuppositions on which the gay rights movement has based its campaign, such as the beliefs that:

•Homosexuality is genetically determined

•Homosexual orientation is always fixed

•Sexual orientation is a biological characteristic like race, sex or skin colour

•Feelings of same sex attraction should be welcomed and acted upon

•Offering help to those who wish to resist or eradicate these feelings is always wrong

Tacthell’s arguments above, and the findings of recent research, confirm that these beliefs are actually more ‘ideology-driven’ than ‘evidence-based’. But Tatchell, by suggesting that gay and straight are not distinct categories at all, has also pulled the rug out from under the feet of the gay rights’ movement.

Of course if you accept these ‘key presuppositions’ in spite of the evidence to the contrary you may well believe that people who don’t are ignorant, bigoted, prejudiced or even immoral. You might even feel that such people should not hold public office, publicly express their views or hold any job which involves having to condone, promote or facilitate same-sex intimacy. And you might feel justified in branding everyone who does not share your views as 'homophobic'.

But if you have any sort of intellectual integrity, then you should accept that you have adopted these beliefs in the face of, in fact in spite of, the evidence.

And if so you should stop using divisive labels, and accept rather that there are some people who believe with good cause that to treat homosexual orientation as a fixed biological characteristic like race or sex is to confer upon it a status that it does not and should not have.


1. Dickson, N, C Paul, and P Herbison. ‘Same-Sex Attraction in a Birth Cohort: Prevalence and Persistence in Early Adulthood’.Social Science & Medicine 56, No. 8 (2003): 1607-15.

2. Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

3. Savin-Williams, RC, and GL Ream. ‘Prevalence and Stability of Sexual Orientation Components During Adolescence and Young Adulthood’. Archives of Sexual Behavior 36 (2007): 385-94.

Iran Enriched Uranium Fuel Sheets at 20-percent

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency, News Code: 30787319

Addis Ababa, Jan 29, IRNA -- Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the 20-percent nuclear fuel sheet will be installed in Tehran research reactor facility next month.

Salehi made the remarks to the reporters on the sidelines of the 18th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday.

'After our partners refrained from fulfilling their commitments with regard to procurement of fuel of Tehran research reactor, we attempted to enrich the required uranium to the level of 20 percent in accordance with our legal rights,' he added.

Salehi pointed out although our partners did not believe that IR Iran could achieve the technology of uranium enrichment to the level of 20 percent and converting it into fuel sheet, they will witness Iran’s installation of fuel sheets in Tehran research reactor within next month.

Asked about the security of the Strait of Hormuz, the foreign minister said that the security of Hormuz should be maintained in order to help everyone benefit from it.

“Strait of Hormuz is a strategic and important region not only for Iran and the regional countries, but also for countries of the world. Iran considers itself more responsible than any other country for maintaining security and stability of the region, especially Strait of Hormuz,” he added.

Salehi noted that Iran has proven that it is an important role-player in establishing security in the region.

“What I emphasize on is that the countries outside the Persian Gulf zone are not entitled to decide about the privileges and benefits of the Strait of Hormuz,” he added.

Salehi further said that the security of the Strait of Hormuz is beneficial to all and that is what Iran is looking for.

Asked whether the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency are allowed to visit Iran’s nuclear sites, the foreign minister responded that they can visit any nuclear site that they ask for.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gay Activists Muzzle Liberty, Conscience

Those advocating the radical social innovation, which they label “same-sex or gay marriage,” typically claim that they are fighting for freedom, championing a basic liberty. “Freedom to Marry” is indeed the name of a national organization devoted to the advocacy of same-sex marriage. Established in 2003 by civil-rights advocate Evan Wolfson and headquartered in New York City, this group takes “We All Deserve the Freedom to Marry” as its slogan. So effective has it promulgated this perspective that even former First Lady Laura Bush endorsed homosexuals’ right to marry as a matter of basic freedom when she appeared on the Larry King Show in May 2010.

But those who advocate homosexual marriage as a way of enlarging the American sphere of liberty are profoundly—and deceptively—misrepresenting their aims. Their real aim came to light in the public controversy over remarks attributed to Queen Sophia of Spain in criticizing her country’s invention in 2005 of a homosexual right to “marry.” “If those people [homosexuals] want to live together,” commented the Spanish monarch, “dress up as bride and groom and get married they can do so, but that should not be called marriage because it is not.” Widely reported by the media, the furor over these remarks forced representatives of the Queen to issue a statement claiming that the published remarks “do not exactly match the opinions expressed by Her Majesty the Queen” and apologizing for the “ill-feeling and upset” her comments had caused. The pressures compelling this semi-retraction and apology prompted one media commentator to ponder the “interesting question” of whether on the issue of homosexual marriage, the Queen still had “the right... to express her opinion like any other citizen.”

This commentator had glimpsed the fundamental aim of those advocating homosexual marriage: it is not at all about giving homosexuals a new freedom to participate in ceremonies that they regard as weddings. It is entirely about denying freedom of public speech to anyone who would criticize such ceremonies or the sexual behaviors such ceremonies legitimize. The muzzle that homosexual activists tried (largely successfully) to put on an outspoken monarch represents only the beginning. Homosexual activists in this country deeply desire to place first thousands, and then millions, of even tighter muzzles on all who disagree with them about the nature of homosexual behavior. They well understand that enactment of laws authorizing homosexual marriage will give them sweeping powers to bind those muzzles very tightly on their fellow citizens.

Read it all here.

Quote of the Week - Mother Teresa

"Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them." --Mother Teresa

Sunday, January 29, 2012

African Wild Dogs Not Extinct

In 1991, conservationists announced with dismay that endangered African wild dogs had gone extinct from the Serengeti-Mara region of east Africa. Now the latest genetic study reveals that this proclamation may have been premature – it turns out they almost certainly didn't go extinct at all.

African wild dogs.

A team of UK and US researchers genetically analysed a rare bounty of samples taken both from the dogs before their apparent extinction, and from new packs that naturally re-established in the area ten years later in 2001.

To their surprise, they found that almost all of the new dogs are genetically related to the original Serengeti-Mara population, meaning that some dogs must have persisted undetected in the region after 1991.

'The data suggest that there wasn't complete extinction in the region, which is encouraging,' says Dr Barbara Mable from the University of Glasgow, who led the study

Read more here.

Drug Test Welfare Recips AND Lawmakers

A Republican member of the Indiana General Assembly withdrew his bill to create a pilot program for drug testing welfare applicants Friday after one of his Democratic colleagues amended the measure to require drug testing for lawmakers.

"There was an amendment offered today that required drug testing for legislators as well and it passed, which led me to have to then withdraw the bill," said Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), sponsor of the original welfare drug testing bill.

The Supreme Court ruled drug testing for political candidates unconstitutional in 1997, striking down a Georgia law. McMillin said he withdrew his bill so he could reintroduce it on Monday with a lawmaker drug testing provision that would pass constitutional muster.

Read it all here.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. 

Judge Harms' Abortion, Sterilization Order Overruled

It is difficult to imagine a case better scripted for a discussion of informed consent than Mary Moe's Massachusetts abortion.

When Mary Moe, a pseudonym for a 32-year-old woman with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, visited a hospital emergency room in October, it was discovered that she was pregnant. This meant that she could not take her psychiatric medication as it would harm the foetus. So the state Department of Mental Health applied to have the woman's parents named as guardians so they could give consent for an abortion.

However, Mary did not want to have an abortion. Unsurprisingly, she was not completely coherent, but she insisted that she was "very Catholic" and would never do such a thing. She knew what abortions were, as her first pregnancy had been aborted. (She subsequently gave birth to a son, whom her parents are caring for.)

