Netherlands / Europe – IHRC concerned at murder of veiled woman being possible hate crime

PRESS RELEASE: Netherlands / Europe – IHRC concerned at murder of veiled woman being possible hate crime




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The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is deeply disturbed by news
of another possible hate-motivated murder against a Muslim woman in


Islamic Human Rights Commission

13 August 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Netherlands / Europe – IHRC concerned at murder of veiled woman being possible hate crime

Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is deeply disturbed by news of
another possible hate-motivated murder against a Muslim woman in Europe.

as is being discussed, the killing of Arzu Erbaş Çakmakçı in Amsterdam
on Monday is found to be a hate crime, this will be the second killing
of a Muslim woman in hijab in the last two months.  IHRC, as with many
civil society organisations, has been condemning the rise in
anti-Muslim hatred and pointing to concerns over lack of policy
initiatives and even recognition by European governments of the

IHRC Chair Massoud Shadjareh said:

“If this
was a hate motivated attack, we must all take serious stock of the
situation that faces us in Europe. The killing of Merwe ElSherbini last
month in Germany should have been a wake up call to political leaders
and local, national and regional government in Europe. Muslims have
been bearing the brunt of an ever increasing rise in hate crime against
many communities, yet instead of condemnation from political elites, we
hear either denial or the promotion of further anti-Muslim hatred. In
recent weeks we have had another furore over Muslim women’s dress.

“The link between hostile words from politicians and pundits and the rise in attacks cannot be ignored.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs Çakmakçı’s family, and the families of all victims of hate crime, whoever they are.”

to Turkish media, Arzu Erbaş Çakmakçı was a 30 year old mother of
Turkish heritage who owned three day care centres.  She was a fluent
Dutch speaker who had won various awards, including recognition from
the Dutch Royal family for her charity work.

She was stabbed in
the car park of the Moeders Schoot childcare centre in Geuzenveld,
after she locked up at the end of work on Monday.  According to a
cousin, she had been receiving threats[1].

IHRC calls on the
European Union to take strong action to ensure that its member
governments tackle the rising demonisation of Muslims and the rise in
hate attacks.

For more information please contact the Press Office on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or (+44) 7958 522 196, email:

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Notes to editors:

[1] Today’s Zaman,


Islamic Human Rights Commission is an NGO in special consultative
status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
United Kingdom

Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222
Fax (+44) 20 8904 5183

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Don’t be a Silent Victim

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Why Boycott Israel?

Why Boycott Israel?

The Palestinian people are experiencing
their 42nd year of military occupation. The siege by the Israeli army
and the economic blockade have devastated their daily lives so that
‘normal’ life is impossible.

Israel operates an entrenched
system of racial Apartheid against its own non-Jewish inhabitants and
has been illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, Gaza
Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights since 1967. It has sought
to further annex these lands and has systematically transferred its own
civilian population into these occupied territories in contravention of
international law. Israel continues to build the illegal Apartheid
wall, annexing vast swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank and
creating Palestinian ghettos, despite the ruling of the International
Court of Justice that it is illegal.

180 Palestinian
organisations and unions, in response to Israeli onslaught, have called
for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid

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Boycott Israel- An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country.

Boycott Israel —

Boycott Israel
An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country.

By Neve Gordon

August 20, 2009

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Israel: An Op-Ed article on Thursday supporting a boycott of Israel said that the organization Oxfam had severed ties with one of its celebrity spokespersons, a British actress who also endorsed cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Oxfam has not severed ties with the actress, who is American, not British. —

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

Neve Gordon is the author of “Israel’s Occupation” and teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Boycott – the Sane Response to Israeli Apartheid

Boycott – the Sane Response to Israeli Apartheid




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August 24, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) – The movement to boycott Israel is
becoming respectable. In Europe and America as well as in the Middle
East and many parts of the developing world, people of conscience –
including many Jews – are rejecting anti-Arab prejudice and Zionist
mythology and seeing Israel for what it is – an ethnocentric state
which deserves to be ostracised just as South Africa was ostracised
during the apartheid era.

Groups like mine – Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods – support the
call made by nearly 200 Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005
for a broad campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, including an
institutional academic and cultural boycott, until Israel respects
Palestinian human rights and abides by international law.

Four years on, reports of boycott activities are appearing in
mainstream media and the internet is buzzing with film, photos and text
reports of inventive, non-violent and increasingly effective campaigns.
These take many different forms.

Just this week, a worldwide campaign of letter writing resulted in
the human rights organisation Amnesty International withdrawing from a
scheme to manage the proceeds from a concert in Israel next month by
American singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Cohen has been touring the
globe for many weeks now, everywhere encountering musicians, artists
and other campaigners pleading with him not to ignore the Palestinian
boycott call. They argue that to go ahead with a concert in Israel is
to reward Israelis for the murderous assault on Gaza last winter which
killed 1,500 Palestinians and devastated a community of 1.5 million.
Cohen tried to persuade Amnesty to give his planned concert credibility
by distributing funds to organisations he said work for reconciliation,
tolerance and peace. But his argument was rejected by Palestinian
groups which said the plan would only enhance Israeli legitimacy
without restoring justice to Palestinians. Amnesty bowed out, but the
campaign to halt Leonard Cohen’s concert in Israel continues as part of
the cultural boycott movement to persuade all international performers
to stay away.

Artists and performers representing the Israeli state are also
coming up against boycott actions when they travel abroad. Scottish
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) activists, protesting at the
Israeli siege of Gaza which was in force long before the all-out
military assault began in December 2008, disrupted a concert in
Edinburgh last year by the Jerusalem Quartet, an Israeli musical
ensemble designated ‘Cultural Ambassadors’ of the State of Israel and
‘Distinguished IDF (Israeli Army) Musicians’

Five activists
were arrested and are facing charges for ‘racially aggravated conduct’.
The SPSC website said these were “
trumped up charges based on the British Government’s response to rising
support among the public for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)
against Israel and the wave of anger at British complicity in Israeli
crimes.” They indicate official endorsement of “the tired Zionist
strategy” of trying to intimidate Israel’s opponents by accusing them
of anti-Jewish racism, the campaign group said.

The Zionist habit of accusing Israel’s critics of anti-semitism is
losing its potency as more and more Jews, including some Israelis,
recognise the powerful arguments for boycotting Israel. Scottish PSC
has received vocal support from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist
Network (IJAN), a Jewish organisation committed to justice and full
recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people. IJAN gave the
Scottish activists its “unwavering support” and said “we reject the
false premise that a challenge to the injustice of Israeli apartheid is
a ‘racially motivated’ act targeting Jewish people.”

