Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ivory Coast: racial and religious hatred empowered and unleashed


The legacy of French and NATO intervention in Ivory Coast -- where the West intervened on behalf of Islamists in order to advance their own economic interests -- is that Ivory Coast 's predominantly Christian southern tribes must now live with serious insecurity in an increasingly militarised yet lawless state where Muslim soldiers may abuse them at will and with impunity.  This is racial and religious hatred empowered and unleashed.

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Brief background

Ivory Coast held elections in December 2010, despite the fact that pre-conditions had not been met. For starters, northern-Muslim rebel forces loyal to Muslim presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara refused to disarm; a fact that meant the electoral process in the north could hardly be free and fair.  (How ironic that Bafétigué Ouattera (Côte d’Ivoire) has just been elected as a Vice-Chair of the UN's Disarmament Commission.) 

After the Constitutional Council investigated all reported irregularities (as mandated by the constitution) it ruled that the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo -- a southerner and observant Christian -- was the victor. However, before it could even announce its ruling, pro-Ouattara elements pre-empted the constitutional council's decision and broadcast via French TV from Ouattara's headquarters that Ouattara had won the election. The illegal announcement was met favourably in the West as a Ouattara presidency would serve French and US economic interests.

Confident of Western backing, Ouattara then moved to seize power through military violence. Up against the mighty army of the Ivorian secular State, the pro-Ouattara ethnic and Islamic rebels were the weaker force. The violent coup d'état coup was only successful due to NATO air-strikes and military assistance from France.

Having seized power through violence and with foreign assistance, it is no surprise to learn that Ouattara's hold on power is dependent on violence and terror.

For further background and analysis on Ivory Coast: see Religious Liberty Monitoring.

Death in Abidjan

On Monday 6 August, gunmen -- presumed to be Gbagbo loyalists -- killed six soldiers in a pre-dawn attack on the Akouédo military base in Abidjan. A day earlier, gunmen attacked a police station in Yopougon neighbourhood, on the other side of Abidjan, killing four soldiers. Gbagbo's political party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), issued a statement condemning "with the utmost vigour this wave of deadly violence", while also calling on the government to capture the attackers.

Response

In response, President Alassane Ouattara ordered the Republican Forces (FRCI: the new Ivorian Army, incorporating the former Forces Nouvelles rebels) to "fight without mercy" those attempting to create a feeling of insecurity in Ivory Coast. Consequently, there has been a surge in appalling human rights abuses targeting "perceived Gbagbo loyalists": i.e. predominantly Christian southerners, mostly ethnic Bété, Guéré, Ebrié, Oubi and Adioukrou. The abuses involve mass arrests, extortion and extreme violence, including torture.

See: Ivory Coast: Ex-detainees describe torture by military following roundup after attacks
By Robbie Corey-Boulet, The Associated Press, 4 October 2012

Excerpts:

The soldiers lined up the detainees in a row on the grass in the middle of the night and beat them with sticks. Other times, soldiers struck the prisoners with belts and rifles so hard the welts lasted for weeks.

Cedric Bao, a 33-year-old who was held for two weeks in August on suspicion of hiding weapons, said soldiers also attached wires to detainees and administered electrical shocks as they writhed on the ground.

"When that happened, the wires would produce a lot of noise, and the lights would flicker, and it would smell like burning. We could hear the people shouting," Bao said. "I was always praying to God not to be brought downstairs."

. . . While torture allegations have been documented at multiple military facilities, the U.N. officials said that some of the worst came from detainees at the San Pedro camp, including credible reports of electrical shocks.

Few detainees in the city had spoken up about their experiences at the camp because of threats they received before being released, said Serges Dagbo, San Pedro representative for the Ivorian Human Rights League.

But in recent interviews with The Associated Press, four former detainees described harsh conditions marked by cramped quarters, minimal food and the frequent use of violence to extract confessions. . .

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On 19 November, Human Rights Watch released a report exposing the gross human rights abuses being committed by the Republican Forces (FRCI), including: arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, extortion, inhuman treatment and torture.

See: Ivory Coast military accused of torture during 'reprisal' crackdown
Hope of reconciliation after civil war fades amid claims of inhuman treatment of perceived Gbagbo loyalists

By David Smith, Africa correspondent, The Guardian, 19 Nov 2012.

Excerpts:

In August, members of the government's Republican Forces carried out mass arrests of perceived Gbagbo supporters almost daily in the Abidjan neighbourhood of Yopougon, Human Rights Watch said. "Without arrest warrants or individualised evidence, soldiers arbitrarily arrested young men in their homes, at neighbourhood restaurants, at bars, in taxis and buses, as they walked home from church, and at traditional community celebrations.

"Soldiers often arrived in neighbourhoods in military cargo trucks and forced 20 or more perceived pro-Gbagbo youth to board. Hundreds of young men appear to have been rounded up and detained, largely on the basis of their ethnicity and place of residence. Those arrested were often brought to military camps, which are not lawful detention sites for civilians under Ivorian law."

. . . In August and September, the commander in charge of one detainment camp was Ousmane Coulibaly, better known as "Bin Laden", Human Rights Watch said. In a previous report on the post-election violence, it had named him as one of the Republican Forces commanders whose soldiers committed acts of torture and dozens of summary executions during the final [France and NATO-backed] battle for Abidjan in April and May 2011.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT
A Long Way from Reconciliation
Abusive Military Crackdown in Response to Security Threats in Côte d’Ivoire
19 November 2012  (79 pages)

Excerpts:

Human Rights Watch interviewed eight former detainees at the [Adjamé] military police camp, five of whom provided detailed evidence suggesting that they had been victims of torture. . . with the purpose of demanding answers to questions about the location of guns or alleged suspects, or in order to pressure the detainee to sign a confession of involvement in an attack against state security. (p25)

They also described seeing other detainees come back to the cell with bruised faces, severe swelling, and open wounds. Detainees at the military police camp also described suffering grossly inadequate detention conditions, including severe overcrowding, near complete denial of food and water, and humiliating practices like being placed in a room filled with excrement. (p26)

The former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch were all young men from ethnic groups perceived to support Laurent Gbagbo. They described their detention rooms as being full with people from the same ethnic groups, including the Bété, Guéré, Ebrié, Oubi, and Adioukrou. . .  many young men were picked up during mass arrests in areas with a concentration of perceived Gbagbo supporters. (p26)

In the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, severe physical pain appeared to be inflicted by state agents, namely military personnel, in order to pressure people into a confession or to divulge information about the location of weapons. Torture did not appear to be systematic, as other detainees described only minimal physical abuse. However, the cases documented by Human Rights Watch raise concerns about the total number of potential victims. (p29)

In addition, Human Rights Watch received credible information about recent cases of torture against detainees held in a Republican Forces military base in San Pedro, a town in southwestern Côte d’Ivoire about 350 kilometers from Abidjan.  On October 4, the Associated Press reported [see above] that soldiers at the San Pedro military camp had subjected at least four civilian detainees to electric shock, finding that “long wires were attached to their feet, midsections and necks before electrical shocks were administered.” (p34)

Human Rights Watch describes the crackdown as "unlike any since the end of the post-election crisis". (p37)

A diplomat from a key partner to Côte d’Ivoire told Human Rights Watch that there were deep concerns about how Ivorian authorities had framed the issue: “The language they use is very concerning: ‘eradication,’ ‘terrorism,’ ‘clean the country up’. (p 37)

Youths rounded up en masse in Yopougon report being separated according to their ethnic group. On a daily basis, masses of youths belonging to southern (normally pro-Gbagbo) tribes were trucked to the BAE (Brigade anti-émeute, or anti-riot unit) police camp where they were punished mercilessly and extorted. (see page 39)

A Ouattara supporter who lives near the BAE camp told Human Rights Watch, “You wouldn’t believe the things we see there each day. [There are] always youth being trucked in, being beaten. They don’t even hide [the abuses]; it’s often in plain view. [The FRCI there] aren’t afraid of any consequences.” An Ivorian civil society leader agreed: “[The soldiers implicated in abuses] are at ease. They don’t fear anything, and that’s the most dangerous thing: the complete impunity.” (p 40-41)

Human Rights Watch interviewed Yopougon residents who were arrested in their homes, while eating at a maquis, with friends at a bar, when walking home from church, when in a taxi or a bus, and when attending a funeral. (p 41)

Nearly all of those interviewed described the widespread commission of criminal acts by members of the FRCI in Yopougon. These crimes were perpetrated first during the process of neighborhood sweeps and mass arrests, when soldiers stole cash and valuables such as cell phones, computers, and jewelry from people’s homes and off people being arrested; and second, by demanding money in order to secure a detainee’s release. The mass arrests appear to have been a financial boon for members of the Republican Forces based at the BAE camp, and a crippling hardship to those who were swept up because of their age and perceived political affiliation. (p 46)

Since the end of the post-election crisis, the Republican Forces and armed “volunteers” [including dozos: see here and here] loyal to them have unlawfully taken over many functions that the police and gendarmes are legally mandated to do . . . (p 56)

Several victims of arbitrary arrest or detention told Human Rights Watch that police officers or gendarmes tried to intervene on their behalf and stop abuses. . .  A youth arrested while walking home from a church function on August 25 described how police kept him from being detained and upbraided soldiers who had stolen dozens of cell phones from those arrested (p 57) "God thankfully made that there was a police officer nearby," he said (p 58)

The HRW report also notes that after being arbitrarily arrested and beaten senseless for a week, men are then extorted, forced to pay in order to be released rather than killed. Towards the end of the report there are testimonies from women who testify to being arbitrarily arrested and then told that their male relatives will released if they (the women) have sex with the soldiers.