The case went before Judge Christina Harms, a Harvard Law School graduate and a former lawyer in the State's welfare services. Judge Harms ordered Mary Moe to have an abortion. If she were intransigent, she could be "coaxed, bribed, or even enticed'' into the hospital. Furthermore, the judge wanted to put an end to these distressing pregnancies. She ordered Mary Moe to be sterilized "to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.'' Harms reasoned that Mary Moe was not competent to make a decision about an abortion, because of her "substantial delusional beliefs." But if she were competent, she would choose to abort the child.

In the event, Judge Harms was overruled. "The personal decision whether to bear or beget a child is a right so fundamental that it must be extended to all persons, including those who are incompetent,'' said the state appeals court. As for the sterilization, said one of the appeals judges, "The judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air."

The publicity given to this unusual case has led mental health advocates to wonder how often women are forcibly aborted and sterilised. "I didn't realize that forced sterilizations were going on anywhere," said Howard Trachtman of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe. "If a precedent were set for that, then you could see a whole slew of people filing for it, or trying to get judges to order it." "Simply having a diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other mental illness is not a basis for sterilization in and of itself. It's just sheer prejudice," Elyn Saks, of the University of Southern California, told the Boston Herald. ~ Boston Globe, Jan 18

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Army Reduction about 100,000

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 27, 2012) -- The Army will draw down in size by as many as 80,000 Soldiers over the next six years. That reduction includes the elimination of at least eight brigade combat teams.

The Army expects an active force end strength reduction from 570,000 to 490,000, said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, during a press briefing, Jan. 27, at the Pentagon.

The general said the time is "strategically right" to reduce the Army's force structure, but stressed that it would be done the right way.

"Even given a fiscally constrained environment our Army will accomplish our reductions in a responsible and controlled manner," Odierno said. "Secretary McHugh and I are committed to ensuring we walk down this hill at the ready, rather than running our nation's Army off a cliff."

Odierno said the Army would execute force reduction measures by following a "drawdown ramp that allows us to take care of Soldiers and families, while maintaining a ready and capable force to meet any requirements, including our current operations in Afghanistan."

Most of that force reduction, Odierno said, would come from attrition.

Read more here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hungary's Constitution Defends Marriage and Life

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.

New York, January 27 (C-FAM) Hungarian leaders have passed a law protecting the traditional family, defying ongoing criticism that their new constitution would curtail abortion and homosexuality.

The new law says the family, based upon marriage of a man and a woman whose mission is fulfilled by raising children, is an "autonomous community...established before the emergence of law and the State" and that the State must respect it as a matter of national survival. It says "Embryonic and foetal life shall be entitled to protection and respect from the moment of conception," and the state should encourage "homely circumstances" for child care. It obliges the media to respect marriage and parenting and assigns parents, rather than the State, primary responsibility for protecting the rights of the child. The law enumerates responsibilities for minors, including respect and care for elderly parents.

The purpose of the law is "to create a predictable and safe regulatory environment for family protection and the promotion of family welfare, and to enforce the Fundamental Law," the nation's new constitution, which came into force on January 1st and was passed by a vote of 262-44 last April.

The Fundamental Law nullified Hungary's communist-era constitution and dates its democracy from the revolution against the Soviet Union in 1956 and Soviet collapse in 1990. Hungary is the last Central European nation to pass a post-communist constitution.

The constitution calls for the protection of life from conception and bans torture, human trafficking, eugenics, and human cloning. It recognizes marriage as the "conjugal union of a man and a woman."

Amnesty International said the article protecting life from conception could "undermine the rights of women and girls" that are "enshrined in several treaties signed and ratified by the Republic of Hungary such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)." The group said the article defining marriage "may pave the way to the introduction of an explicit ban on same-sex marriages which contravenes international and European anti-discrimination standards...enshrined by Article 23 of the ICCPR [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]."

Human Rights Watch likewise invoked UN human rights treaties in a letter urging Hungary's president to "amend the constitution to ensure respect for women's reproductive rights." The human rights goliath expressed concern that the non-discrimination clause for "race, color, sex, disability, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth or any other circumstance whatsoever" excludes reference to sexual orientation or gender identity which they said was guaranteed in the ICCPR.

International legal experts have dismissed the claims of the human rights groups saying Hungary has the right to pass a constitution without interference. They point out that no UN treaty even mentions abortion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and that the UN General Assembly has never accepted such redefinitions.

European legal expert Roger Kiska sees the new Hungarian laws as part of a growing trend among European states to push back at such interpretations and protect human life and the family. Former US ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer said the expulsion of Hungary from the EU is "now no longer unthinkable," but Hungarian analyst Julia Lakatos downplayed the controversy, telling CSMonitor, "Much of the criticism from abroad is exaggerated."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama and US influence abroad

In his State of the Union address, President Obama claimed that the influence of the United States of America is greater now than in many years.  He said:

“Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years.”

Glenn Kessler made this observation: "Obama’s self-congratulatory tone aside, the most striking thing about this list is that it does not include any cities in the Islamic world. Obama had made a high-profile speech in Cairo in 2009 designed to bolster the U.S. image; judging by recent polling, his effort has been a failure."

Czech Grave Robbers Apprehended

The Prague Daily Monitor website reports that Czech police have arrested two men suspected of robbing more than 70 graves in northern Bohemia.

The two men -- aged 48 and 38 -- mainly targeted older tombs in the region in search of gold teeth, medals, jewelry, and other relics.

They were arrested last Saturday night at a cemetery in Usti nad Labem in the north of the country, where they were raiding tombs.

Police also took the equipment the men used, including face masks, crowbars and other tools, as well as a short folding ladder that they used to descend into the tombs.
Source:  Theology and Society

Jessica Buchanan Rescued by Navy Seals

The same Navy SEAL team responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden roughly seven months ago pulled off another successful mission Tuesday, rescuing two aid workers taken hostage in Somalia late last year. The mission reportedly occurred shortly before President Obama took to the podium to deliver his State of the Union address.

According to the BBC, neither the U.S. troops nor the hostages were injured in the rescue, but nine captors were killed. The captors were not identified as al-Shabab militants (al-Shabab is an Islamist group controlling much of southern Somalia), but rather as "criminals" by U.S. officials.

The two aid workers are Jessica Buchanan, an American, and Poul Hagen Thisted, from Denmark. They were taken captive at gunpoint by Somali pirates in October.

Read the full report here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Enenche Godwin Akogwu Murdered in Kano

23 January 2012 - Reporters Without Borders condemns TV reporter Enenche Godwin Akogwu's targeted murder while covering a series of deadly bombings by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram on 20 January in the northern city of Kano, and urges the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible are identified and brought to justice.

"Akogwu's death is especially shocking as he was not a victim of the bombings but was gunned down shortly afterward while trying to cover them," Reporters Without Borders said. "He is the second journalist to be killed by Boko Haram, following Zakariya Isa, who was shot outside his home in another northern city on 22 October 2011.

"As well as attacking federal government buildings or churches, as it did on Christmas Day, Boko Haram has shown a new side to its violence with this targeted killing; it has shown itself to be an enemy of the media and journalists as well. We firmly condemn Akogwu's murder, offer our condolences to his family, colleagues and friends, and urge the authorities to quickly adopt measures to protect reporters."

Akogwu, 31, was the Kano correspondent of Channels TV. He was slain by an unidentified gunman while trying to interview victims outside Farm central police station on Justice Dahiru Musdapher Road, which was one of the targets of the suicide bombings.

Akogwu was from Aiodio, in the Otikpa district of Ogbadibo, in the southeastern state of Benue. After joining Channels TV in Abuja three years ago, he was sent to Kano. He had never been threatened and had just received an award from the station's chairman for the quality of his work. President Goodluck Jonathan, who has pledged to end Boko Haram's attacks, offered his condolences to Akogwu's family.

