Monday, December 18, 2006

ACEH: A STRUGGLE COMMENCES OVER SHARIA

Date: Monday 18 December 2006
Subj: Aceh, Indonesia: A struggle commences over Sharia Law.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On Monday 11 December, an estimated 85 percent of Aceh's 2.6 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the autonomous province's first gubernatorial elections since the peace agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, in August 2005 that ended 30 years of conflict with Jakarta.

The result has implications not only for Aceh (Indonesia), but for the military-backed regime in Thailand which has proposed the "Aceh model" (autonomy with Sharia Law) be considered as a means of ending the Islamic insurgency in Thailand's deep south. (Link 1)

Sharia Law was part of the special autonomy package that President Habibie offered Aceh in 2001 to end the long separatist insurgency. But while virtually all Acehnese wanted Aceh to have special status and autonomy, not all Acehnese wanted Sharia. International Crisis Group (ICG) comments that Jakarta regarded Sharia Law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". ICG's detailed examination of the implementation and expansion of Sharia in Aceh, and the repression and division it causes, can be found at link 2.

US-educated Irwandi Yusuf (46) is a former veterinarian doctor and lecturer at Aceh's state-run Syiah Kuala Universty. He became a military spokesman for GAM, writing GAM's media releases, and speechwriting for several exiled rebel leaders.

In 2003 Jakarta charged Irwandi with sedition and sentenced him to nine years in prison. He was freed on 26 December 2004 when the tsunami washed away the jail where he was incarcerated.

In 2005 Irwandi represented GAM on the international Aceh Monitoring Mission overseeing the Helsinki peace process. Whilst associated with GAM he is and always has been primarily an academic, not a gun-toting rebel.

Irwandi Yusuf contested the 11 December 2006 gubernatorial election as an independent. He was the only candidate whose election platform included the promise to re-examine the controversial imposition of Sharia Law in the province. He clearly did not believe this would be political suicide.

Irwandi Yusuf was an outside runner whose presence caused the GAM vote to be split. Despite this, and contrary to all predictions that the race would be tight, Yusuf was the clear winner, polling more than 39 percent of the vote, more than double his nearest rival.

His win is not only a rebuff to Jakarta, it is also a rebuff to the Islamists and unpopular Sharia enforcers. A selection of articles that detail Irwandi Yusuf's election campaign and give some insights into his views on Sharia can be found at link 3.

ISLAMIST CHALLENGE


After his election win Irwandi Yusuf indicated that Sharia would not be his first priority, rather he considered improving living conditions in the tsunami-ravaged province to be far more urgent. Sharia he said is "something we'll talk about later". For Aceh's Islamists however Sharia is clearly their first priority and they want to talk about it right now!

On Tuesday 12 December, the day after Yusuf's election victory, Aceh's Sharia Office published a draft law proposing amputation of the hand as punishment for thieves. The Sharia Office paid for the draft law to be published in an advertisement in Aceh's Serambi newspaper. The advertisement called for readers to submit their comments so the draft law could be reviewed before being put to legislators for debate. (Link 4)

Irwandi Yusuf immediately responded, promising that he would block any such law if it was pushed through before he took office. According to Irwandi, GAM never fought for sharia.

The Aceh situation is making headlines in Thailand. The Bangkok Post reports:

"The incoming governor of Indonesia's strife- torn Aceh province vowed to block a law to cut off a thief's hand, if such legislation is enacted before he takes office, he told a group of visiting German press Saturday night. 'I will stop this,' said Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel and political prisoner who fought for Aceh's independence.

"The law was being actively pursued by the outgoing government, Irwandi said. Irwandi tried to allay fears that strict sharia law in Aceh might deter much-needed international investment. 'The problem is that sharia law was imposed on us by the central government in Jakarta,' Irwandi said." He went on to express his opinion that Sharia should be less about punishment and more about improving of people's lives. (Link 5)

WILL JAKARTA SUPPORT THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE?

It is to be hoped that Jakarta will uphold peace, autonomy and democracy in Aceh by supporting the people's choice in the face of Islamist pressure and provocation. There are grounds for concern that should unrest erupt (which is always likely when Islamists are challenged) Jakarta may instead choose military intervention and appeasement of Islamist forces.

Times Online reports that former GAM fighters "accuse the government of bolstering the Islamists and using sharia as a method of weakening their consistent demand for a progressive, democratic Aceh, ruled by its own people. 'They are exploiting the religious conviction of many Acehnese to manipulate them,' wrote Aguswandi, a human rights activist, in The Jakarta Post." (Link 6)


Links

1) Indonesia's Aceh as a model for Thailand's south?
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis, 13 Nov 2006
WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) SHARIA IN ACEH

Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh
(Asia Report No 117 - 31 July 2006)
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4295&l=1
Morality police rule Aceh. By Cindy Wockner, 9 Dec 2006
http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,,20898999-5003406,00.html
Aceh wary over new Sharia police. By Lucy Williamson, 8 Dec 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6220256.stm

3) IRWANDI YUSUF'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Hope for moderate in Aceh
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent. 9 Dec 2006
http://origin.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20896958-2703,00.html
Democracy calling.
Mark Forbes, Banda Aceh, 11 Dec 2006
http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/democracy-calling/2006/12/10/1165685549981.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1
INTERVIEW-Ex-rebel confident of winning Aceh vote
11 Dec 2006, Reuters
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SP15253.htm
I need time: Aceh leader
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent, 13 Dec 2006
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20919292-2703,00.html

4) Draft law calls for amputation of thieves' hands in Indonesia's Aceh
The Associated Press, 12 Dec 2006
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/12/asia/AS_GEN_Indonesia_Aceh_Islamic_Law.php

5) Aceh 'will not have sharia law'
Banda Aceh (dpa) 17 Dec 2006
http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=115193

6) Tsunami survivors given the lash
Michael Sheridan and Dewi Loveard, Banda Aceh. 17 Dec 2006
Disaster donations help Islamic vigilante force impose punishments on women
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2508262,00.html

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

PAKISTAN: MUSHARRAF'S MANOEUVRING could see persecution escalate through 2007

Date: Tuesday 12 December 2006
Subj: Pakistan: Musharraf's manoeuvring.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Pakistan's presidential election is due in late 2007 and national and provincial elections will be held soon after. As such, 2007 will be a year for election campaigning and maneuvering.

In mid-2002 Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup on 1999, announced that national and provincial elections would be held on 10 October 2002. He also announced that there would be changes to the constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment, known as the Legal Framework Order (LFO), would entrench military supremacy over the parliament.

All opposition parties were united in their opposition to the LFO. Musharraf was in desperate need of a partner who could be convinced to enter a marriage of convenience and support his LFO and thus end the political crisis, as Musharraf's PML-Q could not rule outright.

Musharraf also needed to cultivate a climate of fear, a sense of impending peril, in order to legitimise his military rule and secure US support. He knew the Islamists, who are closely linked to the military, could be both a partner and a perceived threat. And so the 2002 elections were rigged to ensure the Mutahida Majlis Amal (MMA: an alliance of six hard-line Islamist parties) would be available as a force in parliament which could be both manipulated and portrayed as a great Islamist threat.

So before the elections Musharraf issued a series of presidential decrees that would all but seal the outcome of those elections. Most significant was the decree that only university graduates would be eligible to stand as election candidates. By this decree he effectively ruled out around 98 percent of the population, including half the previous parliament. Even opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were disqualified on this ground, although that was the least of their problems. However, a madrassa education was deemed equivalent to a university education, and there was no shortage of mullahs and Islamists ready to fill the void.

Further to this, electorates were divided to give the desired result. Musharraf's PML-Q won 24.81 percent of the vote and 77 seats, while the secular PPP won 25.01 percent of the vote and only 62 seats. The PML-N won 11.23 percent of the vote and 14 seats, while the MMA won 11.1 percent of the vote, 53 seats and the balance of power. (Link 1)

The sense of horror over what appeared to be a tsunami of political Islam sweeping over strategic Pakistan in the midst of the War on Terror was enough to secure US support for the military regime despite its undemocratic measures.

After the elections Musharraf immediately began negotiating with the wonderfully flexible MMA to secure their support for his LFO. The Islamists agreed to a quid pro quo deal with Musharraf. They supported Musharraf's LFO in exchange for his support of their Islamisation package which advances the Islamisation of Pakistan.

In short: Musharraf secured US support by promising to fight Islamism and promote "enlightened moderation". However in reality he did neither. For four years Musharraf's left hand has presented challenges and offered gifts and incentives to secure US support, while his right hand has been making deals with Islamists and consolidating military control of Pakistan.

The situation in 2007, five years on, will however be quite different. Musharraf will need to play different cards to retain US support for his military dictatorship this time around.

For Musharraf to retain US support now he needs to distance himself from the apocalyptic (oops - I mean apoplectic) Islamists, and legitimise his claim to being an enlightened and moderate reformer and progressive by starting - after four years in office - to make some positive moves in the direction of "enlightened moderation".

However, to remain on as military dictator Musharraf would also need to make sure there is enough insecurity and threat to justify his remaining in military uniform and in power.

Musharraf has begun to distance himself from the Islamists with moves that also provoke their wrath. He no longer needs their support in parliament now the LFO is enshrined in the constitution and military supremacy is entrenched. But that is not to say the Islamists no longer have their uses. A military regime that is prepared to use sectarian violence as an electoral
tool could actually benefit greatly from Islamist agitation, protest, radicalism, persecution and even terrorism.

On 1 December Musharraf signed the Women's Protection Bill (WPB) into law. This law makes minimal but beneficial amendments to the Hudood Ordinance. By this act Musharraf not only won praise from the international community, he also split his opposition! The secular PPP voted for the Bill while the PML-N sided with the MMA and voted against it.

However, Musharraf's signing of the WPB was not primarily about women or de-Islamisation, it was primarily about domestic politics. Had Musharraf been genuinely concerned for women's rights and genuine in his pursuit of enlightened moderation he would have accepted the findings of his own National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW, founded by Musharraf in 2000, http://new.ncsw.gov.pk ) which in 2003 recommended that the Hudood Ordinance be repealed.

The Islamists are unashamedly parading their medieval and misogynistic nature in loud protests against women's rights by decrying the Women's Protection Bill as un-Islamic, thereby alienating virtually all women and all modern, progressive Pakistani men. They have not however resigned from parliament en masse as they threatened to do. They enjoy the perks of power too much for that and they are not ready for early elections.

Further to this, Musharraf is making peace overtones regarding Kashmir. His proposal that Pakistan would forgo claims on Kashmir can be nothing other than absolutely unacceptable to Islamists. This will force the Islamists to protest loudly against peace!

Musharraf's manoeuvres make it more difficult for the PPP to challenge or criticise him and impossible for the PPP to form an opposition alliance with the PML-N. Musharraf is presenting the choice as being between radicalisation (Islamists) and enlightened moderation (himself).

Musharraf's manoeuvres may even provoke the Islamists to increase terrorism and protests - actions that can only work to the benefit of a military dictator seeking to be elected president, in uniform.

