Islam is the solution, Grand Mufti says in Haj sermon

ARAFAT: More than 2.5 million pilgrims from around the globe prayed for peace and security on the sprawling plains of Arafat on Saturday amid a forceful condemnation by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh of those who provoke hostilities between the Ummah and its leaders.

The “wuqoof” or “the standing” in Arafat was the high point of the annual pilgrimage. It was also an extraordinary symbol of the unity and equality in Islam.

Delivering the keynote sermon at the majestic Al-Nimira Mosque, the grand mufti said: “Solve your problems without seeking interference from your enemies…and beware of those provoke hostility between you and your leaders.”

The mosque was packed with the faithful and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims prayed out in the open streets.

“Islam is the solution for the problems of Muslims,” he said, and warned Muslims of a media and cultural invasion that seeks to weaken their faith.

Al-Asheikh called on rulers in the Muslim countries not to oppress their people but to help them lead a dignified life.

“It is the duty of Muslim leaders to maintain justice and fight corruption. Their priority should be the welfare of their people,” Al-Asheikh said.

While the ruler strives to help solve the problems of the citizens, the subjects should obey, love and pray for their rulers, Al-Ashiekh said.

The mufti also advised government officials to shun bribery and nepotism, reminding Muslims that the Islamic world was passing through one of its most dangerous and challenging periods.

“The situation has reached such a point that some Muslims had to flee their homes. We have to think about the ways to get out of this crisis,” the mufti said.

He said Islam decried all kinds of terror and destruction, extremism and bloodshed because it is a religion of justice and rights.

Many pilgrims arrived in Arafat on buses, while others set off on foot from Mina, a tent-village that comes to life only during the five-day pilgrimage. Others took the Mashair Railway, also known as the Makkah Metro, to reach Mount Arafat.

“Things have gone according to plans,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.

Many pilgrims were seen crying hysterically while seeking forgiveness from Allah.

“O Allah grant glory to the nation of Islam, O Allah protect Muslims of the world…O Allah let peace reign in your land…O Allah guide us as we grapple with these difficult times,” said Mamdouh Al-Asiri, a Saudi teacher.

Among the pilgrims were relatives of Farman Ali Khan, the Pakistani citizen who saved many lives during the 2009 Jeddah floods. They have been specially invited by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. The king’s gesture has been widely appreciated in the Pakistani media.

Women formed a big part of the mass gathering. They prayed alongside their husbands and fathers and were a source of strength for the group they were traveling with.

“Arafat reminds me of our beloved Prophet. He asked us to undertake this journey and we have taken it…We have been undertaking this journey for the last 14 centuries and Muslims will continue to do this till the Day of Judgment,” said Munnawara Taimoor, from India. “Yes there were hardships but then I was not alone…There were 2.5 million people doing the same thing and experiencing the same thing. That gave me and my husband strength,” she added.

While Haj is a time to seek forgiveness for sins and meditate on the faith, the unrest across the Middle East region was dominant in the minds of many pilgrims.

Wakil Ali Mohammed from Syria said he hopes for a swift resolution to his country’s eight-month uprising against President Bashar Assad. “The situation in Syria is tragic and I pray to God to end this crisis very soon,” said Mohammed, who has taken part in anti-government protests. “I hope that Bashar, his forces and supporters put an end to this situation.”

Nauffal Al-Mubarak from Palmera said he has asked for peace in his homeland. “We pray to God that security be maintained in our country and other Islamic countries,” he said.

Pilgrims from South Asian countries prayed for peace and prosperity. “I prayed that the scourge of corruption is wiped out from India and we the Muslims get our due share in every walk of life. The government takes up welfare issues on priority basis,” said Mumtaz Ahmad, a Qatar-based Indian who was accompanied by Nadra Fatma.

Indian Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai told Arab News that Indians performed Haj smoothly and thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for making elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims.

“All Indians performed Haj with ease and there was no problem. I appreciate the Saudis for making foolproof arrangements for 3 million people. It’s phenomenal,” Kidwai said.

“For me, this reminded me of the Day of Judgment. Let us not forget that it was here that the Prophet delivered his unforgettable sermon, enunciating far-reaching religious, economic, social and political reforms,” said Jordanian national Taufik Shiddi. “Today I felt the presence and closeness of a merciful God.”