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In an unrelated article, Associated Press reports on the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center's findings, that continuing conflicts over land have caused at least another 24,000 Ivorians to become displaced so far this year (i.e. by Nov 2012).
[for an example, see Ivory Coast: Thousands displaced in renewed terror
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 172, Wed 15 Aug 2012]

That figure is in addition to the 40,000 to 80,000 who remain displaced from the March-April 2011 hostilities.

According to the report, "armed men have prevented displaced persons from accessing their land, sometimes imposing 'arbitrary taxes on those wishing to return'."

Are these "arbitrary taxes" simple criminal extortion, or jizya (Islamic, sacralised extortion of the dhimmi, as mandated by the Qur'an in Sura 9:29)? And why is it being allowed? The fact is, lawless Ivory Coast is awash with illegal weapons.

On 5 Dec, UN Watch issued a statement entitled, Despite Military Atrocities, Ivory Coast Elected as UN Disarmament Commission Vice-Chair, in which it called for the move to be reversed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Announcing: Turn Back the Battle

Elizabeth Kendal's book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today, is now available on Amazon.

Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
By Elizabeth Kendal (Deror Books, Dec 2012)

A website by the same name, Turn Back the Battle, will be up and running shortly.

A Kindle version of the book should be available by the end of the month.

There will be an Australian launch early next year, from which point the book will also be available through Australian Christian booksellers such as Koorong Books, United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and others.

This book is an offering to the Lord. Please pray that God will take it and use it for the benefit of his Church and the glory of his name.

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The product of nearly four years' labour, Turn Back the Battle arises out of Elizabeth Kendal's passionate interest in and growing concern for how persecuted Christians and their advocates respond to suffering, persecution and existential threat. The book is informed by Elizabeth's nearly15 years of service in the cause of international religious liberty and the persecuted Church.

In Turn Back the Battle, Kendal brings Isaiah 1 - 39 to life and applies it to the 21st Century Church. She juxtaposes Judah's situation in the latter part of the 8th Century BC with our own. For like our own times, the times in which Isaiah lived were times of immense regional volatility, soaring geo-political tensions and gross insecurity. Twice, Judah was invaded by hostile forces threatening occupation and regime change, death and captivity. Indeed it is the politically and militarily-charged context that makes Isaiah's call to trust the Lord so profoundly radical, incredibly challenging and hard to swallow.

But in Isaiah 7 - 39, God gives us not only theory, but precedent. For not only does he commission a prophet to instruct God's people on how they should respond to insecurity and existential threat, he provides a typological drama that illustrates the word and proves the point that God is alive and active in history. Through the historic narrative, which commences in 735 BC with the faithless King Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimite war and concludes with King Hezekiah and the Assyrian invasion of 701 BC, God illustrates, consolidates and demonstrates everything Isaiah says through his advocacy and his oracles.  

Each chapter concludes with a page of questions for personal contemplation or group discussion, as well as a carefully crafted prayer that applies the key lessons of the chapter.

A few selected quotes from the book:

In these darkening days of escalating persecution and insecurity, the church would do well to remember that real prayer is not only a critical and strategic element of the spiritual battle, real prayer is the highest form of advocacy and God’s ordained means of unleashing the forces of heaven. (From chapter 5)

When Isaiah approached the political powers in Jerusalem, he always did so as Yahweh’s ambassador, as Yahweh’s prophet, and never in the manner of a union representative. Isaiah presented Jerusalem’s political powerbrokers with the clear and simple word of God. He invested no faith in kings or political players per se. Neither did he invest faith in the power of weapons or funds or influence or projects that these political powerbrokers had at their disposal. His faith was in the Lord alone. (From chapter 8)

Christians have a freedom the world can only dream of. Because our God is the living, loving, sovereign, saving and eternally faithful God, the Christian is never condemned to fate. Jerusalem was doomed before Hezekiah prayed. But Hezekiah’s prayer changed everything. Hezekiah’s prayer marks the moment the crown of the Lord of Hosts was put on and the battle was turned back at the gate (28:6). (From chapter 11)

Selected quotes from selected endorsements:

In 'Turn Back the Battle' Isaiah's message comes through loud and clear. . . The lesson to be drawn for Christian work is not to rely on compromised human institutions to bring justice and freedom to a beleaguered humanity but to rely on God alone.
– Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue

. . . Elizabeth Kendal puts the current awful outpouring of violence, aggression and terrorism against the Body of Christ in its biblical context. She shines the light of God's Word onto the pain, the anguish and the disdain that God's people suffer. This book will reinforce your confidence in God's commitment to liberate his people. It explains why we need to focus on him in our darkest hour . . .
– Timothy O. Olonade, Executive Secretary and CEO, Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association

'Turn Back the Battle' is a timely antidote against the belief that more activism . . . can substantially change the situation of persecuted Christians. Elizabeth Kendal's very readable book applies the message of Isaiah to believers today, to show that our faith must be in God alone, and our focus on obeying him before anything else. . .
– Jos M. Strengholt, Anglican priest in Cairo, Egypt

In this superbly written book, Elizabeth Kendal shows how the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah can equip today's Christians. It serves as a wake-up call for believers tempted by the attractions of an increasingly God-less world, and Christians living under oppression will draw great inspiration from it.
– Peter Riddell, Vice-Principal (Academic), and Dean of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths, Melbourne School of Theology

'Turn Back the Battle' is an outstandingly insightful book which exposes global threats to Christian faith, religious liberty and human rights. As the foundation of our civilisation is shaken, and the Church faces life-endangering challenges from within and without, it calls us to ask ourselves in what and in whom do we trust. It proclaims that our ultimate security rests in Christ alone. It invites readers to a radical faith in God. The message of this passionate and prophetically astute book should be heeded by all Christ's faithful witnesses in this the 21st Century.
– Albrecht Hauser, Mission Secretary and Canon of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg and a Trustee of the Barnabas Fund

Table of Contents:

     Introduction: You will have tribulation        
     John 16:33
1   Who will we trust?            
     Isaiah 2:1–4:6
2   Stand or stumble, the choice is yours         
     Isaiah 7:1–13
3   A paradigm for threatened Christians        
     Isaiah 8:5–17
4   Inquire of the Lord of Hosts                        
     Isaiah 9:13                
5   Forgetting God                                             
     Isaiah 17:1–11 & 28:1–6   
6  Yesterday’s faith is not sufficient for today 
     Isaiah 22:8–11 & 38-39
7   Christian security: not in ‘Man’                    
     Isaiah 22:15–25
8   Christian security: not in the ‘City of Man’    
     Isaiah 24—27
9   Christian security: not in a ‘covenant with death’  
     Isaiah 28:9–22
10 Christian security: not in practical atheism      
     Isaiah 30—31
11 ‘In whom do you now trust?’                    
     Isaiah 36—37
12 Choose this day …                               
     Isaiah 34—35
     Bibliography & Abbreviations

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ZIMBABWE: let justice roll on

By Elizabeth Kendal

After excommunicated rogue bishop, Nolbert Kunonga -- also known as Mugabe's bishop -- broke away from the Anglican Church in 2007, he forcibly occupied and seized control of a vast array of  church properties, including the cathedral in Harare, numerous churches, vicarages, schools, clinics, orphanages, offices, vehicles and bank accounts.

Kunonga, who has been linked to violence against Anglicans, including the murder of 10 clergy, has long been backed by pro-Mugabe police and ZANU-PF thugs. Anglicans suspect Kunonga of complicity in the February 2011 murder of Jessica Mandeya (89), a lay leader in the rural parish of Mashonaland East who was raped, mutilated and strangled after she refused to join Kunonga's pro-Mugabe faction. Kunonga denies any part in this, retorting that if he were going to kill anyone, it would be his nemesis, Bishop Chad Gandiya.

For more background see:
Religious Liberty Monitoring, label Zimbabwe
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, label Zimbabwe

On 12 August 2011, Zimbabwe's Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku released an interim order confirming Bishop Chad Gandiya as the Bishop of Harare, but upholding the 24 July 2009 High Court ruling granting the illegitimate bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, control over all Anglican Church assets in Harare.

See: Chief Justice grants excommunicated Kunonga control over Anglican properties
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 17 Aug 2011

On Monday 19 November 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal put forward by the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and led by Bishop Chad Gandiya. It also set aside, condemning as "wrong", two judgments that had been granted in favour of the Nolbert Kunonga-led "Diocesan Trustees for the Diocese of Harare" entitling them to control of Anglican church properties.