While Musharraf's manoeuvres might not signal any genuine commitment to de-Islamisation, they may indicate that 2007 could be a strategic year for advocacy on the blasphemy law. Should Musharraf repeal (or at least amend) the blasphemy law, he would widen the chasm between the PPP and PML-N from crack to crater and further promote himself as an enlightened and moderate reformist worthy of US support. What's more it would send the Islamists ballistic!

There are two main dangers ahead. One is that the US and human rights organisations will doubtless be pressured to make an unofficial (or official) quid pro quo deal with Musharraf: de-Islamisation or at least "enlightened moderation" in exchange for tolerance of Musharraf's military rule and suppression of democracy - a democracy that could provide Pakistanis with a means to pursue genuine reform, progress and liberty. If this sounds like a familiar scenario it's because it is! This would be exactly the same as the understanding struck in 2002.

The other main danger is that if Musharraf does choose to exploit sectarian violence and Islamist unrest and radicalisation for personal political gain, then persecution of women and Christians at the hands of Islamists could seriously escalate.


Link

1) Carnegie Papers
Islam, militarism, and the 2007-2008 elections in Pakistan
By Frederic Grare, August 2006.
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=18553&prog=zgp&proj=zsa

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NEPAL: PEACE, EQUALITY AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Date: Wednesday 29 November 2006
Subj: Nepal: Peace, equality and religious liberty.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On 1 February 2005 Nepal's King Gyanendra, backed by the Nepalese Army, dismissed the Prime Minister and his government, seized absolute power in a bloodless coup and declared a state of emergency. He claimed the move was necessary to combat the Maoist insurgency. Civil rights were suspended, the press was muzzled and opposition leaders were imprisoned.

But King Gyanendra did not anticipate the consequences of his royal coup. Not only did it send anti-monarchy sentiment soaring but the royal coup brought Nepal's warring parties together, united and re-focused by their opposition to direct, totalitarian royal rule.

In November 2005 the Maoists met with the seven major opposition political parties in New Dehli, India. With India as mediator they reached an agreement to work together to end the king's rule.

In April 2006, after 19 days of continuous, massive public demonstrations that crippled Kathmandu, King Gyanendra stepped down and handed power to the Seven Party Alliance (SPA). The Maoists declared a ceasefire, the SPA agreed to drop the terrorist label from the Maoists, include them in a future government and release their cadres from prison. The Maoists agreed to end their guerrilla war and eventually lay down their arms.

On 18 May Nepal's new parliament publicly declared that Nepal would no longer be a Hindu Kingdom but would now be a secular state.

On Tuesday 21 November the Maoists and the SPA signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, bringing to an end the decade-long conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives, caused immense suffering, and compounded poverty and hardship nationwide. (Link 1)

Most importantly, the peace agreement reiterates the commitment to uphold civil rights, human rights, equality and religious liberty as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Article 3.5 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement both parties agree to "End the existing centralised and unitary state system and restructure it into an inclusive, democratic progressive system to address various problems including that of women, Dalits, indigenous community, Madhesis, oppressed, ignored and minority communities, backward regions by ending prevailing class, ethnic, linguistic, gender, cultural, religious and regional discrimination."

Article 7.1.1 reads: "Both parties reaffirm their commitment to respect and protect human rights and international humanitarian law and accept that no individual shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, gender, language, religion, age, ethnic groups, national or social origin, property, disability, birth or any other status, thoughts or conscience." (Link 2)

The Guardian reports: "An interim government is due to be formed on December 1, with rebels getting get 73 of the chamber's 330 seats. The Nepali Congress will remain the biggest party, with 85 seats, and the Maoists will share second place with the Communist party of Nepal. The rest will be held by smaller parties." (Link 3)

The election of the Constituent Assembly is slated for June 2007, after which a new Constitution will be drafted.

New challenges will doubtless present themselves, such as the emergence of religious (Hindu nationalists) political parties and separatism. Jaykrishna Goit's Terai Jantantrik Liberation Front is fanning separatism in the southern lowlands, the Terai (Nepal's "breadbasket") which is populated overwhelmingly by Madhesis. Madhesis form up to 50 percent of the population of Nepal and 95 percent of all Madhesis live in the Terai. The Madhesis are Nepalese of Indian origin and have for decades suffered crippling discrimination, including from the Maoists. Madhesis' grievances and marginalisation will have to be addressed if a new conflict is to be prevented.


Links

1) Comprehensive Peace Accord signed, Armed Insurgency declared officially
over http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2006/nov/nov21/news12.php

2) Full text of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (21 Nov 2006)
http://www.gorkhapatra.org.np/content.php?nid=6736
or http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/main.htm

Full text of the decisions of the SPA-Maoist summit meeting (8 Nov 2006)
http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2006/nov/nov08/Full_text_summit_meeting.php

3) Nepal rejoices as peace deal ends civil war
Randeep Ramesh, south Asia correspondent
Thursday 23 November 2006
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1954695,00.html

Nepal: Peace, equality and religious liberty.

Date: Wednesday 29 November 2006
Subj: Nepal: Peace, equality and religious liberty.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On 1 February 2005 Nepal's King Gyanendra, backed by the Nepalese Army, dismissed the Prime Minister and his government, seized absolute power in a bloodless coup and declared a state of emergency. He claimed the move was necessary to combat the Maoist insurgency. Civil rights were suspended, the press was muzzled and opposition leaders were imprisoned.

But King Gyanendra did not anticipate the consequences of his royal coup. Not only did it send anti-monarchy sentiment soaring but the royal coup brought Nepal's warring parties together, united and re-focused by their opposition to direct, totalitarian royal rule.

In November 2005 the Maoists met with the seven major opposition political parties in New Dehli, India. With India as mediator they reached an agreement to work together to end the king's rule.

In April 2006, after 19 days of continuous, massive public demonstrations that crippled Kathmandu, King Gyanendra stepped down and handed power to the Seven Party Alliance (SPA). The Maoists declared a ceasefire, the SPA agreed to drop the terrorist label from the Maoists, include them in a future government and release their cadres from prison. The Maoists agreed to end their guerrilla war and eventually lay down their arms.

On 18 May Nepal's new parliament publicly declared that Nepal would no longer be a Hindu Kingdom but would now be a secular state.

On Tuesday 21 November the Maoists and the SPA signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, bringing to an end the decade-long conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives, caused immense suffering, and compounded poverty and hardship nationwide. (Link 1)

Most importantly, the peace agreement reiterates the commitment to uphold civil rights, human rights, equality and religious liberty as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In Article 3.5 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement both parties agree to "End the existing centralised and unitary state system and restructure it into an inclusive, democratic progressive system to address various problems including that of women, Dalits, indigenous community, Madhesis, oppressed, ignored and minority communities, backward regions by ending prevailing class, ethnic, linguistic, gender, cultural, religious and regional discrimination."

Article 7.1.1 reads: "Both parties reaffirm their commitment to respect and protect human rights and international humanitarian law and accept that no individual shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, gender, language, religion, age, ethnic groups, national or social origin, property,
disability, birth or any other status, thoughts or conscience." (Link 2)

The Guardian reports: "An interim government is due to be formed on December 1, with rebels getting get 73 of the chamber's 330 seats. The Nepali Congress will remain the biggest party, with 85 seats, and the Maoists will share second place with the Communist party of Nepal. The rest will be held by smaller parties." (Link 3)

The election of the Constituent Assembly is slated for June 2007, after which a new Constitution will be drafted.

New challenges will doubtless present themselves, such as the emergence of religious (Hindu nationalists) political parties and separatism. Jaykrishna Goit's Terai Jantantrik Liberation Front is fanning separatism in the southern lowlands, the Terai (Nepal's "breadbasket") which is populated overwhelmingly by Madhesis. Madhesis form up to 50 percent of the population of Nepal and 95 percent of all Madhesis live in the Terai. The Madhesis are Nepalese of Indian origin and have for decades suffered crippling discrimination, including from the Maoists. Madhesis' grievances and marginalisation will have to be addressed if a new conflict is to be prevented.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Comprehensive Peace Accord signed, Armed Insurgency declared officially
over http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2006/nov/nov21/news12.php

2) Full text of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (21 Nov 2006)
http://www.gorkhapatra.org.np/content.php?nid=6736
or http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/main.htm

Full text of the decisions of the SPA-Maoist summit meeting (8 Nov 2006)
http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2006/nov/nov08/Full_text_summit_meeting.php

3) Nepal rejoices as peace deal ends civil war
Randeep Ramesh, south Asia correspondent
Thursday 23 November 2006
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1954695,00.html

Monday, November 13, 2006

INDONESIA'S ACEH AS A MODEL FOR THAILAND'S SOUTH?

Date: Monday 13 November 2006
Subj: Indonesia's Aceh as a model for Thailand's south?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Not all Muslims want to live under Sharia Law (the constitution of political Islam). Non-Muslims definitely don't. When Jakarta granted Aceh autonomy and the right to enact Sharia Law it brought peace to Jakarta, but at the expense of the Acehnese. The implementation, subsequent expansion and impact of Sharia in Aceh is the subject of the latter part of this posting.

Now Thailand's military-appointed Prime Minister is proposing the "Aceh model" as a means of ending the Islamic insurgency in Thailand's deep south. This would doubtless bring peace to Bangkok, but it would be at the expense of the southern Thai, 20 percent of whom are Buddhist (not even "People of the Book"!). Southern Thai would pay for this "peace" with their lives as Islamic terrorism morphs into religious persecution and ethnic cleansing.

It may be relevant to note that Thailand's new interim Prime Minister, Surayud Chulanont, was appointed by coup-leader and Army Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, Thailand's first Muslim Army Chief. They have a close relationship. Surayud Chulanont, a former member of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Privy Council, played a key role in the promotion of General Boonyaratkalin to position of Army Chief. The recently installed cabinet is allegedly little more than a political front for the military, and while Thailand is less than five percent Muslim, the most significant and powerful posts are now held by Muslims. The Defence Minister, Boonrawd Somtas, is a Muslim; and the Interior Minister, Aree Wongarya, is also a Muslim.

-----------------------------
THAILAND'S SOUTH
-----------------------------


Muslims count for only 4.6 percent of the 65 million population of Thailand, but are concentrated in the southern-most provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat where they form majorities. According to the 2000 census, Muslims represent 69 percent of the 415,000 residents in Yala; 88 percent of the 600,000 residents of Pattani; and 82 percent of the 662,000 residents of Narathiwat. Around 90 percent of Thai Muslims are ethnic Malay and speak a Malay dialect.

While a separatist struggle has simmered in the deep south for decades, the Islamic insurgency which erupted in earnest on 4 January 2004 has now claimed more than 1,700 lives. Most Christians and Christian ministries have fled the region. Militant Islamists target Buddhist monks (who are frequently decapitated), government-run schools, karaoke bars and other
entertainment venues (which are frequently bombed), as well as Thai soldiers, police, checkpoints and other pro-government individuals or institutions. On Thursday 9 November, eight car and motorcycle showrooms were bombed almost simultaneously at noon in Yala, leaving nine wounded.