At least 166 people were killed in a total of about 20 explosions on 20 January at eight strategic locations in Kano, which included the police headquarters, an intelligence agency building, an immigration department building and the home of a senior police officer. The bombings were claimed by Boko Haram, which was almost certainly also responsible for Akogwu's murder. (For more on the Kano fatalities, read this.)

Mysterious death
The body of radio journalist, Nansok Sallah, was found on 19 January in a stream under a bridge on the Zaramagada-Rayfield road, 200 metres from a military checkpoint, in Jos (the capital of the central state of Plateau), where he worked for Highland FM.

As nothing of value was taken from him, his colleagues fear that he was the victim of a targeted murder, but the cause of death and possible motive are still unknown. From the Langtang North area in Plateau state, Sallah had worked for Highland FM for three years and hosted a programme called Highland Profile. He had not received any threats.

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and to do their utmost to shed light on Sallah's death.

For more information:

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Quote of the Week - Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

"In the last few years the Church of Nigeria has been shunned and occasionally vilified for its orthodox stance on central matters of Christian faith and practice by those who are seeking 'progressive Africans' to work with on their social agenda. The Church's orthodox stance has been patronized as due not to any convictions about the truth of the Bible but the pressures of their Islamic context.

"We have no hatred for anybody in the UK, USA or Europe, nor for Muslims even when they kill and harm us. Our only desire is to live in peace and serve God. We do not think it right for anyone to harm anyone. It is not human to do that, not only ungodly." -- The Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Egypt Fundamentalists Gain Majority: How will Ethnic Christians Fare?

Placard reads, "If it wasn't for the revolution, the National Democratic Party would still be there."
Credit: Maya Alleruzzo / Associated Press

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- A new political era began in Egypt on Saturday as Islamist parties won nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliamentary elections to inherit a nation mired in economic crisis and desperate to move beyond military rule and the corrupt legacy of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s dominate political and religious force, won 47% of the 498 seats in the lower house of parliament, according to official final results. The ultraconservative Salafi Islamist party Al Nour won nearly 25%, followed by the secular parties New Wafd and the Egyptian Bloc, with about 9% each.

The results confirm the dramatic transformation of the Brotherhood, which for decades was banned from politics and endured the mass arrests and torture of its members. The victory by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is a potent sign that political Islam is emerging from a year of uprisings to replace secular autocrats across the Middle East and North Africa.

A new parliament “would not have seen the light if it wasn't for the pure blood of the martyrs who triggered this revolution,” Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement. “The party believes that Egypt's renaissance and development demands participation of all sects of this nation to fulfill this great responsibility.”

The elections were a sobering lesson for young activists whose nascent parties were no match for the grassroots networks and entwined religious and political message of the Islamists. The liberal activists helped ignite the revolution that brought down Mubarak but, winning only seven seats, they have been surpassed by more formidable political powers.

Read more here.
For Egypt's Coptic Christians, the win of the Islamists at the ballot box was no surprise. Opinion is divided, however, on how to react: stay and fight for equal rights, or leave.
It is an understatement to say that 2011 has been a difficult year for Egypt’s exhausted Christians.
It began with the bombing of the Two Saints Church, only minutes after the New Year started, and culminated in the victory of Islamists with more than half of the parliament in the first phase of the elections.

Indeed, according to the latest results, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly licensed Freedom and Justice Party won no less than 40 per cent of the seats, while the Salafist El-Nour Party won 20 per cent of the seats. And this is only the first phase, which covered nine of the country’s governorates. There are two more phases before a final picture of the first post-Mubarak regime can be drawn.

If the first phase results are anything to go by, Islamists will be the overwhelming majority in the next parliament. This outcome, which was expected, has still left the Coptic community reeling.

It has been a year where Coptic churches were burned by Salafist groups, where residents of the southern city of Qena demonstrated and blocked the city’s highways to protest the appointed of a Coptic governor, where Copts repeatedly took to the street to protest increasing discrimination and where deadly clashes between Coptic protesters and the army left at least 28 dead in what became known as the “Maspero massacre,” taking place in front of the State TV building in Maspero.

It’s also been a year where various Islamists speaking on TV shows called Christians kafirs (heretics) and insisted that they should pay the jizya (Islamic fine for non-Muslims), pushing Egypt’s Christians to spiral into an even more intense wave of panic.

Now, however, speaking to Ahram Online, various faces of Egypt’s Christian population talk about their fears, aspirations and predictions of how life under an Islamic dominated parliament will be for them.

Father Filopater Gameel, a Coptic priest, and a leading member of the Maspero Youth Union and eyewitness to the Maspero massacre.

"I am not surprised that the Islamists won the parliament majority. There were many hints in recent months that they were going to easily win many seats. The fact that they were insisting that the elections take place while all the other political forces were pleading that the elections be postponed hints that both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists made a deal with the military council.

"The elections were filled with rigging and violations. The Supreme Electoral Committee (SEC) has already announced that many ballot boxes will be disregarded because concerns that they were rigged. We also saw violations in terms of niqabis (fully veiled women) entering the polling stations and refusing to identify themselves so that they can keep entering the station and vote more than once. We’ve also heard of cases were the Salafist El-Nour Party blocked the door to the polling stations, so that any voter going in would have to pass by them first, which is actually against the law that bans campaigning in front of polling stations.

Also, during the electoral process there was heavy usage of religious slogans and mosques were used for campaigns and to promote the Islamists.

"The Islamists were pushing for the elections even when the martyrs blood had not yet dried in Tahrir Square and Maspero. But we Copts now insist on continuing the electoral process until the end. The Copts are flexible and are able to adapt to any regime. We tasted bitter medicine during the Mubarak regime and we will probably face more of that under the rule of the Islamists.

"The Copts will be the voice in Egypt that will continue to call for freedom, equality and a civil state. We will remain here and continue the fight for the beautiful and ancient Egyptian civilisation.

Read more here.

Kano Death Toll at 250

Nigeria’s second-largest city, Kano, is under a 24-hour curfew Saturday following a string of bombings and gunfights that claimed the lives of around 150 people late Friday night. The death toll varies according to the source: AP says at least 143, CNN hears 156 and AFP, 162. Exact number aside, it was undoubtedly the deadliest coordinated strike claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram, notes Reuters, and hospitals are struggling to deal with the dead and injured.

The death toll in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano is bound to continue rising. Reuters hears word that at least 178 people were killed while one doctor tells the AFP that the final toll is likely to be around 250. On Sunday, aid workers continued the grim process of collecting bodies from the streets, reports the BBC. Meanwhile, there is increased speculation that the attack was launched as a way for Boko Haram to free some of its members from jail. Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Kano Sunday to pay his condolences, reports the Associated Press.
Nigerian police said the attackers targeted eight government sites: five police buildings, two immigration offices and a local headquarters of the country’s secret police. The BBC hears word that the bombings may have been suicide attacks, but nothing seems certain yet as residents have been hiding in their homes, afraid of what could happen next. Nigeria also closed its borders with Cameroon and Niger Saturday, reports CNN.

Source: The Slatest

Patricia Mejia: Bad Apple in the Pro-Life Barrel

By Timothy Herrmann

An international commission committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Americas recently published two reports that challenge laws protecting life from conception in both North and South America. One report published by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denies physicians the right to conscientiously object to performing an abortion, while the other recommends national litigation to legalize abortion.

The reports were authored by one of the Commission’s predominant bureaucrats, Commissioner Luz Patricia Mejia, who serves as the Special Rapporteur to Women’s Rights for the Commission. According to Ligia de Jesus, Assistant Professor at the Ave Maria School of Law, the commissioner’s aggressive lobbying on behalf of the legalization of abortion has been a defining characteristic of her term as Special Rapporteur since her election in 2008.

Within the Inter-American system of human rights, both the commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are meant to uphold the principles inscribed in the American Convention on Human Rights.

