Hundreds of Muslims marched through Athens on Thursday, protesting what they said was the destruction of a Quran by a Greek policeman. Naim Elgandour, the president of the Muslim Union of Greece, said that during police checks at a Syrian-owned coffee shop, a police officer took a customer’s Quran, tore it up, and threw it on the floor before stomping on it. In response, about one thousand Muslim migrants – mostly from Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, marched to central Omonia Square, where some had smashed shop windows and windows of about five course. Athens police said that an internal investigation would be launched in the Quran incident, but a name nor charges against the accused officer have not been given.
A 544-page report by Justice Frank Iacubucci released last week pointed to several deficiencies in current Canadian counterterrorism techniques, suggesting in particular not to follow the example of the American Central Intelligence Agency if it should not follow proper procedures. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government appointed Iacobucci in December 2006 to lead the investigation into Canada’s role in the detention of Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria. Iacubucci applauded counterterrorist agents for their “conscientiousness” while highlighting how the consequences of mislabelling a suspect are enormous. The Commission also urged federal agents to be extremely careful in circulating intelligence.
Almalki, El Maati and Nureddin were detained in Syria independently when they were arrested and jailed upon their arrival. All three men have denied any links to terrorism. One who avoided this fate despite being on a similar no-fly list and under surveillance, Abdelrahman Alzahabi, told The Globe and Mail that he was able to avoid the fate of these detainees because of a warning he received form a Canadian agent not long after September 11, 2008: to stay in Canada, as the government could not be responsible for what could happen if he should leave.
James Kafieh, a lawyer representing the Canadian Arab Federation in the inquiry noted that Iacubucci’s report made conclusive that “these three men were sacrificed to show the United States that Canada was doing something.” Iacobucci found fault in the actions of Canadian police and intelligence, but added that no one had behaved improperly.
In a separate inquiry, Maher Arar received $10.5 million CAD in compensation from the government and was exonerated of any terrorist ties in 2006. The three men addressed in the Iacubucci report have filed their own lawsuits for compensation from the Canadian government.
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Germany may act alone to rescue Iraqi Christians if fellow European Union nations continue to refuse a joint welcome to the refugees, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top adviser on immigration Tuesday. Maria Boehmer said in Berlin that members of the ancient Christian minority were regularly being threatened by Islamist gangs, who were giving households a choice of converting to Islam or leaving the country within 24 hours. “In view of the serious human rights crisis in the region, rapid action is needed,” she said in Berlin. “The plight of the non-Muslim minorities which have fled to Jordan and Syria to get away from persecution is getting worse.” She called for Germany to receive refugees alone if an EU welcome were not quickly issued. Critics in the EU have argued that help for the Christians would discriminate against any Muslims who leave Iraq. Boehmer, who is government commissioner on migration policy, rejected that. “We have to start off by helping those whose plight is worst,” she said.
Donny George endured three wars, international sanctions and looting that robbed Iraq of many of its ancient treasures. The university professor, who was director of the National Museum and chairman of Iraq’s Board of Antiquities and Heritage, stayed put until a year ago. Then an envelope arrived at his home, containing a bullet and a threat to kill his teenage son for allegedly cursing Islam and teasing Muslim girls. George’s accountant, a colleague and two of his students had already been killed, he says. He and his family fled to Syria and four months later to the USA, where he teaches at the State University of New York at Stony Brook…
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark on Tuesday reopened its embassy in?Syria more than two months after it was set ablaze by demonstrators protesting the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, the Danish foreign ministry said. The ministry said the Damascus mission was now open to the public but cautioned Danes in Syria to be vigilant as the cartoon row could still induce negative reactions in the country. “Recently, there have been several instances of verbal threats against Danes and other Westerners,” it said in a statement on its Web site. On February 4, several thousand Syrian demonstrators set the Danish and the Norwegian embassies on fire in violent protest over 12 caricatures of the Prophet first published by Danish Daily Jylland-Posten in September. The fire badly damaged the building that housed the Danish mission but no one was hurt as the embassy was closed. The cartoons were later reprinted in other European papers and sparked violent protests worldwide by Muslims, many of whom believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. Last month, Denmark reopened its mission to Indonesia saying the security situation there had improved, but embassies in several other Muslim nations remain closed.
