The Iranian ambassador in Madrid classifies the American sanctions imposed on Iran as a form of economic terrorism

The US attitude towards Iran is an illegal attitude tantamount to economic terrorism, done with the objective of creating fear in the economic market. This is was the belief of Seyyed Davud Salehi, the Ambassador of Iran in Madrid, in response to an IRNA reporter asking about the new north-American actions against Iran. Salehi, opposition to this action, underlined the cooperation between Iran and the EU regarding energetic political agreements.

Islam and Feminism today

The 2007 Fall Institute at UMass Boston invites proposals that explore critically the relationship between Islam and Feminisms today. It seeks to examine the complex and rich terrain of Islam as a force for understanding global politics, an impetus for political and psychological self-determination, a stimulus for cultural productions, and a foundation for identity. By engaging Islam through a feminist lens, we hope to challenge inadequately interrogated assumptions and modes of thinking that posit secularism and democracy in opposition to religiosity and oppression. The critical perspective of feminist analysis provides a particularly valuable window into the many struggles internal to Islam, its changing dynamics over time, and the intersecting influences of economic/cultural globalization, imperialism and patriarchal power structures in the lives of individuals, communities, and nations.

Conference Details

Engaging Islam: Preliminary Conference Schedule The Institute is free and open to the public. No registration is necessary for non-presenting attendees.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Panel Title: “Defining Islamic Feminisms”

Key-Note: Amina Wadud

Key-Note: Haideh Moghissi

Key-Note: Lila Abu-Lughod

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Panel Title: “Negotiating Shari’a and the ‘Secular State’”

9-10AM Key-Note: Madhavi Sunder

10-10:30AM – Break

10:30-12:30 – Panel:

  • Berna Turam “Democratization and Muslim Women: The Case of Secular Turkey”
  • Natasha Dar “Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité, and the Shari’a: The Production of Islamic Legal Knowledges and ‘The Muslim Woman’ in the French-North African Diaspora”
  • Mitra Rastegar “Secularism through U.S. policies and discourses on Islam and Muslim citizens”
  • 12:30-1:30 Break for Lunch

    Panel Title: “Negotiating Shari’a and the ‘Secular State’” (continued)

    1:30 -2:30 Key-Note: Tariq Modood

    Break: 2:30-3PM

    3-5PM – Panel:

  • Srimati Basu “Separate and Unequal: Muslim Women, Women’s Movements and Un-uniform Family Law in India”
  • Jasmin Zine “Negotiating Religion and the Secular State: Muslim Women and Shari’a Law Tribunals in Canada”
  • 6-7:30PM – Screen Film “Silent Waters”
  • 7:30PM – Dinner & Presentation by Shahnaz Khan
  • FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

    Panel Title: “Challenging Hegemonic Representations of Muslim Women”

    9-10AM – Keynote: Lara Deeb

    10-10:30AM- Break

    10:30-12:30 – Panel

  • Elizabeth Bucar “Good Hijab, Bad Hijab: The Politics of Religious Dress in Iran”
  • Peter McMurray “Speaking the Unspeakable: Three Representations of Wartime Sexual Violence Against Bosnian Muslim Women”
  • Surbhi Tiwari “Whither Fundamentalism or Feminism? Sania Mirza, ‘sexy’ dressing and the politics of (erotic) identity”
  • 12:30-1:30 – Break for Lunch
  • Panel Title: “Globalization, Gender Relations, and Sexuality”

    1:30-2:30 PM – Key-Note: Jasbir Puar

    Break: 2:30-3PM

    3-5PM – Panel:

  • Ashley Al-Sayyad “Queer Muslim Women: Visibility, Diaspora, and Islam”
  • Chris Kelly “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) Muslim Converts”
  • Sonja Van Wichelen “Politics of Presence: Feminist Contestations over a New Muslim Indonesia” Dinner at a restaurant in Cambridge
  • SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

    Panel Title: “Political Economy and Islamic Feminisms”

    9-10AM – Keynote: Lamia Karim

    10-10:30AM – Break

    10:30-12:30 – Panel:

  • Fauzia Ahmed “Islam, Poverty Alleviation, & Masculinity”
  • Roksana Bahramitash “Iranian Islamic Women as ‘the Other’: A Class Analysis of the Role of Women in the Informal Economy and Islamic Micro Credit”
  • Damla Isik “On Weaving, Sohbet, and Patience: Governance of Time and Labor in Konya’s Weaving Industry”
  • 12:30-1:30 – Break for Lunch

    Panel Title: “Coalition-building and Transnationalism”

    1:30PM – Key-Note: Zainah Anwar

    Break: 2:30-3PM

    3-5PM – Panel:

  • Azza Basarudin “Recreating Communities of the Faithful?: Negotiating Gender, Religion & Feminism in Malaysia and Egypt”
  • Tina Nebe “Islam in the Public and Private Spaces: Turkey, Iran, Nigeria, and Indonesia”
  • Dina Siddiqi “Legislating Fatwas: Dilemmas and Contradictions for Feminists”
  • Rafia Zakaria “Dangerous Truths: the Muslim woman’s story and the emerging chasm between transnational feminist scholarship and activism”
  • SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

    Panel Title: Pedagogy and Islam

    9AM-11:30 – Panel:

  • Hilary Kalmach “Female Leadership and Activism in Conservative Islamic Communities: An Islamic Form of Feminism?”
  • Juliet Gentile “From ‘Honorary Man’ to Sheikha: The Path of Sufi Women in the West”
  • Jennifer Fluri “The Corporeal Marker: Gender, Space and Islam”
  • 11:30-12 – Break

    12-1PM – Closing Remarks

    For more details about the institute and guidelines for submissions, visit website.

    Abdellah Hammoudi : “Affirming the woman as an autonomous religious subject”

    Un entretien avec Abdellah Hammoudi, anthropologue a l’universite de Princeton, par Sylvain Cypel Hormis la d_mographie et les facilit_s de transports, comment expliquer la croissance rapide de la participation au hajj ? Dans le monde musulman, une g_n_ration sort d’_coles plus modernes incluant une instruction religieuse plus pouss_e. De plus, le p_lerinage fait l’objet d’une _mulation. Lorsqu’un musulman visite un Hajj, quelqu’un ayant accompli le p_lerinage, celui-ci lui souhaitera de pouvoir le faire au plus t_t. Il y a trente ans, on ne connaissait pas ce bruissement puissant dans l’opinion, o_ le hajj revient comme un motif fr_quent. Y a-t-il un lien avec la pouss_e de l’islam politique, sous toutes ses formes ? Les deux ph_nom_nes sont concomitants. Mais l’un ne g_n_re pas l’autre. Les deux sont la cons_quence de la pouss_e des classes moyennes dans l’espace musulman. Le hajj _tant une sc_ne m_diatique globale, il est normal que les religieux politis_s qui visent _ “r_islamiser” la soci_t_ y soient tr_s pr_sents. Votre livre d_crit un total don de soi de l’individu et une violence rituelle. Comment s’articule ce double mouvement ? Un des deux _l_ments centraux du hajj, la purification, se manifeste dans le th_me du sacrifice, _ la fois don de soi et s_paration de soi. Il comm_more le geste supr_me de la victime. La violence y est symbolique parce qu’il y a substitution : l’animal remplace le fils, la part la plus ch_re de soi-m_me. Il faut la prendre dans le sens premier de l’expression “se faire violence”. D_sormais, plus de 40 % des participants sont des femmes. Qu’est-ce que cela modifie pour elles dans l’islam ? Il y a l_ une vraie rupture. Il est int_ressant que de plus en plus d’hommes l’acceptent, la souhaitent, m_me. Des p_lerins m’ont dit : “Elle s’est sacrifi_e pour moi, pour _lever nos enfants. L’emmener, c’est ob_ir _ Dieu.” Il faut voir qu’hormis les talibans ou les wahhabites, l’islam radical, sur certains aspects, appara_t plus protecteur du droit des femmes : sur la propri_t_, la part d’h_ritage et m_me l’instruction. Il pousse aussi _ une participation des femmes au hajj. J’y ai constat_ une lib_ration de la parole f_minine. Des femmes discutent entre elles de leurs obligations, mais aussi avec des hommes, d’_gal _ _gal. Au hajj, l’affirmation de la femme comme sujet religieux autonome est devenue _vidente. Vous montrez une emprise _tatique saoudienne forte sur le p_lerinage, et ses limites. Le r_gime s’inqui_te-t-il d’un ph_nom_ne devenu gigantesque ? Sans aucun doute. L’encadrement est si lourd que beaucoup de p_lerins, qui viennent l_ “libres devant Dieu”, se plaignent d’une volont_ de les contr_ler. Les contraintes _conomiques, la machine de propagande du r_gime, le conditionnement au rituel sont per_us comme un d_couragement _ la libert_ de conscience dans le rapport personnel _ Dieu. Cela permet aux “puristes” de l’islam de chercher, par exemple, _ imposer sur place une s_paration entre les sexes. On entend aussi de vives critiques des r_gimes des pays musulmans. Ces ph_nom_nes _chappent au contr_le de l’Etat wahhabite. Riyad mobilise 50 000 policiers pour le hajj. Craint-il des d_bordements ? Evidemment. Le nombre croissant des p_lerins devient quasi ing_rable. De plus, il y a une instabilit_ extr_me dans la r_gion : Irak, Palestine, guerre isra_lienne au Liban, _mergence de l’Iran nucl_aris_ comme porte-voix de la revendication palestinienne, tout cela p_se lourd. Le r_gime sait son contr_le sur les lieux saints contest_s. Les plus radicaux le d_noncent comme “usurpateur”. En plus, la secte wahhabite au pouvoir est contest_e sur le plan religieux en Arabie m_me. Quand on met tous ces _l_ments bout _ bout, on con_oit que le r_gime manifeste une nervosit_ croissante. Propos recueillis par Sylvain Cypel Abdellah Hammoudi est l’auteur d’Une saison _ La Mecque (Paris, Le Seuil, 2005), une _tude ethnologique du hajj contemporain.