Just after sunset, the mass of contented and happy pilgrims proceeded to Muzdalifah, an open plain about halfway between Arafat and Mina. The pilgrims will first pray and then collect a fixed number of chickpea-sized pebbles to stone the devil in Mina on Sunday.

( / 10.11.2011)

‘Death to Arabs’ scrawled across Muslim gravestones in Jerusalem 11Nov11

Some 15 Muslim gravestones were found desecrated in Jerusalem with the slogan “Death to Arabs” on Thursday, in what is suspected to be the latest “price tag” attack by right-wing extremists.

“Death to Arabs” and “Givat Asaf” – the name of a West Bank settlement outpost that is slated for demolition – were spray painted on the gravestones in the Bamamila Cemetery, next to the Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance.

It is still not known who is responsible for the desecration of the gravestones, or even exactly when it took place.

A month ago, on Yom Kippur, graves were desecrated with anti-Arab graffiti in two cemeteries in Jaffa, Christian and Muslim.

Police arrested a 21-year-old on Wednesday on suspicion of spray-painting ‘price tag’ and anti-Arab slogans, and on suspicion of being behind a false a bomb scare at the offices of left-wing political activists Peace Now. The young man had already being arrested in the past after he rang the doorbell of Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, and threatened to harm him.

After police interrogated the man over the threats he uttered, he was released. A Jerusalem court remanded the man for another six days on Wednesday.

The man took responsibility for some of the crimes attributed to him at the beginning of his interrogation, including causing damage to the car of an Arab. He said that he did it because he “hates Arabs and hates Leftists.” But later he retracted his confession, and he is currently denying all accusations made against him.

The man’s lawyer, Shaul Ezra, claims that his client’s confession is inadmissible because it was extracted by force. Even when he confessed to some acts at first, the young man denied that accusation that he was responsible for spray-painting graffiti at the home of Hagit Ofran, the Settlement Watch Committee of Peace Now.

Israel Police Commander Yohanan Danino vowed to Peace Now activists on Wednesday that the police was taking every measure to ensure their security and apprehend those responsible for the attacks.

The police struck out in court in another incident that had triggered suspicions of being a ‘price tag’ attack. The police believed that they had enough evidence against three suspects who were caught in Wadi Ara soon after the murder of a family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, carrying bottles of propane.

The three men claimed in court that they were on their way to visit the graves of Jewish saints and had taken propane will them in the event of an emergency.

( / 10.11.2011)

Detained Canadians coming home after Gaza arrest: protest group

All three Canadians who were detained by authorities after taking part in a  flotilla that tried to breach an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip are coming  home, supporters say.

Two are to arrive back in Canada on Thursday, and another one next week,  according to Canadian Boat to Gaza, which helped organize the mission, which was  meant to bring attention to the controversial blockade.

The news comes after the same organization said all three had been warned by  the Israelis they could be held in prison without trial and charges for two  months unless they signed a document admitting they voluntarily entered Israel  illegally.

It’s a claim the group says is false, saying those who were travelling on the  Canadian ship Tahrir and Ireland’s Saoirse were “violently kidnapped from  international waters and taken to Israel against their will while trying to  reach Gaza.”

The group has said those on the mission were beaten and intimidated by  Israeli authorities, a claim government sources say has not been verified by  consular officials who saw them in custody.

David Heap of London, Ont., and Ehab Lotayef of Montreal are to arrive at  Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport on Thursday morning. They’ve scheduled a  news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa early in the afternoon.

Karen DeVito is to return home to Vancouver next week, the group said.

( / 10.11.2011)

Syrian actress Fadwa Sulayman appears in Homs protests

Syrian actress Fadwa Sulayman in Homs, 8 November 2011
Fadwa Sulayman was shown live on Al-Jazeera leading protests
Fadwa Sulayman, a Syrian actress and opposition activist, made a courageous stand in appearances in the city of Homs, which was broadcast live on Al-Jazeera on 7 and 8 November.

The footage from Homs marked a new stage in the transmission of video footage of opposition protests in Syria. It appeared to be shot using a professional, high-resolution camera with zoom capabilities.

This is a far cry from the first images of demonstrations in March, which were grainy, shaky clips filmed on mobile telephones and distributed via slow internet connections.

Since then, activists have developed the capability to deliver live video streams from cameras overlooking key sites, such as the protests which have been held weekly after Friday prayers.