The convention is explicitly pro-life, stating “Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

Instead of upholding the human right to life guaranteed by the Convention, the reports reflect the personal opinions and influence of Commissioner Mejia who affirms her own agenda rather than protects the original intent of the convention.

In one report, titled “Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective,” Mejia links the so-called right to abortion to the “right” to information by claiming that a woman’s right to access information on reproductive health services is jeopardized when a doctor refuses abortion services to a patient. She cites a Colombian Constitutional Court case that legalized abortion in 2008 to support her claim, and falsely asserts that the case confirms that preventing women access to abortion is the same as preventing women access to information on reproductive health services.

Although the Commission is only a quasi-judicial body whose reports and resolutions are non-binding in international law, the Commission has been petitioned in the past by organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) in the hope that the Commission will produce a report recommending the outright legalization of abortion in Latin America, according to Professor de Jesus.

One such case was brought by CRR before the Commission in 2002 on behalf of Paulina del Carmen Ramirez Jacinto who, at 14 years of age, received legal authorization for an abortion in Mexico given that the baby was conceived during sexual assault. CRR claimed, and the Commission agreed, that the pro-life counseling that she received and that led her to keep her baby “constituted an ‘undue interference’ with the pregnant child’s purported right to abortion.”

Reports like those published by Mejia seek to encourage the Commission to support efforts by groups like CRR to sanction an international right to abortion where none exists.

Source:  Friday Fax

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Obama's "Corrupting Foreign Policy"

By Wendy Wright

NEW YORK, January 20 (C-FAM) The citizens of several countries are pushing back against President Obama’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender foreign policy imperative. Leaders in El Salvador launched a website on “Obama’s Corrupting Foreign Policy” and are asking the U.S. Senate to reject Obama's nominee for ambassador to their country.

President Obama announced in December that the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) behavior is a top foreign policy priority, even for the U.S. military oversees. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a high-profile speech at the UN equating LGBT status with religion. The State Department told ambassadors worldwide to recognize “gay pride month," and it released a list of “accomplishments” including the fact that a U.S. ambassador had published an OpEd promoting the LGBT agenda on behalf of the United States.

Mari Carmen Aponte, a temporary ambassador to El Salvador, published an essay conflating disapproval of homosexuality with “brutal hostility” and “aggression” by “those who promote hatred.” It is Salvadorans’ “responsibility” to become advocates for LGBT issues and “to inform our neighbors and friends about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” she wrote. The OpEd ran in a major Salvadoran newspaper in June, igniting a firestorm by offended citizens.

More than three-dozen leaders in Latin American countries rebuked the ambassador. In a declaration in a Salvadoran newspaper, they accused the U.S. representative of “disregarding our profound Christian values, rooted in natural law,” by trying to “impose . . . a new vision of foreign and bizarre values, completely alien to our moral fiber, intending to disguise this as ‘human rights’” with “an air of superiority.” The only thing they agreed with, they stated, is that violence should be repudiated “just the same as against skinny, fat, tall or short” people.

The leaders also sent a letter to U.S. Senators protesting Aponte’s appointment. At a congressional hearing in December, Senator Jim DeMint read their complaint and criticized Aponte’s “presuming to represent the views of all Americans” in her OpEd. “I would like to apologize to the Salvadoran people on behalf of the United States and reassure them that most Americans share their values," DeMint said.

Salvadorans perceived that the assault extended beyond Aponte and launched a website this week exposing “Obama's Corrupting Foreign Policies.” It chronicles the campaign by US officials to promote homosexuality, and the counter-campaign by Latin Americans.

The Washington Times, a major Washington, DC newspaper, published a letter from Latin American leaders warning that the aggressive promotion of homosexual rights constitutes a “war on religion.” The Obama administration has placed people in other countries “on the front lines,” the letter said, and is “demeaning our culture and insulting our values.” The leaders wrote, “We support the legitimate human rights of all our citizens. We do not support made up ‘homosexual rights’. We do not appreciate the ambassador from another country coming in and preaching to us. We intend to defend our moral values and preserve our families.”

In Pakistan, the US embassy hosted an LGBT “pride celebration” in June which provoked protests in several cities. A leader of one of the rallies said, “America has unleashed a storm of immoral values" and "we’ll resist at all costs.” The U.S. ambassador to Serbia promoted a homosexual rights march in that country last October which led to riots with an explicitly anti-Western tone.

Source:  Friday Fax

Friday, January 20, 2012

US Embassy in Damascus Closing

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is preparing to close the U.S. embassy in Damascus and evacuate all American personnel by the end of this month amid rapid deterioration of the security situation in Syria, senior administration officials said.

The embassy will be shuttered, officials said, unless embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad provides enhanced protection that he has so far been unwilling to authorize.

Acid Attack on Ugandan Bishop

Burns threaten eyesight of church leader who opposed Islamic courts.
Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.

Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

A neighbor and church members rushed him to a hospital in the Mengo area of Kampala, and he was then transferred to International Hospital Kampala.

“I have to continue fighting this pain – it is too much,” Mulinde said. “My entire body is in pain. Most of the night I miss sleep.”

His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen.

“The burn caused by the acid is so severe that there is an urgent need for specialized treatment,” said area Christian Musa Baluku Symutsangira. “I suggest that he be flown outside the country as soon as possible; otherwise Mulinde might lose both of his eyes, coupled with the spread of the burns. The burns seemed to spread and go very deep. He might need some plastic surgery.”

A doctor told Compass that acid burns cover about 30 percent of his face and has cost him sight in one eye.

“We are doing all we can to save his other remaining eye and to contain the acid from spreading to other parts of the body,” the doctor said.

Mulinde’s shirt, tie and suit were in tatters after the attack.

Mulinde said his father, Id Wasswa, was a local prayer leader or imam.

“I was born into a Muslim family, and although I decided to become a Christian, I have been financially assisting many Muslims, as well as my relatives who are Muslims,” he said. “I have been conducting a peaceful evangelism campaign.”

Mulinde said Muslim extremists opposed to his conversion from Islam and his outspoken opposition of sharia (Islamic law) courts in Uganda, known in East Africa as Kadhi courts, attacked him. On Oct. 15, area Muslim leaders declared a fatwa against him demanding his death.

“I have been receiving several threats for a long time, and this last one is the worst of all,” Mulinde said. “I have bore the marks of Jesus.”

Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion. His extensive knowledge and quotation of the Quran in his preaching has won him enemies and friends. Often criticizing Islam, he has relied on police protection during revival campaigns throughout Uganda.

“Mulinde poses a big threat to those who cannot take the challenge as he engages the Muslims in debate,” said Dr. Joseph Serwadda, an area church leader.

A church guard who was away on the day of the attack said he felt responsible.

“I feel bad,” he said. “I feel I have failed in my duty as a guard.”

Mulinde is married and has six children ages 14, 12, 8, 6 and twins who are 3.

Police have reportedly arrested one suspect, whom they have declined to name. A divisional commander at Katwa police station identified only as Kateebe would say only that an investigation was underway.

The hospital charges 350,000 Uganda shillings (US$140 dollars) per day, a steep amount in Uganda.

“We appeal for our brothers and sisters wherever they are to assist the life of Bishop Umar Mulinde,” said Symutsangira.

Read the full report here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA and Piracy?

Wikipedia and Google joined hundreds of other websites on Wednesday in a sprawling online protest against legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on Internet piracy.

Wikipedia shut down the English version of its online encyclopaedia for 24 hours to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate version, the Protect IP Act (Pipa).

Google blotted out the celebrated logo on its US home page with a black banner and published an exhortation to users to “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!”