The network said it fully endorsed such actions undertaken in
support of the call from Palestinian civil society for full boycott,
divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Further Jewish endorsement of the boycott movement came this week
from Neve Gordon who teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in
Beersheba, Israel. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Gordon said he had
reluctantly concluded that calling on foreign governments, regional
authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations,
unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel was “the only
way that Israel can be saved from itself.”

He stated, “Israel today is . . . an apartheid state” in which the
3.5 million Palestinians and half a million Jews living in areas Israel
captured in 1967 are “subjected to totally different legal systems.”
said Jerusalem has become “an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t
citizens and lack basic services”. The Israeli peace camp is almost
nonexistent and politics has moved far to the right. “It is therefore
clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel
is through massive international pressure.”

If words and condemnation from the Obama administration and the
European Union produce no moves towards Israeli withdrawal from the
occupied territories, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) become
the only option, Gordon said.

He referred to a gathering in Bilbao, Spain, last year when a
coalition of organisations from all over the world resolved to campaign
for “sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the
occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help
sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner.

“Artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the
occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not,”
Gordon added.

As part of the wide-ranging BDS movement, women in France, America
and within Israel itself, have daubed themselves with mud and declared
that they will not use Dead Sea beauty products from the Ahava company
which bases its operations in the illegal West Bank settlement of
Mitzpe Shalem.

YouTube videos show them chanting:

“Ahava, you can’t hide, we will show your dirty side,
We’re here to show your dirty hands, products made in stolen lands.”

UK activists hold regular pickets outside a depot near London owned
by Carmel Agrexco, the partly state-owned Israeli firm responsible for
the bulk of fresh produce – flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables –
exported to Europe. Much of it comes from illegal settlements on
confiscated Palestinian land and depends on exploiting Palestinian
water, labour and other resources, contravening the Fourth Geneva
Convention regarding the responsibilities of an occupying power.

Boycott campaigners bombard supermarkets with complaints about this
and regularly distribute thousands of leaflets explaining to shoppers
why they should avoid goods from Israel and the occupied territories.
Two leading supermarkets have entered into high-level discussions with
the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) on the subject, Cooperative
stores and Marks & Spencer have stated that they will not stock
settlement goods and Sainsbury’s and the Cooperative have started to
give shelf space to Palestinian olive oil.

The stores and the solidarity movement are awaiting new guidelines
from the British government’s Department of the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) which are supposed to clarify how goods are
labelled, so that consumers can choose not to buy produce from stolen
Palestinian land. Ultimately boycott campaigners want to see trade in
all such goods banned.

To press home the point, inspired by supermarket actions in France,
UK campaigners have recently begun to stage sit-down demonstrations in
stores stocking Israeli and settlement goods. Film of their actions is
accessible via the internet.

Campaigns to expose the complicity of some companies in the illegal
occupation is another important element in the BDS movement. Following
one such campaign, French company Veolia is reported to have pulled out
of a consortium set to build a controversial rail project linking East
Jerusalem and settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli-owned water cooler firm Eden Springs, which in Israel
markets water from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, is facing
repeated challenges to its contracts with public bodies in the UK.

US firm Caterpillar, which sells Israel the bulldozers it uses to
demolish Palestinian homes, is the subject of a long-running
international campaign pressuring it to stop selling heavy equipment to
Israel. Four activists were arrested in March 2006 when, in front of
CAT’s main US office, they re-enacted the death three years earlier of
peace activist Rachel Corrie, killed by a CAT bulldozer as she tried to
stop it destroying a Palestinian house. Campaigning website says activists have targeted CAT merchandise
in stores, investments in church and union funds, and declared
“CAT-Free Zones” boycotting all CAT products. CAT distributors have
seen protests from Belfast to Bil’in, Detroit to Denmark, San Francisco
to Stockholm.
Support for boycott actions is growing within the
trade union movement in Britain and Ireland. The Electronic Intifada
reported on 14 August that although the British union federation the
Trade Union Congress (TUC) has not yet passed a BDS motion, the public
sector union PCS, the University and College Union UCU and the Fire
Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a
general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli
companies and government sanctions against the state. Others have
called for elements of BDS such as a boycott of settlement goods, or
for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel.
In April, the
independent Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) for the first time
voted to endorse a report recommending “boycott and disinvest from
Israeli companies”.

The boycott movement faces constant attempts by Zionists to roll
back its successes, usually deploying charges of discrimination.
Campaigners were somewhat alarmed in July when the Council of Europe’s
European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was
illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods. According to a
report in the Jerusalem Post on July 20, the Court also said that
making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not
constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression.

However, boycott campaigners believe the court’s ruling probably has
very limited application across Europe since it is based on a specific
case under French law. Whatever their ethnicity, religious or political
affiliation, human rights and peace campaigners are taking up the
Boycott Israel call in growing numbers.

By Naomi Idrissi

– Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is a London-based Jewish campaigner for
Palestinian rights. She is a member of the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee. In 2006 she
helped form Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) to support the
work of PSC’s BIG campaign. She is also an active member of Jews for
Justice for Palestinians, the largest Jewish organisation in the UK
concerned with Palestinian rights.

China’s Wild West

Martine Bulard: China’s Wild West


My journey to China’s westernmost province began this May in the backroom of an ordinary brasserie in one of Paris’s eastern suburbs. The Uyghur man I had come to see was accompanied by a plainclothes policeman, but even so, his hands trembled and there was a look of fear in his eyes: had I really come to interview him or was I in the pay of the Chinese political police? He was a member of the dissident World Uyghur Congress (1) and had just been granted political asylum in France. His was a run-of-the-mill story: he had protested about an injustice at his workplace in Xinjiang, which led to him being arrested and imprisoned. After that he had fled. That was all he would say. His fear of being tracked to a Paris suburb may seem excessive but it’s indicative of the moral and physical pressure facing the Uyghurs, China’s Turkic-speaking Muslims.
A few days later, I arrived in Urumqi, the capital of the vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, which is nearly 4,000km from Beijing. There were no immediate signs of tension, even in the city’s Uyghur district. Here, members of the region’s Muslim minorities – Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Kirghiz – coexist with Han Chinese, who are the largest group in the city (though not throughout the Xinjiang region) as they are in China as a whole. Some Han families have lived here for several generations.

The district’s small mosque was open to visitors. In noisy, narrow streets lined with stalls near the recently spruced-up bazaar, traders were selling a bizarre mix of goods: combs and hair dyes, herbal remedies, phone cards etc. Skewers of chicken and mutton with noodles were also on offer. Unlike the Han Chinese, the Uyghurs don’t eat pork, but that’s the least of the differences separating these two peoples.