For full report from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) see:
Supreme Court decision ending unprecedented assault on religious freedom welcomed
20 Nov 2012

ZLHR is advocating that immediate action be taken "to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the violations that, for almost six years, visited Anglican Church parishioners including the disadvantaged young children at CPCA-run orphanages around the country. Such action," it said, "will have the effect of contributing positively to the restoration of public confidence in the justice delivery system."

Supreme Court Judge Yunus Omerjee, who read the judgement, said: "When one leaves a club one does not take its property with him or her. It has long been established as a salutary principle of law in this area of property ownership that when one or more people secede from an existing church, they have no right to claim church property even if those who remain members of the congregation are in the minority."

See: Kunonga loses Anglican property fight
by Moses Chibaya, New Zimbabwe, 19  Nov 2012

Daniel Nemukuyu reports: "After the ruling, Bishop Gandiya and his followers broke into wild celebrations outside the Supreme Court with some singing hymns and dancing."

Dr Kunonga has been ordered to return all Anglican properties illegally seized from the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

Speaking after the Supreme Court judgment Zimbabwe's Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, himself an Anglican, said: "Our prayers have been answered for the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. I now look forward to working with them to restore sanity in their schools which have suffered so much during this period of insanity. As usual my door is open if they need help in this regard."

"We prayed, we waited and we have been vindicated," said Bishop Chad Gandiya. "This is God's doing . . . "We have been in exile for five years, but now we are going back home."

Bishop Gandiya described Monday's ruling as a "pleasant surprise" and appealed to all Anglicans to be "gracious in winning".

Of course it might be too much to expect that Kunonga will be gracious in losing. Implementing the order might not be as straight forward as issuing it.

UPDATES:

Zimbabwe: Jubilant Anglicans Return to Parishes
By Innocent Ruwende and Evelene Taadira, 26 November 2012
excerpt:
It was an emotional Sunday for members of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) as they returned to various parishes after five years of worshipping under trees or rented premises.

This came in the wake of last week's Supreme Court ruling which gave the Harare Diocese led by Bishop Chad Gandiya control over the church's properties.The properties had been under the control of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of the Church of the Province of Zimbabwe, who is former head of the Harare Diocese.

The Supreme Court decision ended years of feuding between the CPCA and Dr Kunonga's group and gave Anglicans the right to worship in their church buildings, and repossess other properties including schools, clinics and orphanages that had been under the control of Dr Kunonga.

Anglican Harare CPCA spokesperson Mr Precious Shumba said their members had access to all their premises and for the first time in five years conducted services in the parishes.

He said they had not met any resistance from most priests aligned to Bishop Kunonga. . .
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Zimbabwe: Kunonga Faction Resists Eviction in Some Parishes
By Tererai Karimakwenda, 26 November 2012
excerpt
Anglican clergy and parishioners who went back to worship in church buildings that had been seized by the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, have said for the most part parishes were peaceful but they faced resistance in some areas. . .

Peaceful services were held in many parishes, including Avondale, Cranborne, Mabelreign, Mufakose, Budiriro and Norton, where church services were conducted midweek after Kunonga's bishops and priests moved out.

But strong resistance was reported at three of Kunonga's parishes on Friday, including St Philip parish in Tafara and St James parish in Mabvuku, where Reverend Raymond Makiwa is alleged to have threatened to unleash dogs on anyone trying to evict him. . .
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Ousted Bishop Kunonga fights back
Daniel Nemukuyu and Tererai Karimakwenda, November 28, 2012
excerpt
[Kunonga's faction] has engaged prominent Harare lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange of Venturas and Samukange law firm and yesterday filed two separate High Court applications to stop the pending eviction of its clergy and laity from church properties. . .
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Kunonga ran up $300k bills: Bishop Gandiya
by Moses Chibaya 21 Nov 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia: Reviving Jihad.

By Elizabeth Kendal

As Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin has reported, the Indonesian government has deployed troops to Central Sulawesi in response to a string of terrorist attacks that in have included bombings and assassinations of police officers. On 22 October, belligerents set fire to a church in Madale village on the outskirts of Poso, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to trigger sectarian conflict. In reporting the incident the Jakarta Post noted: "A re-emergence of the conflict would also serve to fire up Muslim extremists across the country to wage war against Christians."

See: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 183
October Update, 31 October 2012

As the following articles indicate -- the terrorism continues.

Police Disarm Bomb Found in Poso Resident's Backyard
Jakarta Globe, SP/John Lory | November 09, 2012

Excerpts:

A bomb squad from Central Sulawesi Police disarmed a homemade bomb found in the backyard of a Poso resident's house on Thursday.

The homeowner, Yulianti, 63, who lives in the Landangan village, said she discovered the bomb in her backyard at 6:30 a.m.

[. . .]

Yulianti said the house was mostly empty the previous evening as the family had been at church.

Police have cordoned off the area where the bomb was found and have combed the area for clues. Personnel on site said the home-assembled bomb contained chemicals urea and nitrate, a detonator and a cable network.

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Poso Police Chief Survives Assassination Attempt
Jakarta Globe | November 15, 2012

Excerpt:

The incident occurred on Thursday [15 Nov] at 12:15 p.m. local time. Adj. Comr. Nicklas Karauwan, the chief of police of Poso Pesisir Utara, a subdistrict located in Central Sulawesi, reportedly left his house to take the key out of a motorcycle parked in his yard. Not long after he stepped outside gunshots were heard, and the police chief ran back into his house while ducking down.

“A [police officer] fired back, but the perpetrator had already run away,” Eko said.

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REVIVING JIHAD

The following article, published in the Jakarta Post on 13 November, is one to download and read in full.

Moderate Islam losing ground to extremists in Poso
By Bagus BT Saragih and Ruslan Sangadji,
The Jakarta Post | Expose | Tue, 13 November 2012.

Excerpts:

The government’s failure to thoroughly root out radicalism, coupled with alleged police brutality in counterterrorism raids, have reunited the Islamic fighters and boosted the spirit needed to radicalize traumatized residents.

[. . .]

Besides their expanding base, militants have also aggressively tried to take over mosques run by moderate Muslim groups.

Former Islamic combatant Sutami Idris, who is now a respected moderate Muslim cleric, said many mosques were struggling to prevent the infiltration.

Many moderate mosques in Poso have gradually come under the control of radical groups, Sutami said last week.

“Their movement looks to be very organized. First, they deploy their followers as ordinary congregation members to regularly attend prayers at particular mosques to gain trust.”

“Once the trust begins to develop, these people are given responsibilities, such as announcing adzan [Muslim call to prayer] and are allowed to be part of the mosques’ organizations. When this stage is reached, they begin to spread their radical ideology,” he said.

According to Sutami, radical teachings can be easily identified by the way jihad is allowed to be carried out.

“Robbing a jewelry store owned by ‘infidels’, for example, can be considered halal for these kinds of group,” Sutami said.

Sutami acknowledged that many Islamic clerics from outside Poso, particularly from Java, such as Surakarta and Semarang, had played significant roles in the radicalization movement.

[. . .]

The authorities in Poso are also worried over the inflow of former combatants of the Philippines’ Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Philippine government signed a peace pact with MILF last month to end decades of bloody separatism conflict. However, the combatants, who oppose the peace pact, may have traveled to Poso to help their Muslim brothers in the fight.

[. . .]

. . . the authorities have again been alerted to the inflow of extremists from Java.

According to Adnan Arsal, the leader of the Tanah Runtuh neighborhood, many clerics and militants from Java had opted to shift their jihad operations to Poso.

Militants and terrorist fugitives apparently want to create tension between Christians and Muslims in Poso in the hope of reviving the sectarian conflict. . .

--------------------------------
END

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Islamisation of Turkey: the case of Fazil Say

by Elizabeth Kendal

For background on the Islamisation of Turkey see my earlier post:
Erodgan, Ergenekon, Europe and the Islamisation of Turkey
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 13 Oct 2012

The Case of Fazil Say

Energetic, world renowned virtuoso classical and jazz pianist Fazil Say (42) has filled concert halls around the world, performing with the philharmonic orchestras of Berlin, New York, Tokyo and Israel. He has also served as a cultural ambassador for the European Union.

In April, in the course of a Twitter conversation, Say retweeted a verse by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam which mocks pious Islamic hypocrisy by asking believers: "You say rivers of wine flow in heaven: is heaven a tavern to you? / You say two houris [beautiful virgins] await each believer there: is heaven a brothel to you?"

Other tweets to have caused "offense" include one where Say joked about a call to prayer that lasted only 22 seconds. "Why such haste?" Say tweeted. "Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki [alcoholic drink] on the table?"

And another: "I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it's always an Islamist."

Three people filed complaints, and on 1 June, prosecutors charged Say with inciting hatred and public enmity, and with insulting "religious values". He faces a maximum 18 months prison term, although any sentence is likely to be suspended.