Like Wikipedia, social news site reddit also went dark, urging visitors to call their lawmaker or sign a petition opposing the House and Senate bills. “These bills provide overly broad mechanisms for enforcement of copyright which would restrict innovation and threaten the existence of websites with user-submitted content,” reddit said.

Culture and technology blog Boing Boing also took itself offline to protest what it called “legislation that would certainly kill us forever”.

Reporters Without Borders shut down its English-language website for 24 hours warning that the bills “would sacrifice online freedom of expression in the name of combating piracy”.

Blogging platform WordPress.com covered its home page with black banners with the word ‘censored’ as did technology magazine Wired.

The popular Cheezburger humour network posted messages of opposition to the bills on all of its 58 sites, which include icanhascheezburger.com, FAIL Blog and The Daily What.

The draft legislation has won the backing of Hollywood, the music industry, the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups.—AFP

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ireland's Big Abortion Debate

 Ireland has been pressured by the EU to comform to politically correct views on abortion as a woman's right. The largest party, Fine Gael, made an election promise not to legalise abortion, but appears unable to deliver onn that promise.

A special Commission chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan has to report to the Irish Government within six months with options on how to implement the judgment of the European Court.

Special Council for the group will be Mary O'Toole who acted to establish abortion as a right in the infamous 1992 X case. The X case was used in an attempt to  overturn Ireland's pro-life constitutional provisions and introduce  abortion.

The government appointed Dr Deirdre Madden, a UCC law lecturer, to the group. Madden previously wrote that "there are very strong reasons for believing the embryo is not yet a person."

The  group also includes general practitioner Ailish Ní Riain who has written guidelines describing unborn children as 'contents of the uterus' and insists that doctors should refer mothers for abortion.

Pro-life advocates in Ireland stress three points:

Abortion is never medically necessary. Expert testimony has already been given to a government committee on this issue, where leading Irish  experts confirmed that interventions for conditions such as ectopic  pregnancy and cancer were not considered abortion by medical  professionals since the intention was never to harm the child.

The European Court ruling places Ireland under no obligation to  legalise abortion since the Irish Constitution confirms that it is the  people, being sovereign, who will decide such matters. Successive  opinion polls show that Ireland's ban on abortion enjoys the support of  the majority of the people.

According to the United Nations, Ireland, without recourse to  abortion, is the safest place in the world for a mother to have a baby. The expert group should also recognise the undeniable scientific  evidence which shows abortion produces negative mental outcomes for  women.

The Composition of Expert Group on Abortion is as follows:

The Group will be chaired by Mr. Justice Seán Ryan and consist of thirteen other members;
Dr Peter Boylan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Dr Mary Holohan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Dr Imelda Ryan, Psychiatrist,
Dr Ailish Ni Riain, General Practitioner
Dr Mark Walsh, General Practitioner
Ms Christine O'Rourke, Office of the Attorney General
Ms Mary O'Toole, Senior Counsel
Ms Joanelle O'Cleirigh, Solicitor
Ms Denise Kirwin, Solicitor
Dr. Deirdre Madden, Medical Council
Dr Maura Pidgeon, An Bord Altranais
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
Mr Bernard Carey, Assistant Secretary, Department of Health

Related reading: Another UN Trojan Horse

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Iran Sentences Canadian to Death

(RSF/IFEX) - 17 January 2012 - Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that the supreme court has confirmed website designer Saeed Malekpour's death sentence. His family said the court took the decision under pressure from the Revolutionary Guards. A Canadian resident who was arrested on 4 October 2008 while visiting his family, Malekpour, 35, was sentenced to death in January 2011 on charges of anti-government agitation and insulting Islam.

Arrests of netizens are meanwhile continuing. Simien Nematollahi, a contributer to the pro-Sufi website Majzooban ( www.majzooban.org ), was arrested at her Tehran home by intelligence ministry officials on 11 January on a charge of anti-government propaganda. Several members of the website's staff were arrested on 7 and 8 September and were freed on bail on 4 October pending trial.

Mohammad Solimaninya, the head of u24, a social networking website for Iranian professionals, was arrested on 20 January after being summoned before a revolutionary tribunal in Karaj, a town 20 km north of Tehran, on 10 January. Plainclothes intelligence ministry officials searched his home the same day, confiscating his computer, hard disks and CDs. His family still does not know why he was arrested or where he is being held. As well as running u24, Solimaninya has created and hosts the websites of many civil society organizations, NGOs and Iranian intellectuals.

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, a blogger who has been held since 12 September 2010. He was tried by a revolutionary court in Karaj on 21 December 2011 on a charge of insulting the Prophet in articles posted on his blog and in letters sent to government officials while he was in prison.

His daughter said the trial lasted a quarter of an hour and took place without his lawyer being present. The charge of insulting the Prophet is very vaguely defined but it carries a possible death sentence and is often used by the authorities to silence critics who try to defy the government.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 10 January voicing concern about the situation in Iran and requesting her urgent intercession.

For more information:

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Quote of the Week - Charles Spurgeon

"The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of our life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of fate, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven."-- Charles Spurgeon,19th-century English cleric

Monday, January 16, 2012

Socially Responsible Investors Balance Values and Returns

American Socially Responsible Investors Don't Want to Sacrifice Returns, Wharton Study. -  "Investors interested in socially responsible investing do not necessarily expect to sacrifice a portion of their gains. Thus, to encourage socially responsible investing, its returns should be comparable to returns for conventional investing."

Fortunately, the conclusion generally drawn from the dozens of studies indicate that over the long term, socially responsible-ethical investors don't have to sacrifice returns. However, this study does contradict many surveys that show SR-ethical investors would tolerate lower returns if they are invested in industries and companies that relate to their values.

It could be that many newly converted SR-ethical investors, investing in green-sustainable companies, don't really share the same values of the more traditional SR-ethical investors.

Socially Responsible Investing, by Olivia S. Jung, January 12, 2012, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Reported by Ron Robins at Investing for the Soul

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Syria on the Brink of Civil War

VOA News

In-Depth Coverage The chief of the Arab League warned Friday that Syria may be heading towards a civil war as thousands of Syrians took to the streets in support of an armed rebel group.

Arab League head Nabil Elaraby made the comments in interviews with The Associated Press and and Egyptian television station while anti-government protesters voiced support for the Free Syrian Army, composed mainly of former soldiers.

Activists say 20,000 gathered in the town of Ariha in the northwest Idlib province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says soldiers opened fire on protesters in the region, killing at least one person.

The 10-month crackdown on anti-government protests has turned more violent in recent months as defecting soldiers have taken up arms against the government.

Elaraby spoke after at least 11 members of the Arab League observer mission were injured by pro-Assad supporters earlier this week. Meanwhile, one observer quit the monitoring team, calling it a "farce," and activists say that 11 members are expected to quit the mission soon.

Foreign observers have been operating in Syria since December 26 to check President Bashar al-Assad's compliance with an Arab League plan to end his violent suppression of the uprising that began last year.

The United Nations and the United States say killings of protesters by Syrian security forces have intensified since the monitoring mission began. But on Friday Elaraby denied the charge in an interview with the Egyptian Al-Hayat television channel.

Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister said a Russian ship carrying "dangerous cargo" has arrived in Syria, after being temporarily held in Cyprus. Cypriot media reported on Wednesday that authorities had intercepted a vessel carrying ammunition from St. Petersburg in Russia to Syria during a fuel stop. Media reports said the ship was carrying up to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives.

The United Nations estimates at least 5,000 people have been killed in the uprising, many of them peaceful protesters attacked by Syrian security forces. Others have been killed in fighting between the Syrian military and the army defectors who have joined the rebellion in recent months.

Earlier this week, the first Western journalist was killed in Syria during a government-organized trip to Homs. Paris prosecutors said Friday that a preliminary investigation has been launched into the death of the France-2 Television journalist. Damascus has also said it will also investigate the death.