    European court overturns decision to add Iranian resistance movement to terror list

    The European Court of Justice on Tuesday overturned an EU decision to put the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran, an exiled Iranian resistance movement, on the bloc’s terror blacklist. The ruling annuls a 2002 decision to freeze European assets of the Paris-based group. The United States lists the People’s Mujahedeen as a terrorist organization. However, the group founded in the 1960s by students at Tehran University says it advocates the overthrow of Iran’s hard-line clerical regime by peaceful means. In its ruling, the European court said the group was not given a fair hearing to defend itself. “Certain fundamental rights and safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing, the obligation to state reasons and the right to effective judicial protection are, as a matter of principle, fully applicable,” the court said. Iranian resistance leader Maryam Rajavi called for the immediate lifting of all restrictions on the group and described the ruling as “proof of the resistance’s legitimacy over the religious fascism in Iran and victory of justice over economic interests.” “Today, one of the highest judicial authorities in Europe confirmed the Iranian resistance’s claim that the terrorist label, from the beginning, was a political issue which was meant to appease the mullahs,” she said in a statement issued in Paris. The group previously operated a military wing but since June 2001 has renounced military activity. Based in Auvers-Sur-Oise, near Paris, it serves as an umbrella movement for exiled Iranian opponents of the Islamic Republic. In 2003, French police arrested dozens of members of the group. Seventeen people, including Rajavi, were placed under investigation on suspicion of associating with or financing terrorist groups. She was held for two weeks before being released. In June, the Paris Appeals Court lifted a series of restrictions on the 17, including a ban on them leaving French territory and another preventing them from associating with one another.

    Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving with halal turkeys

    WASHINGTON – Mohammad Malik, owner of Bismillah Halal Meat in Langley Park, doesn’t have Thanksgiving off. He will spend the day in his store, cooking the food his Muslim customers want for the holiday – lamb and goat roasts and pound after pound of rice. But recently, more people have come in requesting something different: turkey. “I guess more and more people getting into that tradition,” said Mr. Malik, 34, of Gaithersburg. “Just as an American, they are celebrating Thanksgiving. I guess more people, Muslim people, are going, ‘Why not have a turkey?”‘ Although there is still no nationwide distributor of turkeys that are “halal,” or slaughtered according to Islamic law, halal food stores in Maryland and around the country report increasing demand for the birds as more Muslims immigrate to the United States and assimilate into the mainstream. In 2000, Maryland had an estimated 52,867 Muslims, the eighth-highest population of any state, according to the Glenmary Research Center, a leading religion research group. Most of the state’s Muslim population is concentrated in Baltimore and suburban Washington. Like the Pilgrims who first stepped onto Plymouth Rock centuries ago, Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar’s Food Market in Columbia, is an immigrant who fled persecution for a new world. Now a citizen, he left Iran during the revolution more than 20 years ago, but was constantly drawn back to his homeland because he had a good job there. “I had to choose, American or Iran,” he said. “When I decide I want to be an American, I read about Thanksgiving and I say, ‘OK, why not?”‘ Some Muslim immigrants refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving at first, thinking it is a Christian holiday that does not apply to them, Mr. Sizar said. But as they become more informed about American culture, they understand the tradition. “Thanksgiving is a nice holiday and it has very good message, you know,” said Mr. Sizar, 46. “It is a time to bring everybody together and it is not something that belongs to the religion.” Last year, Mr. Sizar took 35 orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year he had 50 orders a week before the holiday. He’ll probably order 75 from his distributor, American Halal Meat in Springfield, Va., and still run out, he said. Although it was too early to tell a week before Thanksgiving, Mr. Malik estimated he would take more turkey orders this year as well. Years ago, one of Mr. Sizar’s Muslim friends who did not celebrate the holiday asked him why he did. “I said there was nothing wrong,” Mr. Sizar said. “I am Muslim but I am American, you know?”

    Thanks to American Muslims. The importance of the immigrant Muslim vote in Virginia

    It was like being a kid again, I was waiting for the bending of time and space so Tuesday would come instantly. All day at work I kept looking at the clock waiting and waiting for the seconds to become minutes and the minutes to become hours, all in anticipation of Tuesday’s election results. I did not care if the Republicans lost the House. I did not care if the Republicans lost the Senate. My only concern, desire and hope was for God to intervene in the course of history and produce a victory for James Webb and a defeat for George “I made up the word Maccaca” Allen. More on the historic Webb win later. I had the chance to attend the last debate between Allen and Webb (incidentally I was one of the only attendees not affiliated with either campaign.) Webb’s demeanor was not congruent with that of a former Marine and Vietnam veteran. He was soft spoken and gentle but had a commanding presence and booming voice. Contrast that with a former football jock, Allen, who passed himself off as a Virginia bred, cowboy boot wearing Southerner. Since the tightening of the race Allen let go of his attachment to the Confederate flag and the noose (the noose that he had hanging in his law office next to his Confederate flag for years.) Allen reminded me of the all those pompous, jack ass white boy athletes with whom I went to school. In my case the great equalizer was that I could lay them out on the football field so the left me alone. Allen’s true background is of a Jewish ancestry and roots in California. Webb’s narrow victory is historic not only in sending a message that Virginia is no longer the lackey of the Conservative Right, it is historic in that it signifies the importance of the Muslim vote in Virginia — by Muslim I am referring to immigrant Muslim, indigenous Muslims and second/third Generation Muslims. For those of you that are repelled by the word Muslim, it also includes Iranians (secular or not). Unfortunately, because the immigrant Muslim community (including Iranians) are highly educated and professionals they have historically voted Republican, not to mention that the thought of sitting next to a heshe at a Democratic event does not sit well with our socially conservative norms. The only reason that a minority should vote for a Republican is if he or she belongs in the Republican tax bracket and can benefit from the tax cuts that the rich so often are afforded. To such fools I say keep voting Republican to save on your taxes; however, no amount of money can save you from being charged as an enemy combatant or help you from getting out of Gitmo. The other historic message that it sends is to the spineless Democrats that had been paralyzed for five years into grabbing their ankles by the word “terrorism.” Had they stood up from the beginning then perhaps the Constitution would not have been shredder. One could put forth a convincing argument that the last five years were merely part of the Democrats agenda; let the situation get so bad that the populous has no choice but to elect them into power. At least now the Bush Administration won’t continue to receive a blank check all under the fa_ade of the war on terror. At least one would hope this to be the case. If it is not, then what choice do we have left? Nader’s Green Party? Two other defeats of magnanimous importance (in lieu of the Iranian nuclear issue) are that of the former Senator Rick Santorum and former Representative Curt Weldon. Apparently regurgitating a story about WMDs in Iraq, that was nearly three years old, was not enough to secure a victory for Santorum. Weldon, you may remember, wrote a book about the impending danger that Iran posed and that the FBI and CIA were sitting on information that Iran and/or Muslim terrorists were going to attack the US with some type of radio active material or an attack on a nuclear facility or _________ (just fill in the blank.) Weldon’s source was former Iran-Contra figure Manuchehr Ghorbanifar and his buddy “Ali” who is a Shah Loyalist currently residing in Paris. Santorum and Weldon were relying heavily on “Iranian Exiles” when they passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005. Given the power shift in Congress the “Iranian Exiles” need to start puckering up and kissing some new American koon in their hopes of restoring the Monarchy.