On Tuesday 16 Oct, Say sent a note to a gathering of artists in which he said he was "amazed" he was having to appear in the dock. "All my life, I have represented the modern face of Turkey to the world through my art," he said. "I feel weird because I am facing the threat of being punished with a case like this."

AFP reports: "Say has also often criticised the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), accusing it of having a secret agenda to Islamise Turkey.

"In April, Say told the Hurriyet newspaper that he felt completely ostracised by Turkish society since he declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance."

At a concert performance the night before his 18 October court appearance, Say read out a prepared statement: "Many intellectual friends, journalists are behind bars for reasons we can't know or understand.

"I can't even begin to explain this era. Believe me this reminds me of Nazi Germany the most.

"It is perhaps an honor to be tried because of retweeting a verse of Khayyam in an era like this. . . I have committed no crime. . . We are modern individuals, not a flock.

"If this is a dark era, then let us enlighten it."

On 18 October, "a visibly upset Say" told the Istanbul court, " I reject all the accusations."

AFP reports: "In a written defence submitted to the court, Say said he did not seek to insult anybody, but was merely expressing his uneasiness with people who were abusing religion for their own benefits. 'What I have done as an artist is to share my thoughts with my followers. . .  It is clear that I haven’t invited anybody to spread violence, or jeopardised public peace.'"

Say's lawyers requested an immediate acquittal; however this was rejected. The court adjourned the case to 18 February 2013.

Turkey -- a model of Islamic democracy?

See:
Tweeting Turkish pianist Fazil Say denies religious insult charge
By Nick Tattersall, Reuters, 19  October 2012 

Turkish pianist on trial for insulting Islam
Reuters, Thursday Oct 18, 2012

Turkish pianist ‘insulted Islam’
AFP, October 19, 2012

Turkish musician accused of Islam insults
By Daniel Dombey in Istanbul October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whither the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets on Friday 5 October, in what has been by far the largest political demonstration in the kingdom since the onset of the "Arab Spring".  The protestors were calling for "democratic reforms," threatening to boycott the forthcoming elections should adequate reforms not be realised.

See: A late-blooming Arab Spring in Jordan?
By Ilene Prusher, Jerusalem Post, 2 Oct 2012
Muslim Brotherhood, opposition groups, call for massive rally in Amman to demand reform and boycott upcoming elections.

In Jordan, real democracy would, ipso facto, result in a Palestinian state. As was the case in Iraq and Syria, Jordan is dominated by a minority. While in multi-racial, pluralistic Iraq and Syria, the divisions are sectarian, in Jordan the divisions are tribal. In Iraq, a Sunni minority dominated a Shi'ite majority: a situation established by the British. In Syria, an Alawite minority has dominated a Sunni majority: a situation established by the French. In Jordan, which is officially 92 percent Sunni Muslim, a Bedouin ("East Banker") minority dominates a Palestinian ("West Banker") majority: a situation created by mass migration. And within the dominant minority, the Hashemite monarchy represents merely one tribe amongst many -- and a "foreign"/ outsider, British-transplanted tribe at that.

The Hashemites are an Arab tribe emanating from the Hejaz / Red Sea region of what is now Saudi Arabia.

During World War One, Lawrence of Arabia convince the Hashemites to rise up against their Ottoman overlords. After the war, Britain rewarded its Hashemite allies with kingdoms in Iraq, Trans-Jordan and the Hejaz.

Hashemite rule over the Hejaz ended in 1925 when the Saudis conquered and annexed the territory into their own kingdom, thereby seizing control of Islam's holiest and most lucrative sites. In Iraq, Hashemite rule ended in 1958, when the monarchy was overthrown in a military coup. Only in Jordan has Hashemite rule survived. If the Palestinians are able to exploit the window of opportunity afforded them by the "Arab Spring," then a Palestinian state might be not far off -- albeit one that retains a Hashemite king as a powerless figurehead. Much depends on whether on West decides to "champion democracy" in Jordan (as it supposedly did in Egypt and Libya) or give tacit support to violent repression (as it clearly did in Bahrain).

What a Palestinian Jordan might mean for local Christians and for Israel is unclear.

A report published in the winter (northern hemisphere) edition of the Middle East Quarterly, entitled "Jordon is Palestinian", explains the situation well. The author, Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian of Palestinian decent. Full of hope (and doubtless a little bias) Zahran is extremely positive about the prospects of a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian State in Jordan. What is uncertain, however, is whether those who would eventually hold power in a Palestinian Jordan would share his position. Doubtless Palestinians would be profoundly divided. For certain, many would be overjoyed to be able to get on with their lives free of the shackle of "refugee" status. However, there would also be plenty of belligerent Islamists keen to ruin everything for everyone.

See: Jordan Is Palestinian
by Mudar Zahran, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012.

Palestinians comprise a majority in Jordan. Jordan's two largest cities, Amman and Zarqa, are majority Palestinian. Yet as Zahran notes, the "Palestinian majority has been discriminated against by the ruling Hashemite dynasty, propped up by a minority Bedouin population, from the moment it occupied Judea and Samaria during the 1948 war (these territories were annexed to Jordan in April 1950 to become the kingdom's West Bank)."

Held as "refugees" with a "right of return", the Palestinians are discriminated against in every way as they used as pawns in an Arab strategy aimed at destroying Israel. They are politically marginalised: "there is not a single Palestinian serving as governor of any of Jordan's twelve governorships", writes Zahran. Though they are the backbone of the Jordanian economy, the Palestinians suffer economic discrimination. For while they pay hefty tariffs and high taxes, the Bedouin "East Bankers", as public servants and military service personnel, have access to government-subsidised stores. As such, Palestinian taxes go into supporting the economic benefits enjoyed by members of institutions the Palestinians are not permitted to join. It is not a wonder that Jordan's Palestinians have for some time been viewed as "a ticking bomb".

On the other side of the coin, the Bedouin have come to realise the degree to which the Hashemite monarchy is dependent upon them. The army, the police forces, all the security agencies and the Jordanian General Intelligence Department are all made up of Bedouin (East Bankers). Consequently, as Zahran points out, the Hashemite monarchy has little choice but to kowtow to their demands.

Zahran reports, "Despite their lavish privileges, Jordanian Bedouins seem to insist relentlessly on a bigger piece of the cake, demanding more privileges from the king, and, in doing so, they have grown fearless about defying him."

Furthermore, the Bedouin have a tradition of pragmatic flexibility, freely trading loyalty according to interests such as who can offer the best rewards.

Zahran writes that essentially, "the Jordanian regime is now detested not only by the Palestinians but also by the Bedouins, who have called for a constitutional monarchy in which the king hands his powers to them." According to Zahran, it is the Bedouins who dominate Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.

Zahran explains how in 2008, the monarchy enacted a discriminatory electoral law through which it strategically empowered the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). By empowering the MB, Abdullah created a platform upon which he could appeal to the US for political support and aid to tackle the Islamist threat. [NOTE: This is exactly what Gen. President Musharraf did in Pakistan in 2002 when, through gerrymandering and amendments to the electoral law, he engineered the way for the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA: an alliance of six Islamist parties) to emerge holding the balance of power. He then brokered quid-pro-quo deals with the MMA, deals that advanced his own personal ambitions while simultaneously advancing Islamisation which he then presented to his Western allies as the reason why they should back him and keep the aid flowing!]

For more on this see another article by Mudar Zahran
Jordan's King and the Muslim Brotherhood: An Unholy Marriage
American Thinker, 20 January 2012
Quote: "It seems that the Jordanian regime is not as anti-Islamist as it claims to be, and it seems that both the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime don't want the Palestinian majority to come to power.  From the king's point of view, it would mean the end of his kingdom.  From the Muslim Brotherhood's point of view, it would present Palestinians everywhere with 'the alternative homeland' -- i.e., the 'Jordan is Palestine' option is 'a threat' to their attempts to destroy Israel [through 'right of return']."

For more information on the Palestinian "refugee" and "right of return" issues, as well as on UNRWA -- the UN Relief and Works Agency which is dedicated to perpetuating the crisis --
SEE:

Nitza Nachmias, UNRWA Betrays Its Mission
A temporary relief operation turned into a self-perpetuating agency
also
Steven J. Rosen, Why a Special Issue on UNRWA?
Because the agency has become part of the problem
and
Alex Joffe, UNRWA Resists Resettlement
It advocates solely for the "right of return" to Israel 
FROM:
UNRWA: PART OF THE PROBLEM
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2012 • VOLUME 19: NUMBER 4

In December 2012 or early 2013, the Palestinian majority and Bedouin opposition, with the momentum of the Arab Spring behind them, will be faced with the prospect of "un-democratic" elections. Despite this being a recipe for conflict, the West seems confident that its ally, King Abdullah II, will remain in control. Personally, I'm not so sure. A perfect storm may well be looming.

But would the solving of the "refugee" problem solve the problems of the Middle East? Would a Palestinian Jordan be economically engaged and at peace with Israel (as Zahran believes)? And what would be the status of the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?