Between 5 and 8 July, there was an unprecedented outbreak of violence in this and neighboring districts of Urumqi, in particular outside the University of Xinjiang. For several hours on the 5th, Uyghur demonstrators armed with clubs, knives and other makeshift weapons set fire to buses, taxis and police vehicles. They looted shops and beat and lynched Han Chinese. The next day, the Han hit back, attacking and killing Uyghurs. By the end of July, the official statistics registered 194 dead and 1,684 wounded, but the figures are not broken down by ethnic group.

Even if no one could have predicted interethnic violence on this scale two months earlier, there had already been signs of a build-up of anger in a humiliated and often harassed community. Even making appointments with Uyghurs, whether they were political activists or not, turned out to be far from straightforward. I had to make repeated phone calls, and conversations begun in public places would be concluded in streets where no one was watching. Sometimes I even had to introduce my interviewee to the Han party secretary in order to show that everything was above board. Anyone who receives a foreigner may immediately be suspected of “nationalist activities”, an accusation second only to terrorism in its gravity, which can lead to loss of your job, demotion or even arrest and imprisonment.

According to Abderrahman (2), an Uyghur civil engineer, “suspicion and repression are the rule for Uyghurs, but the Han Chinese have also got cause for concern if they’re suspected of involvement in politics”. I had met him in one of the best Uyghur restaurants in Urumqi, patronised by Han Chinese, Muslim families (that included both veiled women and girls in jeans and make-up) and foreign tourists. Abderrahman runs a small business with five staff from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. He’s not naturally fearful but when he discusses the discrimination his community suffers, he lowers his voice. And when we talk about what is taught in schools, he writes on his hand: “It’s brain-washing.”

Surveillance is widespread, particularly around mosques. In Kashgar (Kashi to give it its official name) in the south of the region, Friday prayers can draw as many as 20,000 people. The whole event takes place under the eyes of plainclothes police. Here, the appointing of imams needs official approval from the authorities and their sermons are carefully controlled: the Xinjiang government’s official website, which publishes a History of Islam in China, explains that the (carefully chosen) religious authorities and the Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership have produced a four-volume set of sermons, time-limited to 20-30 minutes, from which the busy imam can choose.

It wasn’t always like this. Religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1954. Until the mid-1960s, Muslims could practise their faith with little impediment. Ahmed, who’s a guide in Kashgar, remembers women of his grandmother’s generation wearing the veil when he was a boy. But during the dark years of the cultural revolution and its aftermath, mosques were shut down or destroyed. Even within the home expressions of religious feeling were out of the question. The repression came to an end with Deng Xiaoping’s move towards economic liberalization in 1978 and the principle of religious freedom was put back into the constitution in 1982.
‘What are you waiting for?’

By the end of the cultural revolution, only 392 useable places of worship remained in Kashgar district, one of the region’s most important religious centers. By the end of 1981, their number had risen to 4,700, and in 1995 it stood at 9,600. According to Rémi Castets, a French specialist on Uyghur movements, by the turn of the millennium Xinjiang had 24,000 mosques, two-thirds of the total in China. Koranic schools were opened, Muslim scholarly works were being revived and private printing presses set up. Religion was developing in tandem with a revival of Uyghur culture and sense of identity.

But things started to go wrong in the early 1990s. On one hand, Islam became politicized: there was an increase in the number of meshreps (a sort of local religious committee which sometimes engaged in protest) and organizations such as the East Turkestan independence movement, which is suspected of al-Qaida links, were set up. And at the same time, the new-found independence of the former Soviet republics of central Asia just across the border raised hopes of independence for the Uyghurs, which had previously been ignored. There was even talk of “Uyghurstan”, uniting the Uyghur communities on both sides of the Chinese border.

Saniya, who teaches ancient literature in Urumqi, still remembers a family reunion in 1992 when her mother’s sister, who had fled to Uzbekistan during the cultural revolution, returned home. “Then it was our turn to go to Tashkent. It was a shock. We noticed that the Uzbeks had a better life than us and they’d preserved their traditions better than we had. But at the same time there was no heavy religious element.” From that time on, she continued, “the question of independence became very important. There’s no cultural, religious or linguistic barrier between Xinjiang and Uzbekistan. People in Tashkent often asked us what we were waiting for. ‘We did it,’ they’d say, ‘so why don’t you?’ Uyghur pride was at stake. It was a bit like a challenge.”

Such feelings probably contributed to the birth of Uyghur movements with links to Pakistan and Turkey, some of which had separatist ambitions. Even if they didn’t have a major impact on the population at large, there were demonstrations and other incidents throughout the 1990s. Beijing reacted in three ways. It used diplomacy to combat the “three forces” (extremism, separatism and terrorism) by cutting all links between the Uyghur activists and their neighbors (the central Asian republics and Pakistan) and, especially through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It also engaged in development and modernisation, using public finances and the military-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) – better known as bingtuans or “military brigades” – and by attracting Han Chinese to the region. And finally it resorted to close surveillance and repression.
“Central government’s aim is not to attack Islam per se,” says Castets. “What it wants to do above all is prevent Islam giving legitimacy to expressions of separatist or anti-government feeling. The CPC has as its model the example of the Hui.” China has managed to pacify its relations with the Hui, the country’s biggest Muslim community (10 million people) (3). The government is hoping to achieve a similar result with the Uyghurs.

Castets estimates government investment in Xinjiang since 2000 at 870bn yuan ($127bn). Economic dynamism is apparent everywhere: the region’s rich reserves of coal, oil and gas are being exploited and new sources of energy developed (on the Urumqi-Turfan motorway there’s a special viewing point where you can photograph the wind turbines (4) which disappear into the distance). Giant new towns such as Korla are being built, with its numerous open-air shopping centres and oil company headquarters. Airports and motorways are under construction. Building sites have sprung up everywhere, including in Kashgar’s old Uyghur quarter, which is well on the way to being destroyed.

Xinjiang’s economy is based on raw materials, agriculture and, to a lesser extent, tourism, and a good half of the engines of economic growth are in the hands of the XPCC or bingtuans. Comprehending this state within a state is essential to any understanding of this far-flung province of China.

Bingtuans were created in 1954 to safeguard China’s borders and clear land. They recruited soldiers demobbed after the civil war, committed Communists ready to take civilization to the countryside and Han Chinese (whether Communists or not) who had been sent into exile or to labour camps for “re-education”, such as the famous writer Wang Meng, a communist found guilty of a “drift to the right” (5). Twelve bingtuans were established in places such as Beilongjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. After Mao’s death in 1976, all of them were abolished – all except those in Xinjiang, which are more active today than ever.