    Prayer Leaders From Abroad

    Germany’s mosques are run by imams from Turkey, Bosnia, or Iran. No one controls them – for fundamentalists this is the chance for unmitigated agitation. On Sunday, April 23rd of this year, Islam seemed to arrive in Germany anew. The debate over Muslims and their beliefs had already taken place many times, but an Islamic theologian had until then never been present. On this evening, however, one appeared in the German Parliament: a real imam, a preacher of the Koran, with a doctorate in the bargain.

    Hezbollah Chief Urges Bush To ‘Shut Up’

    By Sam Ghattas, Beirut THE leader of Hezbollah yesterday hit back at the US over claims Syria and Iran had fuelled protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Meanwhile, it emerged that an Egyptian newspaper had reprinted the cartoons in news story back in October without any apparent problems. Egyptian bloggers reproduced pages from the October 17 edition of Al Fagr, which had printed the cartoons in an article about the controversial images. The article had a headline which one blogger translated as “Continued Boldness. Mocking the Prophet and his Wife by Caricature.” Denmark, meanwhile, said it had temporarily closed its diplomatic mission in Beirut, which was burned by protesters on Sunday, and all staff had left Lebanon. The Danes also feared religious processions in Muslim countries to mark the Shi’ite festival of Ashoura would spill over into violence against its diplomats and soldiers after days of protests over the caricatures, which were first published in a Danish newspaper in September. About 2,000 hard-liners rallied and burned a Danish flag in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka yesterday. In Beirut, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah urged Muslims worldwide to keep demonstrating until there is an apology over the drawings and Europe passes laws forbidding insults to the prophet. The head of the guerrilla group, which is backed by Iran and Syria, spoke before a mass Ashoura procession. Whipping up the crowds on the most solemn day for Shi’ites worldwide, Mr Nasrallah declared: “Defending the prophet should continue all over the world. Let Condoleezza Rice and Bush and all the tyrants shut up. We are an Islamic nation that cannot tolerate, be silent or be lax when they insult our prophet and sanctities. “We will uphold the messenger of God not only by our voices but also by our blood,” he told the crowds, estimated by organisers at about 700,000. Police had no final estimates but said the figure was likely to be even higher. Speaking about the controversy on Wednesday, US President George Bush condemned the deadly rioting sparked by the cartoons and urged foreign leaders to halt the spreading violence. Secretary of State Ms Rice said Iran and Syria “have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it.” Iran has rejected the US accusations. Syria has not commented publicly.