While Thai Muslims have historically been well assimilated, several factors have contributed to the growing Islamic unrest and the rise of Islamic terrorism in the Muslim-majority southern provinces.

In May 2005, International Crisis Group (ICG) asserted that despite the rise in "puritanical strains of Islam", "Muslim anger at the deployment of Thai troops in Iraq" and the growth in "Islamic consciousness and a sense of persecution and solidarity with fellow Muslims", the violence in the south is not an Islamic jihad and is driven by local issues. ICG cites "historic issues" as well as discrimination, the heavy handed tactics employed by the Thai police and military, and the government's tendency to send its most inept and corrupt officials to posts in the Muslim south, frustrating the local population there, as examples of local issues driving the insurgency. (Link 1)

While these issues are definitely historic and contributing factors, the pre-eminent factor behind the present insurgency is undoubtedly radicalisation. As GlobalSecurity.org noted in mid 2004, "Authorities have known for quite some time that many Muslim Thai activists went overseas to
Islamic schools, where they came under influence of hard-line teachers. Some were reported to have joined the jihad war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and returned to Thailand as extremists." (Link 2)

Yet it is well known that radicalisation does not affect all Muslims. Many Muslims, especially in south-east Asia, actively resist the introduction of radical (Wahhabi) elements and ideology. For this they are labeled "apostates" by the bearers of "true Islam", and are persecuted and sometimes killed for their efforts.

Samart Disuma is one such Muslim. Samart, a community leader, has resisted radical and separatist elements in the southern province of Yala for decades. These days he and his family live in a virtual fortress. Rungrawee C. Pinyorat writes, "While critical of government policies, a number of Muslims in the south work for reconciliation and show no desire to live in a separate nation. Although Samart's fortress has never been attacked, at least three Muslims in his village have been slain in the past two years.

"Over the years, the separatist movement has waxed and waned but never completely ceased. In January 2004 it suddenly surged, and when the government failed to ensure people's safety, more Muslims and Buddhists turned to guns for self protection." (Link 3)

According to Samart there have been sporadic clashes between separatist rebels and security forces for decades. But he says today's violence is different - it is more rampant and increasingly indiscriminate. And whereas the old-time separatist rebels used to operate from bases in the jungle, today's insurgents operate from within village communities, putting everyone at risk.

Regardless of their claims, political and militant Islamist leaders never speak for all Muslims. Clearly they are not speaking for Muslims like Samart.

THAI PM PROPOSES "ACEH" SOLUTION FOR SOUTH

Reuters reported on 22 October: "Surayud Chulanont, the former army chief appointed prime minister by the military, has said he wants a peaceful solution to the violence and offered talks with militant leaders, a policy u-turn from the days of Thaksin.

"During an official visit to Jakarta on Saturday, Surayud hailed Indonesia's Aceh peace accord signed in Helsinki last year to end a separatist insurgency which had seen more than 15,000 killed since 1979.

"'Indonesia has set a model in solving the conflict in the Aceh province successfully,' a Thai government Web site, www.thaigov.go.th, quoted Surayud as telling Indonesian media after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"'The Aceh model is a good example to bring peace to southern Thailand,' the Web site reported on Sunday." (Link 4)

Thai News Agency reported on 8 November: "Prime Minister Surayud said that Thailand will not let go of the territory of the south, but that the government was open to negotiate various forms of polity including self-rule, autonomy and the establishment of sharia (Muslim religious) law in place of Thai civil law." (Link 5)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
INDONESIA'S ACEH: WHAT HAS SHARIA ACHIEVED?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


When Jakarta ended the insurgency in Aceh by granting the Acehnese autonomy and the right to implement Sharia Law, it was appeasing the real power-brokers behind the insurgency: the Islamists. The deal ensured that Aceh's Islamists would no longer be Jakarta's problem, only Aceh's.

International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report in July 2006 entitled "Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh". (Link 6)

This is an important and valuable report because the implementation and expansion of Sharia in Aceh can serve as a model to demonstrate how Sharia not only divides Muslims, but has a tendency to expand once implemented.

The ICG report notes that the Muslim Acehnese have long been divided over Sharia. During Indonesia's battle for independence Acehnese elites clearly expressed their preference for Dutch-style secular administration. Even Aceh's ulama (religious scholars) were divided between those who favoured secular administration and those who wanted an Islamic State based on Sharia Law. ICG notes that for many, the issue had more to do with power than ideology - the elites did not want a religious bureaucracy established that could expand and threaten their authority, while the Islamists were determined to establish a formal religious bureaucracy from where they could expand and advance their influence and power.

ICG notes that the leader of the Acehnese Islamists, Daud Beureueh, led the Acehnese in jihad against the "kafir" Dutch occupier specifically with the aim of achieving an Islamic state. Sukarno courted and rewarded Beureueh with assurances that Indonesia would be built on Islamic principles and Aceh would have Sharia Law. This was radical as Sharia had no historic precedent in Aceh.

After Suharto's downfall, President Habibie offered Islamic Law to Aceh as a political solution to Acehnese unrest and disaffection, which really arose out of neglect and frustration. ICG reports that Jakarta regarded Sharia law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". (ICG p 4)

Since Sharia has been legitimised and implemented in Aceh it has expanded considerably, for the religious bureaucracy tasked with codifying and implementing Sharia in Aceh is committed to "its own expansion; a focus on legislating and enforcing morality; and a quiet power struggle with secular law enforcement".

According to ICG, many Acehnese worry "that extension of Shari'a has been taken on as an agenda by conservative organisations. . . Women's organisations have been particularly active in raising questions about proposed changes to the khalwat qanun [laws on relationships between men and women] but in general, the conservatives, who support more extensive Shari'a application, are more vocal than those concerned about its consequences". (ICG p7)

The religious bureaucracy constantly extends the reach of Sharia by revising legislation and increasing the number of crimes that can be dealt with by the Sharia Courts. It has already been proposed that revisions be made to the laws covering khalwat (illicit relationships between men and women) so that any woman who alleges she was raped must follow Sharia protocols and produce four male adult Muslim eye-witnesses to support her claim in order to prove it. If she cannot, she will be found guilty of making a false accusation of rape, guilty of illicit sex, and caned accordingly.

In 2004, Aceh established the highly unpopular vice and virtue patrol, the wilayatul hisbah (WH) (hasba/sharia implementaion), which is responsible for monitoring compliance with Islamic law. Not only has Aceh's WH already grown from 13 members to 33 in one year, its powers are constantly increasing. What's more, the very presence of the WH is fueling the rise of hard-line Islamic vigilantism.

ICG also notes that as the religious bureaucracy expands it will rely more and more on young recruits who are motivated primarily by their contacts with intolerant radical foreign elements, in particular Wahhabis, jihadists, and groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

-------------------
CONCLUSION
-------------------

Appeasing Islamist terrorists by granting them the right to enforce Sharia Law is a betrayal of all non-Islamist citizens, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

Employing the "Aceh model" in southern Thailand would doubtless bring peace to Bangkok, but it would also close southern Thailand off to Christian ministry and mission; and it would strip all southern Thai of their right live with security under Thai civil law and under the Thai Constitution which guarantees religious liberty. It could also result in southern Thailand becoming a haven and base for terrorists.

Most immediately and seriously, it would involved abandoning up to 400,000 Buddhists to their fate in an Islamic State. Ethnic-religious cleansing is already underway. Escalating Islamic terror directed at local Buddhist civilians recently forced all the Buddhist living in the districts of Than To and Bannang Sata, Yala province, to flee their homes. These Buddhist, amounting to 122 people, or 52 families, have taken refuge in the nearby Buddhist temple of Nirotsangkha-ram in Yala's Muang district and are awaiting humanitarian assistance. (Link 7)


Links

1) Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad
Asia Report No 98. 18 May 2005
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3436&l=1

2) Thailand Islamic Insurgency
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/thailand2.htm

3) Thai Muslim village leader builds fortress against rebels
By Rungrawee C. Pinyorat KRONG PINANG, Thailand, AP, 30 Oct 2006
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/asiapacific/detail.asp?ID=94005&GRP=C

4) Bomb kills soldier, wounds monks in Thai south. 22 Oct 206
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061022/wl_nm/security_thailand_dc

5) Thai PM presents Thai road to democracy to world media
BANGKOK, Nov 8 (TNA) http://etna.mcot.net/query.php?nid=25844

6) Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh
(Asia Report No 117 - 31 July 2006)
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/indonesia/117-islamic-law-and-criminal-justice-in-aceh.aspx

7) Exodus of Buddhists. The Nation, Thailand. 10 Nov 2006
http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/10/headlines/headlines_30018555.php
ALSO: Thailand: Buddhist flee from majority Muslim villages.10 Nov 2006 (AKI)
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Security&loid=8.0.358783100&par=0
AND: Monks in Narathiwat to cease daily alms (dpa) 12 Nov 2006
http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=114154

Friday, October 20, 2006

ERITREA, ETHIOPIA, SOMALIA: DEATH AND DANGER IN THE HORN OF AFRICA

Date: Friday 20 October 2006
Subj: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia: Death and Danger
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Tensions are rising across the Horn of Africa - there is death and danger. Irredentist Somali Islamists have declared jihad against Ethiopia. Christians are being attacked and murdered by Muslims in Ethiopia. Eritrea, which is accused of arming the Somali Islamists, is exploiting an
opportunity and has breached the 2000 cease-fire agreement by moving troops into the Eritrea-Ethiopia border buffer zone. Two Protestant Christians were recently tortured to death in Eritrea. The savagery of persecution appears to be escalating in proportion to regional tensions - and it could be about to get much worse.

(Irredentist: One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but presently subject to a foreign government. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language))

TENSIONS RISE THROUGH THE HORN OF AFRICA

Political and religious tensions have been rising throughout the Horn of Africa ever since Islamists captured Mogadishu, Somalia, in June.

As noted in the 29 July 2006 WEA RLC News & Analysis posting, "Somalia: Igniting jihad in the Horn of Africa" (Link 1), Islamist leaders in Somalia are actively reviving Somali irredentism while simultaneously effecting a massive military build up. The head of Somalia's Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC), Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys, himself a veteran of the failed 1977-78 Ogaden War for a Greater Somalia, has recently publicly voiced his support for the idea of Greater Somalia. He regards Ogaden as Ethiopia-occupied Somali territory. As noted in the July WEA RLC posting, this situation has the potential not only to erupt in regional conflict, but
to inflame Islamic zeal, stoke traditional animosities, agitate belligerents and seriously impact and escalate the already perilous situation faced by Christians across the Horn of Africa.