But interviews with foreign TV channels have been conducted solely by phone, with no accompanying video.

Rare appearance

Ms Sulayman – who has appeared in theatrical productions, films and television serials – was interviewed live by Al-Jazeera on 7 November. She was shown speaking by phone from a balcony overlooking night-time street protests in a district in Homs.

The next day, another live transmission showed her addressing a small crowd of protesters together with Abd al-Basit Surat, a member of a local football team.

Her appearances on the channel were the subject of a feature article in the Beirut daily Al-Akhbar on 9 November under the headline: “Fadwa Sulayman goes down to the street”.

The article noted that she had supported the protests since the beginning, organising women’s demonstrations and calling for the planting of olive trees in memory of those killed.

Al-Akhbar said Ms Sulayman’s stance was in contrast to the majority of Syrian artists, who had ignored the bloody events in the country.

It was all the more notable because she is from the same minority sect as President Bashar al-Assad, the Alawite.

Facebook reaction

Others who have spoken out in Syria have paid a heavy price.

In August, noted political cartoonist Ali Farzat was attacked in Damascus and had his hands broken. His “crime” seems to have been some of the cartoons he drew had satirised Mr Assad.

Ibrahim Qashush was a singer who wrote a song calling for the president’s ouster. His body was found in Hama in July with his throat cut.

Ms Sulayman’s appearance on Al-Jazeera produced dozens of Facebook pages, some supportive, some critical, according to Al-Akhbar.

One site attracted 1,500 supporters in less than 24 hours.

But the pages also registered sharp attacks from supporters of the regime, some of whom accused the actress of seeking publicity in order to revive her career.

When speaking to Al-Jazeera, she said she realised the risks she was taking by appearing on the channel. But, she said, “freedom has its price and we all have to share in paying it”.

( / 10.11.2011)

Pro-Israel lobby groups feed UK media

A leaked internal email has revealed how a UK-based pro-Israeli lobbying group has been feeding British mainstream media the BBC, Sky News and the Financial Times.

The email, which was mistakenly sent to members of the press by the current CEO of elitist pro-Israeli lobbying firm, Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), exposed how BBC, and Sky News editors “changed their narrative” on stories in favor of the Zionist regime after meeting with BICOM representatives.

BICOM’s CEO Lorna Fitzsimons is a former Member of British Parliament (MP) from the Labour party and the known supporter of undemocratic policies of neo-Conservatives, who conspire wars across the globe.

She had told a conference in London last year that “public opinion does not influence foreign policy in Britain. Foreign policy is an elite issue”.

In the email, published by the website, Fitzsimons reveals how BICOM officials regularly meet with editors and journalists from the BBC, Sky News and the Financial Times to ‘brief’ them on how to frame issues relating to Israel in order to ensure that, “the most objectively favourable line was taken.”

“Throughout the weekend, BICOM staff were in contact with a whole host of BBC and SKY news desks and journalists, ensuring that the most objectively favourable line was taken, and offering talking heads, relevant to the stories unfolding,” wrote Fitzsimons.

“BICOM’s Senior Analyst Dr. Noam Leshem, briefed the BBC World News Editorial Board on Saturday afternoon regarding the fall-out from the Israel Egyptian Embassy siege”, Fitzsimons said.

“After contact with the BICOM Media Team, SKY News changed their narrative in explaining the prior events in the [Middle East] region which lead up to this weekend”, added the BICOM chairwoman.

Later in the email, Fitzsimons reveals how BICOM “had regular contact with the Editor at Large of Prospect Magazine, David Goodhart, helping to inform him about the forthcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood.” She also notes how BICOM was able to get its talking points out via an article she wrote for the Huffington Post.

Fitzsimons then boasts about how a BBC reporter was chaperoned by BICOM during a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories.

“BICOM has one of BBC News’ key anchors on a bespoke delegation. When planning her very first trip to the region, Sophie Long got in touch with BICOM to see if we could help her out with meeting in the region.

Sophie is now spending three days of her trip with BICOM Israel, taking a tour around the Old City, meeting Mark Regev and Dr. Alex Yacobsen, as well as visiting Ramallah and Sderot”, she wrote.

Do you think it’s likely that Long’s impartiality regarding Israel was affected by the fact that she enjoyed three days of hospitality on behalf of a vehemently pro-Israeli lobby group? Does this correlate with the BBC’s taxpayer-funded mandate to provide unbiased news coverage?, website said in its report.

