9/18/13 In Britain, emotive debate about the Muslim veil tempered by a streak of pragmatism

Source: Associated Press

LONDON –  In Britain this week, a judge struck a blow against religious oppression. Or for religious freedom. It all depends who you ask.

Judge Peter Murphy ruled that a female Muslim defendant may stand trial wearing a face-covering veil — but must remove it when giving evidence.

The case has reignited a debate about Muslim veils that has flared across Europe, sparking protests and exacerbating religious tensions in several countries.

Those tensions exist in Britain, too, and attacks on Muslims and mosques rose after the May slaying of an off-duty British soldier by Islamist extremists. But both the compromise court ruling and the response to it suggest there is little appetite from the center-right coalition government for a ban like that introduced in France.

This is a country where many politicians agree with the aide to former Prime Minister Tony Blair who famously said: “We don’t do religion.”

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9/17/13 In public shift, Israel calls for Assad’s fall

(Reuters) – Israel wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled, its ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday, in a shift from its non-committal public stance on its neighbor’s civil war.

Even Assad’s defeat by al Qaeda-aligned rebels would be preferable to Damascus’s current alliance with Israel’s arch-foe Iran, Ambassador Michael Oren said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

His comments marked a move in Israel’s public position on Syria’s two-and-1/2-year-old war.

Though old enemies, a stable stand-off has endured between the two countries during Assad’s rule and at times Israel had pursued peace talks with him in hope of divorcing Syria from Tehran and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

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9/14/13 Egyptian Christian, Who Is Son of Coptic Leader, to Lead Muslim Brotherhood Party in Egypt?

Source: The Christian Post

Excerpt from article:

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), told CP in a Tuesday interview, “I don’t even know how to explain it – how a Christian would be helping advance the implementation of the Islamic state under Sharia…he would not be able to make laws.”

Jasser, a Syrian-American who is vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, attempted to explain Rafiq’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood by referring to Syria. “Many Christians worked for Assad even though they weren’t pro-Baathist,” he said.

“But the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto is directly in conflict with being a Christian,” Jasser argued. The motto is: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu akbar!”

“There’s no way a non-Muslim would ever believe that would be the motto of their state,” Jasser said. He speculated that there must be some larger goal Rafiq is trying to accomplish by “compromising himself to work with Islamists.”

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9/12/13 Egypt tanks cross fence leading to Gaza

Source: Fox News

GAZA CITY (AFP) –  Two Egyptian army tanks crossed an initial border fence leading to Gaza for the first time on Thursday, witnesses said, but did not enter the Palestinian territory itself.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers neither confirmed nor denied the incursion, but said no Egyptian tanks had entered the besieged Strip.

The tanks “crossed the first Egyptian border fence along the corridor between Egypt and (Gaza), and drove along the road running next to the cement wall” that Egypt built, the witnesses told AFP.

They said it was the “first time Egyptian tanks have been in this area, although they didn’t cross into the Palestinian side,” adding that soldiers on top of the tanks had masked faces.

A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas government, Ihab al-Ghassin, told AFP that no Egyptian tanks had crossed onto the Israeli-blockaded territory.

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9/11/13 U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels

Source: The Washington Times

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month.


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9/11/13 Jihadis gain ground in Syrian rebel movement as moderates grow desperate

Source: NBC news

By Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent, NBC News

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Syrian opposition activists tell NBC News that Bashar Assad is getting away with having used chemical weapons to massacre hundreds of civilians, and that giving the regime a pass will only benefit al-Qaeda extremists.

“If there is no action, everyone will be desperate. We are already desperate. We are dying. Many will join al-Qaeda. Even the educated will join them, because no one else is helping,” a Syrian rebel said.

There is a battle underway within the Syrian revolt — a war within the war — between the generally moderate, US-backed Free Syrian Army and Islamic extremist groups.

The Free Syrian Army put its faith in Washington, which promised action, but so far hasn’t delivered. The moderates say they have lost hope and face. Islamists, on the other hand, always doubted Washington would act, and instead of attending meetings, they are putting bullets in their guns; and they are sending men.

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9/11/13 Exclusive: U.N. Report Will Point to Assad Regime in Massive Chemical Attack

Source: Foreign Policy

U.N. inspectors have collected a “wealth” of evidence on the use of nerve agents that points to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people, according to a senior Western official.

The inspection team, which is expected on Monday to present U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a highly anticipated report on asuspected Aug. 21 nerve agent attack in the suburbs of Damascus, will not directly accuse the Syrian regime of gassing its own people, according to three U.N.-based diplomats familiar with the investigation. But it will provide a strong circumstantial case — based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples — that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability.

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9/9/13 Al Qaeda’s strength with Syrian rebels now being downplayed

Source: The Wasington Times

The Obama administration has started to rebrand Syria’s rebels by de-emphasizing the number of al Qaeda fighters among them — a move critics say is based on questionable intelligence designed to downplay the risks associated with a U.S. military strike on the regime of President Bashar Assad.

After two years of the Obama administration arguing that the Syrian rebellion was rife with fighters linked to al Qaeda, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said last week that Islamic extremists are marginal players in Syria’s civil war and are unlikely to profit much from a U.S. bombing campaign.

His new characterization of the opposition has drawn scrutiny — in large part because of the way Mr. Kerry backed it up. Rather than cite official U.S. intelligence assessments, he pointed to an Aug. 30 opinion article penned for The Wall Street Journal by a 26-year-old analyst with ties to a group that lobbies in Washington on behalf of the Syrian rebels.

In hearings before Congress last week, Mr. Kerry said he generally agreed with the assessment, written by Elizabeth O’Bagy, who works at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/9/obama-administration-now-downplays-al-qaedas-stren/#ixzz2ehUHe8Qq
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8/12/13 Egyptian authorities postpone plan to disperse pro-Morsi protestors

Source: Fox News

CAIRO –  Egyptian authorities on Monday postponed a move to disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country’s ousted president to “avoid bloodshed,” an official said, as Islamist supporters stepped up rallies to demand his return to power.

The postponement could, at least temporarily, defuse tensions that had escalated overnight as the country braced for a new bout of violence. Any moves by the police against the protesters would have set the stage for deadly clashes with tens of thousands gathered at the two Cairo sit-ins in support of ex-President Mohammed Morsi, ousted in a popularly supported coup on July 3.

An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the decision to postpone an advance against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/12/egypt-pro-morsi-protesters-brace-for-confrontation-with-police/#ixzz2bmLmBbXa

8/11/13 Pope Francis greets Muslims and urges both Christians and Muslims to promote mutual respect

Source: Vatican Radio

Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians and Muslims to promote mutual respect , especially through the education of new generations. His remarks came at the end of his Angelus address when he sent greetings to Muslims throughout the world who have just celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square about how God’s love is our greatest treasure. He said today’s gospel reading from St Luke talks to us about our desire for a meeting with Christ, calling it a key aspect of human life. All of us, the Pope said, “have this desire in our hearts, be it explicit or hidden.” In St. Luke’s account of Jesus walking with his disciples towards Jerusalem, Christ reveals to them what is really important for him at that time. The Pope says Jesus’s thoughts include a distancing from earthly goods, faith in the providence of the Father and his interior vigilance while awaiting the Kingdom of God. This gospel account, he continues, teaches us that a Christian is someone who carries within him a deep desire to meet the Lord together with his brethren and his companions along the way. All this can be summed up in Jesus’ words: “for wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.”

Read more:  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/08/11/pope_francis_greets_muslims_and_urges_both_christians_and_muslims_to/en1-718872