On Monday 16 October, Eritrea moved 1,500 troops and 14 tanks into a security buffer zone established in 2000 after the 2-year border war with Ethiopia. While Ethiopia described this as a "minor provocation" the UN regards it as "a major breach" of the cease-fire agreement reached in 2000. (Link 2)

Stratfor Intelligence reported on 20 October: "Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Eritrea is taking advantage of the standoff between the SICC and the Ethiopia-backed transitional federal government to take a swipe at its longtime enemy."

Associated Press writer Les Neuhaus writes, "Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been strained since the peace pact ended their war six years ago, with tensions on the rise because of unrest in Somalia, with Eritrea and Ethiopia supporting opposing factions.

"Eritrea's move [into the buffer zone] may be part of a regional strategy to place military pressure on Ethiopia. The United Nations reported earlier this year that Eritrea has sent weapons to a radical Islamic group that has been increasing its power in Somalia and that opposes Ethiopia's moves to prop up Somalia's internationally backed government.

"By moving troops closer to the border, Eritrea could be aiming to keep Ethiopian troops tied up there so that they cannot move into Somalia. Ethiopia would presumably want to avoid trouble on two fronts, but Eritrea's action raised the threat of renewed war between the feuding neighbors." (Link 3)

Meanwhile on another front tensions are escalating between Ethiopia and Somalia, inflaming Islamic zeal across the region. Islamists, other Muslims, and anti-Western elements who resent the loss of Southern Sudan, are keen to support Somalia, any Muslims - or any belligerents for that matter - against any Christian and any West-allied force.

Somali Islamists continue to actively recruit youths for jihad against Ethiopia. Chief registration officer Sheikh Abdulrahman Abdulle told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) the Islamists would provide the recruits with military training, as well as arms and vehicles. (Link 4)

Stratfor Intelligence reported on 19 October: "Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused Somalian fighters Oct. 19 of coming within nine miles of the Ethiopian border backed by troops from Indonesia, Pakistan, the Arab world and other African countries. Zenawi said the troop movement threatens Ethiopia's sovereignty and that 'if these groups attempt to violate our border our defense forces will be obliged to hit back exercising the right of self-defense.'" Another source names Egyptian and Libyan military elements as working with the Islamic Courts Union. (Link 5)

ETHIOPIA: MUSLIM ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS INTENSIFY

JIJIGA, the capital of Ethiopia's Somali Ogaden region, is about 720 kilometres due east of the capital Addis Ababa, towards the Somalia border. In May, Muslim youths in Jijiga stoned the homes and businesses of Christians after taking offence at what they claimed was the desecration of the Koran. (Link 6)

HENNO is in southern Ethiopia, 404 kilometres South of Addis Ababa, towards the Kenyan border. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Islamic leaders, angry about the conversion of two prominent Muslims in 2005, have reportedly been urging Muslims in the area to kill full-time Christian evangelists. ICC reports that on 20 July 2006, seven Muslim clerics brutally attacked 50 or more Christians, seriously injuring twelve. Local Muslims in Henno have so far been rejecting their leaders' calls to violence. (Link 7)

DEMBI is a small village 90 kilometres northwest of Jimma (which is about 350 kilometres west of Addis Ababa) towards the Sudan border. Muslims in Dembi had allegedly told the Christians that they would not let them celebrate Meskel this year because it was "their [Muslim] land". Meskel ("cross" in Amharic) is an annual Orthodox festival commencing mid September which marks the arrival of Spring.

When the Orthodox Christians in Dembi did celebrate Meskel the Muslims rioted. According to news agency Reuters, four days of religious conflict in early October left three religious centres and some 800 houses burned, more than 100 displaced, numerous people injured and 10 dead. The Islamic Affairs Supreme Council of Ethiopia claimed that nine Muslims were killed. Council vice-president Elias Redman said that most of the Muslims in the area practise the ultra-conservative Wahhabi brand of Islam. Religious conflict resumed on the weekend of 14 - 15 October, resulting in a further five deaths.

Local officials said they are growing increasingly concerned about conflict between faiths. A local official of the Orthodox Church said, "This is a very worrying situation for us. These things never used to happen but they seem to be starting now." (Link 6)

Reformatorisch Dagblad gives a more detailed account of the Meskel riot: "Within a matter of two days, they [armed 'Muslim fundamentalists'] had burned over 350 homes belonging to Christians, killed 31 Christians, and taken dozens as hostages, according to local church leaders. Muslim attackers burned one Catholic church, one Orthodox church, and three evangelical churches. The latter are part of the 75-year-old Kale Heywet Church (EKHC), which began under the missionary influence of what was then known as Sudan Interior Mission and now includes over 5 million Ethiopian believers. Attackers quickly converted five local EKHC churches into mosques.

"Local church leaders estimate that nearly 3,000 Christians have been displaced. Last week they hastily organized themselves into five camps for protection and to share food and other supplies. The humanitarian relief group Samaritan's Purse has provided $50,000 in emergency food aid to the displaced." (Link 8)

ERITREA: BELIEVERS DIE FROM TORTURE

Compass Direct's most recent News Flash on Eritrea gives insight into the escalating savagery of the persecution suffered there by Christians. (Link 9)

Compass Direct (CD) reports that on 15 October 2006, Immanuel Andegergesh (23) and Kibrom Firemichel (30) were arrested while attending a religious service in a private home south of Asmara. The ten Christians worshipping with them (three women and seven men), all members of the evangelical Rema Church, were also arrested.

CD reports that the Christians were detained in a military camp outside the town of Adi-Quala and, according to one source, were subjected to "furious mistreatment". On 17 October, Andegergesh and Firemichel died in custody as a result of dehydration and torture inflicted by Eritrean security police. The fate of the other ten believers is as yet unknown.

According to CD, Andegergesh and Firemichel had been performing their military service in a southern Eritrean town close to the Ethiopian border.

CD also reports that Eritrean-born American citizen Aregahaje Woldeselasie (early 60s) and his assistant, a married man identified only as Mushie, were arrested on 4 October and have been held in Asmara's Police Station 5. CD reports: "Woldeselasie has been working with Nehemiah Ministry International in Eritrea since 1991, providing leadership training to new congregations."

Furthermore: "Earlier this month, Eritrean authorities returned popular Christian singer Helen Berhane to military detention after she spent three days in Asmara's Halibet Hospital for medical treatment. Berhane's leg had been seriously damaged as a result of beatings she received while imprisoned in a metal shipping container since her arrest in May 2004."

And: "In its apparent campaign to bring all religious groups under its control, the government of Eritrea has recently focused its efforts on schools run by religious groups."

As reported by CD on 8 September: "A total of 35 pastors, priests and church elders are confirmed under arrest in Asmara's Wongel Mermera investigation center. An additional 1,758 Christians of both evangelical Protestant and Orthodox confessions are jailed in 14 other cities and towns." Eritrea is one of the world's most serious religious liberty violators.

REGIONAL THREAT RISES

Islamic irredentism is threatening Ethiopia - and Eritrea knows an opportunity when it presents. As the tensions rise, Christians throughout the Horn of Africa are likely to face increased hostility from zealous Muslims and belligerents such as agitated Eritrean security police. If war breaks out between Somali irredentist Islamists and Ethiopia, and between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the situation for Christians throughout the region will be diabolical.


Links

1) Somalia: Igniting jihad in the Horn of Africa.
By Elizabeth Kendal, WEA RLC. 29 July 2006
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com/news/view.htm?id=634

2) U.N. Accuses Eritrea Cease-Fire Breach
16 October 2006. By Edith M. Lederer. UN (AP)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6151413,00.html

3) Ethiopia, Eritrea trade accusations of peace-deal violations
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Oct. 17, 2006
By LES NEUHAUS Associated Press Writer
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/10/17/ap/world/mainD8KQJDAG0.shtml

4) Somalia Islamists recruit hundreds after call for jihad on Ethiopia
Mogadishu (dpa) 18 Oct 2006
http://www.ecanadanow.com/world/2006/10/18/somalia-islamists-recruit-hundreds-after-call-for-jihad-on-ethiopia/

5) Ethiopia: Somalian Fighters Near Border
STRATFOR. 19 October 2006
http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?id=278464
Will Somalia be the final battle between Islam and the West?
18 Oct 18, 2006, 11:16 By Charles Onyango_Obbo
http://www.garoweonline.com/stories/publish/article_5525.shtml

6) Muslims, Christians clash in western Ethiopia, 5 Killed
6 October 2006. Addis Ababa.
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article17975
15 killed in Ethiopia's sectarian violence
16 October 2006
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article18155
ALSO
Nine Muslims dead in Ethiopia riots with Christians
AFP, 6 October 2006, ADDIS ABABA
http://ethiounited.blogspot.com/2006/10/nine-muslims-dead-in-ethiopia-riots.html

7) Muslims Attack Christians in Henno, Ethiopia
http://www.aina.org/news/20061019171402.htm

8) Holy war against Horn of Africa rival Ethiopia
Reformatorisch Dagblad . 13 Oct 2006
http://www.refdag.nl/artikel/1278084/Holy+war+against+Horn+of+Africa+rival+Ethiopia.html

9) Two Eritrean Christians Tortured to Death
Special to Compass Direct. 18 Oct 2006
http://www.compassdirect.org/content/index.php?id=27

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bosnia: Fragile stability threatened by Islamisation.

Date: Thursday 12 October 2006
Subj: Bosnia: Fragile stability threatened by Islamisation.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

On Tuesday 10 October 2006 at around 4:30am, an unidentified assailant armed allegedly with a "Zolja" hand-held grenade launcher shot a missile into a mosque in the Jasenica area of Mostar, southern Bosnia. Jasenica is a Croat majority suburb of Mostar which is split evenly between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. The attack happened before Muslims arrived for a pre-dawn Ramadan meal, so the mosque was empty and there were no injuries. (Link 1)

While the attack may have been perpetrated by a disgruntled voter unsettled by the outcome of the 1 October elections, it is just as likely that the mosque was struck by an Islamist tasked with triggering a sectarian conflict that would enable a "justified" military expansion of Islamist control.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FRAGILE STABILITY THREATENED BY ISLAMISATION
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The scenario of ethnic-religious polarisation envisaged in my earlier WEA RLC News & Analysis posting - "Bosnia and Herzegovina: Religious tensions rising" (link 2) - is coming to pass. Bosnia's peace is extremely delicate. As ethnic-religious identity, zeal, insecurity and defensiveness rise in the various communities, all religious groups that exist as minorities are likely to suffer increased discrimination and persecution.

Of course Protestants are a minority across all of Bosnia. According to a report by Forum 18 (Link 3), Sarajevo is the only place where Protestants have not had difficulties getting building permits. This is probably because America supported the Islamist cause in the Bosnian war (as they did in Kosovo) with devastating effectiveness. So in Sarajevo at least, the Bosniac Islamists who doubtless have the power to turn persecution of Protestants on and off presently want it turned off. How long this will last is questionable, as the US-led War on Terror and the post-war radicalisation of much of the Bosnian Muslim population (particularly youths) makes the US-Bosniac Islamist alliance extremely delicate too. Protestants will probably only be tolerated in Sarajevo as long as the US-Bosniac Islamist alliance holds and the Islamists believe their friends in Washington are still useful with regard to the advance of the Islamist or Muslim nationalist agenda for Bosnia.

