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Thursday, February 9, 2012

As order breaks down in Syria, its Christians suffer the consequences

Left Foot Forward’s Ed Jacobs is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement and City Evangelical Church in Leeds and writes in a personal capacity.
As Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today meets with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascas, the estimated 2.5 million Christians in Syria live in fear, stuck between a rock and a hard place.
As the news of Syrians being slaughtered continues at a relentless pace, it is thought that over one hundred Christians have now been targeted, either killed or kidnapped in brutal ways. Reporting last month, the organisation Barnabas Fund which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians has explained:
The Christian community in Syria has been hit by a series of kidnappings and brutal murders; one hundred Christians have now been killed since the anti-government unrest began.
A reliable source in the country, who cannot be identified for their own safety, told Barnabas Fund that children were being especially targeted by the kidnappers, who, if they do not receive the ransom demanded, kill the victim.
And the source provided detailed information – some of which cannot be made public for security reasons – about incidents that have taken place since Christmas.
Two Christian men, one aged 28, the other a 37-year-old father with a pregnant wife, were kidnapped by the rebels in separate incidents and later found dead; the first was found hanged with numerous injuries, the second was cut into pieces and thrown in a river. Four more have been abducted, and their captors are threatening to kill them too.
On 15 January two Christians were killed as they waited for bread at a bakery. Another Christian, aged 40 with two young children, was shot dead by three armed attackers while he was driving a vehicle.”
Perhaps because of such brutality, however clear things might seem, Christians in Syria remain wary of what “change” might mean for their country, looking to Iraq where their brothers and sisters in Christ are now making a mass exodus as a result of the attacks they have faced and Egypt where the prospect of an Islamist government has been matched by on-going attacks on Christians in a way not previously seen under President Hosni Mubarak.
Aware of this, President Assad is now using a policy of fear to court favour among Syria’s Christian communities. In an article published recently in “The Australian”, Richard Beeston explained:
When Father Basilious Nasser got an urgent call to say that one of his parishioners had been shot and needed help, the priest went immediately. As he tried to rescue the man on a street in the city of Hama, the cleric was shot twice by a sniper and died.
It is still unclear whether he was killed by government forces or the opposition, but his death nine days ago has shocked the Christian community.
For centuries, the ancient eastern churches have thrived on their ability to avoid becoming embroiled in the region’s volatile politics. But increasingly, the 2.5 million Christians in Syria fear being dragged into the violence.
There is no end in sight to the bloodshed, and hopes for a foreign-mediated solution dimmed yesterday as UN Security Council members failed to reach agreement yet again on a resolution to end the violence.
The fateful moment for Syria’s Christians can be traced back 10 months ago, when President Bashar al-Assad summoned leaders of the community to his palace and gave them an ultimatum: support me, or your people will suffer.
Perhaps mindful of the plight of the Christians in Iraq and Egypt, who have come under attack since the removal of secular dictatorships over the past decade, the leaders agreed.
As the West continues to look in anticipation at the opportunities that the Arab Spring could present, in Egypt and Iraq to name just two countries, the long lost promise of democratic futures, based on freedoms allowing Christians to pursue their faith free from intimidation, has so far failed to materialise.
Having actively called for President Mubarak to go in Egypt, intervened in Libya and spent years in Iraq we have a responsibility now to use all the muscle and leverage we have secure such freedoms. It is only then that Christians in Syria will truly have the confidence to escape the grip of fear with which President Assad now holds them.
And that goes for our “friends,” for want of a better word, too.
When Saudi Arabia for example finds itself third on the list of countries that persecute Christians, with reports before Christmas of 42 Christians in the country being arrested and tortured, why then did David Cameron’s recent visit to Saudi include a delegation of arms deals?
How perverse that we sell arms to a government that then subsequently used them to persecute Christians among others. Likewise, whilst Afghanistan, a country we supposedly “liberated” from the Taliban is second on the watch list of countries persecuting Christians, coming behind only North Korea, what message does it send when we sign a long-term partnership agreement with them?
In an e-petition I’ve recently established I call for the government to take action on three fronts:
1. To hold a full debate on the floor of the House of Commons on the issue of the persecution of Christians worldwide, mirroring similar debates in the Lords to enable our elected representatives to express their views.
2. That the government should be prepared to use sanctions, such as those related to trade where supposedly “friendly” countries fail to protect Christians from persecution or worse still, perpetrate such acts themselves.
3. To establish a new, annual report on the state of religious freedoms worldwide to highlight and expose those countries that fail to uphold the basic right to allow freedom of religion, free from intimidation.
In his speech marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, David Cameron spoke of the UK as a “Christian country” before declaring that should “actively stand up and defend” the values and morals from it that have shaped the UK. It’s time to stand up and stand up clearly for those very same values and moral worldwide as well.
As we look at the hideous position Syria’s Christians now find themselves in, let us remember the words of Martin Luther King:
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

EU: 'Being too Western' reason for 71% of 'honour' killings

Via the Irish Independent:

Yes, it's a cultural rather than a religious thing, stemming from some nasty tribal customs of South Asia and the Middle East, but though Hindus, Sikhs and the odd Christian might be perpetrators, the blunt truth is that honour killings are mainly Muslim-on-Muslim (91 per cent worldwide, 84 per cent North America, 96 per cent Europe).