    German Businesses Watch Middle East Unrest With Concern

    Boycotts across the Islamic world have targeted goods from European nations involved in the Mohammed cartoon row. Germany has the added worry of being involved in another serious dispute with main regional partner Iran. Escalating tensions in the Middle East over the Mohammed caricatures, the west’s nuclear stand-off with Iran and the election success of Hamas militants in the recent Palestinian elections are having an adverse effect on European trade in the region. Since the row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed surfaced over a week ago, a boycott of goods from a number of European nations has been gaining ground across the Muslim world. In the first flush of anger, Danish products were the first to be banned as a response to the images of which first appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten last year. In the days that followed, the images were reprinted in a dozen publications across Europe sparking further boycotts of goods from Norway, France, Italy and Britain. As the conflict continues, Germany now finds itself in the firing line as one of those countries involved in both the Mohammed dispute and the Iranian nuclear stand-off. One of the most important western trading partners in the Middle East, specifically in Iran, Germany has a lot to lose economically if relations between Islamic nations and the west deteriorate further. German businesses are already nervous and some predict that even if the areas of conflict are resolved, trade relations may be severely damaged. The importance of western trade with Iran has not been lost on the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As the threat of economic sanctions hangs over the Islamic Republic due to its decision to restart its controversial atomic research program, Ahmadinejad is considering a counter-strike against those involved in pushing for those sanctions. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad may implement his own sanctionsBildunterschrift: Gro_ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad may implement his own sanctions Channeling the anger stirred by the Mohammed cartoons, the Iranian president aims to garner support from his Islamic neighbors by instigating his own trade embargos with the west. Denmark, as the main culprit in the cartoon row, is the first to suffer. Iran stopped the import of Danish goods on Tuesday. The harsh words coming out of Tehran aimed at the German administration may precede similar action towards Germany. For a country which has worked long and hard to develop such strong commercial relations with Iran and the Middle East as a whole, such a development is worrying. “Iran is Germany’s most important trading partner in the region,” said Jens Nagel, an expert at the German Federation of Wholesale and Foreign Trade, in an interview with the business weekly Manager Magazin. Only the United Arab Emirates carries more weight in business in Iran than Germany. Germany’s reputation in the region has been built on the quality of products and the good business relationships it has built up over years, something that is highly prized in Arab countries. Germany’s metal producers provides the raw material for Iran’s automotive industryBildunterschrift: Gro_ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Germany’s metal producers provides the raw material for Iran’s automotive industry German businesses exported goods and services to Iran last year to the tune of about 4.5 billion euros ($5.38 billion), and did business worth about 450 million euros with both Syria and Lebanon. The main areas of trade have traditionally been chemical and industrial products and machinery. It is the metal industry in particular that could be most at risk if Iran were to retaliate to United Nations sanction by hitting back at its western trade partners. “Germany would be the western industrial nation to suffer most if economic sanctions went against Iran,” Nagel said. “German businesses deliver far more to the region than possibly Great Britain, France or Italy.” He added that the United States would not feel any effects as they had broken off economic relations years ago. Experts consider the economic fallout from the Mohammed caricature row to be a lot lower risk for Germany. Knee-jerk boycotts and short embargoes would not necessarily affect German trade to any significant degree in the Middle East. If and when the climate cools, analysts believe it will be “business as usual” for German companies doing business in the region. Many believe the current boycotts are unlikely to remain intact indefinitely. Partnerships in Middle East should hold firm “We have no indication that business connections have gotten worse between German enterprises and their partners in the Middle East,” said Jochen Clausnitzer, Middle East expert at the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK). Many German enterprises have maintained their long-standing partnerships in the region through personal interaction and trust. This is a base which cannot be destroyed so quickly — even if the outrage continues to surge through the region. “In the short term, sales of some European consumer goods producers could suffer,” Clausnitzer said. “However, on the other hand, western consumer goods in the region enjoy a high prestige.” Iran may seek to inhibit business The main concern for German businesses then remains Iran. Since the election of President Ahmadinejad, many top positions in the economy and management have been taken by new people and there is little connection between German businesses and those who initially paved the way for the business links the two countries have enjoyed until recently. Those in the new positions are also likely to receive orders from the president not to do business with Germany if relations deteriorate further. Any German involvement in sanctions against Iran would also see sales of products already in the Islamic Republic drop off dramatically. “Sanctions weld together the state and the population,” said Clausnitzer, suggesting Iranians would show support for their government by choosing not to buy German goods. However, Germany — and Europe as a whole — has a bargaining chip. If Ahmadinejad wants to carry out his promised infrastructure reform plans in Iran he will have to depend on the EU as a trading partner. In 2004, almost 50 percent of all imports into Iran came from Europe. The president’s election promises to fight poverty and youth unemployment would be a lot harder to fulfill if he were to be denied that.