Forum 18 reports that in Croat areas, Protestants wanting building permits are obstructed, while in the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic), Protestants face considerable obstruction and harassment. Of course Serbs generally (and understandably) are suspicious and resentful of Protestants whom they view as pro-American, which to them means pro-Bosniac Islamist and anti-Serb.

FROM DAYTON TO 1 OCT 2006:
SEPARATED PEOPLES, COMFORTABLY GROWING APART


Bosnia has three main ethnic groups: Serbs (Eastern Orthodox), Croats (Roman Catholic), and Bosniacs (Muslim). The Dayton Accords, which brought an end to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, kept the state unified and independent but divided it into two autonomous entities: the Muslim-Croat federation, and the Republika Srpka (Serb Republic). (Full background at link 2)

Since the war, states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have invested heavily in the Muslim-Croat federation's physical and ideological reconstruction in line with Sarajevo's Islamisation strategy. According to locals, mosques have sprung up in Sarajevo "like mushrooms after the rain". Sources report to Forum 18 that the number of mosques in Sarajevo is now "at 250 or more". (Link 3)

Meanwhile, older and war-damaged mosques have been "renovated" by Arabs with Saudi funds. They ensure the "renovated" mosques conform to Wahhabi standards (stripped of European and Sufi icons and decorations). Wahhabi missionaries have flooded in to teach the nominal Muslims of Bosnia how to be "good Muslims", following the "true way", being more observant, more assertive, less tolerant, wearing veils and growing beards. But by advancing Islamisation, Sarajevo has been increasing the incompatibility of Muslims and Christians and directly threatening the stability brought by the Dayton Accords.

Meanwhile the Republika Srpska has maintained its ethnic and religious distinctives - using Cyrillic rather than Latin script, and building Orthodox Churches rather than mosques - and progressed in rather a different direction. While the Bosniac leadership is developing ties with Islamic states (advancing cultural ties with Iran and an air-traffic agreement with
Libya), RS is advancing cultural ties with, and building bridges (literally) to Serbia, much to the chagrin of the Bosniac Islamists and Muslim nationalists who have protested this "conspiracy against Muslims". (Link 4)

RESULT OF 1 OCTOBER 2006 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
CONFLICTED PRESIDENCY REFLECTS CONFLICTED PEOPLE.


Bosnia has a national central government with a three-person rotating presidency. Each entity - the Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska - also has its own president and parliament. Each ethnic group has a representative in the central presidency. The Serbs must vote for their Serb representative, whilst in the Muslim-Croat federation, Muslims and Croats may vote for a Muslim or a Croat. The leading Muslim and the leading Croat win positions as the representatives of their ethnic group.

Religious tensions have been rising in Bosnia because of the Islamist, Muslim nationalist and Western, US-led push for constitutional reform which would strengthen the central (Muslim dominated) government at the expense of the entities. For Islamists, the US-proposed reforms don't go far enough as they maintain the Republika Srpska (RS) as an entity. For Serbs in RS, the reforms go too far too fast and threaten to undermine Serb autonomy and return the Serbs to dhimmitude. Islamist Bosniacs, driven by Islamist ideology, are keen to dissolve theRepublika Srpska. In response, the Serbs have threatened to hold a referendum on secession rather than live as a Christian minority under Muslim domination. The constitutional reforms and the status of Republika Srpska were central election issues.

The winners of the national presidential election are polar opposites, creating a conflicted presidency which reflects a conflicted people. The new federal parliament does likewise.

The Muslim representative in the new Bosnian presidency is Haris Silajdzic who was the war-time Foreign Minister and Prime Minister under Islamist President Izetbegovic. Silajdzic campaigned as an advocate of the dissolution of Republika Srpksa (RS) (as quoted in "Bosnia and Herzegovina: Religious tensions rising" WEA RLC: link 2).

The Serb representative is Nebojsa Radmanovic of the pro-West "Union of Independent Social Democrats", the party of Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik who has vowed to hold a referendum on secession if the Muslims press for the dissolution of RS. A Serb referendum on secession is something the Bosniac Islamists have vowed to resist.

As if this does not create enough tension, the Croat representative to the three-person rotating presidency is allegedly not the Croat choice. (Link 5)

The current Croat President, Ivo Miro Jovic, is believed to be the real Croat choice. However, he came in second behind Zeljko Komsic, a Croat who fought with the Bosnian Muslim army against the Bosnian Croat army in 1993 when Bosnian Croats tried to secede from Izetbegovic's independent unified state of Bosnia. Komsic, like Silajdzic, ran on the platform of a unified "anti-sectarian" Bosnia. Croats (who are about a 14 percent minority) believe Komsic was elected with Muslim votes and will not represent Croat interests. This, along with growing Croat discomfort in the increasingly Islamised Muslim-Croat federation, has re-ignited Croat calls for a third autonomous ethnic entity to carved out in Bosnia.

The Roman Catholic Croats and the Muslim Bosniacs were both allied to the Nazis during World War Two, joining SS Units tasked with exterminating the "lesser races" - Serbs, Jews and Roma - in the Holocaust in Yugoslavia. After WWII both groups were allied to the Communist Partisians led by Tito (a Croat) against the pro-democracy, pro-West Serbs.

However, the post-WWII radicalisation of Bosnia's Muslims, from the 1970s, but especially through and since the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, has caused this alliance to become strained over recent years. Many Croats may now feel they have more in common with their Serb former enemies than their Bosniac former allies. A little over a year ago, Croats in the northeastern Bosnian town of Brcko were forced to appeal to local authorities for protection after they were threatened by an extremist Islamic group from the nearby village of Gornja Maoca. Wahhabi leaders in Gornja Maoca had been calling Catholic Croats "the worst kind of crusaders" and saying they should all be exterminated. (Link 6)

So the 1 October elections have not only polarised the Bosniac and Serb populations (between unity and autonomy), but also deeply unsettled the Croats. The majority Bosnian Muslims have voted for non-sectarian unity and democracy. It sounds heavenly except that Islamists, modern nominal or liberal or secular pro-European Muslims, and non-Muslim minorities all interpret that quite differently (as Islamic domination, European-style equality, and repressive dhimmitude respectively).

Meanwhile non-Muslim minorities who recoil at the idea of living as dhimmis under Islamic domination are labeled obstructionist, divisive, sectarian and racist. (Link 7)

DAYTON'S STABILISATION SERIOUSLY THREATENED


We truly are drifting right back into the pre-Dayton and pre-war Bosnia of 1992. And just as in 1992, if Bosnia's Muslim nationalists and Islamists attempt to turn their rhetoric into reality and impose Muslim rule over the Bosnian Serb minority, the Serbs will not submit - they will resist. Then the Islamists will cry foul and deploy their ready Army and jihadist forces to an aggressive, offensive "defence" of Bosnia against Serb "aggression" (resistance) and under the banner of "justice". It is all very familiar.

Today, with modern political and religious understanding and post-9/11 knowledge (the links between Bosniac Islamists and 9/11 are now well documented: link 8), the West surely cannot support the Islamist agenda to Islamise all of Bosnia and place Bosnian Christians (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) in a state of "democratic" dhimmitude.

Peace, religious liberty and security for all Bosnians of all confessions and traditions can only be achieved by means of a lengthy and patient national and international truth and reconciliation process (something the US would doubtless resist), along with the total rejection and absolute abandonment of all Islamist rhetoric, politics and goals (something the Islamists would certainly reject). Without those two things, this conflicted, forced, sham marriage that is post-Dayton Bosnia, cannot last, and lasting peace and true religious liberty will never be the reality.

Links

1) Missile hits Bosnia mosque ahead of Ramadan meal
Tue 10 Oct 2006 SARAJEVO, 10 Oct 2006
http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=L10888408&WTmodLoc=World-R5-Alertnet-2
http://www.serbianna.com/news/2006/02424.shtml (has picture)

2) Bosnia and Herzegovina: Religious tensions rising
By Elizabeth Kendal WEA RLC. 20 September 2006
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com/news/view.htm?id=692

3) BOSNIA: To legally build a place of worship...
By Drasko Djenovic, Forum 18 News Service
http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=811

4) BOSNIA: Muslims and Serbs in rift over bridge.
Sarajevo, 2 August 2006 (AKI)
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Religion&loid=8.0.326873544&par=0

5) Nationalist party rejects result of vote for Bosnian Croat presidency
The Associated Press. 3 October 2006
http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/ap/2006/10/03/europe/EU_POL_Bosnia_Election_Dispute.php

6) Croats lack protection in Bosnia as Islamists put threats. 29 Sept 2005
http://newsfromrussia.com/yougoslavia/2005/09/29/64010.html

7) Serbs block road to Bosnian unity
By Nicholas Walton. BBC News, Sarajevo. 2 October 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5399856.stm

8) Bosnian Official Links With Terrorism, Including 9/11
International Strategic Studies Association.
Balkan Strategic Studies. 17 September 2003
Analysis by Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS [Global Information Systems],
with input from GIS stations in the Balkans.
http://128.121.186.47/ISSA/reports/Balkan/Sep1703.htm

Friday, September 29, 2006

Eritrea: Appalling religious situation continues to deteriorate.

Date: Friday 29 September 2006
Subj: Eritrea: Appalling religious situation continues to deteriorate.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Recent reports from Compass Direct (CD) indicate that the appalling religious situation in Eritrea continues to deteriorate.

CD reports: "Newly compiled statistics smuggled out of Eritrea indicate that at least 1,918 Eritrean citizens are imprisoned and being subjected to torture and forced labor because of their religious beliefs.

"According to a detailed list obtained by Compass last month, 95 percent of these known religious prisoners of conscience are Christians.

"A total of 35 pastors, priests and church elders are confirmed under arrest in Asmara's Wongel Mermera investigation center. An additional 1,758 Christians of both evangelical Protestant and Orthodox confessions are jailed in 14 other cities and towns.

"According to reports compiled by Compass, 163 of these Christian prisoners have been put under arrest since the beginning of 2006. As many as a fourth of all those jailed are believed to have been incarcerated for two years or more." (Link 1)

According to CD, 69 Muslims are imprisoned for opposing the government-appointed mufti, and 27 Jehovah's Witnesses are imprisoned because of their conscientious objections to compulsory military conscription.

CD reports: "None of those imprisoned for their religious beliefs in the
government crackdown begun more than four years ago have been brought before
a court of law to be charged or tried."

The CD report gives a breakdown of the numbers of Christians in various prison facilities. It also details the tragic fate of those who attempt to escape from these facilities into the surrounding desert.

As noted by CD, the persecution has spread way beyond those Protestant churches initially targeted in May 2002. The Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios, who was deposed and replaced by the government in January, remains under house arrest. Subsequently, "Since March, 65 leaders of the Medhane Alem renewal movement within the Eritrean Orthodox Church have been openly threatened with excommunication if they refuse to confess following 'heretical' teachings."