Shihezi museum traces their history in socialist-realist style: there are dozens of yellowing photographs of poor peasant-soldiers or children in makeshift schools that are redolent of the pioneering spirit of their time. One room is entirely filled with a huge map that shows the power of the bingtuans today, a power that far exceeds that of the region’s government.
The bingtuans are still under the control of the People’s Liberation Army. The districts they control have a population of 1.9 million. They have powers to levy taxes. They own 1,500 businesses, including construction companies, several of which are quoted on the stock market. They also run two universities and control a third of the agricultural land in Xinjiang, a quarter of its industrial output and between half and two-thirds of its exports. (Bizarrely, the bingtuans are also the biggest producer of ketchup in the world; they even bought up a French company, Conserves de Provence, in 2004 through their subsidiary Xinjiang Chalkis Co.)
The new frontier

At a historic meeting about the stability of Xinjiang province in 1996, the CPC politburo invited Communists to “encourage the young people of China to come and settle in areas designated as the XPCC”. But this is not the only conduit of immigration that has brought about a pronounced shift in the make-up of the region’s population (Han Chinese have gone from just 6 per cent of the population in 1949 to 40.6 per cent in 2006). Since restrictions on internal movement were lifted, Han Chinese have come here hoping to make their fortune in what they see as a new frontier. Poor peasants (mingong) from provinces where income levels are even lower than Xinjiang, such as Sezuan, Shaanxi and Gansu, have followed their lead. These people only just scrape by in low-paid jobs, so to call them “colonizers” as the western media often do, is misleading.
The new arrivals also include professionals who work for public companies and whose salaries are much more comfortable, even if their living conditions aren’t. One such is Liu Wang, an engineer who is working on the new railway line between Urumqi and Hotan, the last stretch before the Taklamakan desert. He comes from Shaanxi and only sees his wife and children once a year for Chinese New Year. He doesn’t see much difference between the lot of the Han, the Uyghurs and the Kazakhs. In his opinion, the whole Xinjiang region needs a shake-up: “It’s still socialism here”, he insists, and he doesn’t make it sound like a compliment.

Liu Wang regrets how slowly the wheels turn in the region: “Everything always has to be referred higher up. You always have to cover your back.” As a result, public money gets wasted. “They build motorways, airports and hotels, but staff training doesn’t follow.” That’s why on his building site the skilled positions go to the Han while Uyghurs are left with the unskilled jobs. It’s an argument that’s heard repeatedly. As we drove past a building site on the Kashgar-Hotan road, my Uyghur taxi driver said: “Of course there are Uyghur engineers, but they can’t go abroad to get trained, and now all the techniques are imported from Germany and Japan. They won’t give them passports to travel.”

In China there is no automatic right to a passport; it’s in the gift of the district leadership. Whether you are an engineer, researcher or just an ordinary citizen, getting approval entails an obstacle course for anyone who belongs to an ethnic minority. If successful, you then have to fly to Beijing to get a visa from the country you want to visit, which puts foreign travel beyond the reach of most Uyghurs.
Language barrier

Language is the other thing that holds Uyghurs back in the job market. Most Uyghurs don’t speak Mandarin, or speak it badly, but it’s the language used in most Han businesses. Wang Jian-min, an anthropology professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, says: “There is often confusion between language and ethnicity. You can understand a business requiring that you speak Mandarin properly, but it’s not normal that it demands that you are Han.” It may not be normal, but it is certainly easier, according to a young businessman based in the suburbs of Shihezi who said: “With minorities you need a halal canteen or special foods, because their dietary habits are different.” He felt that in general “when there is a problem, the Uyghurs are less conciliatory” than the mingong, who can be sent back to their home province at the slightest provocation. As a result, even highly qualified Uyghurs find it hard to get a job. That feeds their frustration, even though the situation isn’t rosy in the rest of the country, where one graduate in three fails to find employment.

Even so, the language barrier is a real one. Previously, most families sent their children to schools for ethnic minorities where Mandarin was just another subject on offer. And in the countryside it wasn’t on offer at all. This created their current disadvantage and made it impossible for young people to leave their province, which is the only place their language is spoken. This problem didn’t arise for the Uyghur elite in the cities; there, parents sent their children to Chinese schools (where Uyghur was offered as an option).

Since 2003, however, teaching in Chinese is obligatory throughout the school curriculum, except for the teaching of literature. Uyghur now has the status of a second language. This new rule has become a crucial bone of contention between the Han and the Uyghurs. Many people have compared it to “cultural genocide” or, like Abderrahman, to brainwashing. In the countryside this leads to ridiculous situations, as Nadira, a new teacher, told me; she was trained at the Chinese-language university in Urumqi but I met her in a village far from Kashgar. She is the only Mandarin teacher there, and is unable to greet all her pupils. “The political leaders are the ones who choose who goes to the bilingual schools and who goes to the others.” Such arbitrary decision-making increases the anger of families already hostile to compulsory Mandarin.

By contrast Nazim, who runs a department at Urumqi University, sees an opportunity for his community: “It allows you to own your mother tongue – you need to know how to write it to preserve your culture – and to learn Mandarin for knowledge, exchange and work.” Like many in the middle classes, Nazim is more afraid of the gradual abandonment of Uyghur learning by the most affluent groups in society, who send their offspring to Chinese schools to give them the best chance in life. Parents are speaking Uyghur less and less and literacy in Uyghur is declining: “that’s how languages die”.

Young people are much more opinionated. Assiane, who has been taught in Chinese right from the start, waited for her older colleague to leave before expressing her opinion. “They start by limiting the scope of Uyghur teaching and it ends up dying out,” she told me. In Yunnan, where she was a student, minority languages are no longer taught. Assiane foresees a long road leading to a loss of identity, especially as “education is reducing our culture to folklore”. This is an undeniable reality, though very few Han want to admit it. Some of them, such as Zhang Wi who’s a photographer, are tired of hearing Uyghur complaints:

“Members of ethnic minorities get preferential treatment in university entrance exams because of a bonus system. They have places reserved for them in the management of public organizations. Their writers get their work published more easily than the Han.” He cites an example of talented Han passed over in favour of an incompetent Uyghur.