Fitzsimons also reveals how she personally, “briefed Jonathan Ford, the Financial Times leader writer on how to write his articles as far as issues related to Israel are concerned”.

The wording in all these examples clearly suggests that the likes of Sky News, the BBC and the Financial Times are subordinate to BICOM and freely dispense with any balanced objectivity to prostitute themselves as mouthpieces for this lobbying firm, the report said.

This is an outrageous admission of how powerful lobby groups are insidiously controlling the media agenda in the United Kingdom – particularly as it relates to Israel and Iran.

The revelation is particularly significant since warmongering neo-Conservatives in the U.S., UK and Israel have stepped up their rhetoric against the Islamic Republic of Iran on the eve of the publication of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, which has been engineered by themselves in a bid to launch another war against another oil-rich country.

BICOM is bankrolled by billionaire Chaim “Poju” Zabludowicz, ranked 18th on a list of the wealthiest people in the United Kingdom, who have direct influence on all three main political parties in the UK through his financial contributions.

( / 10.11.2011)

Campaign: Parliamentarians set to visit Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A delegation of 200 international parliamentarians and political leaders are preparing to visit the Gaza Strip at the end of November, Palestinian activists said Thursday.

Rami Abdo of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza said the delegation’s objective was to issue a universal declaration that rejects imposing sieges on a civilian population.

The delegation will include lawmakers from several continents as well as leaders of the recent revolutions in the Arab world, he said. A parliamentary session will be held between the West Bank and Gaza.

The three-day trip will include visits to refugee camps and other sites, he said.

( / 10.11.2011)

Hoogste leider Iran waarschuwt tegen aanval

TEHERAN – Iran zal met alle kracht reageren op elke dreiging of aanval, zo zei Iraans hoogste leider donderdag op de staatstelevisie.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reageerde daarmee op Israël dat heeft gezinspeeld op luchtaanvallen op nucleaire doelen in Iran, omdat het land aan een atoombom zou werken.

Khamenei richtte zich in zijn toespraak tot ”onze vijanden, vooral het zionistische regime (Israël), Amerika en zijn bondgenoten”. Hij zei dat ”ons land, onze Revolutionaire Garde en het leger zullen reageren met harde slagen en ijzeren vuisten.”

De Chinese minister van Buitenlandse Zaken heeft donderdag laten weten dat sancties het nucleaire probleem met Iran niet ‘fundamenteel’ oplossen. ”Wij geloven dat de dialoog en samenwerking de juiste manier is om de problemen met Iran op te lossen.”

Het Internationale Atoom Energie Agentschap (IAEA) verklaarde dinsdag aanwijzingen te hebben dat Iran in ieder geval tot vorig jaar aan een kernwapen heeft gewerkt. Teheran verwerpt alle beschuldigingen.

( / 10.11.2011)

Zeldzaam: Een VVD’er over Mauro

Hoe er bij de partij van de levensgenieters over het wrede lot van de tiener wordt gepraat

VVD’ers waren tot nu toe opvallend stil over Mauro. Het is ook lastig: levensgenieters versus gelukszoekers. Zelfs de altijd zo warme en sympathieke ‘dissident’ Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert die meestal wordt ingevlogen als de partij een warm gevoel nodig heeft, hield zich muisstil. Alleen prominent Frans Weisglas liet van zich horen, hij vond dat Mauro moet blijven. De fractie stemde de Angolese tiener niettemin het land uit.

Pas afgelopen maandagavond in een donker achteraf zaaltje ergens in Amsterdam sprak Frank van Dalen, gemeenteraadlid en rising star binnen de partij, zijn partijgenoten toe. Het opgenomen beeld was zo duister dat we het maar even zelf van zijn Youtube-kanaal hebben geplukt en wat lichter gemaakt.

Kijk en luister: Voor het eerst wordt duidelijk hoe er binnen de VVD over Mauro wordt gepraat en gedacht. Dat verschilt niet zoveel van de PVV. Behalve dan dat ze er bij de VVD – zoals ook Van Dalen benadrukt – liever niet over praten. Gewoon doodzwijgen zo’n Mauro.

En als je er dan toch over praat, dan maak je hem zwart en trek je de standaard verdediging van de VVD uit de zak: Is er een probleem? Dan is het de schuld van de PvdA!

( / 10.11.2011)