Asmara's Anglican Church is also facing repression. CD reports, "The Department of Religious Affairs has refused to allow the Anglican Church in Asmara to supply its own pulpit since October 2005, when the Rev. Nelson Fernandez was summarily ordered out of the country. To the 'expressed dismay' of the Anglican congregation, one source said, control of the worship and activities of the church has been handed over to the government-registered Lutheran Church.

"Reports are circulating in Asmara that the government plans to shut down the Anglican Elementary School in the near future." (Link 1)

According to another CD report: "The Eritrean government demanded this month that the Kale Hiwot Church surrender all its property and physical assets to the government.

"The written confiscation order targets possessions of the Protestant church's relief department, which has for more than 20 years functioned as a legally recognized non-governmental organization (NGO) under the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Commission." (Link 2)

CD adds that the sweeping property confiscation would include all church buildings, schools, vehicles and other assets. The church's computers, office equipment, files and keys to the property were confiscated in raids last October. The government action not only affects the church, but the orphanage and kindergartens run by the Kale Hiwot Church.

Eritrean Christians have told CD that they believe that a strategic persecution is being executed in three stages:
1) the arrest of pastors and leaders (leaving the congregations leaderless),
2) the raiding and sealing of church places of worship (leaving leaderless congregations destitute and without facilities),
3) the permanent confiscation of church properties and assets (supposedly bringing an end to the church's existence).

CD reports: "'All the closed churches here are undergoing a great deal of hardship and challenge to exist,' one source stated. But despite ongoing arrests and surveillance, local evangelicals told Compass they were 'continuing to meet for worship, prayer and Bible studies' in their homes. 'Please pray for God's protection, especially when we meet for prayer,' one said. 'All the churches are in a desperate need of Bibles for their ministries.'" (Link 1)

Eritrea has no independent media. Free Christians and human rights monitors leak this information at great personal risk. The government of Isaias Afewerki continues to deny that any religious persecution exists. Doubtless exacerbating the situation are the escalating tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia (Coptic Orthodox Christian), over their border dispute and over Somalia.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

Compass Direct News

1) ERITREA: Religious prisoner count tops 1,900
8 September 2006 (Compass Direct News)

2) ERITREA: Government orders Protestant assets confiscated
20 September 2006 (Compass Direct News)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pakistan: The perils of attempting Hudood reform.

Date: Friday 22 September 2006
Subj: Pakistan: The perils of attempting Hudood reform.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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PAKISTAN: THE PERILS OF ATTEMPTING HUDOOD REFORM
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In 1979 Pakistan's military dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq launched his program to Islamise Pakistan. The first step was the introduction of Hudood Ordinance.

In 1984, as pressure intensified for an end military rule, Zia played the religion card for political gain to dragnet Muslim votes and get himself a mandate to pursue Islamisation and remain president.

Today, Pakistan is endeavouring to join the prosperous modern world, and President Musharraf is supposedly promoting "enlightened moderation". In line with these goals, the parliament is keen to expunge from Pakistan one of its most sickly, ugly blights: Hudood Ordinance. However, while the Sharia seed is easy to plant, and the Sharia plant is easy to feed, the Sharia tree is not easily removed.

Western politicians who think that in a democracy a majority is required to effect change, should consider the power of Pakistan's Islamist minority. The Islamist Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) are proving once again there is none so powerful as he who holds the balance of power (especially if he is willing to incite violence and destabilise the nation in order to have his way).

Western politicians who are flirting with Islamists and considering permitting the implementation of elements of Sharia as a concession, should consider Pakistan's reality as a warning. Sow Sharia for short term political gain, and it can never be removed or even cut back without immense trouble to the nation, pain, sacrifice and bloodshed.

THE PERILS OF ATTEMPTING HUDOOD REFORM

Under the Hudood code, a man and woman found guilty of having sex outside of marriage can be sentenced to death by stoning or 100 lashes. To prove rape, a woman must produce four adult male Muslim eye-witnesses to confirm her testimony; without that she will be found guilty of illicit sex. This leaves Christian women especially vulnerable. In fact, in such an environment, those who rape Christian women are virtually guaranteed impunity. It is estimated that around 80 percent of all women imprisoned in Pakistan are there on Hudood offences.

On 1 July President Musharraf issued an order enabling the release of an estimated 1,300 women held indefinitely in Pakistani prisons under the provision of the Hudood Ordinance.

The "Women's Protection Bill 2006", drafted by a parliamentary select committee, was to be tabled in Pakistan's parliament in early August. However, objections by cabinet members and religious parties saw it delayed until Monday 21 August. This was the third time the Bill had been presented to the parliament.

The draft Bill protects women by separating rape from consensual sex outside marriage, eliminating the four-witness requirement to prove rape, establishing that rape cases be tried in civil rather than religious courts, and by requiring that four witnesses be presented to prove adultery. Human rights groups are of course calling for the Hudood Ordinance to be repealed rather than amended.

Islam Online describes the impact of the Bill on the parliament and the Islamist response: "The introduction of the bill by the government on Monday, August 21, witnessed the worst pandemonium in Pakistani parliament. Opposition lawmakers shouted slogans against the government, tore up copies of the amendments and walked out. They accused President Pervez Musharraf of being a traitor and a friend of America." (Link 1)

Actually the Islamist Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) came close to being charged with blasphemy for tearing up copies of the Bill, because as its supporters noted, the Bill contained Quranic texts. (Link 2)

According to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) representatives who sat on the parliamentary select committee were under clear instruction from their exiled leader, Benazir Bhutto, to give their support to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) in its efforts to amend the Hudood laws.

Even though the Women's Protection Bill had clear majority support to pass in the parliament, the Bill was scuttled due to the MMA's threat to resign en masse, thus massively destabilising Pakistan's already restive MMA-ruled western provinces, if the Bill was passed.

The MMA threat split the ruling PML. The reformists in the PML wanted to press ahead with reform, while the conservatives, led by PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain asserted that it would be political suicide for the PML to alienate its MMA partners and their Islamist constituents before the 2007 elections.

In early September the government moved to appease the Islamists by appointing an extra-parliamentary committee that included four MPs from the MMA as well as Islamic religious scholars to review the Bill and recommend a compromise.

The BBC reports that the extra-parliamentary committee determined "that rape should fall under both religious and secular law. It introduced a new, very broadly defined, category of 'lewdness' into the penal code, and reinstated a clause giving the Hudood Ordinances pre-eminence over any law with which they might come into conflict." (Link 3)

On Monday 11 September the government announced that it was accepting three of the conservatives' demands, including one keeping rape under the Islamic law, although it will also be a crime under the penal code. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rejected the amendments outright. Sources told Pakistan's English-language newspaper "Dawn", "The PML, riven by internal disputes, preferred an awkward embrace with the MMA to a brief handshake with the PPP." An MP who wished to remain anonymous bemoaned the back-down saying, "And what have we gained by allowing the MMA to water down the amendments to the Hudood laws? The PPP is up in arms. Our touchy coalition partner, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, is on the warpath. And human rights organisations are pouring scorn on us.'" (Link 4)

The government - at least its reformist faction - bolstered by MQM and PPP support, have vowed to reintroduce the Women's Protection Bill to the parliament for the fourth time, in its original form - the form hailed by NGOs and human rights groups - when President Musharraf returns from his visit to the USA.

Meanwhile, Alt.Muslim reports that on Wednesday 23 August (2 days after the Bill was tabled in parliament) militants on a motorbike ambushed Manzoor-ul-Hassan as he left his office, and shot him through the mouth leaving him critically wounded. Manzoor-ul-Hassan is the editor of "Ishra", the monthly magazine of a leading Pakistani think-tank, Al-Mawrid Research Institute, which advocates equity, fairness and gender equality in Pakistan's Islamic Laws. (Link 5)

Sharia is never rolled back without bloodshed. This is the reality in Pakistan. This is a warning for the West.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Hudood Bill Stirs Debate in Pakistan
by Umer Farooq, IOL Correspondent
http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2006-08/24/05.shtml

2) Protest against lawmakers
By Mujahid Ali, 25 August 2006
http://www.gulfnews.com/world/Pakistan/10062550.html

3) How Pakistan's rape reform ran aground
By Barbara Plett, BBC News, Islamabad,15 Sept 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5346968.stm

4) What made PML turn to MMA: MQM rejects changes in Hudood laws
http://www.dawn.com/2006/09/13/top1.htm

5) Shooting A Shaykh In The Mouth
By Ali Eteraz, 25 August 2006
http://www.altmuslim.com/perm.php?id=1769_0_25_0_C

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Religious tensions rising.

Date: Tuesday 19 September 2006
Subj: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Religious tensions rising.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

This comprehensive posting on the rising ethnic-religious tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two parts: an examination of the present situation, and an overview of the history that has created its context.

While the recent religious incidents that triggered this posting might seem to be fairly insignificant, the issues and their potential to inflame conflict are not. In fact the issues emerging in Bosnia and Herzegovina today are reminiscent of those that led to war in 1992. When sparks appear in the midst of an incendiary environment, then regardless of how small they appear, they must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly with the goal of preventing an explosion.

This posting submits that Bosnia and Herzegovina warrants the immediate, diligent attention of religious liberty monitors, advocates and intercessors, as well as peace-makers who can recognise romanticism, embrace realism, and care more about protecting flesh-and-blood than illusory political ideals.

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BOSNIA: RELIGIOUS TENSIONS RISING
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On 11 August, an explosion damaged the tomb of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war-time Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic.

While portrayed by his Western allies as a moderate, Izetbegovic was actually an up-front Islamist backed by Iran. His "Islamic Declaration", first published in 1970, was republished in Sarajevo in 1990 just as Yugoslavia was starting to break apart. Izetbegovic was awarded the King Faisal Award in 1994 and the Figure of the Year in the Islamic World in 2001.

Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration clearly expresses his worldview: "There can be no peace or coexistence between Islamic faith and non-Islamic faith and non-Islamic institutions. The Islamic movement must and can take power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough, not only to destroy the non-Islamic power, but to build up a new Islamic one." And, "Panislamism always came from the very heart of the Muslim peoples, nationalism was always imported stuff."

This is doubtless why, as conflict was escalating in Croatia and Yugoslavia was tearing apart, Izetbegovic withdrew his signature on 28 March 1992 from the 18 March 1992 Lisbon Agreement that had been constructed to prevent conflict in Bosnia by dividing the state into three autonomous entities: Bosniac, Croat and Serb. Two days after withdrawing his signature Izetbegovic illegally called for a referendum on secession despite the objections of the Bosnian Serb minority.

For a critique of Alija Izetbegovic and his role in instigating the Bosnia conflict see "Alija Izetbegovic, 1925-2003", by Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic, a Senior Fellow at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. (Link 1)

Izetbegovic's tomb is located in the Kovaci (Martyrs) Cemetery in Sarajevo's Old Town. Nobody was injured in the bombing, which occurred a little after 3 am, and damage to surrounding buildings was slight. Dejan Anastasijevic reported from Belgrade for TIME magazine (29 August), "Most Muslims blamed the Serbs, who for their part insisted that Muslims staged the explosion; the ongoing investigation has so far proved fruitless."