Some information for this Global Security report was provided by AP and AFP.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Matthew Kaminski's False Optimisim

Robert Reilly

Last July Matthew Kaminski opined in the Wall Street Journal that the transition to democracy in the Middle East would be as easy as it was for the democracies that emerged after the fall of the Soviet empire. Alas, this was predictably not so, and has now been proven, as vote after vote has shown the strength of the Islamists, most particularly in Egypt, where they have won some 70 percent of the ballot. With his article on January 3, "Arab Democracy Is the Best Bet for a Muslim Reformation", Kaminski continues in this vein of false optimism, based upon his propensity to project Western conceptions and norms onto the Islamic world, where they are largely irrelevant.

Wishful thinking can be dangerous when it distorts reality. Here is a short list of misconceptions in his latest piece.

"The appeal of political Islam... grows when religiosity is repressed." Islamism is a reaction to modernity, not to repression. It would grow regardless. With the shackles off in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, watch it grow even more. To think that it will diminish because it is not repressed is a dangerous fantasy. Thanks to the Arab Spring, it now has the opportunity to seize control, and most likely will do so. Democratic elections have simply revealed the strength of the view that "Islam is the answer."

"Calls for Sharia to become state law emerged only in the twentieth century, as a result of Islam's encounter with the West." Really? Sharia existed for many centuries before this encounter. The first call for state sharia enforcement came from Ibn Taymiyya in the late thirteenth century when he declared the Mongol rulers (converts to Islam) apostates because they continued to live by their tribal law, rather than by Sharia. Taymiyya laid the basis for requiring a ruler to enforce sharia if he wished to maintain his legitimacy, which is why Taymiyya is so popular among the Islamists today. The only recent sharia states have been Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan, and Sudan – those with the least amount of exposure to the West. In any case, the sharia enforcement issue emerges from the struggle within Islam, not from the encounter with West.

"The Quran is politically agnostic and says nothing about the preferable form of government." Not quite. In Surah 3:110, the Qur'an speaks of the regime in Medina as "the best community [or nation] ever raised for mankind." Since the Qur’an is understood by almost all Muslims as coexisting eternally with God, this statement means that the Medinan concept of the "best community" obtains forever. This is why the Salafists desire to emulate it exactly, and why every major effort of reform in Islam goes back, instead of forward. It may also help explain why democracy has never arisen indigenously in the Arab Middle East.

"Salafists... practice Osama bin Laden's creed of Islam." No, bin Laden's creed of Islam is not Salafist, but came directly from the Muslim Brotherhood and is infected with its ideology, which was partially obtained from Western totalitarianism. His teacher in Saudi Arabia was Mohammed al Banna, the brother of the founder of the Muslim brotherhood, Hassan al Banna. Salafism, on the other hand, is an ancient and integral part of Islam.

Kaminski calls for a Reformation in Islam, without seeming to realize that Islamism is that Reformation. Be careful of what you wish for. One reason that the Islamic world became calcified is that the "gates of ijtihad" were closed in the Middle Ages. This meant that the authority for making original interpretations of the Koran or the hadith had been withdrawn because the sharia had, by that time, covered every possible situation in human life with a specific ruling. The Islamists today have reclaimed the authority of individual interpretation in order to wipe out the Islamic jurisprudence that stands in their way, most particularly in their use of indiscriminate violence and terrorism.

In the place of "rigid Kemalist secularism" in Turkey, Kaminski claims that there "has emerged a more dynamic society, more tolerant of differences." The 97 members of the news media in prison, including journalists, publishers and distributors (according to the Turkish Journalists’ Union), and the generals jailed by the AKP might disagree, as might the persecuted businessman, who were funding media that expressed differences with the ruling party until they were charged with tax violations. The idea that a mild dose of Islamism leads to diversity is almost hilarious.

Kaminski several times quotes Iranian philosopher Dr Abdulkarim Soroush, who undoubtedly is one of the most eloquent advocates of free societies within Islam -- which may help explain his exile in the United States. However, Kaminski seems to be unaware of the most important issue that Soroush has raised regarding the relationship between theology and democracy. Soroush has said,

“You need some philosophical underpinning, even theological underpinning in order to have a real democratic system. Your God cannot be a despotic God anymore. A despotic God would not be compatible with a democratic rule, with the idea of rights. So you even have to change your idea of God.”

Without a different theology within Islam, can one have democracy? This is the real problem. Unfortunately, Sunni Islam gives no sign of abandoning its theology of God as pure will and power, which has been the foundation of so much despotism in Islamic history. Muslim theologians and philosophers who propose a God of rationality often find themselves, like Dr Soroush, in exile. This is what is subverting the opportunity for a transition to democracy in the Arab Spring.

Kaminski's most egregious error comes with his closing quote of former Polish dissident and writer, Adam Michnik, "If Judaism can co-exist with democracy, any religion can." By this Kaminski means to suggest that this should be no problem for Islam. Judaism, however, gave us Genesis, in which man is described as having been created in the image and likeness of God. This revelation is the basis of our civilization, as well as the foundation of democracy. The Qur'an, on the other hand, makes explicitly clear that man is not made in God's image and to suggest otherwise is blasphemy. Therefore, it may not be as easy as Mr. Kaminski thinks.

Robert Reilly has worked in foreign policy, the military, and the arts. His most recent book is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Syria: Arab League Observers Flee "Freedom Square"

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, January 12, 2012  -  The Arab League should urgently condemn the Syrian security forces for shooting peaceful protesters who were attempting to reach its observers in the northern city of Jisr al-Shughur, Human Rights Watch said today. In light of these and other blatant violations of the agreement it brokered with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, the Arab League should report publicly on its findings and assess whether its mission should continue.

Two protesters who were wounded in Jisr al-Shughur and fled to southern Turkey told Human Rights Watch in face-to-face interviews that around 11 a.m. on January 10, 2012, they marched towards the Baath party square (re-named "Freedom Square" by the protesters) to meet with Arab League observers present there. According to the witnesses, when they approached a checkpoint on the way to the square, army personnel barred them from proceeding and, after the protesters refused to disperse, opened fire on the crowd, injuring at least nine protesters. The Arab League observers were in the Baath party square, but left in a car after the shooting began, the witnesses said. Despite several attempts, Human Rights Watch has not been able to contact the Arab League observers to confirm whether they witnessed the incident.

"Such incidents, and the ever rising death toll, clearly demonstrate that the presence of Arab League observers has done little to compel the Syrian authorities to stop their crimes," said Anna Neistat, associate emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. "As President Assad derides the Arab League in his speeches, his troops are making a mockery of its observers' mission on the ground."

"Abu-Ahmad," one of the protesters injured in the attack, told Human Rights Watch:

We were about 300-500 people, I walked in the front row. We carried olive branches and chanted "peaceful, peaceful." When we were some 100 meters away from the checkpoint, we shouted to the army that we just wanted to meet with the observers. But they opened fire at us  -  it seemed like they received the orders from the mukhabarat officers who stood behind them.

Soldiers placed three machine guns on the ground and pointed them toward us. I saw them firing from Kalashnikov and sniper rifles. One of them pointed a sniper rifle at me and then I felt I was hit in my right leg. Several people next to me were hit as well.

I could see the observers, and we were communicating with them on cell phones [to coordinate a meeting], but when the army opened fire they just got into their cars and left.

Another witness, "Mustafa," who was also injured, told Human Rights Watch that when the protesters started running away, the army chased them and continued to shoot. He was in the middle of the group and sustained two bullet wounds in his back and one in his left arm. According to him, five people were injured when the army first opened fire at the protesters, and four others, including him, were hurt as the people were trying to flee.