If these questions can be answered positively -- then great! If not, because it turns out that the majority of Palestinians are far too radicalised for that, then whither the Church in a Palestinian Jordan?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Erodgan, Ergenekon, Europe and the Islamisation of Turkey


By Elizabeth Kendal

A column by Andrew C. McCarthy, in National Review Online, has motivated me to find time -- between writing on pogroms, massacres, dispossession, imprisonments and tortures -- to highlight a grossly under-appreciated and deeply-controversial matter: How Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is exploiting European ignorance and timidity to advance Islamisation in Turkey.

In his column, entitled, "Why Turkey Will Never Join the EU" (NRO, 29 Sept 2012), McCarthy has a lot to say about Turkey, Islam and Europe that is of critical importance.  I have long shared his view. It is a position that has frequently put me at odds with European evangelicals.

McCarthy opens with these words: "When Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey, it was anything but clear that he would last more than a few months. The military, the constitutional guardian of Atatürk's secular order, had killed the Islamist administration of Erdogan's mentor, Necmettin Erbakan, only a few years earlier. At the time, Erdogan was jailed for several months as a seditionist. Though he was nonetheless permitted to assume the prime minister's office in 2003 after leading his Islamist party to victory, the man who famously proclaimed 'I am a servant of sharia' still aroused great suspicion.

"To survive and thrive, Erdogan would have to find ways to erode and nullify his Kemalist opponents. Thanks to Europe, he had cards to play."

As McCarthy notes, Turkish integration into the West had long been a "Kemalist dream". Erdogan, however, knows the truth: European leaders will never accept Turkey into the European Union (EU).

Terrified of being accused of Islamophobia, European elites have opened their arms to Turkey while setting up a process -- a series of hoops through which Turkey must jump -- the end result of which will be EU-Integration. Knowing Turkey will never achieve EU-integration -- and not caring, because he doesn't actually want it -- Erdogan is masterfully exploiting the situation to advance his own agenda: the Islamisation of Turkey.

"For", writes McCarthy, "among the steps Turkey must theoretically climb on the ladder to Euro-worthiness are religious liberty, the separation of religion and the state, and civilian control of the military. As Erdogan saw, the EU-integration process was the surest way to cow the generals into accepting elected Islamists and to break secularist constraints on Islamic supremacism."

McCarthy describes Islam as "totalitarianism packaged as 'religion'". I likewise have described Islam as totalitarianism concealed under or protected by a cloak of religion. It is precisely because socio-political, imperialistic, totalitarian Islam covers itself with "religion", it can appeal to religious liberty every time it is challenged. Furthermore, it is precisely because Islam is totalitarian and supremacist, that "liberty and Sharia cannot share the same space".

"In Turkey," writes McCarthy, "the administrators of the Kemalist governmental model — comprising Muslims who understood Islam intimately [better than the EU] — suppressed Islam not to deny freedom of conscience but to enable it. They were trying to forge exactly the sort of secular civil society Europeans revere. They knew it could not coexist with sharia. Thus, the government assumed supervision of the country's 80,000 mosques, vetted the imams, controlled the content of sermons and literature, and aggressively monitored the Islamic charities. The Muslims running the state realized that Islam would inevitably work against secular civil society if left to its own devices. [. . .]

McCarthy makes the point that the difference between Turkey and the West, is that Turkey has been trying to "cultivate freedom in an Islamic setting, not preserve freedom in a preexisting culture of liberty". And, he notes, "In a mainstream-Islamic society, the threat of reversion to a freedom-devouring sharia societal system always looms."

"Kemalist Muslims wanted a flourishing civil society but realized they could not keep one unless Islam's supremacist proclivities were permanently checked. Though very far from perfect, they were trying to establish a prosperous, Western-style nation-state. The Kemalists, unlike sharia adherents, never sought to strangle freedom of conscience. There was never any prohibition on being a Muslim, believing in Islam, or privately adhering to Islam's spiritual elements. It was Islam's extra-spiritual aspects — political, social, economic, military, etc. — that were the problem. Without the military as a bulwark against Islamic supremacism, freedom of conscience and liberty in general would be doomed."

But, as McCarthy notes, Europe will have none of it, arrogantly insisting that history is flowing irresistibly towards European-style secular humanism and Western-style democracy.

To summarise: European elites don't actually want Turkey in the EU. But rather than stand accused of Islamophobia, they hold out the promise of integration, as soon as Turkey reaches the unreachable state of "reformed". Meanwhile, Erdogan ,who has nothing but Islamist contempt for the West and would not join the EU unless it was to dominate it, "continues to leverage this European pressure for Turkish reform because it serves the Islamist cause of weakening the Turkish military and breaking Atatürk's shackles on supremacist Islam — all under the ironic guise of promoting 'religious liberty'."

See: Why Turkey Will Never Join the EU 
By Andrew C. McCarthy
National Review Online, 29 Sept 2010.

ERGENEKON

One of the most significant scams Erodgan has pulled off, enabling him to repress and persecute all opposition while still impressing the Europeans, has been the Ergenekon investigation.

Supposedly created to prosecute members of a "Deep State" conspiracy, the Ergenekon investigation has been used to harass, persecute and silence opposition, particularly those associated with the Constitutional Court and the Military.

Hundreds of Turks -- including journalists, academics, geriatric authors, transsexual actors etc as well as Kemalist politicians, Generals and judges -- have been detained without charge and without evidence, for no other apparent reason than they expressed opposition to Erdogan's pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - AKP) or to the Islamisation of Turkey in general.

The AKP also exploits the Ergenekon investigation as a means to shift the blame for every act of Islamic religious hatred or terrorism on to secularists. "It goes without saying that a disinformation campaign which holds Ergenekon ultimately responsible for all the violence previously attributed to Islamist groups is unlikely to encourage those who are best-placed to identify potential Islamist terrorists to be more vigilant." (Jenkins, Terrorism Monitor, 3 Oct 2008)

In a parallel case code-named "Sledgehammer", more than 300 active and retired military officers were recently sentenced to prison terms on charges relating to an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government. Bill Park, a senior lecturer who specialises in Turkish foreign and security policy at King's College, London, comments that as a worst case scenario, "Kemalist/secularist officers are now more generally purged as part of an Islamist long march through Turkey's institutions".

Ergenekon -- Recommended reading:

Turkey's New Islamism
By David Pryce-Jones, National Review Online, 27 Sept 2012

Erdogan, Ergenekon, and the Struggle for Turkey
By Michael Rubin, Middle East Forum, 8 Aug 2008.

Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey's Ergenekon Investigation
Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Silk Road Studies Program
Silk Road Paper,  by Gareth H. Jenkins, August 2009.

The Impact of the Ergenekon Investigation on Turkish Counterterrorism Operations
Jamestown, Terrorism Monitor, Volume: 6 Issue: 19
By Gareth Jenkins, 3 October 2008

includes Sledgehammer 

ERGENEKON, SLEDGEHAMMER, AND THE POLITICS OF TURKISH JUSTICE: CONSPIRACIES AND COINCIDENCES
GLORIA Centre, Global Research in International Affairs.
By Gareth Jenkins, 29 August 2011

The Ergenekon investigation gets out of control
Caspian Intelligence, 10 January 2012

Turkey's Sledgehammer Coup verdict: justice or Soviet-style show trial?
Turkish court's jailing of hundreds of military officers over Erdogan coup plot revives fears of return to authoritarian rule.
By Simon Tisdall, for the Guardian, 25 September 2012

Turkey’s Massive Military Trial Opens Old Wounds and New Anxieties
Claims of procedural and evidentiary anomalies in a huge trial of coup plotters raise criticism of the Erdogan administration. Is the Prime Minister trying too hard to bury the military — and Turkish secularism?
By Pelin Turgut in Istanbul for TIME, 24 Sept 2012

Hundreds Convicted in Turkish Coup Trial
By EMRE PEKER, Wall Street Journal
21 September 2012.

The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations are not the only show trial campaigns being waged against those who oppose Erdogan, the AKP and/or Islamisation.

In a trial that has been dubbed the KCK case, "193 men and women are being judged on charges of 'membership in an illegal organization', legalese for 'terrorism'. The defendants were arrested for either teaching or taking classes at academies set up by the BDP, the Peace and Democracy Party, a liberal coalition political party dominated by the Kurdish minority and dedicated to establishing equality for all of Turkey's minorities. According to the ruling AK Party under Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan, participation in any form at these academies -- even the tea servers were arrested -- meant membership in the KCK, the urban branch of the Kurdish guerrilla movement.

"Among these supposed trainers of Kurdish terrorists in the mountains are also non-Kurds, such as Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Busra Ersanli, a professor of political science. Authorities have charged the aged and infirm as well, including Zekiye Ayik, an elderly woman who never learned to read or write, and Muhsin Yenisöz, a man who has to be frequently hospitalized for heart disease. These four, due to significant outside pressure, were released on bond at the end of the first phase of the trial in July, but are still being tried. Most of the defendants remain in prison, including my 60 year old father-in-law, Kemal Seven, a former elementary school teacher and instructor at the academies."