    Intellectuals Condemn Mohammed Caricatures

    Influential figures from the world of politics and the arts added their voices to the protests by Muslims worldwide over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that were published in the European media as the holiest day for Shiites, Ashura, was observed in various countries. Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa condemned the publication of a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed by a top-shelf Polish national daily newspaper. The legendary freedom fighter of the 1980s anti-communist Solidarity trade union criticized the “disturbing activities of media in Poland, propagating texts impinging on the good principles of respect and value for religious convictions … which strike Muslims in a painful manner.” Two Nobel Prize-winning authors blasted the media that published the caricatures as irresponsible or arrogant in interviews with the Spanish daily El Pais. “It would not be a question of censoring oneself, but of using common sense,” said Portugal’s Jose Saramago, winner of the 1998 literature Nobel. “This was a conscious and planned provocation by a right-wing Danish newspaper,” said German Guenter Grass, who took the Nobel Prize in 1999. Grass described the Danish publishers of the caricatures as “xenophobic right-wing radicals” and the subsequent violent Muslim protests as “a fundamentalist response to a fundamentalist act.” “Where does the West take that arrogance to impose what must and must not be done?” Grass asked, stressing the relativity of the freedom of opinion in the West where the media are controlled by conglomerates “monopolizing the public opinion.” Others called for a redefinition of the freedom of expression that incorporates “standardized” universally-accepted religious taboos, prominent Muslim scholars said. “There are religious axioms which are enshrined in the well- established international norms and conventions, and the Western world does know they should be respected,” said Ibrahim Ezzedine, chairman of Jordan’s state-run Higher Media Council. The condemnation came as hundreds of thousands of Shiites and followers of the Hezbollah movement marched through the streets of Beirut’s southern suburbs in protest against the caricatures. Several thousand South African Muslims staged a demonstration in the streets of Cape Town. The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), the body that organized the march, handed to Danish Ambassador Torben Brylle a memorandum calling on the Danish government to apologize to Muslims around the world. Protests were also planned for Hong Kong, the city’s 70,000-strong Muslim community has announced. Meanwhile in Denmark, the newspaper at the centre of the ongoing row refuted reports that it planned to publish anti-Semitic or anti- Christian caricatures, the chief editor said Thursday. Jyllands-Posten’s editor Carsten Juste’s statement was published on the newspaper’s website after a Danish television channel reported that publication was pending this Sunday. Websites have in recent days been set up in Denmark and elsewhere offering people a chance to send an apology to Muslims offended by Jyllands-Posten’s publication as one group of Arab and Muslim youths apologized for the violence that followed the caricatures. The government continued efforts to defuse the crisis Thursday. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was “prepared to listen to all proposals,” a Rasmussen aide told Deutsche Presse- Agentur but was unable to meet Thursday with a parliamentary deputy of Turkish origin to discuss an idea of Turkey mediating in the ongoing row over the controversial Mohammed cartoons. In a related development, Aarhus police said they would not pursue a complaint of blasphemy filed against Jyllands-Posten over the publication last September of the controversial caricatures. In Norway, the Muslim al-Jinah Foundation filed a police complaint against Vebjorn Selbekk, chief editor of Christian weekly Magazinet that recently reprinted the Mohammed caricatures. In Iran, Vice President Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee denied US accusations that his country was inflaming Muslim anger against the West over the caricatures. “It’s a lie, 100 per cent baseless,” Mashaee told reporters after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Vice President Yusuf Kalla, in Jakarta. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday accused Iran and Syria of stoking anti-Western sentiment among Muslims for their own purposes. Attempts to publish the controversial caricatures in the Muslim world have met fierce opposition. Malaysian cabinet members demanded the immediate suspension of a major newspaper after it reprinted the caricatures. The editor of the English-language Sarawak Tribune had resigned Sunday after admitting to approving the publication of the caricatures. Station directors, editors and journalists were suspended from their posts at two Algerian television stations because their news programmes showed the Mohammed caricatures. An American university professor in the United Arab Emirates was fired after distributing among her students a copy of the caricatures, saying her action was within the rights of “freedom of opinion and expression.” Protests in the Muslim world took a back seat as Shiites celebrated their holiest festival, Ashura, that commemorates the martyrdom of Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who they believe to be the prophet’s true successor. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites marched in the holy city of Karbala in tribute to Hussein who was killed in battle there in the year 680. Clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the western Afghan city of Herat left at least four people dead, while violence also clouded Ashura commemorations in Pakistan, where at least 12 people were killed and 20 wounded when two bombs ripped through a procession of Shiite Muslims in the Hangu district of North-Western Frontier Province, 245 kilometres west of Islamabad.