Another witness from Jisr al-Shughur, "Ali," told Human Rights Watch that over the past weeks the military had not withdrawn from the city as per the Arab League agreement, but rather had maintained a heavy presence in the city, controlling all entrances to the town and patrolling the streets along with mukhabarat (intelligence services) personnel and shabeeha (pro-government militias). He said that on January 8, from noon to midnight, the security forces raided mobile phone shops in Jisr al-Shughur and arrested approximately 30 owners. Ali said he witnessed one of these raids. According to him, the military blocked the street while mukhabarat agents entered the mobile phone shop and detained the owner, beating him with batons.

In the agreement it signed with the Arab League on December 19, the Syrian government pledged to end violence against peaceful protests, release detained protesters, withdraw armed elements from cities and residential areas, and allow Arab and international media unhindered access to all parts of Syria. Syria also pledged in the agreement to grant Arab League monitors unhindered and independent access to all individuals they wish to interview to verify Syria's implementation of these measures, including victims, detainees, and nongovernmental organizations. Syria guaranteed the safety of witnesses from reprisals.

Attacks by security forces against peaceful protests have been reported every day since the Arab League mission began. According to media reports, the United Nations has estimated that 400 people have been killed since the Arab League mission arrived in Syria on December 26.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented what seem to be efforts by the Syrian government to deceive the Arab League monitors by transferring hundreds of detainees to improvised holding centers at military sites that are off limits to Arab League observers. Authorities have also issued police identification cards to military officials apparently in order to give the impression that military forces have, under the agreement with the Arab League, withdrawn from civilian areas.

The mission's credibility had already been clouded by the appointment as its chief of Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi, a former head of Sudan's military intelligence. Al-Dabi oversaw an intelligence agency well known for serious abuses in Sudan and is a close political ally of Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, against whom the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"The time has come for the Arab League to call out the Syrian government on its failure to abide by the agreement," said Neistat. "Allowing the mission to continue without effective and clear efforts to protect the civilians will only lead to more deaths."

For more information:

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10118
hrwnyc (@) hrw.org
Phone: +1 212 290 4700
Fax: +1 212 736 1300

Judge Randy Bellows' Ruling

Word has just been received that Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County (Virginia) Circuit Court has issued a 113-page letter opinion deciding the issues in the lengthy property trial last year completely in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the national Church. The Judge's summary of his rulings is as follows:

In this Letter Opinion, the Court makes three princip[al] rulings:

1. TEC and the Diocese have a contractual and proprietary interest in each of the seven Episcopal churches that are the subjects of this litigation. Specifically, the Court finds for TEC and the Diocese in their Declaratory Judgment actions and, among other relief, orders that all real property conveyed by the 41 deeds, as well as all personal property acquired by the churches up to the filing date of the Declaratory Judgment actions (on or about January 31, 2007 or February 1, 2007) are to be promptly conveyed to the Diocese. (Additional instructions are provided at the conclusion of this Letter Opinion.)

2. The CANA Congregations‟ Amended Counterclaims are denied in their entirety. Specifically, the Court finds that the CANA Congregations, in that they are not Episcopal Congregations, do not possess either contractual or proprietary interests in the property of the seven Episcopal Churches at issue. They are, therefore, enjoined from further use or control of these properties and must promptly relinquish them to the Diocese. Moreover, the Court finds no merit in the CANA Congregations‟ claims for unjust enrichment,quantum meruit, and constructive trust and grants TEC‟s and the Diocese‟s motions to strike these claims.

3. The vestry empowered to elect directors to the Falls Church Endowment Fund is the vestry recognized by the Diocese as the Episcopal vestry of The Falls Church, that is to say, the Continuing Congregation.

The opinion then concludes (after 100 more pages):

It remains to determine the disposition of the personal property of the seven churches. Virginia Code §57-10 provides as follows:

When personal property shall be given or acquired for the benefit of an unincorporated church or religious body, to be used for its religious purposes, the same shall stand vested in the trustees having the legal title to the land, to be held by them as the land is held, and upon the same trusts or, if the church has created a corporation pursuant to §57-16.1, to be held by it as its land is held, and for the same purposes.

 Thus, the disposition of the personal property of these churches follows the disposition of the real property of these churches, that is to say, it must also be turned over to the Diocese. There is a significant caveat to this, however, and it arises from the fact that there came a point in time when it was absolutely clear that a contribution or donation or the payment of membership dues to one of the seven congregations was not a contribution to an Episcopal congregation.

Therefore, the personal property acquired by the CANA congregations after this point in time should remain with the CANA congregations. There are four possible points in time which the Court has considered:

First, the Court has considered using as a point of demarcation the various points in time when the congregations made varying arrangements to withhold contributions from the Diocese.[FN 84]
[FN 84]According to CANA, “all of the CANA Congregations curtailed or terminated their donations to the Diocese in response to the actions of the denomination at its 2003 General Convention.” (CANA Brief #1A at 159.) Congregants were given the opportunity to designate that no portion of their title should go to the Diocese; or the congregation stopped giving money to the Diocese entirely; or the congregation established a congregation only fund. Id. at fn. 120.
Putting aside the accounting difficulties in applying these various dates to the various circumstances, and whether it would even be possible to account for the individual choices of parishioners where they were given the opportunity to designate, there is a much more dispositive objection to using this as the point of demarcation: Whatever may have been the level of discord and disenchantment with TEC and the Diocese, each of the seven churches in 2003, 2004, 2005, and through most of 2006 remained Episcopal churches, constituent members of the Diocese and TEC.

Second, the Court has considered using as the point of demarcation the date upon which each of the CANA Congregation voted to disaffiliate pursuant to §57-9(A)(December 2006-January 2007). (Alternatively, the Court could use the date when each congregation filed its §57-9(A) petition.) Here, too, there are significant problems: first, it has now been conclusively determined that §57-9(A) is inapplicable to these proceedings; second, it is not the act of taking a vote, or even the filing of a petition, that renders a decision to affiliate with a different denomination final and conclusive – rather it is the Court‟s approval of the petition. That did not come until January 8, 2009, and in any event was reversed by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Third, the Court has considered using as the point of demarcation the Diocese‟s January 22, 2007 Notice of Inhibition, or January 22, 2007 resolution determining the properties to have been abandoned, or the August 1, 2007 Notice of Removal. While arguments could be made in support of each of these dates, especially the January 22, 2007 resolution declaring the properties to be abandoned, they do not have the public notice character of the fourth possibility, which is the one this Court adopts.

This fourth possibility, which this Court adopts as the point of demarcation, is the filing date of the Declaratory Judgment actions by the Diocese against each congregation on either January 31, 2007 (involving five of the congregations) or February 1, 2007 (involving the two remaining congregations).

After this date, no contribution made, no donation made, no dues paid by a congregant, could reasonably have been made with the understanding that the money was going to Episcopal congregations. (While the seven churches, for the reasons stated in this opinion, never lost their character as Episcopal churches, the Court‟s focus here is on the actions taken by – and the Declaratory Judgment actions filed against – the CANA congregations.)

Therefore, the Court orders that all personal property acquired by the congregations before January 31, 2007 or February 1, 2007 (depending on the congregation) shall be conveyed to the Diocese and all liquid personal property (e.g., contributions and donations of money) acquired after these dates shall remain with the CANA Congregations. As to tangible personal property acquired by the CANA Congregations after these dates, they shall be conveyed to the Diocese unless the CANA Congregations can establish that they were purchased solely with funds acquired after these dates or were donated to the CANA Congregations after these dates.[FN 85]

[FN 85] As to the argument that the CANA Congregations should not have to convey to the Diocese funds on hand as of January 31, 2007 because such funds were used to maintain the church facilities since then, the Court would note the obvious fact that the CANA Congregation had the use of the property since that point in time as well.

TEC and the Diocese seek an accounting as part of their requested relief. To the extent an accounting is necessary to implement the Court‟s orders, an accounting is ordered.