From: Turkey's Treacherous Show Trials
By Jeffrey Wade Gibbs, for Gatestone Institute. 1 October 2012
Gibbs is an American writer and teacher who has been living in Istanbul for five years.

None of this bodes well for religious freedom or for the Church in Turkey. Incredibly though, it is all being done in the name of religious liberty and democracy, to cheers and congratulations from the West.

It is a travesty that the European Parliament has supported these clearly political investigations which do nothing to advance democracy or liberty but plenty to advance totalitarianism, Islamisation and a climate of fear.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apostasy, Fitna and abuse of Interpol


by Elizabeth Kendal

If a 2 September report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol as been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate.

------------------------------------------

APOSTASY

On 28 July 2012, the Saudi Gazette reported: "A Saudi girl who recently embraced Christianity and fled the country for refuge in Lebanon told the host of a religious program on an Arabic TV channel that she was tired of performing prayers and fasting during Ramadan.

"The girl, who said her name was Maryam, said praying and fasting did not bring her any benefits. She also criticized the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai'a) and claimed that she was raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity.

"She said she became a Christian after she had a dream one night. In it, she climbed to the skies and heard God telling her that Jesus is His son."

According to reports, Maryam (28) was working in an insurance firm in Al-Khobar when she became interested in Christianity through the influence of her Christian boss, Lebanese expatriate, Mr Henna Sarkees (50). An unnamed male Saudi national with links to the firm then secured false travel documents that allowed her to leave the country for Lebanon, then for Sweden.

Henna Sarkees and the unnamed Saudi national will stand trial in Al-Khobar, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, on Saturday 15 September. Maryam's parents have charged the two men with coercing Maryam into converting to Christianity and then convincing her to leave the country without the consent of her male guardian. They have even suggested it may all be part of a conspiracy to get their daughter into the hands of international people-traffickers.

Saudi media asserts that Maryam regrets her conversion, maintains she is still Muslim, denies ever talking to Arabic TV, desires to return home and is accusing Christians of taking her to Sweden against her will.

For more background, details and links see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 175 | Wed 05 Sep 2012
SAUDI ARABIA: convert flees; helpers to face court
-- Interpol and Swedish authorities aid Saudi Embassy to hunt convert.
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 2 September, the following news report appeared in the Saudi Gazette:
(copied in full; emphasis mine)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Efforts on to bring back ‘Al-Khobar girl’ from Sweden
Sunday, September 02, 2012

AL-KHOBAR —The Al-Khobar girl who fled the Kingdom after allegedly converting to Christianity will be brought home from Sweden in a matter of few days, Al-Yaum newspaper reported Saturday quoting informed sources.

The Interpol is coordinating with the Saudi Embassy in Stockholm and Swedish authorities to return the girl to her homeland before her 'kidnappers' move her to another country, the sources said.

The girl's father received phone calls from unknown people who threatened to kill his daughter or move her to another European country if the main suspect in her case, a Lebanese man named Henna Sarkess, was not released from jail in the Kingdom.

Sources said it is highly likely that a global human trafficking network was involved in the kidnapping of the girl, who was persuaded by her Lebanese manager to embrace Christianity and leave the country without the knowledge of her family.

A Saudi was arrested for faking a travel permit, which the girl used to leave the Kingdom and go to Lebanon. There, she stayed with a Christian group inside a church for a while. When she told the group that she wanted to return to the Kingdom and that she regretted what she had done, the group decided to take her to Sweden because it did not want her to return to the Kingdom.

The girl’s father has called upon the authorities to help him bring back his daughter. He said his daughter still talks to them over the phone and she is currently in Sweden. The father is worried that his daughter might get brainwashed.

The Saudi Embassy in Stockholm said it received a letter from the girl’s father requesting it to help her return to the Kingdom. The [Saudi] embassy has started a search with the Swedish authorities.

--------------------------------------------

INTERPOL

The information in this section of the posting has mostly been gleaned from the following sources:

Interpol's Red Notices Used by Some to Pursue Political Dissenters, Opponents.
Investigative report by Libby Lewis, for The Cutting Edge, 25 July 2011

GLOBAL ADMINISTRATIVE LAW MEETS “SOFT” POWERS:THE UNCOMFORTABLE CASE OF INTERPOL RED NOTICES
Journal article (91 pages) by Mario Savino, March 2010
Journal of International Law and Politics, New York University

The website of Fair Trials International / Interpol

Interpol's official website

INTERPOL: WHAT IS IT?

With 190 member countries, Interpol is the world's second largest international entity after the United Nations. As in the United Nations, Interpol's member countries span from totalitarian dictatorship to liberal democracies. While Interpol possesses many attributes of an international organisation, many would say it is really more of an international network, linking police globally for the purpose of facilitating police cooperation and law enforcement across the globe.

INTERPOL: HOW IT WORKS

Interpol operates "a closed communications system linking police via vast international databases". (Lewis) Normally, police in member countries send Interpol a domestic arrest notice, which Interpol then sends out as a global Red Notice. On the basis of a Red Notice, police in other member countries may arrest suspects for extradition.

While Interpol's Constitution mandates neutrality and prohibits "any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character," cooperation is based on trust -- i.e. Interpol trusts member countries not to abuse the system.

WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?

While Interpol has doubtless made the world a safer place by facilitating the arrest of numerous transnational terrorists, traffickers and other criminals, there is nothing to prevent human rights-abusing, non-free, totalitarian states from abusing the system and using Interpol to extend their own repressive arms internationally. Indeed, dictatorial regimes have been known to abuse the system and use it to track down and capture, or even just drive underground, their most troublesome dissidents.

And because Interpol is neither transparent nor accountable, it is extremely easy to abuse.

"Interpol is not entrusted with any significant investigative or operational powers. Those powers are still located at national level. . . Interpol's core business is the administration of information." (Savino, p26)

Fair Trials International reports: "Even though some of Interpol's member countries are known human rights abusers and notoriously corrupt, Interpol has no effective mechanisms to prevent countries, or even individual prosecutors, abusing the red notice system. As a result, even though most red notices may be perfectly valid, abuses of Interpol are also affecting human rights campaigners, journalists and businessmen, in countries all over the world.

"People in this situation have no independent court they can turn to for redress. Your only option is to request a review by a Commission, funded by Interpol and serviced by Interpol staff. You have no right to a hearing, no opportunity to respond to allegations against you and will be given no reasons for the decision reached. Even if the Commission concludes that a red notice is inaccurate or abusive, it cannot require its removal or amendment. It can only make non-binding recommendations."

According to Interpol's Chief Lawyer, Joël Sollier, the agency does try to ferret out dubious requests. His instruction to Interpol is that a Red Notice should be cancelled if there is any doubt. (Lewis)

According to Lewis, Interpol's issuance of Red Notices has increased markedly in recent years, from 2,343 Red Notices in 2005, to 6,344 in 2010. "Partly to deal with that increased workload, Interpol is putting more power into the hands of its police members.

"Two years ago," writes Lewis, "police had to apply directly to Interpol for a Red Notice. Today, every Red Notice request is entered into the system directly by the police themselves—not by Interpol. Police around the world instantly see those notices—before Interpol even reviews them.

"Police can also bypass the formal Red Notice system altogether—and just type an informal notice of arrest in an email—and post it on Interpol’s communications system. Those email notices—Interpol calls them 'diffusions'—go out instantly, with no automatic Interpol review."

And as Lewis notes, "these informal email notices are linked to far more arrests than arrests linked to the Red Notices Interpol vets for political concerns". In fact, according to Lewis, in 2010, at least 1,858 arrests were made of people named in email notices while only 663 arrests were made of people named in Red Notices.

This might explain why in February of this year, while Malaysian police were claiming that they had arrested the Saudi tweeter Hamza Kashgari (23) "following a request made to us by Interpol" on behalf of the Saudi authorities, Interpol was strongly denying that it had anything to do with it.

See: Interpol accused after Malaysia arrests journalist over Muhammad tweet
Police agency strongly denies its system used by Saudi Arabia to get journalist detained for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter
By Own Bowcott, The Guardian, 10 February 2012

Kashgari had fled Saudi Arabia after his tweeted imaginary conversation with the prophet Mohammad was deemed blasphemous. After being arrested in Malaysia and extradited, he was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. He remains in prison to this day, still offering up apologies, but to no avail. Voices are still calling for him to be executed.

There have also been some really obvious and undeniable abuses of Interpol.

One such case involves Indonesia's call for a Red Notice to be issued against Papuan independence advocate Benny Wenda (36). The Red Notice was issued despite the fact that the persecuted, tortured, now Oxford-based Wenda had been granted asylum in the UK. Only in August of this year was the Red Notice against Wenda dropped.

See: Benny Wenda's plight has highlighted the misuse of Interpol
Interpol must act to stop its red notice system being abused by countries to persecute refugees and exiled political activists
By Alex Tinsley, The Guardian, 6 Aug 2012.