Worldwide, two-thirds of victims (93 per cent women) were killed by their families of origin: 49 per cent in North America, 66 per cent in Europe and 72 per cent in Muslim countries. More than half the victims died in agony, having been either gang-raped or burned or stoned or beheaded or stabbed many times.

Being 'too Western' did for 58 per cent: this includes being insufficiently subservient, rejecting Islamic dress, wanting a career, having non-Muslim friends or boyfriends, rejecting an arranged marriage or leaving an abusive husband. This criterion covers 91 per cent of North American murders, 71 per cent of European and 43 per cent in the Muslim world. Offences against sexual propriety (eg being raped or accused of adultery) were the justification for the other murders.

Court of Appeal: Freedom of speech not absolute



PUTRAJAYA, Feb 8 — The rights and freedom of speech enshrined in the Federal Constitution are not absolute, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

As a result, statements made by Karpal Singh at a press conference in 2009 about Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak in relation to the political crisis in the state at the time, exceeded the boundaries permitted by the law and amounted to sedition.

This is despite the fact that Karpal (picture) in his capacity as a Member of Parliament and lawyer has the right to make political comments and express his views on the Constitution and the law, a 105-page judgment by Justice Datuk Ahmad Ma’arop added.

The Star Online reported Justice Ahmad as ruling the freedom of speech as enshrined in the Constitution meant a person had the right to speak, write or publish anything he liked so long as he does not break the law.

He also said the prosecution only needed to prove that the words uttered by Karpal could be deemed seditious — and not that they had led to an actual act of violence or an adverse reaction.

The news portal also quoted Justice Ahmad as saying it is immaterial as to whether Karpal’s statements were grounded in fact or not.

On January 20, Justice Ahmad, who presided over a three-man bench of the Court of Appeal, ordered Karpal to enter his defence on a charge of uttering seditious words against Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak during a press conference in 2009.

The panel, which also comprised justices Datuk Clement Allan Skinner and Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali set aside the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision on June 11, 2010 to acquit and discharge Karpal from the sedition charge without calling for his defence.

Karpal was charged with uttering the seditious words at his legal firm in Jalan Pudu Lama in Kuala Lumpur between 12pm and 12.30pm on February 6, 2009.

He is alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as mentri besar of Perak by the sultan could be questioned in a court of law.

The charge under section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act carries a maximum RM5,000 fine or three years’ jail, or both if convicted.

The Appeals Court, on January 20, also fixed tomorrow for mention of the case at the High Court.

In his judgment, Justice Ahmad said the panel did not accept Karpal’s submission that Section 3(1)(f) of the Sedition Act 1948, which makes questioning the rights and privileges of rulers an offence, was against the Federal Constitution.

Justice Ahmad further held the panel were in no doubt that the press conference was called with the hope that the proceedings would be reported.

He said Karpal at the press conference had repeatedly uttered words that clearly inferred the Sultan of Perak had broken the law, did not follow the law and did not respect the law.

Slim win seen for BN in Selangor

The Barisan Nasional is optimistic of wresting control of the state but with a three-seat majority.

By Rashid Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional (BN) is confident of capturing Selangor but with a slim majority of 31 state seats out of 56 in the coming general election.

This assessment is based on the current sentiments of the Malay voters who are said to be fed up with the many unfulfilled promises of the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government, the fading credibility of PKR de facto chief Anwar Ibrahim and the inability of PAS to control its partners – DAP and PKR – concerning Islamic issues.

BN currently holds 21 state seats in Selangor comprising 18 (Umno), one (MCA), and one from a PKR defector.

For the coming general election, Umno will field candidates in 35 seats, MIC six, while the remaining seats go to MCA and Gerakan.

BN does not pin much hope on MCA and Gerakan to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese voters.

Sources said that of the 41 seats that Umno and MIC would be contesting, 31 were considered “winnable” while the rest are even. Thus, its majority will be only three seats.

“BN is confident of taking back Selangor with a slim majority, despite the problems that the Pakatan-led state government is facing such as unfulfilled promises and internal strife.

