Fitna continues to draw protests across the Islamic world

Governments and citizens of Muslim countries throughout the world have voiced condemnation of the anti-Quran film made by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders. In Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang said Wilders would be barred from entering the archipelago of islands that make up the country. In Pakistan, several thousand took to the streets of Karachi to protest against both the release of the film and the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad reprinted in Denmark. Iran’s parliament speaker called on Muslim nations to boycott Dutch products in response to the film, asking Muslims to avoid buying products made in those countries which allow themselves to insult Islam. In Jordan, a group of lawmakers demanded that the government sever its ties with the Netherlands. In Malaysia, as in many countries, Muslims protested outside the Dutch Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, shouting Long live Islam and Crush the Netherlands. The ambassadors of 26 Islamic countries want the Netherlands to investigate whether the film can be banned. The meeting at the ministry in the Hague was attended by ambassadors of countries including Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Pope Benedict XVI Approves a Permanent Catholic-Muslim Forum

Pope Benedict XVI has approved the first-ever Catholic-Muslim forum which will hold its first meeting at the Vatican in November 2008. The decision follows three days of meetings with Vatican officials and a Muslim delegation representing 138 Muslim scholars. Inspired by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed bin Talal of Jordan, these scholars wrote an open letter to the Pope and other Christian leaders last year, calling for greater dialogue between the groups. The first summit’s theme will be Love of God, Love of Neighbour and will take place 4-6 November at the Vatican. Nearly 50 delegates will attend; the group will be addressed by the pontiff.

Pope meets Italian and Arab delegates for Rome seminar

Pope Benedict XVI conducted a seminar with Italian and Arab politicians and senior officials attending an international seminar in Rome, aimed at strengthening political institutions and participation in the Middle East. Tolerance, understanding and mutual cooperation were further underlined by the meeting with the Pontiff who made himself a world ambassador for these values,” said IPALMO. During the seminar, IPALMO and UNDP are aiming to give the politicians from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon – considered three key states in the volatile Middle East – experience in parliamentary practices in Italy, where democracy has deep roots. The seminar is also intended to give Italian parliamentarians the opportunity to learn more about Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon’s democratic institutions and civil society organizations.

In Britain, A Respected, If Rowdy, Holiday Ritual: Office Parties Known For Booze, Brawls

By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan The British office party has become legendary for massive alcohol consumption that leads fistfights, firings and indiscretions. The two weeks leading up to December 25 have become so predictably raucous and turbulent that the ambulance service has a special medical vehicle to patrol the streets, known as the booze bus or Vomit Comit. While many Brits defend the tradition with patriotic zeal, others who do not consume alcohol, such as practicing Muslims, are on the margins. Some have brought lawsuits.

Christians must respond to challenges with ‘united voice,’ pope says

Pope Benedict has accepted an unprecedented call by Muslim scholars for dialogue between Christians and Islam, and invited them for meetings in Vatican City. “Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely the belief in one God,” the Vatican wrote in a message signed by Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State. The pope also said that he was willing to receive Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed of Jordan, the monarch’s special adviser on religious matters, to whom the note is addressed, as well as a restricted group of the letter’s signatories.

Muslim women don’t have to wear veils: Queen Rania

Islam does not require women to wear veils, Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan has said in an interview, calling on Muslim moderates to “make their voices be heard.” “Islam neither requires one to be practising, nor to dress in one way or another,” the stylish 36-year-old queen told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera during a visit to Rome on Friday. “So imposing the veil on a woman is contrary to the principles of Islam,” said Queen Rania, who is in Rome for the launch of a Group of Seven (G7) programme to develop vaccines against diseases that are endemic in poor countries. “Unfortunately, after all the suspicion weighing on Islam, many people have begun to consider the veil as a political problem, but this is not the case,” she told Corriere. “Wearing the veil is a free personal choice.” Queen Rania urged “all moderates to stand up and let their voices be heard.” She added: “Many people are frustrated in the Arab world. Many give in to the anger because they are accused of violence. But instead we should get up, explain who we are and what we believe in. “Over the last three years, most victims of terrorism have been Muslim. So there’s not a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremists and moderates of all the religions,” the queen said. “What is important is not to live in fear. The most dangerous (thing to do) is to give up and lose hope. The main enemy is not terrorism or extremism, but ignorance,” she said.