In an article published by CNN, Libby Lewis raises the case of Iranian dissident Shahram Homayoun (57). "After fleeing Iran in 1992 and moving to Los Angeles, Homayoun started a satellite television station, Channel One, to beam a message of civil resistance into the homes of Iranians.

"Over the years, his audience has scribbled his slogan, Ma Hastim ("We exist" in Farsi) on Iranian walls and bridges to promote democracy in the country. He has also called on his listeners to show their solidarity in creative ways, such as gathering at the tomb of Cyrus the Great or showing up at their local bakery on the same day -- every Thursday -- and asking for bread.

"At the request of Iran, which charged Homayoun with inciting terrorism, Interpol issued a Red Notice in December 2009 requesting Homayoun's arrest."

Regarding Maryam, all the Saudi authorities would have had to do was to report through Interpol channels that a Saudi Arabian girl was being held in Sweden against her will, possibly by international traffickers, and request help to retrieve her and return her to her family. And with that, Maryam's hopes of liberty are dashed. 

FITNA

As I said in my opening remarks, if the 2 Sept 2012 report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol has been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate.

In the past, Islamic states have generally been content to let apostates flee, for at least then they are not be around to spread fitna (temptation / doubt) amongst the locals. However, in these days of global communications -- satellite TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc -- the apostate can generate far more fitna from a safe-haven in the West than they ever could at home. And "fitna is worse than killing". (Qur'an Sura 2:191).

Christian advocacy groups that have excelled at speaking into political power must quickly learn how to speak into international law enforcement so that Interpol and national police forces do not become unwitting extensions of Islamic religious police. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

BURMA: new report exposes religious persecution of ethnic Chin Christians

On 5 September, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released an important and impressive report that will surely make a valuable contribution to the debate around Burmese reforms. The Chin are a Christian people with a strong Christian culture. And as CHRO's programme director, Salai Za Uk Ling points out: "Chins continue to face religious persecution. Despite strong government reforms, these efforts have yet to be extended to religious freedom."

Burma expert Benedict Rogers remarks in his Foreword, that while there are positive signs and grounds for optimism, "there is a danger of premature euphoria. . . . There is still a very long way to go," says Rogers. "The change of atmosphere has not yet resulted in a change of system."

Rogers, who has written widely on Burma and is Christian Solidarity Worldwide's East Asia Team Leader, rightly notes: "One of the most under-reported aspects of Burma's human rights record has been the regime's discrimination and persecution of religious minorities and violations of religious freedom."

Threats to our Existence: Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma
Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) 5 September 2012

According to CHRO, "The denial of religious freedom – particularly for minority groups such as the Rohingya Muslims and Chin Christians – is rooted in discrimination on the dual basis of ethnicity and religion. This endemic discrimination is arguably a product of extreme Burman nationalism based on a distorted version of Buddhism, held by Burma's military rulers." (page 6)

". . . the denial of religious freedom by the authorities in Burma today must be understood in the context of extreme Burman nationalism predicated on a distorted version of Buddhism, characterized by the SLORC/SPDC regime. Widespread restrictions on freedom of religion were a central pillar of SLORC/SPDC’s drive to ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and religiously homogenize the ethnic minority areas of the Union of Burma as part of an unwritten forced assimilation policy." (page 16)

Chapter 4 of the report (pages 43-82) provides case studies of the discrimination, repression and persecution suffered by Chin Christians. Cases cover the closure of churches, the destruction of crosses, the disruption of worship services and conferences, the intimidation and harassment of pastors and missionaries, the sexual violence and torture being committed against church workers and Christian civilians, and the exploitation of Chin civilians in forced labour -- includes portering for the Burmese Army and building Buddhist pagodas, monasteries and statues all throughout the state.

The whole of Chapter 5 (pages 83-112) focuses on the induced and coerced conversion of Chin Christians to Buddhism. Systematic discrimination and persecution creates crippling poverty and hardship, which in turn presents the state with an opportunity. As the government offers free education and food through Buddhist monasteries and to those who convert, suffering families feel great pressure. This is also why it is in the government's interests to keep the ethnic-religious minority regions poor, hungry and deprived.

For two excellent summaries, see:

Christian Chin ‘Coerced to Buddhism by State’
By Charlie Campbell, for The Irrawaddy, 5 Sept 2012

Christians face systematic discrimination in Chin state
By HANNA HINDSTROM, 5 September 2012
Democratic Voice of Burma

Pakistan: religious hatred not being addressed


By Elizabeth Kendal

(1) Is Pakistan terminally ill?
(2) Rimsha Masih and the Mehrabad Conspiracy

INTRODUCTION

The blasphemy case against and cruel treatment of Rimsha Masih, an 11-14 year-old illiterate girl from a Christian colony in Islamabad's Mehrabad slum, has elicited revulsion and dismay both domestically and internationally.

Rimsha's arrest comes hot on the heels of Asia Bibi's death sentence and the assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shabaaz Bhatti; and immediately prior to the obscene torture-murder of the Christian boy Samuel Yacoub (11). Not since Dr John Joseph, Bishop of Faisalabad, poured out his own life in front of the Sahiwal court house on 6 May 1998 in protest of the death sentence handed down to Christian slum dweller Ayub Masih who was, like Rimsha, the victim of a malicious blasphemy accusation, has attention to Pakistan's sickness been so intense.

However, if Pakistan's authorities and Muslims elites manage to whitewash and sideline this case by making it all about child rights and mental capacity rather than intolerance, hatred and the blasphemy law; and if they fail to address the real issues of Islamisation, Sharia and the radicalisation of the masses; then nothing will change. Systematic religious hatred must be addressed and remedied before Christians, Shi'ites, Ahmadis and Hindus face genocide. 

For background on the Rimsha Masih case, see:

PAKISTAN: intolerance grows; child accused of blasphemy
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 173 | Wed 22 Aug 2012
AND the update:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 174 | Wed 29 Aug 2012
under the subheading: "THE SHAME OF PAKISTAN".

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IS PAKISTAN TERMINALLY ILL?

As passions soared over the arrest and cruel treatment of Rimsha Masih, British correspondent Rob Crilly opined that the international show of support for Rishma might actually endanger her life and risk undermining her case. "For although the law is rarely best carried out in secret," says Crilly, "Pakistan's archaic blasphemy laws fall apart entirely when conducted amid the blaze of publicity."

Crilly asserts: "Christian campaigners and democracy activists have turned Rimsha into a poster girl for their causes and are in danger of creating a martyr. Having propelled the issue into the open, creating headlines around the world, Pakistan's lawyers, judges and politicians have little room to manouevre. They are under intense pressure to act as good Muslims. Any leniency will be interpreted as a pro-blasphemy, anti-Islam stance. And all the while they will be reminded of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, whose courageous support of Asia Bibi ended in a hail of bullets outside his favourite lunch spot.

"With the case in the spotlight, it will take a brave man now to do the right thing."

The reality however is this: in many cases the spotlight is often the only thing that enables or sometimes forces a man or woman or government to be brave and do the right thing.

Crilly seems totally oblivious to the fact that the courts are not Rimsha's greatest threat! Muslim mobs are straining at the bit, hankering to lynch this child, to burn her alive. The only reason she is alive today is because, after surviving a savage beating at the hands of the mob, she was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.

As terrible as her plight is, what it says about Pakistani society is far worse.

Absent a massive international public outcry, Rimsha would doubtless have been quietly sacrificed to appease the Islamists. She would either been quickly acquitted and handed over to the mob or placed at the mercy of Islamists inside the prison, to become, like so many before her, another religious minority death-in-custody statistic.

Absent a massive international public outcry, Rimsha's family will not survive. The international outcry needs to be so loud that the only way for Pakistan to secure US aid and avoid a public international shaming at the UN General Assembly will be to have Rimsha released and the family resettled in the West. The difficulty lies in effecting this coup in a manner that will limit the fallout from Pakistan's powerful Islamic fundamentalists.

Crilly has failed to see what many Pakistanis are beginning to see very clearly: Pakistani society is sick to its core.

Writing in Pakistan's Daily Times on 31 August, Farahnaz Ispahani of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights goes right to the heart of the matter: "Pakistan is continuing to become an intolerant society".

Ispahani believes that if Rimsha's case is treated as a child's rights or disability rights issue, then it will only "take the heat away from the real problem". As she intimates, this may well be the government's intention as it seeks to "'re-set', yet again, Pakistan-US ties" or prepare for the "forthcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting".

As Ispahani rightly notes, "The real problem continues to be the day-to-day persecution, harassment and murder of Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus under Pakistan's laws. . . Even after Rimsha has been freed, which we hope she will, the [Islamic Sharia, Hudood, blasphemy] laws opposed by most of the civilised world will still stand.

"The deep-rooted problem of oppression and intolerance of religious minorities, to which one may add the ongoing organised killings (which some plausibly call genocide) of Shias, needs greater resolve than the temporary solution of solving an individual case within the framework of flawed existing laws."

Also writing in Pakistan's Daily Times on 31 August, was Gulmina Bilal Ahmad. Citing the assassinations of Salaam Taseer and Shabaaz Bhatti, she makes the point that you simply cannot talk about the blasphemy law if you are in Pakistan; it is just too dangerous.