Since 2003 the law has obliged administrations to have joint leadership, one from the Han community and one from an ethnic minority. But most of the time, the power remains with the Han. That is the case at the top level of the region’s government: the president is Nur Bekri, an Uyghur, but it’s party secretary Wang Lequan who pulls the strings. Wang Lequan has ruled the province with a rod of iron since 1994. “He’s not a man who understands the situation. He doesn’t have love in his heart. He doesn’t understand people’s souls,” says Yi Fang, an old Beijing Communist who feels that the clashes in July were shameful for China. “Wang combines liberalism and repression without regard for people or their culture,” Yi Fang tells me. “His attitude has less to do with colonialism and much more to do with authoritarianism.” As he reminds me, Xinjiang is an integral part of China, whose borders are recognized by the UN.
History serving politics

As ever, history becomes politically charged – historical facts are regularly pressed into service and even falsified in current disputes. In Kashgar’s dusty, little-visited museum, there’s a sign reading: “In 60BC… local government was established under the Han dynasty. Since then Xinjiang has been part of the Chinese state.” That version was the official one for a long time but has now been dropped, as has the idea that the Chinese were the first inhabitants of the region. The magnificent Indo-European mummies found in the Taklamakan desert put paid to that claim. Xinjiang was on the Silk Road and has seen a mixture of races, cultures and warlords. It’s absurd to try to reduce it to a single influence.
On the other hand, dating the “colonization of the province” to the arrival of the Communists in 1949, as the World Congress of Uyghurs would have it (a view accepted by several French newspapers), doesn’t reflect reality either. The first Chinese political presence in Xinjiang dates from the Manchu dynasty in the 1750s. In the wake of rebellions, Daoguang, the eighth emperor, created the first “reconstruction offices” as part of a policy of assimilation in which the powers that be were reluctant to depend on local leaders as they were “corrupt and harmful to the policy of central state”. In 1884 the province became part of China. (By way of comparison, New Mexico became part of the US shortly before that (in 1846), as did California (1850).)

It’s true that history is not linear and Xinjiang has seen several bids for independence. The emirate of Kashgarie survived from 1864 to 1877 thanks to the recognition of the Ottoman empire, Great Britain and Russia. A short-lived East Turkestan Republic lasted from November 1933 to February 1934. And finally, a Second East Turkestan Republic, a vague satellite of the USSR comprising three northern districts, existed from 1944 to 1949. As Rémi Castets puts it, “the feeling of being heir to a powerful empire or kingdoms which have sometimes rivalled China” has left its mark.

Most Uyghurs are not in fact calling for independence, but greater justice and recognition of their identity. “We may be better off than we were a decade ago,” Abderrahman says, “but we’re still lagging behind.” GDP stands at 15,016 yuan per inhabitant in Shihezi (which is 90 per cent Han), 6,771 in Aksu (30 per cent Han), 3,497 in Kashgar (8.5 per cent ) and 2,445 yuan in Hotan (3.2 per cent) (6).
These flagrant, ethnically based inequalities are pushing the Uyghurs towards Islam, the only vehicle for their opposition and means of affirming their identity. Already the sight of women in burqas is no longer a rarity. There is a clear danger that the fundamentalists will be the beneficiaries of this shift. Extremist groups are still marginal, but that could change if Beijing refuses to engage in any sort of dialogue.

Xinjiang’s minorities, and the Uyghurs in particular, are trapped between modernisation, which is crushing their culture; discrimination, which excludes them from prosperity; and authoritarianism, which is grinding down their distinctiveness. Their dislocation is more social and cultural than religious. And it’s a situation that will go on as long as the autonomy that Beijing grants Xinjiang exists in name alone.

(1) Since 2004 the World Uyghur Congress has tried to bring together the various oppositions groups based abroad. Its headquarters are in Munich and its president, Rebiya Kadeer, lives in Washington.
(2) All names, apart from those of officials, have been changed.
(3) They are spread out across the country, though many of them live in Ningxia.
(4) Wind power accounts for 8% of Chinese energy production. The target for 2020 is 15%, half of which will come from Xinjiang.
(5) Wang Meng was in exile from 1963 till 1979. He was later rehabilitated and served as culture minister from 1986 to 1989, until the events of Tiananmen Square.
(6) $2,198, $991, $512 and $357 respectively.

Translated by George Miller

This article appears in the August edition of the excellent monthly, Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features one or two articles from LMD every month. Ramadan

Women's hands painted with henna (AP Images)

American Muslims trace their ancestry to more than 80 countries. explores the richness of these traditions through the lens of Ramadan.


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Is Sharon Linked to WTC 911?


Texe Mars

The FBI now believes that Israel intelligence, working closely with rogue U.S. and other foreign intelligence units, may be responsible for or otherwise deeply involved in the World Trade Center implosions and other acts of terrorism against the United States.

Newsman Jim Galloway, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (reprinted in The Austin American Statesman, November 25, 2001, pg. A-11), reported that of the 1,100 foreigners arrested by the FBI for suspicion of involvement in the September 11 incidents, 100 are Israeli Jews.

Five of the Israelis, say Galloway, were arrested after “Angry witnesses had seen the five at a waterfront park in New Jersey apparently laughing and clowning, and photographing themselves in front of the burning towers.” An FBI surveillance team had been monitoring the five and took photographs of their activities.

One of the five Israelis had assumed a first name of Omer, which is close to the Arabic name Omar. Another had a German passport in addition to his Israeli passport. A third had an international flight booked to Thailand for September 13-two days after the hijackings. Yet another of the five Israelis was discovered by the FBI to be a former paratrooper, assigned to an elite Israeli defense forces unit.

Two more Israeli Jews were arrested in a truck on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, near the site of the crash of American Airlines flight 93.

A box cutter like the ones used in the airliner hijackings was found in their truck along with other incriminating evidence.

Dummy Moving Company

FBI investigators believe that most of the 100 men detained are part of an Israeli intelligence unit operating out of New Jersey, near where the Anthrax letters were mailed. What appears to be a dummy, front company, Urban Moving Systems, of Weehawken, N.J., had been set up and claimed to be “employer” for all of the detained Israelis. Themen, most with bogus or expired travel documents, were able to travel freely by truck throughout the U.S.A.

According to the news report, after the arrests an FBI SWAT team raided the New Jersey warehouse of the Urban Moving Systems operation and seized and carried away a dozen computer hard drives and files.

Behind the scenes, the Israeli government is reported as jumping through hoops trying to get the men released and the FBI investigation shut down. Members of the Israeli parliament called on “friends” in the U.S. Congress. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Ohmert, personally called New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and asked him to intervene.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials are desperately trying to paint the incident as a “mere mistake”-just some silly young men clowning around, unconnected to an official intelligence group. “That’s why the five laughed at the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings,” says Mayor Ehud Ohmert. “They were just being immature and irresponsible.”

A War Brewing

I am hearing that a war is brewing inside the FBI between the FBI agents conducting the investigation and their higher-up, politically-connected superiors. The higher-ups warn that the Israeli thing is “too hot”-an “explosive political volcano.” But the lower-level agents aren’t buying it. They maintain that the arrested Israeli Jews might just hold the key to the whole September 11th debacle.

“These Israeli guys knew what was coming down,” says one embittered FBI veteran. “We would be fools if we let them just fade away into the sunset and pretend they weren’t involved.”