The following week, a group of Muslims forced their way into a Serbian church which has been built on the site of a mosque in eastern Bosnia. (Link 2)

MINOR INCIDENTS - SIGNIFICANT ISSUES


The issues fanning tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina today bear a striking resemblance to the issues of 1992 that triggered the Bosnian war. In 1992, war was triggered by calls from Bosnian Islamists, led by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, for Bosnia to secede from Yugoslavia and become an independent, single, undivided state. This would have placed some 1.3 million Bosnian Serb Christians of the Eastern Orthodox tradition under Muslim and Croat domination in what Islamist openly planned would become an Islamic State. Serb resistance was met with jihad. Fighting was halted through the Dayton Accords (December 1995) which created the independent state of Bosnia and Herzogovina, but divided it into two autonomous entities: the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic), each with its own government, parliament, army and police.

The issue today is that the West led by the US is agitating for Constitutional reform in Bosnia that will strengthen the central (Muslim dominated) government at the expense of the entities. Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels and Anes Alic in Sarajevo, wrote for ISN Security Watch in November 2005, "In essence, the constitutional changes aim to reverse the international community's quick-fix measures to end the war, which entailed making ethnic division a political reality - a reality that is no longer feasible in a country hoping to join the EU." (See ISN's "Redefining Bosnia": Link 3)

While the US is not calling for the dismantling of the Republika Srpska, some Bosnian Muslim leaders are. Nicholas Wood reports for the the New York Times, "Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim, a former foreign minister and a presidential candidate, has campaigned against the proposed changes, saying they would leave the Serbian republic in place. The Serbian entity should be abolished and absorbed into a stronger Bosnian state, he contends. That idea, diplomats here say, is unrealistic, but it appeals to nationalist Muslim voters." (Link 2)

Prime minister of Republika Srpska (RS), Milorad Dodik, has said he will never agree to reform police and security forces as demanded by the European Union as a condition for EU association talks. Serb leaders have responded to Islamist calls for the abolition of RS by saying that if moves are made to dissolve RS, then RS will hold a referendum on secession. It is estimated that around 90 percent of Serbs in RS would vote to secede from Bosnia if a referendum were held.

Sulejman Tihic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's three-man rotating presidency said that Serbs wanting to secede could pack their bags and leave but they could not take one inch of Bosnian territory with them.

AKI reports: "RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik retorted that Tihic's statement represented a drastic example of 'hate and chauvinism' which will only further inflame ethnic passions in Bosnia. 'In Tihic's statement one can easily recognise an Islamic concept which sees Bosnia as its exclusive right,' said Dodik. 'Serbs are constituent people in Bosnia [and] claim the same right to the country and to live in it,' said Dodik." (Link 4)

The Islamist principle that "Islamic lands" cannot be seceded is why Bosnian Islamists regard any RS move towards a referendum or secession as unacceptable and doubtless as grounds for jihad. As in 1992, the Serbs would rather face jihad rather than be returned to dhimmitude (the subjugated state of non-Muslims living under Islamic domination).

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM

The stated aim of the Constitutional reform is to move Bosnia from "stabilisation" to "transition". The Dayton Accords which ended the 1992-1995 war stabilised Bosnia by separating warring constituents into two entities: the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republiska Srpska. Now, the West alleges, it is time for Bosnia to transition toward EU membership by strengthening its State institutions at the expense of the entities.

While the Islamists are anxious not to cement any degree of Serb autonomy, the Serbs are anxious not to lose their autonomy. Most Serbs are concerned that the Constitutional reform could simply be a slow road towards the dissolution of RS.

The appeal of Mr Dragan Cavic, the President of Republika Srpska, is simply that the stability brought by the Dayton Accords' division of Bosnia should not be sacrificed in the transition process. "We are committed to success [of transition into Europe] and we need success, but a clear prerequisite of our support should be keeping the Dayton's Entity Status of the Republic of Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina . . . European phase can not replace the Dayton phase. . . . These two cannot confront each other, they can supplement each other." (Link 5)

While economics is the primary subject being openly discussed by EU and US advocates of constitutional reform, behind the scenes the talk is equally of unity, democracy, eliminating ethnic divisions, religious tolerance and other fine-sounding ideals.

ECONOMICS

Bosnia's present set up of two autonomous entities, each with its own parliament, government administration, courts, police force and services, as well as a central government makes for a very expensive system. In fact, around 60 percent of Bosnia's GDP is spent simply maintaining state and entity apparatus, and this is contributing significantly to the weakness of the Bosnian state.

IDEALISM

The less talked about reason behind the US-led drive for constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina is more idealistic. The West still has a desire to "prove" that Muslims and Christians can live together in harmonious, tolerant, democratic, golden Islamic societies, as allegedly in history(!) and in Lebanon(!). And as they will in the new Iraq! It is important to Europe and the US that this human experiment, which is little more than a forced marriage, not fail. If the Bosnia experiment fails, then the prospects for London, Paris and other multicultural, pluralist democracies with rapidly growing Muslim populations are grim.

A hugely important address on this subject was given by Bat Ye'or on 31 August 1995 at the International Strategic Studies Association's Symposium on the Balkan War - "Yugoslavia: Past and Present". Bat Ye'or's address, entitled, "Myths and politics: Origins of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society", is essential reading for understanding the politics of and international ideals behind Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Link 6)

While intended to unite Bosnian Muslims (Bosniacs), Croats and Serbs under Bosnian nationalism, the proposed constitutional reforms are actually dividing the constituent peoples. A March 2006 nation-wide survey conducted by the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (Ljubljana, Slovenia) revealed that only 29.3 percent of those surveyed supported the constitutional amendments while 59.8 percent disapproved. (Link 7)

Serbs in the Republika Srpska generally reject the reforms as they strengthen the Muslim-dominated central authority at the expense of the entities, lessening Serb autonomy. The Croats also reject the reforms and are voicing their preference to carve out their own autonomous ethnic entity. Most Bosniac Islamists either support the reforms or want them to be more radical because they conform to Islamist aspirations to strengthen the central (Muslim-dominated) government and extend its powers to all corners of Bosnia.

But Bosniac Islamists who advocate the forcible abolition of the Republika Srpska do not do this with shouts of jihad or with the language of Islamic imperialism. They do this by denouncing ethnic and religious separation and by extolling the virtues of unity, tolerance and democracy, in much the same way that Arab nationalism did. They do this by crying victim and saying the murderous, evil, demonic Serbs should not have any right to self- rule on "Bosnian" (read "Muslim") land.

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: 1 OCTOBER


The proposed constitutional reforms failed to pass a vote in the Bosnian parliament on 27 April, so further discussion has been put off until after the 1 October 2006 parliamentary elections. However, constitutional reform is now an election issue. As the tension and rhetoric escalates, international voices are calling for calm. (Link 8)

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CREATING CONTEXT: HISTORY'S WEDGES
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ISLAMIC ERA

From the early 14th Century to the early 20th Century the Serbs and other Southern Slavs lived as persecuted dhimmis, cruelly subjugated under the Islamic imperialism of the Ottoman Empire. During that era most Bosnian Slavs converted to Islam.

As the Ottoman Empire started to crumble Christian Slavs fought for and won their liberation from Islamic rule through the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 as a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes - all Southern Slavs. But the long history of Islamic repression and persecution and the trauma of the bloody wars that brought it to an end left a wedge between Christian Slavs and Muslims.

(Muslim Slavs live predominantly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They accounted for 8.9 percent of Yugoslavia in the 1981 census but are around 44 percent in modern-day Bosnia.)

WORLD WAR TWO

World War Two saw Yugoslavia split apart. The Axis powers annexed modern-day Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovenia, creating the fascist state of Croatia. They also occupied Serbia which was aligned with the Allies. The "lesser races" - the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies (Romas) - were targeted by the Nazis for extermination.

Some two million Serbs lived in Croatia at the beginning of WW2. Of that number, around one million were killed, around half the remainder were expelled while the other half were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism under threat of death. Of the Serbs killed, multitudes were murdered by the 20,000-strong Waffen-SS "Handschar" (scimitar) division. This was established in Bosnia by SS head, Heinrich Himmler, and the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Muhammad Amin al Husseini, and consisted of Bosnian and some Albanian Muslims.

Around 390,000 Serbs were murdered by the fascist Croat "Ustasa", while between 300,000 and 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Romas, including 20,000 known, named children, were executed by Croat forces in Camp Jasenovac .

The barbarity and horror of the WW2 holocaust in Yugoslavia is concisely documented at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (with an excellent search engine). The terror of those days created a deep wedge between Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Nowhere is this wedge more evident than in Bosnia where Muslims, Croats and Serbs have lived interspersed for centuries.

Most Bosnian Serbs have been raised by parents or influenced by grandparents who are remnant survivors of the Bosniac-Croat attempted genocide of Serbs during the World War Two holocaust in Yugoslavia.

COMMUNIST ERA

After WW2, Josip Broz Tito's Partisans, a Communist-led, anti-Axis resistance movement, recreated Yugoslavia as a federal republic. Tito drew the Bosniacs into his Communist Partisan forces and fostered the creation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a separate Muslim republic.

Serbs were by far the largest ethnic group in Yugoslavia and Tito, a Croat, was determined to destroy Serb hegemony. While Tito was hailed for uniting the warring Slavs under Communism, he actually carved up Yugoslavia, primarily along ethnic lines, but in a way that deliberately weakened the Serbs by ensuring that the republics had large Serb minorities. In fact 42 percent of Serbs were left outside Serbia proper. As Tito advanced his policy of decentralisation, Serb minorities grew anxious. Tito's carve-up of Yugoslavia deliberately created artificial, geographical wedges between Serbs.

ISLAMIST ASCENDENCY

In the early days of the Bosnian war, terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky and Vaughn S Forrest wrote "Iran's European Springboard?", a report for the task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare, the House Research Committee. This report is as hugely significant and relevant today as it was in September 1992. (Link 9)

Bodansky and Forrest describe in detail how Tito's pro-Arab policies unintentionally contributed to the radicalisation of Bosnian Muslims as early as the 1970s. After the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Izetbegovic "renewed his call to implement his Islamic Declaration, began organising an Islamist political movement, and within a few years was thrown in jail for subversion." By the 1980s Palestinian, Syrian and Iranian groups were using Yugoslavia as a base of operations, and Bosniacs were undergoing terrorist and ideological training in Lebanon and Iran.

"Meanwhile," wrote Bodansky and Forrest in 1992, "Iran has also consolidated a Muslim leadership network supportive of Tehran's world view. At the centre of the Iranian system in Europe is Bosnia-Hercegovina's President, Alija Izetbegovic, 'a fundamentalist Muslim and a member of the Fida'iYan-e Islam organisation,' who is committed to the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Bosnia-Hercegovina."