“The ruling coalition is expected to scrap through despite the personal efforts of BN chairman and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in trying hard to woo the voters.

“This thin margin of victory is primarily due to factionalism and infighting in Umno, MCA and Gerakan.

“Besides, the three parties are unable to regain the confidence of the Chinese and Indian voters.

“If Umno is truly united and MIC can be sure of obtaining more than 70 percent of the Indian voters, BN can get a higher majority,” the source said.

Sleepless nights

Another source said Umno and MIC would be fielding 60 percent new faces in the 41 seats they would be contesting (35 Umno and six MIC).

He added that such a drastic move would create “sleepless nights” for the incumbents who feel that they are still “relevant” or “winnable” if chosen again. But that decision – selection of candidates –will have to come from Umno president and Selangor chief Najib Tun Razak.

“You can expect a lots of fireworks in the BN camp when the names of the new candidates are released (by Najib) come nomination day. The incumbents will definitely not want to give up their seats without valid reasons.

“They have their own reasons for wanting to stay on. Moreover, faction heads who are working from behind the scene will want to make sure that their people are fielded again, given that party elections will have to be held just after the general election.

“Umno, in whatever new form it assumes, will still be the same as the internal power play is a far more serious matter than the general election,” the source said.

Three BN camps

Several sources said the Selangor Umno leadership would field new faces with “clean record”.

“When this happens, the incumbents will be upset. They will ask the leadership, ‘Am I corrupted?’

“They will claim that after serving the people in a clean manner, why should they be replaced by unknowns?” a source said.

To complicate matters, the three Umno factions in Selangor are working hard to ensure their men –the incumbents – are picked again to defend their seats.

The heads of these three camps are said to be Sri Serdang assemblyman Satim Diman, Sungai Panjang assemblyman Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and Selangor BN liaison deputy chief Noh Omar.

“These three factions want their incumbents retained so that they can become delegates to the party elections. They hope the delegates will vote for them (the faction heads) for a post in the Umno’s supreme council,” the source said.

The source added that BN can only win more more seats in Selangor if the internal discord in PKR and PAS continues unabated.

Ku Li talks about the mysterious plane crash in Sabah

Berikan kepercayaan kepada rakyat, bukan sebaliknya! — Sakmongkol AK47

8 FEB — Nampak nya, bila PM Najib menyeru kaum India mempercayai nya, dia sudah lupa kepada slogan dia sendiri. Suatu ketika dahulu, semasa berkobar kobar semangat liberalism dan terlalu taksub untuk meyakinkan dunia barat, PM Najib telah berkata bahawa zaman dimana pemerintah lebih tahu segala nya sudah berakhir. The age of government knows best is over. Translated, it also means, the age of big brotherism is over.

Tapi kita tahu, PM Najib kadang-kadang tidak tahu apa yang sudah diucapkan. Maklum sahajalah, sebahagian besar ucapan mengenai dasar-dasar negara, di sediakan oleh con-sultans. Slogan itu sedap di dengar, tapi perlaksanaan nya tidak ada.

Dan baru-baru ini, kita dengar PM Najib berkata perbelanjaan keatas kebajikan rakyat akan memufliskan negara. Adakah bantuan kepada rakyat yang susah, bayaran melalui jabatan kebajikan masyarakat misalnya, akan memiskinkan negara? Kenyataan ini amat sukar di terima memandangkan dalam masa 10 tahun (2000-2009) sebanyak satu trillion atau 1,000 billion telah hilang dari negara akibat pemindahan wang ke luar negara secara haram! Bayangkan jika jumlah tersebut di aplikasikan kepada kebajikan masyarakat! Maka yang sebetulnya membengkrapkan negara ini ialah rasuah dan pemindahan wang secara haram.

Pemindahan wang secara haram ini seperti nama nya, ialah pemindahan wang yang di perolehi secara rasuah atau haram kedalam akaun pemilik nya di luar negara. Tentu ada cara nya, kerajaan yang jujur mahu mendapatkan wang ini.

Slogan zaman kerajaan tahu segala nya sudah berakhir ketika di ucapkan menimbulkan perasaan gembira di kalangan rakyat. Apakah ertinya slogan itu bila di terjemah dengan jujur? Apabila di terjemah, slogan itu bermaksud, segala inisiatif bermula dari rakyat bukan dari pemimpin. Ertinya, PM Najib mahu memindahkan kuasa kepada rakyat. Tetapi itu semua untuk menyedapkan telinga.

