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What Drives Blasphemy Charges in the Middle East? (It's Not Just Religion)

Global Voices

Posted 8 January 2015 18:20 GMT


Commenting on Cheikh's case, journalist Brian Whitaker, author of the book Arabs Without God, writes that religion has become a “political weapon” in Mauritania:

The strange thing about laws against apostasy and blasphemy is that most of the people who fall foul of them are neither apostates nor intentional blasphemers. In practice these laws have very little to do with theology and are mostly used as a pretext for settling political scores or pursuing personal grudges.

Using religion as “a pretext for settling political scores”
Whitaker indeed points to a broader trend across the Arab world. Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, which differ widely both politically and culturally, have seen similar cases in recent years.

It seems clear in the Quran that apostasy and blasphemy do not require punishments such as the death penalty or lashing — yet authorities in countries like Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to do the opposite. It seems the motive is more rooted in politics than religion.

“Arab rulers act as if Islam is in danger…maybe they are afraid of the collapse of their thrones,” Tunisian blogger Khaoula Frehcichi wrote in a blog post. “They know very well that criticising the religious institution is the first step to unsettle their regimes.”


I like this follow-up comment:

"The word blasphemy should disappear from human consciousness right along with the religious fanatics who created it.
One man's blasphemy is another's truth and truth will never come from religion."

Trade Secrets - Monbiot

By George Monbiot

Source: The Guardian
January 15, 2015

If a government proposes to abandon one of the fundamental principles of justice, there had better be a powerful reason. Equality before the law is not ditched lightly. Surely? Well, read this and judge for yourself. The UK government, like that of the US and 13 other EU members, wants to set up a separate judicial system, exclusively for the use of corporations. While the rest of us must take our chances in the courts, corporations across the EU and US will be allowed to sue governments before a tribunal of corporate lawyers. They will be able to challenge the laws they don’t like, and seek massive compensation if these are deemed to affect their “future anticipated profits”.

I’m talking about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its provisions for “investor-state dispute settlement”. If this sounds incomprehensible, that’s mission accomplished: public understanding is lethal to this attempted corporate coup.

The TTIP is widely described as a trade agreement. But while in the past trade agreements sought to address protectionism, now they seek to address protection. In other words, once they promoted free trade by removing trade taxes (tariffs); now they promote the interests of transnational capital by downgrading the defence of human health, the natural world, labour rights, and the poor and vulnerable from predatory corporate practices.

So keep marching, keep signing, keep joining the campaigns that have come together under the Stop TTIP banner. In an age of ecocide, food banks and financial collapse, do we need more protection from predatory corporate practices, or less? This is a reckless, unjustified destruction of our rights. We can defeat it.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/trade-secrets/

Duplicate .... War Begets War: It’s Not about Islam; It Never Was

Sorry Tace.

Please see previous thread here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1016111405

By Ramzy Baroud

January 14, 2015

It is still not about Islam, even if the media and militants attacking western targets say so. Actually, it never was. But it was important for many to conflate politics with religion; partly because it is convenient and self-validating.

First, let’s be clear on some points. Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world.

Sure, the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed was mentioned, but little was said, by Black, or the many others who were quick to link the subject to “7th century Islam”, to the hideous wars and their horrible, pornographic manifestations of torture, rape and other unspeakable acts; acts that victimized millions of people; Muslim people. Instead, it about western art and Muslim intolerance. The subtle line was: yes, indeed, it is a “clash of civilizations”.

Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe?

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/war-begets-war-its-not-about-islam-it-never-was/

Child living in remains of home destroyed by Israel dies from freezing weather in Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 9 Jan — A Palestinian infant fell ill and died due to severe cold in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, as winter storm Huda pummeled the region for a third day. Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that two-month-old Rafah Ali Abu Assi died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of the severely cold weather affecting the region. Ashraf al-Qidra said that the infant was taken to the Gaza European Hospital early Thursday for treatment but was pronounced dead at noon on Friday. The infant’s family lives east of Khan Younis in an area that was heavily damaged during Israel’s offensive on Gaza over summer. Her family reportedly continued living in their damaged home despite the destruction. Due to lack of alternative shelter, many of the nearly 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israeli bombardment have done the same, including many living in just tents. Temperatures in Gaza have been hovering only a few degrees above freezing in recent days as a freezing winter storm buffeted the region, flooding some areas in the small coastal enclave. The situation is aggravated by the lack of fuel for electric power, meaning that power is available roughly eight hours a day, with occasional cuts on top of that.


Video: Gaza’s ruined homes offer little shelter from storm

AFP 8 Jan — Living by candlelight with no electricity and reliant on sandbags to stop their ruined homes flooding, Gazans who survived last year’s war are now struggling with a brutal winter storm. Duration: 01:07


Site list please.