According to Bodansky and Forrest, Izetbegovic developed close cultural and economic ties with Iran. Bodansky and Forrest described the Bosnia War as " . . a proxy battlefield for the future and fortunes of the growing Muslim community of Western Europe".

Terrorism experts including Bodansky assert that the Balkans is integral to Islamist plans for escalation of conflict against Israel, Europe and the USA. According to the experts, Muslim Slavs are being recruited to a "white al-Qaeda" (also known as "white devils") that can be easily deployed for terror operations in the West. (Link 10)

THE CONSEQUENCE OF UNHEALED WEDGES: DIVORCE


It was the deep and valid fear that Serb minorities had of Muslim and Croat domination that led Serb minorities in Croatia and Bosnia to react against Croatian and Bosnian calls for independence and secession. As Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s, around 2 million Serbs faced the prospect of living as minorities under Muslim and Croatian rule.

Civil war erupted as Serbs sought to guarantee their future liberty and security by redrawing the borders to form a Greater Serbia. The Bosniacs and Croats, not believing a Greater Serbia had a right to exist, fought against the Serbs to ensure no territory was lost. As is common in war, atrocities and criminal acts were committed by all sides.

For a Bosniac Islamist such as President Alija Izetbegovic the fight was not primarily about nationalism but about Islamic lands. This was a jihad for which they had the support of their allies in Iran, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda. According to Bodansky, on 29 July 1992, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Hussayn Khamene'i gave a sermon in which he described the war in Bosnia as a US-led Western/Christian campaign "against the Islamic wave throughout the world", and he exhorted Muslims worldwide to mobilise and join the jihad for Islam in Europe.

And join they did, by the thousands. The Dayton Accords gave the foreign mujahideen 30 days to leave Bosnia. However, it appears that multitudes of mujahideen did not leave but instead were granted citizenship.

Today a Bosnian state commission is reviewing 1,500 citizenships granted post-war to foreign mujahideen. The commission head, Vjekoslav Vukovic, says many names on the list are linked to al-Qaeda and international terrorist organisations. So far 400 of the 1,500 names have been reviewed and 50 citizenships have been revoked. AKI reports, "Kadrija Kolic, a lawyer for several naturalised citizens, has said that it was a 'crime' to revoke the citizenship of the former fighters, as they had been granted by the wartime government of Bosnia's late president Alija Izetbegovic." (Link 11)

DEMONISATION: A WEDGE WITH THE WORLD

The Serbs as a people have been collectively demonised. This has resulted in a pervasive anti-Serb mindset that is irrational and unjust. Much like modern anti-Semitism, anti-Serbism has been built on the exaggerations, lies, disinformation, conspiracy theories and propaganda professionally churned out by expert Islamist PR and media agents to lazy, gullible, predominantly left-wing journalists.

It was primarily through strategic disinformation and propaganda the Islamists also managed to win the support of a US regime that was keen, (according to the opinion of some analysts), to repay debts incurred to Iran after supporting Iraq in the Iran Iraq war.

According to Bodansky and Forrest, the Serb siege on Sarajavo caused Izetbegovic to become convinced "that it was necessary to undertake drastic measures of a kind that had long been advocated by Tehran. The Iranians had argued that before any escalation in the fighting could take place, it was imperative to either gain the sympathies of the West or at the least to ensure that there existed a legitimate excuse that would enable the presentation of any action undertaken by Muslim forces as justifying revenge for Serbian atrocities.

"To that end, beginning in May 1992, a special group of Bosnian Muslim forces, many of whom had served with Islamist terrorist organisations, began committing a series of atrocities, including 'some of the worst recent killings,' against Muslim civilians in Sarajevo 'as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention.'

"A UN investigation concluded that several key events, mostly strikes against civilians, that had galvanised public opinion and governments in the West to take bolder action in Bosnia- Hercegovina, were in fact 'staged' for the Western media by the Muslims themselves in order to dramatise the city's plight. Investigations by the UN and other military experts count among these self-inflicted actions the 'bombing of the bread queue' (May 27), the 'shelling' of Douglas Hurd's visit (July 17), the 'explosion in the cemetery' (August 4), and the killing of ABC producer David Kaplan (August 13). In all these cases, Serbian forces were out of range, and the weapons actually used against the victims were not those claimed by the Bosnian authorities and the Western media."

The popular narrative of Srebrenica is just as fictional. "The Srebrenica Report" is essential reading for those seeking to understand Srebrenica, "the politics of war crimes" and how Islamists have turned strategic disinformation into both a weapon of war and an art form. It is a high-level report conducted over three years by professional researchers and former UN officials. The following information comes from various reports on their site. (Link 12)

According to General Sefer Halilovic, Commander of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 5,500 soldiers of the Muslim Army's 28th Division were stationed at "safe-haven" Screbrenica with sophisticated arms, including anti-tank weapons. He also confirmed to The Hague Tribunal that when the Serb force of some 200 men and five tanks entered the town on 11 July it was nearly empty.

In the weeks before the Serb capture of Srebrenica, the Bosnian government of President Izetbegovic in Sarajevo withdrew Srebrenica's most significant Islamist militant leaders (including the infamous mass-murderer, Naser Oric, who liked to be filmed torturing, beheading and mutilating his Serb victims) and sent them for retraining in Zenica. This left the 28th Division virtually leaderless.

Muslim soldiers were then ordered to launch provocations against surrounding Serb villages. When the Serbs responded, advancing from the south, the Muslim soldiers retreated north. Former UN Deputy Director of UN Monitors, Carlos Martins Branco, reports: "Muslim forces did not even try to take advantage of their heavy artillery . . . Military resistance would jeopardise the image of 'victim' which had been so carefully constructed, and which the Muslims considered so vital to maintain." Many UN and other observers concluded that Izetbegovic sacrificed the town for political purposes.

The Muslim claim that 8,000 unarmed civilian Muslim men and boys had been executed in Srebrenica by Serb soldiers triggered the American and NATO bombing raids on the Serbs. This in turn gave motivation for the Muslim-Croat alliance which effected - with US sanction - the August 1995 ethnic cleansing of up to 250,000 Serbs from western Bosnia in Operation Storm.

Today, 11 years after the Srebrenica massacre, that claim still stands despite the fact that the figure of 8,000 was only the Red Cross' list of "missing", the majority of whom were simply displaced. After 11 years of searching and of forensic investigations led by teams of international experts around 2,000 bodies have been found buried in Srebrenica, and that number is made up of victims of US and NATO bombs, Muslim Bosnian Army soldiers who died of battle wounds, Serbs, and Muslim victims of execution-style killing. (Between 200 and 300 blindfolds and ligatures were exhumed with bodies.)

Quoting former UN Civilian Affairs Co-ordinator Phillip Corwin, the senior UN civilian official in Bosnia at the time of the capture of Srebrenica, "What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three-year period which reached a crescendo in July 1995. Moreover it is likely that the number of Muslim dead was probably no more than the number of Serbs that had been killed in Srebrenica and its environs in the three preceding years by Naser Oric and his predatory gangs. But my point here is not to argue equivalence, but to expose distortion."

According to Corwin, the official version of events at Srebrenica has been a "campaign of disinformation that has all but buried the facts along with the bodies".

The American government perpetuates the myth of a massacre of unparalleled evil to justify its alliance with Islamist forces. It is highly probable though, that if the Islamic terror attacks of 11 September 2001 had occurred a decade earlier the US may have been less hasty to enter a conflict as allies of Iran and al-Qaeda- backed Islamists. They may have been less quick to bomb European Eastern Orthodox Christians based primarily on reports churned out by the same Islamist propaganda machines that have since given us "Genocide in Jenin" and other tall tales.

CONCLUSIONS

While the sectarian incidents that triggered this posting seem relatively insignificant, the issues are in fact highly significant and reminiscent of those that led to war in 1992.

If Tito's borders are inviolable and a Greater Serbia is not to be, then the Serbs of Republika Srpska need the assurance that they can maintain a high degree of autonomy in this forced marriage and not be returned to dhimmitude. They will face jihad (again) rather than be returned to dhimmitude.

The strategy of the Islamists on their road to the creation of an Islamic State, is to use disinformation to collectively demonise the Serbs so as to isolate them from those who should be their friends and allies. The Islamist aim is to ensure the world regards Serb peace as undeserved and Serb suffering as justice, establishing the foundation for Western support of the Islamist agenda.

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) "Alija Izetbegovic, 1925-2003", by Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic. http://www.inthenationalinterest.com/Articles/Vol2Issue41/Vol2Issue41dkm.html

2) Ethnic tensions rising as Bosnian vote nears
By Nicholas Wood, The New York Times. 27 August 2006
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/27/news/bosnia.php
BOSNIA: late Muslim leader's tomb blown up. Sarajevo, 11 August (AKI)
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Security&loid=8.0.329887870&par=

3) Redefining Bosnia. 15 Nov 2005
By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels and Anes Alic in Sarajevo for ISN Security Watch.
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=13521

4) BOSNIA: Serbs deem Muslim leader's comments 'irresponsible'. Sarajevo, 25 August 2006 http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.334008026&par=0

5) Welcoming speech of The President of the Republic of Srpska,
Mr. Dragan Cavic, At the opening of the Scientific Meeting,
"The Republic of Srpska - 10 years of the Dayton Peace Accords" 12 May 2005 http://www.predsjednikrs.net/engleski/stranice/govori/Dayton-2005.htm

6) BAT YE'OR, 31 August 1995
Myths and Politics: Origin or the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society
For the International Strategic Studies Association
Symposium on the Balkan War - "Yugoslavia: Past and Present"
http://www.srpska-mreza.com/History/pre-wwOne/Ye_Or.html

7) B-H Constitutional changes without citizens' support!
Author: IFIMES. Uploaded: Tuesday, 25 April, 2006
http://www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news_body.cfm?newsid=2193

8) BOSNIA: Top envoy appeals for calm ahead of poll. Sarajevo, 18 August 2006 http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.331777836&par=0

9) IRAN'S EUROPEAN SPRINGBOARD?
Yossef Bodansky & Vaughn S. Forrest. 1 September 1992
Task force on terrorism & unconventional warfare, House Republican Research Committee,
http://www.balkan-archive.org.yu/politics/papers/civil_war/iran_springboard.html

10) Terrorism: Local manpower key to new al-Qaeda strategy, expert. Belgrade, 30 August 2006
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Terrorism&loid=8.0.334824252&par=0
Terrorists from Balkans could reach into Europe. 13 Sept 2006
http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=51954

11) 50 Al-Qaeda sympathizers lose citizenship. 5 Sept 2006
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_English.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.336787118&par=0
Bosnia rules to revoke citizenships
By Anes Alic in Sarajevo for ISN Security Watch (14/07/06)
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=16390

12) Srebrenica and the Politics of War Crimes
Findings of the Srebrenica Research Group into the allegations of events and the background leading up to them, in Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, in 1995.
http://www.srebrenica-report.com/