Who Benefits?

U.S. Intelligence analysts point out how much the nation of Israel has benefited from the September 11th attacks. For over a year, Israel had been widely criticized in the U.S. and in the Western world for its brutal suppression of the Palestinians. Israeli uniformed soldiers, tanks and helicopter gunships were regularly shown on the international TV news in heated exchanges with Palestinian youths armed with nothing more than stones and sticks. Israeli tanks bulldozed Palestinian farms and homes, and humanitarian groups complained that captured Palestinians were being tortured and abused in Israeli prison cells. A recent U.N. conference focused on Jewish racism and discrimination.

But after September 11, sentiment changed dramatically. Sympathy for the Palestinian cause evaporated. The Arabs were universally portrayed as the evil-doers, the “bad guys.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated, “Now we and the Americans are in the same fight.”

The blaming of radical Islamic terrorists for the horrible crimes was the best thing that’s happened for Israel in years.

Now the American people are, once again, solidly in the pro-Israel camp, and “Palestinians be damned!”

Duas For This Ramadan

Ramadan Dua: DAY 1

ALLAH, on this day make my fasts the fasts of those who fast (sincerely), and my standing up in prayer of those who stand up in prayer (obediently), awaken me in it from the sleep of the heedless, and forgive me my sins , O God of the worlds, and forgive me, O one who forgives the sinners.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 2

ALLAH, on this day, take me closer towards Your pleasure, keep me away from Your anger and punishment, grant me the opportunity to recite Your verses (of the Qur’an), by Your mercy, O the most Merciful.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 3

ALLAH, on this day, grant me wisdom and awareness, keep me away from foolishness and pretension, grant me a share in every blessing You send down, by You generosity, O the most Generous.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 4

ALLAH, on this day, strengthen me in carrying out Your commands, let me taste the sweetness of Your remembrance, grant me, through Your graciousness, that I give thanks to You. Protect me, with Your protection and cover, O the most discerning of those who see.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 5

ALLAH, on this day, place me among those who seek forgiveness. Place me among Your righteous and obedient servants, and place me among Your close friends, by Your kindness, O the most Merciful.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 6

ALLAH, on this day, do not let me abase myself by incurring Your disobedience, and do not strike me with the whip of Your punishment, keep me away from the causes of Your anger, by and Your power, O the ultimate wish of those who desire.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 7

ALLAH, on this day, help me with its fasts and prayers, and keep me away from mistakes and sins of the day, grant me that I remember You continuously through the day, by Your assistance, O the Guide of those who stray.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 8

ALLAH, on this day, let me have mercy on the orphans, and feed [the hungry], and spread peace, and keep company with the noble-minded, O the shelter of the hopeful.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 9

ALLAH, on this day, grant me a share from Your mercy which is wide, guide me towards Your shining proofs, lead me to Your all encompassing pleasure, by Your love, O the hope of the desirous.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 10

ALLAH, on this day, make me, among those who rely on You, from those who You consider successful, and place me among those who are near to you, by Your favor, O goal of the seekers.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 11

ALLAH, on this day, make me love goodness, and dislike corruption and disobedience, bar me from anger and the fire [of Hell], by Your help, O the helper of those who seek help

Ramadan Dua: DAY 12

ALLAH, on this day, beautify me with covering and chastity, cover me with the clothes of contentment and chastity, let me adhere to justice and fairness, and keep me safe from all that I fear, by Your protection, O the protector of the frightened.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 13

ALLAH, on this day, purify me from un-cleanliness and dirt, make me patient over events that are decreed, grant me the ability to be pious, and keep company with the good, by Your help, O the beloved of the destitute.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 14

ALLAH, on this day, do not condemn me for slips, make me decrease mistakes and errors, do not make me a target for afflictions and troubles, by Your honor, O the honor of the Muslims.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 15

Ramadan Dua: DAY 16

ALLAH, on this day, grant me compatibility with the good, keep me away from patching up with the evil, lead me in it, by Your mercy, to the permanent abode, by Your God ship, O the God of the worlds.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 17

ALLAH, on this day, guide me towards righteous actions, fulfill my needs and hopes, O One who does not need explanations nor questions, O One who knows what is in the chests of the (people of the) world. Bless Muhammad and his family, the Pure.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 18

ALLAH, on this day, make me love goodness, and dislike corruption and disobedience, bar me from anger and the fire [of Hell], by Your help, O the helper of those who seek help.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 19

ALLAH, on this day, multiply for me its blessings, and ease my path towards its bounties, do not deprive me of the acceptance of its good deeds, O the Guide towards the clear truth.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 20

ALLAH, on this day, open for me the doors of the heavens, and lock the doors of Hell from me, help me to recite the Qur’an, O the One who sends down tranquility into the hearts of believers.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 21

ALLAH, on this day, show me the way to win Your pleasure, do not let Shaytan have a means over me, make Paradise an abode and a resting place for me, O the One who fulfills the requests of the needy.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 22

ALLAH, on this day, open for me the doors of Your Grace, send down on me its blessings, help me towards the causes of Your mercy, and give me a place in the comforts of Paradise, O the one who answers the call of the distressed.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 23

ALLAH, on this day, wash away my sins, purify me from all flaws, examine my heart with (for) the piety of the hearts, O One who overlooks the shortcomings of the sinners.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 24

ALLAH, on this day, I ask You for what pleases You, and I seek refuge in You from what displeases You, I ask You to grant me the opportunity to obey You and not disobey You, O One who is generous with those who ask

Ramadan Dua: DAY 25

ALLAH, on this day, make me among those who love Your friends, and hate Your enemies, following the way of Your last Prophet, O the Guardian of the hearts of the Prophets.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 26

ALLAH, on this day, make my efforts worthy of appreciation, and my sins forgiven, my deeds accepted, my flaws concealed, O the best of those who hear.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 27

ALLAH, on this day, bestow on me the blessings of Laylatul Qadr, change my affairs from (being) difficult to (being) easy, accept my apologies, and decrease for me [my] sins and burdens, O the Compassionate with His righteous servants.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 28

ALLAH, on this day, grant me a share in its nawafil (recommended prayers), honor me by attending to my problems, make closer the means to approach You, from all the means, O One who is not preoccupied by the requests of the beseechers.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 29

O ALLAH, on this day, cover me with Your mercy, grant me in it success and protection, purify my heart from the darkness of false accusations, O the Merciful to His believing servants.