Dari dulu, sekarang dan selama nya, Umno tidak akan memindahkan kuasa kepada rakyat. Kepada Umno, rakyat bukan nya tahu apa mereka mahu. Kerajaan lah yang super tahu. Sebab itu PM Najib kata percaya sama saya. Lu tolong gua, gua tolong lu. Beri saya nambikei, tembikai atau apa pun- maksud sebenar yang mahu Najib katakan ialah, kerajaan tahu segala nya. Itu sebab, caya sama gua.

Tapi, bila PM Najib berkata percaya pada saya, he has got it in reverse. Yang patut di sampaikan kepada PM Najib ialah, percayalah kepada rakyat, bukan sebaliknya. Jadi kita ulang — PM Najib, percayalah kepada rakyat. Kita tahu apa yang mesti di lakukan.

Tidak pula kita dengar PM Najib kata percaya kepada Umno. Dia hanya sebut percaya pada saya. Mungkinkah Presiden Umno pun tidak percaya kepada parti nya sendiri. Malang nya, inilah yang terjadi kepada Umno. Ia sebuah parti yang tidak di percayai dan tidak boleh di percayai.

Bagaimana rakyat mahu percaya kepada Umno jika Umno sendiri tidak yakin kepada rakyat? Bagaimana orang Melayu mahu yakin kepada Umno jika Umno tidak mempercayai orang Melayu? Cuba kita tanya — kepada siapakah Umno mempertaruhkan masa depan nya? Kepada orang Melayu atau kepada ahli parti yang seramai tiga juta itu?

Umno sebetulnya tidak mewakili orang Melayu. Yang di wakili oleh Umno ialah orang Melayu terpilih dan Melayu yang berkepentingan. Malahan, orang Melayu yang berada di luar Umno tidak di anggap Melayu oleh Umno. Siapakah Umno yang merasakan diri nya, berhak mendefinisikan siapa Melayu dan tidak Melayu? Bahkan, jika mahu di kira, ramai orang Melayu yang menyifatkan Najib Razak dan Hishamudin Hussein Onn tidak cukup Melayu. Mereka Melayu, tapi quotient Melayu mereka kurang.

Jangan lah kita percaya sangat apabila PM Najib berkata dia insaf dan merasakan apa yang RAKYAT rasakan. Najib mula jadi Melayu bila dia menggantikan Tun Razak sebagai ahli parlimen Pekan dalam tahun 1976.

Lihatlah kepada Umno wahai bangsa Melayu. Umno adalah parti yang mempertaruhkan masa depan nya kepada majority ahli nya yang berjumlah tiga juta itu. itu pun kesetiaan tiga juta ahli nya di perolehi melalui ugutan dan rasuah dan bentuk-bentuk pujukan yang lain. Umno di dominasi oleh golongan tender-preneur bukan oleh penyokong yang meyakini perjuangan Umno.

Parti yang menaruhkan masa depan nya diatas sogokan dan ugutan dan bukan diatas perjuangan untuk satu SERUAN, tidak akan bertahan lama. Umno ada jasad tetapi tidak ada roh. Ini ancaman terbesar kepada Umno.

Orang Melayu tidak ada masa depan dengan parti politik macam Umno hari ini. — sakmongkol.blogspot.com

* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).

Malaysia Awaiting Arrival Of Indonesian Maids From March

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 9 (Bernama) -- The government is optimistic of receiving the first batch of Indonesian maids in early March after a two-year freeze, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said Malaysia had done all things agreed upon by both countries and was awaiting the arrival of the first batch of Indonesian maids.

He said the efforts included a meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to iron out the problem amicably at the end of last year.

However, the actual number of the first group of Indonesian maids will depend on the number of applications made through employment agencies in the country, he said at a news conference here Wednesday.

Indonesia officially withdrew the moratorium on the sending of maids to Malaysia starting Dec 1 last year but would only send them from March.

A total of 121 Malaysian employment agencies are getting ready to collaborate with their Indonesian counterparts in the placement of maids from the republic to Malaysia starting early next month.

Meanwhile, Subramaniam urged Indian youths to capitalise on the "My Career Fair 2012' specifically organised for them where over 2,500 job opportunities in government agencies, and government-linked and private companies would be up for grab.

Organised by the Cabinet Committee for the Indian Community under the Prime Minister's Department, it will be held at the Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya on Saturday, the Skudai Multipurpose Hall, Johor Baharu (Feb 19), the University Putra Malaysia's Grand Hall (Feb 25) and the Tamil Methodist Hall, Ipoh (March 4).

Under the Democracy Tree: Remembering Perak power grab

Perak Pakatan reps gathered under the Democracy Tree in Ipoh on 6 February to recall the third anniversary of the power grab in the state.
Photograph: Kinta Kid
Remember how Speaker Sivakumar was literally dragged out of his chair?
Kinta Kid has the full story with pictures here.