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers”

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers” it says could inspire bombers like those who attacked London in July, a poll published on Sunday showed. The ICM poll found that 65 percent of Muslims backed the new government measures and 27 percent opposed them. Ninety percent said they would immediately tell police if they suspected someone was planning or had carried out a terrorist attack. Just over two thirds of those questioned said Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims bore “a lot” of responsibility for rooting out Islamist extremists, 19 percent said they bore “a little” responsibility and nine percent said they bore none. ICM interviewed 500 Muslims by telephone between Sept. 1 and 7 for the poll, published in the News Of The World newspaper. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has published a list of “unacceptable behaviours” which would prompt immediate action — either deportation or a ban on entry. Last month, Britain said it was detaining 10 people, including the alleged spiritual leader of Al Qaeda in Europe, Jordanian national Abu Qatada, and would deport them. It has also barred hardline Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who left for Lebanon last month, from returning to Britain. Civil liberties campaigners say they are worried Britain will deport people to countries where they might be tortured. The government responds that it is seeking agreements with other governments — like one it struck recently with Jordan — to guarantee the safety of deportees.

Britain Preparing New Blacklist Of Terror Suspects; U.K. Hopes To Quell Flow Of Militants Into The Country

By Glenn Frankel London — Britain is drawing up a new blacklist to block alleged terrorist sympathizers from entering the country and deport those already here, officials announced Wednesday, detailing expanded efforts to head off violence such as the July 7 bombings. Officials also said they had reached an agreement to extradite Jordanian terrorism suspects to Jordan. Civil libertarians have expressed concern that the deportees could be subjected to torture and other abuses, despite Jordan’s pledges of good treatment. The crackdown is part of a government campaign to root out what it views as fundamental causes of the transit attacks, following the disclosure that the four men who appear to have carried out the suicide bombings were young British Muslims who turned into fanatics. At least 56 people, including the bombers, died in the attacks, and 700 were wounded. Britain has for years seen itself as a haven for political refugees, including some considered extremists by other European countries and the United States. But the bombings have caused the government to reconsider both its immigration policies and its tradition of freedom of speech. In Pakistan, authorities said they were searching for a man named Haroon Rashid, who they believe may have played a role in the attacks. They denied reports that they had arrested him. A man by that relatively common name was taken into custody, officials said, but then released when it was determined that he was not the person being sought. Senior Pakistani intelligence officials have said that, after early questioning of two dozen people suspected of being Islamic radicals, no clues about the terrorist contacts of the London bombers have been found. About 150 such suspects have been detained during a nationwide police crackdown in the past two days. Three of the apparent bombers were of Pakistani descent and visited Pakistan in the months before the attacks. The fourth man was a Jamaican-born convert to Islam. In London, the government hopes that the new measures under discussion will cut off or reduce the opportunities for radicals to influence alienated young Muslims in urban areas such as Leeds, the northern British city where three of the men lived. Charles Clarke, the Cabinet minister in charge of domestic security, told the House of Commons that the government plans to compile a database of unacceptable behavior, such as preaching extremism, running radical Web sites and writing articles intended to foment terrorism. He said he had asked his department and Britain’s intelligence services to “establish a full database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated relevant behaviors.” Those on the list could be barred from the country if their presence is judged as “not conducive to the public interest,” he said. “In the circumstances we now face, I have decided that it is right to broaden the use of these powers to deal with those who foment terrorism or seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.” Clarke also said he planned a new offense of indirect incitement to terrorism that would target “those who, while not directly inciting, glorify and condone terrorist acts knowing full well that the effect on their listeners will be to encourage them to turn to terrorism.” His statement won immediate backing from the opposition Conservative Party, which said it also wanted the government to regulate and vet Muslim clerics to weed out extremists. “There are good imams and bad imams, and it’s no help to the good imams if we don’t deal with the bad imams,” said David Davies, the party’s home affairs spokesman. Clarke also announced that the government had reached a memorandum of understanding with Jordan that would allow Britain to deport suspects there. Under international law, Britain cannot send people back to a country where they might face mistreatment or the death penalty, but officials said the memorandum, which was not released, included assurances that deportees would be treated correctly. Officials have said they are negotiating similar agreements with several other Arab governments. Amnesty International, the human rights organization, said it had compiled recent accounts from Jordan of secret detentions of political prisoners, beatings during interrogation with sticks and cables, sleep deprivation and threats of killing and rape against prisoners and their families. “Frankly, we think these assurances are not worth the paper they’re written on,” said Saria Rees-Roberts, an Amnesty spokeswoman. “It’s just unacceptable for the U.K. to try to circumvent the global ban on torture. We believe the U.K. must bring the people responsible for the bombings to justice, but going soft on torture is not the answer.” One of those likely to be targeted for deportation is Abu Qatada, a Jordanian-born cleric who has been convicted of terrorism in absentia in his native Jordan. The authorities branded him as one of the spiritual fathers of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, after police found tapes of his fiery anti-Western sermons at the Hamburg apartment used by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Qatada was arrested three years ago on suspicion of terrorism and is under house arrest in London, but authorities say they have been unable to bring him to trial because much of the evidence against him is based on intelligence data that they do not want to reveal in court.