Could you please provide a list of acceptable sites here from which to post from? I don't understand locking a story of a family missing its slain son/brother, but knowing which are not acceptable would be a great help.



Here Lies My Brother

"These are Mohammad’s shoes. I wanted to put them here...
His pants. They still have dirt on them.
I don’t want to wash them; I want to leave them as they are."

-Mohammad Abu Daher’s mother

On May 15, 2014, Mohammad Abu Daher, 16, was fatally shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank city of Beitunia. One hour earlier, Israeli forces shot and killed Nadeem Nawara, 17, in the same spot.

Posted January 11, 2014

Mohammad’s family and friends were struck hard by his loss. “Here Lies My Brother,” a short film produced by DCI-Palestine, attempts to provide a glimpse beyond the headlines to see the impact prolonged military occupation has on Palestinian families.

DCI-Palestine has already taken critical steps to pursue justice for Nadeem and Mohammad—by releasing security camera footage that captured the moment when both youths were fatally shot, and a Forensic Architecture video analysis (http://beitunia.forensic-architecture...) pinpointing Nadeem’s killer. Both families deserve to see their sons’ killers held accountable for their crimes.


What is Going On in Spain?

By Vicente Navarro
Source: Counterpunch
January 10, 2015

Something is happening in Spain. A party that did not exist one year ago, Podemos, with a clear left-wing program, would win a sufficient number of votes to gain a majority in Spanish Parliament if an election were held today. Meanwhile, the leaders of the group G-20 attending their annual meeting in Australia were congratulating the president of the Spanish conservative-neoliberal government, Mr. Mariano Rajoy, for the policies that his government had imposed. (I use the term “imposed” because none of these policies were written in its electoral program.) These included: (1) the largest cuts in public social expenditures (dismantling the underfunded Spanish welfare state) ever seen since democracy was established in Spain in 1978 and (2) the toughest labor reforms, which have substantially deteriorated labor market conditions. Salaries have declined by 10% since the Great Recession started in 2007, and unemployment has hit an all-time record of 26% (52% among the youth). The percentage of what the trade unions defined as “shit work” (temporary, precarious work) has increased, becoming the majority of new contracts in the labor market (more than 52% of all contracts), and 66% of unemployed people do not have any form of unemployment insurance or public assistance.

These neoliberal policies were promoted by the European Union (EU) establishments (European Council, European Commission, and ECB) and by the International Monetary Fund. They were carried out in Spain with the support and encouragement of financial capital, major business enterprises, and their political instrument, the Popular Party (PP), now in government. It seems that the right-wing in Spain was finally getting what it had always wanted: the reduction of salaries and the weakening of social protection with a dismantling of the welfare state. Those policies are what the international elites of the G-20 who met in Australia were presenting as a model for all countries to follow, championing Spain as a model country.

This is how the cuts started, under the false argument that the country needed to face austerity measures because it was spending too much. Actually, when the crisis started, the Spanish state was on surplus. In reality, Spain’s public expenditure is far too low, much lower than its economic level of development would call for. The cuts demonstrate the class nature of those interventions. Socialist Zapatero froze public pensions to save 1,500 million euros, when he could have obtained much more money, 2,500 million, by recovering the property taxes that he had abolished, reversing the lowering of inheritance taxes (2,300 million), or reversing the reduced taxes of individuals making 120,000 euros a year (2,200 million). These cuts were expanded later by conservative-liberal Rajoy, who cut 6,000 million from the National Health Service, stressing, as Zapatero said before, that “there were not alternatives,” the most frequently used sentence in the official narrative. There were alternatives, however. He could have reversed the lowering of taxes on capital to large corporations that he had approved, obtaining 5,500 million. The economists Vicenç Navarro, Juan Torres, and Alberto Garzón wrote a book There are Alternatives (Hay Alternativas: Propuestas para Crear Empleo y Bienestar Social en España). The book showed, with clear and convincing numbers, that there were alternatives. The book became a major bestseller in Spain and was widely used by the indignados movement.

The success of Podemos has become a major threat to the Spanish (and to the European) establishment. Today, the Spanish financial, economic, political, and media establishments are on the defensive and in panic, having passed laws that strengthen the repression. The heads of the major banks in Spain are particularly uneasy. Mr. Botín, president of the major bank Santander, indicated four days before he died (a few weeks ago) that he was extremely worried, indicating that Podemos and Catalonia were very threatening to Spain. He, of course, meant his Spain. And he was right. The future is quite open. As Gramsci once indicated, it is the end of a period without a clear view of what the next one will be. Europe, Spain, and Catalonia are ending an era. This is clear. What still is unclear is what will come next. We will see.

Barcelona, 28th December 2014.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/what-is-going-on-in-spain/

Wait ....... what??