TEC and the Diocese are to prepare and submit a proposed final order within 45 days of the issuance of this Letter Opinion, affording the CANA Congregations a reasonable opportunity to note their exceptions. If either party believes a hearing is necessary regarding the terms of the Final Order, they should communicate this to the Court, by letter, no later than 30 days from today.

The opinion is remarkable for its exhaustive consideration of every possible Virginia statute and previous case (including an unreported one) that could bear on the issues at stake. Along the way, it notably holds that the Dennis Canon (and its local diocesan equivalent) were ineffective per se to create a trust interest in favor of the diocese or national Church. But the bulk of the opinion appears (on a very quick first read) to be devoted to arriving at the same result (i.e., as if the Dennis Canon and its local equivalent had established a trust) by other means. It reaches its conclusion in favor of ECUSA and its diocese by drawing upon a minutely detailed analysis of the course of conduct between the parishes in question and the former entities over more than a hundred years (and in the case of Falls Church and a few others, for many more years than that -- but in the case of the Church of the Epiphany, on a course of conduct extending for just the first twenty of the last twenty-four years).

In doing so, however, the court ends up equating what it terms a "proprietary and contractual interest" of the diocese in individual parish property to the functional legal equivalent of an express or implied trust in favor of the diocese (and the national Church). And since it recognizes that Virginia law does not allow express or implied trusts in favor of denominations, the marvel is that Judge Bellows can still conclude, by drawing heavily upon his interpretation of a Virginia statute (§ 57-16.1), that the parishes effectively controlled their own properties only for so long as they remained constituent members of the Episcopal Church (USA) -- which is exactly what the Dennis Canon states, in haec verba.

The result is a carefully-crafted holding that appears (at first blush, at any rate) to be insulated against any federal constitutional grounds for overturning it -- unless it can be argued that the "proprietary and contractual interest" which the court found to be decisive is simply the inherent byproduct of being affiliated with what the Virginia Supreme Court already deemed (without any distinctions) to be a "hierarchical church." If that is the net effect of this decision, one has to wonder whether or not Judge Bellows has given the Episcopal Church (USA) an unassailable preference by the back door, and so thereby "established" it as a specially preferred type of church for purposes of resolving property disputes, in violation of the First Amendment.

It will take some time to analyze the opinion more carefully, because Judge Bellows is nothing if not painstaking and thorough. I also have to prepare for a court proceeding of my own tomorrow, and so it may be a day or two before I can publish a full assessment and analysis. Baby Blue has more background and first-person reportage at this post.

Prayers go out to all the congregations affected by this ruling.

Source: Anglican Ink

Related reading:  The Cautious Jurisprudenace of Judge Randy Bellows

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Killed in Tehran

Two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility, killing him and wounding two people on Wednesday, a semiofficial news agency reported.

The attack in Tehran bore a strong resemblance to earlier killings of scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program. It is certain to reinforce authorities' claims of widening clandestine operations by Western powers and allies to try to cripple nuclear advancements.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hekmati a Pawn in USA-Iran Relations

Dan Robinson

The United States is pressing Iran to release an American man who has been sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. This comes at a time of rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

The White House and State Department say allegations that Amir Mirza Hekmati - an Iranian American dual citizen - worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false, adding that if reports of the death sentence are true, the United States strongly condemns it.

A U.S. statement says Iran's government "has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons."

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency says Hekmati was sentenced for ties to the CIA and for cooperating with a “hostile country." Iran state TV has shown Hekmati making what was called a confession in Farsi and English.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to say what options the Obama administration considering beyond working through Swiss intermediaries in Tehran.

"I don't want to speculate about that. I think that we take this matter very seriously and are addressing it in the appropriate manner," said Carney.

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said this kind of behavior is typical for Iran.

"This is not a new tactic on the part of the Iranian government. I would simply say that these particular proceedings were conducted in secret, there was inadequate legal counsel. We obviously dismiss the accusations one way or the other; we believe that any confession he may have made was clearly coerced. So it is just par for the course in terms of the non-justice in the Iranian system," said Nuland.

All of this comes amid rising tensions between Iran, and the U.S. and international partners over Tehran's threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to new Western sanctions targeting Iran's oil exports.

Recently, Iran confirmed it has begun enriching uranium at a second underground facility. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and that the new enrichment is taking place under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision.

Amnesty International issued a statement on Monday saying Hekmati, a 28-year-old former U.S. Marine Arabic translator, did not receive a fair trial and questioning what it called "the timing and political circumstances" of Hekmati's sentence.

The human rights monitoring group appealed to Iran not to execute Hekmati, noting that an appeal against his conviction would have to be filed within 20 days of his sentencing.

Source:  Global Security

Monday, January 9, 2012

YouTube Project Parodies Damascus Censorship

(RSF/IFEX) - 9 January 2011 - To draw public attention to media censorship in Syria, Reporters Without Borders and the JWT Paris ad agency have produced a short video inspired by parodies of Siri, the star app on the new iPhone 4S. It shows a man hunched over his iPhone failing to get any information from Siri about Syria except the weather forecast, the only news the government is not censoring.

The outside world is managing to get some limited information about the protests in Syria and the government's bloody crackdown, but the authorities have taken radical steps to prevent Syrians from reporting anything that strays from the official line. The local media are gagged and foreign reporters have been expelled. Would-be citizen journalists who try to use the Internet are arrested and mistreated.

In order to highlight these violations of freedom of information, JWT Paris had the idea of showing Siri, whose answers to queries are not always relevant, being completely stumped by questions about current events in Syria because of the government's news blackout.

Available for viewing on the Reporters Without Borders website and social networks including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, this video is the third joint project between Reporters Without Borders and JWT Paris.

We previously worked together on the campaign for the release of the two French journalists who were held hostage in Afghanistan, Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière, and on the "Journalists Hunt" awareness campaign.

For more information:

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Sunday, January 8, 2012

American Colleges and Universities Mimic China

Alice C. Linsley

China has seen an increase in the number of universities and the focus has been on increasing the nation's wealth and power through science, engineering, and business management.

In 2008, a Thousand Talents program began recruiting established scientists everywhere under age 55 with lucrative grants and salaries to work in China. This year, Chinese officials rolled out the Young Thousand Talents program, with generous offers to attract even younger scientists.

In the past 15 years the number of Chinese universities has grown, and the number of degrees in science and technology has soared.  An estimated 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated in 2006. An official of the China Association for Science and Technology said recently, "The Chinese culture has a high respect for education, and families want their child to have a PhD, and will invest almost every coin they have in their child's education..."

One Chinese professor reports, "Among all the universities, only we have an anthropology department." There are about 20 students in that degree program and without government funding this program has little chance of survival. 

The Humanities and Social Sciences have fallen on hard times in China. That trend has taken hold of American Universities and colleges also. Physical sciences, engineering, and business receive bulk of foundation and government grants, and qualified people enjoy top salaries in both the public and private sectors.

I've experienced this trend personally.  For the past 10 years I have taught Philosophy, Ethics and World Religions at a women's college in central Kentucky. There are fewer and fewer courses for me to teach because the college has dedicated all resources to science, nursing, business, equestrian management and professional education degrees. Not a single course in Anthropology has been offered at the college in 10 years. Though I have been pioneering Biblical Anthropology for over 30 years and have over 600 publications in the field, I have not been asked to teach a single Anthropology class in 38 years of teaching.

This trend may be a conservative reaction to the more liberal and leftist tone of Humanities and Social Science professors, as well as a response to an economy that is not generating jobs.  It is impossible to know what the effects of this trend will be for future generations of Americans, but it is certain that as a nation we will be less educated and more more vulnerable to government regimentation and propaganda.  Is America following China's lead in education?

Related reading:  Should China Be Our Model in Higher Education?