Ramadan Dua: DAY 30

O ALLAH, on this day, make my fasts worthy of appreciation and acceptance, according to what pleases You, and pleases the Messenger, the branches being strengthened by the roots, for the sake of our leader, Muhammad, and his purified family. Praise be to ALLAH, the Lord of the worlds.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan held at Newark Airport; claims racial profiling due to Muslim name

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan held at Newark Airport; claims racial profiling due to Muslim name

Updated Saturday, August 15th 2009, 6:25 PM


Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan

This never happened to Schwarzenegger.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who plays a Muslim mistaken for a terrorist in his latest film, says he was racially profiled at Newark Airport and detained for two hours on Friday.

The 43-year-old “Tom Cruise of India” – cited last year by Newsweek as one of the world’s 50 most influential men – was released only after Indian diplomats intervened.

“I was really being hassled, perhaps because of my name being Khan,” the international box office sensation charged Saturday in a text message to reporters.

“These guys wouldn’t let me through.”

Khan, who has appeared in more than 70 films, said he was waiting for his luggage Friday when his name popped up on a computer alert list. Security then pulled him aside.

“Absolutely uncalled for, I think,” Khan said. “I felt angry and humiliated.”

Khan said he endured two hours of interrogation before he was allowed to call the Indian embassy in Washington. An official there vouched for the star, who was then released.

“I was really taken aback,” Khan told an Indian television station. “I did not want to say anything just in case they took everything wrong, because I am a little worried about Americans because they do have this issue when your name is Muslim.”

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not answer multiple inquiries Saturday about the case.

The actor insisted he had all the proper paperwork when he was brought to a detention room at the New Jersey airport. But, he said, Khan “is a Muslim name, and I think the name is common on their checklist.”

New Dehli-based U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer said officials were trying to “ascertain the facts of the case.”

“Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States,” Roemer said Saturday. “Many Americans love his films.”

But there were no Bollywood buffs in Newark as Khan came through the airport on his way to Chicago for a celebration of India’s independence day.

“I told them I am a movie star,” Khan said – although the line fell on deaf ears.

He recently signed a deal with Fox Star Studios to finance and distribute his new movie, “My Name is Khan” – the story of a Muslim man mistaken for a terrorist in post-9/11 America.

The incident caused outrage in his homeland, where the Khan-troversy dominated television news.

Last month, Continental Airlines apologized to former Indian President Abdul Kalam for frisking him at New Delhi‘s airport.

US body places India on Watch List for failure to protect minorities

US body places India on Watch List for failure to protect minorities |

Submitted by admin on 13 August 2009 – 3:41am.

* India News
* Indian Muslim
* Muslim World News

By news desk

New Delhi: India finds itself in the same company as Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, and Somalia among others. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) placed India on its “Watch List” today for what it called Indian government’s largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities.

USCIRF said India earned the Watch List designation due to the disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities– specifically Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 – and the largely inadequate response from the Indian government to protect the rights of religious minorities.

“It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “USCIRF’s India chapter was released this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.”

Any country that is designated on the USCIRF Watch List requires “close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government.”

The other countries currently on USCIRF’s Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.

“India’s democratic institutions charged with upholding the rule of law, most notably state and central judiciaries and police, have emerged as unwilling or unable to seek redress for victims of the violence. More must be done to ensure future violence does not occur and that perpetrators are held accountable,” said Mr. Leo.

Last year in Orissa, the murder of Swami Saraswati by Maoist rebels in Kandhamal sparked a prolonged and destructive campaign targeting Christians in Orissa, resulting in attacks against churches and individuals.

These attacks largely were carried out by individuals associated with Hindu nationalist groups, and resulted in at least 40 deaths and the destruction of hundreds of homes and dozens of churches. Tens of thousands were displaced and today many still remain in refugee camps, afraid to return home.

Similarly, during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, India’s National Human Rights Commission found that the Indian government not only failed to prevent the attacks against religious minorities, but that state and local officials aided and participated in the violence.

In both Orissa and Gujarat, court convictions have been infrequent, perpetrators rarely brought to justice and thousands of people remain displaced.

This designation comes barely a week after Human Rights Watch issued a stinging report against Indian police system terming it as an “abusive” system where torture is common place and police officials engaged in fake encounters with no accountability.

The USCIRF India chapter released today notes that the deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting cases have resulted in a culture of impunity that gives members of vulnerable minority communities few assurances of their safety, particularly in areas with a history of communal violence, and little hope of perpetrator accountability.

The report recommends that the Obama Administration urge the government of India to take new measures to promote communal harmony, protect religious minorities, and prevent communal violence by calling on all political parties and religious or social organizations to publicly denounce violence against and harassment of religious minorities, women, and low-caste members, and to acknowledge that such violence constitutes a crime under Indian law.

USCIRF issues its annual report on religious freedom each May. This year’s India chapter was delayed because USCIRF had requested to visit India this summer. The Indian government, however, declined to issue USCIRF visas for the trip.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.


USCIRF Annual Report for 2009:

Human Rights Watch report:

India to be Global Leader in solar energy

By    IANS
Tuesday,04 August 2009, 08:11 hrs

New Delhi: India’s 30-year Rs.91,684 crore (Rs.916.84 billion/$19.25 billion) plan that aims to make it the global leader in solar energy is coming up for the nod by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change here Monday evening.

A background note circulated to members of the council before the meeting says the National Solar Mission will add 20,000 MW of generation capacity by 2020 and make it as cheap as electricity from conventional sources.

The outlay will be with Rs.10,130 crore in the current Five Year Plan (ending 2012), Rs.22,515 crore in the 2012-2017 second phase, and Rs.11,921 crore in the 2017-2020 third phase.

The plan is to raise this by taxing fossil fuels, mainly coal. The objectives of the programme include:

* 20,000 MW of installed solar generation capacity by 2020 and 100,000 MW by 2030; 200,000 MW by 2050

* Solar power cost reduction to achieve grid tariff parity by 2020

* Achieve parity with coal-based thermal power generation by 2030

* 4-5 GW of installed solar manufacturing capacity by 2017.

The plan is to develop solar energy in India in three phases.

“The objective in Phase I (2009-12) will be to achieve rapid scale up to drive down costs, to spur domestic manufacturing and to validate the technological and economic viability of different solar applications,” says the note.

This will be done through promotion of commercial scale solar utility plants, mandated deployment of solar rooftop or on-site solar PV (photovoltaic) applications in government and public sector undertaking buildings, promotion of these applications in other commercial buildings, and mandating that at least five percent of power generating capacity being added every year will be through solar sources.

Vacant land in existing power plants will be used for this purpose, and anybody who produces solar power at home or office will be able to sell the excess back to the power distributor.

Solar PV panels will be promoted to charge invertors at homes and offices.

Phase II will run from 2012 to 2017 during which schemes which are found to work in Phase I will be scaled up.

Phase III, from 2017 to 2020, will see further scaling up with minimal or no subsidy. This envisages the installation of one million rooftop solar energy systems, plus solar lighting for 20 million households.