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.
AMMAN (AP) In one of several Middle Eastern protests Thursday, a Jordanian newspaper took the bold step of publishing the Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that have outraged Muslims, saying it was reprinting them to show readers “the extent of the Danish offense.” The Arabic weekly Shihan ran three of the 12 cartoons, including the one that depicts Muhammad as wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. The headline said: “This is how the Danish newspaper portrayed Prophet Muhammad, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him.” The drawings first appeared in a Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, in September. They were reprinted in a Norwegian magazine in January and in newspapers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain on Wednesday as editors rallied behind them in the name of free expression. Armed Palestinians protested the cartoons Thursday outside the EU Commission’s office in the Gaza Strip, and more than 300 Islamic students demonstrated in Pakistan, chanting “Death to Denmark” and “Death to France.” In Damascus, about 300 Syrians staged a sit-in outside the Danish Embassy and distributed leaflets calling for a boycott of European products. The leaflets named Danish products sold in Syria and added: “We do not want civilization from those who insult our Prophet.” Shihan’s editor-in-chief, Jihad al-Momani, told The Associated Press that he decided to run the cartoons to “display to the public the extent of the Danish offense and condemn it in the strongest terms. “But their publication is not meant in any way to promote such blasphemy,” al-Momani added. Shihan ran an article next to the cartoons that gave examples of the protests, condemnations and diplomatic initiatives that Muslim nations have launched. It bore the headline: “Islamic intefadeh against the Danish offense.” Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry. What has heightened the offense is the fact that several of the cartoons portray the prophet as a man of violence. In other moves Thursday, two Iraqi cities, Baghdad and Basra, issued calls for demonstrations against the caricatures after Friday prayers. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood also called for a protest after Friday prayers in Alexandria. About 100 Lebanese women staged a similar sit-in in the southern city of Sidon. And Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met EU ambassadors to Cairo and urged them to ask their governments to “adopt quick and decisive measures” to contain the issue. “Freedom of expression should guarantee respect for each others’ religious beliefs and values,” Aboul Gheit told the ambassadors, according to a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Illah Khatib protested the cartoons in a meeting with the Danish ambassador on Sunday, describing them as an “intentional insult to Islam, its message and its honorable Prophet.” He urged Denmark to take steps against their republication. In Tehran on Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry delivered a similar protest to the ambassador of Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. The same day Syria recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen over the cartoons. The Danish government has until recently expressed regret for the furor, but refused to become involved, citing freedom of expression. On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that while he cherishes freedom of expression, “I would never myself have chosen to depict religious symbols in this way.” However, on Thursday Fogh Rasmussen invited ambassadors to meet him to discuss the controversy. In October he had declined to meet ambassadors from 10 predominantly Muslim countries who objected to the drawings.
The Vatican will not allow Muslims to pray once more in the Mezquita, the former mosque that is now the cathedral of Cordoba, telling them they must “accept history” and not try to “take revenge” on the Catholic church. “We, too, want to live in peace with persons of other religions,” Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, told the Vatican’s AsiaNews agency. “However, we don’t want to be pushed, manipulated and go against the very rules of our faith.” Mgr Fitzgerald criticised the authorities of the southern Spanish city for lobbying to have the building, once one of the world’s biggest mosques, opened to Muslim prayer. “[They] have not the necessary theological sensitivity to understand the church’s position,” he said. He claimed Spanish Muslims who had been publicly lobbying for the right to pray had yet to make a formal request to the Vatican. The archbishop said the Vatican had been careful not to demand similar rights at mosques which were once Catholic churches – though he acknowledged that Pope John Paul II had prayed at a mosque at Damascus in Syria.