I thought Greece was the perfect model!? So much so that Ukraine is hoped to follow it.

Anyway, ....... Yay austerity!!!

How hero hiding in cardboard box guided police by texts as they moved in to take out jihadi brothers

Saturday, Jan 10th 2015


Holed up in a printworks and surrounded by police, killers Said and Cherif Kouachi were unaware that commandos were being tipped off about their every move.
For, hidden in a cardboard box just yards away was 27-year-old Lilian Lepere.
And he was able to alert police about the location of the gunmen and the layout of the building.
For more than six hours the graphic designer passed on crucial information until the siege ended in a bloody shootout as the terrorist brothers, who had vowed to die as martyrs, burst out from their lair all guns blazing and were mown down in a hail of bullets.

Lilian Lepere, 27, hid in a cardboard box as the Charlie Hebdo gunmen held a father-of-two hostage for eight hours

State Terrorism in Ogaden, Ethiopia

by Graham Peebles / January 9th, 2015

Ethiopia is being hailed as a shining example of African economic growth. Principle donors and devotees of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank development model (an imposed ideological vision which measures all things in terms of a nations GDP) see the country as an island of potential prosperity and stability within a region of failed states and violent conflict.

Maryama’s story

Maryama arrived in Dadaab with her son and daughter in May 2014 after fleeing her homeland in Ethiopia. She had been the victim of terrible physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Ethiopian military. Her shocking story echoes the experience of thousands of women – many of whom are no more than children – throughout the affected parts of the Ogaden. I met Maryama in the UNHCR field office of the Dagahaley site in October 2014. She spoke to me of her life in the Ogaden and the violence she had suffered. We sat on the ground in the shade of a UN office building. She spoke with clarity and passion for over an hour, her two-year old son on her lap.

Like many people in the Ogaden, Maryama lived a simple life as a pastoralist. Tending her goats and camels, she moved from place to place with her family. She had never attended school, cannot read or write and knows little or nothing of her country’s politics. Some time in 2012, she was arrested when a large group of armed soldiers from the Ethiopian military descended on her family’s settlement in Dagahmadow in the district of Dagahbuur. “They came to us one day while we were tending to our affairs in our village and they accused us of being supporters of the ONLF as well as having relatives in the ONLF.” The soldiers “called all the village people together and started carrying out acts of persecution. They took anything of value, including property and livestock, by force and burnt down homes in the process. I had just given birth seven days earlier when they came into my home and they asked me why I am inside the house by myself . They saw footsteps near my home, which they followed and concluded that it must have been left by the ONLF” . “All of us were taken out of our homes and questioned about the ONLF, we all denied any involvement. Our homes were then burnt.”

The solders moved from house-to-house questioning people about the footprints. A young mother, who had given birth the day before and was holding her child, was interrogated, she knew nothing and said so. An elderly woman went to her aid; she was caught by the throat and questioned about the footprints – she knew nothing. They shot her dead. Two men from the village arrived and were immediately questioned. One of the men answered, denying any connection with the ONLF; two soldiers tied his hands together, threw a rope around his neck and pulled on each end until he choked to death. Maryama was ordered to hold the strangled man upright and not allow him to fall to the side. When, exhausted after two hours, she let go of the body she was “arrested with six other girls (including my sister), one of the girls had given birth that day.” On the first night in captivity “she was forced to her feet by two soldiers, one of them kicked her in the stomach – she fell on the floor, keeled over and died on the spot. They also shot my sister in front of us. I watched as she bled to death next to the other girl who had died from the beating.”

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/01/state-terrorism-in-ogaden-ethiopia/

Winter storm brings misery to Middle East refugees

7 January 2015 Last updated at 08:37 ET

Syrian refugees in Lebanon tried to remove snow from the roofs of their tents to prevent them collapsing

A fierce winter storm has brought freezing temperatures to the Middle East, raising worries about the plight of the millions of refugees there.

The UN is also "extremely concerned" about the situation in Jordan, where it is distributing extra blankets.

More than 7.6 million people have been displaced inside Syria since the uprising began in 2011, while more than 3.3 million have fled abroad.

At the scene: Paul Wood, BBC News, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
One of the tents - used as a schoolroom - has collapsed from the weight of snow. The "main street" of the camp is a lake of dirty, icy water. Children stand around, seemingly dressed more for summer than for winter. Some even wear flip-flops.

We are in a makeshift refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Even after four years as refugees, people are still living under plastic sheeting. Conditions are miserable.

Up to 19,600 families are currently displaced in Gaza, with many forced to live in war-damaged buildings

Syrian refugees sit on the street in Istanbul (6 January 2015)
In Turkey, temperatures were forecast to stay below zero for several days

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