"The worst thing about the accusation of blasphemy," she writes, "is that more people die as a result of mob violence. Police in most of the cases are left with no option but to hand over the accused to the mob, which in most instances results in the death of the accused. More accused have died not due to the stringent blasphemy laws but due to the extreme behaviour of mobs.

"Let us take a look at this problem from the societal point of view," writes Ahmad. "Our society has grown insensitive to violence over a period of time. Certainly, there are various reasons for it. Unemployment, rising inflation and lack of security are some of the most obvious reasons that might lead to violent behaviour. But these problems are not specific to Pakistani society. There are other countries where the level of inflation and unemployment is even higher than ours but citizens of those countries do not grow violent.

"Once again, we have to put the blame on the radical shift that Pakistan went through during Zia’s regime. Strict laws were put in place, educational curriculums were altered, religious hatred, sectarian violence was purposely spread, and most importantly, Pakistan was pushed into the abyss of extremism. As a result, society as whole developed narrow views on religion and the interfaith harmony that existed earlier went down the drain."

What was the "radical shift" that occurred under Zia -- a "radical shift" that Ahmad dare not name?

After the Iranian Islamic (Shi'ite) Revolution (1979), Saudi Arabia spared no effort to establish Pakistan (and by extension, Afghanistan) as a Sunni Wahhabi bulwark on Iran's eastern border. In order to hem in the revolution, the US bolstered Iraq while Saudi Arabia bolstered Pakistan. Iraq went to war with Iran, while in Pakistan, Saudi-sponsored madrassas and mosques indoctrinated the masses with anti-Shi'ite, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian religious hatred and jihadist ideology, Islamising the masses along Wahhabi lines. The Taliban were a Pakistani creation, fashioned in Saudi-sponsored Pakistani madrassas for the jihad in Afghanistan (1980s). It was during these years, under the leadership of Sunni military dictator President General Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988), that Sharia Courts, Hudood punishments and blasphemy laws were introduced and Sunni supremacy used to fuel hatred and intolerance of all others.

As Ahmed notes, "The accusation of blasphemy over a period of time has also become an instrument of violence, a sort of violence that is so easy to commit and the best thing about it is that you can walk away from it free. . .

"It is sad," says Ahmed, "that Rimsha, who is also said to have an unstable mental condition, was accused of blasphemy. It will be wrong to state that residents of that area did not know about her condition. They did it because Muslims in that locality did not like living with Christians . . ."

See also: Mob Rule Replaces Rule of Law
by Shiraz Maher, Gatestone Institute
September 17, 2012

RIMSHA MASIH AND THE MEHRABAD CONSPIRACY

The Muslims of Mehrabad do not like living with Christians, not because the Christians are difficult to live with, but because, after decades Islamic fundamentalist indoctrination, the Muslims simply hate the Christians without a cause (John 15:18-25).

Talking to media on 24 August, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the local imam who handed Rimsha to the authorities, claimed that Rimsha's blasphemy was part of a deliberate Christian "conspiracy" to insult Muslims.

"The girl who burnt the Holy Quran has no mental illness and is a normal girl," Chishti told AFP. "She did it knowingly. This is a conspiracy and not a mistake. She confessed what she did."

Chishti had long been at the forefront of a dispute between the slum's Muslim and Christian communities, leading complaints over Christian prayers, singing and music that he maintains is provocative. Chishti is doubtless provoked by the fact that joyful Christian worship can be very attractive; consequently it may introduce fitna (temptation / doubt) into the Muslim community. And "fitna is worse than killing". (Qur'an. Sura 2:191)

After Rimsha was arrested, Chishti reportedly told Mehrabad's Christians, "All you chooras (a derogatory term for South Asian Christians) must leave here immediately or we will pour petrol on you and burn you alive." Chishti denies the accusation.

The Islamic pogrom that tore through Mehrabad in the wake of Rimsha's arrest forced the district's more than 500 Christian families to flee. On 28 August the Associated Press reported: "Over the weekend a group of about 300 [displaced Christians] cleared out a section of land in a forested part of an Islamabad neighborhood [along a sewerage line] and built the skeleton of a church from branches, complete with a cross, and were using it to hold prayer services.

"Christians in the area said Tuesday [28 Aug] that in the middle of the night, people burned their makeshift church to the ground. Then the group was evicted from the site.

"By midafternoon a group of about 150 Christians had gathered in the park a few hundred meters (yards) from the clearing where the church once stood. Many had nothing to eat until an aid group delivered some rice.

"'We are helpless. What can we do? We are just sitting here,' said Naseem Javed, who was holding her 3-year-old son in her arms. 'They don't even want us to have a place to pray'."

Though many of the displaced Christians any had previously vowed never to return, about half of Mehrabad's Christian families have since returned, although they do not feel even remotely safe.

On Thursday 30 August, after a medical report found that Rimsha was a minor with a mental capacity less than her age, prosecuting lawyer Rao Abdur Raheem accused the state of manipulating court proceedings and managing the crisis in an attempt to whitewash it for political reasons. He has accused the authorities of arranging to have doctors give a false account of Rimsha age and mental capacity, in order that she might be treated more leniently or even exonerated. "There are many Mumtaz Qadris in this country . . ." Raheem warned ominously, referring to the Islamist bodyguard who assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer over his criticism of the blasphemy law.  "The girl is guilty," he declared. "If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job."

Later, sitting in his office beneath a large poster of Qadri, Raheem told the Guardian: "If the court is not allowed to do its work, because the state is helping the accused, then the public has no other option except to take the law into their own hands."

A Conspiracy Indeed!

In a surprise twist, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti was arrested on the evening of Saturday 1 September, after his deputy, Maulvi Zubair, and two other associates came forward accusing the imam planting burnt pages of the Quran in Rimsha's bag. Chishti denies the accusation, defiantly maintaining, "This is all fabrication."

Police investigator Munir Hussain Jaffri reports that Maulvi Zubair, Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahme told a magistrate that Chishti added pages from the Quran to the burnt pages brought to him by Rimsha's accuser. The three witnesses reportedly told the police that they had urged Chishti not to tamper with the evidence.

"They protested that he should not add something to the evidence and he should give the evidence to the police as he got it and should not do this," Jaffri said. They claim Chishti told them: "You know this is the only way to expel the Christians from this area."

As Jaffri notes, "By putting these pages in the ashes he also committed desecration of the Holy Koran." Consequently, now Chishti is being charged with blasphemy.

Right from the beginning, local Christians had maintained that Rimsha had been set-up as part of a conspiracy to expel the Christians. After Rimsha was arrested, a man from the community who did not want to be named told the Express Tribune, "The girl did not commit blasphemy. It was the cleric from a local mosque and some others who made up the issue to uproot us from Mehrabadia." He said the local Muslims object to Christians praying in their church and singing carols and hymns, even playing music at weddings. 

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, Rimsha's lawyer from the All Pakistan Minority Committee, said they had always maintained the evidence was planted. "And now it is proved that the whole story was only designed to dislocate the Christian people," he said. Chaudhry believes the imam's arrest proves his client is innocent. He said he will now move to have the case thrown out.

Ali Dayan Hasan, head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, is absolutely correct in stating that the decision to act against the cleric was "unprecedented".

"What it indicates," says Hasan, "is a genuine attempt at investigation rather than blaming the victim, which is what normally happens in blasphemy cases. They are actually taking a look at incitement to violence and false allegations. It is a welcome and positive development."

Imam Chishti maintains he has been set-up; that it is all part of a political conspiracy and the accusations against him are false. Prosecuting lawyer Rao Abdur Raheem likewise maintains that Chishti's arrest is all part of a political conspiracy being driven by political elites for political interests. "This deliberate twist in the case is aimed at discouraging complaints under the blasphemy law," he said in court Sunday.

The reality probably looks something like this: consumed with hate, Chishti framed the poor, helpless and unwitting Rimsha in order to justify inciting the pogrom that drove the Christians out of Mehrabad. Then, with Islamic and international passions soaring, the government realised it had to find a solution that would both pacify Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists and appease the West. Fortunately for them this case had all the right ingredients to make that very easy. With the case now being all about age, disability and evidence tampering, it is no longer has to be about blasphemy, intolerance and religious hatred at all and the government is off the hook.

Rimsha's bail hearing has been slated for Friday 7 September.

While she will doubtless be exonerated and released, we must resist the temptation to cry peace, peace when there is no peace! At this point, nothing has changed in Pakistan.

UPDATE:  At the bail hearing on Friday 7 Sept, Judge Mohammad Azam Khan announced to a packed courtroom, “The bail application has been accepted against two sureties of 500,000 rupees each.”

On Sunday 9 Sept, Rimsha was released from prison and transported under tight security in a bullet-proof police van to a helicopter that took her to a secret, undisclosed location where she was reunited with her family. The family remains in hiding as Islamic fundamentalists are still threatening to kill Rimsha.

The next hearing of the case will take place on Monday 17 September.