In the process, India will reduce its emission of carbon dioxide — the world’s main greenhouse gas that is leading to climate change — by almost 60 million tonnes a year.

It will save 1.05 billion litres of diesel, a billion litres of kerosene and 350 million litres of fuel oil per year by 2020.

The plan advocates change in law to enable people to sell extra solar power they generate to utility firms.

A 10-year tax holiday and customs and excise duty exemptions on capital equipment and critical materials are also being proposed.
A slew of other financial incentives has been proposed, as well as the setting up of a strong research and development programme, human resources development and international cooperation.

If the plan succeeds, India will become the world’s largest solar energy market.

Apart from the prime minister, other members of the council are the external affairs minister, finance minister, ministers of environment and forests, agriculture, water resources, science and technology, new and renewable energy, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, the National Security Advisor, C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council, Ratan Tata, chairman of the Investment Commission, V. Krishnamurthy, chairman of the National Manufacturing Competitive Council, R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to PM, R.K. Pachauri, chairman of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Prodipto Ghosh, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta and Nitin Desai of TERI, Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, Ajay Mathur, chairman of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Jyoti Parekh, director of IRADe, journalists Raj Chengappa and R. Ramachandran, the foreign secretary, the secretary in the ministry of environment and forests, and the principal secretary to the PM, who is the convenor.

Nissan Turns Over An Electric Leaf

Nissan Turns Over An Electric Leaf

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  • Categories: EVs and Hybrids


After teasing us for months with prototypes and promises, Nissan unveiled a sleek five-passenger electric hatchback with a claimed range of 100 miles. It’s called the Leaf, and Nissan says it will be here next year.

Nissan pulled the sheet off the Leaf tonight at the company’s new headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, where CEO Carlos Ghosn promised to usher in the auto industry’s electric era. All of the major automakers are rushing to bring mainstream EVs to market in the next few years, but Japan’s No. 3 automaker has been among the most aggressive. Ghosn has made it clear he believes EVs are the future and he wants Nissan to lead the way

“We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality — the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero, not simply reduced, emissions,” Ghosn said in a statement. “It’s the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey – for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry.”

Nissan isn’t saying what the Leaf will cost — look for a price in the $25,000 to $30,000 range — but promises it will be the first affordable, practical electric car when it goes on sale in the U.S., Japan and Europe by the end of 2010.


Nissan has focused most of its eco-friendlier efforts on building more fuel-efficient gasoline cars. The company has essentially skipped the hybrid party — its one gas-electric model, the Altima Hybrid, uses a drivetrain licensed from Toyota. But Ghosn has emerged as one of the industry’s loudest EV evangelists. Nissan’s parent, Renault, is working closely with Better Place and Shai Agassi to bring electric vehicles to the masses, and Ghosn has on many occasions unequivocally stated that electric cars are the future.

The Leaf — sorry, Nissan, we’re not going to use the all-caps spelling — is the first of what Nissan says will be a family of electric cars that will follow the Leaf in quick succession.

“We celebrate today the start of a new chapter of our company’s life,” Ghosn said.

The Leaf draws power from a 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack comprised of 192 lithium-manganese cells. The pack, developed with NEC, is laid out flat beneath the floor to maximize interior room. Nissan claims the car has a range of 100 miles, but one EV expert we spoke to tonight said 70 is probably more realistic given the size of the pack.

nissan_leaf_05Nissan says the battery recharges in four hours when you plug it into a 220-volt line — the same kind your dryer runs on. Plug it into a standard 110-volt and you’re looking at twice that long. The car has a quick-charge capability that will let you get up to 80 percent charge in less than 30 minutes, but Nissan didn’t say what kind of power you’ll need. We’re guessing 480 volts at 100 amps.

When we drove the prototype last spring, Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, said the cost per mile is 4 cents if you figure gas is four bucks a gallon, electricity is 14 cents a kilowatt hour and you drive 15,000 miles a year. Compare that to the 13 cents a mile you’ll pay in a car that gets 30 mpg. Perry says the car will cost about 90 cents to charge if you plug it in off-peak.

The pack provides juice to an AC motor that produces 80 kilowatts (107 horsepower) — roughly what the Honda Fit puts down. The motor also cranks out 207 pound-feet of torque — impressive, given that the 3.5-liter V6 available in the Altima produces 258. The prototype we drove was snappy off the line, so the Leaf should be no slouch in traffic. Top speed is limited to 90 mph.

People will either love the styling or hate it. The car is about the size of the Versa and draws styling cues from the Murano and the Japanese-market March Micra. We see a bit of the Versa and Renault Megane in there along with hints of the the Fit and the Toyota Prius. Nissan wanted to create a car that was distinctive and readily identifiable as an electric vehicle, but not unusual.

“From the beginning, we did not want to make the car very strange, because one of the perceptions of the EV (is) people think that EVs are toys, or cheap… that you cannot drive high-speed, that EV means ‘not (a) real car,’” Nissan styling chief Shiro Nakamura told Autoblog. “But the car we have is a real car – you can drive it at 140 kilometers, you can sit four or five passengers comfortably.”

nissan_leaf_031The design also is dictated in large part by the drivetrain. Electric cars demand aerodynamic efficiency to maximize range and minimize wind noise — imperative in a car with an almost silent drivetrain. Nakamura isn’t disclosing the Leaf’s drag coefficient but said, “It is very good.”

Range anxiety — the fear of being stranded by a dead battery — remains one impediment to the mass adoption of electric cars, and Nissan hopes to alleviate such worries with a car that tells you when and where to charge up. Nissan calls it “EV-IT” and says it will work with the car’s navigation system to:

  • Show the driving radius within range under the current state of charge.
  • Calculate whether the vehicle is within range of a pre-set destination like your home or office.
  • Provide information about charging stations within the current driving range and provide info about them.

Drivers also can monitor the state of charge of their vehicle online and by cell phone. For example, when your battery is fully charged, you can get a text message.

“The IT system is a critical advantage,” Tooru Abe, Nissan’s chief product specialist, said in a statement. “We wanted this vehicle to be a partner for the driver and an enhancement for the passengers. We also wanted this vehicle to help create a zero-emission community, and these IT features will help make that possible.”

The first cars will be built in Japan, but Nissan recently received a $1.6 billion loan from the Department of Energy to refurbish a plant at its headquarters in Smyrna, Tennessee to build electric vehicles and batteries.

So what’s with the name? Nissan says, “the Leaf name is a significant statement about the car itself. Just as leaves purify the air in nature, so Nissan Leaf purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience.”

At the tailpipe, anyway.

Photos: Nissan

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